But the World Has Never Understood Me

Disclaimer: Every year since 2011, I’ve posted a self-reflection on New Year’s Day, looking back and forward. I hope you’ll grant me this self-indulgence once more. It was a rough year.

I’m adaptable. I have to be.

It seems that every one or two years, I pick up, move, and live a totally different life. Since finishing grad school, I have been an editorial assistant, a communications writer, a professor, and an environmental compliance specialist. A Memphian, a Virginian, a Chicagoan.

The Brutalism of Chicago. Credit: Heidi Samuelson

I’m pretty good at rolling with these external changes. I have to be.

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When Bad People Make Good Art

I grew up watching The Cosby Show. It’s hard to even think about watching it now, knowing that as it was being filmed and airing on TV, Bill Cosby was (allegedly)* drugging and raping women.

As it comes to light that Kevin Spacey, an actor who starred in some movies I loved (The Usual SuspectsAmerican BeautyBaby Driver), serially preyed upon young men (also allegedly)*, it makes me question what other terrible things have been done by people whose creative work I have enjoyed. It makes me wonder what I should do about it as a consumer of art.

The Usual Suspects. 20th Century Fox.

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The Ubiquity of the Male Revenge Fantasy

Warning: contains spoilers for a lot of movies, mostly notably American Assassin and Captain America: Civil War.

Imagine this. A man has had some hard times, maybe a parent (or both) died when he was young, maybe he grew up in a bad situation, but he has managed to grow up and find love. Then something unfortunate, something violent, happens to the love of his life. Maybe the violent event harmed or killed their child as well. So he vows to get his revenge on what, or who, caused the untimely death(s).

What movie am I describing?

If you answered:

Braveheart, Captain America: Civil War**, Collateral Damage, Confessions*, Death Wish, Django Unchained, Drive Angry, Equilibrium, Faust: Love of the Damned, Gladiator, Godzilla (2014), Hamlet, I Saw the Devil, Inception, John Wick, Kill Bill*, Law Abiding Citizen, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, Looper, Mad Max, Memento, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rolling Vengeance, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan**, Straw Dogs, Taken 3, The Bourne Supremacy, The Brave One*, The Bride Wore Black*, The Crow, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Fugitive, The Punisher, Unforgiven, X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or, most recently, American Assassin, you would be correct. Continue reading

Sports aren’t apolitical because sports are an industry.

ESPN is about sports. ESPN is not a political organization.” — ESPN president John Skipper

This has led to me seeing variations of the phrase “politics has no place in sports” plastered all over social media.

If only this were true.

In 2005, the United States Congress held hearings about doping in baseball. Top players testified. Jose Canseco famously admitted to using steroids in the past. Mark McGwire, feeling as though he’d be vilified either way, famously said “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were killed by a secular Palestinian terrorist group. They were aided by German neo-Nazis.

In 2015, a movie titled Concussion was made based on a 2009 GQ exposeabout the NFL trying to suppress a forensic pathologist’s research on brain degeneration due to chronic trauma that football players sustain.

In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted Pete Rose to be permanently ineligible for induction, after he agreed in 1989 to a permanent ineligibility from baseball due to betting on games while he was a player and manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose is the all-time MLB leader in hits, games played, at-bats, and singles.

In 2017, TV deals kick in for the Big Ten conference from which athletic departments will reportedly get payouts of $43 million in 2017–2018. Most schools the U.S. don’t profit from athletics and siphon off money from academic budgets to keep pace. College athletes, even at schools that doprofit, are not paid for their work.

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A Quiet History of Hate and Violence

If your response to neo-Nazi rallies or domestic terror attacks is to say something like “love conquers hate” or “hate never wins,” please pause and challenge yourself to dig a little deeper into what those words means.

If you criticize people who praise Nazi-punching or antifa or black bloc for defensive acts of violence and say things like “violence is never the answer” or “hate is hate,” please stop and consider more nuance.

And if you are a white person and have the nerve to point out to black people that Martin Luther King Jr. promoted nonviolence, for the love of God, please just stop.

These seemingly well-meaning slogans don’t address the severity and prevalence of everything that falls under “hate” and “violence.”

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I Still Don’t Understand the Sokovia Accords: A Non-Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Warning: Contains Spider-Man: Homecoming spoilers, and, yes, I know I’m still being a huge dork about this particular aspect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I will complain about it until Marvel hires me as a consultant, so buckle in, friends.

This will probably make more sense if you know two things. (1) I think the UN is a relatively useless institution in the 21st century, because it was designed to deal with Germany and Japan in the aftermath of WWII and uses a mostly out-dated concept of the nation-state (thanks, transnational capitalism!) as the basis for operation; (2) I thought Captain America: Civil War was lame, but I wrote a piece on how its use of the UN inadvertently critiqued it in an interesting way.

spiderman-homecoming

I still want to know if he got a new backpack.

I enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming a lot more than I thought I would. For one, it was fun. It felt like a comic book movie and not another male revenge fantasy (someone I love died and/or was a brainwashed assassin for 70 years, let me lash out because I don’t know how to have feelings–Tony, Zemo, T’Challa, and Steve all had the same story line in Civil War and only T’Challa had a redemption arc) or a thinly veiled generic action movie (okay, fine, the airport scene was cool). For another, Peter Parker wasn’t angsty or brooding beyond typical awkward, teenage, how-do-I-talk-to-girls angst.

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Political Correctness Isn’t the Problem

Denver Post columnist Terry Frei got fired for tweeting: “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend.”

  1. The use of atomic bombs that destroyed tens of thousands of Japanese people should make you uncomfortable, so maybe don’t say things like this.
  2. Frei made it personal by referring to a specific person.
  3. The thing that insensitive bigots don’t understand is that they seem to think this is all about personal offenses and sensitive snowflakes, which means they clearly don’t get it. It is systemic, institutional, structural injustices that screw over women, minorities, the poor–through policy and social practices. It’s about unfair, degrading treatment of entire groups of people based on some relatively arbitrary identity marker. It’s not personal sensitivity.

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