Fighting the Good Fight

One of my personal philosophies as an artist is to try not to make many enemies.  I don’t pick fights, and while I’ll write a negative review of something now and then, I’ll very rarely say something is outright terrible.  There are a lot of reasons for that, but chief among them is that I’m an obscure little writer with obscure little books in an obscure little corner of the internet.  Head-to-head against anything pop culture, I don’t have the muscle, popularity-wise, to win those battles.  Plus, it’s not for me to decide what’s good and bad.  We’re all different people with different emotional and storytelling needs.  No reason to get into pointless circular debates about whose needs are more valid.

I’m here to official announce an end to that policy.

I realized the other day that by choosing to withhold my stronger opinions (believe it or not) that I’m choosing to not take part in the larger cultural debate going on right now.  Not only does this limit what I can and can’t talk about, it’s also a retreat from the very thing I’m most invested in talking about.  Storytelling is my job.  By not discussing popular storytelling with honesty and sincerity and, yes, criticism, I’m conceding ground in the arena where I have chosen to work.  I thought it a matter of prudence, but not picking fights hasn’t given me any benefit.  I’m still an obscure writer, and, frankly, at this stage in my career, I can’t think of a reason I should give a damn about trying to be agreeable.  It hasn’t really worked.  It’s only allowed all the bullshit and nonsense that people spout to take center stage.

If you thought I had strong opinions before, you might want to brace yourself.

As you might have guessed, this is due to the most recent Godzilla film, a movie so startling uninteresting that watching it is almost like taking a nap.  After watching the dreary rebirth of James Bond, the empty explosions of Star Trek, the blandification of Robocop, the corruption of Superman, the final sacrifice of The King of the Monsters to the altar of dullness and mediocrity is just too much to bear.  Congratulations, popular culture.  You’ve broken me.  But I’ve put myself back together, and I’m coming out swinging.

Each of the above reboots are so terribly uninteresting, so poorly constructed, and such dreadful works that I don’t doubt for a moment that everyone would realize this if they didn’t have unearned goodwill attached to them simply by stealing it from much better ideas.  As a writer and as a (sorry to get pretentious here) artist, I’m really tired of watching people clapping blankly at logos and action figures.  We have become a culture devoted to brand loyalty, and while that’s always been true to some degree, it has never been capitalized on with such bald-faced abandon as it has of late.

Add to this that we’ve become a culture of “grown ups” who are too cool for our childish toys (but refusing to give them up) but determined to destroy anything fun about them.  Godzilla was the latest in a long line of hollow spectacles, created by people who are all style, no substance.  And it hurts me to say that, but damn it, it’s true.  Godzilla has the appearance of a sophisticated movie, but it isn’t sophisticated.  It’s just dull and remarkably determined to spend as little time with Godzilla as possible.  It’s an imitation of a good movie, and most people will be fooled by the imitation because they’ll never look beyond the surface.

Star Trek has become a generic action adventure in space where plotting and characterization take a back seat to artificial drama and science fiction so inconsistent in its rules and function that you have to wonder if a chimp with a short attention span wrote the script.

James Bond, far from evolving into a complex exploration of what it might mean to be basically a killer for hire, is instead about a guy who can’t do his job and feels bad the whole time NOT doing it.

Superman is a killer because the writers never thought how a disregard for life takes a “boring, invincible” character and only makes him more invincible.  But he does get to cry more.

The TMNT are giant, mutant, muscle monsters because bad writers with bad ideas were given something cool and unique and told to make it as generic as possible.

And not one interesting, memorable thing happens in an entire Godzilla movie.

It’s time for this to stop.  I don’t have any illusion that I’ll be the one to stop it, but I can at least talk about it, maybe get the ball rolling so that more influential and important people will take it and run.  The advantage I have in being an obscure little writer is that it can’t really hurt my career.   Even if it did, I’m not so sure I care anymore because a world where this sort of empty tripe is considered worthy of anything but disdain is not one where I expect to have much of a career at all.

So expect me to get downright inflammatory and enraged in this blog as time goes on.  I doubt I can stop a damned thing, but I’m not going down without a fight.  For a long time, I’ve ended these posts with the promise of fighting the good fight and writing the good write, but today is the day I start fighting for real.

It’s time to make some enemies.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,




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  1. Greg Lowry
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you.

    I’m not an artist or a writer. I have not given it the same systematic thought you have, nor am I as eloquent. The only place I share my opinions is my immediate friends and family. But I share many of the same thoughts and opinions about popular culture you have espoused and I’m glad someone is speaking up in a larger arena. Thank you.

  2. Tara
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always thought your mild-mannered approach to criticism was nice, but I have to say that, since I love just about everything you have to say about popular culture, I’ll probably stand up and cheer when you start getting firm about it. (Just so long as you don’t start cussing out everyone who disagrees with you… you’re not gonna do that, right?) More power to you!

  3. Posted May 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to seeing you tear pop culture a new one (when required)!

  4. Posted May 20, 2014 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Very refreshing, impassioned and SPOT on!
    I’ve not yet seen Godzilla, but agree entirely with the analysis of the other films. Star Trek in particular – a film I reviewed and likened to an attempt to turn a socially conscious, message-laden, always attempting to be intelligent property into a super hero film.
    Vapid is the one word that keeps coming to mind….(for all of those mentioned and unmentioned).
    The one part of the equation that bothers me is that the directiorial teams involved always seem to make loud noises about being real fans of the subject(s), yet how can they be when we end up with that ‘stuff’ on the screen? How much are they constrained by marketing boxes that need to be checked off? (Same issue with many of the script writers – many of whom we know from their fiction, which IS competent, even inspiring)

  5. Rothsauce
    Posted May 23, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The new Godzilla flick is reminiscent of multiple Zilla movies before it, the only difference here is that it was largely based in a western civilization for a majority of the action.

    Plenty of previous Zilla movies had little substance, it was just about kaiju beating the ever loving snot out of one another. Others had great stories, which could get lost in translation or it just took a while due to pacing.

    The 2014 version is little different, while it might not have the greatest story it did offer new possibilities with Big G’s origins and biology. In fact it did that with the two new MUTO’s as well, not something that is always looked at outside of ‘Giant assed bad kaiju from space being manipulated to destroy civilization’… which makes up a good amount of Godzilla kaiju.

    Having grown up on the original movies, I find this one just as enjoyable as, say, Destroy All Monsters. Even more so.
    Heck, if you want Old School comparison – Godzilla vs. Megalon (a title not well received by the masses, either). If another is truly needed, Godzilla on Monster Island.

    What I find more interesting is that people are more likely to pan any reboot since they already have something to compare it to.
    People who might not be aware of source material, and who happen to like something different than the original source material, can get flamed so badly it’s no wonder people are hesitant to seek anything outside their comfort zone. Much less enjoy it.

    Doesn’t help that there have been a lack of perceived ‘original’ movie ideas for some time.

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