Monday, May 19, 2014

Ben Affleck was the Bomb in Phantoms

"Batman?"  Oh yeah, he sounds like a real badass.  He
dresses like a flying rodent; I've modelled my persona
on the Prince of Darkness.
I never realized how much people seem to completely despise Ben Affleck until it was announced a while back that he would be the next actor to don the mantle of Batman on the silver screen in the upcoming and as-yet untitled sequel to MAN OF STEEL.  The Internet exploded in a veritable orgy of insults, inflammatory comments, and libelous denunciations that made it seem like Affleck had committed some terrible atrocity or defiled people's mothers en masse.  It seems as though there was a good old fashioned feeding frenzy, and all it took was announcing that  an award-winning, commercially successful actor who had tapped asses most mortal men could only dream of would be taking on the role of a fictional billionaire who dresses up in a bat costume and uses his ninja skills to beat the shit out of killer clowns and alligator men.

In what now seems like an eerily prophetic turn in JAY AN SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Affleck, reprising his role as Holden from CHASING AMY, aptly boils down the seeming triviality of our use of new digital media: "The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another."  And in one sense, it is trivial to complain about which overpaid Hollywood actor best fits within the confines of preconceived notions about what a fictional character would actually be like.  It seems people tend to get caught up in the futile pastime of trying to prove themselves right on the Internet - a medium that by its very nature seems to thrive on dissent - and forget the fact that "These are fictional characters. Fic-tion-al char-ac-ters. Am I getting through to you at all?"

Considering all of the things going on in the world, from the inordinately disproportionate number of children getting raped on a seemingly daily basis by representatives of the Catholic church to growing economic disparity to an environmental crisis of literally global proportions to the crisis in Ukraine where Russia has begun appropriating parts of other countries like ordinary people might collect coins in a plot so absurd that it might be considered comical if it weren't horrifyingly true, whining and bitching about Ben Affleck portraying Batman seems not only shallow and short-sighted but also morally irresponsible.  Imagine if we spent half as much time and effort actually contributing to the well-being of our fellow humans instead of complaining about seemingly irrelevant bullshit?  We might be able to marginally improve the lives of others.

But in another sense, I can sympathize with the sentiment of focusing on the minutia of apparently irrelevant cultural phenomenon at the seeming expense of more pressing social concerns.  Worrying about who's going to be the next Batman is something that people feel they can control or influence. Problems like world hunger, climate change, or political reform are ideas that are generally too big for most people to either give a shit about or to want to give a shit about. I mean, there are a whole host of real, concrete problems that have extremely far-reaching and tangible consequences for us and for our species, but their sheer, mind-blowing size and scale pushes them into a realm of abstraction that makes them seem unreal.

The really Big Things seem too incomprehensibly complex and beyond the realm of influence by most mortal men.  It doesn't seem like we can make a dent in preventing terrorism or human trafficking.  But we might be able to collectively influence who the next Batman might be.  That's a problem that we can fucking tackle.  We might not be able to design a better health care system, but we can choose the perfect Batman.  That's well within the realm of both comprehensibility and agency.

I suppose it's all about context.  While I agree that who the next Batman will be is significant in a cultural sense here in the West, in the larger global sociopolitical context of our individual and collective human survival and well-being, it's largely irrelevant.  The goal, I suppose, is to be able to effectively prioritize and not make mole hills out of mountains.  I'm not saying we shouldn't get passionate about things we regard as culturally significant, I'm just saying that maybe we should try and save our moral outrage and comparisons to Hitler for the appropriate times and places.  


Welcome to the future.  Below is the first official pick of Batffleck was released by director Zack Snyder on the Twitter last week to either the chagrin or joy of countless Batman fans and the general populace.  


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