Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Then Along Came the Bad Batch

There is perhaps no modern mythology more compelling than the western, and no modern mythological figure more captivating than the cowboy. The term "western" itself is so ingrained in our cultural lexicon that nobody batted an eye when in reviews of the movie Logan, people started referring to it as a western or neo-western. The rest of us nodded along knowingly at this obviously deep insight into the cross-pollination of movie genres without giving a whole lot of thought as to what this analysis actually meant. On the one hand, iconography from the western genre and the archetype of the cowboy himself have become so ingrained in our understanding of storytelling. But on the other hand, I'm willing to bet a fistful of dollars that the majority of Logan's audience had never heard of - let alone seen - Shane, the 1953 classic western that's explicitly referenced in the movie itself and that many critics then compared Logan to in a series of seemingly endless online analyses (exactly the kind of cheap, short-lived dialectical trend I would never embrace).

The thing is, though, we toss around terms like "western" simultaneously knowing exactly what they mean, but not knowing at all what they mean. And I don't think it's enough to set the bar as low as United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and simply resort to the dismissive and unhelpful ambiguity of "I know it when I see it." This is especially important when we talk about reimagining, deconstructing, or subverting genre tropes; before we can reasonably say that something has been deconstructed or reimagined, first we have to know how that thing is constructed or imagined in the first place.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

2020: A Year in Review

You're welcome, 2020.
For those of us who lived through 2020, it is our sincerest hope that we never encounter another of her like in our lifetimes. Normally, I wouldn't feel comfortable speaking for the entire world, but this is one of the rare cases where things went so terribly sideways, and the citizens of little planet Earth were united by the common desire for something or someone to fuck right off. In this case, it was the entirety of the year 2020.

But as 2020 proved, years aren't bad. People are bad. Not all and not fundamentally, but people are can turn lemons into lemonade or improvised explosives. Sure nature is uncaring and ambivalent, but it takes people to really turn things to shit.

The year 2020 was, of course, dominated by the life-altering effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, which evolved into a global pandemic. It not only affected the lives of individuals, it shook the very foundations of our entire civilization. Or, at least, it exposed cracks already forming in the bedrock. Of course, the United States was a prime example of how a basic issue of health and safety could become politicized, but there are similar sociopolitical divisions that were laid bare all over the world.

We already knew that increased levels of stress and anxiety provide a toxic mixture that negatively impacts mental health, corrodes reason, and obstructs otherwise sound decision-making. But seeing it in action on a planetary scale is something else to behold entirely. As lock-downs and stay-at-home orders  were issued in nations the world over in an effort to maximize social distancing and stop the spread of an incredibly deadly virus, social media platforms like Facebook allowed for the large-scale dissemination of increasingly ridiculous conspiracy theories and outright lies and showed us exactly which family members and friends were most likely to break in a police interrogation or be the least help in a zombie apocalypse.