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

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

“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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading