TF: We defy augury

Tribulation Force, pp. 362-366

I wish I could be of more help,” Buck said, suddenly realizing what an understatement that was. What he wouldn’t give to expose Nicolae Carpathia as a lying murderer, the hypnotic Antichrist! And though Buck would oppose him, anyone without Christ would never understand or agree. Besides, Scripture didn’t seem to indicate that even Christ’s followers would be able to do more than simply bear up against him. The Antichrist was on a course foretold centuries before, and the drama would be played out to the end.

Nicolae Carpathia was going to swallow up the president of the United States and everyone else in his path. He would gain ultimate power, and then the true battle would begin, the war between heaven and hell. The ultimate cold war would become a battle to the death. Buck took comfort in the assurance that the end had been known from the beginning.

This is what is going to happen and there’s nothing Buck can do. Nothing Buck even should do. He has no role to play in this “war between heaven and hell.” He can’t stop Nicolae from oppressing and slaughtering millions and he can’t stop God from oppressing and slaughtering billions. He won’t even try. He believes it would be wrong to try.

Which means the story is pretty much finished. There are 14 more books in this series, but whatever it is they contain it can’t be called a story. That story has been dealt a fatal blow by the fatalism of our heroes and of the authors.

That fatalism creates at least two insurmountable problems. First, it means that our heroes cannot be heroes. And second, it means that good and evil — or God and evil — are interchangeable and indistinguishable. It means that it doesn’t matter what anyone does and that it doesn’t matter what happens. If Nicolae wins, everyone suffers and dies and then suffers endlessly. If LaHaye’s God wins, everyone suffers and dies and then suffers endlessly.

There is nothing that can be done and there is no one to do it. That’s not a story.

“There is nothing we can do,” would not, in itself, preclude the possibility of a story or of heroism. Heroes — real heroes, not feckless bystanders like Buck Williams and Rayford Steele — hear that all the time. There’s nothing you can do. It’s hopeless. It’s too late. It’s fate, destiny, a foregone conclusion. The prophecy has been written. You cannot change anything. You cannot win. You cannot save them. You’ll get yourself killed. Resistance is futile.

But real heroes ignore all that. They may suspect it’s true. They may even know it’s true. But that doesn’t matter, they’ll still jump into the fray and, at least, try to go down swinging because … well, because they’re heroes and that’s what that word means.

Think of Norse mythology. At Ragnarok, the gods and heroes are doomed. What has been prophesied will come to pass and nothing they do can change the outcome. But they never give up. That’s why their story matters. It’s why their story is a story, even if nothing they do can change how it ends.

And let’s face it, all our stories ultimately end the same way and nothing we do can change that. Our end, to borrow Jerry Jenkins’ phrase, has “been known from the beginning.”

… If it be now,
’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come.

The readiness is all.

“What if I told you it doesn’t help?” the man asks as the woman packs up a truck with supplies for her shelter for at-risk youth. “What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it’s all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive and they will never let it get better down here? What would you do?”

“I’d get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here,” she says. “Wanna give me a hand?”

That scene comes at the end of a very long story. The woman has heard all this before. She’s said all this before. She knows firsthand about “forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive” who will “never let it get better down here.” But she’d also met a real hero who’d showed her different and so she changed her name and became a hero herself.

This is what heroes do. They pack the truck despite all the forces that tell them it will never get better down here. They act like it matters even when they’re told it doesn’t matter. They help even when they’re told it doesn’t help — even when, as Dr. Rieux puts it in another story, it means being involved in a “never ending defeat.”

Our stories need heroes because we need heroes. The heroes don’t have to win. They don’t have to succeed in changing anything or saving anyone. But they have to try. They “have to go forward, groping their way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times,” and try to do what good lay in their power.

When Buck here announces and demonstrates his unwillingness even to try he surrenders any claim he might have had to being a hero in this story.

This story has no heroes.

And these heroes, such as they are, have no story. Because it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do. It doesn’t matter whether Nicolae wins or God wins. Either way, everyone and everything is screwed. “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,” but if every sparrow and every other living thing is wiped out mercilessly no matter what, then providence doesn’t seem any different than … whatever the opposite of providence is (despair? disregard? wrath?*).

“The Antichrist was on a course foretold centuries before,” the authors tell us. And not even the real, true Christians of the Tribulation Force “would be able to do more than simply bear up against him.”

Nicolae’s rise to power and his cruel reign are part of God’s plan. Buck can’t try to oppose the Antichrist’s plans because to do so, he believes, would be to oppose God’s plans.

I don’t know how to make sense of that in any way that does not make the Antichrist out to be God’s servant — that does not require us to regard God as the author, and driver, of evil.

The scenario that LaHaye and Jenkins present is much like the one C.S. Lewis described with great dread in A Grief Observed:

The conclusion I dread is not “So there is not God after all,” but, “So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.” … No, my real fear is not materialism. If it were true, we … could get out, get from under the harrow. An overdose of sleeping pills would do it. I am more afraid that we are really rats in a trap. Or, worse still, rats in a laboratory. Someone said, I believe, “God always geometrizes.” Supposing the truth were “God always vivisects?”

Lewis ultimately rejects this idea, but his description of such a “Cosmic Sadist” and the theology behind such an idea seems to capture exactly what’s going on here in Tribulation Force. Lewis’ description is more hostile, but also more precise and more honest than Buck’s manifesto of inaction against God’s servant Nicolae. In clearer language than L&J are able to express, Lewis captures exactly what Buck is saying above about God, prophecy, fate, good and evil. And he argues that ultimately what Buck and the authors are saying is nonsense:

Or could one seriously introduce the idea of a bad God, as it were by the back door, through a sort of extreme Calvinism? You could say we are fallen and depraved. We are so depraved that our ideas of goodness count for nothing; or worse than nothing — the very fact that we think something good is presumptive evidence that it is really bad. Now God has in fact — our worst fears are true — all the characteristics we regard as bad: unreasonableness, vanity, vindictiveness, injustice, cruelty. But all these [negatives] (as they seem to us) are really [positives]. It’s only our depravity makes them look [negative] to us.

And so what? This, for all practical (and speculative) purposes sponges God off the slate. The word good, applied to [God], becomes meaningless: like abracadabra. We have no motive for obeying [God]. Not even fear. It is true we have [God’s] threats and promises. But why should we believe them? If cruelty is from [God’s] point of view “good,” telling lies may be “good” too. Even if they are true, what then? If [God’s] ideas of good are so very different from ours, what [God] calls “Heaven” might well be what we should call Hell, and vice-versa. Finally, if reality at its very root is so meaningless to us — or, putting it the other way round, if we are such total imbeciles — what is the point of trying to think either about God or about anything else? This knot comes undone when you try to pull it tight.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* The list of Seven Deadly Sins isn’t from the Bible, but that traditional list is an expression of biblical ideas and that makes the biblical phrase “the wrath of God” potentially misleading.

The other deadly sins aren’t usually attributed to God. We’re told that God is “jealous,” in a sense, but we never speak of “the lust of God” or “the sloth of God” or “the gluttony of God.”

Yet the Bible does speak, frequently, about “the wrath of God.” This word “wrath” seems to have two meanings — one of which is a deadly sin and one of which is an expression of something righteous. “Be angry but do not sin,” the book of Ephesians says, addressing this distinction.

We encounter a similar ambiguity with the deadly sin of pride. That word, too, refers both to one thing that is necessary and virtuous and also to another thing that is vicious and evil. Such linguistic ambiguity opens the door to confusion on our part. We are prone to think of the wrong definition or the wrong set of connotations when encountering or employing these words. We are susceptible to condemning the duty as if it were the sin or to excusing the sin as though it were the duty.

“The wrath of God” clearly doesn’t refer to what we mean by the deadly sin of wrath, yet having just the one word for both ideas we tend to confuse the two and thus, consciously or unconsciously, we wind up attributing to God the sort of wrathful motives and behavior that we otherwise would usually rightly condemn as sinful. That confusion, I think, is at the heart of Left Behind. It is the basis for much of Tim LaHaye’s theology on which these books are based.

And as a result of that confusion, LaHaye further confuses himself and his readers about the object of God’s wrath. The book of Revelation is, unmistakably, largely about the pouring out of God’s wrath, but if we are confused about the type of wrath that it describes — righteous or deadly sinful — then we will also be confused about the cause and the target of that wrath. We will end up mistakenly imagining that it is being directed at the very people on whose behalf John’s apocalypse portrays that wrath being exercised. And thus we wind up, as LaHaye does, imagining that God is guilty of deadly sin.

“Hope has two beautiful daughters,” St. Augustine said, “their names are anger and courage.” The wrath of God, I think, is that kind of anger — the beautiful daughter of hope.

If you’re imagining the wrath of God as something other than an expression of the love of God, then you have taken a wrong turn, for God is love.

Ah, but isn’t God also perfectly holy? And thus wouldn’t it be possible to say that God’s wrath is an expression of God’s perfect holiness? That’s a slightly different, albeit very popular, wrong turn — imagining the holiness of God as something distinct from the love of God.

Very bad idea, going that route. Jesus had a great deal to say about the idea that holiness could ever mean anything apart from love. His response to that idea tended to be, well, rather wrathful.

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  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    Great quote from C. S. Lewis. I’m gratified to see him make the point about lies, that if good and evil are arbitrary whims of God, we have no reason to trust anything God supposedly said on the subject.

    I’ve seen some evangelicals argue that without God, morality is just a matter of human opinion with no lodestar to go by, but it doesn’t really seem to add much to make it a matter of divine opinion. Lewis was evidently smarter than that (as are, I think, most mainline Christian churches).

  • http://robyrt.livejournal.com/ Robyrt

    If good and evil are arbitrary whims of God, we have no reason to trust anything God supposedly said on the subject.

    Good and evil could still be arbitrary; Lewis is saying that our concepts of good and evil must generally match up with God’s, or else the whole system falls apart. By extension, therefore, individual humans’ concepts of good and evil should generally match up with each other, which they do, so it’s not totally abstract theory.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The framework for these novels isn’t necessarily flawed. I’m thinking of the graphic novel “Kingdom Come”, which features two POV characters through whom the story is told. One character expressly prohibits himself from taking action, while the other is “just along for the ride” and not super-powered or powerful.

    The story involves the book of Revelations and the DC universe. There are outcomes already foretold, prophecy and destiny. And at the pivotal moment, when all hope is lost, it’s our mortal man, our moral man, who has been a witness to all that has passed, who stands up to the other POV character, an angel of destiny, and demands that they step in and take action to make things right. A white-haired pastor stands down first the Spectre, and then Superman, because it’s the right thing to do! And “victory”, in the end, is found not through force of arms, but through love, compassion, and forgiveness. Basically, it’s everything that Fred wishes the LB books could be.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Another literary example: In Steven Brust’s Khaavren series, when the heroes are outnumbered by six to an entire army, rather than run – which they have the perfect opportunity to do – they ask the army to surrender as clearly they are ones who are outnumbered.

  • Anonymous

    Because I’m (re)playing the Mass Effect games right now, Commander Shepard comes to mind as one such hero. Being confronted with the magnitude of the Reaper threat (and the Reapers are the very personification of inevitability, or at least so they would have you believe), Shepard’s immediate and unswerveable goal becomes to thwart them. Ideally, with every sentient race in the galaxy backing him/her up; but if that can’t be arranged, then alone. One individual out of quintillions, pushing back against an eons-old menace.

    (I’d almost say the odds are entirely hopeless, but we’re talking about Shepard here. Get a Reaper within headbutt range, and I couldn’t necessarily predict which side’s walking away from that…)

    ——–

    It occurs to me that in all these cases, there’s a distinction being made between in-universe inevitability, and the inevitability that the reader is aware of by the knowledge that it’s a story. We can read a book, and be reasonably sure that the protagonists will triumph because that’s what happens more often than not — or we might even know for sure that they do because we’ve read it once already. We can still feel suspense and catharsis, though, because the characters don’t know how they’ll get through, and we feel their tension vicariously. I’ve watched Aliens I can’t count how many times, and I still find myself involuntarily holding my breath throughout the airlock sequence.

    So it’s okay that we, the readers, know how Left Behind turns out (whether or not we think the ending is “happy” or not), but it’s the the bland confidence in-universe of Rayford, Buck, et al. that really bugs. They’ve essentially received a memo from the authors confirming that everything will work out and everything they do is optional, and they’re behaving accordingly.

    This isn’t a story. It can be a good setup for a story, though — characters who are fully convinced that the universe is humming right along in their favor, and then a twist, calamity or monkey wrench is introduced to prove how very, very wrong they are. The first half of Asimov’s Foundation and Empire, “The Dead Hand”, is basically a shaggy-dog tale in which the conflict resolves itself, quite independently of the efforts of the feckless “heroes” (Some Guy and, IIRC, Some Other Guy), demonstrating to both characters and reader that Seldon’s Plan has everything accounted for in advance. This story is then followed by the arrival of the Mule in the second half, which blows all of the preceding assumptions to hell.

    What I’m saying is that reading the 16-book Left Behind series must be like reading “The Dead Hand” 32 times in a row. And I wouldn’t wish that on my most hated foe; so congratulations, Nick Nolte, you just dodged a bullet.

  • Dene

    There have been references to Angel as showing this kind of heroism. I found myself thinking of Supernatural, another show that brought on the Apocolypse, albeit a slightly different version. The characters on that show, when told to follow God’s plan by letting the apocolypse happen to prepare for Paradise said, iirc, “Screw destiny. Screw it right in the face.”

    Because that’s what heroism meant in that universe. There’s something nice about the way genre TV shows on the WB have more passionate views on heroism than these books.

  • MaxBrun

    I wonder if the passivity of the characters isn’t a conscious choice on behalf of the authors. After all, if you don’t have to do anything EVEN WHEN THE END OF THE WORLD IS HAPPENING, then you the reader are justified in doing nothing now.

    Which is a much comforting message than “Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!”

    Buckford doesn’t feed the hungry, or visit the sick or anything else useful, he/they don’t even evangelise – which you would think would be the only excuse for not doing anything practical to ameliorate the suffering. Even if he/they/you argue the adults brought it on themselves, there are still children going to be born in the next 7 years – the least of these, you’d have thought. I suspect even the women – who are usually nominated as nurturers in this sort of world-view – don’t do much by way of nurturing to the world as a whole, apart from their own little enclave of smugly saved.

  • Anonymous

    The strange thing is that Bruce introduces the Tribulation Force as a group of believers who will go on the offensive…

    “Tribulation Force,” Bruce said, looking at Rayford and rising to scribble it on his flip chart. “I like it. Make no mistake, it won’t be fun. It would be the most
    dangerous cause a person could ever join. We would study, prepare, and speak out.
    When it becomes obvious who the Antichrist is, the false prophet, the evil,
    counterfeit religion, we’ll have to oppose them, speak out against them. We would
    be targeted. Christians content to hide in basements with their Bibles might escape
    everything but earthquakes and wars, but we will be vulnerable to everything.

    “There will come a time, Chloe, that followers of Antichrist will be required to bear
    the sign of the beast. There are all kinds of theories on what form that might take,
    from a tattoo to a stamp on the forehead that might be detected only under infrared
    light. But obviously we would refuse to bear that mark. That very act of defiance
    will be a mark in itself. We will be the naked ones, the ones devoid of the protection
    of belonging to the majority.
    Left Behind

    And later, Bruce suggests to Rayford that the president would be an ideal candidate to receive the Good News…

    “President Fitzhugh, strong and independent as he is, must be as personally frightened and searching as any private citizen. Think of the privilege of telling the leader of the free world about Christ.”
    Tribulation Force, p 167

    But they don’t do any of that.

  • JD

    And why don’t they? Mainly because, in my opinion, the “authors” are just completely incompetent. They can’t even remember the story they’re writing, never mind tell it.

  • Lori

    I wonder if the passivity of the characters isn’t a conscious choice on behalf of the authors. After all, if you don’t have to do anything EVEN WHEN THE END OF THE WORLD IS HAPPENING, then you the reader are justified in doing nothing now.

    I think it was back during the reading of the first book that we talked quite a bit about the way these books are written to make RTCs feel good about themselves. I don’t think the intent is to justify RTCs not doing anything though. I think it’s to allow them to pretend that they are in fact doing vitally important things.

    We all know that the Trib Force is worse than useless, but the books present them as heroes. I’m pretty sure that RTCs are supposed to identify with the Tribbles and therefore feel heroic themselves for doing nothing more than whining about the Evil Government.

  • Chocolate Covered Cotton

    I’m glad folks finally made clear that the “Not Fade Away” reference is to an episode of Angel, since I’ve not yet seen it (still watching Buffy, up to Season Six now).

    For a moment I thought y’all were talking about the song by Buddy Holly, perhaps as a metaphor for the authoritarian nature of L&J’s God:

    “I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be,
    You’re gonna give your love to me.”

    @chris the cynic:
    Head Witchburner:This is a holy cleansing. You cannot think to thwart God’s will.

    Mal: Y’all see the man hanging out of the spaceship with the really big gun? Now I’m not saying you weren’t easy to find. But it was kinda out of our way, and he didn’t want to come in the first place. Man’s lookin’ to kill some folk. So really it’s his will y’all should worry about thwarting.

    Hey now, you can’t write out that exchange from Firefly (Episode title: “Safe”) without including the punchline:

    Malcolm: Cut her down.
    Head Witchburner (the Patriarch): The girl is a witch!
    Malcolm: Yeah, but she’s our witch. (aims shotgun) Now cut her the hell down.

    (Lovely tableau on that last line: Mal and Simon stare down the Patriarch as River, still tied to the post, gazes up with a beautific smile into the light of her salvation above, the ship Serenity. Still one of my all-time favorite TV moments.)

    The last dialogue of that episode is pretty great too:
    Simon: Why’d you come back for us?
    Malcolm: You’re on my crew.
    Simon: Yes, but… you don’t even like us. Why’d you come back?
    Malcolm: (walking away) You’re on my crew. Why are we still talking about this?

    Closing shot of the whole crew gathered around the dinner table, looking completely like a family, talking, laughing, passing dishes. Simon and River sit at seats saved for them, having finally done what Mal said they might do at the end of the pilot: “You could make a place for yourself here, till you find another.”

  • Noskcire

    Two charactors come to mind: John Belushi in Animal House says “What we need here is a really futile gesture.” and Martin Luther who when asked if the world was ending tomorrow what would he do? “I would plant a tree.”

    Jon

  • Anonymous

    It is possible to be anti-abortion without wanting to see it made illegal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    It is possible to be anti-abortion without wanting to see it made illegal.

    Yes, it is. I should specify that I am speaking about those who are specifically in favor of making abortion illegal or widening the circumstances in which it is illegal.

  • Lori

    Yes, but a person who is anti-abortion, but doesn’t want to make it illegal then is, IMO & the opinion of pretty much every pro-choice person I know, not part of the anti-choice movement. So, when we talk about anti-choicers we’re only discussing people who want legal control over women’s bodies.

  • joe smith

    I tire of the “anti abortion/Pro choice” assumption in American politics. It seems every politician has to sign on to the idea that the goal is less abortions. Am I the only one out there that is actually PRO abortion?

    I don’t think fetuses are humans, and I think more people should make the intelligent choice to not have childrenthat they can’t take care of.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, you probably are the only one out there who’s pro-abortion. The rest of us pro-choice types (and pro-life types such as hapax) would rather accomplish the goal of people not having children they can’t take care of by preventing unwanted pregnancies. Less intrusive, among other things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Isabel-Kunkle/536930634 Isabel Kunkle

    Well, yeah.

    I would describe myself as pro-abortion, in that, were I to get pregnant, I would unhesitatingly terminate the pregnancy–and that I’d advise a friend who was unwantedly pregnant to do the same, *if* she asked me my opinion on the subject.

    I’m far more about prevention, though.

  • Anonymous

    That crossover idea is almost awesome enough to make me change my anti-fanfiction position.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Why do you have an anti-fanfic position?

  • Anonymous

    Well, it’s personal, not general. I prefer only to write using my own characters. Sadly, all the stories have already been told, but at least my characters can be original. Even if they all have unoriginal archetypes.

    Well okay, so my writing is not all that original, but still. I’ve got my standards.

    I go to die with Odin.

  • Anonymous

    These books really amaze me (and not in a good way). Not only do they feature a god better suited to the Cthulhu mythos or Warhammer 40k (the chaos gods thereof, that is) but their “heroes” well be less heroic than the average person reading the books. Buckyboy would have nothing to lose in telling the President that Nicky Pennines is the Antichrist, or at least in trying to save the President’s soul. There is no reason for him not to try. He’s saved. What is the Antichrist going to do to him? The absolute worst he could do is kill him, which isn’t really that bad, considering he’s saved, so all that will mean is he’ll miss out on the Antichrist’s reign. But even that isn’t likely from what we’ve seen. So, when faced with a choice between doing something good with no real risk and doing nothing, Buckyboy chooses… doing nothing.

    I’m not sure whether I’m more horrified by Ellenjay’s version of God or their version of good.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    Not only do they feature a god better suited to the Cthulhu mythos or Warhammer 40k (the chaos gods thereof, that is)

    Hell, the supposedly “good” god of Warhammer 40K (the God-Emperor) isn’t much better. I mean, his church murders a thousand children a *day* in order to keep their fucking space beacon running, and lobotomizes people to turn them into cyborg zombies.

    (I really didn’t have more than a casual familiarity with Warhammer until last week, when I finished reading Rogue Trader. I’m sure it would be even worse if I’d read the game that deals with the Inquisition).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=687121933 Carrie Looney

    I want to see L&J rewrite the story of Jesus. “Jesus saw that it was all predestined; that he would be betrayed and crucified. So he whiled away his time shooting spitwards at Judas, knowing that it would be pointless to try to teach or convert anyone. Most of them wouldn’t understand anyway.”

  • Anonymous

    All right, just to give us some variety here because there’s more to the Egypt-needs-a-white-man-of-action genre than just Indiana Jones:

    What about Rick O’Connor?

    I think his fight is pretty hopeless — he’s kind of outmatched and all he has is a librarian and her good-for-nothing brother. But he perseveres and he makes a difference. He even tries to save his poor, doomed greedy buddy from the Legion (the exact thing Indy tries to do at the end of Crystal Skull) and the only reason he can’t is because of the aforementioned greed and karma.

  • arghous

    He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples.

    This is just so right. We know that to them that love God all things work together for good. So our vouchers don’t cover your insurance premiums? Could be wonderful! You don’t want us to sell off the public water supply to a company who will sell you the water back at quadruple prices? What, and miss out on all the wonderful? Nanny states are bad, and cause people to lose the benefits of a wonderful urchin lifestyle. Trust us Men of Family Values — We’ll Bring the Wonderful!

  • Lori

    This is just so right. We know that to them that love God all things work together for good. So our vouchers don’t cover your insurance premiums? Could be wonderful! You don’t want us to sell off the public water supply to a company who will sell you the water back at quadruple prices? What, and miss out on all the wonderful? Nanny states are bad, and cause people to lose the benefits of a wonderful urchin lifestyle. Trust us Men of Family Values — We’ll Bring the Wonderful!

    Apparently the one and only thing that God can’t turn into something wonderful is a woman aborting a fetus that she isn’t able and/or willing to carry to term. Funny how that works.

  • Mackrimin

    That leads to compulsory kidney donation if you are a match for someone who needs a transplant. After all, they are facing death, you are just facing the “mere discomfort and inconvenience”(sic) of an operation. And yet, strangely, there are not many people who hold that position..

    Yes, it does, and no, there isn’t. So perhaps people should start using _that_ as an argument in abortion flamewars rather than just assuming that others are arguing in bad faith? Go and make the suggestion; watch how they react, and if they indeed _are_ arguing in bad faith, you now have _proof_ of that.

  • Mackrimin

    – Not being permitted to use recreational drugs, consequences: have to find legal entertainment.
    – Being denied an urgent medical procedure, consequences: debilitating pain, trauma, serious illness, possibly death.

    That equivalence you have just drawn? Trivialising, patronising, and discourteous. Please don’t.

    I responded to a post claiming that having your rights to your own body be subject to public policy is an important philosophical treshold. I pointed out said treshold has already been passed, and gave an example. I have no idea why you think I think anti-abortion legislation and anti-drug legislation are “equivalent” otherwise; _I_ certainly never said so. I also have no idea why you think it is “patronising” or “discourteous” to point out the flaws in an argument. Please explain?

  • Anonymous

    By all means, Mackrimin.

    I quoted your line (in response to an earlier post which said that anti-abortion legislation denied women the right to do what they liked with their own bodies):

    We have already made that decision, for using drugs is illegal.

    Neither you nor I have said at any point that we think anti-abortion legislation and anti-drug legislation are actually identical, but what you said here set up an implied, rhetorical equivalence.

    That is, you compared anti-abortion legislation to anti-drug legislation in a way which suggested that they were fundamentally similar on this point: the restriction of what people can do with their own bodies. You said ‘we have already made that decision’ as though the decision to restrict drug use was the same as the decision to restrict abortion in terms of consequences for individuals’ bodily choice.

    You’ve elaborated here that you were thinking in terms of a threshold that both sets of legislation have passed, but in the original context that was not clear, and what you actually said had unfortunate implications. It gave the impression that you regarded both sets of legislation as being in a similar position relative to the threshold, and that impression could cause distress to someone reading it.

    I therefore drew out explicitly the key contrast between the two things you were comparing, and went on to say that the equivalence itself was trivialising (because it reduced something drastic to the level of something far less serious), patronising (because it chimes in to the long history of people belittling and ignoring women in pain, particularly pain connected to reproduction) and discourteous (because it could be distressing for someone to read).

    The rest of your post was on a slightly different subject (one that I happen to agree with you on and was glad you expressed). I guessed that you probably didn’t mean to draw that equivalence, but had no way to be sure. Besides, intent isn’t magic: whether or not you meant to draw the equivalence makes no difference to the potential hurt caused, hence my reply.

  • Mackrimin

    So Chick tracts look unrealistic because people convert to easily, LB because they refuse to convert despite everything going on in front of their eyes.

    Of course they’re unrealistic: they’re both the respective author’s fantasies. They’re unrealistic for the same reason most porn stories are unrealistic: they’re not real. And indeed they are “evangelical porn”.

    The difference – or my impression, at least – is that LB is a story about a maniac torturing someone to death and then doing nasty things with her corpse, while Chick Tracks are about everyone sleeping with everyone and having a great time – and everyone who doesn’t is a prude who gets converted in the end. They’re both fantasies, but one is a nightmare while the other is merely ridiculous.

  • Lori

    Yes, it does, and no, there isn’t. So perhaps people should start using _that_ as an argument in abortion flamewars rather than just assuming that others are arguing in bad faith? Go and make the suggestion; watch how they react, and if they indeed _are_ arguing in bad faith, you now have _proof_ of that.

    Are you actually laboring under the assumption that people haven’t done this and that the so-called pro-life movement hasn’t brushed it off? If so, please allow me to correct this misunderstanding.

    It has been suggested and the suggestion has been roundly rejected. The reasoning for the rejection has generally been that mandatory kidney donation would be a form of theft, but a fetus has such a special place vis a vie the womb that a women is obviously morally obligated to play host to it, even at the expense of her own life.

    So, by your standards we now have proof that anti-choicers are arguing in bad faith.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Cross-posting:

    Just a drive-by to mention that today is the birthday of everyone’s favorite (“favorite”) creator of hateful, Christian fundamentalist sequential art-based propaganda, the one and only Jack T. Chick!
    Jack turns 87 today, which is a long, long time to have to wait for The Rapture…
    Also of note is that Jack’s birthday is shared by Ron “Hellboy” Perlman, which means that I’ve got representation from both Heaven and Hell on what is also my birthday.
    (Sharing a birthday with Chick is amusing; sharing a birthday with Perlman is awesome.)

  • Lori

    Happy birthday Jon! I hope that both today and the coming year are wonderful for you.

    Also, Jack Chick’s advanced years are clearly further proof that only the good die young.

  • Mackrimin

    Are you actually laboring under the assumption that people haven’t done this and that the so-called pro-life movement hasn’t brushed it off? If so, please allow me to correct this misunderstanding.

    Well, yes, as a matter of fact I _was_ under such an impression. It simply seemed obvious to me that raising such a point would either force people to take this position or be exposed as hypocrites, the latter of which would implode the whole debate and the former move it from abortion into a more general question about ethics.

    My apologies for overestimating my fellow men.

  • Lori

    My apologies for overestimating my fellow men.

    I hate to say it because it makes me sound nasty, but I’ve found that when it comes to anti-choicers you’ll rarely go wrong by assuming the worst.

  • Anonymous

    I hate to say it because it makes me sound nasty, but I’ve found that when it comes to anti-choicers you’ll rarely go wrong by assuming the worst.

    I think it helps to understand that many anti-choicers have already decided that pro-choice arguments are not worth considering because their end result is that all abortions become killing a term fetus just before it’s delivered. Therefore Your Argument Is Invalid even before you’ve articulated it.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t argue the point, because the anti-choicers have a humongous cultural inertia and our elected Democrats believe that their constituents want moar compromise and therefore the Republicans will push for twice as much as they want knowing that the Democrats will give them half of that, or just as much as they want.

  • Anonymous

    Healthy full-term fetus. Don’t forget ‘healthy’. Because there’s clearly no such thing as a fetus that will die before or shortly after birth in any event, nor as a fetus that’s already dead and thus endangering its living twin.

  • Anonymous

    Healthy full-term fetus. Don’t forget ‘healthy’.

    Yes, of course.

  • Anonymous

    Because there’s clearly no such thing as a fetus that will die before or shortly after birth in any event, nor as a fetus that’s already dead and thus endangering its living twin.

    We’ve currently got a group of anti-choicers (from out of state!) on campus. I argued with them a bit yesterday. The part that I found utterly amazing is that none of them even seemed to recognize that their policies would result in millions of dead women from illegal abortions.

  • Anonymous

    I think ‘millions’ overstates it, but I have no idea where to go to find better numbers.

  • Lori

    I think, as least as far as the anti-choice leadership goes, the issue really does come down to controlling women and a worldview based on gender essentialism and maintaining “god-given” roles for the sexes.

    As Ellie points out, even looking at it as if every fetus was the same as a full-term fetus just doesn’t get you to the positions that anti-choicers take. It certainly doesn’t get you there in any logical way. If however you start from the assumption that it’s about controlling women by denying them full personhood then IME one’s successful prediction rate goes way up and the whole anti-choice agenda hangs together in a logical way. Monstrous and wrong, but logical.

  • Anonymous

    I think, as least as far as the anti-choice leadership goes, the issue really does come down to controlling women and a worldview based on gender essentialism and maintaining “god-given” roles for the sexes.

    I’ve been on board with this school of thought since I read it on Pandagon.

    Mayhap this short-form, five-minutes-of-thought-per-post format is not my strong suit.

  • Anonymous

    People mostly seem to hate the sci-fi elements in it. The other movies were tribute to the adventures serials of the 30’s. Some 25 to 30 years later, it seems only appropriate that we include elements of 50’s and 60’s B-movies. I think that was a rather clever idea myself.

    Yes, I noticed this myself. My brother doesn’t like the von Daniken aspects of “the visitors taught us agriculture!” but I don’t think that’s a reason to reject the whole thing.

    I thought the fight choreographer did an excellent job of recreating the fist-fights of the first three movies, seeing as the original choreographer has passed away.

  • Anonymous

    I still want to see a tract in which Jack Chick dies and goes to face judgment. The Almighty condemns him for deceiving billions of people with his false teaches and for causing them unnecessary panic. And then God sadly tosses Jack Chick into hell — where the Devil has been eagerly waiting.

  • Anonymous

    I still want to see a tract in which Jack Chick dies and goes to face judgment. The Almighty condemns him for deceiving billions of people with his false teaches and for causing them unnecessary panic. And then God sadly tosses Jack Chick into hell — where the Devil has been eagerly waiting.

    I would also accept a scenario where Chick goes to heaven, only to discover that everyone he damned in his comics is also there. (“Black Leaf! You too?!”) Surely no lake of fire could be more agonizing to Jack Chick than the disappointment of finding a (gasp!) loving, forgiving God, one so merciful that He doesn’t even allow Himself a well-earned HAW-HAW! at Chick’s expense.

  • Anonymous

    And then God sadly tosses Jack Chick into hell — where the Devil has been eagerly waiting.

    Right idea, wrong moral.

    Jack sees the suffering he’s caused to millions of people and repents of his sins. And God forgives him. Because that’s the point, after all.

    (On my back burner for years — together with a Dubya post-Event press conference, which tells you how old this idea is — has been the idea of a proud and judgmental Rayford at the Last Judgement, glorying in how few people are on Jesus’ right-hand side. At the end, there is a gasp from the crowd, and Jesus has turned around.)

  • Anonymous

    Jack sees the suffering he’s caused to millions of people and repents of his sins. And God forgives him. Because that’s the point, after all.

    I suggest a compromise. In the new tract, Jack Chick gets judged for his sins and gets sent to hell. Then it turns out it was all just a divinely-inspired dream in order to get Chick to repent of his sins.

  • Anonymous

    Jack sees the suffering he’s caused to millions of people and repents of his sins. And God forgives him. Because that’s the point, after all.

    I suggest a compromise. In the new tract, Jack Chick gets judged for his sins and gets sent to hell. Then it turns out it was all just a divinely-inspired dream in order to get Chick to repent of his sins.

    I’d like to see him get the tour of Heaven, the penultimate stop being God’s throne-room where he is truly humbled, awed, and at total peace as he gazes upon the face of God. Then St. Peter leads him out, back to the Pearly Gates. “Where are you taking me? No! No! Not to… *GASP* HELL!?!?!?!” to which St. Peter says, “Oh, don’t be silly. There is no Hell, but you can’t stay here with God. You’re free to go anywhere else you want.”

    “But that is Hell! THAT IS HELL!”

    The final panel shows him standing on a gloomy rain cloud, dejected, trying to thumb a ride from a bunch of Astral Devas.

  • Mackrimin

    I also happen to like Crystal Skull. In fact, its the only movie with Shia LaBouf in it where I don’t want to punch him in the face.

    People mostly seem to hate the sci-fi elements in it. The other movies were tribute to the adventures serials of the 30’s. Some 25 to 30 years later, it seems only appropriate that we include elements of 50’s and 60’s B-movies. I think that was a rather clever idea myself.

    Crystal Skull was an okay movie, but could had been far better. Once they enter the valley things get rushed and start “falling into place” too neatly, and let’s face it: Soviets do not have the same “dark glow” as Nazis do. For good or ill, Nazis are right there within our mythos as the architypical (stereotypical, really) evil overlords, and Hitler is treated closer to a God of Evil than a crazy, hateful man who managed to get power. World War 2 fits too well to a pattern of “good and evil fighting” for it to remain mere history.

    So, it’s not the sci-fi elements that are the problem. Rather, the mythical elements simply aren’t as fundamental as in the previous movies, and while the alien takes the role that (other) God(s) did previously, and actually handles it quite well, the road there isn’t as laden with “signs and portents” as the previous movies did. Furthermore, modern CGI simply isn’t very good for these types of movies: the climax just plain isn’t as impressive as the pillar of fire in Raiders.

    Kingdom of Crystall Skull doesn’t feel as epic as Raiders of Lost Ark, as fairytale-like as Temple of Doom, or as desperate a race as Last Crusade. It’s simply… too modern, not set in the “mythological age” of Nazi Germany anymore. Cold War is a whole another mythological imagery, one that fits James Bond but not really Indiana Jones. Change Jones’s imagery and you get a different Indy, and of course that’s going to piss people off.

    Besides, imagine if someone tried to continue, say, Wheel of Time after the Third Age has ended and the Dark One has been imprisoned? Sure, you could do that, just use the Seanchan as villains; but don’t be amazed if a mere conquering bunch of slavers with an absolute dictator in helm seems a bit anti-climatic compared to the Shadow.

    WoT, BTW, is another series that does this whole “prophesized Last Battle and horrible suffering before that” thing a lot better. It even does the “morally ambiguous/bad creator” better, not to mention a hero slipping closer and closer to outright evil behaviour – possibly because it acknowledges that these things are not, in fact, very nice.

    My, didn’t I ramble a lot. I’ve spent too much time on Tvtropes and now feel the need to overanalyze everything :(.

  • JD

    So, people hate it because….it’s different. That’s pretty sad.

    Y’know, I remember seeing it at a beautiful old Art Deco movie palace with an audience mostly 50 and over, some in their 80s. It was a movie about getting old and how life taketh, yet it it giveth back too. And all the 1950s period details went over wonderfully. Y’know, Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, Karen Allen, John Williams, Dennis Muren, Ben Burtt–none of them are young anymore. They haven’t been for some time. If they’re gonna make an honest movie, an artful movie, it’s going to be coming from where they are now, not where they were in 1979-1982.

    And I always tell people, if they didn’t like Crystal Skull, they should read some of the rejected scripts for a fourth Indiana Jones movie and see what bad really is. There was this unreadable one by Chris Columbus that was set in Africa and had a scene with a gorilla driving a tank.

    (I like the description of Temple Of Doom as “fairytale”….That’s spot on.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I think with sufficient incentive (i.e. lots of bananas), a clever gorilla could be taught to drive a tank.

    Probably not safely, however.

  • Rikalous

    Wheel of Time is also relevant to Left Behind discussion (well, by our standards of relevant, anyway) because the main character, Rand al’Thor, is prophesied to break the world as well as save it. Once he finds out that he’s the prophesied one, he starts to go steadily insane from a combination of tainted magic and the pressure from trying to save as many people and as much knowledge as he can before the fated catastrophe. He’s basically a sympathetic Nicky C.

  • Anonymous

    Back at the article, I am reminded of why I find the Jenkins/LaHaye view of prophecy so cowardly: They do not know god.

    Abraham knew god. When God told him he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he started haggling. He demanded that if he could find a dozen good men, the city would be saved, and tried to work his way down. Eventually, all he saved was the family of Lot, the one righteous man between the two cities.

    Why do they not pray for concessions? Pray for the strength to start saving people, not in the “say the magic words” way, but in the “prevent them from being killed by an earthquake” way? A righteous god would listen. If you pray for god to save you from mind control so you can watch Stonegal get shot in the head, why not also pray for the gun to jam?

    Don’t just dismiss it with “God works in mysterious ways.” Pray for god to make you understand them, and that it can be something you can accept.

    He argued with Abraham. He argued with Moses. He argued with Jonah. You aren’t a martyr for watching god’s plan unfold and not doing anything. You are a martyr for knowing that ultimately a cause is hopeless and trying anyway. But maybe only Catholics and Orthodox care about Kenosis.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    But maybe only Catholics and Orthodox care about Kenosis.

    I’m not particularly thrilled here about the implication that “This one set of people who are Protestant don’t care about something – clearly ALL Protestants don’t care about it!”
    I’m a Protestant, but I’d guess that my priorities are rather different from LaJenkins’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Why do they not pray for concessions? Pray for the strength to start saving people, not in the “say the magic words” way, but in the “prevent them from being killed by an earthquake” way? A righteous god would listen. If you pray for god to save you from mind control so you can watch Stonegal get shot in the head, why not also pray for the gun to jam?

    I and most others here would argue that a righteous god wouldn’t send the earthquake in the first place, at least not as a punishment.

    As for Stonegal, well, he was kind of an evil douche anyway, and had previously tried to have Buck killed, and killed one of Buck’s friends, so I can completely understand him not particularly caring about Stonegal being killed.

  • Lori

    And I always tell people, if they didn’t like Crystal Skull, they should read some of the rejected scripts for a fourth Indiana Jones movie and see what bad really is. There was this unreadable one by Chris Columbus that was set in Africa and had a scene with a gorilla driving a tank.

    I have no dog in this fight since I never even got around to seeing Crystal Skull. However, I feel like I have to point out the glaring problem with this statement. The fact that there were worse scripts doesn’t say anything meaningful about the quality of Crystal Skull because it’s not as if a 4th movie was actually mandatory. “It’s better than the alternative” really only works if the thing/situation isn’t avoidable.

  • JD

    I’m just saying that as bad as some people think it is, it could have been SO much worse. It’s like, there’s spinach, which some people find inedible, and then there’s rotten spinach. You may not like the spinach, but at least you can eat it without getting sick. You may not like Crystal Skull, but at least it’s competent. Columbus’ Monkey King script (or Frank Darabont’s much-vaunted City Of The Gods draft, which I for one thought was terrible) read like they were written by hyper 14 year old Indiana Jones fans. It does say something about the quality of Crystal Skull that Lucas, no matter how much abuse everybody wants to scream at him nowadays, didn’t make either of those earlier versions.

  • Anonymous

    a fair cop, Dierd. Apologies. It was a rhetorical flourish (which, being one of those dangerous commie-atheist-jews, I would not be included in either) which was unnecessary.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    This was on the radio when I was driving to work this morning; it seems to define the anti-Buck pretty well:

    If we burn our wings
    Flying too close to the sun
    If the moment of glory
    Is over before it’s begun
    If the dream is won —
    Though everything is lost
    We will pay the price,
    But we will not count the cost

    When the dust has cleared
    And victory denied
    A summit too lofty
    River a little too wide
    If we keep our pride
    Though paradise is lost
    We will pay the price,
    But we will not count the cost

    And if the music stops
    There’s only the sound of the rain
    All the hope and glory,
    All the sacrifice in vain
    And if love remains
    Though everything is lost
    We will pay the price,
    But we will not count the cost

    – Rush, Bravado

  • Anonymous

    I am reliably informed (by my boyfriend, who is Shinto) that the Star Wars films caricature the Japanese. I can’t remember which group of characters he was talking about, though, possibly people from the third prequel which I have never seen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I can’t remember any asians in SW. Everyone had an American or a British accent, and aside from aliens were pretty much all white, except for Vader of course.

  • We Must Dissent

    Um, Trade Federation?

  • Hawker40

    I remember one Asian in the original trilogy. He was a fighter pilot, his fighter is hit by enemy fire, and with a scream of rage he flies it into the bridge of a Imperial Stardestroyer…
    So, the only Asian dies in a Kamikaze attack.
    Stereotypes.

  • JD

    A. I gotta check but I don’t think that character was Asian. I think you’re confusing him with another A-Wing pilot who, if memory serves, IS Asian.

    B. Even if he IS, so?! That’s one of the high points of 80s cinema! Come on! He takes out the Imperial flagship! :) That is a superb moment of awesomeness.

    I remember watching the Special Edition of Jedi back in the late 90s in a packed theater, having not seen the film projected since ’83, and realizing how much we underrate it. That final, I guess 40 minutes or so–that whole battle, remains a monumental acheivement in cinema. There are just images and moments of such cathartic, epic greatness….at some points all you can say is WOW.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I can’t remember any asians in SW. Everyone had an American or a British accent, and aside from aliens were pretty much all white, except for Vader of course.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Probably the two Trade Federation guys from Episode 1 – I’ve heard various people complain they were a bad generic-Asian caricature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Ah, right, I wasn’t really thinking of episodes 1-3, which is odd considering I’m a big fan of the Darths & Droids webcomic.

  • JD

    Well, the actors who did their voices were from Romania, so, if they were caricatures of Asians, they sorta missed the mark….

  • JD

    The Star Wars films are inspired by Japanese cinema, take their entire philosophy and design aesthetic from Japanese culture, and George Lucas’ idol was Akira Kurosawa. When Kurosawa had been exiled from the Japanese film industry and had attempted to kill himself in shame, Lucas raised the money for and produced, along with Francis Ford Coppola, Kurosawa’s comeback film Kagemusha.

    I find it very, VERY unlikely that the Star Wars films caricature the Japanese.

  • Will
  • Lori

    I just could never get past the Cousin Oliver thing with Dawn. There was no reason for that and IMO no excuse. I had plenty of other problems with her (so many other problems), but even if she had been a fabulous character I would have been hard pressed to be happy to have her on the show. The fact that her appearance at the beginning of S5 coincided with so many other developments that I didn’t like definitely didn’t help either. S5 & S6 had some good stuff, but mostly I didn’t like them. S7? What is this S7 of which you speak? BtVS didn’t have a 7th season.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    “Hell, the supposedly “good” god of Warhammer 40K (the God-Emperor) isn’t much better. I mean, his church murders a thousand children a *day* in order to keep their fucking space beacon running, and lobotomizes people to turn them into cyborg zombies.

    (I really didn’t have more than a casual familiarity with Warhammer until last week, when I finished reading Rogue Trader. I’m sure it would be even worse if I’d read the game that deals with the Inquisition).”

    By Rogue Trader, are you referring to the recently released RPG, or the old sort of ‘proto-40k’ books? Because the latter is *way* lighter than it is now.

    Oh, and first of all, it is *tens of thousands* just for Astronomican, and thousands to keep the Emperor alive. Really though, this is one of their lesser sins, as it’s arguably neccesary… after all, if the Astronomican goes out, *everyone* dies. If the Emperor dies, *everyone* dies (that, or he transcends into a true god, and pwns everything, but they’re not about to risk that…).
    The Imperium does many, many, many things that are much worse than that, but that is a rather blatant example…
    It also varies a bit by source. Some of the books/games are really not that grim dark (Dark Heresy, suprisingly, isn’t all that bad… except for the chance of psykers causing a total party kill, which is just annoying.)
    On another note, servitors are *supposedly* either condemned criminals (for real crimes, it’s considered a more severe sentence than mere execution) or brain dead to begin with… of course, it’s heavily implied (and outright said) that it doesn’t always work that…

    As for ‘Good’ gods in the 40k verse, well, the Emperor himself was actually a lot nicer than the Imperium, but… well, things happened. There’s also the Eldar gods, but they are unfortunately mostly dead at the moment. (Except for Khaine (god of murder, also shattered into a few thousand pieces), Cegorach (weird), Isha (imprisoned by Nurgle), and Ynnead (well, technically dead, but also not yet born)).

    Finally, I think that L&J god is most like a combination of Nurgle and the Deciever, if that makes any sense… manipulating events for his amusement, then helping his followers to stoically accept the damage *he himself* causes… (Yeah, I’m not capitalizing for L&J god).

    “I think: it came across as ‘everything is really aliens’ rather than ‘fantasy plus aliens’. ”

    Well, to me it seemed it was *magic extradimensional aliens*… so, in a sense, it was more ‘everything is really fantasy, not aliens’. Also, any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from SCIENCE!

    As for Lucas being racist, I’ve never bought it. At least not consciously – at worst, I’d say he’s not terrifically creative, and steals stock characters.
    Jar-Jar… I’m sorry, I just don’t see it. Besides, most of the Gungans are competent enough… although I did just remember their shields. The Nemoidians, meanwhile, I can almost see the logic there. On the other hand, they’re aliens, and don’t seem to closely resemble *any* particular human race…
    I don’t buy the David Brin thing, either. It seems more like a deliberate misinterpretation of Star Wars…

  • Rikalous

    “L&J god is most like a combination of Nurgle and the Deceiver”

    You slander Grandpappy Nurgle with your comparison to that sour jackass.

    The Imperium of Man has proverbs like “An open mind is an unguarded fortress” and “The loyal slave learns to love the lash.” L&J god would fit right in there.

  • Lori

    Jar-Jar… I’m sorry, I just don’t see it.

    Really? How familiar are you with the way AA characters were portrayed in films before the 1970s? Having seen a lot of older movies I was a pretty horrified by Jar Jar*. I remember saying to my date that the only way it could be more obvious was for him to a big slice of watermelon and some fired chicken.

    *Actuallyl I was totally horrified by Jar jar, but only part of the horror was because of the weird racist vibe.

  • JD

    Jar Jar was an interesting idea poorly done. He seems to have been derived from three basic ideas. One, the main character in Kurosawa’s Kagemusha, a common thief who is forced to pretend to be a powerful lord. Jar Jar is sorta of a local loser, a chariot driver, basically, who ends up leading armies in an epic battle. He’s also a bit like the two peasants in Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, and various other clumsy, loud, goofy characters in Kurosawa’s films.

    2nd, silent films comedians like Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. This is clearest in the final battle when he’s dodging the energy balls, which is straight from some old silent comedy–I can’t remember which one.

    And 3rd, and most awkwardly, he seems to be some kind of attempt to actually engage with and confront minstrely and stereotype in American cinema, such as the characters Stepin Fetchit used to play in John Ford’s pre-Code comedies. Who were usually foolish, clumsy, got into all kinds of trouble, were comic relief, ect. I suspect this was a bit beyond the means of both Lucas and the Star Wars universe.

    But, again, all that’s irrelevent because, in Episode One, anyway, he’s just not very well done. He’s kind’ve poorly designed visually, he’s way over the top, he’s almost impossible to understand most of the time, he’s not very funny, he just doesn’t work.

    They do largely redeem him in Episode II, though, by having him become a Senator: if Jar Jar could become a Senator, then the Republic was well and truly crumbling. And he’s also the one who then introduces the legislation that helps create the Empire’s military-industrial complex, which I thought was a pretty subtle and clever comment about not-very-bright elected officials who’s main qualifications for office are that they can be easily manipulated by various idealogical and corporate special interests.

  • Lori

    And 3rd, and most awkwardly, he seems to be some kind of attempt to actually engage with and confront minstrely and stereotype in American cinema,

    This is an incredibly generous take on the character and I didn’t see anything on the screen to justify that level of generosity.

  • JD

    Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You can’t see radiation either, but I assure you, it does exist.

    And I do tend to be generous to artists whose work I admire and people whose actions I respect.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You can’t see radiation either, but I assure you, it does exist.

    Since it seems this thread has dropped off everyone’s radar, I’ll refrain from a detailed post explaining my views of HP Lovecraft and Temple of Doom.

    I’ll just note that what you say, “Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” applies just as much, in fact probably more so, to racism, than to what you’re referring to. I’m guessing you are male, white, American and non-Hindu. That you don’t see racism when you watch ToD, doesn’t mean someone who is of Color, Hindu, or from India might not feel alienated and the subject of racism when watching it.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the Indiana Jones movies. I prefer Last Crusade first, then Raiders, then ToD as a distant 3rd. But they have a disturbing undercurrent of racism throughout all of the movies, mostly regarding ‘Orientals’, including Chinese, Indians, and Arabs, and ToD especially closely resembles Gunga Din, which is a wonderful movie for its time (1930s) but which has colonialist attitudes that ToD unfortunately echoes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eric-Oppen/594893122 Eric Oppen

    Having been rereading the “Tomorrow, When the War Began” series, I think that I’d swap the two “heroes” of these books for the kids who star in the “Tomorrow” series, any day, and have a much better book. Ellie’d be coming up with clever plans to discredit or destroy Nicky Mountain, Robyn and Fiona would be figuring out how to save as many people as possible, Homer’d be building a bomb to blow Nicky Mountain past Mars, Kevin and Chris would be hacking into the world’s media to plant anti-Nicky messages, and Gavin…Gavin would probably come up with something totally off-the-wall and unexpected that would save the day.

    And if all else failed, if there was nothing else to do…they’d steal a truck and drive it at Nicky, blazing away at his mooks, and go out in a blaze of glory.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    “I don’t buy the David Brin thing, either. It seems more like a deliberate misinterpretation of Star Wars..”

    David Brin is big on deliberately misinterpreting Star Wars. I read his famous articles, and they depending mostly on supposed subtext directly contradicted by actual text.

  • Mackrimin

    I’ll just note that what you say, “Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” applies just as much, in fact probably more so, to racism, than to what you’re referring to. I’m guessing you are male, white, American and non-Hindu. That you don’t see racism when you watch ToD, doesn’t mean someone who is of Color, Hindu, or from India might not feel alienated and the subject of racism when watching it.

    I doubt very much they do, any more than Americans feel subject to racism when watching that old Bond movie with the obnoxious American sheriff in it, or a gangster movie – remember that the Thugees _are_ basically Indian gangsters – or one of those psychopathic “anti-heroes” that plagued comic books in the 90’s.

    Besides, if Indiana Jones is racist, at least it’s equal opportunity racism: there’s not a single character in the whole series who isn’t some kind of ridiculous over-the-top stereotype. No matter who you are, if you have some kind of connection to any Jones character, you have reason to feel insulted.

    Equal opportunity racism… now _that_ is an ironic concept :).

  • Alienbooknose

    There’s a basic problem with your idea of equal opportunity racism: as long as whites have societal power, prejudice towards them expressed in a film does not have the same effects as prejudice expressed towards a societally disadvantaged group.

    If people have stepped on your foot every day of your life, and then they turn around and step on your neighbor’s unbruised foot and say “see, it’s fair now” how would you feel?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    “You slander Grandpappy Nurgle with your comparison to that sour jackass.”
    Well, I said it was something of a comparison, not that it was a wholly accurate one.

    “Really? How familiar are you with the way AA characters were portrayed in films before the 1970s? Having seen a lot of older movies I was a pretty horrified by Jar Jar*. I remember saying to my date that the only way it could be more obvious was for him to have a big slice of watermelon and some fired chicken.

    And 3rd, and most awkwardly, he seems to be some kind of attempt to actually engage with and confront minstrely and stereotype in American cinema, such as the characters Stepin Fetchit used to play in John Ford’s pre-Code comedies. Who were usually foolish, clumsy, got into all kinds of trouble, were comic relief, ect. I suspect this was a bit beyond the means of both Lucas and the Star Wars universe.”

    Well, I suppose there’s a certain argument that he fits that archetype, although I wouldn’t say he actually resembles a black person in any way. Furthermore, the rest of the Gungans really *don’t* fit that mold, although some (especially the Boss) are really weird in their own way. If it was an attack on blacks, shouldn’t they all be like that?

    “David Brin is big on deliberately misinterpreting Star Wars. I read his famous articles, and they depending mostly on supposed subtext directly contradicted by actual text.”

    Yeah…. as best I can tell, the Star Wars universe simply uses royal-esque titles (Queen, Princess, etc) for elected officials, for some reason. The only arguement he vaguely has is with the Jedi, which, admittedly, can get pretty bad in some books. But…
    The Jedi Order in the Prequels are portrayed as arrogant and out of touch, and more than a little incompetent. They try to take charge against Count Dooku, and end up playing right into Palpatine’s hands.
    Even so, the Jedi Order exists in part to ensure that no Jedi or Force sensitive obtains too much political power, and is wholly subordinate to the mundane authorities… this pattern is maintained into the New Republic. The only time this is violated is with the various Sith Empires, which are, note, the *villains*.
    All that’s not even considering that, at least at some times, most everyone has some form of Force ability. The Jedi/Sith/’Force Sensitives’ are merely the ones with the predisposition and mindset to train and consciously utilize that power (the Jedi wouldn’t like that term, but I’m using it anyways…)
    I also liked his question of whether you’d rather live in the Federation or the Empire. What? A better question is whether you’d rather live in the Dominion or New Republic. Seriously… (Or, even better, the Federation or the Culture, which pretty much *is* directly his point…)

  • Kagi Soracia

    Thank you for making me cry. I was needing that analogy.


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