Now, when I’m not writing or watching idiotic action flicks or just staring into oblivion on an outright brain flat-liner where a defibrillator to the noggin might be required, I actually do some research. Sometimes a physics book or a history book or some piece of zeitgeist regarding the state of play in the world today. The only real problem is that it makes me think. Good grief no!
There might be no structure to this bit of waffle so be warned. Lets start with superhero movies then. I must say I am partial to a bit of Iron man or Batman, skin heads driving fast pimped up cars as with fast & furious. I can even go as far as enjoying the lavish nonsense that is Thor. It’s splosh, escapism, like an industrial sized bag of junk food, rot of fun. Then you get some smart arse who says, well you know Bruce Wayne is a billionaire who picks on crooks who are poor and scum. Why isn’t he knocking the living daylights out of heartless bankers or corrupt company NCO’s. Not a bad point in light of the past few years events within the financial industry as but one of many examples of poor elitist behaviour, especially when you consider that he probably wines and dines with these types in Gotham, albeit pretending to be a rich elite. But wait, he is a rich member of the elite, but he’s miserable and just needs that money for the insane technology required to fight the mentally insane. Ah yes. Someone on twitter recently posted a picture and comment on the fact that Batman terrorises mentally ill person aka the joker. In fact most of Gotham’s criminal element end up in the most famous asylum in comic book history.
So what exactly is the subliminal message? If in fact it’s not subliminal at all and just obvious in fact. That criminality is a mental illness?
So moving on anyway. In the first of the recent movies where Bruce Wayne states that he learned a great deal about the nature of criminality as he watches poor starving children thieving fruit from a market stall. Not all criminality is unjustified then (in a certain context), but be rest assured that he only partakes in armed robberies of his own goods while pretending to be an armed robber. In the second film then we might have seen Bruce doing work placement at the asylum to further his well of knowledge of said mentally ill, I mean he did have a run in with a scarecrow in the first movie. But we got Alfred’s tales of Burma and precious stones the size of a tangerine to explain that the Joker want’s to watch the world burn. Eh don’t you mean to say the Joker is a socio path Alfred? Just say it how it is my old cockney chum! Indeed we get the most horrific acts from a man with a plan of anarchy as he destroys hospitals, robs banks and murders copy cat batman vigilantes. But what else does the Joker symbolise. Uh oh….the joker burns the money! I wonder how many people saw that part in the Dark Knight and felt horror? What does he want, this crazy money burning misfit?! Alfred told you! he told you! Alfred knows, he wasn’t always a butler you know and by all accounts he was involved in some other business that entailed, well I already said, Burma. I really wanted to know what he did there that made his CV adequate enough to become the primary carer for an orphaned billionaire!
What message of irony can we glean from a man that dresses as a bat and chases a joker? Is the joker anti capitalist come anarchist come terrorist versus a rich elite vigilante? To be fair, Nolan, whichever one, both Nolan’s then seem to be aware of this part of absurdity, as Christian Bale manages to play his Billionaire self as though with such self contempt that he doesn’t even find it that difficult to insult his guests at a big old posh house party, to the point where an insult from one of his fathers friends might just instigate a punch to the face. ‘The apple has fallen far from the tree indeed Mr Wayne’ it wasn’t me it’s that Razalgul over there who is going to kill you if…, ah forget it, take a punch to the face and we shall say no more you pompous twat!’ We even get Bruce absconding with an entire Russian ballet ensemble of babes. Rachel aka Maggie Gyllenhaal simply rolls her eyes at the newspaper article stuck on the inside of the theatre box office window. Oh Bruce you scoundrel, you old cad is the general response, but hang on a moment Rachel, you know Bruce is batman! You might think at this point that her automatic response would be to question, what is Bruce really up to? She seems to have forgotten as though sucked into the sham that is Bruce Wayne. The other thing that occurs on a more predominant basis is the fact that the differences between Batman and the Joker become blurred. Both hide their faces, both lie about who they are. Both have obvious mental issues that appear quite similar; masochistic vs sadistic, yet it almost seems like the good old odd couple scenario of the super ego versus the id. Maybe it is. We get scenes of burning money courtesy of the jokers madness, but also an accountant who says that an entire division of Wayne enterprises is burning through cash; Wayne is burning cash. Both men in one scene throw their drinks away upon pretending to take a drink; these guys are staying sober dammit! Mirror and contrast and we get fewer differences except that of ideology. One is angry enough to kill, may even need to stop himself killing criminals, maybe has reason to and yet has laid down the ground rules (doesn’t want to), while the other kills easily, and well, whatever the reason it usually entails some sort of a specific plan and seems to be emotionally void towards any of it…no the joker isn’t laughing because he’s really having fun, in fact while Bruce is trying to contain said emotions of rage, the joker is more than likely searching for and feeding off of batman’s emotions. The joker is the sub-concious ghost to Bruce’s inner desires of rage to kill and destroy and burn; that sounded good but is probably just an empty sentence that means nothing. I’ll think about it. . Well, that sweeping statement of poor conjecture aside, lets just leave it with one more similarity. Both men are performers and when either of them laugh or smile it is a falsehood to hide who they really are.
BANE V WAYNE V SUPERMAN V IRON MAN V PERSONALITY DISORDERS.. & THE MATRIX.
By the time we get to the third Nolan Batman movie we get a rather sombre piece where old Bruce is pitted against terrorists who, err once again commit crimes against capitalism if not in a more direct fashion with some sort of stock market invasion and theft. Vague is the means in which such a thing is achieved and what the hell, Bruce Wayne has nearly bankrupt his own company anyway with building some form of fusion reactor; clean energy Bruce then. With one further insult to injury batman having the rest of his virtual cash plundered by Bane’s league of shadows leaves our hero without electricity, but enough left over wedge to fill the flying bat tank with petrol/gas/rocket fuel/super octane unleaded even. The film acts as a sort of isn’t the corrupt world of banking bad yet look what happens with a revolution that leaves everyone on the level of savage base reality, a sort of mad max in the city if you like. In the final reel of the movie we get a number of sacrifices from the dark knight. He gives up his life but only pretending of course. He gives up his money and he gives up his oldest friend and servant Alfred. A mixed bag of values then as far as I can tell. Not so much addressing the system of elite corruption as sort of skimming along the limp revolution where by the protagonist says you can stick the money and the system… I’m off, but the orphans get my inheritance. Thus coming full circle, I wonder whether Bruce’s dad had the best idea by just using his money to help set up systems to help the poor and disadvantaged. But hey, where’s the action and adventure and more action in that? But I likes batman, he made an effort, like all our super hero’s usually do.
Suddenly we get into job roles and secret identities. In the comic book world’s main character staple your’e either a billionaire, a scientist with an experiment that went very right or completely wrong, an alien or as with Spider man you get bitten and have…oh I just remembered, you are a mutant of natural selection. Well, lets stick to the rich elite for the moment and moving past Batman’s fall from grace and eventual salvation where Alfred mocks with ‘I told you so’ scenario, we get the other rich man toy gadget wielding mortal Tony Stark’s Iron man.
Before asking what exactly is Tony Stark trying to achieve, we might have to go into Superman V Batman. In the original comic series we got the satire of the 80’s with Reagan and the nearing end of the cold war. Batman comes out from retirement with fatigue and some lost ability; he’s old. A bit like Christian Bale portrayed in Dark Knight Rises except bale didn’t have the dicky ticker. Batman sees a terrible crime wave in the comic ‘Dark knight returns’ where he comes out of retirement as I said, and straps on a mechanised bat suit with an in built defibrillator included. He takes on the Mutants, a gang that represents the callous and out of control crime rates of New York City at the time perhaps. Indeed in past fantasy based films or novels we always got some critique of things that were going on culturally at the time; kind of the point to this blurb… pick your favourite film and think about it . What happens then in fact is Ronald Reagan, not a fan of vigilantes I’m thinking, orders Superman to give Batman a good beating for not doing as he’s told, err, to stop fighting crime; note that the 80’s in movies and other media entertainment, is where many a narrative is against corporate power capitalism and Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan that were the perceived figureheads of this new age era of destroying what was left of mainstream socialism in US and British politics.
All these ideas regarding past comics, history and revival of story lines, I suddenly got this strange thought when seeing the trailer for the new movie man of steel 2; batman v superman. What happens when you get an undercurrent vibe that a billionaire is fighting a news reporter? What are we saying exactly? Perhaps the more suspicious and educated about the world of the ethically evil Corporate elite, the more you can’t help but draw quick conclusions such as Bruce Wayne is fighting a reporter. Eh? media censorship in comic book land? screw you Bruce Wayne we want freedom of the press elite scum!
I’m sure as within the original comic that the narrative isn’t quite that simple. But what of the Stark narrative of Tony Stark’s billionaire weapon’s dealer? Quite a bold statement to point the blame at a corporation in a Marvel movie. Well I’m sure it happens more often than I initially thought. But the parallels of fiction v reality as American troops get killed and wounded in a middle eastern country or rather obviously Afghanistan and having Tony narcissistic Stark charm his way into a brutal captivity of bad men living in caves makes me wonder. How does a nation not say to themselves hang on a minute. Isn’t that actually what major companies in real life are doing over there, anywhere? That can’t be good!? Could there be a parallel between big business making big money off of war in real life? No fool this is a comic book universe! I can’t think of many movies that blatantly try to name and shame a system of power where the main fight ends with Stark fighting his company NCO in the form of bald bushy beard bad boy Jeff Bridges. Of course we get so many science fictions that I mentioned in previous blogs that are sticking it to the corporate might. But do they cut to the chase and just say, you know what, I don’t want to make guns and bombs and ruin lives, I’m going to make bubble bath or lolly pops. Cue mega machine face off between two board members of the same company. I suppose in Robocop the mechanised hero shoots a corrupt NCO out the window; that’s right, you corporates are not above the law! In Bladerunner Roy Batty crushes the skull of the king of the Tyrell corporation who literally owns life and sets life span limits upon the genetically grown robot slaves. You go Roy! But there are limitations to how far films go with the reality they create and what they are willing to say. Bladerunner is so other in terms of future and culture (or is it?) that we are virtually watching a Nazi state in action so skull crushing of the corporate dictator is good game. Mr Stark is not so far removed from the representation of nowadays America and contemporary conflicts in those arid yellow lands over there. To keep the finger non permanently at the greedy unethical corporate self Tony says ‘I saw our weapons killing our troops’ The main reason to stop the arms trade then Tony. To hell with the indigenous people who get killed in the hundreds of thousands. In fact upon my escape from the caves of doom and miraculously composing my first suit of death, I’m going to burn the terrorists! Burn them, burn burn burn! In light of recent events regarding a downed Syrian pilot it is far from funny and tragically Ironic. So then, Iron man means well, but might have given off the wrong message in terms of trying to change the real world narrative of constant death and destruction in order to pillage resources or simply rule the world on an imperialistic basis. Phew! I’m going off on one here!
By the time we get to Iron Man 2 we have Mr Stark in a spot of bother with what I can only describe as quite valid points regarding the systems in the US when dealing with corporate irresponsibility; the writers are winking at the audience: go on I dare you to have a think and eat pop corn at the same time. If you get it, good, if you don’t then enjoy the fireworks. Old Tony having admitted that he is Iron man is now in court. ‘Do you think it is dangerous for an individual to own such weapons of potential mass destruction? No dammit I’m an American and I want my guns! And no, I’m not about to get involved in the debate on gun ownership; every eventuality might have its validation in some Irony in future years and I’m not even going to say what I mean by that. But I’m going to leap away from any view here, as I’m not American and it really is none of my business to pass comment on ‘citizen’ culture for this is a blog regarding corporate power that is a system where people are, through various mechanisms taken out of the blame equation…you can’t beat the system…
But Tony is caught in an argument here that hints at a), how much power can a citizen have b), he is part of a corporation whereby the law does not tend to place responsibility on the individuals involved when things go wrong and c), we see him as the hero and tend to let it slide that letting the man keep his super weapons is good rather than bad. Another part of the narrative that is seen throughout the film that appear ambiguous is that Tony’s dad once ripped off a Russian genius to create the Ark reactor. On top of this we also get another corporate goon trying to take/thieve and reverse engineer the Iron man suit technology. What a merry go round, a sort of critical failure for trying to make a superhero film smarter than it should be. Mickey Rourkes so called villain teams up with whatever his name was corporate nit wit and again cue inter firm fighting. The film was so keen on its merit to ask the audience the questions regarding who is responsible for the goings on in big business entities’ that the film may have ended up a bit flat…I thought it was a noble cause. Tony gets to keep his machines, that other NCO gets arrested. The Russian gets killed and all is happy. But the film is trying to insinuate that on this occasion it might be okay for Tony to own such power but what about the government who represent the people? The narrative as a whole is geared up to warn audiences that the government may not be the bad guy here. Corporations have better weapons, make weapons and therefore hold more power than the government…bigger stick scenario. The film only falls short of suggesting that corporations make government policy; heaven forbid! There has to be a cut off point for the producers of movies at some point, for they too are big business and could always pull the plug after all and may have been too stupid to read the undertones of Iron man 2 in any case, I mean look what happened with Star Ship Troopers as depicting American’s as Nazi’s (again it is never the people of a country that are implicated in that they are always caught in a system that they cannot see) Troopers doesn’t seek to say that American people are bad, it only seeks to suggest that ordinary good people cannot see how they are being manipulated towards a certain ideology that justifies imperialistic behaviour of death and destruction, theft and rape.
Now in discussing an ideology of say a country there is always the danger of being misinterpreted as pointing the finger at people of said country. Star ship troopers wasn’t received well in America so that a lack of sense of humour of the obvious systems of control and manipulation is lost as an accusation at its citizens. I have met American’s, I met Germans, Polish, Gambians, Nigerians, French, Australians, South Africans, Kenyans, Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Taiwanese on and so on; Britain is quite the multi cultural place, and in the end I saw very few differences between any of these human beings. Always interesting and always a charm, lets leave ordinary people out of this for a change.
Then we get the new age superheroes of another kind of metaphor against the systems of our reality, that corporate horror story. The Matrix, that famous trilogy made by the Wachowski brothers goes as far as to ram social commentary on the corporate world to the point of having Rage against the machine’s toe tapper ‘Wake up’ at the end credits. What is the Matrix trying to say. Well it was made well enough to perplex some and get others to miss the point at times. ‘Ooh, you know neo is like number one and is computer code for re-writing the software and the oracle is like naught so she holds all the information and like smith is a computer virus and then the characters are like Greek mythology or Neo is Jesus.
Fine, okay say what you will and ponder the narrative and characters for symbolism. That’s all just frills and decoration. The film has lines throughout regarding systems ‘People trapped in the matrix will fight to protect it’ ‘What is the matrix? a system designed to control every living person’ I’m not entirely sure why some people missed the point of this anti corporate imperial behemoth in the guise of a machine fighting kung fu extravaganza. Sorry I was too busy buying a long overcoat and cool shades and a flip phone. Hard to avoid merchandising which acts as an irony for the main message of the film. Where to start with the Matrix? We get a long exposition piece from Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus regarding the inability to see or observe or be aware of the matrix. There are books out there that philosophised off the back of this film regarding the nature of reality and how do we know we are awake. Well the matrix movie is trying to tell you that you are awake, but at the same time you are distracted and not opening your eyes to the real world of control around you. Listen to this, if you read articles regarding the world you learn things that the news which are run by corporations choose not to tell you. Really? Propaganda? While we were worrying about conflicts over oil that were blatantly and ridiculously touted as a war on terror, we forgot to look at other resources. It really isn’t any ones fault. Water, farming of foods, the environment have been taken over and owned by large conglomerates. In fact I recall in Damien the Omen 2 where Thorne industries (and the example of the company being evil) was that Farmers in third world countries were being thrown off their land and that they would be forced to buy GM seeds so that in fact nature was being patented. That’s a bloody old movie and guess what? farmers in third world counties are being forced to use patented seeds by big business and don’t forget of course these are Genetically modified seeds so they only produce sterile seeds. Fail as a farmer to yield a crop and you may not be able to afford new seeds. This sort of stuff is not fiction! What movies like the matrix try to say is that the system is so vast and so complex that it sends you into a state of fatigue just trying to think about it. The system ran away with itself and it is now self sustaining. If the anti Christ likes big corporations then maybe we have a problem. But hang on a moment, because capitalism is the closest model we have to human nature. It isn’t that the system was completely wrong. Indeed the machines at the historical pre-blurb of the matrix were working in harmony for us. And as in any system, someone forgot to put in place measures of limiting the power of monopolies so that the people, you and me, tom ,dick, Jane and Mohammed lost the final say over corporate policies that are unethical or even murderous. Capitalism can also mean progression and innovation, yet mobile phones coming out every five minutes is a bit of a perversion against the real progress. Where are our fusion reactors and where’s our clean cheaper energy to keep us warmer? Sorry we spent our research and development money on bullets that can turn corners. You know because we’re in danger…danger of not making enough money!
The matrix covers the grounds of a self sacrificing individual group, a suffering community in the depths of the earth, Zion for goodness sake and a building conflict regarding the system of oppression. Yet while some turn coat villains would rather a steak over a bowl of slosh and while we get sympathetic programmes in there who also only want to exist in harmony and survive, we also get the sense that it is all just madness and no ones fault. That to me seems fair, for if you are asking people to revolt or consider what the system they live in is, that metaphor for corporate empire in the west, you wouldn’t want to just rise up and burn your own civilization to the ground…that would be pointless. Some compromise had to be found. So in the end the matrix powered by battery humans and in turn the machines was allowed to exist and that those who wanted to rave and jump around in the depths of the earth had a choice. Sort of suggesting that within a capitalist society as long as we have choice and power over how big and how much ability a company gets, kind of creating extra rules to stop monopolies or cartels forming, then all the innovation and progress with a free market can be achieved. The whole and exact point of the matrix trilogy does its best to suggest that the ideology is not the problem at heart, it is the length at which it has been allowed to mutate and run away with itself that was the problem. In fact, agent smith gets some of the most accurately insightful and tell tale dialogue throughout the series. He is more of a profit than the Oracle or Neo put together. We tried to make the perfect system he says, but human’s wouldn’t take to the programme as they wanted to live in chaos and dirt etc. Humans are like a virus that consume and destroy and spread to another place to do the same. Well now, as human beings we have the engineering know how to self sustain until our population goes up double. There is enough empty land and ocean water to develop and irrigate and grow and feed everyone. It is in fact the lack of ideological power and some sort of selfish imperial easy road attitude that doesn’t allow for investment in all problem solving possibilities. Don’t believe this? Check out irrigation programmes in say the likes of Israel to see how arid lands become fruit orchards and fields of potatoes etc. They cleanse the ocean waters of salt and bingo…so what seems to be the problem and why do we still have hunger in the world?
Me me me me me. Agent smith says at one point. A constant script that allows the villain to push some harsh truths on those who are listening. He is selfish and all consuming. But wait, he’s a computer virus see. Well so what? he still reflects the way extreme capitalist consumerism makes all of us shop and eat our way into a spiritually empty void.
Recently we got the much a do about frenzy cracker box of frogs Jupiter Rising. So, the directors thought. No one got matrix’s main theme off the cuff. Let us ram it down their throats once and for all! On film 2015 with that vapid bird what’s her face and two so called experts they discussed the film in such an innate fashion that all they could think about was fashion. ‘Oh I just loved the costumes, but I got the sense that they were not sure what they were trying to say in that film’ One of the reviewers said. Oh my good lord, idiot trio of pointless mutterings. So let me get this straight. A girl who cleans toilets is swept away to the world of the interstellar corporate elite, a corporation that owns Earth in fact. Girl is told that she is the reincarnation of main share holder of Earth stock ownership. Earth is only there to be harvested for life force in order to prolong the life of the elite bla bla bla. What exactly did the review trio on film 2015 miss? So obvious is the message that I find that I can’t find the energy to discuss, as if in fact it’s just too easy a narrative. The toilet cleaning girl come princess of the stars in the end returns back to cleaning toilets…yes, having saved the world she felt it better and more rewarding than being a rich bitch immortal that just owned planets and killed people to maintain said immortality. That’s even more clear a message than fight club which gets to the point and says ‘stop consuming your way into mental and spiritual emptiness and sickness!’ ‘Oh err I wasn’t sure what Jupiter Rising was trying to say, maybe the film had no message as far as I could tell where even the cast seem to be wondering what’s going on’ the reviewer said. Now I’m just getting stupefied. Not a film I enjoyed but I at least got the neon signed laser blast to the face message about values of life and that greed and indifference to those at the poorest end of the spectrum is wrong! I feel sorry for the directors of these films when such obvious points are completely missed by so called experts. Iv’e got to stop there now or I’ll head but myself into a coma!
There are in fact in superhero and science fiction films so many hints at us as a species right now that it feels as if something might be in the air. One more financial collapse or the masses suffering one more recession of austerity when we came to know such riches. But it isn’t all this a call to arms that clever folk are referring to. Films like the matrix show the peril of opposing a system that leads to endless death and that there is a fine balance between a peaceful revolution and an all out violent one, why? Because to fight the system is to fight ourselves as we are thoroughly integrated into said system. In this film about a matrix and of bending the rules in a contrived reality we get a bit of both violent and peaceful revolution as in revolutions see. But all the messages of countless stories in either book, movie or television series may have been lost on the average man or woman busy down the high street lusting over that next essential romantic purchase of whatever defines them as an individual. Ask someone to stop spending with the obvious name and shamed tax dodgers or human rights violators and you get an empty headed shrug ‘well it isn’t happening to me, so what?’ Alienated, atomized, ostracized, distracted and deceived, I wonder how many people are aware of each western governments kill switch ability of the internet should some sort of something they don’t like happen. Ever wondered why so many political parties are now spouting ever similar policies that change nothing that needs to be changed? Well as in the machines in the matrix. The powers that be need the masses and are always on the verge of being exposed for what they really are. When we do away with physical cash, coins and notes and suddenly have microchip id and spending implant technology some might say that we were warned.
Batman gave up his money and Identity. Stark gave up the weapons trade and eventually destroyed most of his machines, Neo gave up his life…What exactly are these films trying to tell us?
The main interesting point I find to these stories and the messages I think, are that they (I could be completely right or utterly wrong) are not about a completely broken or bad system. It is always about problems within the system. Those who for example lived in days of complete socialism or communism etc will perhaps say they prefer capitalism. In Britain back in the day for example, government ruled, the people had their place and the room to better ones self through free enterprise was restricted. Give capitalism three or four decades and plenty of people prospered and made better use of such freedom than if they had been kept in the nanny state socialist class system; competition and effort are a good thing and personally I am all for capitalism, therefore this is not a political rant! What is interesting is that no ideology can find a middle ground, that perfect set of parameters so that the narrative according to the masses isn’t so black and white. As Harrison ford says in Bladerunner, ‘Machines are are either a hazard or benefit, their benefit is not my problem’. Indeed, so complex is the narrative of right or wrong in this film that many books have been written, many discussions regarding most every scene de-constructed. Is the lead protagonist when he talks about benefit or hazard curtailing towards the nature of most things? Pick an ideology and specialised groups will seek to mutate and distort it to their own gain…capitalise as such.
Who limits the power of rich corporations who lobby and deal their way into abusive situations? Who looks after the poor and helpless who cannot compete in an ideology based on competition? Where is the floor and where is the ceiling? It’s as though no matter how you dress ideology or what systems you put in place we are stuck in a perpetual game of power and selfishness, corruption and greed..like Game of Thrones I say. If we were now in a more socialist environment we might not even be able to watch such films due to heavy handed government intervention and censorship for example; the grass is never greener. In the end I’m thinking that directors of movies, even big superhero blockbusters who themselves enjoy big money etc, are still pointing fingers at certain aspects of a reasonable and workable ideology that suits our nature. In the end these movies, books along with other media forms are simply trying to point out that some things never changed, isn’t it about time they did?