Monday, 9 October 2017

Local Convenience Store Still Has Outdated Limited Time Drink In Fridge

Montreal, QC - While doing some shopping at a local convenience store, Marsha Hayes was reported seeing a common but bizarre sight of a brightly colored beverage in the fridge which was part of a promotion that had occurred over half a year ago. "I could have sworn it was there a lot longer" remarked Hayes. "I managed to get one of them out of sheer curiosity. It was good for the first little while but after that it was just the weirdest thing. I don't know if it's because it was old or because the flavor just was too out there for my taste buds." The owner of the store, Lola Sakayashi, doesn't feel it necessary to throw away the drinks. "Most of the people going to my store generally are tired and just need to get something from here. I figure the least I can do to make their experience more interesting is by having a more eccentric selection. Plus, the drinks are in the fridge so they're not spoiled yet." At press time, Hayes decided to randomly purchase a foreign product, unaware of whether or not it was edible.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Asshole Protagonist

Rick and Morty recently concluded its third season at a time where the show has managed to garner a great amount of attention on it. Though it mostly had to do with the pursuit of an old McDonald's sauce, part of it stems from the incredibly dark and cynical tone that the show has going for it. And no one manages to embody the mood of the show more than Rick Sanchez, a near-godly mad scientist with a drinking problem and a penchant for being an asshole. It was funny seeing how Rick would interact with the world in his hard atheist and sardonic tone, seeing it fit to talk down to everyone and coping with the effects of what his intellect has done to his mind. But in the latest season I found myself growing annoyed with the writing, particularly in reference to him. I understand that he's an asshole and that I'm not supposed to like him, but at the very least I should tolerate him. After all, he is a protagonist.

Though he may think himself as above the conventions of character classification, Rick is an asshole protagonist. An asshole protagonist has all the temperaments of an asshole but the focus and spirit of a protagonist. Asshole protagonists tend to be selfish, they are often finding ways to benefit themselves first before anyone else. Though some wish not to admit it, they are often emotional, with one of their main emotions being anger. They're also quick to fall into vices and sin. They view the world as either cold and unforgiving or chaotic and degenerate and as such feel that it's necessary for them to play dirty to achieve results. They're also vocal about their disdains, their hates, their loathings. You'll often find the asshole protagonist ranting and raving about society's ills. Despite their attitude, there's something about the asshole protagonist that other protagonists and characters gravitate to, enough to be able to tolerate their behavior. And even when at their worst, the asshole protagonist has some sort of "heart" that elevates them from just being an asshole.

The asshole protagonist is an interesting trope in our media. Though we feel like it's a modern convention brewed up by disgruntled Gen-Xers, we can trace it back to two little ducks: Donald and Daffy.

Both Donald and Daffy place their own interests before that of others, with Daffy being the more extreme case. They're also greedy, confrontational and often have fits about the most minuscule of inconveniences. Despite this, they're hailed as some of the most beloved characters of all time. To an outsider this would come off as ludicrous. What we're missing is that as protagonists, they rely on being relatable. When we see Donald Duck flip out from some bad news or Daffy Duck try and fail miserably, we're able to empathize with their situation. Sure, we might not rip a letter into shreds and rain it on ourselves like confetti, or hope that our frenemy gets shot in the face, but we feel for their plight.

The same can be said about other asshole protagonists like Duckman or Bender. With Duckman, we appreciate someone who is able to speak their mind freely as we often find ourselves trying to adjust or self-censor ourselves for certain audiences. We also like frank honesty, particularly when it agrees with our own biases on the world. Duckman is infamous for his insights on the modern world and we're willing to listen to him because they resonate with us. As for Bender, the liberty and lack-of-fuck-giving that he has provides a freedom that we'd like to have. Not to mention that he's freed himself from a job that didn't exactly offer much in terms of excitement.

Beyond reliability, well-written asshole protagonists have other components to them that allow them to function well in a story. For one, they are in balance with the rest of the world. They stand out, either because the world is not like them or the world is very much like them but only they are able to call attention to it. Bender is the counterweight to the rest of the Planet Express crew, serving as the wild card and comedic relief. Duckman works in his world because the world he lives in is absolutely shit and most people just seem to tolerate it rather than make mention of it.

Another aspect of a well-written asshole protagonist basically relates to having a good protagonist in general. That being that they should not be impervious to the world. It can definitely play into a plot point like say the asshole protagonist gets another protagonist into trouble and doesn't face any damage for it. But they too must also have problems that must be confronted or suffer for their actions. The advantage of the asshole protagonist is that unlike a regular protagonist, their morality and sympathies are able to drastically shift, either to maintain their image as a detached and rude person or to highlight their eccentricity.

One of the best examples of this is Helga Pataki from Hey Arnold. She is aggressive and bossy to others at school but in private moments, she has an undying passion for Arnold, the boy that she constantly pushes away with her character. Further information about her character provides us with the image of a neglected child who uses the tough-girl act to avoid being hurt by anyone, and ultimately desires to one day be freed from that role. With her, we're able to forgive her asshole attitude as we come to understand her character more and both laugh and feel sorry for her when she inevitably reverts to her role in the status-quo.

Though it doesn't have to be as sentimental when it comes to dealing with their pain. Sometimes we just want to see them in pain. This is where we get to the bare minimum of what an asshole protagonist should have - humor. Asshole protagonists are able to benefit as humorous characters because they both are able to inflict pain onto others and because we enjoy seeing them in pain. They're often written to provide snappy retorts or lead other characters down a series of wacky adventures through their actions. Furthermore, if ever there's a dull moment or the asshole protagonist is getting too much to bear, inflicting damage on them always helps to lighten the mood. Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force is perhaps the master at being the humorous asshole protagonist, constantly tormenting Meatwad and having his ego be cut down either emotionally or through physical violence.

How does all of this manage to tie into Rick? Well, during the first two seasons, Rick was able to fit the characteristics of a good asshole protagonist. He was willing to cut through the bullshit, but also had moments that allowed him to be vulnerable and show it. The world was also balanced in a manner that his presence didn't throw it off-kilter. However, when the cynicism of the rest of the world is cranked up along with others' abilities to be self-aware about it, Rick loses his place in the balance. Sure he's the the most asshole of the bunch, but if everyone's also a dick and willing to make reference to it (even when it doesn't necessarily serve their character), then Rick comes across as far more insufferable

Another problem with Rick in the third season is that he's impervious. He's essentially a god who's always right. Though one can argue that he lives a very toxic lifestyle, in regards to certain plot points, he can do no wrong. This has led to the idolization of his character by some on the internet as they'd rather be right and have all of his capabilities than be a decent person. Asshole protagonists are not someone to idolize, they're someone to empathize with. If they're to be idolized, they need to earn it by changing as characters, shedding what makes them terrible. Because if they're idolized as is, it only encourages apathy, resentment and anti-social behavior. Which is essentially what happened with Cartman.

Cartman is perhaps an odd inclusion. His behavior and relationship to the rest of his "friends" in South Park is far more fitting of an antagonist and indeed he works best when more directly pitted against others. Yet with the way that some episodes frame it (particularly Cartoon Wars, Imaginationland and The Coon), we come to follow Cartman as a protagonist through how much we focus on him. We are interested in his arc, for better or for worse. The story beats that he goes through reflect that of a normal protagonist, making it play off as though he has more innocent intentions. And in the end, he comes out of it not only unscathed but also achieving whatever goal he wanted. Though it can come off as humorous, this creates a similar warped admiration, where people wish to emulate him because he's an asshole who can get away with it. Which generally does not bode well.

In the end, an asshole protagonist is just a trope. And like any trope, there's a fair amount of subjectivity to them. Some people outright cannot deal with asshole protagonists. Others have varying degrees of what they're willing to tolerate. Ultimately, an asshole protagonist is someone that we can follow around without wanting to turn back. Be it because they speak some truth, have some emotional complexity to them or are just fun to be around. Take that away, and you just have an asshole. And no one wants to be around an asshole.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Amazonian Might - A Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman is not a movie that is designed for me. In a way I suppose you can take it in a sexist sense. As a man, the narrative of the Amazonian goddess does not exact seem all that relevant as I do not face the same struggles that a woman does. But more fundamentally, I am not familiar with the series in question. I come at this movie as a general movie-goer, not as a comic book nerd nor semi-familiar ultra-fan. I know no monumental stories involving her, I don't know any of the villains that she fights, I don't really even know where she lived. The only things I know are the aforementioned goddess title, the Lasso of Truth, the invisible jet and some of the more sensational parts of her character's background. I mostly came about watching this movie in part due to the wave of positive reviews that seemed to be a rarity for DC and in part to finally understand their main heroine whom I had neglected for so long.

Since it is the first film to ever have Wonder Woman as the lead, the film definitely seemed to cater to certain needs that a beginner like me would have. For starters, I was able to find that her name is Diana (yes, I did not know) and that she lives on the island of Themyscira with other Amazonian women. She is told great stories about the war between Zeus and Ares, and how Ares being the vengeful god of war that he is, came to corrupt man. She later is told that if Ares were to ever show himself again that only a weapon deemed "the god killer" would be able to defeat him. After saving Steve Trevor, an American spy who crashes near the shores of Themyscira, she comes to find that a massive war is brewing in the human world. Believing that it is the work of Ares, she goes along with Steve to stop the war.

I was generally optimistic when it came to Gal Gadot being Wonder Woman. Even though Batman vs Superman had her in the cameo corner, I could see that there was more potential. Wonder Woman proved to show that potential in full force as she could properly balance bright-eyed idealism with stern determination and fish-out-of-water antics with sophistication. Though her voice didn't have the proper energy for certain moments, her expressions and actions more than made up to express her character.

The whole cast was a ton of fun as well. I absolutely loved seeing the Amazonian women kick some serious ass as they went on horses armed with only arrows, swords and shields to charge at German soldiers armed to the teeth with guns. Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine), much like the Cap who shares his first name, was able to provide a sincere charm and reserved demeanour that worked well off of Diane's more brazen attitude. Later on in the movie, we come across a group of mercenaries who offer some wonderful banter as we transition to larger scenes. And of course the villains were entertaining, with Dr. Poison (Elena Ayana) having a quiet madness to her and Ares relishing in the destruction of mankind through his ruthless actions.

As expected, the action was wonderful throughout the film. It was focused, with the proper angles and use of slow motion accentuating each movement, making each hit have it's impact. The cinematography was vibrant, with even dark and dreary scenes popping out like an intense comic page. Both elements would have been well enough to simply sate the masses but what I think took this film into riding the waves of high praise was what DC movies were lacking, balance. Wonder Woman allowed itself to be comedic, to be light-hearted, in a way that felt natural rather than as an awkward way to offset the rest. The characters were able to breathe and interact with one another as humans rather than exposition devices or melodramatic caricatures.  It was able to tell its story without rush, and let the pieces fall into place.

There are certainly some imperfections this movie has, most of which I can't speak of without spoiling it. But part of why I feel it necessary to embolden the strengths of Wonder Woman is that it is bold enough to deserve such. I could have not been more perfectly introduced to Wonder Woman's character and her raison d'etre. She carries the standard badass nobility of a superhero, but her warmheartedness and frankness allowed her to stand out alongside her contemporaries. The moral of the movie was not particularly new or radical but it was so genuine in carrying it through that I could not help but feel emotional over it. It disappoints me that by simple virtue of being a female lead that it will come to be a battleground for the constant culture war that the Internet wages. It is a movie that is larger than the politics that has surrounded it and will come to surround it in the coming days. Even if this film does not do proper justice to the source material for some reason, I feel that it can serve as a magnificent interpretation of her character.

At a time that superhero movies have become to feel derivative, I'm glad that Wonder Woman managed to stand out as a bright beacon amid the tired, the gritty and the hollow.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Area Man Suddenly Sad At Night After Relatively Decent Day

Toronto, ON - Realizing that his existence is utterly devoid of any meaning, area man Samuel Davidson said Wednesday that just as he was about to go to bed he had felt an overwhelming wave of depressing thoughts amid a day that was in his own words, "pretty alright".

Samuel Davidson, a 24-year old bartender at a downtown nightclub, told reporters that he had enjoyed yesterday as he was hanging around with his friends, managed to get a couple of decent tips and even flirted with one of the patrons, but that right when he was about to go to sleep, he began to feel his stomach sink.

"I just felt like every human interaction I had was completely fake. Like it seemed that no one was really being honest with me, they just humored my existence," said Samuel, adding that he felt that his life was destined to go down an even worse path due to past decisions. "It just seems like things are built on a house of cards, like I'll be lucky if I live over 30."

Davidson remarked that what had started the chain of thoughts is when he looked at the phone number that the patron had given him. He felt that the number was fake as he had past experiences where false numbers were given to him. This, he remarked, made him feel as if he was just an annoyance, that he couldn't properly small-talk with anyone, let alone flirt with them. Davidson would later find himself questioning how honest his friends were with him, figuring that innocuous jokes aimed towards him were really just major flaws related towards his character. Lying in bed, his mind then came across the haunting realization that in the grander scheme of things, he was insignificant to the world around him and that there was no real reason to go on.

"What does it matter if I live another day? I'm just gonna end up dead anyways," Davidson stated as one of thoughts that were going through his head that night.

At press time, Davidson was elated when he found that his favorite show had made up for the otherwise dull and dreary day he had today.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Area Man Given The Ever-Expanding Well Of Information That Is The Internet Keeps Watching The Same 5 Videos On Youtube

Vancouver, BC - Sitting in his home office on Saturday with his work completed, area man Brad Silverman was reported on his computer, repeating a series of videos rather than exploring the bounty of knowledge that was accessible to him in an instant. Brad, 31, told sources that he was "planning to look up art tutorials" as he had told friends and family members he was interested in improving his hobby but then found himself "stuck watching some goofy cat compilation videos" from user FluffyKittenz33. "On the one hand, I understand that I'm not taking advantage of just how much I can discover from the technology that I have at my disposal, but at the same time, there's just something about watching videos I've seen before that is so relaxing. Plus those cats are really silly." At press time, a slightly tired Brad informed us that he decided to binge watch a random show on Netflix so that he could have something to small-talk about to with his co-workers on Monday.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Poll: 75% Of Americans Say Their Liquor Just Isn't Fucking Strong Enough To Deal With Daily Events

Poughkeepsie, NY - A new survey by the Marist Institute of Public Opinion found that 3 out of 4 Americans need something stronger to cope with the absolute shitfest that is going on. "Due to high levels of anxiety from recent events, many people are finding comfort from the bottle rather than any sort of recreational activity", said Marist data analyzer Sandra Crestwood. "In fact, many of the people who we asked already were carrying flasks with them." Among those polled, half of them have said that they've gone from whisky to absinthe, and 10% of them have gone from absinthe to Sunset Rum. "One person has straight up decided to take shots of pure ethanol to get through the day." She goes on to add that one of the most surprising factors is the amount of conservatives who feel their liquor isn't doing the trick. "Some of them are drinking out of regret and others are just trying to drown out all the noise. It's pretty much a coin-flip on which one it is for them." The survey also found that 80% of Americans would rather you shut the fuck about taking yoga to calm down about the political mess that's going on.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

It's Gonna Be A Long Four Years...

It's been a while since I've made a blog. And in doing so I've been thinking about the kind of things I could mention on this blog that would not be political. If you know me through any of my main social media outlets, you know that I've been going on non-stop about politics. Specifically, what's going down to the neighbour down south. I can't really shut up about it and neither can many others. And while it's certainly a topic that I'm interested in going on about, I understand it if others are irritated by it. Not only because it's a generally exhausting topic that requires you to look at various other sources to make a firm decision on the matter at hand but because in the current climate, everything is politicized. You can certainly make the point that all that one does is inherently political, but you can also make the point that people honest to god need to give it a rest. I was intending to do so for this blog, but I can't help but write something longer about what's going on and try to touch on some key aspects.

These past few weeks have felt more like years considering all that has gone on so far. With the frenetic energy that has come from his executive orders and petty tweets, Trump is continually making an ass out of himself and everyone else. It was fun for a while seeing the hilariously pathetic inauguration go by and I am keeping my promise to give the man credit when he's does good like destroying the awful deal that was the TPP. But then there's also that Muslim ban that resulted in furious commotion, Yates getting the boot and pretty much being illegal. Not to mention the rounds of cabinet picks that have pretty much resulted in the swampiest of people to rise up like Betsy Devos, the embodiment of stuck-up private school soccer moms being in charge of Secretary of Education. Add in the wonderful spins by Conway and Spicer to the whole mess and you might as well make like Harry Whittington and get the vice-president to shoot you in the face.

With all that's going on, it does astound me just how much his supporters are willing to let slide. He has dropped the "lock her up" line, his cabinet is made of rich elites, Obamacare being dead has essentially fucked their affordable care, he is using private email and also indulging in pay-to-play tactics. I can make quick jokes about what all they care about is that he keeps them damn Mexicanos and Mooslims out to have a giggle at the xenophobia that has propped him up but I'm more curious to see how this is being rationalized. Especially considering that he's being very blatant about it, particularly with the fact that he still really hasn't split his business from his politics. That and if I want to have a laugh at the xenophobia, I might as well do so at the mastermind of this whole administration, Steve Bannon, who pretty much looks like if a frog developed a rash.

As fun as it is to pick apart the gross nature and gross incompetence of this administration, it would certainly be unfair to just decry the whole of the right. And not because there are some like Ana Navarro that give me hope, but because there is certainly a lot of stupidity coming from the left too. Now let's be clear: I definitely think that the Women's March made a very bold statement, especially juxtaposed to the inauguration crowds. And definitely there has been a tireless effort by protesters, senators and other workers to continue the push against Trump. If nothing else, Hilary has completely vanished from the not-quite-a-loss she had with him. But good lord if there's anyone's law that has been horribly enforced lately, it's Godwin's. For every Spencer punch, there's an exaggerated outburst of rage that is flung towards anyone who doesn't perfectly align or thinks a slight bit different than the left. Sure, I wouldn't exactly say that Republicans are doing much to heal the divide, but partisanry goes both ways. And even though there is reason to be on edge about the whole situation, the hysteria is getting in the way of delivering the message properly.

Part of why this is happening is because of the fragmentation between the liberal and the left. Easy way to tell the difference is that one will scream about wanting Hilary or Obama in the White House and the other will scream about how those two picks are actually awful. And I certainly find myself going back and forth on what's to be done now. On the one hand, I do want there to be some unity between the two sides. On the other hand, it seems like the only thing that gets into the heads of the government is obstruction so Democrats shouldn't fold to the Republicans. Being that I'm young, it would be natural of me to tend a little more far to the left, but at the same time I've seen what going far left can lead. Despite the friction, there are hiveminds that are created and they manage to spill the aggression beyond those that can rightfully deserve it (though depending on who you are, whoever you believe that to be may be different than what I do).

Unfortunately, that's the nature of the political dichotomy in the US. Simplicity serves better for the politicians and their constituents even though reality is far more complex than it leads on. And we all end up playing the game because we all want to feel good about our commentary. It's why we read thinkpieces, why we share videos that stick it to our opponents, why we crack jokes about what goes on. I like to make it fair to show that I understand those on the other side, but there's no denying that I'm not down with the Donald at all. And that alone will be an issue. Some can look past these political differences and remain civil when discussing matters. Others cannot. These people change through time. Even I can be included in that category. Such is the way things go.

There's still a lot more of this presidency to get through. Amid all the awful that has transpired, he's yet to really piss the bed, at least to the point that it would become quite unanimous. The media continues to be relatively lackluster in their attempts to curtail him. And lord knows that Hollywood's smugness might just turn me into Toronto's Marco Guiterrez. I may be in Canada, but I can feel the vibrations of his actions up here. Not simply because of Kevin O'Bleary or Kellie Leech but because of the sensitivity that my university faces with these topics. A part of me still wants to remain positive about all of this. Not simply in that selfish sense of having this be such a trainwreck that it ruins him and builds a better movement, but in that sense that I was wrong about my assumptions. But again, I still am tied to my convictions. These years are going to drag on for a good while. And all I can really promise for the that my next blog will not be political. Trust me.