From Avatar to Voldemort: How Our Infantile Stories Create An Infantile (And Racist) World

It is only reasonable that many readers here at Riverside Green occasionally mistake something that Bark wrote for something I’ve written, or vice versa. We have the same last name, we have written for the same outlets, we agree on a reasonable number of subjects. (Areas where we disagree include: the music of Nickel Creek, the ability of a woman to wear a size 12 dress and still be attractive, whether or not soccer is a real sport.) All I can say it this: If you’re confused now, wait until my son writes his first new-vehicle review, which should happen in the next few months depending on certain delivery schedules and various eminently unreliable manufacturers.

In this case, however, I feel compelled to make it explicit and plain that I (Jack) am writing this, because while Bark might agree with me that modern Western society has restructured itself around several explicitly infantile and irrational ideas, I doubt that he would be willing to place the blame for this situation on the consumption of “young adult” media by people who should be consuming “regular adult” media. Bark is a big fan of the Harry Potter books. He watches the “Guardian Of The Galaxy” movies. I believe that he would defend those stories and that media.

As for me, however, I come to bury Potter, not to praise him. And in this, I have a rather unlikely ally from the mainstream press.


For several years now, I’ve been thinking about how the central concept of what I call “progressive anti-tourism” has spread through stories and media, and how the prevalence of this concept has caused adults of my generation and the generations that have followed to make some remarkably stupid decisions in the furtherance of their infantile cargo-cult ideology. But before I start talking about Avatar, Save The Last Dance, and several other stories, let me hand over the microphone to Ross Douthat. On the NYT website this week, he wrote that

[T]he thrill of becoming a magical initiate in the Potterverse [is] remarkably similar to the thrill of being chosen by the modern meritocracy, plucked from the ordinary ranks of life and ushered into gothic halls and exclusive classrooms, where you will be sorted — though not by a magic hat, admittedly — according to your talents and your just deserts.

I am stealing this magic-and-meritocracy parallel from the pseudonymous blogger Spotted Toad, who wrote a fine post discussing how much the Potter novels and movies trade upon the powerful loyalty that their readers feel, or feel that they should feel, toward their teachers and their schools. But not just any school — not some suburban John Hughes-style high school or generic Podunk U. No, it’s loyalty to a selective school, with an antique pedigree but a modern claim to excellence, an exclusive admissions process but a pleasingly multicultural student body. A school where everybody knows that they belong, because they can do the necessary magic and ordinary Muggles can’t.

Thus the Potterverse, as Toad writes, is about “the legitimacy of authority that comes from schools” — Ivy League schools, elite schools, U.S. News & World Report top 100 schools. And because “contemporary liberalism is the ideology of imperial academia, funneled through media and nonprofits and governmental agencies but responsible ultimately only to itself,” a story about a wizarding academy is the perfect fantasy story for the liberal meritocracy to tell about itself.

The minute I read that last paragraph, the proverbial scales fell from my eyes. Of course the Ivy Leaguers would love a fantasy like that — and it’s no coincidence that the Harry Potter books were written in class-conscious Britain by a welfare queen whose dimly-perceived ideas, received third-hand from tabloids, regarding upper-class life would only really make sense to most readers if they were framed by dragons and special magic. Our putative superiors (full disclosure: your author attended a “top 100” university, but it has done precisely nothing for me in the twenty-three years since I graduated) in the Ivy League absolutely yearn for a regression to an ordered class society where the proles in their lifted Ram trucks and Tap-Out apparel have to cross the street or be horsewhipped for insolence. They have no appetite for democracy. Why should they? As Douthat notes in his article, democracy is just another way of giving the “Muggles” a voice in public affairs. What could be worse than letting the “Muggles” from West Virginia or the Inland Empire have a say in their own fates? You might as well let the Muggles judge the flying-broomstick “Quidditch” games, for Christ’s sake.

This is a fairy-tale elitist impulse that traipses neatly across political or ideological lines, by the way. The distaste with which conservative “wizards” speak of public-assistance recipients or Mexican immigrants finds a perfect mirror in Democratic disdain for rural whites, conservative Christians, or self-made businessmen. Mitt Romney was playing to his base when he decried the “forty-seven percent” of freeloaders in America; Mrs. Clinton was playing to hers when she railed against the “basket of deplorables”. Sometimes the Venn diagram of the unpersons overlaps, as it did with the young people who supported Bernie Sanders. The conservative media lampooned them as people who were obsessed with the forgiveness of poorly-chosen student loans; the captive mainstream called them “Bernie Bros”, the word “bro” understood by The Right People to be the 21st-century way of calling someone a subhuman knuckle-dragging rapist.

It’s not harmless, all of this magical fantasy crap. It explains why young people become absolutely deranged on the subject of Donald Trump. They were told that Trump is the Harry Potter villain “Voldemort” — by the media, by their friends, by J.K. Rowling herself. The Huffington Post did them all one better and published a poopytalk manifesto by a student in which he argues that Trump is more evil than Voldemort — because Voldemort attacked white people and Trump attacks brown people. That’s right: to people who are thoroughly schooled in the Harry Potter ethic, it’s more permissible to murder children than it is to build a border wall. Think about that one for a minute.

As other more astute political commentators have pointed out, the problem with labeling your political opponent as Literally Hitler, or letting a lapdog media do it on your behalf, is that you encourage people to step outside the political system and take matters into their own violent, unpredictable hands. After all, if the “end” is to kill Hitler, then the “means” are obviously justified no matter what they might be. Thus all of the “punch a Nazi” idiocy that was going around social media earlier this year. Who could possibly be against punching a Nazi? And what does it matter that the definition of “Nazi” somehow got changed from “member of the National Socialist party, supporter of the Holocaust” to “someone who wants some kind of restriction, however mild, on immigration from Mexico, and/or a restriction on container shipments from China”?

And that’s the problem with “young adult” literature in a nutshell: it’s written for people who are too young to understand that the world does not neatly split into “good” and “evil”. That’s why everybody in “Star Wars” wears a uniform that proclaims their allegiance to the Jedi or the Sith. The old Westerns that put white hats on the good guys and black hats on the bad guys operated the same way. Young adult literature can be thrilling because it plays on our basic desire to be fighting for untainted Good against unvarnished Evil. It is fitting for children to read this sort of stuff because children need to be taught some basic lessons about right and wrong — but it is ridiculous and harmful for adults, who should know better, to consume media that reinforces that childlike viewpoint.

The opposite, of course, is also true. I was a precocious reader as a pre-teen and I read a lot of adult-oriented books about World War II, including Speer’s diary, The Rising Sun by the Japanese sympathizer John Toland, and Shirer’s Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich. By the time I was ten years old, I could tell you chapter and verse about the Bataan Death March or the effects of the Hiroshima bomb. I’d read about the cattle cars and I’d read about the children burning in Dresden. I was of the opinion that there was a lot of grey area in that war, which left me free to dream about a life in which I would have been a Me262 pilot sweeping out of the sun to disintegrate the Allied bombers with a fusillade of unanswerable lead from my nose-mounted cannon before retiring home to polish up my presentation-grade Walther P-38 in anticipation of a brilliant postwar career as a German industrialist.

Most children don’t get exposed to detailed descriptions of rape and torture before they are tall enough to ride a roller coaster. That’s probably a good thing. But it’s probably not a good thing when we have millions of twenty-something voters in this country whose ideas of good and evil are derived from a children’s book. It leads to degraded political discourse, and it leads to an election choice between Mr. Trump, whose supporters saw him as Leonidas leading the last charge at Thermopylae, and Mrs. Clinton, whose supporters considered her to be a sort of female Dumbledore.

It’s obvious that we can view Harry Potter novels as the infantile gateway to the current Millennial perspective on politics. Is there a similar way to understand the Millennial perspective on race? Absolutely. If, like me, you are a student of story and myth, you know that most adventure-movie plots resolve in some way to the “Hero’s Journey” as described by Joseph Campbell. However, in the past thirty years or so, there is a very specific sub-genre of that plot that is appearing more and more often. It works like this:

  • The hero is a member of the privileged group, but he is damaged or deficient in some way.
  • Something happens to put him in contact with a minority group.
  • He becomes obsessed with the rituals, abilities, and struggles of this minority group.
  • Often, he becomes romantically involved with a member of the minority group.
  • He returns to battle against the majority group, or to compete within the majority group.
  • Because he combines his “powers” from the majority group with the “culture” of the minority group, he is triumphant.
  • He is acclaimed as someone who has transcended both groups to acquire superiority of a sort over both.

I mentioned Avatar at the beginning of this article so you’ll have no doubt already assigned all the appropriate scenes and people from that movie to the above list. But it describes dozens of pop-culture works. Titanic, oddly enough, is virtually the same movie as Avatar; Rose is changed from a ditzy society girl to a female aviator by banging some steerage-class trash in a closed sedan.

In most cases, however, the movies play with analogy and/or fictional equivalents. It’s not until we look at Save The Last Dance that we get the pure, unfiltered stuff. This film, which was promoted heavily by MTV in an era where that meant something for audience and box-office receipts, was portrayed as a “modern Romeo&Juliet.” That’s a lie, of course. The entire message of Romeo And Juliet was that straying away from your family’s advice and protection could lead to your death. The entire message of Save The Last Dance is something far more disturbing: white people are inherently superior.

Are you confused? Then you aren’t paying enough attention. In the movie, Julia Stiles manages to transcend both “white culture” and “black culture” by coming from the latter and absorbing the latter. She starts the movie as a middling-grade ballerina who, after absorbing black culture and sleeping with a black guy, ascends to the secular heaven of Julliard. Note that Derek, the black boyfriend, doesn’t get to go to Julliard. He’s just the pinch of pepper that Julia Stiles needs to be a great dancer. We are meant to understand that Julia has great things waiting for her in the future. Derek won’t be a part of that. Never mind that he is a better dancer than she is; because he’s not white, he can’t effectively synthesize both cultures and rise to the next level. Is that fucking insane-crazy or what?

By the same token, in Avatar the “natives” can’t effectively shake off the yoke of oppression until the “human” comes down and shows them how. In the end, he is reborn as a creature who understands both native and human culture. He is effectively superior to both. The end message is: natives might be superior to regular humans, but a “woke” human is superior to both. Same for Titanic. Jack obligingly falls into the cold ocean and Rose becomes totally awesome because although she’s from a superior class of people she has acquired just enough dirty prole culture to make her perfect. Once Rose becomes “woke” she is better than both her upper-class relatives and the steerage-class Irish who taught her how to shake out her hair and dance.

Note, also, that the “woke” white/human/upper-class figure remains the only acceptable gateway between worlds. Save The Last Dance doesn’t end with the abolition of racism at the school; it ends with Julia Stiles in the uniquely privileged position of superior arbitrator. Same with Avatar. Same with Titanic. The message is pretty clear, even for children: the white person who makes “first contact” with the minorities will absorb their power and control the interactions with them.

Of course, Save The Last Dance was aimed at white girls. White boys, by contrast, got The Matrix, which is no less explicit in its themes, although it omits the interracial sex because in modern American media the only permitted interracial pairings are black male with white female and white male with Asian female. So Neo gets a white girl rather than a soul sister, but in all other respects it’s yet another white-guy-meets-black-people-and-saves-the-world film. Neo is literally “the One”, bridging the gap between the almost entirely white Matrix and the black real world of Zion. The war against the machines can only be won by him, which is why Morpheus has to patiently train and coach him into being “the One”. The sequels make the racial issue even more obvious; the Zion culture is full of dashikis, beads, and hot, sweaty dancing, while the white Matrix culture is so European it has a pretend Merovingian king. The only “black” computer program is the one that is in charge of overseeing human emotion and freedom. But the black people — and the black program — can’t really accomplish anything without the white guy who accepts their teaching and goes on to be better than they are.

The filmmaker Spike Lee has spoken out in harsh terms about the idea of Magical Negro characters, among whose numbers Morpheus is usually counted. The “Magical Negro” is a character who only exists to enrich a white central character with just a pinch of black wisdom, experience, or know-how. He never has any agency of his own; he’s just there to help the white hero become “woke”. Sometimes the Magical Negro is actually an antagonist, as is the case with Denzel Washington’s absolutely spellbinding character in Training Day. You walk out of that movie remembering how cool Denzel was and it blinds you to the central point: that Ethan Hawke’s character ends up becoming just as street-smart while also being more humane and ethical than Denzel was.

It’s a hugely racist and offensive narrative, which makes you wonder why it’s so popular among “progressive” filmmakers. Perhaps the reason is that they feel personally invested in the trope and therefore are unable to stand outside it and take a genuine look at what it truly means. Most white media types consider themselves “woke”; they are eager to lecture fellow whites about oppression and privilege without considering the ways in which their own work reinforces it. And this is where the “anti-tourist” impulse comes in. White people who feel that they have been “accepted” into a minority culture often feel compelled to adopt a protective “gatekeeper” stance to that culture. In a lot of ways, “woke” media people are like the first kid in your high school who “discovers” rap or punk or whatever musical subculture is hip at the moment. He feels that he is a genuine member of the community and that others are “tourists”. This gives him perceived authority to lecture those “tourists” and to bar them from participating in the culture.

Here’s an example. A white teacher lectured a mostly white high school about “all whites being racist.” One of the students, who is half-Hispanic but who “identifies as” white, to use the modern parlance, complained to the school. So a bunch of white people gathered to demonstrate against the half-Hispanic student. This led a respected faculty member at the University of Oklahoma to set everybody straight:

Paul Ketchum, a professor of liberal studies at the University of Oklahoma, said that Coursey committed a “rookie error” in teaching on race, noted the Christian Science Monitor. “You go for the big term when a less loaded term would be better to make it a teachable moment.”

Would you like to see a picture of Paul Ketchum? Of course you would.

Here’s his bio: “Dr. Ketchum received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas A&M University. His research focuses on racial attitudes and the impact of race on the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Before pursuing his doctorate, Dr. Ketchum taught middle school and high school in inner-city Los Angeles and worked with at-risk juveniles in Texas.”

I guarantee you that if you could open up “Doctor” Ketchum’s mind and read it you would see that he thinks of himself as a “white emissary” to minorities who is empowered to speak on their behalf because he’s worked with “at-risk juveniles” in Compton. So you have a white guy lecturing a white guy on race so that second white guy can do a better job lecturing other white people on race, who will then presumably grow up to lecture still other people about race. It’s race-lecturing white turtles all the way down, sonny — and the only person who sees any problem in this comfy industry of mining racial grievances for white middle-class profit is the half-Hispanic girl. Clearly she should shut up and be grateful that the Great White Fathers are here to set her straight on what racism really means.

If you have even a slightly nuanced attitude towards race in America, you have to just put your head in your hands regarding antics like this. But that’s the problem: virtually nobody has a nuanced attitude towards race in America, because we are all consuming garbage media that teaches us fundamentally racist concepts. These concepts clothe white superiority in stories that appear to “uplift” minorities — right up till the end, where we find out that the white person was the center of the plot all along. People consume this media and then they want to be Neo, or they want to be Julia Stiles, or they want to be Rose in Titanic.

The stories we tell ourselves, and tell each other, truly matter in the end. They serve as framing devices through which we view the world — and we never truly escape them. It’s worthwhile thinking long and hard about the media and stories you choose to consume. They can have consequences that you don’t expect and will not understand until it’s too late. The irony here is that accurate, socially relevant criticism of “texts” was once considered to be an important duty of any reputable university. There was a time where you went to a “top 100 university” so you could learn how to see through crap like this. So you could obtain the skills necessary to take these stories apart and see them for what they are.

No longer. Today’s best universities are simply indoctrination machines. Instead of teaching their students how to understand stories, they feed self-serving, undemocratic, deeply-disturbing stories to their students. They teach them a fantasy… that they are part of a “selective school, with an antique pedigree but a modern claim to excellence, an exclusive admissions process but a pleasingly multicultural student body. A school where everybody knows that they belong, because they can do the necessary magic and ordinary Muggles can’t.” As fairytales go, it’s not a good one. But it’s the only story they want to teach. And if the students get sick of hearing it, they can always retire to their co-ed, sex-positive, kink-friendly dorms so they can drown in the modern opiates: “Netflix and chill”, video games, and, of course, young-adult fiction.

116 Replies to “From Avatar to Voldemort: How Our Infantile Stories Create An Infantile (And Racist) World”

  1. Bigtruckseriesreview

    RACE and RACISM are hot button issues.

    People are preoccupied with them, but many of us aren’t – even though we may experience some of the effects and consequences of racism.

    I am a product of the 80’s. My mind is already set in stone and isn’t going to change. My attitude will remain the way it is till I die.

    Kids born in the 90’s and 2000’s will be indoctrinated the exact same way.

    I recognize the problem with the youth because I’m a step ahead of it.

    Mentioning Trump: today’s youth have been indoctrinated to be reviled by the very visage of Donald Trump. The Evil White Corporate Businessman Megalomaniac Sociopath…

    The same one I was taught to hate on Captain Planet and a number of other cartoons.

    They want to just “stop him” but absolutely have no power to do so.

    I got a Master’s Degree in Administration recently – graduated top of my class – ahead of predominately White females (Queens College CUNY). I was forced to consume the freshest and finest of neo-liberal, socialist, LGBTQIA data packaged as “social justice and equity”. I knew what they wanted to hear so I played along. Got straight A’s…but didn’t assimilate a damn bit of it.

    YES the colleges are indoctrination machines.

    The colleges are at war with REALITY.

    Real life economics doesn’t work that way.

    Real life markets doesn’t work that way.

    Healthcare doesn’t work that way.

    Hollywood is pumping out false realities for those of us not fortunate enough to drown ourselves in student loan debt to attend college.

    Television is getting those who can’t afford to go to the theaters.

    Reply
    • Robert

      Congratulations on getting your masters and seeing through the culture war while you were there. I went to college in the 90s when this kind of propaganda was on the rise, especially in the anthropology department where I was studying. I can only imagine how much worse it is today. At least I didn’t go into debt doing it – although I worked as a cook in an Applebee’s kitchen where for 6 months I thought my name was White Boy. Does that make me an ambassador now?

      I may steer my boys towards trades instead of a traditional 4 year college where they would be presumptive racists and rapists.

      Reply
        • Bigtruckseriesreview

          The Administration MS was my second MS. I got my first from Adelphi U and my second in CUNY Queens College Grad School.

          The first time around I was bombarded with Neo liberalism.

          Second time around – It was an overdose.

          Even STEM isn’t safe from them here in the curriculum.

          Reply
          • hank chinaski

            Adelphi and CUNY.

            As the plumber said, ‘there’s your problem right there!’.

          • CJinSD

            Last night, I was talking to a psychiatrist in a social situation. Her idea idea of an ice breaker was telling me how great it is that Georgia Tech is deemphasizing math aptitude in their selection criteria. I was practically rendered mute.

      • jz78817

        “I may steer my boys towards trades instead of a traditional 4 year college where they would be presumptive racists and rapists.”

        steer your boys towards what they might be good at, and not what you think they should do. they are not your clones, you don’t get to dictate how they live their lives once they’re out from under your thumb.

        Reply
  2. Bigtruckseriesreview

    “By the same token, in Avatar the “natives” can’t effectively shake off the yoke of oppression until the “human” comes down and shows them how. In the end, he is reborn as a creature who understands both native and human culture. He is effectively superior to both. The end message is: natives might be superior to regular humans, but a “woke” human is superior to both. ”

    Why any space faring race would bother fighting close-quarters combat when they could simply park a battlecruiser in geosynched orbit and rain down tactical nukes or artillery from space is beyond me.

    “I think we should just take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Well, I think it was supposed to be an analogy for Vietnam, which could have been “won” in an afternoon using nuclear weapons.

      Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        From a military standpoint, the U.S. and its allies in Vietnam didn’t do poorly even without using WMD. The Tet Offensive by the NVA and Viet Cong was a failure and subsequent to that the VC wasn’t an effective fighting force. The seige at Khe San was portrayed by Cronkite et al as some kind of quagmire when the North Vietnamese actually lost thousands of soldiers in a futile effort to reenact Dien Bien Phu. Even after the U.S. withdrew most ground forces, ARVN was able to repel an invasion from the north that was larger than the one in 1975 that overran the south.

        As for nukes, the conventional bombing of the north and Laos was effective enough to drive Hanoi to the negotiating table in Paris.

        The Vietnam War was lost on the home front, not the battlefields.

        Reply
        • Will

          This is somewhat true Ronnie, but it also wasn’t fought like an outright war. Tet was certainly short term victory for the NVA as the surprise attacks had the effect they needed. There’s an argument about Khe San not being of any importance to the NVA because the only water supply ran right through the base and the NVA could have easily poisoned that water source.

          The strategy, tactics and fear of Chinese/Russian involvement played a part in the weak effort of the US. Also, it was a civil war of Vietnam (Vietnamese don’t like the Chinese, nor does anyone in that region), and our irrational fear of communism allowed us to enter a war instead of create an ally.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            I have to wonder how things would have gone had we simply let the Soviet Union collapse on its own instead of engaging in all of those costly proxy wars against them.

          • Zykotec

            @jz78817
            without the constant wearing down strategy from the Americans and their allies that would have taken forever, and could just as likely have ended with all of us having to share our wealth evenly among eachother , enjoying free healthcare, exploring space together and a lot of unemployed gun manufacturers. Not to mention we wouldn’t have spent 4 decades building Islamic fundamentalism to the high point it is at today.

        • VoGo

          These are the kinds of things the loser says. As in “We totally dominated the first 42 minutes of the Super Bowl!” (Sorry Atlantans)

          At some point, you have to stop making excuses and look at the scoreboard.

          Reply
          • Will

            Vogo,

            Stick your neck into something you might actually know something about. No one here is delusional about the US involvement in Vietnam and its outcome. The strategy of search and destroy and consistently re-taking of objectives while giving them up without a fight led to the US downfall there.

            I forgotten more about the Vietnam war and I’m much younger than you.

          • jz78817

            I forgotten more about the Vietnam war and I’m much younger than you.

            it’s not a competition.

          • Will

            @jz

            You’re right it’s not a competition, but I also don’t want to deal with flippant/ignorant opinions on something you can easily read about.

          • VoGo

            Will,
            Since you are so deeply knowledgeable about the Vietnam War, I’ll assume that your knowledge of the war started with reading all 11 of Ho Chi Minh’s letters to Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, requesting American support to his efforts to secure an independent and democratic Vietnam from its French colonial overlords?

          • Will

            @Vogo,

            Actually I have read those and the CIA internal papers (that are available) in regards to Vietnam. In fact, the Vietnam was my junior year history term paper which consisted of 45 pages of research and the mistakes of both sides. I am well read on the subject from my highly exclusive and ultra liberal university that taught me that “progressives” are about as bigoted as the KKK.

          • VoGo

            45 pages? That’s a lot! By which page did you figure out that the US had lost the war?

            Because it seems to really bother you.

    • Midnight DeSoto

      When you want what’s under the sand (for example), you hesitate to make radioactive glass of it.

      Reply
    • jz78817

      there’s enough historical records of what Fat Man and Little Boy did where I think the cavalier mention of using nuclear weapons is a bit distasteful. The nukes we dropped on Japan in 1945 were little more than firecrackers compared to what we have now.

      God willing 1945 will remain the only time anyone ever used these motherfuckers against someone.

      Reply
  3. Bigtruckseriesreview

    So long as America is predominately white and Hollywood targets the White audience, the media you get will continue to be exactly what you’ve outlined here.

    I understand the country is predominately White.
    I understand free-market capitalism and why the media targets people the way they target them – for advertisers.
    Those who aren’t white – or not targeted by ads – don’t like it and it makes them uncomfortable.

    So what do they do?

    They make all the judges on daytime TV Black…even though my chances of seeing a Black judge in the criminal justice system are like 1 in 20.

    Or they make all the Doctors on TV Black even though IRL I can only name Ben Carson and Bill Cosby (not a doctor IRL).

    Or they place Arab/Muslim-Americans as the GOOD GUY to stop the White megalomaniac.

    I really do despise Hollywood and hope they get burned to the ground.

    Reply
  4. Tomko

    There’s a lot to unpack there, Jack.

    But the bigger question is what are you going to do for John – or is it already too late for him?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I try to keep him away from most media and busy with his bicycle or some Legos.

      It’s a losing battle.

      Reply
    • Disinterested-Observer

      With elitists or racists or immigrants or globalists or anyone, my feeling is this: life is war. If you want it, you better be prepared to take it. Clearly there are tidal forces at play, and there may not be anything that I or my children can do about it, just as there were plenty of kids from my grandparents’ generation who would up buried in the sand of some shithole in the South Pacific, but if you want it you’re going to have to take it from my cold dead hands.

      Reply
  5. jz78817

    “And that’s the problem with “young adult” literature in a nutshell: it’s written for people who are too young to understand that the world does not neatly split into “good” and “evil”.”

    Unfortunately I think our society has been trending that way for a long time. I think the seeds were planted in the Malaise Era, and came to a head post 9/11 when Pres. Bush said the famous words “You’re either with us, or you’re my enemy.” We have this obscene need to try to align on the extreme fringes, and any notion of “balance” is “well, here’s one extreme, or the other. Balance! Pick a side.” It’s like one of Lewis Black’s gigs from about a decade ago, talking about the coming invasion of Iraq. “Just because I’m against going to war in Iraq DOESN’T MEAN I THINK SADDAM IS A SWELL GUY!!!””

    It’s like the example of the rock musician (Dave Mustaine is a great example here) who led a very hard rockin’, drug-fueled life of debauchery in their youth, then when they get older they seem to think they have to zoom all the way over to the other end and become a Bible-thumping born-again Christian, as though it offsets or balances out their previous behavior. It’s not good enough that they simply clean up their act and lead a stable life from there on out, they have to live on an extreme. I feel sad for people who can only see and think in extremes.

    Plus, we (as a society) also have this strange mentality where you’re supposed to have a firm opinion on everything no matter how little you know about it. And resist any attempt to get you to change that opinion.

    ‘s why this political atmosphere is getting so toxic. I- personally- can truly both be happy Hillary Clinton lost and yet still think Donald Trump is a buffoon and an embarrassment. I would much rather have been told I have to pick someone off the street to be president than either of those two. But no, that’s not allowed in this society anymore. if I don’t profess my hate for Donald Trump loudly enough (or- god forbid- let slip that I can understand why some voters might have gone for him,) I’m obviously just one of the deplorables who’s “ok with racism and misogyny.” If I don’t believe every stupid alt-right rumor about Hillary Clinton’s supposed mis-deeds, then I’m obviously just a pussy little snowflake.

    it’s fucking disgusting and childish.

    “After all, if the “end” is to kill Hitler, then the “means” are obviously justified no matter what they might be. “

    one reason I liked the movie Downfall (original title: Der Untergang, the source for all of those Hitler rant parodies on YouTube) was because of how they portrayed Hitler himself. We get taught that Hitler was this inhuman monster delivering bombastic speeches to massive crowds. But the movie showed that he was… a human being. A horrifically flawed human being who ordered the execution of one of if not the worst atrocities in history, but still a person. For example, they show his loved ones and his affection for them, and how he would often walk/stand with his hands behind his back to hide the essential tremor he had in his hands. And the reasons the filmmakers portrayed him this way were because 1) they were fairly accurate, and 2) to remind people that the Nazis were people and not these inhuman monsters from who knows where. Because the further away we get from WWII it becomes harder and harder for people to realize the bombastic guy in those grainy old black & white film reels wasn’t an inhuman killing machine, he was a person. And as Santayana might caution, if we forget that Hitler and the Nazis were people, as time goes on that makes it easier for another person to come along and decide to order the deaths of millions of people he deems “inferior.”

    Reply
    • Bigtruckseriesreview

      Exactly: and I wrote the same thing when I reviewed the film.

      “Der Untergang is the type of movie that many critics and some gurus in Hollywood are deathly afraid of. The humanizing of an evil character. Strangely enough, I’ve seen less pushback when “Satan” himself is humanized in films such as Devil’s Advocate, Bedazzled and Passion of the Christ. Adolf Hitler however, always seems to incur an asymmetrical and pathologically extreme wrath when films are made that in anyway attempt to shed light on: “just what the hell were the Nazi’s thinking?” type questions.

      Without a doubt, Bruno Ganz does such a perfect job playing Adolf Hitler, that it was hard for me to believe that Ganz isn’t Adolf Hitler. Throughout this film, Ganz provides such as solid performance that one might imagined he has been possessed. When the camera isn’t panned to see Ganz’ hands shaking uncontrollably due to the historical claims that Hitler was suffering from a triumvirate of Parkinson’s, Aspergers and Syphilis which governed his body’s movements, Ganz is brooding around with a very real fear that the Russians are closing in and that he’ll likely have to kill himself before they capture him. ”

      Never make caricatures of your enemy because it takes away from the reality of the threat.

      I see the liberals doing the same thing to Trump. They don’t understand what he is like I do.

      They don’t recognize him: I do. I knew who he was from day 1.

      They paint him as a clown, and yet he sits in the highest position in the history of mankind.

      Reply
      • jz78817

        “They don’t understand what he is like I do.”

        the sad part is that I think you actually honestly believe this.

        far too many of us desperately want to believe we’re the smartest person in any room. Few of us are. Yet- as Dunning and Kruger postulated- those who believe they’re incredibly smart are actually too dumb to realize they aren’t.

        Reply
        • BIGTRUCKSERIESREVIEW

          Sad part is that I knew he was coming to years ago and that no one believe me until he actually took the oath of office. You people do not understand what you’re dealing with. I understand exactly who he is. He is me.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            that explains a lot.

            y’know, all of us go through a phase in our lives where juvenile hubris makes us believe we’ve “got it all figured out,” we “know everything we need to know,” and/or “only I can see the truth for what it is.”

            Most of us grow out of it by the time we’re, oh, 25 years old.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            So when are you gonna run for Mayor of New York so I can carpetbag back on in and vote for you against Supercuck?

          • Zykotec

            @BTSR From what I’ve learned about you, and from what I’ve read of factual analysis about Trump, I think you are correct, except the obvious difference in scale. I haven’t ever read anything by Trump that is as thoughout and intelligent as your thoughout and intelligent posts above, but considering the position he has, and where he has been for the majority of his life, I bet he can be smart if he wants/needs to.
            His Twitter personality, and the one he uses to make the media even more biased for and against him remind me of your worst rants on TTAC. I bet they get you some comments on Youtube. And they got him quite a few votes.

          • jz78817

            @Zykotec

            What got Trump elected was summed up pretty well by Mike Rowe. He went to the people who see their lot in life going nowhere or getting worse, and basically said “I see you and I’m going to do something about it.”

            Now, I think it was all hot air and bluster, but it shows what happens when you don’t ignore large swaths of the country like Hillary’s campaign did.

          • kvndoom

            This interview is the best explanation of the election I have read. I even forwarded it to my best friend last week when he said “all these months later, I STILL can’t understand what happened in November.”

            http://therealnews.com/t2/story:19362:Thomas-Frank-on-the-Demise-of-the-Democratic-Party

            Jack’s comparison of Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton couldn’t be more true. It doesn’t even matter which party they ran for. Two sides of the same coin… they were the rich looking out for the best interests of the rich. Trump blitzed the primaries and the electorate because he told the working class poor what they wanted/needed to hear. A lot of Americans have become sick of politicians.

        • Bigtruckseriesreview

          What got Trump elected was the morons of liberal academia who had their heads so far up their asses that they bought into their own bullshit: polls they conducted, data they researched from historical records…

          I kept saying it all along.

          They had no idea how angry the people were – or how sick and tired of politicians they were.

          Hillary’s voters didn’t want her. They wanted the radical leftist Sanders who was offering Welfare checks aplenty. Once Hillary and Debbie Wasserman Schultz got caught pushing him aside, the voters TURNED ON HER. Something I predicted.

          Hillary lost because of BERNIE SANDERS and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

          The ENTIRE russia bullshit is BULLSHIT.

          Sanders offered these young hyperactive savages a choice and they chose him over her JUST LIKE THEY DID FOR OBAMA in 2008.

          I saw it coming. Trump capitalized on it by enduring to the end and he beat her ass.

          There was no data that could even possibly predict that.

          The things he said would have annihilated anyone else’s campaign – Howard Dean for example was a better candidate than Kerry and the DNC pushed him aside because of a “scream”?

          IDIOTS.

          Donald Trump is EXACTLY the President I voted for and exactly what I knew he’d be because I knew exactly who and what he was the moment I saw him attack Rosie O’donnell and the GOP candidates…and rise in the polls KNOCKING LOSERS AFTER LOSER OFF THE STAGE.

          You don’t like him I can see that.

          Shame on You.

          THERE WILL BE NO IMPEACHMENT.

          The media is lying to you.

          They have you convinced you have some say in this.

          They have you convinced the foreigners opinion counts.

          YOU DON’T.

          THEY DON’T MATTER EITHER.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            Shame on You.

            “Shame on me” for what?

            Christ. Stalin had an apt description.

            полезные дураки.

          • Zykotec

            yeah, I honestly see no real way Trump can be thrown out before his 4, or even 8 years are over. I think he won fair and square, because he did a better campaign. Sanders was the only democratic candidate that could have given him a fair fight.
            As for being a president, I think he is far far far over his head right now, but I still hope he will grow into the job eventually. He may not have actually achieved anything yet, but he also has a near impossible job.
            Also, all American mainstream media is pretty much fucking useless right now. It’s relly hard to know what is happening and not happening over there, because everyone keeps getting hung up with total bullshit , and they let Trump control everything they do and say.
            Hypotethically he could literally personally shoot someone, then go on twitter saying Robert DeNiro is a retarded asshole, and then all the mainstream media will cry for a week about how unfair he is to DeNiro and retards, and assholes, and twitter. And the rightwing media would have a field day telling everyone on the right how awful the liberal media is for criticizing Trump for a twitter message that has nothing to do with his politics at all.

          • jz78817

            “. I think he won fair and square,”

            yes. He won the election based on the rules which have been in place for generations. Just like every president elected since the ratification of the Constitution.

            What seriously troubles me about BTSR’s post above is his insistence that I’m somehow supposed to be ashamed that I don’t care for Donald Trump. One of the greatest freedoms we have in this country is the right to openly criticize our leaders when they do things we don’t agree with. It saddens me when I see someone willing to throw away that right. Just look at Syria; say something bad about Assad where anyone can hear you, and if you’re lucky you’ll only be imprisoned.

          • Bigtruckseriesreview

            #1 Bernie Sanders couldn’t even beat Hillary.
            Obama managed to do that with ease. Sanders would have gotten ANNIHILATED against Trump.

            How many screams of “Jewish Communist” would be uttered from right wing talk radio?

            I wonder.

            #2 As far as “shame on you”… I mean it in the “that’s too goddamned bad” way.

            Not the “you should be ashamed of yourself way”.

            Pay very close attention to what I say and how I say it.

            I am the future of the American voter.

            Trump is only the wrecking ball I elected this time around.

            Next time… we’ll just have to wait and see…

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            To be fair, BTSR, the Democratic National Committee actively colluded against Bernie. They rigged the primary.

            I think Sanders could have won, honestly.

          • jz78817

            Pay very close attention to what I say and how I say it.

            I’ve literally never in my life heard anyone use the phrase “shame on you” to mean “too bad.”

          • Bigtruckseriesreview

            I knew Bernie Sanders had no chance on the national stage simply because of the anti-semitism and the allegations of communism.

            The only reason the youth supported him was the wild claims of handouts.

            Bernie would NEVER have beaten Trump.

            NEVER, EVER.

            And once Hillary let him steal her spotlight, Donald Trump was already the winner.

            Divide and Conquer. Oldest trick in the book.

          • Bigtruckseriesreview

            THE DNC’s mistake was letting Sanders be a candidate in the first place. They knew he had a message that wouldn’t work on the national stage. They knew he was too old.

            Their arrogance kept them from understanding the threat of Generation Z. Poor idiots assumed that Generation Y and Z were the same.

            Found out the hard way that they aren’t.

            They THOUGHT Generation Z would rally behind Hillary after they turned the lights out on Bernie.

            NOPE.

          • Zykotec

            Well, I guess the ‘modern’ world is pretty much fucked.
            No one in the US is allowed to disagree with Trump or the trumpets, unless they want to be harrassed and ridiculed. Except for a quite large group that almost deserve to be ridiculed because they are indeed a bunch spoiled privileged snobs.
            No country can or will stand up to Trump once they remember that most of the money the US owe us has been spent on guns. And with the well known level of American education, enough soldiers can be fooled into believeing the right-wing propaganda about muslim terrorists, and right-wing supportoutside the US. Actually, just watch something like the original Star Wars trilogy and watcg Rogue One and you will see how the outside world will see the US in a few years from now. Watching ‘Rogue One’ I was completely amazed that it passed censorship at all tbh. If it had been released next year it wouldn’t have been released at all…
            There is always a tiny tiny chance that Trump is doing a ‘Jack Sparrow’ and just ruining the Republican party from the inside by exposing what a bunch of utterly awful pissheads they are, but I highly doubt it. In 20 years you may feel as smart as the Germans did in 1944, but I’m afraid I may not be around to say ‘told you so’ unless there is a massive change in attitude within the next year or so.
            For the outside world I guess the best possible outcome is a new American Civil War, but I highly doubt the ‘good guys’ would win that either.
            Lets just hope that both I and BTSR are wrong in our paranoid delusions.

          • Zykotec

            I should add I don’t blame Donald or his followers, he’s just proof that the downward spiral you’ve been on (or, we as a western society) since the start of the cold war has reached a point of no return.
            I wish we could have tried either socialism or capitalism instead of fighting for 70 years about which wrong was the worst wrong, but yeah, we screwed up.

          • phlipski

            Can I remind you that Hillary won the popular vote? A lot of Trump supporters/voters seem to forget that. It seems to me that Trump would be helping himself a lot more with large swaths of this country if he even understood that just a little bit…. Then again that assume Trump even cares about doing the job.

    • Ronnie Schreiber

      When my son was about five he asked if there were really monsters. I told him yes, but they look just like everybody else.

      The most chilling image of Hitler that I know of is from March 1945, when he was reviewing boy soldiers defending Berlin. He smiles and pats one of the boys on his cheek. The human knew they were boys. The monster was sending them off to die, futilely, for him

      Reply
  6. Ronnie Schreiber

    ” I was of the opinion that there was a lot of grey area in that war,”

    True. Are you familiar with The Grey Zone about the sonderkommandos in the death camps?

    That being said, there was probably more black and white than grey.

    Reply
  7. BurbanCowboy

    Defending smarmy Macklemore-haired dipshit Richard Spencer was an odd choice, otherwise I agree wholeheartedly.

    Reply
  8. John C.

    Interesting if slightly depressing piece. Trump surely hit on something with his forgotten man stuff. Obama was offering nothing more than opiates and snap cards with the ever present hint that you hurry up and die.

    To achieve the big majorities necessary to upend the current system, Trump will have to have some results that prove his point. Small towns will have to have new industries open up that provide opportunity. I think that also the turn around of a big mostly black city like Baltimore or Detroit might convince that an alliance of grievance groups is not the way forward. That story last year that showed the long ago pictures of all the dying cities last Republican mayor was as damming an indictment as I have seen.

    Reply
  9. VoGo

    A lot here. Much of it insightful and positive. What I find challenging is squaring the content of today’s writing with the typical Jack Baruth editorial, which is often littered with phrases that blame immigrants, that attack women and racially loaded code words which oh-so-carefully skirt blatant bigotry.

    As an wanna-be optimist, I take this as a hopeful sign.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I think the difference between you and me is that I have no issue criticizing a person, institution, or ideology regardless of color.

      Unfettered immigration is bad for the United States. It doesn’t matter if the immigrants are Mexican or Russian.

      Women are just people and should be criticized the same way that men are.

      Being black or brown doesn’t make you special any more than being white does.

      When I was still in school I had an unpleasant interaction with the black woman who ran the Student Life program. Basically she canceled a mountain bike race that I’d set up and arranged sponsors for because “we don’t need two bike races at Miami every year.” I thought she was a fucking idiot and I said as much to everybody who would listen.

      Ninety percent of the responses were some variation on “YOU CAN’T CRITICIZE A WOMAN OF COLOR.”

      So who was the racist then, or now?

      Reply
      • Will

        HA! I had a similar experience with the gay population at my school after a dorm wide email that was just trying to get people to stop complaining. The offending email was basically using gay as stupid. I got hauled into the dean’s office about it too. Left there refusing to back down and without punishment.

        The best part was the “threats” of violence against me, called them all out, none took the challenge. Shocking.

        Reply
      • VoGo

        Jack,
        I honestly have never met anyone who favored unfettered immigration or wanted to pass a law against criticizing minorities or women. These aren’t serious positions taken by a meaningful political group. They are silly strawmen used by exactly the kind of people you just rallied against in your article. Odd.

        The issue is that you tend to either:
        1. pollute a perfectly well reasoned editorial with an offhand phrase blaming immigrants or minorities for something completely unrelated to the issue you’re arguing, or

        2. attack women with a frequency that points to issues better left between you and your therapist. It’s hard to believe that the only two executives in the past month who have made a mistake worth railing against were the CMO of IBM and the CFO or Facebook. I mean, have you read about Uber? Uber is actually in the industry you focus your writing on! But you choose not to attack the architect of a culture that abuses its ‘workers’ and is a bastion of misogyny.

        At least have the intellectual honesty to own your choices.

        Reply
        • Ronnie Schreiber

          “At least have the intellectual honesty to own your choices.”

          Translation from leftspeak: Step into my kafkatrap. Accept my Orwellian redefinition of words like “attack” and “blaming”. Admit your guilt so I can feel morally superior.

          Reply
          • VoGo

            You were nicknamed “Nudge”? I can see that.

            Ronnie, my offhand comment reminding you that you are a seamstress with a failed website who has to borrow money from his mommy to buy a subcompact must have really hit home for you to attach your hate to my every comment.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I have to say that the use of “seamstress” to describe Ronnie seems to be immensely sexist.

          • jz78817

            can you drop it with the “borrowing money from mommy thing?” it’s quite common in many Jewish circles for friends and family to loan each other money w/o interest.

          • VoGo

            Jack,
            You are 100% correct about seamstress sounding sexist. It’s as if I were insulting Ronnie’s manhood.

            JZ,
            Thanks for the reminder on Jews’ reputation as moneylenders?

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Hi, Boris.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdLtFsmw8x0

            Calling me a seamstress is an insult to highly skilled artisans like my ex-wife, who has sewn wedding gowns from scratch. I can barely hem my blue jeans. You apparently see yourself as a member of a superior class who can look down on seamstresses and scullery maids.

            It’s quite amazing the number of people who consider themselves educated and smarter than people who can do all sorts of things that the “educated” can’t. “I went to college. I’m too smart to know where the dipstick on my car is.” Yeah, well I went to college too, and not just a top 100 school. Harvard doesn’t impress me. Salk didn’t go to Cambridge to develop the polio vaccine.

            I do machine embroidery, not tailoring, seamstressing, or general industrial sewing, though I do have one Nakajima industrial machine that was given to me by the late owner of Reed Sportwear. I use that to sew on patches that I embroider.

            My four head Melco embroidery machine is industrial equipment, more akin to a CNC machine center than my own mother’s Singer or my ex’s Kenmore and Viking. It runs G-code (similarly to my laser cutter/engraver or 3D printer, only the printer also has a Z axis). You know what G-code is, don’t you? I have as many machines in my house running G-code as I have running Windows.

            Anyhow, the software that I use to digitize embroidery is specialized CAD software, again, more akin to Unigraphics or Solidworks, than it is to stuff you might buy to let you do lettering on a home sewing machine.

            Calling me a girl or a little boy doesn’t bother me. Better people than you have made fun of me and I love them for it. My kids are healthy and doing well, my grandsons are awesome, my siblings are all alive, my mom is still in good physical shape at 92. I’ve lived a blessed life. Everything else is gravy.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Moneylenders??? Are you out of your fucking mind?

            You gonna call out ‘Retha for making a joke about Jewish diamond dealers in The Blues Brothers, too?

            As I watch my neighbors get ready for Shabbat (there’s a kollel, a post ordination rabbinical seminary within eyesight of my house), I’m not going to let some Jewishly illiterate, virtually non-practicing Jew by mere ethnicity call out good folks for Jew hatred simply for stating a truth.

            I don’t know how much you do that’s involved with the Jewish community or not. I suspect that you’re a Jewish illiterate like the majority of non-orthodox Jews (excepting those Conservative and Reform Jews who actually attend services regularly). Perhaps that’s why you don’t know of the great tradition of “gemachs”, which are private charities that do stuff like pay for young women’s wedding gowns and make small loans to tide people by. Gemach is an abbreviation for Gemilut Chassidim, acts of lovingkindness. Almost every Jewish community in the world has something like the local Hebrew Free Loan Association, which were making emergency and small business loans long before anyone invented the term “microlending”.

            Do you know any orthodox Jews personally? When was the last time you did something Jewish? No, donating to the scam artists at the SPLC is not doing something Jewish.

          • Will

            @Vogo

            Who cares if he borrowed money from family? I wish I had when I scaled my start-up as it would made life a hell of a lot easier. At least your family is interested to see you succeed and you won’t have to fight for control 90% of the time with the investor class and the other perils that come with those gentleman.

          • VoGo

            Ronnie,
            It sounds like you are very happy and successful. That’s great!

            To all those who defend taking money from a 90 year old mother,
            I say this: we apparently have different definitions of adulthood. Me? While in high school, I took the cash i made working at Friendly’s and went to NYC just after my 17th birthday. I’ve been on my own ever since, not needing or taking a dime from family.

            Which wasn’t always fun. It’s little rough watching your friends take 5 figure checks from home every few months while you have to work 30 hours/week to stay in school. Sometimes you go to bed hungry. You wear ripped clothes, and not to be stylish.

            But unlike many of my friends – most of whom are quite successful in their own way – I will never fear getting laid off, losing our house, being penniless. I know i can survive.

            And I recognize that many others aren’t capable of being independent. My wife and I just put an offer on a $1.8M house nearby so we have room for our parents to stay with us if they like, and for our children to stay or return after high school, if they need to.

            We’re allowed to have different definitions of adulthood. I don’t denigrate you for living a different life.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            I don’t know where you get this idea that Ronnie is some kind of boomerang Millennial. He has been caring for his mother as long as I’ve known him. The future for which you’re preparing has been his reality for quite some time now. Ronnie had his own place and his own life.

            If his mother had been forced to pay for her own care, the sum total of that would have been ten or twenty compact cars over the past decade. Even part-time in-home care can run you five hundred bucks a day.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I criticize men probably ten times as often as I criticize women. What ratio would satisfy you? Fifty to one? One hundred to one

          Reply
  10. Josh Howard

    I really felt that this spoke to me. Why? Escapism. It’s why I love stuff skewed younger. Yeah, I could use my job as an excuse but that would be lying. I want to just show up and shut my brain off. Life sucks. It’s not easy.

    I’m not trying to use that as an excuse for staying away from challenging material…just trying to explain why I use video games, consume sports programming(less the opinion side which skews towards noise), and feel close to those I talk to on the regular online. It’s kinda crappy and not fulfilling like meeting people and actually doing something. No one has time. Everyone’s busy. People are spread out, have kids, and premade plans.

    Juvenile media makes it easy. My favorite show is Futurama. 22 minutes… that’s all I have to emotionally devote. P90x3… 30-35 minutes towards being healthy. People seem to be more time conscious than ever. It’s not just the elitist mindset of something like JK’s work… it’s the time required to consume it. I have other things that I like and do, but I’m trying to really narrow this down without writing any more of a novel than I have.

    Reply
  11. Daniel J

    I’ve seen all these movies, and while an interesting perspective on them and in relationship towards our current social views on race and culture, I just have never viewed them in that way, even when I was a young adult watching these films. I just go and watch to have fun and enjoy the movies.

    When it comes to race relations in movies and media, I typically only think that deep and hard about it when it comes to Gene Rodenberry’s vision or Stan Lee’s vision, particularly in his X-Men comics.

    Now what we are seeing in movies is more and more Women as heroes in movies, rising above the men or exceeding in a man’s world, for good or bad.

    Reply
    • jz78817

      ” I just have never viewed them in that way,”

      I think that’s the point. It’s not that you come out of watching/reading Harry Potter thinking “wow, some people are just inherently better than others.” It’s that this dynamic is present in so many forms of media that it subtly influences your perceptions of society and the world whether you’re aware of it or not.

      it’s like depression. it’s not “being sad” where someone can “snap out of it.” it’s a filter which colors your view of everything.

      Reply
    • hank chinaski

      As the content was created by and for white male nerds, it’s not a huge leap to pin the diversification of comics/fantasy/sci-fi as an agenda (Thor as a chick? wtf dude!). This is made easier by the fairly consistent casting of uniformed white males as villains against the oppressed womyns and browns (i.e. ‘Logan’, new SW films).

      More likely the writers are nothing more than the chemists at Frito Lay or McD’s jiggering the salt/sugar/fat formulas to best appeal to global mass audiences, to maximize ROI on 8-9 figure film budgets.

      Reply
      • Daniel J

        I don’t believe that the original Star Trek was strictly for white nerds. Gene Roddenberry, as far as in hollywood goes, is probably the original SJW. If you read any of his interviews, he wanted more women on the show. He wanted women to have a higher status on the show. He wanted more minorities on the show. Studios and execs squashed some of that.

        Then again, I don’t now if nerds, or even the casual fan of space operas, really care that much about the social undertones of such shows. The only one’s that care are the hollywood types, and the ones that want to elevate the importance just because the underlying tones are on a popular Sci-Fi TV show.

        Looking back to the BSG remake, I guess making Starbuck a woman was all in the cause of SJW. Of course the then whole notion of SJW wasn’t really a thing. Even if it was, it wouldn’t have impeded my enjoyment of the show. But, then again, it falls into what Jack has been saying about white superiority.

        Reply
        • jz78817

          yep. Roddenberry had some incredibly utopian ideals, and even after being forced aside when the films were made, fought like hell to keep the militaristic stuff out of them (unsuccessfully.)

          Reply
    • kvndoom

      Catch 22, you see? On the one hand, Jack explains how the minority/female is just an “accessory” in many movies, to help make the real hero better and overcome. In many such films, that accessory dies and that death is the last bit needed to complete the hero. Even as children in the 80’s, my brothers and I would always joke amongst ourselves: “he’s black! You KNOW he’s gonna die sooner or later!” And it was almost always true.

      But now, it has become commonplace for the female or minority to be the main character in movies. And where do we wind up? Suddenly an empowered woman or minority is “pushing an agenda.” Sheesh!

      Here’s how I feel about the subject: If the lead is a hero solely because of not being a heterosexual white male, then yeah, it probably reeks of agenda. But if the hero is an extraordinarily brave/smart/powerful individual who just happens to not be a heterosexual white male, then it just is what it is.

      Reply
  12. Tristan W Weary

    Jack: I agree with you about women who can wear a size 12 dress. They’re just too small. Thicc women are hot.

    Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        There’s some debate about it, but some say that Marylin Monroe wore a size 12. The issue isn’t the size 12s. It’s that the average American woman is a 14-16, which is neither healthy nor that attractive to men who reside near the middle of the bell curve.

        I’ve never been skinny. I’m 5’6 and at one time I weighed 235. Then I started exercising and riding my bike and lost about 50 lbs. A few years ago I decided to work hard on the bike and was careful about what I ate and I got down to 165. I had a six pack, or at least a faint one, but my friends were worried that I had cancer or something. Right now I’m probably ~190 or so. So I understand what it’s like to try and lose weight, it’s not easy. I just don’t understand how people give up and get really obese. You have to work at to weigh 300# if you’re a guy and more than 200# if you’re a woman.

        Reply
        • VoGo

          Using the BMI benchmark, 5’6″ and 165 lbs. is actually overweight. So either you were seriously ripped, or your ‘friends’ weren’t exactly helping.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            whether being “overweight” has health implications is one of those things where “it depends.” I’m 5′ 6″ and about 165, so yes, BMI would classify me as obese. But my body type is “broad” and I’m somewhat muscular, though not “ripped.”

            but the biggest thing in my favor is that my excess weight isn’t on my gut. I see so many people my age, younger, and older, who look like they’re goddamned pregnant with sextuplets. that visceral fat (central obesity) is the killer. visceral fat contributes to metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

            so no. BMI is an indicator of trends in a population as a whole, but you can’t use it to evaluate an individual absent other data.

  13. Yamahog

    But stories of good and evil aren’t always bad – a lot of religious parables are based off good and evil and we can argue whether religion is a net negative or positive but when it is positive, it’s usually when people are less ‘fundamentalist’ about it.

    One of the more interesting ideas I’ve heard in the past few months is that privilege in SJW ideologies is like sin in Christianity (and maybe other Abrahamic religions, but I don’t know enough about them to make the comparison).

    From: https://www.allthink.com/1284035

    “There is, however, one troubling difference between privilege and sin. While we can love the sinner but hate the sin, we seem poorly equipped to love the privileged, unless merely as mascots and objects of envy. Sinners have been born into a struggle against a fatal flaw; the privileged are just born flawed – unwholesomely lucky and blithely ungrateful.”

    You’re correct to identify the black and white thinking as a root of the problem. And grayscale thinking might be a panacea but it might not. Imo, the only way to fight monsters without becoming one is to ‘hate the sin love the sinner’ and the only way to gaze into the abyss is to take the middle way.

    Reply
  14. Zykotec

    As long as we agree that Hollywood is the problem and not Ms Rowling, I agree. Hollywood is/was/will always be a swamp as bad as or even worse than Capitol Hill.
    To keep using the potterverse as a metaphore, I think a lot of what you call liberals in the US fail to see how incredibly incompetent a leader Dumbledore is. If they feel they are rooting for him against Voldemort they really need to re-read/rewatch Harry Potter. Even the films are still a lot less horrible than whatever American mainstream media is making though. The Avengers and DC films are only making me love Michael Bays Transformers movies even more.
    The Avengers play everything Team America parodied straight, like it is a good thing to have a bunch of loose cannons with way to much power running around destrying the world , just because they happen to sometimes be right. Worst thing is both the Avengers and DC universes keep ripping off the Bayformers movie plots, again and again.
    Not long enough ago I finally understood why being an ‘intellectual’ was just a way of showing you had enough power/money to enjoy the more meaningless aspects of life. Just like working out just to look good has become a way of showing you have a lot of free spare time has become today. (yeah, I’m slow sometimes, I didn’t understand that going to school was mainly for networking before it was to late either)
    And it occured to me during the presidential election that working class Europeans couldn’t relate to working class Americans at all. because we’ve had a pretty decent functioning socialist society for decades, most working class people here can see the same movies, TV-shows and read the same litterature as middle class Americans. So they’re the ones we befriend and ‘hang out’ with on the interwebz. Most working class people in the EU can get a decent used car, an internet connection, and decent health care. Even more so in the more wealthy countries like in Scandinavia. And most working class Europeans understand that Hollywood movies are crap, but we like to watch them for the spectacle alone (they tend to look awesome on the big screen) The only wisdom most of us take from them is that GM and the US airforce can make some pretty decent Transformers movies when the budget has no upper limit.
    And most working class Europeans will never relate to actually wanting Trump as a leader. Even if the alternative is literally Dumbledore….

    Totally unrelated, me and my son actually cosplayed Draco and Lucius Malfoy, possible the most hated Potterverse characthers, at Norways largest convention last weekend. It was awesome XD
    I ‘usually’ cosplay Max Rockatansky (one convention each year) , which if you’ve watched the awful rewriting of American history that is called ‘The Patriot’ is mildly ironic.

    Reply
    • jz78817

      that comment I made above about living on extremes? That’s Hollywood in a nutshell. Up until about the late ’60s, Hollywood was quite exclusionary. If you weren’t white the best you could hope for were rather profanely stereotypical roles. If you were the “wrong” kind of white you had to do your best to hide it; just ask Moses and Jerome Horwitz, Louis Feinberg, Amos Yakhoob Kairouz, etc…

      So they seem to have- in a typically knee-jerk fashion- gone completely in the other direction to be as “limousine liberal” as possible.

      The Avengers play everything Team America parodied straight, like it is a good thing to have a bunch of loose cannons with way to much power running around destrying the world , just because they happen to sometimes be right.

      this is why I think probably one of the better “superhero” films in recent history is Hancock.

      “You’re a superhero for God’s sake, people should love you! But you’re an asshole.”

      Reply
    • kvndoom

      “The Avengers play everything Team America parodied straight, like it is a good thing to have a bunch of loose cannons with way to much power running around destrying the world , just because they happen to sometimes be right.”

      Which was the entire point of “Civil War,” arguably the best of all these movies. All these superbeings were humbled and practically brought to the brink by a single man, someone whose family was just part of a “statistic.”

      But I implore that you tell me the similarities between Marvel films and Bay’s Transformers. Ugh I went to see the Last Knight this past weekend and it was was a 2+ hour seizure.

      Reply
      • Zykotec

        The last Transformers movie isn’t out yet where I live, so I haven’t had the chance to enjoy it yet, but, I feel they are more honest in their craptasticness than Avengers and Superman. In much the same way as a Hellcat is more honest and unpretentious than an AMG C63 in some ways.
        Civil war was more or less a remake of Team America, but Transformers ‘Dark of the Moon’ also dealt with the exact same issues.

        People get scared when they have massive robots/Supermen/Avengers trashing their cities trying to stop an alien force from enslaving the human population by using some sort of space-gate even though they are inherently more powerful than humans and using humans as slaves would be more or less useless to them anyway. And people/governments try to stop them.
        With as much success as a porcupine trying to stop a train…
        Add into it that a family member/last survivor from their planet (Zod/Loki/Prime and Megatron) who is the one doing the deed.

        I’d even go as far as claiming Dark of the Moon (besides doing it ‘first’ ) also dealt with these themes better than the two following it, adding at least sort of a twist to the plot. That said, Mark Wahlberg is far from being among my favourite actors, and there are so many jokes and stories mashed together that it is certainly overwhelming it points. Also Transformers have Dinobots, You can’t beat dinobots.

        One huge difference being, in the Transformers films there are bad guys, who are also powerful. In the Avengers films it’s usually one member of the team accidentally fucking something up to the point that it’s treathening the whole world. As hilarious as the fight in Civil War where they trash the airport is, it comes right after they have been told to stop trashing the whole world. And in that airport fight there are no bad guys, It’s literally only the ‘good guys’ fighting each other.

        The Avengers in Civil war was brought to their knees by Stark and Cap’s inability to have a conversation, much like in Batman vs Superman. Also just like in the Dark Knight, as much as I like the Dark Knight, the bad guys plan in Civil War hinges on waaay to any accidents and coincidences to have a chance in hell to work.

        All of them are entertaining as heck though, and Antman and Spiderman are fun enough to forgive most of the stupidity of Iron Man and Caps decisions throughout the film.

        Compared to the last Fast and Furious films, Avengers films have a ‘near documentary’ realistic feel to them though. At least thing that resemble real physics are present for instance.

        Reply
  15. silentsod

    This framing does make a great deal of sense for the extremes in discussion over politics and, well, pretty much any issue. Thanks for writing this and for bringing up the NYT article.

    Reply
    • silentsod

      Also, with there being no edit button, I find that the unbinding of America as all of us together (after all, we’re all Americans, aren’t we?) into a strict us/them and the hatred it brings to be reminiscent of war propaganda.

      Reply
      • kvndoom

        We’re in the midst of a hybrid Civil/Cold War. But don’t be fooled into thinking America is losing unity all of a sudden. It was never there to begin with, but we had no means to see the big picture before the 1990’s. The rise of the internet has brought us to a time where any voice can be heard and any action can be chronicled

        I smirk when I hear people at work say “did you hear about [insert shock news headline here]? This world is getting crazier and crazier every day!” because it really isn’t getting crazier. People have always been as fucked up as they are now, but there was no means for anyone and everyone to hear about it.

        Reply
        • jz78817

          Yep. the world knew about Sandy Hook practically as it was happening.

          How long did it take news of the Bath School Massacre to leave Michigan?

          Reply
          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Now that guy was nuts. He joined the school board just so he could have access to wire the local school with explosives. Years before terrorists started doing it, he set off shrapnel loaded explosives to take out first responders.

          • VoGo

            The NY Times carried the news less than 24 hours later:

            BATH, Mich., May 18. — The insane revenge of a man maddened by financial worries brought death to at least thirty-three children today when the Consolidated School in this little village of 300 souls, eight miles northeast of Lansing, was dynamited…

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            Then, as now, the NYT got it wrong. The killer spent a year planning and executing his crime. His debts are often cited as the cause of his madness (probably from the original wire service report picked up by the Times) but c’mon, the guy was nuts enough to kill scores of children. You think he needed an excuse? In any case, while he was underwater financially, investigators found enough assets on his farm that if he had sold them, he would have been solvent and not lost the farm. He also murdered his wife that morning and set the farmhouse on fire. Not exactly the model of mental health.

  16. Pat

    Lots to unpack and think about here, so I’ll just take the low hanging fruit: Richard Spencer and I attended the same “elite university” (not together, and he for grad school) and came out of the same environment with very different takeaways: I went into the military and served my country in a war, he became a white supremacist (I’m ok with using Nazi for him). You’re vastly understating the nature of his politics with your description of them here. PS: I’ve never read Harry Potter, because I’m a grown ass man.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’m less concerned with Spencer individually and more concerned with the marginalizing of half the voting population as “racist Nazis”. I wouldn’t lift a finger to help Richard Spencer for any reason.

      Note, however, how the media is oh-so-quick to tell us how the last 500 or so Islamist terror actions are not “real Islam” while simultaneously using Richard Spencer to represent every white populist in America.

      Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        If anyone actually bothers to read what Richard Spencer says, you’ll see that he has nothing in common with American conservatives and libertarians. I don’t think he’s a Nazi but he doesn’t accept the premises of the Declaration of Independence, or much of the Enlightenment for the matter, and I think he’s closest to a reactionary European monarchist than anything else. European culture was undoubtedly a key factor in the development of republican democracy going back beyond the Magna Carta, but there are many reasons why the American colonies broke away from Britain and why so many Europeans (and Asians, South Americans, and Africans) have demonstrated that they prefer how things are done here by immigrating.

        Beethoven wrote superlative music and nobody will ever write better than Mr. Shakespeare, in any language, but Europe is the the be-all and end-all of civilization.

        Reply
  17. Eric H

    Jack,
    Your version of the hero’s journey is nothing new or recent.
    From 1965 Dune is probably the most widely known version of that tale.

    I’m sure if I knew more about classical literature I could find examples all the way back to the Greeks.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      There’s no such thing as a new story. The question is how frequently we are telling particular stories in our culture. Nobody believes in monsters living in the forest so Beowulf is currently out of fashion.

      Strictly speaking, however, Dune doesn’t follow this pattern because Paul was always the Kwisatz Haderach. The Fremen just stood in for the Atreides legions. Paul doesn’t learn anything from the Fremen; he easily defeats Janis in knife combat.

      I’ll stop writing now because I could go on for ten thousand words about Paul and the Fremen…

      Reply
  18. -nate-nate

    “Nobody believes in monsters living in the forest” .

    obviously you’ve not been camping in any national forest for decades…..

    tweakers mostly but bad things/people there too often theses days .

    i never saw ‘avatar’ but the storyline ideas you talk about make sense .

    no wonder i prefer reading .

    many interesting comments, even from the dolts .

    -nate

    Reply
  19. Skein

    You do a lot of complaining about liberal entertainment and liberal educational institutions. I’m a good bit more liberal than you are, I’m sure, but I’ve also seen a fair bit of conservative entertainment and spent time at two fairly conservative colleges. You are introspective, intellectual, and a talented writer. You fall into the trap of thinking that most conservative entertainment and institutions would be somehow superior to the liberal ones that upset you. They’re filled with similarly ridiculous narratives. Your desire for deeper thought is just as absent over there.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’m not arguing for a conservative narrative. I’m arguing for a truthful one. A productive one. I’m not that much of a conservative, really. I’d have voted for Sanders.

      Reply
      • Skein

        I’m not sure people want the truth in entertainment or higher education, unfortunately. I think it can sneak in in personal conversations, talks with family, and discussions about shared commonalities/common interests and the like. That’s one of the reasons I like reading about cars so much. I know it’s a big Internet virtue signaling thing to bash public education but I actually think there can sometimes be more of a chance for truth to be reached in those classrooms than in any flavor of college. My state recently just shot down an excellent revamp of K-12 education to be prep for college, technical school, OR an apprenticeship because the testing companies got their lobbyists to protect their businesses. Hopefully America can do better on both the entertainment and education front in the future.

        Reply

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