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.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,