Friday, 23 September 2016

You Realize That This Means Culture War

In the wake of the 2016 election, we have come to see the rise of the alt-right. The alt-right is the answer to the question “What if the obnoxiousness of the liberals was combined with the blatant racism and conspiracy theories of right-wing radio hosts?” though a more concise way to see it is as one commentator put it, “fascism but with memes”.  I would say that’s the weirdest thing to come out of this year but this year has already brought Brexit causing a mini-global financial panic, a senseless violence conga from the West to the East and the most hated people America could offer being the nominees to run the nation into a second civil war, among so many other insane stories. Rest assured though, the alt-right is still in the Top 10, because it’s not exactly something that’s easy to talk about with sensible, normal people. It’s about as weird as explaining some sexual slang that Stephen Colbert uses to my mother. I mean we’re all adults here, but there’s just something so immature and bizarre about the whole thing. Much like the alt-right.

Like any modern political movement, the alt-right came about from the recesses of 4chan and Reddit, happily listening to Alex Jones grunt about globalists and sneering at progressives for being no-good cucks. At the time, there wasn’t much to be said – they just kind of seemed like disgruntled white dudes who wanted to use the privilege of anonymity to say terrible things. Then the election saw that Trump, a man who had a hatred of anyone who wasn’t white (yet had no problem with his own reflection) was not only winning, but he was being as politically incorrect and aggressive as all fuck. Thus, the alt-right came out of their basements and goose-stepped out on the streets to rally behind the man who would bring about the promise of a greater America.

Once the nomination was a lock for Trump, the alt-right could happily dance on a fractured GOP as they laughed uproariously at Sanders supporters who either sighed deeply and went with her or want to see what a lame-brain libertarian or consistently-losing green could offer them. The left pretty much wasn’t left much to retort – no matter how many times they shouted Donald Drumpf, it didn’t stop the incessant cuck-calling. They were free to spam their intolerant, nationalistic garbage around the internet, filling the media up with so much bile that Ann Coulter could come out of the ooze and plug her new book The Liberals Are A Bunch Of Fucking Cunts.

The alt-right found itself a powerful ally in Milo Yiannopoulos, an only-gay-because-I-hate-women-so-much media commentator, who fought the good fight for Gamergate despite making it very clear he fucking hates those fat virgin loser gamers. Milo knows that the way to get people to listen is to be outrageous as possible. Saying that you want to be straight as a gay guy might not be all that shocking, but saying that you want to be straight to become more oppressed? That’s gonna draw the eye…and a ton of laughs, but nevermind that– they won’t laugh for long. He turned the whole ridiculing spectacle from the left-leaning entertainers and the flamboyancy of the LGBTQ community into tools for the alt-right to use and abuse, ensuring that they would get significant attention for their batshit crazy thoughts and for their incessant spamming of the death of one particular gorilla who I’m so fucking sick of hearing about.

The alt-right has a significant amount of footing in place and they’re not as different as their more measured folks in the same political wing. Both after all agree that Obama and Hilary are a mistake, Islam is a threat to the West, and that the illegal immigrant issue needs some serious reform. The only difference is that the alt-right will call you a shill and a cuck if you disagree with them. They’re far more intense about their beliefs and they don’t fuck around despite how much of a joke I may make them out to believe. They’re a strong virus from the partisan plague that has continued to fester in the US, with this year being the moment that it turned into a complete epidemic. After all, it’s not like nationalism or insane right-wing politicians are only a US thing.

It’s a shame that we’ve gotten to this point where moderates, compromise and nuance are as absent as the headphone jack on an iPhone 7. But I suppose it’s hard to expect unity in the US unless we get horribly attacked. Even then, good luck trying to get us united. It’s not to say that the alt-right is the sole culprit of the division or even one of the greater pushers. Sure, they’re a radical bunch who’d happily tweet out KKK quotes under the handle of AryanWhitePower1488, but the Tea Party hasn’t helped in bridging that divide. The deadlocked congress hasn’t helped. Real Time With Bill Maher or The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight or really any political comedy show hasn’t really helped. But the alt-right certainly has shown that we’ve taken our division to another level.

I guess I can’t exactly pretend like I don’t have my own passionate political biases. Anytime I hear someone praising Hugo Chavez, I restrain myself from wanting to choke someone to death. Politics are always going to end up stirring enough emotion among people to get them to hate long-time friends or family members. And certainly this year is going to bring that divorce rate up higher than the number of emails that Hilary has deleted. Even when the election ends, there’s going to be a whole lot of anger about who wins and people will still be at each other’s throats. There seems to be no grey in the black and white world that has been created. Certainly the alt-right sees itself on the white side and will do it’s best to maintain this simplified world along with the smug left. I hope that things aren’t as grim and divisive as they seem. But if not, at the very least I hope they stop saying cuck so damn much.

Types of hypocrisy

“The hypocrisy about hypocrisy is that it’s only hypocrisy when you’re not the hypocrite” - Anonymous

Hypocrisy! We’re all guilty of it. Whether we’re having a fun time with friends or trying to conduct ourselves as professionally as possible, we all seem to have fallen into that all-too-human error of acting in contradiction to ourselves. It’s something that we chastise others for doing but try to justify when we do it. Hypocrisy is what makes the follies of man all the more interesting. It’s what keeps the world both rotten to its core and functioning effectively. But hypocrisy is not some simple phenomenon. In fact, there’s a variety of ways to express hypocrisy. That’s where this comes in.

Mind-game hypocrisy

Mind-game hypocrisy is hypocrisy that focuses on the hypocrite using quite a twisted set of logic that leaves their audience in a daze over their hypocrisy. It’s a hypocrisy that mostly finds its way in politics because it thrives on misleading and confusing people and lord knows that's all politics is about.

Flip-flop: Perhaps the most well-known form of mind-game hypocrisy, flip-flopping focuses on switching sides on a position very often. It makes it seem as though the hypocrite really has no true opinion on a matter since flip-flopping tends to be seen as a reaction to shifts in environment. It could be the case that they are in the process of informing themselves on a subject but never are able to properly plant themselves on a side. So when they’re asked about it on multiple occasions, they’ve found themselves swayed by different information each time, leading to a different conclusion. It may also be a reaction of peer pressure that stops them from standing firm on their opinion in certain places.

Rick is running to be mayor of the city. When asked about the issues with infrastructure, Rick says that he will fix it by putting private companies to take care of it. However, when he goes to districts where union-workers live, he says that he will only let the unions handle the infrastructure issue. But realizing that he’s angered private companies, he then says that he’ll allow for both of them to work on certain projects. With both sides pressing him as well as non-union workers, Rick tries to gravitate more to them, despite not really having much of an interest in the infrastructure issue itself.

Doublethink: Doublethink comes from the George Orwell classic 1984. In it, he describes doublethink as simultaneously holding two beliefs that contradict each other as being true without being torn by cognitive dissonance. Now, while it can be argued that doublethink is not exactly hypocrisy (since hypocrisy is more on the contradiction of actions or statements rather than accepting the contradiction), it certainly is a tool of the hypocrite since it does rely on a false appearance. For doublethink serves to paint the acceptance of a contradiction not as a fault but as a positive.

Jane is an advertising executive for a soda company. She makes the point that the soda is the best thing in existence one day, never drinking the soda at all on that day. The next, she remarks to a client that the soda is the worst tasting thing ever, having already downed twelve bottles of it. Each day her claim will be inversely proportional to how many sodas she’s had, but she is equally as confident in saying either statement despite this.

Mystery-box hypocrisy: This form of hypocrisy is somewhat similar to flip-flopping in that there is a lot of sides that are switched around. But where as flip-flopping tries to create a semblance of a belief being cemented to mask the lack of an actual opinion, mystery-box hypocrisy makes it clear that there is some belief that actually exists but it’s unclear to the audience which one is the true belief and which one is the contradiction.

George is a stockbroker whose talking to his friends about how the market is doing. In one conversation, his friend is asking if he should try to push for any stocks in mining companies. He advises against it saying that those stocks are always risky. A week or so later, another friend asks George about stocks in mining companies and he says that he should go for it as they’re very stable and safe. George himself keeps very hush-hush about his stocks, so neither friend is sure of what his actual stance on stocks are. 

Preferential hypocrisy

Preferential hypocrisy is hypocrisy which hinges on preference playing a factor into it. It’s the sort of hypocrisy that can be boiled down to “well if X does it, it’s wrong, but if Y does it, it’s a-okay!”

Dismissive hypocrisy: This is when a hypocrite makes the point that their act of hypocrisy is not that big of a deal because the matter itself was not something that they were incredibly passionate about. It tries to minimize the damage of the hypocrisy by making it seem as though there wasn’t much damage or effect on the act itself.

Jake asks his friend Sandra to set him up with a date with Marissa. Sandra says okay and brings it up to Marissa. Marissa says to Sandra that she’d never date Jake because she’d never date a guy who doesn’t know how to cook. Later on she dates Neil, whom Sandra is friends with. Sandra knows that Neil doesn’t know how to cook and confronts Marissa about her claim. Marissa scoffs at her comment and says that she wasn’t being serious about it.

Contextual icing: The contextual icing is when a hypocrite makes the point of adding a detail to the situation that attempts to justify the hypocrisy. This one is particularly tricky because there are instances where context does have a significant factor in changing a situation, thus rendering the claim that such a belief is hypocritical to be moot. What makes the context a contextual icing is when it is a very minimal factor that gives the illusion that there is more to the situation. Much like how a cake with a thin layer of icing is not much different than an identical one without it since it can be removed with just a pass of a finger over it.

The police arrest two individuals that were charged with the same crime. The first individual gets the standard ten-year sentence while the second one gets a lighter sentence of five months. When a reporter asks the judge why the second one was given a lighter sentence, the chief responds that the second individual was a woman and thus did not deserve such a harsh sentence.

My-Way-Or-The-Highway hypocrisy: You know the saying “my way or the highway”? This hypocrisy is all about that! It’s similar to contextual icing in which the optics are made to seem like the hypocrisy is not actually so. But the difference is that My-Way-Or-The-Highway hypocrisy emphasizes that the hypocrite is only for or against their belief if everything is to their specifications. Furthermore, to make it hypocrisy, they’ve yet to establish those parameters to their viewpoint until it comes true for them.

Bob says that there should be a third party to shake up the politics in his country. When Dave informs him that the Green Party, a third party has managed to get in the national debate and is polling in double digits, Bob pouts saying that he only meant if the third party was the Libertarian Party, had a charismatic Hispanic female leading the helm and had at least 5% control of the parliament in their country.

Self-serving hypocrisy

Self-serving hypocrisy is an odd term because technically all hypocrisy has some form of self-service. What makes this hypocrisy specifically self-serving though is that it particularly focuses on the interests and emotions of the hypocrite. It’s one that puts them at the center of the act.

Sellout hypocrisy: When a hypocrite is essentially letting their core beliefs be replaced by a force that overpowers them. Most of the time it may be due to money, but sellout hypocrisy can be more from pressure to be with an individual to a group. It is essentially a sharp turn from one belief to another simply to receive some reward for it.

An anti-consumerist band gets bought out by a major corporation and begins to appear in person in multiple advertisements because they really need the money.

Disgusting reflection hypocrisy: When a hypocrite has less empathy over others on an action that they themselves would do. It essentially stems from the hypocrite looking upon another person doing something they do and reacting negatively to it seeing how that is reflected. Yet rather than use that reaction to change themselves or accept that everyone faces that same emotional change, they’d much knock others down so as if to say that they have no reason to act the way they do.

Dan feels sad that no one wants to hang around with him at school. He sees a classmate of his that feels the same way and rather than ask him to play a game with him, tells him to suck up it and be more happy.

High-and-mighty hypocrisy: When the hypocrite believes their act of hypocrisy is justified because they have superior ability (or because they can afford to be hypocritical since it’s them that’s committing the act, not someone else).

Paulina runs a store. She learns from the news that employees from another store are complaining about not getting their minimum wage raised. She sides with the employees, saying that the minimum wage should be raised for them. When an employee brings up that she hasn’t raised the minimum wage for them, she rolls her eyes and says that she doesn’t have to do that because she provides far more for her employees than the other store.

Cowardly bully hypocrisy: The cowardly bully likes to push others around and tell them that they have to be a certain manner. But the cowardly bully doesn’t really act the same when their in the same situation as their counterparts. This can also be seen as the boss conundrum as the example below will demonstrate:

Neil and Zack meet together to discuss how work is going. Neil tells Zack that he wants to ask his boss for a raise but is too afraid to do so. Zack responds by constantly telling Neil that he needs to “man up” and go ahead and ask for that raise. Neil keeps chickening out and Zack keeps mocking him for his lack of initiative for it. Meanwhile, Zack too wants to ask his boss for a raise but is too afraid to do so. Yet he insists that Neil is pathetic for not being able to ask his boss for a raise.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

What A Bunch Of Wieners - A Sausage Party Review

Adult animated films are a rarity in the mainstream world. They're a rarity in general. Animation has always belonged to the cuddly characters and saccharine songs that Disney have built their empire on. Granted, animation has a lot more variety to offer thanks to DreamWorks mixing it up, and even Disney has gone to challenge their own image from time to time. But there's always a box that these films will stay around in, not willing to go any further out of fear it will hurt them. Hell, it pretty much seems like people don't want to see them out of it anyways. Unless you have a show, then maybe they'll take a gander.

To me, seeing animated films break into the R-rated territory would be a wonderful sight. Which is why I sat through Sausage Party.

My enthusiasm for the film was not really up to the levels I had hoped. The script was perhaps the most perverse and warped thing involving food since a certain athiest shoved a banana up his ass. It was as offensive and derivative as a raunchy comedy could get. Easy stereotypical jokes, gratuitous swears that were as childish as they could get, and a food orgy that was 10 or so pages long. I felt like Rogen had set the prospect of adult animation far far back to the point that even saying the clean version of a swear word would be vulgar.

After some thought, I figured that perhaps the movie would serve as a catalyst for more to come. I might not like it, but maybe supporting it would lead to greater things down the line. After all, if enough money is thrown at something, Hollywood will milk that sucker 'til it's empty. Besides, a part of me did find it funny. It may be an immature part of me but one should be willing to indulge in their immaturity. Besides, I had to see just how much they would actually allow. So I got my tickets and entered into a late showing of the film, where I could count everyone who was there with only one hand. 

For those of you unaware of what Sausage Party is, basically think about all those commercials where the food comes to life. Don't you find it odd when they're all happy and cheerful even though they're going to be eaten? Well, this film takes the concept to its most logical conclusion by having the food be horrified that humans (whom they revere as gods that take them to a great beyond) are actually using them for consumption. It centers around Frank (Seth Rogen), a sausage who wants to get all up in Brenda (Kristen Wiig), a hot dog bun, by being chosen by one of the gods to enter into that great beyond. Frank then finds himself attempting to save a suicidal honey mustard (Danny McBride) who knows the real truth behind the great beyond and then having to go on a quest to prove the harsh reality of the situation, eventually coming across Sammy the Bagel (Edward Norton), Lavash (David Krumholtz), Teresa del Taco (Salma Hayek) and a douche (Nick Kroll)

Coming out of the movie, I have to say that I was neither pleasantly surprised or insanely insulted. Sure, reading the script could be seen as an insult in general but it had numbed me to what was to come. There was a way more offensive and awful way they could have taken the material on the text, and there were thankfully some awful scenes that were taken out like a piece of cheese getting slightly aroused that his dismembered dick was being eaten by rats. There was however some that stayed, like zombie corn coming out of a piece of shit and a douche raping a juice box through a draining oral act. Interestingly, the orgy scene was actually a lot more stupidly hilarious than greatly disturbing. That scene had me worried in the script as being a terrible and idiotic idea. It wasn't any less idiotic than I imagined it but thank god Point Grey knew where to take the scene.

At the same time, the film had very little moments that were incredibly creative. Any obvious joke you had in your head about a character, this movie would put it on screen. From the bagel being a nebbish Jew, to the lavash being a strict Muslim (both of which fight about how much of the aisle they should take up) to the taco being a Mexican lesbian, to the douche being a bro-tastic jerk. Perhaps the most interesting examples of this obviousness were a group of Canadian beers barging in saying "sorry" as they bumped into the main characters was a seedy mustachioed tequila bottle that takes Brenda and her other friends to a trap having the label "Sigueme" (Spanish for "follow me"). It provided a nice counter to the Nazi mustard who wanted to exterminate the juice (haw haw) or Chief Firewater, who was perhaps the most annoying character in the film (which considering that there was a literal douche being a douche is quite the achievement).

The few moments that got me were very surreal, such as when one of Frank's sausage friends ends up at the house of a druggie (named Druggie, because duh) and finds himself able to talk to him after he takes up some bath salts. There, you see a chewed up wad of gum serving as a Steven Hawking type genius and a traumatized roll of toilet paper. A part of me was wondering about how inconsistent the world of the film was as certain non-food products were also alive but others weren't but another part made me remember that I was watching a film that was probably written during a haze of marijuana smoke, so questioning such nonsense was stupid. The food fighting the humans was another fun scene, as it provided some great visual effects and gags as well as the douche controlling a man by sticking himself way up the fellow's ass and using a revolver to try and kill the heroes.

My biggest gripe with the film wasn't so much the crudeness of the humor more than it was the lack of a soul that the movie had. It tried it's best to provide some crazy imagery and talk about some heavy religious and spiritual issues but it seemed tacked on and lifeless. The issue with most adult animated works (and animated works in general) is that it will dawn too much on the perception of animation. It will use family-friendly visuals to deliver not-so-family-friendly material like sex, drugs, violence and swears. While that's something I enjoy, there's more that's required to be something that stands out. Sausage Party revels that its look is very much similar to that of a regular animated film and even makes a few ribs at Disney with a overly-extravagant musical number by Alan Menken and a Dixar logo, but aside from that, you're not left with much else. The characters are not really ones you care about for their journey since it's the jokes that take center stage, but the jokes aren't doing much more than playing on the contrast of colorful G-rated CGI with R-rated raunchiness. 

I went into this movie more for the selfish reason to see animation break the PG-13 ceiling rather than actually supporting the film itself. I surely was cynical about how well it could win me over, but I think to some degree it did do that. It would have been nice to have it more distinctly stylized and accepting that it was in a new territory, trying to do something a lot more bold with what it had to offer, but going the standard raunchy comedy route wasn't that bad of a choice after all. Animation will always be associated with wacky and fun, so if there was any way to ease people into bringing this forward, this is certainly one of the better ways to do so. I can understand those who don't want to see it and if you're one of them, I don't think there's much in my review to convince you otherwise. This is pretty much a dumb movie to stuff your face with popcorn with and take in all the absurdity that comes with it. And it may just make you think about just how much of a genocidal monster you are when your bag is empty. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Yeah, Another Blog About The 2016 Election - Why The Fuck Not?

God this election is dragging on so long. It feels like it'll take eons 'til we get to November. And oh what a happy day that'll be. Either person who wins is going to face a fracas of the likes we've never seen before. The people are going to tear the nation apart. Or at least that's what the build-up seems to indicate. Lord knows the news just likes to paint this divide as ever more violent than it already is. And to be fair to them, it's not like there's much peace in the US. Or really any place for that matter. Now we've pretty much settled on the candidates but fucked if we actually like them. Sure, there's always going to be that resentment for politicians in general but man oh man we're really not satisfied with what we've gotten ourselves into. Part of me would like to take glee in America finally getting its comeuppance for decades of horrible deeds and its promotion of ignorance but lest my smug anti-American side of me forget that the US isn't some small island nation but rather one of the largest players in the geopolitical world. So if they get fucked, we all do.

Now, for as much as I can regurgitate trash talk about the tanning bed mistake from the New York sewers, I can't deny that there is a very valid reason for people to side with him that isn't xenophobia. Congress has veritably pissed us off for the last time. The goddamn limp-dicks waffle about doing jack shit when it comes to passing bills because they spend a good chunk of their time blocking the president, getting into overdrawn arguments about some fucking stupid detail in the bill that they just have to fight against or stalling further with filibuster after filibuster. They keep getting re-elected to their seats as if they actually did a job well done when that's not exactly the reality. Not to mention that both parties have basically given their bases a giant middle finger. So to maybe give them a little shock to their balls, why not choose an outsider who has a good chance of jeopardizing their stability to get them scared up to doing their job right? It's insane, but damned if it ain't logical.

The establishment Democrats had themselves a little scare with Bernie Sanders, which did prompt ol' HRC to take seriously the idea that she was going to get Obama'd yet again and produced some sort of progress for progressive ideals. But the radical game-changing shift didn't get as far as the combover cuckoo. It is going to hurt them more considering what the DNC email leak revealed, as well as the general view that many people have of robotic Hilary Clinton being as trustworthy as a wolf babysitting a chicken. Bernie can talk all about how he's with her now and that the primary goal is to crush the billionaire creep, but his supporters are still not going to make that turn easily. I mean for god's sake, they're still trying to find a way to get him to the White House! I appreciate the effort, but it's not gonna happen. That's an uphill battle too steep to handle.

It may be mean of me to shit on the idea of Bernie supporters still trying their damnednest for a man who seems the most genuine and selfless in his motives considering that I was feeling the Bern. Truth is, my Bernie burn was not all that fiery to begin with. I love the man and wish him the best on the movement, but he wasn't going to do well as president. Congress would roadblock him until kingdom come and he just wouldn't be able to muster the job. Not to mention that he could veritably croak just a week into his office. I don't like Clinton as much as the next guy wearing a Make America Great Again hat does but I can at least give her that she would fair much better in the system than any of her other competitors.

I just get more and more baffled by people trying to spin the talking ham with a toupee as though he's the right man for the job. I mean the RNC was hammering that the giant-gold-letter fetishist was a humble blue-collar kind of guy. That he would work for everyone, not just himself. Of course when he came to talk to the people, he was trying to paint himself as the master of all trades when really the man is only good at milking horrible things he says for his own gain and running a business. Let me be clear, it is not fair to say that the pitbull covered in Cheetos dust is a failed businessman...hell I'll even concede that saying that he's a bad one is inaccurate considering all the revenue this campaign's making him. But to say that because of his business acumen, he'll be able to run the country with ease is like saying that because I know how to play the trumpet, I should be able to write a successful symphony for an orchestra in 24 hours.

Really, what's going to unite the party to victory is massive hatred for their competitors. Again, we can say that each election is nothing more than just an exercise of the anti-vote, but this one is truly going to be the strongest case of this. The soggy tangerine trashbag's got a heavy advantage over Hilary as he can play his supporters like an organ to disregard any fact like the multiple times he's contradicted himself and to push for any reality that fits to take her down. Trying to take him down on a purely factual basis will be a foolish endeavor, and sinking to his low may work at the cost of further ruining the level of our political discourse. It might just have to be a combination of the two to stir up enough hatred for the voters who'd much rather hit a reset button or swing third-party. The fractures that both parties have created are massive and they will need to do a lot to get the ones that have decided to abandon the parties to come back.

Before I end off this blog and drink myself into a blackout, I'd just like to make two final points:

  • One of the larger issues at play in this election is your race/identity. And among white people it really seems like there's no room for them to simply just be white. On the right you just have overly resentful and bitter people who seem to view every little thing as an affront to them and being a way to further erase them, so they respond in heightened vitriol. Certainly if you're poor and white, you're viewed as nothing more than trash, and that plays into that anger. Then on the left, you got people stuck in a perpetual guilt trip, talking about minority issues constantly if only to be let in on the discussion and then take it over. It can get so absurd that it just seems like they have to whip themselves before saying another word. Much like minorities can't just be left alone without being abused, white people can't simply just be left alone to a more moderate stance. There has to be a cooling and a bridging of racial issues for either party to manage the divide properly. There simply can't just be a dismissal of the white anger as nothing more as racism because that'll simply fuel it further.

  • Speaking as a smug liberal (I mean I did refuse to say the Republican candidate's name in favor of pithy insults towards his demeanor), I can safely say that our smugness is going to fuck us over. See, we can berate, bash and mock you-know-who for being a dumbass and for being a lunatic, but we better try not to hold our noses high in the air thinking that our slams are going to take him down. The hoity-toity attitude will only further the disgust that his followers see in the opposing side and will prove well to his point on how elitist the left is. For us, it'll be crazy that there will be people to believe a man who is the epitome of the word elitist use that against his enemies. Keep in mind though that there is some truth to that line of him being a "blue collar billionaire". No one played better to the working man than him and his entertainment. This election is not going to a slam dunk for either party, but this point should especially be made noted to the smug liberal side. Be aware that you gotta understand the complexities and mentality of the other side or else you're going to see how funny things gets when you lose. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

All Wrongs Don't Make The Right

Like many other young people, I tend to lean more to the left. I agree with making things more equal for everyone, to have more inclusivity and to do something about corporate greed and climate change. Many of those who I like in the media are of the same political slant and it certainly seems like that ideology brings the most diverse of crows. Yet, despite my appreciation for the left, there has always been something that has gnawed at me as I’ve gone along to trust them. For as much as I may side with them, I can’t help but feel as though they do not truly encapsulate me.

What brought about the start of this thought process came from how I viewed things in Venezuela. If I went back to my homeland, I would be lumped more with the right than the left. That’s because I despise Chavez, and Chavez belongs to the left. Perhaps the left that I speak of and believe in is more associated with that which comes from the US or Canada. With that in mind, I have found myself fuming at how they manage to support him. Keep in mind, I’ve repeated on many occasions just how much this man angers me. I fluctuate on my passion for my dislike of him going from hating him to loathing him. This sort of disagreement I have with those on the left only was the start of the cracks that would break my wholesale devotion to them.

The more striking part of this situation was that I found myself agreeing with the right as they were on the same stance about Chavez. This was a right that I had long took joy in laughing at their ignorance and their consistency for being wrong. But now I found myself passively agreeing with. Seeing conservatives and Chavistas at each other’s throats had me exercising a powerful bout of doublethink in which both sides were simultaneously right and wrong. How could that be? It made no sense to me.

It took a while for me to grasp the subtleties that come with politics and one’s own beliefs in such. I did find myself still consistently shocked at what the right would do, but slowly I questioned how solid of a foundation the left had. As I found myself obtaining friends, I amassed a pocket of them that were on the other side of the political spectrum. At times I would wince or grit my teeth at what they would say but other times I found myself learning from their views and finding certain things that I was in favor of. Most of all, I found it to be more civil of a conversation than expected. The image of the trigger-happy bigot or the ignorant warmonger became as much of a stereotype as the hippie country-hater or the politically correct feminist.

A part of me had also started to feel like conservatives were getting a bum rap, despite them not really liking bums or rap. It seemed to me that there must be such a thing as a more reasonable, more sensible and more dignified person on the right. Something more had to exist beyond what I was being exposed to. Over time, I did find myself being more sympathetic and understanding of the right, agreeing with folks like Rand Paul, seeing issues like gun control and the role of the US among the world as far more complex and growing dissatisfied and annoyed with the left. Still, I returned to being with the left, though more and more I was moving towards the center, at least in emotion. Perhaps it’s ironic considering that I supported Bernie Sanders, but I feel like an olive branch needs to be extended to the other side. ‘Course no one likes a compromising moderate centrist, and far be it from the right to be only ones acting stubborn.

One of the greater issues of contention for the right is the matter of political correctness. In the past, I have said that they have used their disdain of how PC the world has gotten as merely an excuse to make their bigotry sound more bold and daring than it actually is. I still agree with that notion, much as I do with how the misuse of the term from them has distracted from the real problems that such cleansing of the language does cause. But I can’t deny that there has been a lot of over-sensitivity that has flourished thanks to political correctness and that such has not allowed for more frank discussion on pressing issues. I can’t be so daft to chastise people for their feelings and being too touchy but it stands to reason that not everything is going to be safe. So for the left to be sanitizing everything doesn’t really protect from the sickness of the issues. If anything, it makes people more susceptible to it. Some political correctness must be maintained to keep a proper decorum, but it shouldn’t serve as a choke-hold of censorship either.

Indeed, the left has found itself so quick to attach labels to things to decry them as racist, sexist, fascist, transphobic, homophobic or all at once. Such labels tend to shut down others and lend to the very black and white mentality that seemed to be so emblematic of the right. Inclusivity becomes less possible when they continue to redraw the lines of what is appropriate and what’s not, that it gets to a point that it seems more logical to disregard it overall. Not to mention that there’s a hostility among certain minorities that, while justifiable, wishes to separate and divide rather than work alongside others.

Take cultural appropriation for example. It seems as though one can only be bound to what their racial/ethnic background allows them to be. So to express beyond what was assigned to you then has you violating what was assigned to someone else. Rather than share among cultures and learn from our faults, perfection on embracing and respecting a foreign culture is expected from the first try, particularly from people who aren’t exactly from that culture. These simplifications and absurd expectations thus increase hostility from the other side. Perhaps some of them might have never been up to the exchange, but any who did would have been alienated further because of the lack of patience that it brought up. Again, it’s not to say that there isn’t reason for people to be upset or angry at the harm that culture appropriation does cause, but these emotions have to be channeled better for proper discourse to allow progress to occur.

I wonder though if the left seems to want to create progress though, because it seems as though there is more obsession to lecture others on what is progress and how properly to go about it. The right certainly has its ways of talking down to people too on what is the best way to go about it all. But whereas they go for your morals, the left goes for your intelligence. The left’s specific brand of preaching is what has made the term liberal seem more like an insult. For what liberal connotates to is relentless smugness. The left likes to put itself on a pedestal and declare itself the wisest being of them all, saying that any who oppose are but mere imbeciles and fools. They talk a lot about what must be done and what is correct but their actions don’t reflect their words. Worst of all, they hide in a self-congratulatory shell and continue to feed their own delusions on the world. This is so prevalent that they even have their own insufferable pundit named Bill. And honestly, I stand him much less than his partner on the right.

Perhaps the largest fault of the left is one that also irritates me with the right. That being national pride. The right seems so self-absorbed in the flag that much of what is foreign is seen as a horrible threat to the sanctity of the country. Criticism serves not to provide ideas to move forward but rather to undermine the nation’s greatness. Once again, I viewed such as blind partisanship but such a conclusion was not as detached to some reality as I had once thought.

For the left does seem to bring about a great sense of shame when it comes to its criticisms. At times, it may seem fair to use shame to make a point but other times, it seems that nothing that was done was ever for any benefit. What they aspire to is not some unique way to march forward but rather to simply mimic other places. So much is deconstructed and desecrated that it almost seems like the very soil they stand on was conjured up by the devil. Nothing may exist without fault but not everything is terrible because of that fact. Patriotism is a healthy mixture of love for one’s country and also being critical of it too. And it seems that the left can lack that love, damaging themselves in the process.

As much as I may still stand so firm with the left, I do find myself not as attached as I once was. And for as much as I may disagree and mock those that are on the right, I can also find myself more on the middle and perhaps on their side than before. For the time being I am not on their side; that may change in the coming years. But whether I stay more to the left, shift to the right or maintain my own mixture of both, there is no reason to be that wrapped up in one’s beliefs that we cannot find some ways to bridge the gaps that we have with each other. There has to be more understanding and willingness to accept other points. That’s not to say that if they are highly extreme and downright crazy that we should just let it be, but we can’t simply believe that all that is on the other side is highly extreme and downright crazy. Perhaps it’s hard to say such a thing during this election, perhaps it was just as hard to say that a few years back or any further. But civility and tolerance have to remain in some way. Otherwise, unity will be as foreign of a term as compromise.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Sociopolitical Comedians And Some Blogger's Thoughts On Them

It seems like everyone nowadays has missed seeing Jon Stewart on at night, making witty comments about the madness that is American society and it's political scene. Considering the circumstances of this year, it's even moreso felt as we feel that his absence has left some sort of hole in the commentary that has been thrown out. Though it's pertinent to note that Jon isn't the first to make jokes about sociopolitical issues. Many of the comedians out there, both present and past, thrive on making these topics part of their routine. There are many out there who take what go on in the world and give us some food for thought as well as something to laugh at. However, what has made Jon Stewart so known and what has made his tenure on The Daily Show so great is that he gave it a journalistic bent and dove deeper than your standard stand up. Now, I can go on and on about what made Jon Stewart so great, but I missed my chance to do a big piece on the man leaving when he left so I'm not going to bother with that. Instead, I'm going to focus on comedians who nowadays serve to somewhat fill the void that Jon has left, and I'm going to give you my opinions on their work.

Stephen Colbert

While it's true that Colbert is no longer Colbert since he moved on to the Late Show, it's not right to say that there still isn't some Colbert still within him. The Colbert Report's main draw was just how in-character Colbert was and just how he could use that character to make fun of conservatives, pundits and conservative pundits. While it's very fun to see what sort of absurdities that would come out of him, the format certainly could be restraining for him. That's not to say he couldn't be authentic when he wanted to be, but it makes sense that he wouldn't want to be stuck in it for the rest of his life. So, the Late Show has provided Colbert the opportunity to show who he really is and in turn allow his comedy to expand better.

Now, his new gig might not be as high-brow or intellectual as his fans would like it, but whenever he gets to the point of talking politics, he's very much still got some of the edge with him. With the character dropped, there's an ability for him to be more direct or creative with his approach. His Hungry For Power recurring segment has been quite a ride in him being able to quickly summarize the candidate and their shortcomings to being the nominee. Not to mention any time the T with the P is mentioned, Colbert is quick to make note of the complete bullshit that is coming out of him. Particularly notable was the debate where he had the orange cotton candy go against the raggedy-mop-on-top-of-a-suit and point out the contradictions that one man has. Certainly he has leaned a lot more to ragging on the Republicans, though when he can, he'll make a comment towards the left. Is it anything as sharp as back when he was a character? Probably not. But he's able to provide a more politically conscious tone to his role as a late-night comedian and host, and that serves well in its own small way, as a reminder of what has come throughout the day.

Seth Meyers

It's a bit iffy for Meyers to be on this list as he's not Daily Show alumni, but he did serve as a fake anchor on SNL's Weekend Update. That, and while he is more at home being just a standard comedian than the rest of the people on this list, that's not to say that he hasn't had some part in at least providing some perspective to what has come. Seth's main way of tackling the hot-button political topics comes from his A Closer Look segment, which could be a standard news bulletin with some zingers thrown into the mix, were it not for the time constraints and the omitting of details that wouldn't work into the bit. But, we can't get too hung up with those details, at least not with Seth.

My point was more that it does conduct itself very much like how a correspondent doing a piece would. It's interesting seeing how Seth goes about these bits because he has a relaxed demeanor but when he wants to really make his point about the issue at hand, he can provide the right amount of authority and sternness to make it clear. Seth knows how to put in the energy of an anchor into his late-night comic routine. Like Colbert, there's nothing truly searing about what he's saying, but he serves well to add context and perspective to the events of the world. Though Seth seems to push more when it comes to his actual thoughts and what people should reflect on. Which is fine, since he's able to not be too imposing with how he phrases it.

Trevor Noah

Alright, so getting the two late-night hosts that sort of have their foot in the door on sociopolitical comedy out of the way, let's actually get to someone more to the tune of what Jon Stewart does. Like, why don't we focus on the guy who replaced him? Trevor Noah, the South African comedian that barely anyone heard about in America. Well, that's not entirely fair, he had some exposure, but he definitely had more exposure in Africa than in North America taking the position. It was definitely a confusing and bold move to have Noah replace Stewart, but I think part of the idea was to get someone that mirrored Jon in a way, someone who has politically minded humor and is not that well known to let him show his true potential. Besides, funny is funny, no matter where it comes from.

So how does he fair? Well, he's still trying to figure his way through it to be unique. There certainly hasn't be as much of that buzz and intrigue that has come from his comments that came from Jon Stewart, save for perhaps that great bit about Von Clownstick being akin to an African dictator. He certainly feels at times like Diet Stewart, staying in a safe area. He certainly can be funny when he wants to be, and still having correspondents like Hasan Minhaj, Jessica Williams and bringing Lewis Black from time to time certainly is nice with the new folks like Ronny Chieng, Desi Lydic and Roy Wood Jr., who are doing well to bring something else to the cast. It at least distracts from Klepper's irritating bit.

When it comes to establishing his own identity or voice, I think the timing kind of worked against him, since it's gravitating towards the election and there's some crazy characters you just can't help but make some quick jokes about. Still, he's working well with what he's got. Once it all blows over, it would be nice to see him tackle international issues. You know, perhaps bring in more of that worldly perspective and sort of let America in on more of what's going on outside it from time to time. I kind of saw a little bit of that in what he's done so far, it'd be nice to see that be explored further.

John Oliver

Speaking of people who replaced Jon Stewart, John Oliver. Oliver only had a couple of months to himself on The Daily Show when Stewart went to make Rosewater, but his tenure managed to get him a gig on HBO doing Last Week Tonight. On that show, he picks a few oddball stories here and there and then centers the show around a main topic, all the while spouting jokes and statistics and showing creative comedic graphics. There's not many recurring segments he has, with perhaps his most notable being Why Is This Still A Thing and Other Countries' Presidents Of The United States (which by the way, when are you gonna make a new one about Angela Merkel?), he's more focused on educating and entertaining on a particular subject.

When it comes to laughing at the show, it can vary from episode to episode. Sometimes the metaphors and the absurdities that emerge gel together to make a very solid episode, other times it certainly can feel like he's being preachy but hiding it with the comedian get-up. Oliver has certainly stirred more of that negative emotion I've felt with Stewart or Colbert at times where they are playing the same manipulative game as the journalists they critique or overriding their bias on a subject. They then try to act all innocent with the whole argument about them being comedians first (which it's not to say that it isn't true, it's more that there's clearly more to what's going on that simply the comedic aspect).

It mostly comes down to the format. The Daily Show was structured in a way that it was clear that it was intended to be a satire of the news networks. Last Week Tonight is much more centered on Oliver and his point of view on a matter, so it's much more direct. Which means that the structure isn't so much meant to be taken as a farce more than it is a way to sugarcoat his perspective. It's not to say that he doesn't make some good points, it just means that he shouldn't necessarily fall back on those points.

Larry Wilmore

Wilmore didn't replace Stewart at any point, but he did take up Colbert's time slot for his Nightly Show. This show certainly had some promise to it, since it would focus on minority issues in specific, with obvious and heavier emphasis on the black experience in the US. There would be round-tables at the end of the show he and a panel of some of his crew and a guest would talk about some hot-button issue and at the end of it all they play a game to keep it 100% real for a chance to get a sticker.  It's all in good fun. Except he's not really all that funny. At least not lately.

It's kind of dicey going into Wilmore because certainly the topics are important for someone to bring them up, and it's hard to make heavy material funny. And the material certainly can get pretty heavy. I mean, he spent a good chunk of time making Bill Cosby jokes, which ranged from the emotional spectrum of  "take that, you horrible human being!" to "uhhh...yeah...that wasn't funny...". Wilmore managed well for the first little while but then it seemed like he wasn't really picking up or plateauing on that momentum. He doesn't really work well as a host, though I suppose that could better with time. He is pretty much in the same spot as Trevor Noah. With that said though, I think Wilmore has come of more corny, stiff and artificial as the show goes by.

I mostly find myself more interested in the rest of the cast than him on the Nightly Show. I definitely like Mike Yard. He could do better as the host; he has more of the confidence, the energy and the sharpness that is befitting of the topics at hand. Though, I have to say him having Ricky Velez is insulting to me. That guy not only isn't funny but he doesn't really feel like he truly adds or contributes substantially. Plus, for a show that wants to get into minority issues, they didn't really give him much to work with on making important points about the Latino plight. Not that he'd really handle them with much nuance but still.

The only other thing I really have to say regarding Larry Wilmore, aside from definitely needing to improve significantly is that his White House Correspondents Dinner was weak. Especially the way it ended, that was just eye-rolling.

Samantha Bee

Finally, let's talk about the only woman on this section, Samantha Bee. Personally, I didn't really find Bee that funny on The Daily Show. She could be from time to time, but she wasn't really a favorite of mine. Upon seeing that she has her own political show, Full Frontal, I figured I'd give it a try, making a considerable effort to remove that stigma from her. While I'm not necessarily laughing that much, I did find some of what she has to say humorous and certainly the topics are interesting. She's essentially providing the female perspective on the fuckery that ensues, which definitely is a void in sociopolitical comedy, especially on TV. I mean, to be honest I can't think of one female comedian that has that Carlinesque or Hicks-like quality to them off the top of my head. And I'll bet you can't either. Or maybe you can and I'm the asshole here. Whatever.

Whether or not I'm having a fit of laughter watching her, I certainly feel engaged in the show. Which is more than I can say for some other shows. She is definitely a lot more opinionated and much more up-front about it, at least in delivery. I would make a remark that her approach can be quite aggressive and that can be off-putting but perhaps that would be an unfair comment to make. Particulary because she was always playing up the level of outrage in a story, and she tends to tackle very outrageous stories and mostly because saying a woman is too aggressive might just mean I'm getting into some double-standard. Either way, while it could maybe go beyond where it needs to be, it's not a valid criticism. Neither is saying that she's just shilling for Hilary because then who looks like the Berniebro tool? Though, one thing I will remark on is that she can get awfully smug, notably with her videos on midterm elections. It just combined the liberal elitism of Bill Maher with the moral superiority of Canadians. Still, it could fair well as it goes along. If nothing else, it's a start to opening some doors.

The Malaise Of A Sophomore