Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Prometheus and the Vatican

Ridley Scott's mediocre return to sci-fi, this year's long-awated definitely not an Alien prequel but actually an Alien prequel Prometheus was not a particularly good film.
While Alien mixed brilliant sci-fi themes and ideas with pure horror, and Aliens blended the genre with first rate action, Prometheus was happy to settle for some second-rate pseudo philosophical navel gazing set in space. Its skepticism of science and support of "faith" through its religious protagonist should be the perfect message for the religious right, but it turns out even the Catholic Church weren't happy with it.
The Vatican's newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano", declared that the film "'mishandles the delicate questions raised by… the battle eternal between good and evil in yet another attempt to steak the secret of immortality'. Finally I've found something on which I agree with the Vatican. Of course, they then add a paganesque warning that it's a "bad idea to defy the gods" at which point we're reminded how backward and crazy they are.
Unfortunately for Scott even the people he was trying to appease with his film aren't impressed. Maybe by the inevitable Prometheus 2 he will realize that vilifying scientists and making a sci-fi film with a knee-jerk conservative ethos isn't the way into nerds' hearts.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Carnage, the company responsible for a variety of infamous student party events has caused controversy in Sheffield- home of the much criticized war memorial urination at one of Carnage's events- is ruffling feathers once again, this time with a "pimps and hoes" theme.

The criticism is in the form of accusations of sexism at the theme. This is probably true, much in the way any gendered theme, such as doctors and nurses, vicars and nuns etc. is sexist as it presumes gender roles assigned to certain jobs (although Carnage don't specify which side of the theme men and women are expected to follow, and I doubt they'd have a problem if men turned up as "hoes" and women as "pimps"). However, the criticism that it trivializes violence against women is unfair. If it was a beaten wife theme or some suchlike they might have a point. Violence against women is not a necessary prerequisite of prostitution, and to argue that it is could in fact be sexist in itself, as it implies that no woman who works as a prostitute does so as a result of a free choice, and only ever as a result of violence something which is simply untrue.

To mount this criticism of Carnage also seems a peculiar line of attack. "Carnage" is defined as the killing of a large number of people, yet the company use it as a positive thing, to suggest a particularly messy night out. This appears to be trivializing mass killing more than it's trivializing violence against women. Also, highlighting the disastrous consequences of a night out as something in its favour clearly suggests an irresponsible approach to drinking and could be said to encourage antisocial behaviour. While I believe in personal responsibility for actions, and wouldn't place the blame for the war memorial urination solely on Carnage, it seems that this would be a more apt line of attack.

A quick look at Carnage's website shows that it's not aiming to be classy. Endorsed by Loaded and Nuts, the website is full of pictures of various drunken behaviours and the sexualisation of young women. It makes no secret of its sleazy nature. Perhaps we should just trust people with self respect to stay away and let everyone else whore themselves out the violent pimp that is carnage.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

These aren't the toys you're looking for

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or in real life will know, I think George Lucas is a dick. Some people give him credit for making Star Wars, but once you acknowledge that the original trilogy is almost as bad as the prequels, and certainly suffers from the same flaws of bad acting, annoying comedy sidekicks, thin plots etc. you realize that Lucas is just a man who had one good idea once. Like Tim Berners-Lee.

However, one thing the prequel trilogy has in abundance that is really lacking in the original trilogy is racist aliens. During one of the long, long days I have to fill I was looking into racist aliens in Star Wars because there really isn't anything more important going on in my life. During my investigation I discovered this 1999 BBC interview with the man himself.

Lucas first defends Jar Jar Binks. Defending Jar Jar Binks is not something anyone should have to do. Not even George Lucas deserves that. If the government was defending Jar Jar Binks on Newsnight they would send a junior minister. The criticism of Jar Jar Binks that Newsnight chose to focus on was the one that points out how it's kinda racist to have an entire species of stupid, technologically backward, clowning frogmen who live under the sea, play drums and all have mock Caribbean accents. Some people would say that's very racist. Personally I thought it was great, but I am very racist.

Lucas's defence of the character goes as follows:

"Those criticisms are made by people who've obviously never met a Jamaican, because it's definitely not Jamaican and if you were to say those lines in Jamaican they wouldn't be anything like the way Jar Jar Binks says them."

Ok, so far so good. No one who has ever claimed Jar Jar Binks is racist has ever met a Jamaican person ever. Fact. George Lucas says so himself, and George Lucas is an expert. On his gap year he lived with a tribe of Jamaicans in their home under the sea. Also, it's fairly accurate to say that Jar Jar Binks doesn't speak like a Jamaican. What he does speak like is a ludicrous Jamaican stereotype that wouldn't have sounded out of place in a sitcom in the 70s.

"They're basing a whole issue of racism on an accent, an accent that they don't understand. Therefore if they don't understand it, it must be bad."

Once again, good analysis George. If you don't understand something it must be bad. Pretty accurate really. I don't understand Star Wars Episode 1. Star Wars Episode 1 is bad. Spot on.

It's also quite funny that he tries to thwart Jar Jar's critics by claiming Binks is too complicated for them. They don't understand the character. That's the problem. You need to read between the lines.

"The movies are for children but they don't want to admit that. In the first film they absolutely hated R2 and C3-PO. In the second film they didn't like Yoda and in the third one they hated the Ewoks... and now Jar Jar is getting accused of the same thing."

I'm actually with him here. R2-D2, C3-PO and Ewoks are terrible characters too. But way to imply your fanbase, which has made you a billionaire, is made up of backwards, inbred, fast-food eating lardass adult virgins who live in their mother's basement and masturbate over Lara Croft while complaining that the kids films they've devoted their pathetic existences to features a comedy sidekick. That's pretty much what he said. Maybe I'm just scared by such an accurate analysis of my personality.

"it really reflects more the racism of the people who are making the comments than it does the movie."

Star Wars Episode 1 features gungans, the comedy race of clumsy Jamaicans; Neimodians, the greedy Japanese bad guys who blockade a peaceful planet in a trade dispute; and a Toydarian, who owns slaves and is only interested in money and is basically a stereotypical Jew, right down to the little blue wings. But racism is in the eye of the beholder. It's also worth noting that Lucas did away with any new racially insensitive aliens by Star Wars Episode 2. Almost like it was deliberate....

We then discover Lucas's views on the cost of his merchandise, which was apparently set to make $1bn in 1999. George Lucas is "uneasy" about the cost of the merchandise:

"I wish there was a world where nobody had to get paid and people could just do things for free but they don't. All the tens of thousands of people that make the toys and the films, they all have to pay their bills and so they demand to be paid."

I assume he said this in the most sarcastic tone imaginable. Is he suggesting he wishes he lives in a world where the greedy peasants who make merchandise didn't "demand to be paid"? I'm fairly sure the $1bn isn't going to end up in the pockets of Chinese sweatshop workers. By the way, that's a nice BMW there, George.

If, by this point in the article, you think Lucas has taken the biscuit, in his final comment he puts it in his mouth and goes "Om nom nom nom nom!".

"Most people don't like toys and don't think children should be able to play with toys."

Yeah! Fuck you, most people! Why do you hate children?

Is he from Victorian times?

"But I'm a big fan of toys, and I think it helps kids be able to play and expand their imaginations. To contribute to that is I think a good thing."

Star Wars merchandising is basically charity work, isn't it? Lucas for a Knighthood, anyone?

"I'm not ashamed of doing anything"