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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“Triple Banana, Bitch”: Or, McDanno and the Challenge to Heteronormativity

1. Introducing the Case

[1] Imagine a TV show where two co-workers/friends survived being trapped under a collapsed building and Person A sustained some pretty severe injuries. While trapped, the Person B says “I love you” to them. They are eventually rescued, and the following conversation ensues.

A: When we were in there, you said ah, y’know before you did the thing with the bomb, you said what you said … I want you to know, I feel the same way.
B: How is that exactly?
A: You’re making me say it? (B gives A a look.) Come here. (They hug.) I love you.

Now imagine a couple years later, a mutual acquaintance, Person C, is listening to them discuss Person A’s ex’s upcoming divorce.

B: What about therapy? It worked for us.
C: You two lovebirds have a therapist?
A: (Incredulous scoff.) Yes, we have a therapist.

Around the same time, imagine the couple arguing because Person B found out that Person A had been thinking about retirement without consulting Person B.

B: You didn’t feel the need to include me in the decision for you to retire. I trust you to bring me into big decisions like that.

You’d probably think that was a romantic couple, wouldn’t you? They got together, they expressed their love after a traumatic event forced them to, they’ve worked at their relationship, they still have spats over things like major life decisions.

What if I said that Person A is Detective Danny Williams and Person B is Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-0?

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How Would I Know That This Could Be My Fate

Trigger warning: I talk about suicide in this. And to anyone reading this who knows me and thinks they should worry about me — I’m fine. Really. 

From the Euphoria Morning album artwork. 1999.

I was sad when I heard that David Bowie died. I felt blind-sided when Prince died. It just is sad when people who make music and art that reaches a lot of people die, because collectively we lose something that made existence better.

Thursday, when I heard that Chris Cornell died I felt my stomach drop, but when I found out that it was a suicide, something inside of me broke.

Obviously I didn’t know Cornell. I have no idea what he was like as a person. But I’ve loved his music since I was young. Superunknown and Down on the Upside are two of the most formidable albums for my emotional development, and I continued to follow Cornell’s career, even through Audioslave. I was listening to Euphoria Morning just last week (I still had it on cassette).

But this isn’t about his musical impact. It’s about what I got out of his words.

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The Fetishization of the American Businessman

Donald Trump clearly doesn’t care about governing or know anything about governing. He has never given any indication that he did. Vague statements in his campaign didn’t magically turn into knowledge after the election.

Donald Trump wanted to be president in order to protect and promote his business and the Trump brand. He probably also wanted the power, but we have no way of confirming the latter other than his insistence that he won the election in a landslide [read: he didn’t] and his language befitting of a demagogue. We do have evidence, however, of his financial stakes.

Trump has refused to separate his business interests from his presidency, refusing to put his assets in a blind trust, instead handing over management to his two oldest sons. After the election, the Trump Organization doubled the initiation fee for its Mar-a-Lago resort — which Trump has since called “the Winter White House” — to $200,000. Trump Hotels’ CEO also said, after the election, that they planned to triple the number of Trump Hotels in the country. And that’s just in the U.S. According to the Washington Post, “at least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia, and the Middle East.”

This is dangerous to the American people. The President of the United States is supposed to represent national interests and not, say, what he stands to profit from a casino or a luxury condo in Turkey. It’s not a coincidence that the Muslim-majority countries on Trump’s first attempt at an anti-immigration executive order were countries in which he has no business investments. The stated purpose of the order was to prevent terrorists from entering the country, even though no terrorist attacks have been committed on U.S. soil by people from any of the banned countries. It’s not hard to connect the dots.

You can find a laundry list of Trump’s business conflicts of interest here. It’s long. And it’s not subtle. My personal favorite is the Chinese trademark dispute that had been going on more than a decade and was magically settled in the Trump Organization’s favor after he became president.

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To Amy on Her 37th Birthday*

Heidi and Amy. c. 1987.

I don’t think I’ve ever told Amy this, but years ago, probably when I was in college, I internally accepted the idea that my adult life would end up with me living in her basement.

Set aside the fact that I intuitively — and, as it turns out, correctly — knew that I would not be good at being an adult. I also knew that Amy would have a better grasp on figuring things out than I would and that she would willingly house me for an open-ended period of time and not judge me for not having my shit together.

Years have passed since this personal revelation. But during those years, even though her life at times was very distant from mine literally (as she lived on two different continents) and figuratively (because I’m an emotionally distant android-like creature on a good day), I continued to live with this plan in the back of my mind. Even when she did not have a reliable address, let alone a basement.  

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What Do Identity Politics Mean When You Don’t Have An Identity?

maskI had a friend in college who told me that statistically I didn’t exist. And maybe I don’t.

He said it because as an American I’m a bit of an anomaly. But the truth of his off-hand comment has lingered with me for years. Beyond the demographic categories I can’t escape, I’ve tried identities on for size—with varying degrees of accuracy.

But let me go back.

My childhood doesn’t fit me. The child I was is incongruent with how I see myself now. I know I lived through grade school, through college, through job after job after job. Through labels—grounds crew, barista, teaching assistant, cashier, first grader, freshman, senior, summa cum laude, employee of the month, girlfriend, single.

But was I any of those things? Was I an archivist? A graduate student? A partner? A mentor?  Continue reading