August 07, 2009

On Glenn Beck

One of my most prized possessions as a middle schooler and into early high school was my Sony Walkman Radio. And, unlike most of the young black kids in Baltimore in the late 80's and early '90's, I was a total Top 40 baby. Which, of course, meant that my favorite radio station was WBSB, B-104.

I spent many a night drifting off to sleep to the sounds of Mister Mister and Duran Duran and Bruce Hornsby and YES and all of that stuff.

On the flip side, when I was finally old enough to drive, I listened to Brian and O'Brian's morning show on B104 on the way to school. They were a pretty well-established mainstay - the prototypical morning drive cut-ups. Until they suddenly vanished for no apparent reason.

I was pretty bummed at first, until I got a wiff of the new guy.

The replacement show was called "Glenn Beck and The Morning Guys".

This was 1990.

And Beck was f'n hilarious. I LOVED that show!

While I don't remember all of the various gags they pulled, one particular recurring character stood out in my mind: they'd have a guy call in as "Mr. Stress", and he was basically a guy who was on a hair trigger and would freak out screaming at the least little thing that would upset his fragile little world.

Honestly, I still make jokes about Mr. Stress to this day.

It was all character and performances designed to shock an audience into laughter.

And one of the things that I've always told my fellow screenwriters and storytellers is that the difference between comedy & horror is often just a matter of lighting. They both rely on shock value. And Beck was a master of funny shock craziness.

He's an entertainer. Always has been. Always will be.

Which is why I find it amazing that there are people now hanging on every word Beck says as if he's some sort of sage. Just because he sounds serious and talks about serious stuff doesn't mean that he actually has anything of value or merit to contribute to the discourse in any way whatsoever.

I mean, really. If Ed Lover or Big Boi told you the President was secretly a racist socialist terrorist mole, you would just laugh and say "Man, those guys sure are funny." You wouldn't stop and think, "Man, that Big Boi has a point! I'd better buy a gun!"

If you're going to get serious political thought from Glenn Beck, you may as well write in Dr. Johnny Fever on the next election ballot.

Beck is a professional clown, and the joke is on you if you think he has any agenda beyond being shocking & entertaining.

August 02, 2009

"Real American Heroes"?

If I had to guess, I probably have around 10,000 comic books in my collection right now.

But the very first comic I paid for with my own money was G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #6.

What always struck me about that comic was just how hardcore it was, given that it was ostensibly designed to sell action figures to little boys like me. But the main writer for those original G.I. Joe comics, Larry Hama, was a Vietnam vet who made a point of adding real stakes to the stories. Like when they dropped a bomb on a bunker while our hero, the mute commando Snake Eyes, was still inside. Or when the team's Pentagon liason, Col. Flagg, was killed during a Cobra assault on The Pit. Or the intense creepiness of the Cobra front masquerading as a small town in Illinois.

I've got a lot of military in my family, so I appreciated that, although it was a comic, G.I. Joe was about soldiers, with all sorts of specialties from all different branches of the American military, pooling their resources to defeat a common threat.

American soldiers.

So the minute I heard that the movie version of G.I. Joe would feature, instead, an international team based in Europe.... yeah, I was plenty offended.

Especially since the reasoning was, "well, nobody likes America overseas these days, so we've got to tone down the American-ness of these 'Real American Heroes'".

And, it seems like every day, I get a new bit of news that makes me even more angry about this movie.

"Accelerator Suits"?!?! Come on, man! That's Iron Man, not G.I. Joe! If anything, the fetish in G.I. Joe was authentic, top of the line, military hardware. If you're into that sort of thing, the U.S. Army has some of the coolest, craziest weaponry on the planet. REAL weaponry, man. Not this B.S. made-up sci-fi crap.

And, as I twittered earlier, I knew for sure that this movie would stink because they had no presence whatsoever at Comic-Con.

So, now, I see this L.A. Times article, where the producer, Lorenzo Di Boneventura, says, "well, there's no pleasing those guys at Comic-Con, so why bother?"

Excuse me? Iron Man? 300? Spider-Man? Hell, even flippin' Twilight! As long as you don't crap on what makes the property great, the fans will embrace you. But when you do things like, I dunno, cast Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, well, yeah, you'll have a fan revolt on your hands.

(For the record, I thought Constantine was actually a great movie, and Keanu was quite good, but, if I'd been a hardcore Hellblazer fan, I would have totally boycotted that movie on principle)

And when you loose your core fans, you'd better pray what you've changed will appeal to the general audience, because you'll have no word of mouth support.

Consider Battlestar Galactica - again, fans in full revolt after Ron Moore made Starbuck a girl. Luckily, she was such a kick-ass girl and the level of quality of the show was so high (I mean, they won a Peabody and had a panel at the United Nations dedicated to them), it overrode the fan bitterness.

My point is, G.I. Joe had better be some Nobel Prize winning sh*t to make up for the garbage I've seen so far.

What makes me even more mad about that article is that Paramount has apparently decided the best way to promote the movie was to show it on American army bases.... after they've already decided that the American army is so unpopular that they can't feature them in the show like they were originally in the property.

And why are these soldiers dressed up like Bryan Singer's X-Men?

And what's killing me is there are some amazing actors in this movie, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Eccelston.

Actually, what's really killing me is that they're releasing this movie on my birthday. That's just salt in the wound. :-)

Now, people are telling me it's a good summer action movie. But I wonder, are these the same people who thought "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was a good summer action movie"

Maybe I'll finally see "The Hurt Locker" on Friday. THOSE guys are the real American heroes.

As a matter of fact, that sounds like a plan.

Go see "The Hurt Locker" and pay your money to support a movie that's not afraid to show real American soldiers. G.I. Joe's not going anywhere, so they certainly don't need your money opening weekend.

You can get your tickets to see "The Hurt Locker" right here at Moviefone

FUCK "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra".