Tag Archives: Fight Club

Fighting the Good Fights

Earlier today there was a fight outside my apartment.

I say “fight” in the loosest sense of the word. From what I could gather, a woman had given the wrong address to a pizza delivery man, and the gentleman who the pizza had been accidentally delivered to had been sleeping at the time and was more than a little annoyed at being woken up and compelled to give the delivery man directions to the right place. It essentially boiled down to this man and this lady shouting at each other while the poor delivery guy stood awkwardly in between them with no clue as to how to proceed. Apparently the whole ordeal of having to deal with a mix-up between apartment block 2 and apartment block 20 is on par with genocide. Needless to say, seeing two people break down into three-year olds over something so trivial didn’t exactly reinforce any hope for the future of humanity.

But that sad incident isn’t what I’d like to talk about today- at least, not entirely. What first caught my attention when the whole hissy-fit was going down was the shrill screech of the lady that “‘He’ had better not lay a finger on her or he’d be going to jail”.

Now naturally, I don’t know the whole story, but from where I was standing, the gentleman in question hadn’t given any indication of violence- from all I could see, he was just annoyed at being woken up and having to help this delivery guy find the right apartment. It did grab my attention, though- and that’s what I want to address today.

Violence- we have a long standing love affair with it in this country.

We view it as the be-all-end-all solution to our problems. When all else fails, there’s no problem that can’t be solved with a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking. From the cowboys to the noir detectives to comic book superheroes, violence is the answer. For all our advocacy of non-violence, tolerance, empathy, and understanding, we do get a rush out of seeing “justice” dispensed by means of a vicious haymaker.

Just take a look at this video that’s exploded on the internet over the past 48 hours.

Now chances are, your only complaint after watching that is that the video doesn’t go long enough for you to hear the derisive laughter of all the onlookers as this jerk slinks off with his tail between his legs. Certainly that’ my only issue with it.

Take a look at this video from a few years back.

Now this one isn’t quite so clear cut. Yes, the smaller kid is clearly harassing the chubbier one- even getting violent, but nevertheless the beat-down that ensues is so visceral that I defy you not to feel a little twinge of guilt with your (probable) satisfaction in seeing the bullied kid defend himself.

There are, of course, more clear-cut fights. The video below offers a prime example.

For anyone who might be unclear- the guy with the tray is simply standing there, minding his own business when the other guy walks past and for no apparent reason simply decides to flip the first guy’s tray. No (knowable) provocation, no reason- just sheer, unadulterated spite.I don’t know about you, but I thought the guy falling flat was (1) hilarious and (2) a pretty strong argument for the existence of karma.

When is it ok to hit someone?

“When it’s in self-defense!”, I can hear most of you shouting, and do you know what? They’re right. All but the most hardcore pacifist would probably assert that when someone’s shoving you around, there’s really nothing you can be expected to do other than swing back. Of course, it’s never that’ clear cut.

Did the man in the first video deserve to be hit? He wasn’t presenting a clear and present threat to anyone around, unless you count wet willies as a instrument of destruction.  That being understood, did you cry out in indignation when the street performer knocked him down?

Again, probably not.

The street performer was very clearly being harassed by a guy who wrongly thought the street performer would just sit there and take it. But what if it wasn’t the street performer who had punched the guy? In the video, you can pretty clearly hear other people shouting “Leave him alone!”- what if one of them laid some smackdown? Would we be ok with that?Probably.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we’d all still applaud this guy getting punched, though the fact that justice is dispensed by some outsider rather than by the victim may potentially diminish the poeticism of it.

So what do we have so far?

Violence is acceptable in self-defense, acceptable (in some degree) when being harassed, acceptable when someone else is being harassed- where does it end?

I don’t say that in a disparaging tone- I am simply curious as to where that line of logic takes us. Is it ok for the average man to walk around and step in to defend people from being bullied? Do we accept full-on vigilantism?

It’s not as far-fetched an idea as it might sound. If it’s alright (if not straight-up admirable) to go around attempting to defend others, how do we address the laws that (supposedly) govern our society?

Again, we do have an absolute love of violence in this country, but for all our depictions of this:

And this:

Or this:

And even this:

We rarely ever show the dark side with something like this:

The reason we can all get together and applaud the punching of the guy harassing the street performer is because it appeals to our (almost) universal sense of what is and isn’t acceptable in society, and what is and isn’t a measured response. The moment you drift away from clear cut right and wrong, the waters get very murky very quickly.

And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

Yeah, the idea of every man, woman, and child declaring “I am the law!” is more than a little unsettling…

…but is it really any worse than what we have now? America and her allies (including Canada, which has only just recently withdrawn from Afghanistan) are engaged in the longest war in recent history with- despite repeated reassurances from the president- no clear end in sight. Do I agree with these wars? Absolutely not.  I think the bad guys who actually should be deposed (and we’re talking about everyone from the Burmese junta to the executive boards of BP and Coca-Cola) are getting off clean. You could argue that the role of ensuring justice and security belong exclusively to the police, but what has their track record been?

All that’s to simply point out that you can argue that such an anarchic system means little or no accountability, but how exactly does that differ from what we have now?

I know it sounds surreal, but if right and wrong as so arbitrarily dispensed from on high, is it really that psychotic to suggest that the front line for security and human decency is in fact you?

It’s just a thought- I’m hoping we can actually start of something of a debate in the comment section (something I’d like to see brought up is a discussion of whether or not our society might benefit from the distinct possibility of getting stomped for being a jerk- anyone and everyone who’s ever waited tables knows what I’m talking about).

Now seeing as how this post pretty much escalated to a declaration of “blood in the streets!”, here’s a picture of a baby hippo.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Evan’s Shame-Day (yes, we’re switching up the order again- just roll with it), and understand that not leaving a comment will be taken as silent agreement on your part of everything I’ve written!

Evan and Gordon Talk: Why Christian Media Is So Bad

EVAN: The particular topic of discussion that comes to us today is more one that finds itself passed back and forth within Christian circles, and that is: “Why is Christian media so bad?”

GORDON: I think the problem is self-imposed by the religion (I use the term loosely) itself. We’re not talking about a lack of funding (we’ve got plenty of good low-budget films), or a lack of good directors (there’s plenty of decent talent out there), we’re talking about an issue that runs right down the core of it all.

“Christian” media can’t just be media- they have to drag in everything that goes with it.

EVAN: So basically what you’re saying, and we talked about this a little earlier, is that Christian media more often than not has an agenda, correct?

GORDON: I’d say plenty of it has an agenda, but no, I don’t think that’s the core issue-  there’s plenty of other preachy movies out there.

EVAN: So what are you saying, exactly?

GORDON: I’m saying that “Christians” can’t make good media because they won’t allow themselves to. Every protagonist has to fit the moral code to a tee, so that they wind up as either Aslan 2.0 or the epitome of Christian morality: John Smith, the middle class suburban, patriotic family man. Which is why I keep putting “Christian” in quotation marks.

We’re not talking about Catholic peasants in El Salvador or the East Orthodox Church in Ethiopia.

EVAN: Okay, I like that a lot, this idea that those creators of Christian media [and primarily I think we’re talking about films] box themselves in. They’re telling the same sorts of stories to who they perceive to be their audience [and they’re not wrong]: white suburban middle class families.

To sort of break this up a little, I actually saw a Christian film that was reasonably passable at some point last summer.

GORDON: Was it related in any way to Steve Taylor?

EVAN: Is that any way related to “End of the Spear”? It was not, if that’s what you’re referring to.

GORDON: Steve Taylor is the only good Christian musician who ever has or ever will have existed.

But anyway, what was the movie you saw?

EVAN: It was called “To Save a Life,” and it stood out for a couple of reasons:

1) The cinematography was shockingly good for something produced and made by Christians. You can tell which movies they are within the first few seconds.

2) The “villain” of the piece was actually the pastor’s kid. Which was- refreshing, and kind of nice.

It kind of broke out of the whole stereotype you introduced earlier.

GORDON: Huh- interesting. I’ll have to check out the trailer. But let me ask you this:

Can a Christian make a James Bond movie?

EVAN: You mean a movie starring a suave, debonair British man who beds women and guns down henchmen as naturally as he dons his suit jacket every morning?

I’d say no, probably not.

GORDON: I think that’s the problem. It’s not just that you can’t have any explicit sex or graphic violence or excessive profanity (which are overused and abused as is), you can’t have anything even remotely sensual or rough or crude. It rips away reality and humanity in the name of not stepping on anyone’s toes.

Self-imposed legalism.

EVAN: Well, I’d say the difference is that you can’t have a protagonist who glorifies such things as wanton sexuality-

I say that Christian filmmakers will never produce anything like James Bond because of who the character is.

GORDON: Did you like the movie “Fight Club”?

EVAN: I liked it a fair amount.

GORDON: Did you like “Ocean’s 11” or “Snatch”?

EVAN: I haven’t seen the latter, but I very much enjoyed the former.

GORDON: Did you like “Superbad”? “Kick-Ass”? “Ironclad”?

EVAN: I enjoyed aspects of the first, thought the second was a shaky, though fairly decent adaptation of the source material, and thought the third was pretty unfair in its depiction of “strong female characters.”

But I think you’re going to have to get to your point-

GORDON: Could a Christian make any of these movies?

EVAN: I think a Christian could, yes. In relation to “Fight Club”, at least, Christian author Ted Dekker has penned novels [sold both in and out of Christian bookstores] which offer a fairly decent psychological thriller aspect to the reader.

GORDON: Ah, Dekker. The whole reason he stands out as an exception is- I believe- that he grew up among Indonesian headhunters, and not in Middle America. Again, it’s about having that different perspective on life.

EVAN: And I think what he’s realized, as a creator of the arts, as someone who has a hand in shaping Christian media, is that you can have these other sorts of exciting, thrilling stories told with a faith-built worldview. People of every religion want a little excitement.

GORDON: Of that there’s no question. The heavy use of the video library at our school stands in testament to that.

But again I think the issue is that “Christian” self-imposed isolation inevitably leads to the vast majority of their work winding up as “White People Problems” or “Chronicles-of-Narnia-minus-the-good-stuff”…

EVAN: Or “Lord-of-the-Rings-but-way-more-heavy-handed.”

GORDON: Exactly.

EVAN: I mean, we’ve talked a little bit about why Christian media can be bad [terrible production values, cookie-cutter story lines, sheer absurdity], but how could it be better [to harken back a little to our last talk]?

GORDON: They have to stop being terrified of the big bad world. They have to realize they can show characters with flaws- real flaws- not drunkard stereotypes and the occasional swear word.

Saying this will get you expelled from Liberty, Pensacola, and BJU

EVAN: I mean, a deeply flawed person who finds redemption is a much more compelling story than a white bread sort of guy with his middle class problems.

And they have to stop coddling their audience. Yes, Christians turn to Christian media for “better alternatives,” but the odd cuss word won’t negate an overall positive message; neither will a fight scene, or two guys sitting around enjoying a beer.

GORDON: There’s this one scene in a (Christian) movie Steve Taylor directed:

A character hurts his hand loading something into the back of van. He lets loose a cuss word and his buddy chides him for it, saying “God don’t like it when we cuss.”

Later on in the film, the buddy hangs his head and apologizes, saying “I’m sorry. I was upset that you cussed- I should’ve just been upset that you hurt your hand.”

EVAN: Wow. That is very, very good.

GORDON: That right there is the problem not just with Christian media, but with the whole religion.

EVAN: Misplaced priorities.

GORDON: More obsessed with present clean-cut paragons of middle class etiquette than anything really real.

That’s why we turn to “secular” movies for actual substance. The struggle for identity in “Fight Club”, the heroism in “Kick-Ass”, the friendship in “Superbad.”

EVAN: I think what’s really ironic is that Christian media-makers have a Christian-made work out there that’s immensely popular. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” came out just this past December.

GORDON: I again reference an (alleged) quote by Steve Taylor.

“I’m not a Christian artist- I’m an artist who is Christian- it affects what I do.”

EVAN: Really well-put. And something that a lot of us [I speak for many in our graduating class] as writers, musicians, artists, et cetera would benefit from keeping in mind.

And that puts us more than a little overtime.

GORDON: Well, people, you know what that means. Time to vote on our subject for next week.

EVAN: My contribution this time around is . . . wow, I never think ahead . . . masculinity. You’ve done a post about “Manly Culture” in the past, but I want to talk about what it is at present, and how we feel about the shifts and trends and things.

GORDON: Interesting subject. I submit we speculate on the upcoming Star Wars movies.

EVAN: If you think you’re up for it, then yeah, cool. I’ve read quite a few of the post-original-trilogy books, so I know a reasonable amount about the subject.

GORDON: Nerd.

And with that witty response, we’re out! Have a good night, everyone.

EVAN: Spend it with better friends than Gordon.