I find that I grow more confident the more arguments I get into on the internet. I had one not too long ago about homophobia. Since I don’t have the time to summarize everything, I’ll just say that as we make greater strides towards full societal acceptance of LGBT people, it’s important to remember that, “It was a different time, everybody thought that way” is not a valid excuse for the bigotry of, say, the 1950s. In this case, somebody was arguing that since The Big Sleep was written in 1939, we can excuse any homophobia in it, but since Ender’s Game was written in 1985, we can’t. Was there any homophobia in The Big Sleep? I haven’t read the book and it’s been ages since I’ve seen the movie. And while Orson Scott Card is a homophobe, Ender’s Game does not contain any homophobia, just a fuckton of homoeroticism. Most importantly, if that’s your attitude, what’s the cutoff date? Is homophobia pre-Stonewall acceptable, but homophobia post-Stonewall not?
I don’t think homophobia was ever acceptable, necessarily, just more prevalent. There have been plenty of societies throughout history that have accepted homosexuality in some form or another (ancient Greece/Rome, feudal Japan), but nothing like this. The entire world is slowly creeping towards equality. That’s a big deal. But you can’t write off thousands of years of persecution and hate as simple naivete. There are always bigots. There are always people who see through the bigotry. The only number that’s changing is the number of people in between. And they don’t need an excuse; they need forgiveness. It is human to fear what you don’t understand. But that doesn’t make it okay.
Since everyone is talking about Breaking Bad, I feel the need to weigh in. I’ve never felt the love for that show. There’s a lot to like about it, but there is also something amoral and anti-humanistic at its core. You might counter that nobody said TV has to be humanistic to be good, and you’d be right. But as a humanist, I can’t help but access everything that way, even if it only tints my understanding. Torchwood is not the most humanistic series either. It’s bleak and cynical, essentially saying that it doesn’t work out for everyone, and sometimes, we have to do shitty, regrettable things to survive. Breaking Bad glorifies its main character, who, it becomes increasingly apparent over time, is less antihero than villain. It seems like an odd choice to put the villain at the center like that. Imagine Sherlock Holmes told from Moriarty’s perspective. I can’t see that working. Vince Gilligan has said that the show is about the potential for evil that lurks within all of us, but since his protagonist was never sympathetic to begin with, I’m not really sure if he’s making the show that he thinks he is. I would much rather see a series in which Pinkman, Skyler, and Hank are the main characters, and Walter White lurks in the background making guest appearances. Cranston’s great, but the show has a dark sense of humor that sometimes just feels mean-spirited, as if we’re so busy laughing at Pinkman’s upper-middle class white family that we forget to see them as people. Call me a prude, but I think this show about drug dealers could benefit from a more somber tone.
I just finished season two of The X-Files, so I’ll say that I like it so far. Apparently, it was revolutionary, pushing the limits of what kinds of stories could be told on TV. That’s great, but I’d rather talk about something that puzzles me. Why do so many episodes feature Scully in peril? Mulder gets into trouble sometimes, but I think he tends to have more agency. Gillian Anderson’s great, but the way her character is written is repetitive. In every episode, some weird shit happens, Mulder insists it’s something supernatural, and Scully insists it isn’t even though she is almost always wrong. Why doesn’t she learn? Since she is the one who has to accept that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy, she has the more interesting character by default. The show just doesn’t seem to know what to do with her. I like the episodes that focus on her, like “Beyond the Sea” and “Irresistible”. I don’t really care for the will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic between her and Mulder, but whatever. I’m told that the show never provides a satisfactory explanation for its mythology. I can live with that. Lost just gave metaphorical answers and left viewers to figure the rest out themselves. The X-Files is a bit too literal for that, but it’s probably still worth watching, at least for the first six or seven seasons.
Break time: I can’t help myself. I promised I wouldn’t post any more Tom Daley pictures on this blog, but this one is just too hot. LOOK AT THAT PACKAGE. I’m probably going to buy his calendar now. I can’t resist.
There’s something else that I need to talk about before leaving you, and it’s a bit more philosophical. I’ve always been a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body, but I don’t really have much use for the attitude that being young means you automatically know nothing. I once had an abusive asshole ask me if 25 year-old me was going to want to go back in time and beat up 20 year-old me. He thought he was giving me friendly advice, but there was only one person I wanted to beat up right then, and it wasn’t me. Some things change, some things don’t. Being older doesn’t automatically make you wiser, although it can. I was a self-absorbed, temperamental asshole at sixteen, and will most likely still be that way at 60. That said, I think there is a middle ground here. A lot of teenagers and early twentysomethings really haven’t had enough hard knocks to realize that they don’t know everything. Taylor Swift sucks, but is she any worse than the pop stars of the 60s? Maybe. The Beatles, at least in the early years, wrote songs about nothing more than wanting to hold someone’s hand. But as that scene in Across the Universe demonstrated, that does no good when the person in question doesn’t want to hold your hand back. It’s simple, universal, and somehow more nuanced than most people realize. I could not for the life of me make the same argument about “Love Story” or that stupid “Never, Never, Never” song, although there are probably equally shitty songs from the 60s that nobody remembers today. I can’t say for sure, but I can say that I think we can do better than Swift and Bieber. There is better shit out there, and today’s kids need to be made aware of it. I have somewhat thicker skin than I did when I was in high school, and perhaps just a bit more worldliness. I’m all the better for it.
That’s it for now. Talk amongst yourselves.