Tag Archives: cartoon

Clarifying Charlie Hebdo

Let’s face it- there’s no way to avoid this topic. At this point, I don’t know that there’s anything I can say that hasn’t already been said in the past few days. What I’d like to do, if I can’t offer anything new, is at least offer some clarity. Here are the facts, folks:

On the 7th of this month Sayeed and Shareef Kouachi attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for running cartoons deemed “insulting to Islam”. The Kouachi brothers, armed with AK-47s, a shotgun, and a grenade launcher, killed 12 individuals- most of them magazine staff and cartoonists- in addition to wounding several others. Two days later the Kouachis would be killed by French police after a protracted siege in a warehouse. Other suspects involved in the attack are currently being hunted down.

Since the 7th, we’ve seen an outpouring of indignant outrage over the killings, as well as solidarity marches, both for France and for freedom of speech. Despite the near universal solidarity behind Charlie Hebdo, a myriad of differing conclusions have been voiced in the past few days- some good, some bad, and many missing the point entirely (in spite of genuinely good intentions). Let me try to address a few of these below.

Not All Muslims Are Terrorists/Not All Terrorists Are Muslim

…But I shouldn’t have to tell you that.

At this point, parroting that line is starting to feel almost patronizing. It’s an obvious truth, and it shouldn’t need me to defend it. There are millions upon millions of Muslims in the world, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to live their lives in peace- among them, Ahmed Merabet, a police officer and the first of the Kouachis victims. Whether the infamous 9/11 attacks (in which American Muslim Mohammad Hamdani died attempting to rescue people from the North Tower) or the thousands of Muslim Arabs and Kurds fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Muslims shouldn’t have to be “rescued”. From Abdul Haji to Aitazaz Hassan Bangash to Malala Yousafzai– there are just as many heroic actions from Muslims as their are heinous ones.

But this is, again, obvious to anyone actually interested. I don’t know that there’s anybody out there who hasn’t already made up their mind about it (for better or for worse). Continue reading

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Frozen: The Power of a Pretty Dress

I’ve been reading a lot about Frozen lately, and not even intentionally. I mean I watched it intentionally, but it was when I was having a slumber party with my niece. Okay, fine. You caught me. My niece is now a teenager and we were watching it in spite of not being the age demographic they were aiming for. Seriously though guys, why are Disney movies so appealing? There are so many things I can hate on in this movie. Like how it features ANOTHER typical white, skinny heroine whose eyes are bigger than her wrists.

Okay fine, I see you Jasmine… and Mulan.. and Pocahontas… and Tiana, but they’re still all skinny!

Or how the head of Frozen‘s animation shared about how difficult it is to animate female characters because you have to keep them pretty all the time.

Man that is tricky. I mean, they’re just all such unique characters.

Continue reading

How We Look At Hitler

Recently, my roommate has introduced me to an Australian series by the name of Danger 5, a parody show mocking the camp and melodrama of 1960s spy and WWII shows.

I’m usually not a fan of the saying “it’s so bad it’s good,” but there’s really no denying that Danger 5 captures the aesthetic (or lack thereof) of the genre it’s mocking perfectly. Heck, I’d put money down that if you were to slip in an episode of Danger 5 in with Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible (yeah, it was a show first), and Matt Helm you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Like those shows, Danger 5 follows a pretty set formula. The international band of agents are briefed on some new ploy by the Axis to achieve world domination (such as using dinosaurs to invade Holland- I kid you not) and are ordered to infiltrate the Nazi headquarters and sabotage their diabolical plot.

…”and, as always, kill Hitler!Continue reading

Gordon Brown’s Labor Day Extravaganza

They say it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I’m going to gamble on that and offer this, my Labor Day extravaganza of random leftist agitprop which I’m going to pretend is somehow connected to the blog’s purpose in that it shows you a bit of a subculture you’re probably not familiar with.

While I am fully prepared for Evan to chew me out, I am hopeful that you, the faithful readers, will soften his hard heart by reminding him of these two important facts:

Firstly, it’s Labor Day.

In this country, that doesn’t mean much more than a last chance to get some barbecuing in while the weather’s still pleasant. Considering how pitiful the labor movement has been in this nation, a bit of red flag waving and raised fists is far overdue.

Secondly, today is my birthday.

Continue reading

Django and the N-Word

Let me begin by explaining that this is not a review of the simultaneously acclaimed and decried 2012 Tarantino blood-fest. You want to hear one of those, I’d recommend clicking over to Spill or The Escapist’s “Escape to the Movies.” No, what I want to talk about are some specific elements and segments of the film which have become points of contention, controversy, and debate in the past weeks.

Let’s start with the most obvious:

I. Saying “Nigger” Every Other Word

I won’t claim to know your stance on the word “Nigger”- heck, I’m not even sure of my own stance. Perhaps you view the term as so degrading and reprehensible as to merit burning it from spoken language. Perhaps you believe that appropriating and using the word strips it of its power to even be used as an insult. Maybe you see it as being purely contextual- a term of address with audience and a terrible insult with another.

It’s all Elmo ever thinks about

There are probably strong points to be made on all sides, but perhaps the stance you cannot take is that the use of the word “nigger” was inappropriate for the movie.

Now before you take up the battle-cry of “Tarantino is just trying to shock us!” or “Tarantino uses the word excessively in his other movies!” I have to say this.

You’re right.

It’s Tarantino; that’s not an excuse, that’s a fact. You wanna take up his use of the word in other films, then that’s part of the whole debate mentioned above. Simple truth of the matter is that this use of the word “nigger” would still be controversial if the film had been made by anyone else. So let’s talk about it.

Let’s assume that this movie, with selfish or noble intent, is trying to demonstrate a glimpse of the world in question; the use of that word is almost bound to come up. I might throw out the example of Mark Twain’s classic novel Huckleberry Finn, and while by sheer volume Django probably has Huck beat for use of the word, by percentage I’d posit the two are pretty evenly matched. The escaped slave Jim is repeatedly and almost exclusively referred to as “Nigger Jim,” as are the other black characters in the book. Now Twain was anti-slavery and used that word to demonstrate the dehumanization of African Americans (which is why taking the word out of versions of the book is so dumb), as well as reflect the general use of the word. Now I’m admittedly no historian, but if the writings of Twain and other authors are any indication of the times, I wouldn’t say the film is quite so far off as some critics might suggest.

And speaking of historical accuracy…

II. The KKK, or Lack Thereof

There is a scene in the film during which a group of men wearing white sacks over their heads attempt to stage an attack on Django and Schultz. New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb writes “Tarantino depicts the K.K.K. a decade prior to its actual formation in order to thoroughly ridicule its members’ (literally) veiled racism.” While that scene was (in my own opinion) side-splittingly hilarious, Jelani, and many others, are dead wrong in assuming that this scene depicted historical inaccuracy.

Take this section from Huckleberry Finn:

Why don’t your juries hang murderers? Because they’re afraid the man’s friends will shoot them in the back, in the dark — and it’s just what they WOULD do.

“So they always acquit; and then a MAN goes in the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back and lynches the rascal. Your mistake is, that you didn’t bring a man with you; that’s one mistake, and the other is that you didn’t come in the dark and fetch your masks.

Again, this is a Tarantino movie set in a Tarantino universe. That’s not a defense, simply, as I’ve already stated, a fact. If you’re looking for a historical account of the pre-war South, a spaghetti-western revenge flick probably ain’t the best place to look for it. There are going to be certain inaccuracies, and there are going to be things the filmmaker has to get right- but all of that is beside the point (which we’ll get to in a minute). All of that’s to say if you’re gonna try to criticize (or praise) the movie’s deviation from historical truth, make sure you’re (1) doing it for the right reason and (2) that you’re critique is actually right.

III. Samuel L. Jackson as Uncle Tom

In Django, Samuel L. Jackson plays the role of the villain’s head-slave Stephen, who isn’t so much a character as a caricature of the most groveling, snivelling Uncle Tom you will ever see or even imagine. This guy makes Uncle Ruckus look like Eldridge Cleaver.

You are guaranteed one genuine Gordon hug if you know who Eldridge Cleaver is.

I’ve heard people call this portrayal offensive, bordering on “black-face” in its depiction of stereotypical “black” mannerisms. It’s exactly for that reason that I didn’t have a problem with the character.

I really have no reason for putting this gif in here…

See, the entire point is to make fun of the guy- and not just him, but the quisling slaves that did indeed exist. I don’t think that this portrayal robbed the film of the gravity of slavery anymore than Bugs Bunny foiling a cartoonized Hitler robbed WWII of it’s gravity.

Now let’s get right to it-

IV. The Horror, The Horror

LA Times journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan said this of Django’s depiction of slavery: “It is an institution whose horrors need no exaggerating, yet Django does exactly that…”

This is a flat-out falsehood.

If Django Unchained exaggerated the horrors of the slavery, if the film depicted one one-hundredth of the horrors of slavery, I will never write again. Despite the allegations of this critic, the truth of the matter is that we could depict the institution of slavery for a century and be no closer to depicting an ounce the inhumanity of it all than when we first started. Does the film exaggerate slavery? Absolutely not. Does it make light of it? Certainly this was a concern of mine going into the movie, but having seen it, I really don’t think it can be faulted there either. The film does, I believe, make a distinct effort to show slavery as brutish and ugly as possible. Or, at the very least, the slavery scenes; this is, after all, a revenge movie first and foremost.

V. The Point

That’s the thing I feel most people are missing here. This ins’t a movie about slavery, this is a movie with slavery in it. It’s a revenge film in which one sorely persecuted character dispenses well-deserved justice upon his persecutors and we all nod our heads in approval and feel a sense of pride and joy well up as we look into this fantasy where the bad guy does get what’s coming to him. Slavery is the backdrop, not the subject, of the movie, but it’s just such a major issue that most of us are getting hung up on it. The equivalent might be bashing a western on the basis that the actual “wild west” was pretty peaceful- factually true, but still missing the goal of the story.

No, this is not a historically accurate film. No, it doesn’t capture the horror of slavery. No, it doesn’t even try to wrestle with it. No, it’s not a discussion of our checkered heritage. No, it’s not the film to drag that dark, bloody history out into the light of day.

But damn it, it’s a start.

Fame Day: StarCrafts

gjscStarCraft, undoubtedly one of the best and most important games of all time, at least according to Wikipedia. This is an RTS [real time strategy game] that commands legions of fans, and its sequel, which launched in 2010, now commands many of the same legion of fans.

But the competitive online scene for any game is not an exceptionally friendly place. There’s the stress and pressure of playing against other players to achieve ranks, and that’s not at all helped by players who are BM (bad manner[ed]). This rudeness can even be found among pro-gamers themselves (see: many of IdrA’s interactions with other players).

Enter Jonathan Burton, also known as “Carbot” and the creator of the YouTube StarCrafts. Set entirely in the world of StarCraft II each episode presents various units from the Terran, Protoss, and Zerg races engaging in a battle that is, in a word, adorable.

Here is an artist’s rendition of the Zergling as it appears in-game:

And this is a gif of what the Zerglings look like in StarCrafts:

And they’re more than just heartwarmingly lovable, they’re also hilarious. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with the game will lose it when they see a Zealot dancing from side to side to defend a choke, and people who didn’t understand what any of those words meant are still going to chuckle when they see the baby-like Marines running [almost always away from something]. Add to that the fact that almost all of the soundbites used are from the game itself and you have a very impressive piece of work on your hands.

The following is probably the best entry into the series, and it showcases the dangers of letting yourself get . . . overzealous. Cue classic CSI scream.

What’s really great though, is how I don’t even really have to be writing this post. StarCrafts has received the recognition it so greatly deserves, and episodes have been featured fairly often on the Blizzard [the game’s creator] site. What’s even more exciting is how they were also aired during game breaks at the first ever BWC [Battle.Net World Championship] in China. A special episode was also created for NASL [North American Star League].

I strongly encourage all of you to check out a few episodes. Even if StarCraft II isn’t your thing [and really, it’s not for everybody] maybe this can help you relate just a little to all the die-hards out there. At the very least, you’ll have spent a few minutes watching an excellently produced video by a very talented man.

YouTube Channel: youtube.com/user/CarbotAnimations
Facebook Page: facebook.com/CarbotAnimations
Twitter: @CarbotAnimation
Personal Site: carbotanimations.com
Updates every Saturday