Anna Kendrick for Squirrel Girl? No! Barb from Stranger Things! 

That is Squirrel Girl (obviously, Marvel Comics owns that image) 


This is Anna Kendrick. See any differences? Better question: see any similarities? 

Female superheroes almost all have the same body type, which is basically the Hollywood actress body type (plus ridiculously inflated breasts, a lot of the time). 

So why are they taking about taking one of the very few who doesn’t fit this oversexualized mold and thinwashing her?

I like Anna Kendrick. She’s hilarious on screen and seems like a genuinely good person on and off screen.  But she’s 10 years older and 10 dress sizes smaller than Squirrel Girl.

I wouldn’t want her to play a trans character or a non-white character either. There are actual trans actresses and women of color who could play those parts. 

There is an actress out there who’s got great comic timing,  and who looks just like Squirrel Girl: Shannon Purser, aka Barb from  Stranger Things. 

And she has even said she wants to play Squirrel Girl!

That said, Anna Kendrick would make a great Spider-Woman, or even better, (with a little cgi help) Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk. Both characters are witty, smart, complex, and more of her age and size  

Hollywood, are you listening?

“Deserve” Has Everything to Do With It

A while back I talked about how “deserve has nothing to do with it.” Now I want to talk about the opposite. Sometimes, deserve has everything to do with it.

For those of us who were born in relative privilege, we have to deserve the things that we get and that we go for.

We may be handed a lot, being born in a country that’s not war-torn, that has clean water, that has vaccinations. But there are things we have to earn.

I was reading an Onion article called, “find the thing you love most, and do it on nights and weekends for the rest of your life.” I have to admit I found it pretty depressing. 

But when I look back at when I was younger and had more time and opportunity, I see that I never really took advantage of it.

I never really pursued being a writer when I was young and had the relative freedom to do that. I certainly never pushed myself, writing hard and really studying to improve my skills, when I was young and had so much more time than I do now.

In short, I didn’t deserve to succeed. I didn’t deserve to be a writer.

What that means now is that if I ever want to have even some sideline success with this, is that now I’m going to have to earn it when it’s harder.

I wasted my playthrough on the “easy setting” and now I’m going to slightly harder setting … still not anywhere near the hardest setting … but slightly harder than before. 

And so now I’m going to have to prove that I want this more and then I’m willing to be more disciplined than I was as a young man, and do this while still keeping up my work and family responsibilities, even though it’s harder now than it was before.

And I have to be more disciplined and more dedicated than I’ve ever been before. Which is a pretty low bar to leap.

“Deserve” Has Nothing to Do with It

​https://youtu.be/dpDkYZWeeVg

It’s easy to talk about our accomplishments

It’s easy to talk about what we’ve done

What we’ve built

And look down from our safe, high places

And say to those below, 

“If I did it,  you can do it!  

Don’t be so lazy!  

Pull yourselves up! 

Don’t ask for a handout!  

Nobody helped me up! ”

When we know that last one is manifestly untrue. 

Did I build the roads that carried my mother to the hospital where I wss born? 

Did I build the hospital?

Did I make the water clean, the mosquitos relatively disease free, the food plentiful and the land peaceful? 

Did even my parents build all that? 

Did I chose my nation,  my parents wisely, as I was waiting to be born? 

No. I did not. And neither did you.

Thoughts on the Presidential Debate 

Watching the presidential debates, it occurs to me that Donald Trump either cannot or will not answer the question as asked. 

He talks in whatever direction he wants to talk about, rambling on, repeating the same points and going over the same lines again. 

When asked about his earlier comment that Hillary didn’t have the presidential “look,” he claimed that he’d said she didn’t have the stamina to be president. 

He literally ignored the actual question and his actual (sexist, inappropriate)  comment. He pretended it didn’t exist. 

Clinton was specific and knowledgeable, going into detail. She went after Trump for being vague. I doubt that will hurt him much, but eventually he’ll have to give some details. 

Trump didn’t come off as a mad cartoon like he had in some interviews and soundbites.

But he was evasive, as if he either didn’t know the answers or didn’t want to answer the questions.

And sometimes he outright lied. Like how he repeatedly said he was against the Iraq war from the beginning, when he actually said in 2002 on the Howard Stern Show,  this: 



But revisionist history is pretty much a part of the Trump game. People are quick to buy that he’s the pro-life candidate, but he only “became” pro-life once it was time to run for office as a Republican. Before that, he was in favor of partial birth abortion being legal:

For the record, Clinton said she could support a ban on partial birth abortions so long as it had an exemption for the life and health of the mother. 

That’s more pro-life than Trump’s old position,  but less pro-life than the position he is vaguely but vociferously taking now, I think. 

Honestly, I’m worried. Trump sounded more reasonable and sane than I’d expected. 

I feel like we’re one step closer to having a bribe paying, scam college runningtorture advocating, warmongering, strip club owning, misogynist, unqualified, alleged child rapist as our president. 

Sigh.

I don’t want to sound like I’m trashing Republicans in general. I’m not. The GOP presidential field was pretty weak this time, but someone like McCain, Kasich, or even Romney would probably do a good job in the White House.

I know I’ve moved to the left quite a bit since I was younger, but Donald Trump really seems like the worst human being to run for president in my lifetime, maybe longer. I think he’s dangerous in a way that no nominee I’ve ever seen had been.

And it frightens me that so many sane, functional, good,  intelligent people disagree. 

It really frightens me that he may be leading our country for the next 4 to 8 years. 

Protesters in Charlotte Hugged the Soldiers Sent to Suppress Them

As I watch MSNBC’s coverage of the Charlotte, NC protests, I see protesters hugging the heavily armed and armored National Guardsmen who had been brought in to push them of the streets in half an hour when the curfew starts. 

I am amazed. 

When Jesus said to bless those who curse you … this must be what he meant. 

Something went wrong the prior night, and violence broke out. The protesters made sure that didn’t happen again.  It was clear the police didn’t have enough people’s to control the protests, but the protestors controlled themselves. 

The national Guard was called in to enforce the mayor’s curfew. 

They came in Humvees, wearing heavy armor and carrying assault rifles straight out of Iraq.

And the protesters responded with hugs. 

These protesters are so much better than I am, and so much better than the people they’re proposing against. 

All I can do is speak out where I can,  and pray for them.

Anger Metastasizes Into Contempt, Rage Into Disgust


Anger can be righteous, when we are wronged,  when somebody we care about is wronged, or when we see injustice carried out. 

Anger is a high-energy state.  It tends to either dissipate or harden,  metastasize,  into a lower energy state … like contempt. 

Anger is an emotion of engagement. An angry person will push, even fight for change. Angry people are still in dialogue, still in relationship. 

When that hardens to contempt,  all that goes away.  People are written off as incorrigible,  as useless,  as bad people,  as worthless,  as less than, as unclean, as other

As Richard Beck noted in his book Unclean, contempt is the emotion of separation,  of dehumanization, the emotion that chokes empathy and hospitality, and justifies all manner of abuses and cruelties. 

So fight for your anger.  Hold onto our until you are ready to let go and forgive.  Don’t let it turn into something vile and cancerous, something that takes settles into your heart until it feels like it belongs there. 

But forgive quickly, and give yourself some distance  to heal, because there’s another emotion that can take hold, a high energy state even more destructive than contempt: 

Hate.

And we can’t let that one in. It’s the worst devil of them all. 

Three Reasons I Don’t Like the Third (“Modern Psycho”) Joker

​https://youtu.be/If2RbK9vUhU

If you’re not familiar with the Three Joker Theory (which isn’t really a “theory” in the comics anymore), the videos above and below will get you up to speed. 

Apparently, the three Jokers the comics are actually the first (sadistic master criminal) Joker and two versions of the third  (“psychopath”) Joker, the one from The Killing Joke and the New52 Joker (the one who cut his own face off).

Of course the Silver Age “prankster” “Clown Prince of Crime” Joker is missing.  He’s not grimdark enough for DC.

But that’s not really my complaint. Here are my complaints: 

1) Offensive, shallow, juvenile portrayal of mental illness

For 40 years,  the comics have been “exploring the psychology” of this “mentally ill killer” with little or no understanding of actual mental illness. 

Hey,  let’s have the joker cut his  own face off!  That’s crazy! 

And don’t talk to me about “super sanity.” Mental illness isn’t just some random shock value plot device that can mean whatever the author wants it to.

Constant portrayal of people with mental illness as violent, unpredictable killers adds to the considerable stigma they already gave and makes it harder for them to get help and function in society. 

 2) This Joker is no match for Batman without constant help from the writers  

As we see both The Dark Knight and The Killing Joke, “crazy” Joker isn’t really a match for Batman on his own terms, but rather requires the writers to make the various Bats indecisive and ineffective in order to succeed. 

In The Dark Knight, Batman is almost totally reactive and never drives the narrative.  It’s the Joker’s story. 

In The Killing Joke, Batgirl answers the door and just stand there in shock while the Joker guns her down. Batgirl. Not some random civilian.

Sure, it’s not always this way,  but it’s this way a lot, as best as I can tell. The Modern Joker’s superpower is being the writer’s power fantasy stand in, or mouthpiece to rant about everything they think is wrong with the world. 

Batman doesn’t need the Mobius Chair. I can tell him the Joker’s real name: Gary Stu

3) The Modern Joker is no fun 

In addition to being peurile and offensive, the modern Joker is no fun.

Did anybody watching The Dark Knight feel like the joker was having fun? Was that movie fun at all?  I would answer both questions with a “No.”

Heath Ledger gave a great performance, like a virtuoso tenor singing an unnerving, discordant song with lyrics we’d heard 10,000 times, lyrics that spread misinformation that actually makes life harder for people suffering from mental illness. But hey, what a voice.

I’m not saying we need to go back to the Silver Age prankster,  at least not totally. 

40 years of expectations make that untenable in anything but the most self-consciously retro context (like the upcoming Adam West/Burt Ward/Julie Newman animated movie).

To be recognized and accepted as the Joker, a Joker has to be deadly these days. For better or for worse, that’s the case. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a scary, deadly Joker who doesn’t spread harmful misinformation about people with mental illnesses, who is a match for “Batman at his best,” and who is still fun. 

You just have to go back to the first Joker, and maybe bring in some elements from the second. 

Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 Batman movie was clearly an updated first Joker: a savvy career criminal before he ever became the Joker, his “chemical bath” mostly just took away his fear and inhibitions, making him more dangerous and murderous without sapping his wits.

It took everything Batman had mentally to crack that Joker’s scheme. Even then,  defeating him wasn’t easy.  But at no point did it feel like the writers had to cheat in the Joker’s favor. 

Nicholson looked like he was having fun playing the Joker,  and I certainly had fun watching him. His soundtrack was by Prince, for pete’s sake!

Both Batmanthe Animated Series and The Batman kept their Jokers fun while keeping a surprising amount of menace for a kid’s cartoon. B:TAS even explored deeply dysfunctional and abusive relationships via the new character, Harley Quinn. 

So it certainly is possible. I just don’t think anyone at DC is interested in anything but pop psychology grimdark at this point. 

Come on, guys: Why so serious?

What I Like: New Reviews Forthcoming


When I restarted this blog a few months ago, I tried something called “12 word reviews.” 

They never really felt right or caught on, probably because 12 words isn’t enough for any real information,  just a little snark.

 https://youtu.be/Pubd-spHN-0

And that meant I had to tack a few paragraphs on, which meant it wasn’t really a 12 word review at all.

But I do still want to talk about some things, mostly books, so I’ll drop the gimmick and just talk. 

Before I start, here are a few things I like to see in media: 

  1. Female (or otherwise non-male) lead roles
  2. Multiple female characters
  3. Who aren’t female re-skins of tired masculine stereotypes 
  4. Major characters (including leads) who are people of color
  5. Multiple non-white characters, including women of color
  6. Characters who subvert or just don’t fit gender conventions, in whatever way that fits the setting (including LGBT+ characters) 
  7. Perhaps most importantly,  a story that doors not perpetuate the myth of redemptive violence

    1-6  are partly on general principle (representation is a good thing)  and partly because I’m sick of reading,  playing,  and watching the same white male (anti) hero for the 800,000th time. 

    7 is because we are indoctrinated from early childhood with the idea that what makes the world better is killing or beating up the right bad guys. 

    It’s great training if you want a populace that uncritically accepts every war, bombing,  and use of torture the men in high places want to enact,  but it goes against the teachings of Jesus (and many other religious as well).

    Even the churches get in on this act when they teach preschoolers a sanitized version of David and Goliath (and forget to mention that David grew up to be a rapist who murdered his best friend to cover up his crime).

    So when I write about a book, movie, or game, I’ll most often keep these things in mind,  as well as the standard information,  like how i had to force myself to stop reading and go to bed,  or how the actual prose style worked out. 

    Meat-Free Monday: Favorite Plant-Based Snacks

    First, a reminder: I love in rural Mississippi,  30 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart, 40 miles from the nearest good sized grocery store,  and a good two hour drive from the nearest Whole Foods.

    So the snack foods here are the kind off things you can find in small town groceries,  and even gas stations.

    They aren’t all health foods,  and none of them are as good for you as medjool dates or raw cashews.

    But they are yummy and widely available:

    • Cracker Jack. Yes,  the American classic is plant-based!
    • Boom Chicka Pop popcorn (some varieties have dairy,  so check the label)
    • Most original flavor potato chips
    •  Most “standard” bbq chips. However,  honey bbq, sweet bbq,spicy bbq, etc. almost all add whey. 
    • Unflavored nuts and seeds
    • Oreos and most knockoffs, although I don’t buy the chocolate ones because their cocoa is most likely produced with forced child (literal slavery) labor in the Ivory Coast. 
    • Tortilla chips usually are
    • Hard candy usually is 

    Now, most of this list is stuff we should all limit our exposure to, but if you’re at a picnic, or stopping a middle of nowhere had station for a snack on a long road trip, our just find yourself in a small southern town craving junk food, you at least know where to start.