Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sandwiches

I love sandwiches.  They are possibly the greatest food item ever invented.  Think about it.  So simple, yet so beautiful.  Two slices of bread.  That's the only rule.  You can put whatever you want in-between.  It is the ultimate in customizable foodstuffs.  Sandwiches are the Open-Source Food Item.

Okay.  Example time.  I've been currently having a secret love affair with avocado and turkey.  Without the sandwich, how would I combine these two items?  I can assure you, it would be gross.  Trying to spread avocado all over a whole turkey (the sliced lunchmeat industry would surely be nonexistent without sandwiches) would really suck.  Yet the sandwich gives us the perfect excuse to combine the two flavors without hassle.

And here we come to another main point.  Combinations.  Sandwiches are all about combinations.  What sorts of things would go good together?  What tastes will combine most effectively in our mouths to create maximum enjoyment?  These are the questions that every good sandwich maker must ask themselves.  How much mayonnaise is too much?  Salami or no salami?  Questions like these are of the utmost importance in sandwich preparation.

The incredible diversity in sandwiches is both beautiful and overwhelming.  As in music, the possibilities are endless.  In fact, I'm going to carry on the music metaphor just a little bit longer, to show you how much I love sandwiches.  A sandwich is a grand symphony.  All the different parts come together to create a truly beautiful complete piece.  Sure, you might love listening to a cellist, and you might love eating roast beef.  But when the violins join in with the cellos, the highs and lows contrast each other, dance around each other even, like a delicious slice of roast beef combined with a fresh, ripe tomato.  Then you have the second violins, the violas, the basses, the brass, the winds:  all coming together to create something much more magnificent and awe-inspiring than any of them would be solo.  The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.  That's how I feel about sandwiches.

So, next time you eat a burger, a meatball sub, an egg salad sandwich, a peanut butter and jelly, a BLT, a grilled-cheese, or any of an infinite number of sandwich possibilities, stop for a minute and think.  Would Harrison enjoy this sandwich more?  The answer is, of course, yes.  Go find and give me the sandwich.

Final Thoughs:

  • I really do like the analogy to open source software.  You can really do whatever you want with it, with no corporation or governing body to tell you what to do.  Sandwiches are the ultimate way to stick it to the man.
  • Interestingly, I don't like bacon by itself.  I've tried many times to like it.  I know that it's normal to like bacon.  I just don't like it.  Yet, when it's on a sandwich, it's one of my favorite things.  Isn't that weird?
  • I wonder who invented the sandwich.  There's probably a story there.  Anyone who feels like finding out the history of the sandwich should feel free to post it in the comment section.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lorne - Not Easy Being Green

Angel was always a pretty dark series.  From the very first episode, it established an entirely different tone than Buffy, sometimes to the point where it felt like they didn't even exist in the same universe anymore.  (Something I'm sure I will talk more about later.)  Buffy, in it's darkest moments, never reached the level of Angel's status quo of dark.  The tragic final episodes of season three particularly come to mind.

In a world that seemed so gloomy so much of the time, there needed to be something to lighten the mood every once in a while.  Lorne, of course.  Almost always bright and cheerful, Lorne gave a perfect amount of lightness to a show that, for the most part, was pretty dreary.

Of course, Lorne's story wasn't always handled well, and I feel like his character took quite a few misteps.  It really seems as though the writers honestly didn't know what to do with him.  He was too popular to get rid of, and yet too odd to really fit into the story they were making.  But I'll get to that in a moment.  First, let's start with his introduction.

Lorne is first introduced as the host of a demon-karaoke bar, Caritas (latin for charity) in the first episode of Season Two.  He plays a very interesting role in this season, and I honestly feel like Season Two is his strongest season.  He is essentially a plot device, there to keep Angel on his path.  By reading his aura, Lorne can tell whether Angel is doing what he should be doing, according to the Powers that Be.  This is extremely important in this season, as the main plot arc is about Angel abandoning the ideals and principles he's always stood for, and very much going off his path.  In his single minded obsession with destroying Wolfram & Hart and evil in general, Angel forgets what really matters: helping the helpless.  He spirals out of control in a self destructive vendetta, that ultimately leads nowhere, because, as Holland Manners points out, evil endures and can never be truly destroyed.

Lorne, then, has a very clear purpose in Season Two.  His job is point out that Angel is going about things the wrong way and is definitely not on the right path.  Many times throughout the beginning of the season, Lorne warns Angel that if he keeps doing things the way he's doing them, some bad stuff is going to go down.  Of course, Angel ignores his advice and ultimately ends up regretting his actions.  Lorne essentially gives us a way to examine Angel's actions and is someone who is very able to point out what he is doing wrong.  This is, in my opinion, a brilliant way to highlight exactly why Angel's vendetta is a bad thing.

The other simple fact is the Lorne is such a fun character to watch.  He and Angel have fantastic chemistry together, and their interaction is definitely the high point of Happy Anniversary (2x13), an otherwise forgettable episode.  His charming antics are very disarming of Angel, and are a perfect way to lighten up an otherwise dark storyline.

Because Lorne's character was so charming, he was bound to become more than a bit player in the show.  By giving him such an important role and such a great personality, the writers basically made him a recurring character.  Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of depth.  For most of the season, Lorne is little more than a device for conveying the idea that Angel has lost his way.  This is a fine place for a bit character to be.  But as Lorne gets more and more screen time, the less justification there can be for his two-dimensionality.  So the writers were faced with a choice: get rid of Lorne or develop him into a character that is more than a simple device.  Because of his popularity, they went with the second option.  Thus we have his very close ties to the Pylea arc.

The Pylea arc isn't just about Lorne.  It is one of my favorite parts of the series for the reason that it is very reflective of the ideas of the season it closes.  Through the world of Pylea, we can examine Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, and Gunn all in a new light, and give new perspective on the rest of Season Two.  However, it also serves the function of really developing Lorne into a full fledged character, by giving him an interesting back story and a family life.

As a result of the Pylea story, we learn quite a lot about Lorne.  Unlike the rest of his family and species, Lorne is peace-loving.  He loves music and hates violence, the exact opposite of everyone he ever grew up with.  However, he isn't a coward, and believes in doing the right thing, but would much rather live and let live than fight.  Unlike his Pylean brethren, he's a lover, not a fighter.  He doesn't belong in Pylea. He belongs in our world, where he can be who he wants to be: a peaceful person.  As Lorne says at the conclusion of the Pylea story:
My psychic friend told me I had to come back here.  I didn't believe her.  Then I realized I did have to come back here, because - I really always thought I had to come back here, deep down inside, you know?  I had to come back here to find out I didn't have to come back here.  I don't belong here.  I hate it here.  You know where I belong?  LA.  You know why?  Nobody belongs there.  It's the perfect place for guys like us.
So now Lorne has some character.  He keeps a fairly predominant role in Season Three, although not a whole lot is done with him.  Unfortunately, Caritas is destroyed at the end of Season Two, and his efforts at reconstruction are constantly ruined by Angel and co.  This actually saddens me quite a bit.  I think that Caritas was probably the best place for Lorne to be.  He got to do all of the things that he loved: helping people find their path in life, sing, and drink.  He was happy there.  Part of me wishes he'd remained at Caritas, but alas, the fates (writers) stepped in and dragged him into the epic battle between good and evil that is constantly waged by the Fang Gang.  In the process, he loses a lot of the nuance and great qualities of Season Two Lorne.  As fun as his character is to watch, he feels aimless and purposeless without Caritas.  The grand battles and epic showdowns of Seasons Three and Four really don't suit him, and it's very obvious he is out of place.  However, as I said in the beginning, his presence is still very welcome, simply for the fact that he brings such an upbeat quality to the dark happenings, and also because he is so much fun to watch.

One of the things that saddens me most about this is the missed opportunities.  They could have done so much with Lorne.  It's clear that Caritas is where he belonged.  Without it, he is clearly aimless.  The thing is, though, they could have made a story out of that.  A man who sets people on his path yet has lost his path himself.  I feel like there is loads of potential in that.  Yet they ignored it.  Instead, they have Lorne stick around for little to no reason at all, and essentially use him as a cheap plot device whenever they need to know something.  He goes from being a person who helps people find their purpose in life to little more than a human (well, demon) lie detector.  It's disappointing, really.

Then we come to Season Five.  I have to admit, the writers tried.  They really tried to make Lorne fit in.  Essentially, Season Five of AtS was a brand new show.  So they had a perfect opportunity to finally find an interesting place for Lorne.  Unfortunately, I would say that, for the most part, they failed.  For most of the Season, Lorne just seems to be useless.  They set him up as head of Wolfram & Hart's entertainment division, and I struggle to care about anything he does for much of the season.  It is very clear that the writers are far more interested in Spike, Gunn, and Wesley than they are in Lorne.  While I love those characters, I can't help but feel like Lorne kind of gets a little shafted.  Especially considering that Season Two Lorne would NOT be doing any of this.  It is very clear that Wolfram & Hart is the wrong place for them all, and it is no doubt not what The Powers want.  So why doesn't Lorne speak up during all of this.  Angel is having a crisis of faith that rivals his Season Two crisis, and this time Lorne isn't there to tell him he's not on his path anymore.  Cordelia eventually puts him on his path, not Lorne.  This all would be fine if they justified it: if they explained WHY Lorne isn't on his path anymore, or at least called attention to it.  But for most of Season Five, these issues are mostly ignored.

However, they finally started to address these problems at the end of the season.  When Fred is killed, Lorne is very shaken, perhaps moreso than anyone besides Wesley.  He starts drinking quite a lot and is just generally not his happy-go-lucky self much after that, even going so far as to threaten Eve.  By the final episode, he has realized that he isn't where he needs to be.  This has been true for several seasons at this point, but I'm glad that they finally acknowledge it here.  The way he chooses to spend his last day on earth breaks my heart.  He sings about how beautiful the world would be if he ruled it, and you can just see how lost he is in that scene.  As late as this revelation is, I'm so glad it happened, and it really is quite moving.  Here is a man who has only ever wanted peace: to live in the world and let others live and be happy.  Yet, he has seen far more violence and felt far more pain than he deserved.  As Lorne says in the final episode:
Hey, Angel, uh, I'll do this last thing for you--for us--but then I'm out, and you won't find me in the alley afterwards.  Hell, you won't find me at all.  Do me a favor.  Don't try.
Angel asks Lorne to kill Lindsey, and I honestly hate Angel for asking.  What a horrible thing to ask of him.  Lorne doesn't deserve that, and he shouldn't have to be a murderer.  Out of all the characters on Angel, I think Lorne got the most tragic ending.  I realize that people will cry out about Wesley and how tragic his death his.  I agree, Wesley's death is tragic.  But Lorne ends the series a hollow shell of the man he once was.  Everything he believes in is gone and he has been forced to do things he should never have had to do.  He was a peaceful man, and didn't deserve to be placed in such a horrible position.  Wesley lost his life, but Lorne lost his spirit.

LINDSEY: You really done with them?
LORNE: It isn't my kind of work anymore. It's unsavory.
LINDSEY: Gee, I think it's just getting interesting.
LORNE: Yeah, I bet you do.
LINDSEY: You don't trust me. You don't think a man can change?
LORNE: It's not about what I think. This was Angel's plan. 
LINDSEY: Come on. I could sing for you.
LORNE: I've heard you sing. (takes out a gun with a silencer and shoots Lindsey twice in the chest)
LINDSEY: (stumbling back, looking at his wounds, then at Lorne) Why—why did you...
LORNE: One last job. You're not part of the solution, Lindsey. You never will be.
LINDSEY: You kill me? A flunky?! I'm not just... Angel...kills me. You don't... Angel... (his rapid breathing comes to an end as his body goes limp)
LORNE: Good night, folks. (drops gun on floor as he walks out)
Thankfully, for us and for Lorne, the story doesn't end there.  The official continuation of AtS, Angel: After the Fall, brings Lorne back.  Beautifully written by Brian Lynch, I gladly accept it as canon (I can speak less for the Post-AtF stories.)

In Angel: After the Fall, Lorne plays a small but important part.  When Los Angeles is sent to hell, Lorne walks the streets, miserable and lost after killing Lindsey.  But when he comes across a group of humans fighting back against the demons, he is inspired and decides to help them.  He then become Lord of Silverlake, the only happy place in Hell-A.  With his influence, Silverlake is peaceful and free of the horrible things that are happening in the rest of the city.  He is happy again.  He has essentially created another Caritas and is finally where he belongs: a happy place, free from violence and pain, where he can help people.

Of course, Lorne doesn't stay uninvolved for long.  Angel is working hard to free Los Angeles from the grip of Wolfram & Hart, and he's going to need help from everyone.  For his part, Angel doesn't come to Lorne.  He respects that Lorne doesn't deserve to be mixed up in all of that.  Instead, Lorne sends for Angel, and manages to help him out in a critical time.

So Lorne's story ends happily.  He has found his path.

Final Thought:

  • Andy Hallet.  What can be said?  His heartfelt and beautiful performance as Lorne is what drew me to the character and I always enjoyed him.  He brought so much fantastic energy to the show, and it was clear from his first episode that he would become a fan favorite.  His subtle performance in the final episode was very affecting for me, and, as much as I feel the writers didn't know what to do with his character, I can't imagine the show without him.  From all accounts, he was a very kind and generous person.  He will be missed.  RIP

Friday, September 24, 2010

Paul Ballard - Deconstructing the Hero

One of the predominant themes of Dollhouse is the idea that everyone uses people.  We all use other people to achieve our goals or to make us feel better about ourselves.  Everyone has a fantasy, something they need to survive, and most people will walk over other people to get it.  The interesting thing about this idea is that it is not necessarily something we do maliciously or even consciously.  The human mind, for the most part, is simply designed to think of the self first.  We don't do it out of evil or any idea of worthiness.  It's just how we're programmed.  We all use people, whether we mean to or not and whether we realize it or not.

So, in a world where people are ultimately selfish and acting toward their own agendas more or less constantly, how can there be a hero who, by definition, should be selfless?  Can there even be a hero in this kind of world?  The answer to this question is the character of Paul Ballard.

The idea of a flawed hero is not new.  For quite some time now, the standard hero in fiction has been someone deeply flawed, who manages to overcome those flaws in the name of the greater good, the idea of justice, or any one of a number of lofty ideals.  Paul Ballard, though, is something different.  He's not just flawed; he's completely f**ed up! And he doesn't so much overcome his flaws as his flaws overcome him.

In the very first episode, it is made very clear that Ballard is the 'hero' of the story.  His goal is to bring down the Dollhouse, because he believes that using people is wrong.  He sees the Dollhouse as nothing more than high tech slavery.  For the most part, the audience tends to agree.  (Although, as our perspective is much broader than Paul's, we are able to see the nuance of subtlety that throws the Dollhouse into much grayer territory than Paul realizes.)  But for the most part, it's pretty standard stuff.  Few would disagree that slavery is bad.  Paul looks at the Dollhouse and sees something to be stopped.  The good guy trying to do the right thing.

Except... is he really?  Why does he want to destroy the Dollhouse?  Is it a selfless desire to do the right thing no matter the cost to him (as we've come to expect from our heroes)?  Or is it something more sinister?  Maybe Paul wants to destroy the Dollhouse, not for any selfless reason, but because of an ultimately selfish desire.  Is he the hero because he wants to do the right thing, or does he do the right thing because he wants to be the hero?

Enter Caroline.  The girl Paul doesn't even know.  He takes it upon himself to save her, no matter what.  But he doesn't want to save her because it's the right thing to do.  He wants to save her because he needs to be a hero.  He becomes obsessed with Caroline.  Not the real Caroline, he doesn't know her.  He becomes obsessed with what she represents.  She is the damsel in distress and he is the white knight who will save her.  So ultimately, saving Caroline and being a hero is Ballard's fantasy.  The single-minded obsession that drives every one of his actions.  Of course he tells himself that this isn't the case.  He lies to himself and says that his intentions are good.  But underneath his selfless exterior is hidden a selfish fantasy.  In this way, he is no different than any of the Dollhouse's clients that he considers his enemies.

Man on the Street (1x06) is a pivotal episode in this regard.  In that episode, there is a very telling conversation that takes place between Paul and Joel Myner (Patton Oswalt), a Dollhouse client, where Joel basically says that Paul is no better than he is and might even be worse.
Mynor: No, no, you have a fantasy. We all do. We need it to survive, and I think your fantasy is about my Rebecca. 
Paul: Her name is Caroline.
Mynor: Right.
Paul: A few years ago, she was a student, and then she had her identity ripped from her so she could play love slave to every loser with a wad of cash.
Mynor: But then the brave little FBI agent whisked her away from the cash-wielding losers and restored her true identity, and she fell in love with him.
Paul: It doesn't go like that.
Mynor: I saw how you were with her. It was-- it was almost cute.
Paul: We're not here to talk about me.
Mynor: Hey, I don't have to be here at all. I mean, you're not going to arrest me. Pretty sure you're not going to kill me, so... if we're going to talk, we're both going to talk. I mean, she, she changed things for you. So you're the head of this FBI task force to uncover the Dollhouse, and you're working hard, you're chasing leads, you're cracking skulls, but it's just work. And then you meet this girl or you... you see her somewhere, huh? Caroline? And suddenly... it gets personal. Tell me you haven't thought about it. You know, her, her grateful tears, her, her welcoming embrace, her warm breath. Are you married?
Paul: Was.
Mynor: Oh, that's... Is there someone in your life right now?
Paul: This is getting old.
Mynor: Of course not. No, there's no room for a real girl, is there, when you can feel Caroline beckoning? You know, I have to say.  I think your fantasy is even sadder than mine.
Of course, Mynor is completely right about Paul.  Paul isn't a hero.  He is a sad man who has a sad fantasy about saving a girl he's never even met, and he is in complete denial of that fact.  Yet, something about what Mynor says strikes a chord.  So Paul feels the need to prove him wrong.  Prove that he does have a life outside of his fantasy.  So what does he do?  He goes immediately home and sleeps with Mellie.  By sleeping with Mellie he thinks that he is proving Mynor wrong, proving that he does leave in the real world.  And yet, in trying to prove him wrong, he ends up proving him right.  He doesn't love Mellie.  He uses her, as we all use people, to fulfill a need he has.  Specifically, the need to be righteous. He doesn't want to accept that he isn't after the Dollhouse in the name of justice and the greater good of all mankind, but instead because he needs to play the part of the hero.

So the ultimate question that is posed by Paul Ballard is whether a true hero can really exist in a world as overwhelmingly self motivated as ours?  Or are our heroes doomed to be deeply flawed glory seekers, desperate to fulfill some pathetic need to be good?  Does it even matter why a hero is a hero?  Perhaps the mere fact that they do good things makes them a hero, regardless of whether that desire arises from a place of selfishness or selflessness.  Maybe to expect selflessness is too much, and we should settle for positive-minded selfishness.

Of course, Paul Ballard's story isn't over in Season One.  In a way, it is only the beginning of his character's journey.  At the end of Season One, Paul infiltrates the Dollhouse, and he spends much of Season Two being forced to adjust his worldview according to what he learns in the belly of the beast  (Much like Angel in Season 5 of AtS).  But, seeing as I don't have Season Two on DVD yet, and am not confident in my ability to remember it in any kind of ordered manner, I will not discuss Season Two yet.  But when I feel like it, I will no doubt write a follow up to this.

Closing Thoughts:

  • I love that Mellie turns out to be a doll.  It puts Paul's using of her into much sharper relief.  One of my favorite moments in the series is when he knows she's a doll and sleeps with her anyway.  Afterwards, he is in the shower and she asks if he is going to go looking for more Dollhouse clients.  He says, in a moment of beautiful self-realization, "I've found one."
  • One of the major problems with Season One of Dollhouse, narratively, is Paul's story.  Because we, the audience, know so much more about the Dollhouse than Paul does, his search for it tends to become pretty dull at times.  This is very unfortunate, as thematically, his story is one of my favorite parts of season one.  It's disappointing that this couldn't work equally well thematically and narratively.  Of course, it does finally pick up pace at the end (who could ever forget the buddy-cop duo of Alpha and Paul?)
  • As great a character he was, Paul was never a very good FBI agent.  For one thing, he sucked at making people like him.  Even I was put off by him at first.  He seemed to have one friend at work, and even she didn't seem very enthused whenever he came to her for help.  Considering how early they had him get fired from the FBI, part of me wonders why they even bothered having him work there at all.  Of course, without that, we would never have gotten all of those amazing moments with Mark Shephard.
  • Speaking of Paul being fired from the FBI, did anyone else think it was really funny how often he claimed he was from the FBI after that?  It was almost a running gag.  He was essentially a vigilante, but he kept flashing a badge and seeming all official.  I just thought that was funny.
  • I really like Tahmoh Penikett.  I think he was one of the better actors on the show.  (Not as good as Enver Gjokaj, but comparing anyone to Enver is unfair.)  I look forward to seeing him in Battlestar Galactica whenever I get around to watching it.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hammocks

I've had a recent realization about myself.  Profound and interesting, I think.  For whatever reason, in my mind, I equate hammocks with happiness.

I'm not entirely sure why this would be.  All I know is that I have had this mental association since I was a small child.  Part of me honestly believes that I will never be truly happy until I have a hammock.  So my entire life thus far has been pre-hammock.  That's why it has been so up and down in terms of quality.  But once I have a hammock, things will even out; life will be good.

This is actually a little stressful for me (a shining example of me being overly high-strung.)  In addition to the part of my brain that is awaiting the happy life of hammock enjoyment, there is another part of my brain that is terrified that having a hammock won't be all it's cracked up to be.  What if I am disappointed in the hammock-lifestyle?  I have built it up quite a bit in my brain.  What if it's just alright, but doesn't live up to my high expectations?  Could I continue on, knowing that my one concept of happiness is a lie?

So, I've decided that I am not just going to go out and get a hammock.  (Sounds tempting, though.)  Instead, I am going to wait for my life to become really awesome and THEN get a hammock.  And I will retroactively attribute the awesomeness of my life to the hammock.  This sounds like a good plan.  There is only one flaw.  What if my life doesn't ever become really awesome?  I don't have an answer for this.  It might not.  But I think it is a lot better to go through life hoping for an awesome-hammock-life than to have no hope at all.  So there we are.

PS.  I've recently realized another deeply held belief of mine.  For whatever reason, when anybody in a movie or TV show introduces themselves as being from Scotland Yard, I immediately trust them.  I don't know why, but it feels like a childhood thing.  It might be the accent combined with the air of authority.  Part of me kind of wants to start introducing myself as Harrison Cooper, Scotland Yard.  Actually... I might just start doing that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

V for Vendetta

"Remember, remember
The fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
why the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot." 
I have just recently begun reading V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and pencilled by David Lloyd.  I'm going to admit right now that I have broken one of my rules: always read the source material before seeing any adaptations.  I regret to say that I have already seen the movie version.  However, it was a while ago and I don't remember it too well.  I am trying to clear it from my mind as I read, but it seems that the more I read, the more of the movie comes back to me.  We will see how that goes.
Again, I have only just started reading V for Vendetta, and haven't gotten too into it yet.  Before I get into my thoughts about the beginning, however, I want to explain my position before reading.

I have ambivalent feelings towards Alan Moore.  I admit that he is a brilliant storyteller (if a little crazy), but I also kind of hold him partially responsible for bringing on the dark age of comics.  Watchmen, an admittedly brilliant deconstruction of the superhero comic, was really one of the main catalysts that brought about a new era in superhero comics that, in my humble opinion, sucked hard.  The idea that to be a superhero, you had to be dark and edgy for no real interesting reason, carry a gun bigger than your head, kill people without a second thought, and have random crazy sex with everyone.  Okay, I'll admit that after typing that all out, it does sound kind of cool.  But it really, really wasn't.  Comic book writers after Moore took the only thing that was easily imitated about Watchmen (the dark tone), and didn't bother to justify the dark tone with the intelligent and thought-provoking story that Watchmen had.  So instead they created scores of useless, two-dimensional characters that were frankly an abomination against superheroes, comic books, and good storytelling.  (Although, I suppose it wasn't a complete waste.  The Dark Age did give us Deadpool.)

I realize it's unfair to blame the entirety of The Dark Age on Alan Moore.  After all, he was a prominent figure at the time, but he wasn't the only one.  Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns is also commonly cited as particularly influential in beginning The Dark Age.  Also, whatever his work eventually led to in the larger world of comic books, he still told amazing stories.  So, I'm probably just a bit too hard on Alan Moore.  But he's a creepy recluse, so I'm sure he doesn't mind.

Up until now, the only work I have read by Alan Moore is Watchmen, which I admit is brilliant.  Potentially overrated, but still a very good book.  I don't think that Watchmen represents the be-all-end-all of comic books.  Yet I still enjoyed it very much and am therefore excited to read V.  However, V for Vendetta was written quite some time before Watchmen, and I am therefore interested to see how Moore changed as a storyteller between his two (arguably) most influential books.

So, unfortunately, I am not reading V in a vacuum.  I am both remembering the film version and comparing it to Watchmen.  So, with that in mind, here we go.

My immediate reaction is the similarities between the character of V and the character of Rorschach from Watchmen.  Both are men who hide behind a mask, not to conceal a civilian identity so much as to become something more than themselves.  By wearing masks, both V and Rorschach cease to be human and become something larger: a symbol.  (I seem to remember that V is horribly disfigured under there, so obviously there is a more practical reason for the mask, but that is of course not the entire reason.)  The difference in masks is telling.  V wears a Guy Fawkes mask, while Rorschach's mask is a flowing inkblot.  The Guy Fawkes mask is of course a symbol of rebellion and anarchy, while the Rorschach mask is more reflective; different people see different things.  So there are definite similarities between these two characters.  I have a feeling that Moore really likes the idea of a mask becoming someone's true face.

Rorschach's story, though, seems to be that a man cannot be a true symbol.  Eventually, the mask will come off, and the human flaws and horrific memories underneath will be exposed.  We live in a world where things are not black in white.  In such a world, a symbol will always be torn down, because people who try to hold up specific ideals and values always turn out to be fallible and weak in the end.  Rorschach himself is a symbol that gets torn down at the end of Watchmen.  He believes so strongly in this system of warped ideals he has constructed that he must act, even when he knows it is hopeless and possibly even the wrong thing to do.  So he commits suicide-by-Manhattan.  Rorschach can't bear to live in a world that isn't black and white, and as soon as he sees that his ideals don't fit every situation in a simple matter, he self-destructs.

Whether this idea will come up in V, I can't say.  I see the beginnings of that idea, but it seems that this will tell a different story.  However, it is just as preoccupied with the idea of people-as-symbols as Watchmen is.  In fact, V's terrorist actions are very symbolic.  His kidnapping of Lewis Prothero is more than just a personal vendetta.  Prothero is a symbol.  As The Voice of Fate, he represents the idea that the government is something to put your faith in, no matter what.  So when V destroys Prothero (in a very awesome sequence, drawn beautifully by David Lloyd), he is tearing down the idea of an infallible government.  This is, as Mr. Finch points out, what makes V so dangerous.  He is an icon that acts as an iconoclast.

Closing Comments:

  • Another thing that is prevalent in both V for Vendetta and Watchmen is the idea of a nuclear apocalypse.  The setting of V for Vendetta is directly after a nuclear winter-type-scenario, while the plot of Watchmen is primarily concerned with impending nuclear annihilation of the human race.  The Cold War was obviously on Alan Moore's mind.
  • I have thus far enjoyed Dan Lloyd's artwork.  Some of his panels are stunning, specifically in those moments where he particularly captures the dark horror of New Britain.  The first scene with Evey in the alley and the scene of V's attack of the train car both come to mind as great examples. He is able to create the perfect atmosphere for this story.  I am also struck by how cool V's Shadow Gallery is, especially in contrast with almost every other location in the story.
  • One bit of bleed through from the movie:  As V blows up the houses of Parliament at the beginning, he mentions an overture.  He is speaking metaphorically, but I can't help but remember how that scene in the movie actually had him rig the PA system to play some triumphant overture (I don't remember what the music actually was.)  That was a fantastic moment, and one you really can't do in a comic book.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Welcome

Well, here I am.  I have now stooped down to the level of blogging.  I suppose it was inevitable.  After all, I have so many random thoughts every day and I am JUST egotistical enough to assume that people will care enough to read them.  (Which is optimistic at best, considering that my friends don't even have the patience to listen to me ramble most days.)

So, on to the title of this blog.  The Hummus Offensive.  If you recognize this title, then that's great.  You are my target audience.  This is a quote from the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my favorite show of all time, and created by Joss Whedon, my hero.  I expect that many of the things I post on this site will have something to do with Joss or one of his many works.  (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, etc.)

However, this will not solely be a Whedon-based blog.  There are already plenty of those out there.  And my brain is too scattered to stay on one subject for long.  I have many other passions and I am a fan of many other things.  This blog will likely stray into the exciting world of comic books, LOST, music, and geekdom at large.  Also there will likely be many posts that don't seem to be related to anything much at all.  So buckle your seatbelts, kids.  This is going to be a wild ride (maybe).