A Beacon

I’ve been in something of a rut, at least creatively, for a while now. Don’t get me wrong, this is not some ‘writers’ block’ thing, (I don’t believe in writers’ block). It’s more that I’ve been drifting, trying to work out, from a more business-minded perspective, the best way forward. I’ve been tinkering with things, planning projects and I’ve been doing some other non-storytelling things which I’ve found to be really kinda refreshing.

Then the 2016 Election happened. And it was less that Trump won (though this seems more and more questionable on a daily basis…. save the arguments, this is not about that) and more what”s happened as a result.  I was equally sideswiped after the results of the Brexit Referendum (again, save the arguments, not about THAT either) and what it revealed about the society I’d grown-up in and come from.

There’s an awful lot of darkness and anger and hate swirling around.  In both my country of origin and my adopted home, there has been not so much an upsurge in hate and intolerance, but rather those vile and ignorant sentiments have been allowed…. and in some cases encouraged to come to the fore.  Ideas that have, for the last fifty plus years, been gradually and deservedly squashed and removed from polite, nay acceptable conversation, are suddenly broadcast far and wide.

And it was these two events that hammered me hardest of all.

What’s the point of what I do, as a storyteller, when faced with such vitriolic rage. Isn’t what I do, as a storyteller, ineffective…. futile in contrast with what NEEDS to happen to rein in such willful ignorance and intolerance?

Compounding this, I know many of my creative colleagues have had similar thoughts.  Friends I would’ve called on for advice, support and encouragement, have had nothing to offer; feeling as frustrated, hopeless and maybe even as scared as I felt.

So what to do?

Hide?

Hunker down and attempt to weather the coming storm?

Quit?

It’s something I’ve seriously pondered for the past month or so.

And I think I’ve reached a decision point.

What the storyteller does IS important (of course, you’d expect me to say that).  The storyteller is always on the frontline when facing darkness and fear.  The storyteller sends a heroine against the gods.  The storyteller sends the hero on a quest.  The storyteller builds the monsters and demons and darkness.  Creates a world that would crush the courage of the strongest warrior.  Creates a universe that would sap the will of the most brilliant mind.  And against such odds, the die is cast.  Lone quester, band of outcasts, fellowship of the defiant, against insurmountable odds.

The storyteller guides their heroes into the darkness and emboldens them with the one thing no evil can take or ever fully destroy.  Hope.

The beacon of hope in the darkest of times, no matter how fictional, is a seed that will grow and bloom into the power to throw back and ultimately defeat the darkest of foes…. even crossing the boundaries between fictional and real worlds.

So in this time of ominous darkness, I will do what I do. I will tell stories.  I will create characters who might well be the sole point of light in an oppressive darkness.

I will give hope.  I will give light.

I will be the light.  The defiant beacon around which others will congregate, draw strength, draw fight and draw hope from.

And I encourage all my colleagues to do the same.

We will blaze back at the darkness.

Aaaaaaaand, breathe

I’ve been wrestling with this update for a couple of days and finally decided to go ahead. It’s the kinda thing that can light the interwebs on fire, in the same way inadequately reheated, leftover curry from two weeks ago can scorch your digestive tract and ruin your ability to sit comfortably without the aid of a repurposed floatation device…. and a lot of icepacks.

I also figure that since only about three people actually read this (in no small part due to my hit and miss updates) and those three are usually polite and well reasoned…. well, two of the three — you know who you are and what you did — things will stay civilized here.

So, my point.

Can we all just take a step back and breathe?

Where does the rage and fury come from?

I know what you’re thinking, “Dale! Stop! Don’t go there. Stay away from the politics, man.”

But I’m not going there, I’m talking about my world and my people. The Geeks.

A couple of examples, though you three know these things, so I’m probably preaching to the choir.

STAR WARS

Original Trilogy = awesome incarnate…. except the Ewoks (which I will argue in favor of if anyone wants to go).

Original Trilogy Remixes = What? You tweaked things here and there? How dare you!? I don’t care that you created these formative events in my youth, you have now created an abomination that has soiled, befouled and sullied no only the memory of the originals, but ruined entire childhoods. George Lucas should NEVER be allowed to touch a Star Wars thing again.

Prequel Trilogy announcements = NERDGASM! My youth returned to me.

Prequel Trilogy = an abomination that has soiled, befouled and sullied no only the memory of the originals, but ruined entire childhoods. George Lucas should NEVER be allowed to touch a Star Wars thing again.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens announcements = JJ Abrams? Really? The dude who did Star Trek? Lens Flares Man? He’ll ruin it!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens = JJ Abrams did it! My youth is returned to me. Y’know what they should do? They should get George Lucas back, have him direct one of the new movies. We should start a petition to make that happen.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

You can do the same with most of the big franchise, geekiverse movies and even the TV shows.

Yes, even the TV shows. The Walking Dead ended it’s sixth season this past weekend. Honestly, I don’t care for the show, not least of which because I think it adds to this “us and them” dynamic at play here (as I addressed over here). There was righteous fury that the season ended in a cliffhanger. I mean, really!? THAT is what drives you over the edge? A serialized TV show ends a season with a cliffhanger…. like pretty much EVERY OTHER serialized TV show does? This should be a bonus. These days, almost every new show that starts, ends early and then later seasons at a point where if the show doesn’t get picked up for a new season, you have a halfway satisfying conclusion. But this is a lock…. it’s coming back…. and when I was but a callow youth, that cliffhanger was what sustained me and my fellow geeks through the long drought of a rerun-ladened summer.  The endless possibilities and debates about what HAD happened, what that meant and what we thought WOULD happened when the show returned.  That was the hook, the engagement, what made viewers FANS.

But those days seem to be past. Today we want everything NOW!

SATISFY ME!

I WATCH THIS!

YOU MAKE THIS FOR ME!

WITHOUT FANS LIKE ME, THERE WOULD BE NO SHOW!

SATE MY NEED!

I DON’T WANT TO WAIT, ANTICIPATE, THINK!

GIVE ME WHAT I CRAVE!

SPOONFEED ME!

And the reason for my hesitance in making this post is the completely inappropriate rage and disproportionate reaction of people who don’t agree.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a movie that seems to have created a ridiculous schism in the geekiverse. And it’s not about whether one side has a valid point, not even about conceding someone else had a differing opinion and COMPLETELY ignoring the subjective element to what YOU like as opposed to someone else. If you don’t agree with me, you are wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG!

I enjoyed Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, as I said here. It wasn’t perfect. I had some issues with it. But it made for an entertaining way to consume carbs in a darkened room and share an experience with other humans. But honestly, seeing the gloating posts on Facebook, mostly from the naysayers (though not entirely) about how the movie is bad and why…. and why they were right to say it sucked and…. yeah, ner-ner-neh-ner-ner…. no YOU bite ME! That all just sucks the joy out of the whole thing.

So maybe we could all just take a step back, breathe, and ENJOY the differences rather than use them to destroy something. Or worse, destroy someone who didn’t entirely agree.

Maybe I’m wrong.

I’m sure someone will tell me if I am.

How Many People Did King Kong Squish?

So the other day, No.2 Son asks me a question. I don’t know if this was a spontaneous thought or something he’d been pondering for a while, but he looked up at me and:

“Y’know King Kong?”

“Yeah.”

“At the end, when he falls off the building…?

“Uh-huh?”

“How many people did he squish when he landed?”

Obviously I had no idea.  

But because, as the all-knowing high-father of my house (sorry, I’ve been reading a bunch of old Thor comic books, recently), there is nothing I don’t know the answer to…. at least as far as my kids are concerned, I fell back on my default answer:

“What do you think?”

He pondered this for a few moments, shrugged, said, “Plenty!” then moved on to discussing how to throw a change-up when pitching in Little League.

That was it.  He’d moved on. But the question hung in there for me. It was less the actually question itself. What stuck in the back of my head was a much shorter question. Why?

And not, why didn’t I know the answer to that question, but why had I never even thought of it?

(For reference, I’m a purist, so the movie we’re talking about, the one my kids have seen, is the original King Kong.)

Let’s be honest, Kong IS a bad guy.  He IS a monster.  He IS a killer.  On Skull Island, the big ape kills plenty of people, locals and tourists alike. When he breaks free in New York, the body count starts to build pretty quickly…. and in some places, quite deliberately viciously.

Yet not only do we care about Kong; not only do we feel sad when he dies; not only do we walk away feeling that Kong was a victim…. THE victim; we completely forget the deaths he’s caused, directly and indirectly…. and we never once think about who might have been under that giant, hairy, bullet-ridden…. and now significantly more squishy, body.

Compare that to the palpable, frothing outrage of the fans, when Metropolis suffered a whole slew of damage and deaths as Superman fought Zod in “Man of Steel.”

Why didn’t people care when it came to King Kong, but they were outraged in Man of Steel?

Initially, you might think it’s down to special effects. The power of computer graphics makes it easier to destroy a movie city; that creative toolbox didn’t exist in 1932.  But that doesn’t hold water.  The movie ‘Independence Day’ did WAY more damage, caused WAY more deaths, and THAT movie had people cheering in the cinema. (I have no idea why…. I thought it sucked.)

You might argue that the effects in Kong are so crude, compared to the sophistication of todays CGI masterpieces, that as an audience, you don’t TOTALLY buy into the reality…. you don’t completely suspend belief. But again, if that WAS the case, why do we also feel sad when Kong dies?

Honestly, I STILL have no idea what the answer is.  Why that question never occurred to me before. Why don’t we care how many people King Kong kills?

Do you know?