What An Opportunity

Posts Tagged ‘Comics’

The Good Guys

In Life on May 7, 2015 at 12:09 am

Disclaimer 1: The reader must be willing to entertain the notion that art imitates life. If not, this post may not be your cup of tea. Just FYI

Disclaimer 2: There may be spoilers below for Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and the CW’s Supernatural. Not trying to ruin anything for anyone. Proceed at own risk

 

So I have to say this upfront, I’m a DC guy. For those of you who don’t know (or really care), in comic book vernacular, I like DC Comics. DC Comics has characters like Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, etc. I use “etc.” because with each reboot, reincarnation, “death”, and so on, I could name characters for a long, long, time. The other immensely popular comic book enterprise is Marvel Comics. Marvel is home to Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, X-Men, Spiderman, etc. (same rule applies here) You could say DC vs. Marvel is a friendly rivalry. Something akin to Playstation vs. Xbox, Red Sox vs. Yankees, or Bunchers vs. Folders. Your decision doesn’t matter either way but I promise, you will lose the respect of strangers if they find out one way or another.

So I’m a DC guy. I love Superman and the idea that fictional characters can be tangible conduits of certain morals and tenets. I love that in many ways, art imitates life. However, I was beyond excited (you can ask my friends) about Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. I saw the movie the day it came out and I loved it. I loved the heroes back together, the depth and fleshing out of individual characters (including the big baddie), the meta-references throughout, and the very subtle rebooting of the cinematic universe. Still, I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling.

See, the Avengers are ostensibly the good guys. They want to save the world and protect it from threats that may arise throughout the planet and the galaxy. Even if they can’t save the world, in the words of Tony Stark, they will avenge it. When is life ever that simple? When are the lines ever that clear? If art truly imitates life, the answers to the previous questions are the same: an unequivocal “No”.

Tony Stark truly believes that one day, the Avengers will not be necessary. There would be a program that could stop conflicts, and save lives, before the conflicts arise. It is this thought process that leads Stark to create Ultron. In a bit of foreseen irony, Ultron decides the best way to protect Earth is to remove those who enjoy living on it. The Ghosts of Summer Blockbuster Big Bad Past are seen in Ultron’s arrogance and desire for world domination but there is a disheartening twist: Ultron quotes Tony Stark. No, not out of context. No grammar semantics here. Ultron takes Tony Stark’s actual words and behaviors and shapes its identity and pursuit after its creator’s demeanor. Is the real villain of ‘Age of Ultron’, an Avenger?

This is not the first time that good intentions have had disastrous results. None of us are perfect but we try to do good. It only makes sense that we would mess up from time to time. As I said before, art imitates life. For example, I loved the TV show, ‘Scrubs’. It is #3 on my favorite TV shows of all-time (so far). Yet, I am not sure if there is one character that is a true hero. Heck, even the main character J.D. goes out of his way to find a mature, nurturing, and caring hero who he can emulate and has no luck. Instead, he finds his mentor in a narcissistic, alcoholic, and immature rage monster whose combination of self-loathing and arrogance is barely palatable in fiction. (By the by, Dr. Cox is my favorite character on Scrubs. Don’t judge me) Still, Dr. Cox is a phenomenal doctor, a wonderful husband, a loving father, and a surrogate father/mentor/therapist to J.D. throughout the show. Simultaneously, Dr. Cox is the best and the worst person for J.D. to look up to at Sacred Heart Hospital. Putting that another way, Dr. Cox is human.

This all brings up the whole reason I am writing this post. I was watching Supernatural tonight and a character died in the show. For a show like Supernatural, people die all the time. I am pretty sure every opening scene of the show has shown someone dying for some reason that will drive that episode. However, this death was a little more sad because I had grown to enjoy the presence of this character. Just like every season of Supernatural so far, this character was fiercely loyal to the Winchester boys and lost her (sorry) life trying to help them.

She was trying to help the Winchesters because they are good guys. Sam and Dean are the good guys. “Saving people, hunting things, the family business.” Yet, I am sure that they have hurt almost as many people as they have saved in their time. Close friends, family, angels, demons, monsters, etc. have lost their lives protecting Sam and Dean. All of them have lost their lives because Sam and Dean are the good guys. Sam and Dean placed them in harm’s way and they paid the ultimate price because Sam and Dean are the good guys.

The Supernatural episode left me thinking: Who are the good guys anymore? Then again, does it even matter?

The heart of the human condition lies in the foremost knowledge, and abject denial, that we are mortal. With each passing breath, we are drawn towards the inevitable. Therefore, we are continuously striving to reject our fate through feelings, moments, and other devices that capture time even for a second; in order for us to taunt eternity with our disregard for its strength.

Art accomplishes this goal. We empty our vision for existence into various mediums and draw conclusions and morals from stories we created based on our experiences and ideas. Perfectly circular logic at its best. Art cheats the most basic rule of life because we all know the ending.

The disclaimer at the top asked the reader to entertain the notion that art imitates life. However, a crucial detail has been forgotten in the message. See, we created art as an expression of the multitude of nuanced activities that surround the human experience. Further, art challenges the will of mortality. Therefore, art accomplishes what we never can. Art flatters life but truly, life wishes to imitate art. No matter the unclear lines, we all want forever.

 

My first comic-con and its greater societal reflection

In Culture, Life on April 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I didn’t dress up for UBCon – the University at Buffalo’s own massive anime/gaming convention – this weekend. I didn’t even know it was going on until I saw some Facebook statuses and tweets on Friday night. But when I strolled into the Student Union to get The Spectrum ready to print this rainy Sunday morning, there were dozens of people donning dozens of quirky costumes, consumed by character, galvanized for a day full of festivities.

Is…that…Ash Ketchum? Making out with Zelda? At college, you get used to seeing some pretty strange stuff, but this was a new level of curious. I didn’t recognize most of the outfits, and when they asked who I was dressed as, I looked down at my shirt and tie and muttered: “Clark Kent.”

I was an outsider. Here’s the strangest part of it all, and what sparked this column: when I was standing in line at Tim Hortons, scanning the bizarre crowd, and listening to the “nerdy” conversations, I spotted something that made me feel at home: a kid holding a basketball.

I sighed, relieved: there is a normal person. I’m not alone. Then I got to thinking: why do I think this kid is normal? What if he and I are the peculiar ones? Certainly, to this crowd, we are pretty weird.

When I surround myself with sports guys like me, it’s easy to look like I know what I’m talking about. Those are the things I like, the things I grew up focusing on. Meanwhile, the kids at UBCon grew up on comics, video games, and cartoons – and there is nothing wrong with that.

Why is it OK – or, I guess, more socially acceptable – that I always had the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL standings memorized when I was a kid? Does that make me a nerd?

To some extent, I think it does. But in society’s eyes, I am a dude, and guys are supposed to care about sports.

I played into the stereotype when I watched a meaningless Raptors-Celtics game Friday night instead writing my Criticism paper. I played into the stereotype Saturday when I played football with my friends instead of cleaning my room. I played into the stereotype today as I flipped through Sports Illustrated with The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton sitting on my floor.

So who is to say that I’m more socially normal – or cooler – than the kids who show up, outfits and all, to comic-cons? And why am I so socially conditioned to cringe when I see a large group of people that look different from me?

Maybe it’s because we like feeling accepted. And when we’re surrounded by a huge group of people that don’t look like us, well, we don’t feel accepted.

Did you know that people who feel rejected are likely to have shorter lives than those who feel accepted? It’s scientific fact – their immune systems break down and they’re prone to severe depression and anxiety. I’m not saying all “nerds” feel rejected, because I know that’s not the case. But I’m guessing that if we continue to propel these social theories of what is cool and what is not, we’re headed down the road to alienation – if we haven’t reached its apex already.

I found some fascinating analysis on psychologicalscience.org:

“Exclusion isn’t just a problem for the person who suffers it, either; it can disrupt society at large…People who have been excluded often lash out against others. In experiments, they give people much more hot sauce than they can stand, blast strangers with intense noise, and give destructive evaluations of prospective job candidates. Rejection can even contribute to violence. An analysis of 15 school shooters found that all but two had been socially rejected,” according to the website.

So when we call someone a “nerd,” we are essentially calling them weird, and when we call them weird, we are essentially saying they aren’t like us, and when we say they aren’t like us, it all comes back to haunt us.

In my opinion, nothing positive will ever come from making fun of someone else. Do you feel good about yourself after you demean someone? I know I don’t.

I’ve wanted to write on this topic for a while, but it’s such a slippery slope. I tried to write on how girls always hate on others girls for the worst and pettiest reasons, but that could be interpreted as sexist. And now, as I try to grasp this particular social divide, I could look like a typical jock “bro” asshole.

Here’s where the circular mocking starts: It’s easy to get full of yourself when you accomplish something, and in college, it’s pretty easy to accomplish stuff: get an A on a paper, get a promotion for your club, run train in intramurals. It’s a simple theory: when you get full of yourself, you automatically get lower on others.

And when you get lower on others, you belittle them (whether you’re conscious of it or not), and when you belittle them, it will come back to bite you, one way or another.

We will not progress as a society until we accept that it is never all right to feel above someone else just because that person is different.