Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Batman, Hannah Montana and Me--I am about to have an unpopular opinion or two

Obviously, if you're not residing in Underarockville, then you are aware of two things: First, that last week one Benjamin Affleck was cast as Batman in the forthcoming Batman vs. Superman and second, that Miley Cyrus performed at the Video Music Awards last night.

As for the first. Holy shit, y'all...can you all just chill out for a few? I am only an amateur superhero fan. I know, outside of the various superhero films, a mere smattering. I've never sat down and straight up read a comic book (although I kind of want to read the new X-Files ones). So, the absolute fervor with which comic fans approach the film versions is outside the realm of my experience, but not beyond the realm of my understanding, because believe me when I say that I would be invested in the casting of the new Star Wars is an understatement. And to some degree, different, because beyond the Big 3, they're casting new characters. And Batman, well, he's a known quantity? But I think my problem with everyone's hyperbolic and hypercritical reaction is this...what exactly IS that quantity. I mean, obviously, the Batman/Bruce Wayne of the last decade is the extremely dark Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale creation. But it's not like there aren't any number of other versions. From the ultra-campy Adam West series of the 1960s through the three actors who inhabited the role in the late 80s and through the 90s, beginning with Michael Keaton in the Tim Burton-helmed Batman, which was dark, but weird dark, not DARK dark, in 1989 and then on to Bale. There are, in fact, different kinds of Batman. Or at least subtly different flavors.

And thus far, the only answers I've been able to glean as to what's wrong with Ben Affleck as Batman: "Daredevil sucked." Oh, yes. Yes, it did. It was awful. But it didn't fail because of Ben Affleck. It failed because it was a horribly written, hot mess of a movie. "Ben Affleck has a Boston accent." Yeah, except when he doesn't. Off the top of my head, I can name two completely non-Boston accents he's done, not to mention there are any number of roles where he's done Standard American. "He's just not Batman." Okay, how do we know that? Prior to his gig as the Caped Crusader, Michael Keaton's most famous roles were goofy, slap-sticky comedy--Mr. Mom, Gung Ho--or weird histrionic, albeit dark comedy like Beetlejuice, which may have led one to believe that he could play the Joker or the Riddler, but certainly not the Dark Knight. And I know that Christian Bale is super serious actor man. And I respect that. (I'm also a little terrified of the whole immersion in the character style of acting that he--and for that matter Heath Ledger--brought to this, because I think it's weird and in Ledger's case, dangerous. Method acting. It freaks me out, y'all.). But honestly, before his Batman run, I knew Bale from pretty much these things: American Psycho, Little Women, oh...and this:

Yep. That's Batman right there. (I never get tired of this particular bit of film past. I think that someone should have the full time job of following Christian Bale around and every time he acts like a pretentious douche, they should play this full volume on their iPad and say, "What was that, Jack Kelly?)

Really, of the four guys who've played the part since 1989, they've all been pretty different and the only one who I can really say was awful is George Clooney and like the whole Daredevil deal, I'm not sure that it's that Batman & Robin brings the massive levels of suck in and of itself. Of course, my personal favorite is, "I just don't like him." Okay, well, I just don't like Christian Bale with the tantrums and the grandiloquence and just...well, everything. But my preference for the two Tim Burton films aside, I think he was really good in the role. Different certainly, from Keaton, but good.'s what I think. I think that Affleck's really quite an excellent actor. I think that his resume is pretty varied, and I think that's good. I respect that rather than stick with one single genre he's kind of bounced around. That's WHY I think he's good. And in that eclectic resume, he has some truly outstanding performances, Chasing Amy, Hollywoodland and Argo probably being my top 3. I think he's handsome. Obviously, all the guys '89 and forward who've played Batman have been good-looking men. Bale and Kilmer are dark and intense hot. Clooney is...well, he's George Clooney. But I think that Affleck is in the Keaton line of All-American handsome. It's a matter of taste, of course, but I would guess that the consensus would be that at the least he's a decent looking chap. I cannot possibly guarantee that he's going to be phenomenal in the part. But there's nothing about him that says to me that he's NOT going to be. Now, he could very well prove me wrong. He could be worse than Clooney. This movie could be worse than Batman & Robin AND Daredevil. I just don't think it will be.

That means I'mma need everyone to relax. 'Cause we don't know what's going to happen. And freaking out until 2015 over this isn't good for you. Also, the internet petitions to get rid of Affleck? It makes you look like an obsessed weirdo. (This is coming from someone who admitted yesterday, on Facebook where people can see, that she's read not one, but ALL of the Star Wars nerd novels).

Which brings me to the more immediate Hollywood-related meltdown. And that's the one over the Miley Cyrus mess at the VMAs. People, I want you to think about something. You are in a tizzy because you think a pop princess performed a tasteless and raunchy number. AT THE MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS. Are you kidding me? Really....I feel like I"m being punk'd. Because the idea that people can actually claim shock at ANYTHING that happens at the VMAs is, at this juncture, ludicrous. If you're around my age, then I'm pretty sure that your first exposure to the VMAs, or at least the first that left a lasting impression was in 1984 and it was Madonna. In the wedding dress and the "Boy Toy" belt, writhing on the floor and humping the stage. Actually, I'm sure MANY of us, no matter our age, would start an answer to the question, "What's the most shocking thing you ever saw at the VMAs?" with "That time that Madonna..." (Or if you're a little younger, "That time that Britney...".).

So here are some truths: What Miley did was repulsive. But not for the reason you think. The reasons are these. First that there was absolutely no artistic merit to what happened on that stage. It was AWFUL. I mean really, really bad. Have you ever been to a truly heinous community theater production? You know, the kind where it's SO GODAWFUL that you cannot possibly look away because you might miss a millisecond of the horror. That's what it felt like. It wasn't music. It wasn't dance. It didn't have a message. It was completely incoherent. So there's that. But there was something that was even worse. It's something that I can understand intellectually, but cannot adequately express, so rather than just saying "It was racist and deliberately objectified women of color.", I'm going to direct you to this effing phenomenal piece which explains better than I ever could hope to do. Those are the reasons you should be offended by whatever the hell happened on Sunday night.

But that's not what 95% of the people who have gotten their knickers in a bind are talking about. What has pushed them all over the edge is the MORALITY. It's like America is Puritan Boston and Miley is Hester Prynne. She hasn't conformed to our beliefs and now she's gonna have to wear a big red letter. Or better yet, we'll make her have whole word "SLUT" tattooed on her forehead. Because that, to some extent, is what we're doing. We (general "we") are projecting OUR moral code on this young woman. We are slut shaming. And that is a practice that makes me absolutely LIVID. I have a friend, a really, really wise friend, who once told me that our morals shouldn't be delineated to us by society's expectations. He said that it's personal and that as long as it's not illegal or hurting someone else (hurting does not include offending their prissy-pants Puritanical sensibilities) it's a decision you have to make for yourself. Not one that you make for someone else or let someone else make for you.

I've also gotten a bunch of "Think of the children"-type arguments. THAT THE CHILDREN WATCHING IN THE LIVE AUDIENCE AND AT HOME ARE SCARRED. First, you have to be 16-or maybe 18--to attend that mess (if you're not some sort of Pinkett-Smith VIP). Second, I reiterate that panties, boobs, touching, foul language, simulated sexual activity and general weirdness are par for the VMA course. So if you're so damn worried about your Precious Sheltered Princess seeing that shit, then WHY are you letting them watch the VMAs in the first place?!? If you're worried about your own delicate, swooning self, then reach for the remote or dig your ass out of the couch cushions and change. the. channel. If the adults and almost adults in the audience want to be, as you say, "morally corrupted by watching PORN" well then that's our choice and I guess hell's awaiting. As for the related argument with regards to our darling bebes...and that argument is "But Miley Cyrus should be a role model." Uh, no. No she shouldn't. Let me give you some examples of role models: Helen Keller. Rosa Parks. Marie Curie. Pop stars and actresses, unless they are involved in some great philanthropic endeavor aren't role models. If they're good, by all means, aspire to be as talented a singer/actor/dancer, but they aren't guides as to the kind of person a kid wants to be. Some of them are awesome people, I'm sure. But conforming to a societal behavioral code isn't in Miley Cyrus's job description. If it ever was at all, her obligation to the youth of America as a role model ended the moment the Hannah Montana job did. If your kid is "tainted" by knowledge of the real life antics of their fave celeb, then you need to learn a sentence right now. That sentence is: "Different people have different expectations from themselves and their families about how they behave and at our house we don't behave like that." It's so easy.

And can we consider for a moment WHY Miley Cyrus did what she did? I don't think she's going off the rails a la LiLo or Amanda Bynes or even meltdown Britney. I don't think she's crazy. I think it's calculated (and also kind of brilliant, because the last thing you wanna be as a celebrity is the celebrity no one's talking about. So, you know, Miley? Mission accomplished.). Miley Cyrus spent years playing fresh-faced, slightly sassy Miley Stewart on Hannah Montana. And I think that because of that she was pigeon-holed into the "virgin" half of the FREAKING INSANE "virgin-whore" dichotomy that we, as a society, cling to so tightly. The minute she began to exhibit the barest HINT of her emerging sexuality (the prime example being her BARE BACK OMG THE SCANDAL in a Vanity Fair shoot when she was 15) everyone freaks right the hell out. Seriously. The pictures--taken by Annie Liebowitz, no less--showed NOTHING you wouldn't see in a bathing suit. Not a damn thing. And everyone goes to pieces to the point that she ended up apologizing and talking about how embarrassed she was. And everyone thinks that this is an a-okay message to send to both Miley and the young girls who knew about it? Being a little sexy IS NOT OKAY. SEX is not okay.

This girl is talented. I'm not a huge Miley fan or anything, but:

Holy shit! She's GOOD. But we didn't want even THAT. We wanted sugary, albeit annoyingly catchy, "Party in the USA". And I say this as an actor...she's not bad at that either. And despite the ranting of any number of people who don't know what they're talking about...she's not in the midst of some kind of Warholesque 15 minutes. At this point, she's had a career for something like a decade. So not so much a flash in the pan.

Everything that this girl has done that didn't comply with a rigid image--that of a perky, rah-rah Jesus, good girl--has been scrutinized, analyzed and criticized. Relentlessly. WE want her to be cute. WE want her to be sassy, but not too much. WE want her to wait for sex until she marries the boy next door. WE need to stop. Because in some ways WE made this.

We're the ones who think that it's, if not okay, then expected for Madonna, or Lady Gaga, or Britney/Christina to act like this. We're the ones who made sure that Miley knew that she couldn't. And misguided though that performance was (in more ways than one) we created the need in her to shock. We wouldn't let her grow at all. No bending of the mold for Miley. So she broke it. Loudly and forcefully.

1 comment:

Apeyk said...

Again. This is why I love you. I'm just gonna provide an all around, agreed.