Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

Hey ho, folks. Sorry I've been scaling back on the number of posts I've been doing. Anyway, let's see what's in the Movie Tavern Mug this time.

"Hey, J.K., can you tell us about some people who have been described as evil that maybe, just maybe, weren't quite so bad?"

Well, there are many I could choose. I mean there's Lex Luthor, depending on your interpretation there's Doctor Wily-



"Real people."

You people just want to get me in trouble, don't you? All right, I'm going to preface this by saying I'm neither a hardcore member of the left or right. I'm not entirely thrilled with either U.S. political party. Furthermore, this blog isn't intended to be promoting some political agenda, but rather lighthearted fun. I have neither the qualifications nor a desire to be the one to say how this country should be run. I am just a guy who grew up in the woods. I have no desire to start a political debate in the comments section. Does that cover everything?

All right. There are plenty of historical figures who get a bad rap. We label them as the clear bad guy, just to simplify things in our own minds. The fact of the matter is, while there are some leaders who take actions solely to attain power for its own sake, the overwhelming majority have good intentions when they take these questionable actions, and the situation is rarely as simple as your eighth grade history textbook makes it out to be. So, that said, let's look over some of history's more controversial figures.

1. George W. Bush

I've got a lot of friends on the left side of the political spectrum, and this is one they like to throw around a lot as an example of unmitigated evil. "OMGz War in teh Middle East economic downturn Patriot Act evulz lol butts!!!11!!!1"

Well, I remember back in the early 2000s those days just before the decision was made to send troops over, both in Afghanistan and Iraq. People were angry. People were scared. People wanted something to be done, someone to be punished. Now, imagine you're the most powerful person in the world, given the unenviable task of protecting and leading a very finicky people. Your country has just been attacked by a terrorist cell that you know is based in another country. People are clamoring at you to do something. What would you do in that position? Probably the same thing he did. Hell, I even remember some of my friends who took a strong anti-war stance later were, at the time, itching for ol' Uncle Sam to go out and kick somebody's ass in the face of this tragedy. He wanted to prevent something like this from happening again, and he took the brute force approach.

As for the economic situation, this is something all Presidents tend to get stuck with, even though it's not really them. See, the primary force that sets up the budget and approves funding for various ventures is Congress, and the effects of the decisions they make can take years before the impact are felt. And it wasn't all just government officials; there were plenty of bankers who made poor decisions, along with plenty of everyday folks.

Now, am I saying that Bush was a good President? I don't personally think he did that great of a job, but he's certainly not the Devil incarnate like a bunch of people I know like to make him out to be. Ultimately, he's just a man who got stuck in a bad position, and attempted to handle it the best he could. Whether he succeeded or not is an entirely different can of worms.

2. Ho Chi Minh

An important figure in another controversial war, Ho Chi Minh was the President of North Vietnam. And while he didn't live to see the Vietnam war to the end, he was one of the driving forces that had the "communists" going after South Vietnam. Even today, the Vietnam war brings up a lot of bile, and there are a lot of veterans out there who hate the Vietnamese people. And let's be honest, a lot of good people died during the war, a war we got into to stop the spread of a communist bloc.

But, the war was never really about communism. That was something we just didn't get.

The Vietnamese have always been a proud and independent people. Back around the the Twelfth Century or so, they got conquered by Imperial China, the biggest kids on the block. Who led them to independence? Was it a general? A philosopher? No, it was a couple of angry housewives. Vietnam didn't ostensibly go communist out of some belief that it was the best economic system. No, they went that route because people like Ho Chi Minh thought it was the best way to gain independence from colonial powers like France. During WWII, in the Pacific theatre, Ho Chi Minh was even trying to make friends and cut a deal with American GIs to help the nation get independence from its colonial state. As you can probably guess, we didn't exactly go for it.

So, why did we go to war in Vietnam? Well, we were afraid that if Vietnam "fell" to communism, they'd make an alliance with other nations in the area, or conquer other nations in the area, and form one giant communist bloc. The fact of the matter is, they didn't want to have anything to do with those surrounding countries, and had no desire to spread communism further. They were just an indigenous people looking for freedom from their European masters. Can't entirely fault them for that, can we?

3. Yoko Ono

Ah, yes. The woman who broke up the Beatles. She grabbed John, wrapped him around her finger, and yanked him away from the rest of the group, and it was totally her fault.

Except, is that really how it went? I mean, her influence and her relationship with John almost certainly had an impact, but even at this point, the primary song writing duo of John and Paul was drifting apart stylistically. Don't believe me? Compare Maxwell's Silver Hammer, primarily a McCartney penned piece, to Lennon's Come Together from the Abbey Road album. Two very different sounding pieces, no?

And what of the other two members, George and Ringo? Well, both of them started wanting to have more input into the creative process as well. In Abbey Road, the last recorded (although not last released) Beatles album, we see more works by George Harrison, such as Something and Here Comes the Sun.

So, basically, what have we got? Egos bubbling up and brushing against each other. And as anyone who has ever lived in a frat house can tell you, egos are very territorial creatures. So the breakup of the Beatles isn't entirely on the shoulders of one woman.

4. Joel Schumacher

Who? Well, some of my nerdier readers may recognize this name. He was the director for both Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, and is blamed for killing off the Batman franchise with the latter movie. While he takes complete responsibility for that abomination unto Batman, was it really all his fault?

Firstly, the two previous Batman films, while awesome, were very dark. I remember I couldn't even watch Batman Returns after the first time way back when I was a wee'un because Danny DeVito as the Penguin scared the everlovin' crap out of me. So, executives wanted to have a more family friendly Bat movie, which we got in Forever. Family audiences seemed to react well to the camp in it, so the executives told the writers (something Schumacher had no part in) to dial the silliness and bad puns up to eleven.

And why did we get so many villains in this movie? Surely Schumacher was involved with that! No, once again, that was the executives. They wanted to have more toys to sell, so this meant cramming in as many characters as possible, without focusing on any one of them to any significant degree. As a result of this, Freeze went from a conflicted, vengeful maniac to a giant frozen goofball, Poison Ivy goes from being a radical environmental terrorist to Hobag McPlantslut, and Bane goes from being the villain who broke Batman to something we're all just better off forgetting.

So, basically, Schumacher got handed a turd, and was told to polish it. But hey, he admits it was not a good movie, and takes responsibility for it, even if it wasn't entirely his fault. Gotta give him props for that.

As for the Bat Nipples...well, okay, those were all Schumacher. Hey, some people are into that sort of thing.

5. Pretty Much Any News Pundit Ever

I know a lot of my friends give various news pundits on both sides of the political spectrum a lot of flak for being loud, obnoxious, one-sided, opinionated, stupidheads, etc. They conclude that these media figures must be evil incarnate. The thing is, though, the image they portray on television, it's a character. They might be portraying their political views, but they're probably being louder and more opinionated, more blunt about them than they actually feel in real life? Why? Ratings. Let's face it, controversy sells. People watch to see their own views reinforced, or to bash on the other side. And when the news pundits' ratings go up, it means it's much less likely that their segment will get canceled, which means they can keep on putting food on the table. Much like me hitting on random friends (poorly, at that), it's all an act, a form of entertainment.


Well, that's all for this journey through the depths the devils dares not dive. This is J. K. Lantern, signing off for now.

1 comment:

  1. As someone who was a Democrat even in the early 2000s, I will freely admit that I supported the war effort. Indeed it seemed most people did; but then again we were lied to about the situation. Official fiction often accompanies war, and that fiction is strongest during the war's run-up, when opposition would count.

    You may remember that no one who was anyone questioned the Bush administration during the run-up to invasion, or at least wasn't given much a voice. Consider that even the widely trusted, supposedly Left Wing New York Times was taking dictation from the White House.

    You're playing with kid gloves if you don't blame the economic meltdown on America's leadership throughout the previous decade. We were on top of the world during the 1990s, and Bush was handed a record surplus.
    The non-economy we're living in now wasn't something thrust upon Bush.

    So here's what America's leadership accomplished:

    the starting of two illegal wars, both with massive causalities, civilian and otherwise
    A non-economy
    The loss of a city
    unprecedented disregard of civil liberties

    The best that can be said is that 9/11 brought out the worst in our leadership, but 9/11 itself would complicate things. If you think the only superpower left in the world, owner of the greatest security and defense systems on planet Earth, could have been completely caught off guard and knowing nothing about an impending attack as devastating and large scale as 9/11, you have some waking up to do. It's been public record for awhile now that Bush was warned about the attack early in his Presidency.