Mamo #309: Mam o’ Steel

Sometimes, you just gotta call for a do-over. Unsatisfied with our first Man of Steel show, we return 2 days later to discuss ‘roid rage cinema, Christ allegories, and the future of the DCU. You know, like we do. We believe in Superman.

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    • I mentioned in that article but will also mention here, if anyone was disappointed in Man of Steal and was wondering if Superman can fit in the 21st world should check out “Superman vs the Elite”. I just rewatched it and it’s such a great Superman movie. It’s based off a Superman comic called “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way?”.

      Here’s a scene from earlier on in the movie, showing the differences between this new group called the Elite and Superman in regards to villians:
      It gets quite dark at times, but is also incredibly positive and uplifting, the way I think a Superman movie should be.

      The movie is only 74 minutes long and I imagine would have to be expanded if it was made into a live action movie. It’s really too bad that they didn’t go this way, as I think it would have been the great update to the Superman mythos.

  1. The first and last 10 minute rule definitely applies to my response to THIS IS THE END. While the second act of that film is a bit give or take, I absolutely LOVED the beginning and end of the film (i.e. the moments when the apocalypse is front and centre)

  2. So DC does have its SHIELD it is lead by this lady Amanda Waller and is called CHECKMATE. The major difference is that Checkmate isn’t “the good guys” like Shield is supposed to be.

    And if you want to see it in action look no further than Episodes 16-26 of Justice League Unlimited which for my money is the best representation of the DCU in action.

    I have always felt that the fact that the DC animated stuff was so successful as TV (not necessarily as toy producing cartoons). Is what has held the movies back since the best version of a lot of the stories the Live Action stuff wants to tell already exists.

    • I know of Amanda Waller & gang from the animated series, but I’m completely unaware of it’s history in comics. Amanda Waller & my understanding of Checkmate is definitely different than Shield. As they seem to be there to keep the Justice League in check in case they ever step out of line. Shield is to take these superheroes and try to use them together for their own joint purpose before anything like the Justice League or Avengers exists on their own.

      Definitely, the DC animated movies and tv were absolutely incredible and I would be incredibly surprised if DC every manages to surpass it with their live action movies. However, they had an incredibly long run, giving Bruce Timm and others time to fine tune their craft. 4 tv series over 12 years, so by the time Justice League Unlimited wrapped up they were really firing on all cylinders.

  3. I think you guys are a bit out of touch with the modern young person. This movie has nothing content wise in terms of nihilism or brutality on the tent pole video game releases. Also kids always want the weird violent off kilter stuff that they are told is not for them. In some ways I think this movie plays it to safe to appeal to kids.

    • In the last 30 years kids went from playing Super Mario Bros to Call of Duty.

      It is almost disturbing how much violence kids are exposed to and even more disturbing how most parents are either clueless or apathetic.

      The ESRB rating system is a joke. Even though M rated games say 17+, I’m sure there’s not a single person in the world who waited until they reached that age (even I played M rated games underage).

      • It’s not the violence I’m worried about, it’s the utter stupidity and lack of critical thinking that worries me. CONSUME. CONSUME. CONSUME.

        When the chief compliment of most modern movies is “well it wasnt’ terrible…” Houston, we have a problem.

        • ‘When the chief compliment of most modern movies is “well it wasnt’ terrible…” Houston, we have a problem.’

          Houston, we really have a problem. The last couple of years has been amazingly shitty when it comes to the quality of most films released.

        • Agreed Kurt. The lack of critical thinking is the key. Everything is consumed without prejudice. And if you blink and take a moment to question what you and those around you are consuming, you’re viewed as an outcast.

      • What an amazingly ignorant and bigoted comment. Did you just reduce “most parents” to a ridiculous stereotype? Please, let’s hear your views on “most blacks” or “most gays”.

        I don’t know a single parent who doesn’t have strong and well informed feelings regarding what media their children consume. It’s perfectly possible to be well informed and to decide that for your child violent games are not a concern – in my own case my child is very well aware of the difference between fantasy and reality, and can articulate quite eloquently on why the games he plays have nothing to do with his behaviour in the real world.

        There are certainly negligent parents, uninterested and ignorant regarding their children’s daily lives, but that’s hardly reason enough to leap to “most”, or even to characterize it as some kind of general problem.

        You may be surprised to learn this, Sean, but violent, desensitized individuals actually existed prior to video games.

        • My nephew is one of the most well-adjusted, decent teenagers I know and he plays all sorts of violent games.

          I would go the McLuhan route on this (because I am reading it presently) and say it is less the content so much as the medium changing our behavior. “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us”… the acceleration of social networking, the 24/7 immediacy of information, the manner in which these things impede on our focus on one thing and encourage multitasking, encourage streamlining not just content but nuance, that can then bleed over to how we react with other people in the real world, a nervous needing to check your phone, a sense something is happening elsewhere and you are not a part of it… that is where is the change is happening less so than the content of the games.

          Desensitized violent people can come from so little as not being loved, not being shown affection, or not having an outlet to sufficiently release pressure (something I think games may actually serve to benefit). In capitalist society, you are already halfway there, being treated as a consumer in need of having your pockets lightened, going to extreme ends to coax you into that role with relentless advertising of a sometimes sophisticated degree. Keeping you envious, materialistic, prideful, competitive.

          • I would say there is a distinction be made between games causing desensitization to violence and making players violent. There could be a case for the former, I don’t know. Well yeah I guess I do know, I would say from exposure to violent movies, my capacity to process violence in the real world has been skewed. Didn’t we all stare blankly at the Twin Towers falling in a daze thinking how like a movie this all felt? That is an extreme example, but while I am not going Grand Theft Auto on the world, I think I am probably less squeamish about violent acts I hear about being done in the world because of this saturation of experiences available via movies. It takes more to stir my emotions than it probably would have had I been living in the media culture of the 1950’s.

            Sean, in his comment never made the jump to that violent games = violent kids, only that there is an ethical question of doing so. I would say saturation of violence from all media forms will naturally wear your sensitivity down and maybe that isn’t a good thing, maybe it is, maybe it allows you to get beyond the kneejerk reaction to things and think clearer about its impact. A surgeon sees a lot of blood, a lot of open bodies, and they get beyond the gore from exposure to better do their jobs.

          • @Marc

            I am kind of with you Marc. I have never been much of a gore-hound to begin with, and I choose dramas over violent horror films in general.

            as to your question:

            “exactly how essential is violence to illuminating the human condition if so few of us have actually encountered serious forms of it with our own eyes?”

            our whole existence is bound by violence, because we all know we are going to die, and worse is the anxiety because none of us know in what way (imagine a world where we were all guaranteed an easy death in our sleep, how less of a crisis our lives would be). I get the obsession with violence because of this existential fact, and a lot of games and movies try to subvert this anxiety by making a pageant of it (think of how many religious rituals do the same thing), as if whispering in our ears “fuck death, you are in control, you can do anything, show your power by stomping the world around you” and we tend to eat it up. And it is a release valve that way… a way to cope. Comedy likewise is a release valve and Tarantino movies are ways of confronting death through laughter.

            My worry though is at what point we become like the REM lyric “Irony is the shackles of youth”… we laugh, we make pageants of our momentary (deluded) dominance, we thicken our skins, and maybe there is a point when it stops being a release, starts being a behavioral shift. Look into the abyss long enough…

            Personally I have enough problems, severe existential angst, that may have come from what I read, what I watch, how I have identified in life, but the angst exists because there is some friction, some sense of value, some ethics in play, and I don’t feel in a position to say whether it is wrong to have that agitation. It would be worse to be sheltered from everything that hurts, that challenges, that provokes.
            To drop my second Nietzsche half-reference in one comment: what doesn’t kill you…

          • Dammit rot, you beat me to it! I wanted to say that! B-)

            As for video games, my son (almost 13) has played a sizable number of ‘M’ games. And for each one, he puts forward his case as to why he would like to buy it and why he feels it is appropriate for him. We do our own research on it and if we agree that he can buy it, we watch and or play it a bit with him. There are several games where we’ve said ‘No’, but also quite a few where we’ve agreed. And the reason is simple: we know our own child.

            I’m not saying were the best parents ever, but I think the important thing is to help them put things into context, be open to anything they want to ask you and, you know, talk to them. If you don’t, then I think that’s a much bigger risk than any video game or R rated movie.

            Just like it’s too easy to blame violent games or violent movies for random acts or “what’s happening with our kids today”, it’s also way too easy to blame “the parents”. Are there bad parents out there? For damn sure. But there’s no way you can make any kind of blanket statement about parenting.

            As they always say, no generalization is worth a damn…

          • My wife is absolutely opposed to our son ever playing violent games. period. He cannot even play with toy guns. I think that is pretty extreme.

            I got a Play Station smuggled into the house on the pretense I would be playing it without him and that I was in for the mystery storytelling LA Noire angle, which to be honest is the stuff I want to play. I am not all that interested in first person shoot-em ups, it seems boring to me.

          • I’m not much of a video game player these days (I spent many a quarter in the arcade in my youth though), but the first person shooters don’t do much for me either…The one game that really grabbed my attention was something called “Limbo” which is beautifully spooky and actually kinda disturbing and compelled me to come back to it until I finally managed to help the lost little boy escape (you couldn’t wait to get past one obstacle to see what the next would be). It’s also a fine example to counter Ebert’s old assertion that video games couldn’t be art – his arguments fall to the floor against this game.

            We’re lucky in that our son likes a variety of games – from Mario Kart (which is actually incredibly fun) to the shooters to the puzzles to espionage games to free world roaming games, etc. As long as he balances it out with actual interaction with his friends, physical activity outside and other activities, I think it’s great that he has a passion for it (I love how excited he gets when he tells me about a new upcoming release…) and it even drove us to build a PC together which I think was a good learning exercise (for both of us).

          • Limbo, the B&W game, I heard of that, looks awesome. I am excited to delve in as a complete newbie to the gaming world (well since SuperNES). First game purchased in Heavy Rain.

          • I was about to buy Red Dead but it was being sold as $19 regular, $29 for the extra zombie edition and wanted some advice first, is it worth getting the deluxe?

          • Not really. I played the zombie thing for a while and kind of got bored with it. Just get regular. If you want the zombie thing later you can always download it for ten bucks.

        • Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. It was incorrect of me to make generalizations like that (especially since I consider myself to be a quite liberal person).

          I guess I just look back at my own childhood and consider it more “innocent” than today’s youth. Of course, I had somewhat strict parents, who would give me hell whenever I rented a violent videogame (especially if I exposed my younger brother to it).

          • Sean, if no one posited anything controversial, anything against the grain, there would be no conversation. I disagree with Bob, generalizations are what get people talking and are worth a damn.

          • Well, to be fair, I didn’t state the rest of that saying which in full is: “Generalizations aren’t worth a damn – including this one.”

            I agree with you in that they are great places to begin discussion (so in that sense they are useful), but you have to be aware of what they are and that they can, if used improperly, limit our thinking.

          • I remember buying Resident Evil 4 for Gamecube (which was the first M rated game I bought for a console) and my mom assumed that it was my, then 14 year old, brother who bought the game and gave me hell for “letting him buy it.”

            Of course, by the time we got an X-Box 360, my brother was old enough for my mom to not worry as much about the games we played and the vast majority of games I own for that system are M rated.

  4. rot – I can certainly see your point – addressing death and violence in films is a way to explore a dark, mysterious side of our existence that, whether we’re aware of it or not, does indeed have a role to play in our lives. It’s understandable that filmmakers would be compelled to use it and viewers drawn to it whether for relief or simple curiosity about this mysterious subject. But what disturbs me is the sheer excess of these explorations of violence and, again, utter lack of a moral core to so many of them. As you say, there have to be some ethics involved.

    • Yeah there is a lot of nihilistic violence. In some cases though it may be used in order to evoke a moral response from the viewer… like Robocop… how devoid of morality that world is is meant to make you stop a second and think what a world without ethics looks like and how important they are, how you want the hero to overcome this nightmare scenario.

      I get the feeling Von Trier also uses violence to make the audience uncomfortable with it, not to celebrate but to channel some kind of response… not condoning rape (or Hitler for that matter) but to make it uncomfortable enough that you feel that ethical trigger.

      I am fine with these kind of indulgences if they seem to be made to stoke our disgust… not really violence, but I think the movie Closer does the same thing in the realm of romantic dramas, showing us a world devoid of love, so hateful and empty, and mechanical and glossy veneer like a pop song, and it is meant to make you realize the importance of what is lacking. In the Renaissance Morality plays of this kind were popular, indulging in the vices, titillating the audience so as to trigger a direct confrontation with values.


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