Archive for the ‘Not-So-Casual Commentary’ Category

Thoughts on “Captain Marvel”

April 12, 2021

So this is the second half of my “Captain Marvel” watches starting from last week.  Since this is from Marvel, they actually did call it “Captain Marvel”.  Now, I had only come across this from its discussions in the media, including in two posts on my own blog:  one about a cut scene and one about an interpretation of one of the last scenes in the movie.  As the title of the first post listed above suggests, I wasn’t all that interested in watching the movie or buying, despite in general buying most of the MCU movies fairly soon after they came out.  I had been disappointed by “Black Panther” and pretty much all the positive reviews of “Captain Marvel” said pretty much the same sorts of things:  the diversity was great and wonderful but there wasn’t very much said about the movie itself.  But it was cheap and so in perhaps a moment of weakness I ended up buying it … which has the rather frightening implication that maybe, just maybe, if “Rise of Skywalker” ends up being equally cheap I might end up buying it as well.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about the cut scene with the biker, but do think I need to address the end scene where Yon-Rogg challenges her to fight without her powers and she rather pointedly refuses.  But let me talk about the rest of the movie first.

The main plot is, of course, the origin story of Carol Danvers, also known as Captain Marvel.  She was someone who grew up on Earth but is training with and part of a commando group of Kree warriors, who are fighting with the Skrull.  As the movie goes on, we find out that Danvers has incredible powers given to her by the Kree scientists Mar-Vell, and that she lost her memory fleeing from an attack on Mar-Vell by the Kree, as Mar-Vell had come to believe that what the Kree were doing to the Skrulls was wrong.  The Skrulls are presented at the end as a beaten species that just wants to find somewhere to hide from the Kree.  Danvers has been chafing a bit under the very rigid and orderly approach of the Kree, and learns to let her powers — and her emotions — free to gain her abilities, breaks free of the device that they use to control her, defeats the Kree and Yon-Rogg and defends the Skrulls from the Kree, with the help of Nick Fury and her old friend from Earth.

One of the major issues I had with the movie is that Carol Danvers herself is not a very interesting character or at least isn’t presented as one.  In fact, she’s actually pretty annoying for most of it.  A big part of this is that I think the writers bought into the idea that the lead in these movies has to snark, but the snark really doesn’t work in this movie.  First, the snark isn’t all that interesting or funny in and of itself.  Second, Brie Larson doesn’t really have the charisma to pull off the snark, not being light enough to make it come across as humour aimed at defusing situations like Spider-Man nor the arrogant sort of snarking like Iron Man.  Third, it actually comes across as being out of place, since the Kree don’t generally joke that way — so she didn’t learn it from them — and she does it in situations where one would think that she’d be taking things more seriously … or, in fact, often in cases where it seems to be done just to annoy the people she’s using it against.  Which then leads to the problem with it:  it ends up coming across as annoying, not funny.  So it stands out, sure, but stands out for the wrong reasons.

You could try to argue that I only say that because it’s a woman snarking whereas I’ve have no problem with men snarking (as my examples are of men including the pretty much deliberately annoying Tony Stark), but this would ignore that I actually like the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, whose female character certainly snarked.  But more importantly, I really like the snark between Black Widow and Cap in “Winter Soldier”.  It works because Cap works as a straight man, the jokes are funny, and they aren’t inappropriately timed.  They also follow a theme and so become a bit of a running gag.  Scarlett Johansson can pull it off as well without being annoying or seeming overly arrogant, and Cap’s reactions allow him to be the straight man but not be annoyed by it either.  He can play along, which gives us the impression that it’s okay for Widow to be doing that there.  In contrast, the people she snarks at always react humourlessly to it and don’t play along, and since we don’t have any reason to dislike them at that point Carol comes off more as someone pointlessly annoying people than as someone simply making some snarky jokes.

Now, they could have made this work as a character point, by making it so that Carol felt the need to snark because of her nature but that it didn’t fit in with the Kree mindset, leaving us — and her — puzzled about why she did it, but then when she’s reunited with her friend have them fall into an effortless banter, which would show that she was doing that because it was what she was used to and that the awkwardness and inappropriateness was her grasping for what she had before and not finding it among the people she was with at the time.  However, this would have required her to be shown striving to control her snark and trying to fit in so that at the end she would be shown to be back where she actually belongs.  But the movie didn’t really show that.

And, in general, that’s a huge flaw in the movie.  Danvers doesn’t really seem to want to try to fit in with the group or do things the way they say.  From the start, she always seems to want to be doing things her own way.  But the problem is that the things that she’s being taught aren’t actually bad things, nor does her rejecting them seem like a triumphant rejection.  She starts out being trained to fight without using her powers, but always fails and ends up using them anyway.  But in pretty much any other movie and in comics in general, even those with powers are encouraged to learn to fight without them just in case.  Wolverine explicitly teaches Storm in the comics to use a gun because it’s the last thing her opponents will expect, which comes in quite handy when she is temporarily depowered by Forge’s anti-mutant weapon.  And while throughout the movie they show her taking risks or facing risks and doing things anyway, the idea that she needs to control her impulsive behaviour is pretty reasonable.  In one case, she wasn’t allowed to go-kart with the boys but does it anyway, and while doing so spins off the track in a way that ruins the kart and could have injured her greatly.  We’re supposed to think of her doing that as being inspirational, but the fact is that she almost got herself or the others on the track with her badly injured.  It’s a pretty reasonable argument to say that she wasn’t really ready to do that and at least should have waited.

So while the Kree might well have been trying to control her, their actual message that she needed to learn control was actually pretty valid.

This, then, undercuts the purportedly feminist message of the movie, which wasn’t very well developed in the first place.  There are hints that a lot of the challenges she faced in her younger days were because of sexism, but as noted above in a lot of those cases she was, herself, not really ready for those things anyway.  Moreover, at the end of the movie where it portrays her as always getting up from when she was knocked down, that’s portrayed as a human trait, not a female one (which I think is the best one to use in a movie like this anyway).  At the end, they have her fighting the final battle to the tune “I’m Just a Girl” by Aqua, but there’s no reason to think that the Kree — or anyone else — thought of her as a woman first and so denigrated her for that, or even that they denigrated her for who she was at all (other than by being human and acting like humans).  Moreover, in that very battle there was a female Kree warrior, who was probably the second-best of the team and was the second-last one to be defeated.  So the link to feminism in the actual plot and characterization was weak.

And yet it does seem like they wanted to make that link.  Aside from all the songs being from women or female bands, they also made Mar-Vell a woman and used her as the person that Carol most admired.  This is a recast from the comics, where Mar-Vell was a man.  So it’s clear that they did this to ensure that Carol’s mentor was a woman instead of a man, but they didn’t actually do anything with it.  That never matters in the movie.  So if you were a fan of the original comics, it’s a blatant attempt to replace the male character with a female character for no purpose, which is going to be grating.  So the feminism, it seems to me, is surface only:  some songs, some hints, some comments, a change of mentor but overall something that has no real meaning in the movie itself.  So to anyone paying attention, it looks really unimportant and yet so obvious that it stands out as something they deliberately did but that they also didn’t actually manage to do anything with.  So it looks a bit token.

This also carries over to Fury and Coulson, who are in the movie but are horribly underused.  Coulson is only in a couple of scenes which is kinda a nice callback to what he did in the earliest movies but is a bit disappointing for his first return to the actual movies for a while.  Fury does stay in the movie but as the established MCU badass he’s horribly underused.  He doesn’t really do anything of significance in the movie itself, either through force or arms or through inspiring speeches.  He ends up, for the most part, as comic relief, as he gets saved by a horrible alien creature masquerading as a cat but when he deliberately tries to use the creature to defend himself it’s when the enemies are actually disguised Skrulls.  Even worse, the movie makes it so that he loses his eye to an irritated swipe from the cat creature, which is both not at all funny and actually retroactively ruins “Winter Soldier”, because there Fury justifies his distrustful nature to Cap by saying that the last time he trusted someone he lost an eye.  Well, that’s not what happened here unless you take a really, really broad view of the situation and the meaning of “trust”.  Now, this isn’t a complete rewrite because we would be willing to believe that Fury would be willing to lie about that to get Cap’s trust, but it does weaken the scene and the character, because we lose the justification for his actions and so it weakens the debate between him and Cap that was carried on throughout the entire movie.

The change to the Skrulls was also a bit of an issue.  In the comics, both the Kree and the Skrulls were villains with a long-standing grudge and war against each other.  Here, the movie pretty much presents the Kree as the villains and the Skrulls as an oppressed group, but anyone who followed the comics knows that they are not that innocent.  And the movie starts out with us thinking that they are villains and converts them later through the idea that they are just trying to settle down and avoid being wiped out … while setting them up as having their shapeshifting abilities and being entirely willing to use them to infiltrate other societies and use that against them.  I had a really hard time thinking of them as being that innocent, especially since they don’t say how the war actually started.  I think it would have worked better to give that history, showing that both the Kree and Skrull were expansionist with the Skrulls mainly relying on infiltration and the Kree on military force, but the Skrulls had managed to build enough of an empire that military force had been working for them … until they hit the Kree, who simply overpowered them, so they retreated to infiltration which made the Kree paranoid and so insisting on wiping them out so that they couldn’t infiltrate and perhaps strike back against them (especially since their Supreme Intelligence is one massive weak point).  This would have allowed the Skrulls to remain more gray while both giving Mar-Vell a reason to oppose the later moves without having to be complicit in the earlier moves that might have been equally wrong.  Here, opposing the Skrulls was the right thing to do, but it would be reasonable for her to oppose the final purge of all Skrulls out of paranoia.

Both Black Panther and Captain Marvel have problems with their most personal villain.  In Black Panther, the movie seemed to want us to feel sympathetic to a villain that wasn’t at all sympathetic, while in Captain Marvel the movie seems to want us to consider Yon-Rogg a complete villain when the movie doesn’t really establish him as that.  Other than being completely willing to execute his mission of eliminating the Skrull, he doesn’t seem that evil at all, and even in his actions doesn’t seem necessarily all that much more brutal than the Skrull were at the beginning.  In his relations to Carol, he doesn’t seem to be dismissive of her, and seems to respect her and might even like her.  Some of the comments in the movie set him up to be a romantic interest, not an oppressor.  More importantly, he seems to actually believe the principles of his own culture and isn’t just trying to impose them on her for his own benefit.  His actions throughout the movie show this.  So the best conflict as per the movie is cultural, not personal, or at least is the tragic personal conflict of two people who like and respect each other ending up on opposite sides because of their own personal ethical codes.

Which returns me, then, to the final scene.  Here, Yon-Rogg offers her personal, hand-to-hand combat in a callback to the beginning of the movie, where she consistently in training is supposed to fight without her powers but always ends up getting angry and using them anyway (mostly because she always loses without her powers).  Carol looks like she might accept it, and then blasts him with her powers saying “I don’t need to prove anything to you!”.  What makes interpreting this scene difficult is that the line suggests that the offer is about her being able to prove her ability without her powers, but the overall plot is more about her having to reject and break the Kree control of her abilities (as they had given her an implant that let them control her powers that she had to break).  So I do think that the final scene is about her not letting herself be controlled by the Kree, either directly or indirectly through their code of honour.

However, the problem with the entire sequence is that it’s supposed to be a huge personal moment for her character … but in its structure it really isn’t.  In a more normal sequence, what we’d have in that scene is that she accepts his offer and beats him without her powers, and thus has the character moment where she actually can win without her powers.  Subverting that isn’t a bad move, but in order to do that they needed to give her something else to fill that character moment, but that gets blocked by the fact that Yon-Rogg, in general, really does seem to believe what he espouses.  In a comment on my post on the scene, Featherfoot commented that he had shown that he was willing to fight in unfair fights throughout the movie, but those were all cases where that was acceptable according to their military code.  Here, it really looks like he’s offering Carol the chance to prove not to him but to herself that she can do it, and she declines it for no real reason (of course, he is indeed aware that it’s also the only chance he had to win, but then again he had to expect that if he did win she’d use her powers to stop him anyway).  And then at the end when she offers him her hand to help him up but then uses it to drag him back to his ship that looks far more like bullying than a reasonable reaction, because it was completely reasonable to think that he would have agreed to return to Kree and give the message she wanted him to give anyway, and that would have been a more reasonable ending than what they actually did between them, since again the two characters didn’t seem to have real reason to hate each other, and he didn’t seem to hate her (at least, not before that point).  So it works if we think of him as a terrible and evil character, but he didn’t come across that way to me, and so it falls flat.  They either needed to make him less ambiguous or make her more subdued in her reaction.

As it is, that last scene with the hand really makes me thing of her as a bully, which her appearances in Endgame haven’t done anything to allay.

So, what did I think of this movie overall?  It’s not a terrible movie, and not one that I spent my time disliking it like I did for Black Panther.  But it’s not a great movie either.  Carol’s snarking is annoying, there isn’t a great character arc, I have issues with the Skrulls seeming to be a blameless oppressed species, the villain does not seem to be as villainous as the movie thinks he is, and a lot of the things that Carol rebels against learning are things that she probably actually needs to learn.  As a movie itself, then, I’m not really interested in the character or the plot and so don’t want to watch it again as a standalone movie.  But it’s also the case that nothing in its MCU phase depends on it either, and some of the things it does — like Fury’s eye, or naming the Avengers after her callsign — make things less interesting or more problematic in the MCU movies that came before it.  So I have no interest in watching it as part of a regular MCU watch either.  So I’ll park it at least in the box to maybe rewatch later and maybe move it to the one to maybe sell if I ever get around to that.

Thoughts on “Shazam!”

April 6, 2021

While browsing in my local Walmart, I managed to get both of the recent “Captain Marvel” movies:  the one from Marvel and this one from DC.  The movie is not named “Captain Marvel” and they don’t mention the name at all in the movie as far as I can recall, but we know that it isn’t “Shazam!” because if that was the case then any time that he introduced himself he’d change back.  So what we have is the anonymous superhero whose name is probably Captain Marvel but that might get confused with the Marvel one and cause things like legal issues that they wanted to avoid at least until they saw if there was any profit to be made from the character.

I was hesitant to watch or look for this movie.  First, my only actual exposure to the character was one episode of Justice League Unlimited, a couple of scenes in some of the DC crossovers I had, and a story in a think a general “Legion of Superheroes” digest I had.  So he wasn’t one of my favourite characters.  Second, in general I’m not a huge DC fan, pretty much limited to Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans and Batman as the ones that I recalled and collected (except for their animated series, which I’m a big fan of).  Third, while I had watched a lot of the movies, the Snyderverse versions were not ones that I had much interest in because I had heard that they were overly dark, and I had even passed for the most part on Christian Bale’s Batman movies.  Fourth, ironically what I heard about this movie was that it was pretty light and funny, and while that would appeal to me more than the darker movies it wasn’t really what I was looking for either.

But it’s amazing how much more appealing a movie can be when it’s cheap.

And after watching it, it isn’t all that light a movie.  Yes, there is quite a bit of humour in it, as you’d expect from a movie where a young kid ends up getting superpowers and has to learn how to use them, and of course uses them in a manner consistent with how a kid would look at being a superhero.  But there are a lot of more serious issues underlying the movie, starting from the fact that Billy Batson had essentially — and literally — lost his mother and was trying to find her, and moving through the serious parental issues of the villain, the issues with the foster family that Billy is placed with, the bullying issues and the like that his closest friend in that family is dealing with, the fact that the oldest girl has the opportunity to go to school but doesn’t want to lead her family, coupled with Billy having to learn what it really means to be a hero.  What is nice about the movie is that, in general, the funny and the serious work well together and don’t get in each others’ way overmuch.  We don’t generally get huge mood swings or mood whiplash moving from the funny to the serious and back again, which allows us to stay in the movie and just follow it along through its running time.

However, my overall impression while watching the movie was that it was too long.  Yet, it was just over two hours, which isn’t that long for a superhero movie.  But on reflection I think the main issue is not that the movie is too long, but that it seems to insert a lot of its plot and character moments in at odd times, times that we notice.  As noted above, there are actually a lot of plot and character points in this movie.  For the most part, they are all properly developed and properly paid off (Mary’s issues with leaving her family are the exception as it isn’t really resolved and isn’t even mentioned in the end family scene which is where we would have expected it to be).  But because there are so many of them, they often have to make huge shifts from what was happening to resolve them.  For example, at one point Billy and the family member who is supporting him as a superhero and teaching him, at least, what it means to be a superhero are fighting with each other over him admonishing Billy to not use the Captain Marvel powers for Billy’s own self-interest but then asking Billy to use it to help him become popular, and right after they have their big fight that we know they will have to resolve fairly soon the movie stops to have the hacker in the family find Billy’s mother so that he can run off and talk to her, discovering that she actually pretty much willingly abandoned him when he wandered off at the amusement park, considering it a relief because she wasn’t really ready for a child.  The scene works — and was to be expected, as I was wondering why she couldn’t find him if someone took him to the police and lost and found — and is developed properly, but it really feels like the movie was not quite stopped but redirected to resolve this point when the natural flow of the movie would have been to start moving towards resolving their conflict.  So it really feels like the movie felt that it needed to deal with this now before the climax rather than something that flowed organically from the rest of the plot, which I think made it seem like the movie was moving slower than it should have been.

Another example of this is the climax.  When the power gets shared and they create the Marvel Family, the movie should have simply flowed into and through the final battle.  But there were issues with the bullies to deal with, as well as Billy having to deal with the villain and a few other things, which made the climax seem drawn out.  Yes, everything was set up properly and concluded in a reasonably satisfying way, but because the time had to be made to deal with all of those issues at that time the flow seems off, and the movie seems to stop at times to fit that in.

It’s also a bit of an interesting move to not make Billy Batson the real chosen one of Shazam! here.  Shazam first tries to recruit the main villain, but finds that he can’t resist the temptations of the vices that he’s trying to contain.  He keeps trying to find someone who can do that, but keeps failing.  Finally, the main villain finds a way into his lair and takes the vices out, and so without any kind of proper way to test and with failing power he finally just picks Billy and gives it to him.  Which makes Billy a bit of an odd choice, because at that point Billy isn’t all that pure, and is instead a bit of a delinquent and prankster.  This shifts from what was at least my understanding of the original work, where Billy was chosen for his qualities which would explain why a child ended up with that much power.  So that’s odd, but it doesn’t really matter all that much to the movie, other than to Billy having a bit of a crisis of confidence when the main villain attacks and he finally realizes that this is serious, and so has to finally develop into the hero that he was at least supposed to be.  But he doesn’t start as any kind of hero.

The villain is also far more serious than the Dr. Sivana I vaguely remember, being pretty competent and completely and totally evil.  He has a serious reason for his villainy and is consumed by revenge for various reasons, and is pursuing the power of Shazam for those precise reasons.  I think a villain who could have added more humour might have been a good thing here, but it works out reasonably well and definitely means that the movie can’t be a simple jokefest.

Other than my nebulous feelings about the length of the movie, “Shazam!” isn’t a bad movie.  I think it is a bit overstuffed which is its biggest failing, but it doesn’t fall apart into confusion like some other overstuffed movies.  The humour and serious parts mix pretty well.  I think I might watch this movie again at some point.

Further Thoughts on “Ring Fit Adventure”

March 24, 2021

I had kinda been planning on waiting until I finished the game since I had thought that I was pretty close to the end, but it turns out that there is a lot more story to it than I expected and so it has gone on a fair bit longer.  So let me take the time to stop here and consider how “Ring Fit Adventure” has been working for me since my first comments on it a couple of months ago.

What I originally wanted this thing for was to give me some more up-tempo exercise that would keep me entertained for about a half an hour to go along with my normal daily long walks.  In the past I had tried using an exercise bike but even watching TV while doing it was too boring for me and so it was difficult to maintain.  Ring Fit Adventure works really well for that.  It has set areas to work through, which makes it easy to decide to two about two of them or so to fill out my half an hour.  The story is just interesting enough to keep me entertained while doing through it.  For the most part, both of them keep me flowing and moving so that I don’t really notice how much time I’ve spent doing them and so am not watching the clock.  And because of where it’s set up I can also have the TV on while exercising to distract me when the game itself is being a bit boring (making smoothies, for example).  So it really is ideal for that half hour exercise run that I’ve been looking for for a while.

For the longest time I had a ton of issues with the leg strap.  I was tightening it as much as I could and it would still pop off at the worst times as I was going through the areas.  Eventually I noted that the fabric that the velcro attached itself to was fraying a bit and so wouldn’t attached properly.  So I’ve started leaving it a bit looser and a bit higher, and that works pretty well.  When the strap is tight, then if you move it pulls on it more and if it isn’t quite attached right it pops off, but if it’s looser movement doesn’t pull on it as much and so it stays attached.  It will, of course, slide down the leg more if you do that, but it’s easier to adjust it back up as you go along than completely reattach it, especially if it pops off at the exact wrong time.  So that’s one frustration that was lessened.

I find that I would have liked it a little bit better if it was a bit more customizable.  It’s good that it allows you to set the exercises that you want to use while encouraging you to use a good variety of them — each exercise has a colour mapping to a general exercise group and if you use one of those on monsters that have the same colour you get a bonus — but inside the areas it will make you overcome challenges that you might not want to overcome.  For me, I loathe the conveyor ones since I’m only after a light job and you usually need to do more than that with them, and plus sometimes you can’t tell if you’re moving at all which makes it very frustrating.  And there are a number of them.  To compare it to Wii Fit Plus, Ring Fit Adventure is more structured but less customizable.  Still, I prefer it because it isn’t dependent on light as much as Wii Fit Plus, so I can do it pretty much anytime (although I tend to do it during the day anyway).

Because of its lack of customization, the game portion, at least, isn’t something that you can use to tone specific muscles or achieve very specific fitness goals.  But at least for me it works well to get in a quick bit of exercise to get me moving without boring me to death.  The story is interesting enough to keep me interested in it while not so interesting that it pushes me to go beyond myself and work out longer than I’d like.  So it’s easy to fit into a schedule and I don’t find that I’m approaching it with trepidation like I often did with the exercise bike, but at a minimum am just thinking of it as “It’s time to do Ring Fit Adventure and then do my other things”.  That’s better than I’ve had with anything except walks, so that’s pretty good.

Thoughts on “Knight Rider”

March 17, 2021

As I’ve been trying to work through some of the TV shows and the like that I’ve purchased but never watched, after “Relic Hunter” I turned my attention to “Knight Rider”.  Like “Relic Hunter”, this was a show that I had started watching soon after I bought it but kept getting distracted out of watching.  So I knew that I had liked the show, and so it was just a matter of committing to finishing it off.

For those who don’t know, the basic premise of the show is that an eccentric millionaire builds a superpowered car that has its own artificial intelligence, and is looking for someone to pilot it.  The goal is for that person to make the world better by the actions of an individual (although he is associated with an organization that does things as well).  He wants Michael Long to do it, but before he can approach him Long is shot while acting as a police officer on a case.  His face is rebuilt and he is given the new identity of Michael Knight, a purported son of the millionaire.  Given KITT — the car — and grumpily supported by Wilton Knight’s friend Devon, Michael sets out to get revenge for his shooting and, eventually, to make the world a better place.

The show in general is a light action piece.  There are some more serious elements and episodes, but mostly it’s built around two main elements.  The first is banter, between Michael and KITT, Michael and Devon, and occasionally Michael and Bonnie (the person who was instrumental in building the car and who maintains it).  The second is Michael solving the cases through the use of KITT’s abilities, most often its speed, invulnerability, and turbo boost that allows KITT to leap over obstacles and all sorts of things.  And for the most part, this all works.  Yes, sometimes the plots are inane and the situations a bit contrived, but it’s clear that the show doesn’t want the audience to care that much about it and so it is easy to turn off your brain and just enjoy the nice car doing amazing things.  And the banter works because Michael and KITT have very different ideas of how things should go but enjoy teasing each other, and after the first easy Devon is less exasperated with Michael and respects him more, so it’s more of a good-natured banter than the two of them bucking heads, which is important since it is a lot better of all the members of the team respect and like each other, even if they don’t all see things the same way.

Which leads to Bonnie.  From what I understood from reading around, she was in the first season but was replaced in the second season by April, and then replaced after that as at least some people didn’t care for April as much.  The interesting thing about this is that I, personally, remembered April and not Bonnie, so much so that when I picked up the books of the first couple of episodes years ago I didn’t know who Bonnie actually was.  This is despite the fact that Bonnie appears in three of the four seasons and April only appears in one.

I also remembered April — played by Rebecca Holden — as being more of a sexpot than she actually was.  The reason for this, though, is because I remember her from the one episode where she is wearing short shorts and a tied off tee-shirt, and thought that that was how she normally dressed.  It turns out that most of the time she was acting more as a secretary than anything else and so dressed in general business attire, which wasn’t particularly sexy at all.  However, I can be forgiven for this because in the character introduction at the beginning of each episode the longest sequence is of her in that outfit, so it’s no wonder that I remembered the outfit that the series itself featured most prominently.

After watching the entire series, I do think that Bonnie — played by Patricia McPherson — was the better character.  The problem with April, it seems to me, is that in the second season they expanded the role of the mechanic-type character but in creating April didn’t actually give the character a personality.  For the most part, with every line I was thinking that April was saying what the writers wanted someone to say in those circumstances, but never said what April would say.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that at times Holden wouldn’t deliver her lines quite right — possibly because there was no character for her to play off of, but also possibly because she was new to the series and had to work into form — and so it all seemed even more artificial.  Bonnie, on the other hand, always had a personality, politely expressed as feisty so we could get a sense of her voice which also allowed us to get to know her as a character.  April never really had that chance.

The show really works as light entertainment.  It’s generally fun but not something that you have to pay a lot of attention to.  When the characters all get sorted out, the interactions between them are also a lot of fun, generally.  This is definitely a show that I will watch again at some point.

Thoughts on “The Island”

March 16, 2021

So, the third and last movie in the pack that I’ve been going through is “The Island”.  This one stars Ewan McGregor and, for the second time, Scarlett Johansson as people living in what is claimed to be a perfectly structured society that was created after a global catastrophe devastated the world, but there is a reclaimed area called “The Island” and every so often — at random intervals, which is important to the plot — there is a lottery and one lucky person gets to go to “The Island” and presumably live their lives out in happiness.  However, it turns out that this is all a complete ruse, as the people in that facility are really clones grown to provide organs for rich people outside in the real world, a world pretty much just like ours.  While people know that they can buy clones as “insurance” if they get sick, they don’t know that the clones actually live out their lives until their organs are harvested.  They believe that they are purely vat grown.  This causes problems when two of them escape and try to find the people they are cloned from.

This set-up is probably the biggest failing in the movie, because it ends up portraying the head of the facility — played by Sean Bean — as a bit of an idiot.  He needs to keep this quiet, but is sending out mercenaries who end up getting into firefights with the authorities.  Because it is a secret, he can’t rely on the authorities to help, but obviously the things they do will attract the attention of the authorities which forces them to, well, try to blow them up, which would only draw more attention to them.  And it seems unnecessary, as a world where most people actually know about this would allow them to act more openly and set up a far better scenario where they had no idea who they could trust in the world.  And since the ending has them destroy the facility, it didn’t even really pay off with the situation being revealed is what allows them to be freed (although it would explain why they could end up remaining free).

That being said, the interactions inside the facility and then in the world are interesting enough.  We can get a sense of how different the lives of the clones are and what they are missing (like ideas of sex).  And McGregor does a pretty good dual role as the clone and the person he’s cloned from, and that interaction is actually critical to the plot in a number of ways, which is nice.

So, what did I think of these movies?

For “Ghost in the Shell”, the movie was all right.  I think it relied far too heavily on generating emotional reactions in us that it hadn’t laid the proper groundwork for, but the movie did move and the world was at least somewhat interesting.  I’d probably watch this again at some point.

“Aeon Flux” was better in terms of emotions, as it used them as plot and character points instead of for their own sake.  But its world wasn’t quite as interesting as that of “Ghost in the Shell”.  Still, I think I’d rather watch this one again before I rewatched “Ghost in the Shell”.

“The Island” is the weakest of the three, mostly because the action scenes seem extraneous and there are a number of things that make little sense in it.  Still, the performances work and the world is interesting enough to hold my attention.  I might watch this again at some point as well.

So this pack is far, far better than the previous one.  This one will go into the closet that holds the things that I plan to watch again at some point.

I have more science fiction to watch and talk about (hence the new tag).  So watch for far, far more science fiction over the next few weeks, at least.

Thoughts on “Aeon Flux”

March 9, 2021

“Aeon Flux” is the second movie in the pack that also contained “Ghost in the Shell”. This one is based on an animated series rather than a strict anime/manga, but like “Ghost in the Shell” I had heard of the original series but had never actually watched it, so this was my first exposure to it.

The basic premise is that there was some sort of ecological disaster and the last human beings are living in a futuristic city while outside of the walls nature has reclaimed most of the Earth.  While the city seems to be providing all the needs and wants of its people, it does seem to be run pretty much as a police state, where people who challenge the powers-that-be disappear, and there is a Resistance movement opposing the existing order.  Aeon is a member of the Resistance, and the movie mostly follows her and her relationship to the leader of the city.

One thing the movie does well that “Ghost in the Shell” doesn’t is use the emotional connections and relationships as means and not as ends in themselves.  Early on, Aeon’s sister is killed by the government in an attempt to get at Aeon, but while we understand Aeon’s grief and guilt we aren’t expected to care as much about her sister as she does.  It’s establishing Aeon’s character and the nature of the city in a way that we can all understand, but it doesn’t rely on us either feeling very sad that the sister is dead or feeling for Aeon’s character.  While the sister character is given enough space to be likeable and so we can understand the tragedy her death would be, and we can understand why losing her only family due to her membership in the Resistance would be bad for Aeon, we don’t have to literally feel for them for the scene to work.  The scene works to establish the things we need to know without forcing the emotion on us, which is good because again it’s way too early for us to really feel those emotions.

This also applies to Aeon’s relationship to the leader of the city.  It turns out that the city has been reproducing by cloning, and that she is a clone of the leader’s wife from before the disaster.  However, it was believed that her template was lost and so that she couldn’t be cloned, and so when he comes across her this time it kicks off most of the plot of the story, as they try to solve that mystery and also to figure out why his cure doesn’t seem to be working.  But again we don’t know him or her well-enough at that point for their romance to be really affecting, but the movie works well to make it plot and character points rather than a simple emotional scene.  Thus, it doesn’t take the time to set the two of them up as constantly searching — even subconsciously — for each other so that we can get a swell of emotion when they find each other, but we can easily understand how finding each other after so long — once they realize what is going on — would impact them as people and drive the plot forward, and also sets up the character points that would impact the rest of the plot.

Now, in both of these cases some people might indeed have strong emotional reactions to those scenes, because the elements of them are standard enough that it might kick in affective empathy.  But the key is that the scenes don’t rely on that to be effective.  If you get those feelings, you will get the character and plot points and enjoy the scene, but if you don’t get those feelings, then you will still get the character and plot points and won’t feel like something is missing from the scene or that the scene wants more from you than it can deliver.

The plot generally works.  It sets up a mystery that mostly works and ties into the society as well as to the personal issues of the leads, and lets them set up the requisite action scenes.  There is some oddness in dreams and in the connection to the Resistance that I don’t think is properly or fully explored, but the movie moves and for the most part we don’t really need to have all the answers to understand what’s going on in the movie.  So we don’t spend our time being confused or wondering what’s going on, which is a huge benefit because we can then just sit back and follow the movie.

As per last time, I’m not going to give my impressions of this movie until the last one, which is “The Island” and should be up next week.

Thoughts on “Ghost in the Shell”

March 2, 2021

So let’s start the second three-pack of science fiction movies that I managed to find.  This one starts with “Ghost in the Shell”, which is based on an anime that I think I have or had some episodes of but never actually watched.  It also had a bit of controversy, as a number of the usual suspects complained bitterly that Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead instead of an Asian actress.  In fact, it’s quite possible that that controversy was the reason that it was included on an inexpensive compilation set instead of being sold longer on its own.  Now, one point people made is that the entire premise of “Ghost in the Shell” is that the outer appearances are indeed shells, and so even with a Japanese name there’s no reason to think that the shell was Japanese, even in the original media.  So the reaction was a bit of an overreaction from the start.  However, after watching it I think that a good point can be made that plot and character-wise the movie works better with a non-Asian lead, and that the people who were complaining didn’t bother to watch the movie first before complaining.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit about that initial premise.  The lead character is a shell, which means that she’s a brain put inside a somewhat biological and mechanical body.  She’s the first one to actually survive the process, but there do seem to be others that are out there as well, and shells are becoming, I think, big ideas.  She works as part of an organization that deals with criminals and other threats to society, which is the set-up for the action scenes.  However, she doesn’t have her full memories, which is a source of concern for her.  As far as she knows, she drowned and was revived and her parents were killed as well.  The plot, then, weaves between a corporate conspiracy, a terrorist threat, and the lead recovering her memories and the consequences of that.

One criticism that I’d make of the movie is that it tries to generate emotion and have the scenes rely on that generated emotion before it has done the work to establish the groundwork to legitimately generate it.  We find out fairly early on about her memory problems, but don’t know her well-enough to care about them while the movie clearly seems to want us to.  We find out about the terrible treatment of the shells that didn’t work, but we don’t know enough about the world yet to really feel that that was a terrible thing.  It implicates the doctor that might be a mother figure for the lead, and yet we really don’t know enough about the relationship to have that have a full impact, even as the doctor sacrifices herself to save the lead.  So it struck me as hitting the elements of the scenes so that we know what impact they should have, but not really managing to actually have that impact.  It was sort of a “Please feel emotions here!” which didn’t work out that well.

In recovering her memories, she discovers that her loss of memory was in fact deliberately caused by the corporation that built the shells.  It turns out that she was a rebel against the system and that her and her comrades — including a former lover who is the terrorist — were captured and then turned into shells, with her being the most successful shell (likely because of the personal interest the doctor showed in her).  She had left her mother — who is Asian — and her mother didn’t know what happened to her, which she finds out when she meets her after being given a hint to her past.  So, essentially, the corporation took an enemy and converted her to someone that helped to defend them by wiping out her entire past.  This is what makes having a non-Asian as the shell really work, even if it wasn’t intentional:  after all, if they were wiping out her history, why would they give her a shell that in any way resembled who she really was?  It would probably be a bit much to change the sex/gender, but changing the race to make her look nothing like the woman she used to be was the safer play.  I would have very much liked them to hint that the shell she got resembled someone who had a personal connection to the doctor — a sister, a niece, etc — that had been lost to explain the emotional connection the doctor had to the lead (and also hint that the doctor would have gone to great lengths to save that specific shell that she wouldn’t have done for others), but they didn’t really seem to make that move.  But, again, a non-Asian shell for the daughter of an Asian mother really works for the plot.

As I did with the last ones, I’m going to wait until the end of the pack to give my final impressions of the movies and to say whether or not I’d watch it again.  Next time is “Aeon Flux”.

First Thoughts on “Huniepop 2: Double Date”

February 24, 2021

So, like Shamus Young, I found the original Huniepop game strangely compelling.  It’s less of a surprise for me than for Shamus because I am a long-time fan of dating sims and Shamus isn’t.  Still, he was turned off by the seeming doubling-down on the anime sex elements while I was turned off by the change in girls and that none of them seemed interesting to me.  Still, when I looked it up to see what the mechanics were I was interested, as you indeed have to “double date” and try to get into a threesome with girls, but this means that you need to balance your “attention” between the two girls, which means that you have to switch between them before the one gets too tired where they are unusable for a number of turns before they recover.  They have different traits which means that they like different matches, and will get baggage later that impacts what you can or should do.

So how does this Match-3 gameplay actually work?  The two girls at a time and the stamina is itself kinda interesting, forcing you to balance your time between them and look for the matches each girl likes best and for stamina matches when you need to.  However, that the broken heart matches now exhaust them is terrible if these ever come up by accident, so removing broken hearts from the board is more critical than ever.  Except that while in the first game you got a number — 4 or 6, I think — of slots for date gifts which can do that and you could slot in your favourite gifts for your playstyle, here it seems like the gifts are per girl and you have to open up more than one slot as you go along, which is quite pedantic.  And you still have to build up sentiment to use them, and of course that has to be built up per girl, which just adds more playing around to the game when all I wanted to do was match some threes or more.  All in all the gameplay is a bit more fiddly and so I don’t feel it’s really taking advantage of the concept all that well.

Moreover, the dating sim elements seem to be added to a bit as well … except that I have very little interest in them because I have very little interest in any of the pairs I’ve discovered so far.  In the first game, you could focus on the girls you like, but here it has to be on the combination and that means that you have essentially two girls-worth of a combination of looks and personality to balance to try to gain some interest.  And for me almost all of the girls have pretty uninteresting or annoying personalities.  So I have no interest in talking to them, and little interest in dating them or doing anything for them, which is turning the dating sim into a puzzle game, and I’m not that interested in a straight puzzle game.

So far, it’s not that interesting to me, and looks like it won’t be a game that I can use to fill in a couple of hours when I have some time, which means that I’ll probably put it off for a while.  I like the concept, but the gameplay doesn’t take full advantage of it and the girls just aren’t interesting enough for me to bother.

Thoughts on “Annihilation”

February 23, 2021

Last time was “Tomb Raider”, and the last movie in that three movie pack was “Annihilation”.  Now, I do like Natalie Portman, and so I saw this movie a few times for relatively cheap and was tempted to buy it.  But the focus in the description on the all-female team — which the movie would have to justify if it wanted to make a big deal out of it like the description was trying to do — and the overall idea that Natalie Portman’s character was going in to find out what happened to her husband made me decide that the movie was probably not going to be very good.  I didn’t realize that the movie was one of the ones in the pack until I looked to see how long it was and realized who was in it, and so out of all of these movies this is the one that I approached with the most trepidation.

The movie doesn’t actually justify the all-female team that was sent in the second time, at least not as far as I recall.  But that’s okay because the all-female team isn’t really a big part of the plot either, so I have no idea what the description was going on about.  However, the movie fumbles things a bit with its framing.  Essentially, the movie is a collection of flashbacks.  The overall framing device is that Natalie Portman’s character has returned from the mission itself, and was the only one to return.  As part of this, there are flashbacks to her life with her husband to build up their relationship and give us an emotional connection to the two of them.  However, the main reason for a framing device where we are told about a disaster is to build in a mystery of what happened and how things ended up that badly.  But the world that they enter is quickly revealed as an extremely dangerous one that messes with their minds (although it isn’t clear why it does that).  So, yeah, we can pretty much figure out that all of the others will die and that the previous expedition was lost the same way.  The real mystery, then, is how her husband and how she managed to get back at all, which leads to the real twist of the movie.  But we didn’t really need that framing device to build that mystery, and neither the framing device, nor the flashbacks, nor the expedition itself actually set up for the twist itself.

And the twist itself is ambiguous (seemingly deliberately so) and not very interesting.  Towards the end, we find evidence that at least some of the creatures can duplicate people they come across.  One definitely duplicated her husband, and there is a duplicate of her that she fights, and the impression is that she defeats it.  Now, one of the reasons that she entered the portal into the other world at all was because her husband was falling ill and was clearly dying.  The video she sees showing the duplication of her husband has one of them essentially kill himself, which is implied to be the duplicate.  When she returns, the portal is closed and her husband recovers, but when she goes to see him he asks a question that the duplicate was directed to ask her, implying that he’s the duplicate.  But then there’s no reason given for why he was sick when the portal was open and recovered when it was closed, which would suggest that he was the husband and infected with something from the portal.  Maybe.  And then she doesn’t reply, but then hugs him, suggesting that if he’s a duplicate, she’s a duplicate as well.  But twists that are that ambiguous are at the very least very risky.  The best twists are the ones that we don’t see coming but completely understand and then kick ourselves later for not seeing it and not thinking of it.  So this twist is far too ambiguous to be interesting.  Now, you can have good movies with ambiguous endings, but those have to be pulled off very carefully to avoid the ending feeling unsatisfying.  “Annihilation”, however, doesn’t do anything to make this ending follow from what happened before or prepare us in any way for it.  So the ending comes across as more puzzling than interesting.

The rest of the movie is loose action, and so can’t save it and, again, doesn’t fit with the more artistic ending.

So, now that I’ve finished the pack, let me talk about whether or not I’d watch these movies again.

I wouldn’t watch Annihilation again.  The movie itself isn’t very interesting and is fairly slow-paced, and the ending is so ambiguous as to be confusing and unsatisfying.

I also wouldn’t watch Tomb Raider again.  The movie lacks an interesting and sympathetic main character because this version of Tomb Raider’s main personality traits are being arrogant and being reckless, neither of which make for a character I want to watch.  There were lots of elements that they could have used to make her more interesting as a person, and they didn’t use any of them.

I could potentially watch Arrival again.  The attempt at doing something like real science is somewhat interesting, and it might be nice to see if there are more hints at the future in the other parts of the movie.  However, it’s not that interesting a movie in and of itself.

Since these are all in the same pack, this means that it goes in my box in the closet to potentially watch again at some point instead of in the box to potentially sell at some point.

Next up … I have another three-pack of movies, and so will do the same thing for them as I did for this one.

Scalzi on Canceling

February 19, 2021

So, the idea of “canceling” has been around for quite a while.  It’s up to years at this point.  Recently, Gina Carano was fired from her role in “The Mandalorian”, which has spawned more of the right-wing complaining about canceling than we’d seen recently (the most recent was probably at least attempts to cancel J.K. Rowling).  But with this, John Scalzi woke up from doing his writing and decided to make some comments on it.  However, he seems to be woefully uninformed about the history of canceling and what it actually is.

He lists it out in points, but I’m not going to address the points directly, but instead yank comments from it and show how the issue isn’t at all what he thinks it is.  Starting with this:

But I think everyone else knew that fact all too well: it turns out if the people with the money decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth — for whatever reason, not all of them virtuous — then you can be gone in a snap and someone else can easily (easily!) take your place. This is particularly the case in creative fields, which have always been and likely will always be a buyer’s market. There is always a new actor, director, writer, musician or whatever — or an established one who needs a gig and who is not going to be a pain in the ass.

While for Carano it actually does look like the company had thought that she was causing trouble and had warned her about it, this isn’t something that Scalzi would generally agree with.  Especially if the “troublemaking” is done based on either their personal lifestyle or their words.  Someone, say, who complained about a bigger star making sexual advances towards them would certainly be causing trouble, but people like Scalzi have certainly not been so accepting if the company decides to get rid of them for “causing trouble”.  Arguably, someone calling out Carano for the posts they didn’t like would be causing as much if not more trouble than she was, and if someone was, say, advocating for Black Lives Matter or for trans rights I am quite certain that Scalzi would be far more upset about them getting fired like this.  So the first problem is that while he’s stating that this is just how the world works, this isn’t how he wants the world to work.  He doesn’t want people to be replaceable in this way, or at least for similar reasons … or, at least, if he doesn’t see their lifestyle as a problem or if he agrees with their words.  It seems quite likely that the only reason he’s not up in arms over this is because Carano is saying and doing things he doesn’t like, which makes the dismissive attitude here quite disingenuous.

And this is especially the case now, in an era where the franchise is the star, not the actor or the director. Disney, of course, has this down to the proverbial science — its Marvel and Star Wars universes are so vast and popular that, for example, a troublesome actor in a secondary role is not worth the hassle. Out they go, their character to be replaced with another previously minor character from the vast store of minor characters in those universes. Actors are the most visible replaceable people, but directors, writers, etc., are equally swappable.

This is flat-out false.  Disney has done nothing to make the franchise the star more than the actors or directors.  They advertise directors and actors all the time.  They had to give big send-offs to Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans just to hope to be able to move past them, and they’ve been advertising their “diverse” actors and directors and writers out the wazoo.  In fact, the only reason this matters is because people were drawn to the specific character and specific actress playing her, and Disney itself as well as the more progressive fans were harping on her being a kick-ass female character providing the diversity they wanted (as long as that diversity isn’t saying the wrong things, apparently).  So, no, prominent actors, directors and writers are no more replaceable in Hollywood than they’ve been in the past.  It boggles the mind that Scalzi isn’t aware of that, which makes this seem, again, somewhat disingenuous.  It’s at this point where we have to start wondering if he really believes this and has rationalized himself into those beliefs, or whether he’s trying to put up a smokescreen to dodge the real issues here.

I don’t want to say that capitalism is value-neutral, because, whoooooo boy, it is not, buuuuuuut it is pretty much 100% percent accurate that capitalism will always, always, follow the money. And where is the money? Well, in America two decades into the 21st century, the large capitalist structures have decided that the money will be multicultural* and socially inclusive* and politically liberal*, and all those asterisks are there because it should be understood that the capitalist take on each of these concepts is heavily modified and strained through the “to the extent we can make money off this” filter, i.e., don’t expect capitalism to lead us to a multicultural American utopia, just expect it to be happy to rent-seek inclusively on the way there.

Well, first, is that indeed actually where the money is?  The ones advocating for those things habitually cry poor, even going so far as to demand that the more “traditional” markets should subsidize them.  In line with that article, deliberately diverse works that should be designed for that market have not exactly done well financially.  Appealing to that market has yet, as far as I can tell, been any kind of financial windfall.  So either big corporations are idiots, or else there’s some other reason why they at the beck and call of those groups.  And before you start thinking that I’m suggesting that there’s some kind of conspiracy going on here, I’m not.  The reason is that right now the mainstream media is pretty attached to them, and so amplifies any screaming they might do.  The companies don’t want to feel bad or keep weathering the press, so they react to try to make it go away.  But even that can’t quite explain it, because big companies are famous for delaying and mouthing sympathetic words until the problem goes away naturally.  Then again, they’re also noted for doing something big and dramatic but utterly irrelevant to make it go away, too, without having to actually change anything, and firing Carano pretty much works as that.

The second reason ties into that:  this isn’t about money because the companies when they cancel, in general, don’t bother to wait and see if they’re actually losing money before responding.  It’s quite likely that most people don’t really care that much about these issues, and also quite likely that many of the people complaining don’t even watch the show.  My guess is that if they didn’t do anything here, they wouldn’t lose any ratings or money over the issue.  So it’s all image.  It’s all PR.  And, in general, it’s all about how the mainstream media will react.  So, no, it’s not about the money, but about the mainstream media and what they are at least currently willing to scream about.

But because this is the (current) way the wind is blowing for capitalism, it’s now slightly harder out there for a “conservative.” Which feels wrong! Conservatism is the pet political theory of capitalism! Conservatism is designed to protect capitalism! The venn diagram of a conservative and a capitalist is a perfect circle!

Remember, we’re talking about canceling in general, not this specific incident that Scalzi won’t talk about directly.  Liberals have been canceled, too, or at least people have tried to cancel them.  Scalzi could argue that conservatives are uninterested in these sorts of things unless it’s happening to conservatives, but that’s not what he’s arguing here.  Also, it’s not capitalism because as noted above it’s not about the money, but about the image.  And that’s where the complaints are coming in, that canceling subverts both capitalism and free speech by making something external to those things the determining factor.  People fired from their jobs even though they would still make money for the company, and people having their livelihoods taken away even in unrelated fields for saying something that some people don’t like.  You really can’t say that capitalism is doing the work here.

Look, America has its problems, but from the strictly capitalist point of view it was the best country on the planet because it was politically stable, and capitalism works best when things are stable. It’s hard to rent seek in chaos!

But then January 6th happened, and American Conservatism, which had been tromping away from stability for quite some time, thank you very much, finally served notice that it’s no longer on capitalism’s side: it would rather mob in chaos than make money in stability. 

Considering the riots that happened in the United States last summer under the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as things like Occupy, you can’t argue that American Liberals are better for stability.  Plus, again, canceling has been happening far longer than since January 6th, so tying canceling to instability seems, again, pretty disingenuous.  Either he’s rationalizing to things he already believes or he’s building a smokescreen to hide what’s really happening.

So now capitalism is doing what capitalism do, which is to shrug, say, “fine,” start working with the people who will let it function more or less to plan, and start punting the people who won’t. Again, this doesn’t mean that suddenly we live in a Delightful/Horrifying Multicultural Dream/Nightmare — hey! Most of the hands on the tiller of capitalism are still attached to white dudes, y’all! Check out the billionaires list! — but if that means a “conservative” loses a gig because they talked shit on social media, well, son, that’s the free market for you.

Except, that’s not what “capitalism” generally does, as noted above.  Capitalism, in general, doesn’t use explicit canceling.  Companies do not, in general, use explicit canceling for matters related to money and finances.  They wait to see where the money is really leading.  If you have, say, a stand-up comedian that says something that offends people, in general capitalism doesn’t have people advocate for them to be banned from all comedy clubs because of what they said, but instead it has people be so offended that they just stop showing up.  Since the person can’t draw audiences anymore, clubs don’t book them.  And so the market speaks and says that they found what they did so unacceptable that they need to redeem themselves or else need to find another job.  The same thing applies to things like book sales.  Instead of screaming at publishers not to publish them, capitalism simply has people stop buying their books, at which point publishers stop publishing them because they don’t make money.  In all cases, how capitalism actually does this sort of thing is to let the money dry up and through that remove them from public view.   That’s not what’s happening here.  Canceling is clearly not letting the market and capitalism decide because it short-circuits all of those measures by leaping in before those numbers are in.

And that’s rather the point.  The people advocating for canceling don’t want to wait for the market’s opinion to come in.  After all, the market might well disagree with them.  In fact, I think in many cases they’re sure that the market will disagree with them.  But if they can trigger the mainstream media to scream loudly enough about it, corporations will take mostly meaningless actions to get the mainstream media to shut up.  But those meaningless actions will generally get that specific person out of the public eye and make it so that no one will hear their words, and will also punish them for their sins, and that’s what they really want, so even though it does nothing to deal with the underlying problems it allows them to pretend that the people who hold those views are either non-existent or at least are being punished, and that makes them feel good, and isn’t that the point of everything?

“Cancelled” means you publish with Regenery or Skyhorse rather than with Macmillan or Simon and Schuster. “Cancelled” means you make a movie with (ugh) Ben Shapiro instead of Disney. “Cancelled” means Gab, or — heavens! — your own web site instead of Twitter. “Cancelled” means being a talking head on Newsmax and not CNN.

That’s not how canceling works.  When these groups really want someone canceled, they don’t stop there.  If they move to those other publishers and channels, then those trying to cancel them move on to attack those publishers and channels and demand that they be removed from there as well.  This continues until they hit things that won’t bend to their wishes, at which point they accuse them of pandering to facism and evil and bigotry and try to get them canceled.  Try to go to your own web page and want to fund it through Patreon?  They’ll scream at Patreon to stop funding you.  Use Paypal?  They’ll do the same thing.  Post videos on Youtube?  They’ll do the same thing.  They don’t want the people they cancel to be marginalized.  They want them gone!  And they’ll go after anyone and anything that gives them even marginal support as long as their attention span allows.

So, no, you can’t just go to that.  This isn’t like the old capitalist idea where the big publishers were simply choosing not to publish things.  Canceling isn’t about that sort of choice.  It’s not about deciding that the things aren’t things you think will sell or want to see in print, where you shrug your shoulders if someone else does it.  It’s about things that these people think should not be seen anywhere by anyone.  They start with the bigger ones first, but they’ll work their way down to the smaller ones, too.

Is this so awful? Well, yeah, apparently, it kind of is — but again, this is not anything that anyone who isn’t a privileged white person didn’t already know about how capitalism works in America. Entire commercial and political ecosystems exist and have existed for decades, created by and for the people who have otherwise found themselves shut out of or simply ignored by the commercial mainstream — marginalized economies, in effect

Of course, Scalzi and the entire diversity movement are based on the idea that this is terrible and something that the law should step in to remedy, so again being so dismissive of it is disingenuous.

I am not the first to make that observation, even among white people. But boy, is it ever true! And also, look, I do actually get it — if you’ve gotten away with **** for literally years with little to no consequence, getting called out on it and being judged for it and being penalized because of it, in what appears to you a sudden fashion, feels unfair, in no small part because, well, you did get away with it for years, and no one told you to stop (or if they did, you were able to overlook it).

If you’re going to argue that these are just consequences of their actions, you have to be able to argue that these are, indeed, fair consequences.  Again, Scalzi and other progressives do not think these consequences are fair when it happens to people they sympathize and agree with and so, again, this is quite disingenuous.

When I hear or read “I have been cancelled” I mostly translate that to “I am facing consequences for something I got away with before and I don’t like it.” When I hear or read “I will not be cancelled,” I mostly translate that to “I refuse to change my behavior, it’s the rest of the world that’s the problem, not me.” Which, you know, okay. You do you. Enjoy Newsmax.

For people who did anything that was considered immoral, this is precisely their response.  And Scalzi and people like him hailed them as heroes for it.  When it’s people that they consider immoral, it’s not at all heroic, and they deserve to be marginalized for it.  Canceling is not capitalism.  Canceling is the progressive Moral Majority.  But they don’t see it for what it is, or are trying desperately to dodge those implications.