Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Honestique – The Jennifer Lawrence Cult

The post in which I break my promise to talk about Obama’s fatherhood and talk about why I don’t like Jennifer Lawrence instead.

It’s no secret that the entertainment gossip industry goes through celebrity obsessions faster than this part-time blogger’s mockery can keep up; one day they’re sucking up to child molester Woody Allen and all those performers shameless enough to work with him, next they’re gushing over whatever awards dress the slave movie actress is wearing, and then they’re practically bowling themselves over to obtain an interview with the Marvel superhero’s on-screen girlfriend, but the last two years have largely seen these gaseous sycophants returning to one person over and over again.  The media have since informed me that Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, embarrassingly identified in some circles as J. Law*, is officially the new – how do you say? – “it girl” in Hollywood, which basically means that celebrity idolaters across the spectrum are dutifully standing by, like dogs before their master, to answer her every beck and call, disseminate her every off-hand comment, and generally swoon before her every public appearance.

You’ve probably heard the clich├ęs before.  Aside from being beautiful, talented, and committed to her work, Jennifer Lawrence also happens to be the most eminently relatable actress in the business, reeling in such well-deserved descriptors as “honest”, “authentic”, “real”, “a breath of fresh air”, and “down-to-earth”.  In fact, her acknowledged reputation for non-fakeness and realness was exactly the impetus I needed to sit down and write this post many months ago, at which point I had accidently initiated a conversation with some friends that ended up treading all these same talking points.  Fortunately enough, my decision to postpone this article’s publication until the present has given me a much broader repository of Jennifer Lawrence nonsense to draw from and also enabled me to opportunistically mine the hype surrounding the new X-men movie directed, appropriately enough, by the X-rated party animal Bryan Singer.

At first I’d thought that this Jennifer Lawrence cult – and I’m not even the first to call it that, judging by a quick web search – was a disconnected and mostly trivial affair, rooted in nothing more than manic though transient Hunger Games hype, but now I see that this conjecture sorely underestimates its true significance.  More than just a passing, movie-dependent fad, the Lawrence Cult is symptomatic of a greater cultural malaise, the much more dangerous cult that we shall for the moment call the Spontaneous Identity Movement.  The Spontaneous Identity Movement holds as a key tenet that society as a whole is better off when people are truest to their core selves, i.e. when they live in accordance with whatever their impulses and whims tell them to do at any particular moment.  Spontaneous Identity ideology rejects all forms of self-control and standards of social propriety as deceitful and inconsistent with a person’s inner being; as in Lois Lowry’s dystopian universe of The Giver, anyone who attempts to repress or hide whatever random, indecent thoughts and cravings he may experience is committing the penultimate sins of lying by omission and not-sharing, where the first sin is that of rational judgmentalism.  And so it is that Jennifer Lawrence, in all her honesty, down-to-earthness, and unadulterated vulgarity, claims her rightful throne as champion of this movement, withholding nothing from the press and treating no ground as sacred.  As a perennially single, problematically picky, and admittedly delusional male Youtube watcher, I admire Lawrence’s honesty especially for giving us a portrait of what true honesty is not or need not be, and for demonstrating that honesty removed from dignity and class is about as valuable and useful as a needle without a thread.

I don’t like that Jennifer Lawrence pretends to espouse a positive, empowering view of female body image while putting her own body through the very rigorous and unnecessary makeovers that she condemns for everybody else.  In a sense, she verily typifies the left-wing Hollywood elitist in that she continually prods her fans to present themselves a certain way but never abides by this advice herself. Lawrence is always running her mouth on how women should take pride in their figure no matter how people on television or in magazines tell them they should look.  Airbrushed images of women on fashion covers promote a harmful message for America’s youth by inbreeding false expectations of how “real women”, presumably overweight ones like Lawrence, are shaped.  One big hole in this, obviously, is that Lawrence herself is one of those people on television and in magazines who’s telling fellow women how they should try to look. Another is that Lawrence, despite her numerous self-deprecating protests to the contrary, is neither relatively fat nor physically unattractive, but frequently gets caught airbrushing herself as if she was, proving she doesn’t believe the very simple message she preaches enough to practice it in her own life. Most egregiously, though, Lawrence never attends an interview or event unless she’s caked in makeup, a product that women use solely with the intent to make their bodies look ‘better’ than nature’s design. Whether you call this enhancing natural beauty or masking it doesn’t change the final cause of makeup – the same one shared by digital airbrushing –, which is to make something ‘deficient’ look more like something else that it is not, to subvert what “real women” look like in favor of some social standard of femininity sponsored by people on television and in magazines, i.e. by people like Lawrence, who urges girls to love themselves for “who they are” while at the same time doing everything within her capacity to change who she herself is.  This is what’s normally called being a hypocrite – a real and authentic hypocrite, perhaps, but a hypocrite all the same, and no more real or authentic than the celebrity who doesn’t practice hypocrisy.

I don’t like that Jennifer Lawrence resorts to using bawdy, anatomical humor in order to characterize herself with interviewers.  Apparently the new Hollywood thinks it’s cool for women to court attention by making the crudest physical jokes they can come up with, but no amount of New-Age Feminist balderdash will ever convince this Author that vomit, urine, or genitalia jokes are at all becoming or acceptable of a lady – or anybody else, for that matter.  I would repost some of Lawrence’s finer (in the sense that Caligula made a very fine emperor or Saul Alinsky a very fine community-organizer) off-the-cuff wisecracks here to prove my point, but none of them are even funny enough to qualify under the Files’ lowest comedic standards.  If we were sincerely going to debase our website’s upstanding reputation with a lazy boob joke, then we’d at least be sure to pick something of a higher caliber than Lawrence’s all-too-bloated stock of boob jokes.  In any case, Lawrence comes forward with a new viral obscenity regularly enough that you’ll probably run into one of them sooner or later without even looking, just like I have.  The whole alleged “rape scream” joke at Cannes that popped up a few days ago wasn’t even her best gag in the big picture, even though it’s garnered possibly the most coverage.  Or would it be worst gag in the big picture?  Whatever you call it, it was a bad idea – a real and authentic bad idea, perhaps, but a bad idea all the same, and no more real or authentic than an idea that another celebrity actually thought through carefully before sharing with everybody else.

I don’t like that Jennifer Lawrence has attended and spoken at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation awards ceremony along with limousine liberal Harvey Weinstein and sexual pervert Bill Clinton. GLAAD is an extreme, anti-American, fascist fringe group that actively tries to usurp the leadership and undermine the sovereignty of private organizations that don’t relentlessly lobby for their homosexual agenda.  GLAAD is notorious for bullying, demeaning, and attempting to silence anyone who diverges from their singular, close-minded worldview on homosexuality.  Oddly enough, there is no room for ideological dissension within their diversitopia, as evidenced by their assaults on Phil Robertson and other conservatives who denounce the media-abetted normalization of sexual offenses; in fact, GLAAD goes so far as to issue an annual evaluation of television networks’ overall gayness, a report which they call the “Network Responsibility Index”, implying thus that televised content providers have a moral and social obligation to incorporate a certain, arbitrarily decided quota of homosexual and transgender “representatives” in their work.  Thus they allot Fox a “Good” grade for filling a merely adequate 42% of its primetime hours with gayness while reprimanding TBS and History channel with a “Fail” for declining to drum audiences over the head with a certain sexual lifestyle.  This is no less akin to censorship than the FCC’s since revoked Fairness Doctrine, which unlawfully strong-armed broadcasters into fairly representing all the sides of any sufficiently divisive issue they might cover.  Even the since-fired MSNBC ass Alec Baldwin has had enough sense to savage GLAAD as the “fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy”.  GLAAD is a sworn and open enemy of anyone who truly supports freedom of religion, association, or speech, especially in film, which one would think that Lawrence holds particularly dear.  The only credible circumstances under which one can support GLAAD are bigotry, devotion to some Secular theocracy, or intentional ignorance – one could be a real and authentic ignoramus, perhaps, but an ignoramus all the same, and no less real or authentic than those who carefully research a political action group’s history before lending it their approval.

I don’t like that Jennifer Lawrence makes statements that have no logical coherency to them whatsoever. Take, for example, the interview with Barbara Walters in which she said with a straight face, “I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV.  I mean, if we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect they have on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”  Granted that making any interview involving Bawbawa sound logically coherent is a Herculean labor in and of itself, Lawrence is both factually incorrect and structurally nonsensical.  Unless you bundle ‘n____r’ and ‘fag’ with the common stock of obscenities, nobody is “regulating” swear words except for the FCC, and then only on networks.  Likewise, the only real, major sense in which the United States regulates consensual sexual activity is by protecting children below a legal age of consent from predators; in point of fact, public schools across the country and especially in urban centers like New York City encourage children to sexually experiment with one another and even provide class tutorials on how to do so most safely and pleasurably, complete in many cases with free birth control packages for the students to practice what they’ve learned.  But let’s pretend for the sake of argument that our government really has enlisted a nightmarish squadron of bedroom police for the moral enrichment of our children. Even if the religious right has succeeded in clamping down on Americans’ single most important human right (sex), what justification is that for further encroaching on our liberty by annulling a significantly less popular but still fundamental human right to express opinions that possibly hurt the feelings of others?  Lawrence’s syllogistic reasoning must read either as:

A) We rightly regulate things that are good.
B) We don’t regulate things that are bad.
C) Therefore, we should regulate things that are bad.

or as

A) We rightly regulate things that are bad.
B ) We don’t regulate things that are worse.
C ) Therefore, we should regulate those things that are worse.

Neither is structurally valid and each is based on premises which Lawrence apparently doesn’t hold as truth.  If her conclusion that we should restrict freedom of speech in so far as it offends fat people and corrupts the youth is predicated on the government’s just suppression of drugs and promiscuity and curse words, then one would think that Lawrence might take her role as model to young fans in these areas more seriously.  And yet she’s always swearing in interviews, making crude references to certain body parts, smoking in public, and jokingly recounting drunken anecdotes, all the while swearing that “as long as [she’s] Katniss [she’s] making conscious decisions” to be a good example for her female admirers.  As far as we can distinguish from this “role model’s” behavior, regulatory actions pertaining to the three aforementioned objects have nothing to do with a negative influence on the younger generation’s character, thereby mitigating Lawrence’s diagnosis that there’s an urgent need to criminalize comments about weight under the same rationale.  Lawrence goes on to ask Walters, “Why is humiliating people funny?” as if our 1st amendment rights are contingent upon our aptitude for being funny, which admittedly is a little funny for epitomizing the thought process of a blithering idiot – a real and authentic idiot, but an idiot all the same, and no more real or authentic than a celebrity who doesn’t speak like an idiot.

In spite of all that criticism, I must confess that I’ve fallen dreadfully short of Ms. Lawrence in this post, this woefully dishonest, inauthentic, unreal, up-from-earth excuse to take advantage of a superhero se-prequel. Contrary to the misleading prelude, I really do like Jennifer Lawrence, in the same respect that I like Steven Spielberg or Stephen King or Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise.  Each of them gets his job done at the end of the day, nutcase or not, and Lawrence does her job better than most everybody else.  Whether or not her spontaneous, untempered, and utterly brutal honesty makes her a good role model for young Katniss Everdeen wannabes and whether she exemplifies all that I respect in women is a wholly different question. I suppose I could write a follow-up entry in adulation of whichever lady does the latter, but then I’m sure I already have…
That little, red-haired girl.

* Get it?  It’s like J.Lo, but with an Aw at the end instead of an O?  Ah!  That’s just so cute… in a stupid, humiliating kind of way.

Post-script: As if I didn’t already have enough reasons to sneer at the J.Law cult, now it turns out that Lawrence is a devout agnostic, and not even an “I cannot comprehend the mysteries of the universe” sort of agnostic but an “I just throw all the religions of the world into a melting pot and worship everybody” sort of agnostic.  From her June interview with Marie Claire:

“I was brought up very religious, and then I let go of everything that I had been taught and started with what felt right to me.  I just kind of grew up and, for lack of a better term, grew out of it.  I don’t know whose beliefs are right or wrong, so I just believe in everything, and I don’t believe in anything.  When I’m worried about something, like if Nick or anybody in my family is on a plane, I’ll say a prayer.  It just makes me feel better to throw it out there to anyone—whether it’s to God, to the universe, to Allah—just please keep them safe.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Another Faith-Based, Feature-Length Music Video Panned by Critics

Article written by George Stefano Pallas.  Ridicule or endorsement of Christian cultural reactionism/alternative religious fads expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect nor should be construed as those of the Author.

After the overwhelming financial success and overwhelmingly negative reviews reeled in by 3D Christian-oriented concert-experience movies “Courageous” and “God’s Not Dead”, Spotlight Pictures is adding another critical dud to its roster that’s nonetheless expected to perform exceedingly well against another Godzilla remake this weekend.  “Write Your Story” currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 3.16%, but professional Hollywood number-crunchers at Breitbart, Fox News, and Christian Broadcasting Network have predicted that it should feature enough Christian celebrities for the Christian Rotten Tomato readership to redeem its unpolished writing and direction.

Although neither Newsboys nor Casting Crowns were free to appear in the new documentary, director and co-writer Alex Kendrick isn’t pulling any punches with the radio-friendly cameos, assembling a star-studded cast of evangelical heartthrobs that’s virtually a covenant of box-office gold.  Among those confirmed to have a place in the congregation are hip-hop emissaries Lecrae and TobyMac, heavy-metal emissary Skillet, bubblegum-pop emissary Britt Nicole, inspirational self-help speaker Joel Osteen, the anti-gay Benham brothers who almost stole an HGTV renovation show dedicated to helping poor homeowners, and, last but certainly not least, catchy song-printing-machine Francesca Battistelli, whose hit single lends the film its title.

Also thought to be involved in the film’s production was U2 lead singer Bono, popularly recognized as the world’s richest F-bomb-dropping, capitalism-praising, Clinton ***-kissing, philanthropizing closet Christian artist, occasionally outed.  To the regret of many, this rumor appears more dubious in recent days following the expulsion of fellow mainstream artist Justin Bieber over his widely reported and repeated violations of church teaching on drinking, church teaching on drug abuse, church teaching on strip club attendance, church teaching on profanity, church teaching on self-idolatry and Belieber cult leadership, church teaching on vandalism, and church teaching on cellphone theft.

Producer Pierre Tann said that the studio “[is] very much concerned with gathering an ensemble of God-fearing men and women, people who will serve as positive role models to the predominantly young audiences our film was made to entertain.  If any one of Write Your Story’s performing acts gives us cause to reconsider – to think, you know, is this really someone who would best suit an occasion of worship and praise, or will his mistakes end up being too much of a distraction and negative influence on viewers? –, then we’ll definitely look elsewhere for artists who better fulfill our mission.  We’re not looking to attract controversy.”

Indeed, Mr. Tann has already refused the advances of such noted Christian reality stars as anti-dating fundamentalists Jim Bob and Michele Duggar, straight white Republican quarterback Tim Tebow, and unkempt redneck homophobe Phil Robertson.  While Tann respects all these men for clinging to their guns in religion, he still maintains that accepting them to the project would invite a score of risks that would ultimately undercut Write Your Story’s appeal among its prime demographic, one of which is that they would actually quote the Bible during production.

“Let me stress that we are trying to make as safe a film as possible, one that’ll be easily digested by those of all denominations and religious persuasions, so what we’re really most interested in is making sure people have a good time and get to spiritually bond with their brothers- and sisters-in-Christ through some powerful and uplifting music.  We could care more about theology, making people think, all that stuff.”

This approach sets the film apart from thinking Christian men’s films like “Facing the Giants”, “Courageous”, “Noah”, and “The Passion of the Christ”, all of which had complex character development and challenged viewers to deeply ponder the reasons for their faith.  “We’re just rocking out and praising Jesus’ name, you know?” Tann explains.  “Critical thought is kind of a secondary priority to us.”

And the priorities show, at least according to most critics.  Rex Reed scathingly drawled, “Write Your Story’s script is an empty page torn from an empty book and stretched out over a very painful hour and a half, its very title an unfulfilled plea to the authors for its hope.”  Notwithstanding the apparent lack of any sort of plot beyond the 3D glasses, other commentators took issue with the plausibility of what little action did play out in scenes, with Scott Bowles of the New York Times emphasizing, “I want to tell you now that I believe it.  I want to tell you now that I believe it.  I do.  But I just can’t.”

Foreign citizen and philosophical Progressive Piers Morgan was unable to critique the credibility of the script using logical reasoning, but nonetheless savaged the singing across the board, commenting, “It sounded in many places like drowned rats getting strangled.  I couldn’t tell you what that sounds like, but it’s definitely not good.  You would be an unbelievably stupid man to pay for this rubbish.  In fact, you would be a dangerous man helping to espouse dangerous nonsense.  You shame your country if you support this fundamentalist indoctrination.”

On a much different note, USA Today’s Claudia Puig lamented the lack of ethnic, religious, and sexual diversity in the movie, calling Lecrae’s inclusion “a forced effort” to meet poorly enforced racial quotas and Caucascian TobyMac’s role an “insult on top of injury… even more offensive than Mackelmore’s victory over certified African-blood rappers Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West at the Grammys.”  Though she conceded that Kendrick had technically enlisted a number of women to figure in the show, she contended that these didn’t count because not one of them has yet lobbied for free abortion, Lilly Bedletter fair pay, or contraception rights and because all are faithfully married to their husbands, perpetuating the “bourgeoisie institution of the family.”

Rotten Tomatoes’ summary of licensed film critics’ evaluations reads, “‘Write Your Story’ desperately wants to be a work of art, but too often stumbles from the path of righteousness.  This is your life.  Don’t let them do with it whatever they like.”  But despite universal backlash from the secular moviegoing population, the movie has been met with general praise by its target segment, which consists largely of teenage girls and youth group members.

Said host Rick Skycrest of Air 1 Radio, “If you liked hearing ‘Write Your Story’ every single time you got into your car, then you’re going to love ‘Write Your Story’ on the big screen.”  Pastor Cliff Shane said that “the movie is going to take them all to church, like literally.  It’s amazing.”

Not to be outdone, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints is mulling an initiative of its own to capitalize on the faith-based concert experience’s ever growing momentum.  Initial reports postulated that Stephanie Meyer would write a script to be shot by Youtube sensation Devin Graham that would star David Archuletta, Imagine Dragons, The Piano Guys, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but this concept was scratched when developers realized that they could more effectively fulfill the church’s missionary goals without smashing together an array of genres and dudes so stylistically incompatible they’d implode under the pressure of their diversity and maleness.

The focus of the unfolding project changed dramatically when Aaron Darylfonsky joined the producers’ team. “Frankly at this point we’re more concerned about getting non-LDS believers into the theater or people who are less religious.  Single, male, right-wing bloggers like Mr. Josephos Rex.  So we think to ourselves, how can we most effectively lure these people into the cinemas while still creating a music-based film that represents the church, its moral philosophy, its commitment to Christ-like living, and its revelations as passed down to us by the golden tablets of Joseph Smith?  From here, the answer to our dilemma was clear.”

The Author almost wanted to go see “Write Your Story” for this week’s review material, but he’ll probably save his ticket money in light of Darylfonsky’s intriguing statements to the press...  and maybe a little extra for this.

The next post will concern Obama’s importance as a Kenyan-Hawaiian-American father figure for the young men of this nation and his dismal failure therein.  I.e., it’s an invective.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What Is Jack Bauer's Middle Name?

If you’ve looked at a magazine or watched a football game in recent days, then you’re probably aware that the TV phenomenon known as “24” is returning this week to Fox, with the somewhat major amendment that it’s no longer strictly 24 but more like 24/2.  After eight seasons of flexing the self-explanatory formula that lends the show its title, the producers have opted to halve the season’s run duration, continuing to cover a fictional time span of one day but doing so in an abbreviated 12 episodes.  Their stated rationale for changing the approach would probably be the same claimed by any author or artist who purposely woos attention for “stepping outside his comfort zone”.  We’ve all heard the spiel in one variation or another: Fox just wants to keep things fresh and explore bold new frontiers while simultaneously commemorating the original framework that fans fooled themselves into liking.  The more satisfying explanation to entertain is that Fox finally recognized how much the original framework sucked.

Let me preface this article with a disclaimer: any attempt to review even a single season of 24 is an inherent and total impracticality.  While most of the outstanding flaws encapsulated in a 2-hour feature film can be condensed without trouble into a 2000-word evaluation, the presentation of a serialized television drama of such magnitude as this presents unique difficulties that aren’t as easily surmounted.  Being eight times the length of an average Hollywood thriller about espionage, terrorism, and political corruption, the pilot season of the interminable hit understandably has at least eight times the plot holes, implausible character development, poor editing, and deus ex machina moments, far too many to mention in this brief (ha ha, NO) review of only the show’s most pivotal events, of which there are also far too many.  For example, I simply don’t have the time or space to question the reasons why:

* Gaines shoots the unfortunate second kidnapper Dan in the chest at point-blank range for landing the second girl in the hospital when she was always just an expendable tool whose sole function was to lure Jack Bauer’s daughter into the villains’ clutches for leverage and whose injury, in fact, was a prerequisite to getting Jack within sight of a hospital camera which could then be utilized to bug him.  If he really knew what he was trying to accomplish, shouldn’t he have thanked his underling instead of, you know, killing him?
* The jerkface of a senator and presidential candidate assumes he has the authority to boss federal intelligence agents around just because he’s a politician, and why the agents actually stoop to oblige him.
* All the characters, including the candidate himself, assume that the senator is going to win it all just because he might possibly win his own party in the primary of the state of California.
* None of the characters ever eat or use the bathroom other than to contact people from a relatively private location.
* We’re introduced to some random lesbian terrorist girl who blows up a plane in the first couple episodes only for her to exit off-stage the rest of the season following 4:00 AM.
* The real mole in the agency does nothing but help Jack and cover his behind until the last episode.
* Kevin takes a detour to the hospital to murder the mentally traumatized and completely ignorant York girl instead of just delivering Bauer’s wife directly to his employer.
* Kevin, who has since proven himself to be a highly professional assassin for hire, lets Bauer’s wife jump out of the car and leave his sight so as to take a vomit break, then lets her hit him over the head with a rock and bind him to a tree.
* All the drug dealers and gangsters are always blasting screamy heavy metal in their cars and in their homes.
* The writers make Jack’s wife lose her memory only for her to regain it approximately 3 hours later when a bad guy puts a gun to her head.
* Nothing even happens from 12 PM to 2.
* It takes the characters all of fifteen minutes to drive virtually anywhere in and around Los Angeles.
* The younger foreign-accented killer spends so much time sleeping around with the senator’s campaign staffer instead of preparing to kill him.
* It seems as though all the women in the show have their belly buttons or boobs partially exposed at some point.
* The I.T. guys are able to instantly pull up or hide away so many windows on their computers just by swiping two or three buttons on the keyboard.  Likewise, how do all the characters manage to set up innumerable calls between themselves just by tapping their phone controls once?

Alas, all those thoughts will have to be excluded from the final draft for purposes of concision, something 24 is altogether lacking.  It’s the kind of show that seems to have an awesome premise at first glance but later reveals itself to be fundamentally unworkable.  On the one hand the writers must ensure that each episode is an individual success, and so they must keep the action moving along at a brisk enough pace to sustain the audience’s interest, but on the other they have to maintain the illusion that audiences are bearing witness to real events playing out in real time in real space at a realistic tempo.  In order to fulfill both obligations, they’re forced to invent so many dull and frivolous subplots that more discriminating viewers will be either nodding off in boredom or groaning at the rank absurdity of the developments they’re asked to accept without question.

The crux of the first season revolves around a plot to assassinate a major presidential candidate and the efforts by Counter-Terrorism-Unit agent Jack Bauer to counter the terrorists’ schemes, or so we think for the first 2/3rds of the story, as the writers lead us to think that the assassination is being orchestrated by a rabble of white supremacists who “don’t like the idea of a black man in the White House”.  It turns out that the murderers in question don’t have a political axe to grind at all, thus precluding them from the broadly accepted interpretation of “terrorists”, but are really just heavily accented foreigners who want to exact vengeance against the senator for ordering Jack to kill one of their family in a secretive operation years ago.  They also speak English quite fluently and comfortably, even when there are no Americans in their midst who would stand to benefit from their usage of a secondary language.  But that doesn’t become an issue until later on.  In any case, rather than adopting a plan that’s truly foolproof and reliable, the bad guys inconceivably choose to make enslaving Bauer (the very man entrusted by CTU with protecting Senator David Palmer) an integral part of their conspiracy, thereby opening as many doors for it to catastrophically fail and backfire as possible.  The only way they can think of how to execute this is by kidnapping Bauer’s wife and daughter and holding them at gunpoint while issuing him orders.  In the event that Bauer somehow outsmarts them or the hostages escape the killers’ clutches, which they manage to do eventually, Plan B is simply to kidnap them again and start the whole process over, which they also do eventually.

Though the villains’ gameplan is fairly clear-cut and straightforward, what is much less apparent is why Bauer even bothers to comply with their demands.  His high-school girl Kim is the kind of headstrong dumb blonde protagonist who in spite of being constantly tied up, locked in a shed, and almost getting raped never loses sight of her greater purpose: to provide counseling for poverty-stricken street criminals and to promote a tough message of personal responsibility for one’s actions, as in this unabridged exchange from episode “5-6 PM”.

“You have so much going for you Rick. You’re smart, you’re good-lucking, you’re funny. How did you get like this?”
“I’m doing all right.”
“All right? You’re wanted by the police, you got shot in the arm, your friends you hang out with are criminals. Do you really want to end up here?”
“I do the best I can. I didn’t grow up like you did.”
“That’s just an excuse. I have a friend named Todd. He grew up in two foster homes and he has a scholarship to Stanford now.”
“Well, good for Todd.”

Jack’s wife Teri (I had to look up her name because I forgot), on the other hand, is not just dumb as dirt but a walking, talking magnet of unresolved subplots.  When the season starts, the couple are in the throes of recovering from an arduous “separation”, during which Jack struck up a largely unperceivable affair with his co-worker and other major character Nina.  Though we aren’t informed of it until later, Teri also became attached to another man who appears in at most three or four episodes before disappearing and never having an impact on the plot again.  Further complicating matters is her discovery upon escaping the bad guys’ compound that she’s pregnant with another child, which precipitates a heated argument with her daughter over how she could possibly shirk her parental responsibility to properly use birth control.

“You and dad were trying to have a kid and you didn’t tell me about it?”
“No, honey, it wasn’t like that… dad and I use birth control – it’s protection, but it’s never 100%.”

Um, right.

Despite the initial disarray of these seemingly disconnected developments, all the narrative strains are conveniently tossed together in one frying pan when Jack’s ex-flame-turned-Serbian spy shoots Mrs. Bauer dead in the final minutes of the show, thus leaving us feeling cheated and baffled as to why the writers wasted so much of our time elucidating these rabbit trails in the first place.

They didn’t stop with the Bauer family, though, as a good half of the show or thereabouts is dedicated to the personal and professional woes of the embattled first-black-president-to-be.  Blindsided by emerging allegations that his teenage son accidentally killed the man who sexually assaulted his sister seven years ago (piling still more layers of stupid sentimentality onto the script), David Palmer must confront a) all his campaign advisors who want him to cover up the incident, b) all the reporters who want to break the story before he does, and c) his very own power-hungry first-black-first-lady-to-be, Sherri, who has been concealing the ugly truth from him and everybody else for as long as she’s known of it.  As Mr. and Mrs. Bauer are artificially drawn closer together by their experiences, Mr. and Mrs. President drift ever further and further apart as they continually fight each other for the right to lose and win their race respectively. David only decides he’s had enough of his devious wife after she encourages one of his staffers to commit adultery with him so as to… distract him… or something.  It doesn’t make any sense, but Palmer won’t have any of it, saying curtly “I never want to see you here again” after 24 hours filled to the brim with as much bickering and deception and betrayal as a single fictional day could possibly accommodate.  The senator’s plot arc gets to be so convoluted and muddied with extraneous political scandals that it took an immense resilience from your own author not to skip through every scene involving him in the latter half.

Indeed, probably the greatest undoing of the show besides its unfathomable length, banal dialogue, and the stunning idiocy of its characters’ actions is the unduly emphasis it places on the candidate, who honestly would have better served the program if the writers had relegated him off-screen and made him a faceless symbol of American representative government.  As he is in this script, the more closely we get to know him, the more intensely we find ourselves rooting for the “terrorists” to wipe him out.  Constantly losing his temper and blowing up on others, Palmer bribes, blackmails, and threatens to unleash the executive authority he has yet to attain upon anyone who gets in his way.  An unprincipled thug and self-inflated cad who’s perennially lording his “former slave” victim-status over everyone, he has neither the maturity nor the poise of one aspiring to lead an entire country, and his endless pretenses of self-pity over his skin color exemplify liberal whininess of the lowest order.  And yet I think we’re somehow supposed to like him for this, even with show creator Joel Surnow’s self-identification as one of Hollywood’s only open conservatives.  As for the actor’s part, Dennis Haysbert has gushingly attributed Barack Obama’s ascension to the popularity of his own totally made-up TV character.  Thanks a lot, dude.  The financial future of my future children really appreciates that favor.

Split at many points between up to six parties at different places, 24 exploits the toggling-narratives-trick to the point where it no longer amplifies suspense or serves any discernible purpose but to create gratuitous commercial cliffhanger cuts.  It’s annoying, it’s lazy, and it interrupts the natural flow of the story, which is supposedly the main draw of a show that purports itself to play out in real time and avoid the more cinematic flares of typical scripted drama.  In a kind of weak desperation to tie all these disjointed characters together, the writers organize the scripts such that half of the dialogue is delivered via phone in splitscreen conversations, most of which are jumbled and pointless meanderings that do nothing but cement the action which the audience has already seen firsthand.  24 violates the rule of Show, Don’t Tell out of routine along with what I’ll call the Don’t Show Conversations That Defer Themselves To Later Occasions rule.

“How ya doing?”
“I’m doing OK.  Just trying to get some rest.”
“No, I’m fine… a lot’s happened and I really need to talk to you.”
“Fine, then let’s talk.”
“No, not now.  Now’s not the time.”
“Why not?”
“You do what you have to do and we’ll talk when this is all over, OK?”
* Hang up.

Even outside of the phone talks, most the dialogue consists of “Is everything all right?”s, “What’s wrong?”s, and “Wait, are you saying that repeat whatever just happened on camera in another location?”s.  Think of the wordplay as some kind of experiment in electronic dance music where the same line cycles through over and over again… but it’s just electronic music, no frills attached, and its actors have all the musicality and prowess of a D.J. who has autotuned all the soul out of his own voice.  Keifer Sutherland is the one fleeting glimmer of competence in the cast as Bauer but this isn’t even his finest performance, paling in comparison to the demented biker vampire he played in The Lost Boys.  “You’re eating maggots, Michael.”

If Steven Moffat’s and Mark Gatiss’ Sherlock represents the pinnacle of television screenwriting, then 24 must be the trough.  When a rare critic does dare to step out of the marching line on this tripe, he’s usually some kind of left-wing Pacifist who’s disgruntled at the program’s resounding jingoism or machoism or attempt to justify torture techniques in interrogation, but I think those protestors are giving the creators too much credit for their ability to articulate and advocate a rational idea.  24’s most outrageous and offensive transgression isn’t its depiction of torture; we saw that in Zero Dark Thirty and nobody much threw a fit about it then except for the anti-Bush ideologues who would sooner cut the head off of an innocent infant than see our country’s sworn enemies suffer any physical pain.  Nor is the show’s worst crime its excessive portrayal of violence against women, which we also saw in that slave movie last year that nobody much threw a fit over either except for conservatives who didn’t feel like buying into a white liberal guilt trip frenzy.  24’s unredeemable offense is that it thinks you’re stupid: stupid enough to gape at the reveal of a mole who was never forecast as a mole or even decided upon as such until halfway through the show, stupid enough to believe that the criminal masterminds would ever settle for such a foolhardy plan and that intelligence agents would so ineptly respond to it, and stupid enough to mistake such a hurried and forced conclusion for something remotely dramatic and heartbreaking.

In its defense, 24 is very addictive programming, especially when you don’t have to wait a week between installments to start the next segment.  Like many before me, I found myself racing madly through the final hours, not because I cared what happened next but because I couldn’t wait for the mess to be over and done.  What can I say?  ’Twas the longest day of my life.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

On Junky Humanism and Lying by Omission

One of the highest principles shaping our journalistic practice at The Author’s Files is that of true speaking and honest discourse.  In point of fact, honesty is the very first virtue that enumerated in the Files’ unpublished code of chivalry, so it only makes sense that my board and I should occasionally call out those figures in the public eye who show brilliant flashes of unbridled, untainted honesty, from courageous patriots like Rush Limbaugh, Phil Robertson, or Rand Paul to unabashed traitors like Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, and Jane Fonda to struggling family men like Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, or John Edwards who immediately put their integrity before their careers.  Now it brings me great pleasure to officially induct actress Ellen Page into the Author’s hall of truth-speakers.  Up until around last February, Page’s admirers respected her mostly for irrelevant trivialities like her acting ability and strong performances given in such insignificant art projects as Juno, Inception, and even the PS3 playable-cutscene-movie Beyond: Two Souls, which has nothing to do with either Beyond The Veil or Dark Souls.  For most people, it was enough merely to know that she’s a very competent actress who’s received numerous accolades and awards for her roles.  No one had formerly paid much heed to her private life or politics or ancestry in assessing her worth, caring only about the quality of her work.  In other words, she had been living a pretty damn near perfect life, but it was all a lie, a heinous lie by omission.  And who among us can bear to live a perfect lie?

You see, over all these years, partially in response to her film roles and partially due to the disgusting heterosexism of any human civilization that survives more than one generation, people had mistakenly assumed that Page likes to have sex with men, when the hitherto unrevealed truth is that she actually prefers to have sex with other women.  Page remarked at the Human (Gay Marriage) Rights Campaign that she is “tired of hiding and tired of lying by omission” and that, “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out.  My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered.  And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain.”  When an unnamed, presumably Christian pastor wrote an unverified and undisclosed letter to Page two weeks ago that presumably offered to help her with her condition, her following reply on Twitter was widely publicized and praised for its maturity and depth of critical thought.

While Page may have unintentionally made a poignant argument about the correlation between homosexual behavior and physical, mental, or spiritual “suffering”, her speech was all the more compelling to me and my staff for shining a light on all the sordid personal secrets we ourselves have been withholding from you out of fear and shame.  I write this on Star Wars Day because I refuse to hold the truth back any longer; it’s high time to come clean.  Like this insulated, 27-year-old Hollywood millionaire elitist who keeps reminding interviewers about her gayness because she has a new superhero movie coming out (intentional), I too am through with hiding my sexual fantasies and demented personal habits for the fragile sensibilities of random Christian ministers who may or may not exist and want to convert me with their dangerous, unscientific, and completely voluntary pyscho-therapy.  After four years of wrestling with the guilt and affliction that ought to torment anyone who lies to millions of readers for a living, I’ve finally recognized the logical paradox of my actions: how can I possibly reconcile my stated ideals of honesty and unrestrained dialogue with the eternal silence I keep in regard to my own life?

And so I will liberate myself of this imprisoning closet, this undemocratic cage of privacy that urges me to cover up my true identity and cower in the shadowy corners where I belong, safely segregated from the privileged conformists of our puritanical society.  This is the end of my omissions, the beginning of a new freedom, in which my voice will proudly ring through fields and rafters, loudly proclaiming these intimate confessions I’ve clutched too long against my chest, such as:

* The confession that I like curls more than bangs, and peacock more than both.  But that’s never been a secret, has it?

* The confession that I think T-shirts are supposed to stay over the shoulders and below the belly line.

* The confession that strapless swimsuits are a major turn-off to me.  And strapless dresses.  And strapless car seats.  Because I’m a product of an insecure and emasculated progressive age that’s seen fit to penalize people who commit the grave societal offense of operating their own vehicles without strapping themselves to it.

* The confession that I derive this sick pleasure inside from watching women pull themselves out of life-threatening situations; see Alien and Aliens, The Village, King Kong, Gravity, the Lindsey Stirling zombie moon dance video, and Lara Croft: The Cradle Of Life.  Angelina Jolie and Gerard Butler had me riveted to the couch I was sleeping on all through that last one.

* The confession that I nonetheless find cinematic girlpower to be a wearying and noxious bromide of the lowest order, rooted in a total disconnect from real gender differences.  I picked up the word “bromide” from Ayn Rand.

* The confession that I’m only attracted to fellow humans, not vampires, werewolves, space aliens, or witches.

* The confession that I’ve never visited Chicks Fil A for the Fil A.

* The confession that I’ll purposefully play Ed Sheeran’s new Sing-song back to back on the radio even though it’s lyrically asinine.  It really sets my blogging tone, rushing through me from my head to toe, ooohohoh.

* The confession that I’m prone to vocally damning my non-microphone-integrated computer monitor whenever software fails to open, fails to close, misinterprets my commands, erases my data, distorts my data, or freezes… but mostly when it freezes.  The confession that cursing it so gives me a real rush, a false but comforting reassurance of my masculinity and power to procure results I desire by means of physical or verbal force.

* The confession that for all my physical and verbal force I am not actually a heavily armored super-soldier in the Hellenic tradition; this is but an exaggerated image I have devised to impress cute chicks who may not appreciate the finer details of my writing but still “have this weakness for hot guys, tight abs, and really big arms”.

* The confession that I prefer natural beauty to beauty contrived, for is not the Creator of all men a better artist of the female form than any mortal artist he spoke into life?

Having communicated these tastes and distastes to you, I feel a great burden has alighted from my shoulders, leaving me stronger and more confident in whoIam than ever before.  Before you leave your hateful comments attacking me for daring to express these preferences, I would beseech you to look inside yourself and consider what treatment you’d expect of your kindred if you were to emerge from a similar closet of your own demons.  In the fifth month of the 2014th year of the era-of-commons, humanity has autonomously advanced itself far enough from its once sinful and unrighteous nature that no man should be ashamed or afraid to declare his passions, his fetishes, his indulgences, his defining characteristics, yay the very essence of his being for the rest of the universe.  If these instincts are really outside his capacity to change, being instilled in him from birth by forces beyond his control, then what does he have to fear from making every single one of them known to everybody under any circumstances in any setting whatsoever?

So may the fourth be with you today as you commit yourself to renouncing any and all lies by omission and coming out as the beautiful, diverse individual that God intended you to be – or that Bang intended, if you can’t stomach the thought of being allied with a non-existent god who condones rape, slavery, and cannibalism.  Ellen Page understands that there is no middle ground, no convenient escape route in the pursuit of a genuinely honest lifestyle: one must be willing to share anything and everything or admit to sharing nothing at all out of cowardice.  “Privacy” and “personal information” are no more than covers for the serially dishonest, labels which must be disbanded if we’re ever to achieve absolute transparency and authenticity.

The moral is this: trust your feelings.  Diversity is our strength, and the Force flows through us all.  The only thing holding us back is our own self-control, and once we Letitgo, what can stand against?