Grandmaster Chu Recalls What It’s Like to Aspire to be a “Marvel”

Grandmaster Chu is back with “Marvels,” a song that perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to grow up as a nerd. The opening of the video with the burned comic covers harkens back to a dark time in American comics in the late 50’s when The Seduction of the Innocent warned parents that comics would turn their kids into deviants. Even these days, when comics seem to be more normalized and geek culture is more pervasive than ever, there’s still an underlying stigma associated with being a nerd.

What I love about this track is that it’s a universal story. Certainly Chu is Asian as is Fresh Off the Boat’s Hudson Yang who stars in the video, but I the struggles of being a nerd cross ethnic and social boundaries.

You can grab the track from Grandmaster Chu’s site and check out more of his music that always seems to be full of feels.

Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling

Max Landis is back with an amazing love letter to the WWE, specifically, Triple H. Max and crew reenact some of the WWE’s most iconic moments as we follow Hunter’s journey from his debut as Connecticut Blueblood to his current status as part of the Authority.

The wrestlers are all gender bent which will probably make this more appealing for wrestling news. Chloe Dykstra channels all of Hunter’s pettiness and insecurity that make him one of the best heels in the business. Actually, she’s a lot more interesting than Hunter. Honestly, these days Triple H bores the shit out of me. Anna Akana‘s Batista is my favorite of the bunch. I kinda want to see her do Batista as Drax.

Wresting Isn’t Wrestling perfectly distills just what it is about wrestling that keeps me watching to this day. If you’re one of those people who gets super dizzy by how fast your eyes roll when someone talks about the wrasslin, you might see it in a different light after you see this short.

I mean, you still think it’s stupid. But you might grow appreciate it for what it truly is. Cause it’s not really wrestling.

 

Attack on Yellow Washing

A very brief glimpse of footage from the upcoming Attack on Titan live action film debuted on Japanese television and my very first though was, “Where are the white people?”

Now, Japan has never eeeeeever pretended to be a “post racial” society. And diversity isn’t exactly something I’d normally expect from a mostly homogeneous society. I’m also not against casting different races when ethnicity has little to do with the story. Michael Clark Duncan as Kingpin never bothered me because, well, he’s Michael Clark Duncan, but also because Wilson Fisk’s ethnicity has very little to do with his character. I also don’t mind Scarlett Johansson as Mokoto Kusanagi because the Major could choose to be anybody. That’s kind of the point.

In this case however, I honestly feel like the cast could have benefited from some good ol’ Hollywood whitewashing. I’ve watched the anime, haven’t read the manga. But the fact that Mikasa Ackerman is the last known Asian is kind of a major plot point. Some of the her friends suspect that’s why she’s so scary good at Titan killing, that Super Asian blood. Or the story takes place in a town that’s waaaay far away from other Asians. The rest of the cast is entirely European. Who speak perfect Japanese.

Although now that I think about it, Mikasa being the Asian with the scary good neck choppy skills makes her a little problematic. She’s a token who’s justification for her presence in the story is her Asianess. She’s the ninja chick because of course she is.

Of course, I completely understand why there appear to be almost no white people on screen. Japan has so few non-Japanese that I bet the white acting pool is extremely shallow. That should probably give this movie a pass, but I’d feel like hypocrite for not pointing out the glaring yellow washing of this cast.

With Great Power Comes Great Cynicism

I take super heroes and the media surrounding them entirely too seriously. This is why I get so worked up over comics and movies. It doesn’t take much for me to launch into an hours-long tirade over the finer points of caped continuity. However, there is some method to my fanboy madness.

The super powered stories we see played out on movie screens and comic book pages represent our modern mythology. And like the legends of old, these tales reflect the values that our society holds most dear.

Truth. Justice. The American Way.

Truth and justice are fairly universal in the super hero genre. But what exactly is the “American Way?” What are the values that we as Americans hold most dear?

There are two characters that come instantly to mind when I hear those words, Superman and Captain America. For the longest time, I thought of them both as the biggest Boy Scouts in all of comics. They were the clean cut heroes that would defend freedom whenever our nation was in peril and still have time to rescue a cat from a tree. We think of the eras in which both were created as a more innocent time in our nation’s history. But we’re not so innocent anymore.

In reflecting upon the latest films starring these two heroes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Man of Steel, I’ve come to suspect that today’s notion of “The American Way” is far more cynical and dark than it’s ever been.

The First Revenger

What better way to examine modern American values than through the eyes of Steve Rogers, a man out of time. When Captain America first threw his mighty shield, fighting bad guys was straight forward. They were easily identified with their jack boots and Nazi arm bands. All the war department had to do was point Steve in a direction to punch.

Today’s enemies are more difficult to spot. Today’s war on terror pits us against enemies who span border lines, who wear civilian clothes, who attack us in secret. Still, they are punchable. And even though this is a new kind of warfare, bad guys are still bad and good guys are still good.

Or are they?

From his very first mission in Winter Soldier, a seemingly simple rescue mission, Steve learns that even his allies are hiding things from him. It turns out that Natasha has different orders. She’s there not to back him up, but to obtain data from the ship’s computers.

If the people who are ordering him to punch people are hiding things from him, how does he know he’s punching the right people?

Throughout the film, Steve grows to distrust those he once counted as his closest allies.

This feeling of unease, the notion that those who are meant to protect us are doing anything but, the idea that the watchmen need watching, we certainly feel that in today’s America. It doesn’t take a fancy pollster to know that few of us truly trust our leaders. From Snowden’s revelations that the CIA is spying on us to the recent disturbing string of police related deaths, there’s a growing fear that those in power are not to be trusted.

When Captain America – the embodiment of all that was good about America – doubts the morality of those who are meant to protect and serve us, how absolutely fucked are we?

In the end – and I suppose I should have mentioned that there might be spoilers – Steve manages to punch the right bad guys in the face. But my feeling of unease remained. There was no hope in the final punch, only the knowledge that indeed, we can never truly trust those who wield power in our name.

Man of Punching

Where Winter Soldier examines our distrust of absolute power, Man of Steel explores what it’s like to wield absolute power.

The iconic Superman of the Golden Age is the ultimate Boy Scout. Certainly, he punches bad guys. But he also makes time to help gran across a busy intersection and rescue little Timmy’s cat from a tree. Truth. Justice. The American way.

That’s no the Superman we meet in Man of Steel.

In this version, Pa Kent teaches his son that power is something fearful that should be kept hidden at all costs. This is actually a dangerous lesson for Clark to internalize because he withdraws from the world as he grows up. He never learns the now cliche’d lesson, that with great power comes great responsibility. He never learns to wield his power in a responsible manner. So when he’s confronted with an unstoppable force, he explodes.

Clark’s first fight with Faora in Smallville is one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in a comic book film. Golden Age Clark would have punched Zod into the neighboring corn field far away from any possible collateral damage. This new Clark seemingly cares nothing for collateral damage and runs right in to punch all the things. Fortunately, the damage is somewhat contained. But the scene is a prelude for the horror to come.

The final fight between Superman and Zod is a glorified orgy of destruction. Metropolis is virtually punched into rubble not by the world engine, but by Clark’s fists. This is no protector. This is no Boy Scout. This is absolute power unleashed.

The truly disturbing thing was not Clark’s final sanction against Zod. It was the loud cheers from the audience.

Fear and Punching

Like I said, I read way too much into these things. If we were to measure the America by these two films, we’d see a fearful nation that applauds unbridled power. We’re so scared that the only way to save us is to punch the thing into oblivion.

That’s a bit cynical, even for me. Sure, trust in our government is at an all time low. And certainly, there’s way more fear than I’d like. But we’re all still here, punching the days as best as we can.

And really, I don’t think think Cap or Supes are enough to represent modern American values. For that, we turn to the Guardians.

A New Hope

To me, Guardians of the Galaxy more closely reflect the modern American experiment than Winter Soldier or Man of Steel. Here are a bunch of self-centered assholes who literally crash into each other and are forced to work together to live another day. Basically sounds like everyone’s morning commute.

There’s a tremendous feeling of hope when the end credits roll, something that was sorely missing in both Winter Soldier and Man of Steel.

We don’t all like each other. But we’re in this together. So might as well have some fun while we’re doing it.

That’s the America I see around me.

See? I take this shit way too seriously.

Thoughts on “Fresh Off the Boat”

Friends have been asking me. It’s been out for a while. I finally had time to watch a few episodes. So it’s time to weigh in on Fresh Off the Boat.

I forgot to mention in the vlog that I have terrible taste in sitcoms. I absolutely hated Friends and Seinfeld when they were on with a probably undeserved vitriol that surprises even me sometimes. They are like the two definitive sitcoms of my generation and I absolutely abhor them. There is no Friends or Seinfeld in this dojo!

I also can’t stand Big Bang Theory. I’ve heard some call it “Nerd Blackface” and I think that’s a little too far. I just don’t understand why physics theories are funny. The laugh track doesn’t make sense to me. A theory or a proof isn’t a punchline.

So definitely take all of my opinions on what’s funny with many grains of salt.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on ABC. There’s some weird verification thing on the ABC site to view episodes so just head over to Hulu to check it out. The hell? Don’t you want people to watch things on your main site?

Evangelion, I Just Can’t Quit You

Especially when you’re a live action, CG mech punching things!

I have documented my sick addiction to Hideako Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. In short, while I think the series is terribly cynical that attempts to break down the tropes of the giant robot genre that I love while somehow establishing new tropes that have poisoned anime since Evangelion debuted, I’m still a sucker for giant robots punching.

Fortunately, with this short you don’t have to sit through hours of Shinji being Shinji to get the punching robots. Clocking in at 6 minutes 23 seconds, Evangelion: Another Impact Confidential (what is it with these titles?) gets right to the punching. This piece was created as part of a weekly animation project that was executive produced by Anno.

Even without Portuguese subtitles, you can pretty much guess what’s happening. But just in case, here’s a description of the short from the website:

Another time, another place.
An activation test of a decisive weapon was underway.
With its development and operational trials shrouded in complete secrecy, the Another Number – Unit Null, suddenly breaks free ofhuman control and goes berserk.

For what purpose was Another Number – Unit Null created?

The story of an Evangelion’s activation, rampage and howling in another world.

Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

Welp, it wouldn’t be Anno without some batshit weirdness. Can’t just have robots punching. Nope, you have to put in some weird bullshit that will never get resolved. Just caaaaaan’t help yourself. And goddammit, I kinda want more!

For more on this and some of the other shorts that premiered in the series, check out the post from the Anime News Network.

Power Rangers Bootleg Explores Child Soldier PTSD

Produced by Adi Shankar and directed by Joseph Kahn, this 14 minute Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers bootleg explores the emotional damage that the young Rangers would suffer if the show had taken place in a more realistic setting. Shankar produced the 2012 Dredd reboot and this short feels like it takes place in a similar world. I kinda cringed when I heard that the Power Rangers reboot would be a grim and gritty remake, but after seeing this short, I kinda believe it’s possible to take this material seriously.

James Van Der Beek is the traitorous Rocky. When I was watching the show as a kid (who am I kidding, I was in high school) I felt kind of betrayed when Rocky took Jason’s place as the Red Ranger. It’s like Shankar knew that’s how some of us felt and has channeled that betrayal through the Dawson who turns in a truly venomous performance.

Katie Shackhoff as Kimberly gives the Pink Ranger a gravitas that she’s never really had. Kim was always the care free one throwing Peter Parker like quips in the heat of battle. Starbuck’s version of Kim has had all the joy stolen from her. You can see the pain in her eyes as she recalls her fallen comrades.

The call backs to the original series are subtle. When they hit, I could hear my fan brain saying “Aw yissss! Some shit’s about to go down!” The grimdark atmosphere might not be for everyone. But it hit all the right notes for me. And dammit, now I’m kinda looking forward to see what they can do with this reboot movie. Gaaaah!!!

Here’s Shankar explaining his motivations behind the project.

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