Tag Archives: North Korea

How Marvel Ruined The Movies

Over the past decade, we’ve been witness to something unprecedented in the history of film: the rise of the cinematic universe.

Pioneered by Marvel with their ever-expanding Avengers universe, this innovative and impressive model has been swiftly copied by others, and we’re already seeing attempts at DC’s Justice League universe, an expanded Star Wars, and even Harry Potter. While the success has certainly been varied, it would seem the standard is here to stay.

And here’re the reasons why that sucks.

Bigger Audiences Don’t Mean Better Movies

And while that goes without saying, the issue becomes especially apparent when movies become global phenomena in the way the MCU has become.

In his posts about the whitewashing of Doctor Strange, Evan brought up the case of film-critic-turned-writer C. Robert Cargill. In a podcast, Cargill discussed the whitewashing of “The Ancient One” and how the character of an old man from the Himalayas got turned into middle-aged woman from Scotland.

“The Ancient One… comes from a region of the world that is in a very weird political place. He originates from Tibet. So if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he’s Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion [Chinese] people who think that that’s bullshit…”

-C. Robert Cargill, Double Toasted Podcast

While my co-author pointed out that the character of The Ancient One was set in Nepal, not Tibet, and while Cargill swiftly clarified that these were his thoughts, not Marvel’s, I do think he’s got a point. China has become a major consumer of western films, and the effects of that are already apparent.

2014’s Transformers 4: Age of Extinction surpassed Jame’s Cameron’s Avatar in Chinese theaters, and presently stands as the 4th highest-grossing film in the nation.

“The long and the short of it: Bay made a movie set and filmed in China, starring Chinese actors, using Chinese resources and pushing Chinese products, and in exchange, the movie gets a timely premiere across the country’s 18,000-plus movie screens.”

Nash Jenkins, TIME Magazine, 2014

The remake of Red Dawn, originally based on the idea of a Chinese invasion of the US, was hastily changed to cast North Korea as the principal villain for fear of offending Chinese viewers. Because the US getting conquered by a country smaller than the state of Louisiana is somehow believable.

tewaame

Now that’s not to say that Red Dawn would’ve been a good movie otherwise (it wouldn’t have)- just that it was made even more stupid in a greedy effort to rake in more cash. While we certainly didn’t lose a cinema classic in catering to political correctness, it does set a disturbing precedent for the future. Will films purposefully cut reference to Tibet, Taiwan, or the Uighurs? Will China’s despicable record on human rights and the environment be glossed over for box office sales?

And they’re not the only problem. Continue reading

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Shame Day: Taylor Swift, Charles Z., and The Internet

Exactly one week ago I was browsing imgur and saw that 4chan was up to its old tricks again. To break this down and provide some context as quickly as possible, 4chan, as defined by Urban Dictionary:

you have just entered the very heart, soul, and life force of the internet. this is a place beyond sanity, wild and untamed. there is nothing new here. “new” content on 4chan is not found; it is created from old material. every interesting, offensive, shocking, or debate inspiring topic youve seen elsewhere has been posted here ad infinitum. we are the reason for “not safe for work”. we are the anonymous army. cross us and you will fail. anonymous is everywhere. you depend on us every day. we bag your groceries, we fix your computers. anonymous sees you before you see him. sitting at desks around the world right now is a nameless, faceless, unforgiving mafia composed of the best of the best.

For anyone who doubts the ability of the users of this site to get things done, allow me to direct you to the winner of TIME Magazine‘s  2009 Most Influential Person of the Year, Christopher Poole, a.k.a. moot, a.k.a. the founder of 4chan. As a little icing on the cake, you can check out what happened to nominees 2 to 21. Continue reading

No War, No More

The past week has seen a dramatic increase in tension in the Korean Peninsula as hostile rhetoric continues to issue from both sides of the DMZ. In the west, reactions have been mixed, with the media alternatively portraying the situation as being on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis and simultaneously pointing out the primitiveness of North Korea’s military.

For the most part it seems the average American’s mood to all this is one of bravado. I can’t count the number of comments and pictures I’ve seen over the past few days declaring what will happen “If North Korea attacks.”

Things like this:

Titled “What I imagine America will do when North Korea sends a missile to South Korea”

Continue reading

The Horror, The Horror

Today, I’m going to talk about horror.

Not “frightening stuff,” mind you- horror. There’s a distinction, you see.

Fright is the simple biological jolt you get when something startles or surprises you- a door being slammed, a discordant note blaring out of nowhere, and so on. Tragically, the title of “horror” gets slapped on things (typically movies) that merely have “jump-scares.” Horror on the other hand, is anticipation and dread at the perception of something threatening on a fundamental level.

So why talk about this? Because despite the outcry of some, horror- especially horror movies- holds a special place in our culture. Indeed, horror holds a special place in all cultures, and has since the first Cro-Magnons huddled around some arctic fire and whispered about strange and terrible things lurking just outside the circle of light. What we’re afraid of tells just as much about us as what we admire; a perfect example being Evan’s post on the remake Red Dawn. Evan cites that one of the reasons the new version doesn’t work is because the concept of the US being invaded is today laughable (especially by North Korea, whose entire population could fit into LA county with room to spare), whereas in the 1980s, the fear was far more realistic, or at least, believable.

Now I’m not here to analyze the past decade’s better horror movies and tell you what it is that we seem to be afraid of (not right now, anyways). In this post I’ll just be breaking down the three basic kinds of horror we seem to be responding to.

Fear For Self

First, we have the fear that attacks our egos- not “egos” as in pride, but “egos” as in the psychological term for you. This fits into the greater psychological element of “external anxiety,” meaning the stress we feel as a result of outside factors, such as school, our jobs, hunger, pain, and so on. When we’re afraid for our safety, or empathizing with characters in a movie or TV series who are fearing for their physical safety, we’re looking at this “fear for self” kind of horror. A good example would be any serial killer or monster movie- Psycho or Jaws being the best examples. Now usually we tend to botch this kind of horror, because the protagonists in movies or stories do things we would never do (blonde female college camper running through the woods at night, I’m talking about you). However, when it’s pulled off well, it leaves a noticeable mark on us. It has been said that Jaws created a significant drop in beach-goers after it was released, and you are a dirty liar if you say you’ve never once looked behind the curtain when you go into the bathroom.

Fear Of Self

Just as we have anxieties that stem from external factors, we have stresses and fears that come from within us: “Internal anxiety.” It was theorized by early psychologists, Freud in particular, that our mental issues were a result of us denying or repressing elements within us, most notably the “id”- that part of our mind with all the bloody, vicious, sexual animalistic drives that typically didn’t mesh well with Victorian (or any) society. As with the ego, horror works on this pathway as well- our fear of ourselves. All that madness and evil that we, for the most part, pretend isn’t there. The most obvious examples of this would be werewolf movies and vampire movies (obligatory “**** you, Twilight“) and most any film depicting a change or evolution the protagonist- see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman, Dorian Grey, etc.

Fear Of No Self

Lastly we have stress and anxiety attacking (or coming from, depending on how you look at it) the “superego”- that element of our mind consisting of our real or imagined nobility, propriety, decency, etc. Here we encounter “existential horror,” more often called “cosmic horror.” This particular form of horror can be found in movies where the protagonists are fighting a losing battle against some massive, all powerful being- typically otherworldly in nature. Alien invasions and zombie uprisings are both good examples. Here we’re confronted with the fear that we are, in spite of all of our strength, morality, charity; in spite of our humanity, we are actually inconceivably small and insignificant. Ants who have just become aware that there are beings in the universe of incomprehensible magnitude whose simple existence negates everything about them. That unique feeling of powerlessness is separated from “ego fear” in that this form has a distinct hopelessness, rather than helplessness, attached to it.

Of course, every horror story has all three of these elements in it, but what kind of horror story it winds up being depends entirely on what is emphasized. Take AMC’s The Walking Dead– you’ve got your physical fear of the zombies, your id-based fear at what this new world is bringing out in you, and the general horrific despair at the absolute hopelessness of your situation, both in the face of zombies and the truth of human nature. What you wind up being afraid of depends on which element really gets pushed (survival, rationality, hope) and of course, what you individually, and we as a society, find most terrifying.

So what do we fear as a society right now?

Well, with the rampant popularity of zombie stories, and “disaster” films such as Cloverfield, Skyline, and even the whole “Slenderman” craze; it seems to me that we’re torn between physical and existential horror. And perhaps in an economic depression, that’s understandable- after all, we’re confronted with the physical job of keeping afloat in a rough time, and as the crisis drags on and on, the general feeling of hopelessness with regards to our general situation. We respond to characters whose immediate needs are threatened and characters who are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of cosmic nothingness.

At least, that’s my take on it. Feel free to debate me in the comments, and stop by tomorrow for another Shame Day installment.

Kim Jong-il is Dead; Nobody Knows What is Going on in North Korea (Still)

source: christanpost.com
So Kim Jung Il has died, purportedly, and I have no other choice but to write about it. Not really as a political analyst (okay not at all as a political analyst), but just as someone who kind of watches world events like sports, in a nihilistic sort of way.

Right around 10:20pm EST the Associated Press announced that North Korea said that Kim Jong-il was dead. ABC and the NYT quickly reported the story, saying that Korean Central TV reported: “Our great leader Comrade Kim Jong-il passed away at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 17.” 8:30am in North Korea translates to 6:30 pm EST on Friday.

source: nyt.com

Kim Jong-un, the cheerful new dictator of North Korea

So what on Earth is going to happen to North Korea? Will the dictator’s death grip on the media continue? Kim Jong-il did some crazy things – Kijong-dong, for one, which was an entire empty city built in view of South Korea in the 50s to encourage defection. There was the claim that he was born under a double rainbow, that he scored 38 below par on his first golf game (and then promptly retired), and that he was a “worldwide fashion icon”. The idea of truth coming out of North Korea is roughly equivalent to tactful and thoughtful speech coming out of Rush Limbaugh. The whole event of Kim’s death and the transfer of power to Kim Jong-un is steeped in uncertainty. Heck, even the New York Times doesn’t know exactly how old Kim Jong-un is.

So the world is just kind of freaking out this morning. China’s pretty nervous. Everyone’s wondering what the long-oppressed people of North Korea are going to do – is the regime’s cult so ingrained in people’s heads that they will complacently move right on to Kim Jong-un as the most handsome and benevolent evil dictator ever? This event passing with no unrest in North Korea would be the most depressing thing ever.

Of course, this event causing violence between the North and South Koreas which ended up in someone (North Korea, the US…) using an atomic bomb would also be pretty depressing. The US, China, Japan, and Europe are all kind of staring at North Korea the way one would stare at a baby that just picked up a carving knife. North Korea test-fired missiles right before they announced Kim Jong-il’s death, so that’s not exciting at all. Stocks in China fell significantly. South Korea placed all of its military units on alert.

I have no parting comments. We’ll see what happens. While we wait, go to this hilarious Tumblr of Kim Jong-il looking at things for some comic relief.