Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and the Theme of Dehumanization

April 13, 2013 Leave a comment

The Dehumanization of Stalker

Tarkovsky dehumanizes his characters in such a way that he did not even give them names. Tarkovsky refrains from giving his characters individual identity because they are intended to represent all of humanity; their struggles are the viewer’s struggles. These characters are known as mere symbols; allegorically relating to us, the viewer, as we all have lost hope in something and desire to reach a perfect world. As the film goes on, the trio of characters are so similar in attitudes and despair, and dehumanized to such a degree that they are essentially interchangeable with each other.

The film starts out in a setting of urban decay that Tarkovsky films through a brown, lifeless filter. When the characters reach the Zone, it is colorful, green, full of life; it is the perfect utopia, where no problems exist and none are evoked – an allegorical metaphor for heaven itself. Each character arrives at the Zone hoping to fulfill a lost part of them; Writer struggles with his faith and inspiration, Professor overdue for a breakthrough scientific discovery, and Stalker seems to be dependent on helping others, and as shown in the end, gets infuriated when he does not accomplish this.

Before Writer enters the zone, we witness his struggles with faith. He said his conscious earns for vegetarianism, but his temptation wants a piece meat, illustrating that his desires at that time had precedence over his conscious. Upon entering the Zone, Writer does not get the answers he had hoped like he expected; but the answers, however, were there all along. The religious themes in the Zone were prevalent; even by first entering the Zone, the telephone poles were formed like crosses, then we see a slow shot moving up a stream of water, in which we find a Christ-like figure. The trio finds a block of gold, which is one of the gifts the Wise Men brought to Jesus. And Lastly, Writer picks up and wears something that closely resembles a crown of thorns, and at the same time, he doubts his faith. The answers, however, were right in front of him, and as the crown of thorns showed, the answers were even literally coming to his very head, but he could not see it. This, in a sense, illustrates that the answers in life aren’t going to be easily given to us, but rather, society has to look for them, as the Zone demonstrated.

The theme of anti-government is illustrated here. The Zone, or heaven, is restricted by the government. This is a possible metaphor that the government puts boundaries on society, keeping them slaves, and restricting them from experiencing true freedom or utopia. Also, it is hard not to note the environmental symbolism here; as the trio walk through the Zone, they discover imperfect architecture, an overgrown bundle of unkempt vines, and puddles of muddy water decorating every landscape, which in urban territory would be viewed as an eyesore. But here, in the Zone, it is beautiful and harmonious; therefore intriguing in us the idea that what humanity in a capitalistic society now views as beautiful has been created by men, and humanity doesn’t really see the world for what it is as displayed the Zone; humanity doesn’t see the true beauty of the world.

With the Zone being the perfect world, one would think Stalker and his mates would rush to whimsically explore every inch of the land; but rather, the characters pace themselves, fearful of making a wrong move. When Stalker senses something isn’t right, he stops himself from moving forward, and calls out to the others (as shown with Writer) when he does not feel right about a particular situation. Stalker seems like he has a gut instinct tells him something doesn’t seem right about a given situation, almost as if someone is feeding him subtle information. But as the characters stated during their first arrival at the Zone, the Zone was the quietest place they had ever been. This could be God speaking to Stalker about the limitations he has for people in the Zone, allegorical to the Genesis story, when God gave Adam and Eve the beautiful garden (The Zone) but also gave them limitations (such as eating from the tree). When Writer was about to move forward against Stalker’s commands, Writer is about to commit the devastating mistake of “eating from the tree” – before he eventually turns around.

Stalker is slow-paced because the struggles of humanity are dealt with at a slow pace. The film works as a physiological and philosophical character study, not just of the dehumanized characters in the film, but for the audience watching it. We begin to identify with the characters – not really one over the other, since all three characters are internally the same, and Tarkovsky likely included three characters so Stalker would have someone with whom to converse. By the film’s climax, when the characters are back in grainy urban decay they are again back to being worse off (including Monkey) symbolizing that no amount of unhappiness or lack of hope can be quickly replenished by any place, even by a perfect setting such as the Zone; but rather, changes must first be made internally, in the heart – then the Zone will come to you.

Categories: Feature Writing

The Academy’s Big Mistake of 1994

May 16, 2011 Leave a comment

There is no doubt in my mind that the Academy made two huge mistakes at the 1995 Oscar ceremony.  One mistake was Samuel L. Jackson not receiving a much deserved Academy Award for not only the best performance of his career but one of the most iconic performances of all time that many still look back on and quote “English, mother fucker, do you speak it?”  However, I have full confidence that Sam Jackson will get his “apology Oscar” eventually down the road in his career.  I want to focus on the other mistake made by the Academy: not giving Pulp Fiction the Best Picture of the Year Oscar it wholeheartedly deserved.

Pulp Fiction is not only arguably the best film of 1994; it is one of the best films of the 90’s alone.   I would even stretch that further and say it is one of the best films of all time.  I guarantee if one hundred people thirty years old or under were asked what their top favorite films are, Pulp Fiction would be on the majority of the lists.  Forrest Gump, the film that won Best Picture of the Year in 1994, would most likely not be on very many lists.  Pulp Fiction has a cult following like no other; and even after almost two decades since its release, it remains a favorite to many.

Albeit Forrest Gump is the highest grossing film out of its Best Picture competition, it is certainly not the best.  It would even be a stretch to call it second best.  The Shawshank Redemption is another film nominated for Best Picture in 1995.   Not only do many critics consider The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction superior to Forrest Gump, Shawshank and Pulp arguably serve as two of the best films of all time.  According to The Top 250 Best Movies of All Time on www.imdb.com, The Shawshank Redemption stands in at #1 (yes, #1 out of 250 films!) and Pulp Fiction stands a #5.  Forrest Gump ranks in at #36, which is nothing to pout about, but it still does not compare to its counterparts.  I do not necessarily agree that The Shawshank Redemption should be #1, nor do I think www.imdb.com is a reliable source for film ratings, but it does show that majority of individuals do prefer both Pulp and Shawshank to Forrest Gump.  According to www.rottentomatoes.com, a website featuring a compilation of movie reviews from professional critics, Shawshank stands in at 88% approved, Pulp Fiction at an impressive 94%, and Forrest Gump at a mere 71%.  I am no professional critic, but a 71% approval rating is not very good for a film that wins Best Picture.  Pulp Fiction received many more positive reviews than Forrest Gump.  I guess 1994 was a bad year to release a movie.

I had first seen Pulp Fiction in my high school theatre class when I was a sophomore.  I had never heard of it prior to the class.  I was instantly drawn to it by how different it was.  I loved all of the different subplots.  In one scene you had the Bruce Willis/gimp situation in the basement; and a few scenes later featured John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson accidentally killing someone in their car, leaving them to be more worried about getting the car clean than the fact they just took a life.  I loved how colorful it was.  It seemed like an epic film in that it had many different stories and subplots and was around three hours long.  Of course, my class was only ninety-minutes long, so we could not finish the whole movie.  However, it struck my eye and I was determined to see it in its entirety.  I guess I can thank my theatre teacher for introducing me to that movie; I always wonder at what point in my life and in what situation would I have discovered the film if I hadn’t discovered it then.

I would like to give credit to Forrest Gump where it is due, but there is not much that really impressed me about it.  I thought the screenplay was great up until the third act.  I absolutely hated when the story picks up from Forrest’s flashbacks to real time ¾ of the way through.  I felt like it did not fit within the context of the rest of the movie; Forrest’s entire story should have been resolved when he was sitting on the bench telling it, not continued on after that point.  Normally I’d praise the acting of Tom Hanks, but I think I am in the minority as I found his dumb accent to be over-the-top (pun intended).  It is analogous to Sean Penn’s performance as a mentally handicapped man in I am Sam.  Sean Penn is one of the best actors alive, and my personal favorite, but that was not a good role for him.  As someone with two handicapped brothers, they just do not act like that.  Obviously the Academy disagrees with me, because Penn and Hanks both were nominated for their roles.

More, Robin Wright Penn seemed to be trying too hard and was just annoying as the depressed Jen.  Gary Sinise, on the other hand, gave a terrific performance in the film.  Forrest Gump is still popular today, and is famous for originating the now-cliché quote “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”  I guess we can thank Forrest Gump for giving us one of the most popular quotes in cinematic history.  That alone, though, does not make it a great movie.  Dirty Dancing, a still widely popular film and considered an 80s gem, spawned the quote “Nobody puts baby in a corner,” but it was originally panned by critics.

Pulp Fiction in no way fails.  It is a near flawless movie.  Although no one can hold a flame to Jackson, who was BORN for the role of Jules Winnfield, everyone gave excellent performances.  Even Bruce Willis, who prior to this was known as an action star and not for his acting ability, gave an excellent performance here.  This was a new type of role and a challenge for John Travolta.  Prior to this film, Travolta played virtually the same character in all his movies.  Now, we see a range from John Travolta, and he can thank Pulp Fiction for his career.

The screenwriting was genius.  This is not something someone can scribble down overnight.  A screenplay like this takes careful planning, thinking, and dedication.  Since it is comprised of three acts, all out of chronological order, it had to have been difficult to avoid continuity errors.  Pulp Fiction’s three-act, out-of-chronological-order format has inspired many films since, such as Doug Lyman’s Go (1999) which is strikingly similar.

The dialogue in this film was perfect and completely different than what has been done before.  Quentin Tarantino writes his characters having conservations that have nothing to do with the plot, similar to how people would talk in real life.  Tarantino’s dialogue is so exceptional in this film that I am almost convinced he gave his actors complete license to ad-lip and improvise lines.  The cinematography was captivating.  This is a film that makes one think, talk, debate, and observe life a little differently; it is everything a film should be.  The Academy actually made two mistakes in 1995, one being not giving Pulp Fiction Best Picture, and the other was giving it to Forrest Gump.

Categories: Uncategorized

Why Animal Testing Should Be Banned

May 11, 2011 1 comment

Testing on animals is a common routine many companies use to test new products for safety for the consumer.  However, animal testing is a bad idea.  The disadvantages of animal testing outweigh the advantages.  There are several reasons that animal testing is now obsolete and should be done away with.

The advantages to animal testing are worthy of mention.  Certain types of insulin, vaccines, antibiotics and HIV drugs could not have been made possible with animal testing.  Animal testing also helps guarantee the safety of substances that humans use and are exposed to regularly (Bekoff 16).  If an animal is harmed or killed during an experiment for a new substance, then that product will not be approved for human use.  Consequently, human lives are saved.  However, these advantages are questionable.  A few humans who oppose animal testing take the holistic approach to healing and are opposed to artificial substances like insulin and vaccines.

First, animals and humans have different DNA and do not react to products the same way.  Also, the stress animals endure in research labs could mean they would possibly react to a product different than they would in their natural environment.  Animal rights author Charles R. Magel once said “Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is ‘Because the animals are like us.’ Ask the experimenters why it is morally O.K. to experiment on animals, and the answer is: ‘Because the animals are not like us.’ Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction” (Magel 112).  Magel is right.  Setting the moral issue aside, animals would not react to drugs the same way humans would, and therefore, it can never be fully accurate.

Animal testing also costs tax payers an enormous amount of money.  Tax payers pay a resilient $12 billion a year on animal testing.  Animals must be fed, housed, and treated with drugs or a similar experimental substance.  The controlled environment the animals live in also comes at a high cost.  There is also the chance that animal testing can occur more than once on one animal, sometimes over the course of months, which means additional costs are incurred.  Then, factor in the price of the animals themselves.  Some companies have their own breeding facilities where animals are bred for the sole purpose of testing (Burtt 26).  Animal testing is an extremely costly operation considering the results can never be 100 percent accurate.

Another crucial drawback is that most animals received tests for substances and products that will never actually hit the market.  Basically, animals are literally being used as experiments within experiments.  Scientists and lab technicians will try out different products on several animals before finding a product that will seek approval for human consumption and use (Bekoff 134).  Therefore, one could figure that most animals undergoing testing die in vain because no direct benefit to humans occurred from their specific testing.

More, animal testing for certain products is not necessary for human safety.  Animal testing is primarily used for two reasons, to test medicines and cosmetics.  While a supporter of animal testing could argue that it is necessary to test on animals for test the safety of a medicinal drug, it is certainly not necessary to test for cosmetics.  It is already known that lipstick, makeup, and toiletries can (and are) made without animal testing.  Therefore, since it is not necessary for human safety, there is no legitimate reason to do for cosmetic reasons.  How much better can shampoo actually get?

Arguably the most important issue that conflicts with animal testing is that of morality.  The issue of morality, in a sense, makes all of the other cons irrelevant.  If all animals, including humans, are in fact equal, then none of the other aforementioned cons should matter.  Philosopher Peter Singer introduced the concept of speciesism.  Like racism, where one race believes they are superior to another race, speciests believe they are the superior species (Mappes 432).  Singer points out that since animals are sentient beings, which are beings with central nervous systems, who are capable of feeling pain, that they exist for their own reasons.  Singer claims that all members of the animal kingdom are sentient beings and all sentient beings have inherent value (433).  Many hold a moral obligation to protect all sentient beings from suffering.

Carl Cohen, Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michigan, disagrees with Singer’s view.  Very similar to the Aristotelian view, Cohen refutes Singer’s claims by stating that morality is only applied to humans because humans are rational and have a capacity to understand the rules that govern a community.  However, Cohen’s views are illogical because some humans do not have the capacity to understand laws and are not rational, such as the mentally disabled.  Under Cohen’s view, should research facilities test on the disabled?  Then there are humans in permanent comatose states who not have physical capacity let alone mental capacity.  With Cohen’s perspective in mind, the comatose have no more importance than dirt.

The Animal Liberation Front (Alf) is an underground group of activists who break into research labs, rescue captive animals, and free them.  They fight for the freedom of animals at the risk of losing their own.  One Alf member puts it “we wish we didn’t have to break into the labs.  But something has to be done to save the animals from the pain.  There are no laws protecting animals in laboratories.  We’re not just going to sit by while we know animals are being cut up and torn apart by people who just don’t care.”

Many opponents of Alf consider them terrorists.  Alf was considered a threat by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2005 (Rood 126).  In Alf’s defense, one has to be considered a terrorist if they actually terrorize someone.  Alf has harmed no one, in fact, they do the opposite.  They save lives.  Their crimes are victimless.

On ALF’s website, they list a detailed list of how to break into an animal testing facility.  First, headgear must be worn to hide the ALF member’s face.  ALF recommends that tools used for breaking and entering and destroying the laboratories, such as crowbars, pliers, and cutting tools should be purchased in advance from the actual intrusion and a good distance away from the research facilities.  All utilities should be paid for in cash to eliminate any evidence of purchases.  Socks must be worn over the shoes to eliminate footprints, and finally, two sets of latex gloves should be worn.

Alf is breaking the law by entering private property and breaking into buildings.  If any were caught, and many were, they would spend years behind bars.  In an article in the newspaper On Wings¸ written by an anonymous author, states how Alf is a domestic terrorist group who does nothing but break the law to serve their own narrow political agenda.

The author tries to criticize Alf by stating “Alf’s victims are numerous and include not only the fur industry, but butcher shops, factory farms, slaughterhouses, fast food restaurants and valuable research laboratories, to name just a few,” as if these targeted these things are a bad thing.  He also states “[Alf] are like rebellious teenagers that don’t have a clue about what life and reality are all about, they assume a superior attitude towards everyone who doesn’t support their narrow views.”  What narrow views?  That all living breathing beings capable of feeling pain shouldn’t be intentionally put in a position where they can feel pain by cruel experimenters?  Those views aren’t narrow; they are quite the opposite.

The biggest problem I have with the author’s article is that he reduces Alf’s acts to a “political agenda.”  He states “few animal rights groups would go to these drastic measures to impose their political agenda upon others. However, though many vegan groups do not participate in terrorism themselves, they still may support, and even admire, the Alf underground way of doing things.”  First, the act of valuing the life of a living breathing animal cannot be defined as a mere “agenda” any more than valuing the life of living breathing human can.  There is no scientific evidence which legitimately proves that humans are a superior species to other animals.  The reason the majority of humans believe they are the superior species is solely based on their own values and religious beliefs.  Therefore, since Alf believes all animals are equal, this belief should be accepted as the default and respected more than the alternative.

Deducing the belief that animals have a right to not be tested on as a political agenda is ridiculous.  One could call any subject matter a political agenda.  Calling it a political agenda implies that any values humans hold relating to the well-being of another human being is also just an agenda.  For example, if one felt murdering people was wrong, isn’t that just their own agenda?  People would understand Alf’s views with this simple analogy.  Whatever a human feels about the life of an innocent baby, extend that belief over to animals.  That is how most people opposed to animal testing feel.

It is true that ALF breaks the law.  But what the author does not understand is that Alf believes that protecting the lives of innocent beings is exceedingly more important than any man made law.  If a man made law conflicted with protecting a living being, then the law must be broken.  If a cat is being tortured, and in order to save it, one must cross a “No Trespassing” sign to obtain him, what’s more important here?  Breaking the law to rescue the tortured cat or not breaking the law and allowing the cat to be tortured?  The choice is obvious.  Animal rights certainly outweigh private property rights.  If it was a human baby being tortured, the average citizen wouldn’t think twice about breaking into private property to save it.  But most of us fail to realize that all living breathing beings feel the same pain and emotional distress.

One of the most popular victories by Alf was the rescue of Britches, the macaque (a type of monkey), in 1985.  When Alf found five-week-old Britches, his eyelids were sewn shut and his head was completely bandaged all around as part of a sensory-deprivation study.  Unable to see or hear, Britches was trembling when an Alf member picked him up.  They rescued Britches along with 1,115 other animals.
According to Dr. Bettina Flavioli, the veterinarian who cared for Britches after his rescue, said “Beneath the bandages are two cotton pads, one for each eye … Both pads are filthy and soaked with moisture. Bilaterally upper eyelids are sutured to lower eyelids. The sutures are grossly oversized for the purpose intended.”  In addition to physical injuries, Britches demonstrated major emotional trauma.  “Infant demonstrates photophobia. Penis of infant is edematous and inflamed.  Generalized muscle development poor. Skin dry. Body odor foul,” Flavioli continued.

Britches was placed in a primate sanctuary where an elderly female primate nurtured him as if he was her own offspring.  It took him several months to fully recover from emotional and physical trauma, but now he as fully recovered and currently lives a happy life.
The story of Britches is considered a monument victory in ALF’s history.  Sadly, there are thousands of primates currently undergoing grueling testing who are not as fortunate as Britches.  The outdated Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law to require basic standards of care for laboratory animals.  However, this is hard to enforce, since law enforcement are not allowed in research facilities while experiments are in progress.  Also, the AWA excludes birds, rats, mice, and guinea pigs from its welfare laws, and these animals are used most during experiments.

In conclusion, the majority of people live in a world where tradition, culture, and religious values tell them that it’s perfectly normal to use animals as commodities.  Some people live this way for years, until their death, without ever wanting to learn more about the issue or confronting it.  Very few, taught by ancestral tradition, ever step outside the box and ask themselves, “is this normal?  Should I stop causing pain to other living beings?”

Also, people tend to hypocritically live in by an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude; some people generally dislike the idea of animal testing, yet they refuse to live by it because it is simply too inconvenient for them.  For example, most people are squeamish at pictures or videos of graphic animal testing.  No normal citizen wants to look at images of animal suffering.  Yet, at the same time, these same people fail to realize that the toothpaste, shampoo, or body wash they buy involved the suffering of animal.  One cannot just pretend animal testing does not exist by never facing the issue.
There is one major feat that the average citizen can do to help with little to no effort.  When one is shopping for products, they can simply look for products labeled “cruelty-free.”  One does not have to go to health food stores to get cruelty-free products; maybe it was like that decades ago, but certainly not anymore.  Most major stores, including Wal-mart, Target, and the local drug store, carry cruelty-free products.  Some stores even have a whole section in the aisle dedicated solely to cruelty-free products.  A product labeled cruelty-free simply means it was not testing on animals and it contains no animal products.  Some cruelty-free products will not specifically say those words, but they will say something similar “100% vegan ingredients.  No animal byproducts or testing.”  Other products will elaborate further by noting “we believe in consciousness in cosmetics.  No animals were harmed in the making of this product.”

Work Cited:
Bekoff, Mark. Animals Matter. Boston. MA: Shambhala, 2007. Print.
Burtt, E.A. The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha. New York. Penguin Books Ltd, 1982. Print.
Magel, Charles. A Bibliography on Animal Rights and Related Matters. Washington: University Press of America, Inc, 1981. Print.
Mappes, Thomas and Jane Zembaty. Social Ethics: Morality and Social Policy. 5th ed. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, 1997. Print.
Rood, Justin. “Animal Rights Groups and Ecology Militants Make DHS Terrorist List, Right-Wing Vigilantes Omitted”, Congressional Quarterly, March 25, 2005.
Carl Cohen. Professor of Philosophy at the Residential College of the University of Michigan. E-mail interview. 4 May 2011.
“Animal Liberation Front Blazenly Disregards Private Property Rights.” On Wings. New York. June 1998, late edition. 3.

http://www.animalliberationfront.com/

Categories: Feature Writing

Treating Cancer with Alternative Medicine

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

John Finnegan waited patiently in the doctor’s office for his results.  A large abnormal growth was discovered near Finnegan’s stomach.  After 30 biopsies, doctors concluded it was Non-Hotchkin’s Lymphoma, a fatal form of cancer.  Several doctors informed Finnegan that chemotherapy was the only feasible option, but at his stage of cancer, chances of success would be low.  Finnegan was given a death sentence.  He was not, however, going to accept this.  He was going to live.

Finnegan sought advice from holistic health practitioners all over the world, including his own brother-in-law, Lenore.

“Today’s doctors, they don’t pay attention to nutrition,” said Lenore.  “In fact, I think they take maybe, a very brief semester in medical school that addresses nutrition.  And it really doesn’t address anything.  It just goes over what the [Food and Drug Administration] and what the government recommends in the way of nutrition.  Which is nothing, nothing at all, and all wrong on top of that.”

Finnegan was not about to fall victim to cancer.  He was told by several doctors that he had only months to live.  However, he ended up curing his cancer by proper nutrition, along with exercise.  Many studies suggest that proper nutrition is an effective way to control weight, sleep better, and more importantly, treat cancer.

According to Dr. William Harris’s article on http://www.vegsource.com, one who adopts a solely plant-based diet has a 25-50 percent less chance of getting cancer than a diet with high intakes of meat and processed foods.  Vegetarians are, on average, ten percent leaner than meat eaters.  Also, switching to a vegetarian diet for a whole year can reduce one’s cholesterol by 24.3 percent.  If this is the case, why are doctors always prescribing drugs and expensive treatment plans instead of telling patients to go home and eat a salad?

“It’s all about dollar signs,” said Finnegan.  “The pharmaceutical drug company is a billion dollar industry.  If this information gets out there, they lose money.  Doctors have their backs.  It’s all about the status quo.  And frankly, that’s sad.”

Lenore says that American citizens put too much faith in doctors and not enough faith in research.

“People believe doctors know what they’re doing,” Lenore said.  “We put an implicit trust in physicians.  The reason they feel like God is because we endow them with that.  We don’t challenge them, we don’t question them, and they take whatever course of action they want.”

Lenore argues that patients should not take the advice of doctors as if it were gospel.  He states the treatment advice of doctors is not based on science but just a glorified opinion.

“If you put two doctors in the same room you get three opinions.  So obviously, that’s not science.  Science has a definite outcome, like math,” Lenore told Finnegan.  After this, Finnegan had a major epiphany.

Finnegan went on a strict vegan diet.  He ate adequate amounts of vegetables, fruits, tea, and ginger, recommended by his holistic practitioner.  According to Sciencedaily.com, Ginger has been shown in animal studies to shrink and kill cancer cells.  Also, the problem with radiation is that it cannot decipher the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells.  It destroys them all.  Even if radiation is successful in beating cancer, there is an increased risk of getting future cancer since the remaining healthy cells are weakened and are susceptible to infection.  Ginger, however, only kills the cancer cells, while leaving the healthy cells intact.

To the astonishment of Finnegan’s physicians, his cancer reversed.  Not minimized, not inhibited, but gone.  Finnegan became an advocate for proper nutrition.  He currently speaks at hospitals everywhere advising sick patients that they still have a chance at life.  If it is possible to reverse cancer in this fashion, then preventing it should be a cinch.  Then why is America’s cancer rate so high?  Dr. Heather Morales, chiropractor and owner of Elite Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, LLC in Fenton, Mo., believes she knows why.

“Three simple words,” Morales said. “Standard American diet.  Too much sodium, fillers, sugars, processed foods.  America’s food is centered around convenience.”

Dr. Morales’ practice specializes in joint and nutritional care for professional athletes.  Several of her customers are St. Louis Blues and Rams players.

“The food pyramid in America is a joke,” Morales continues.  “Things like the Paleo diet are what we should be focusing on.”  Morales explains that the Paleolithic diet is based on what humans ate during the Paleolithic period approximately 2.5 million years ago, before the advent of modern agriculture.  It can also be referred to as the hunter-gatherer diet, and includes berries, nuts, and fish.  The Paleo diet is very popular among professional athletes.  The Paleo diet does include meat, but only from grass-fed animals that have received no antibiotics or hormones.  Basically, every food item must be in its natural, unprocessed state.

Lisa Blundell, vegan nutritional consultant at Health and Harmony College in Brisbane, Australia, became a vegan in 2008.  She grew up in a small country town with a population of only 2,000 people.  She helped her father in their family-owned dairy farm.

“I had to stop.  I knew what I was doing wasn’t right,” she said.  “More than 60 percent of world’s population is lactose intolerant.  Most don’t know it.  And on top of that, casein, dairy protein, is a promoter of cancer.”

Dairy is known for its substantive amount of calcium.  Milk is healthy, right? This is what the commercials tell the American people.  This is what parents tell their children.

Blundell adds, “Dairy has been touted as a miracle and natural food by the media for many years and many people are led to believe that dairy is the supreme source of calcium.  But there is a price to pay with that, and that price is osteoporosis and obesity.  There are many non-dairy sources of calcium such as broccoli, legumes, and soy.”

Blundell adds that her life has been happier, more fulfilling, and more content upon becoming vegan.  “My skin cleared up, I’ve lost several kilos, I sleep better, and I feel much better when I exercise,” she said.

So can nutrition replace chemotherapy as a standard for cancer treatment?  Science does not have a definitive answer yet.  Evidence certainly suggests, however, that proper nutrition can help.  Americans must find a way to figure this out, so its lifespan can be on par with other countries who are less nutritionally ignorant.

As Carl Lenore puts it, “It was Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who said ‘let food by thy medicine.’ And truer words were never spoken.”

#

Source List:

Carl Lenore, nutritional expert and radio personality of Super Human radio, http://www.superhumanradio.com/

Dr. Heather Morales, chiropractor and owner of Elite Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation Center, LLC, http://www.elitechiroandsportsrehab.com/

Lisa Blundell, vegan nutritional consultant at Health and Harmony College, lisathevegan@protectanimals.com

Dr. William Harris, “http://www.vegsource.com/harris/cancer_vegdiet.htm”

http://www.fitness-equipment-health.com/vegetarian_statistics.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com “Dietary Ginger May Work Against Cancer Growth.” 09 Oct 2003.

Categories: Feature Writing

The Disorder

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

There I was, sitting in the giant, quiet room anxiously.  I heard the second hand of the clock ticking.  Pencils were thumping.  All of the sudden the large grumpy woman with an 80’s hairstyle at the front of the classroom yells “10 minutes left.”  This made it worse.  I couldn’t concentrate on my assignment.  I was busy looking at the clock hoping I could finish on time.

“Time’s up,” shouted the instructor.  The students got up to hand in their tests.  Some moped.  I was one of them.  I didn’t finish.  The reading section impeded me the most.  I had to read each story two or three times before it sink in.  I cannot focus.  When the instructor informed us we had 10 minutes left, it made it worse.

I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder when I was a preteen.  It is a mental disorder that mainly affects one’s ability to focus and concentrate.  Although most children are affected, many adults struggle with the disorder.

“Usually in most cases, ADHD disappears in adulthood.  A little over half of children with ADHD will keep it when they reach adulthood,” said Dr. Paul S. Catanzaro, my physician at St. Anthony’s Medical Center.  Catanzaro has been my personal physician since I was a preteen.  When I first became his patient, he was curious when my family and I became aware of my disorder.  In virtually all cases, Catanzaro said, individuals with ADHD discover their disorder at some point in their childhood.

My family first noticed I was inattentive during 5th grade.  Up until that point, I was consistently at the top of my class.  My school used to host these after-school games where I’d compete with another student in answering a teacher’s question.  My parents would come and watch me.  I would always win.  In one of the games, a classmate and I would each have a stapler we would use as a buzzer, and whoever knew the answer first would slam down on the stapler.  I’d always get it first.  I knew I was showing off.  I went to a Christian school, and I memorized the first half of the Bible by second grade.  I remember receiving so many positive letters at home from my teachers.

“We used to get so get mail all of the time saying what a good job you did at an academic level,” says my mother, Laura Bland, and she lies on the couch watching Jeopardy drinking a cup of freshly brewed tea.  “It’d be anything from your superior academic skills to your good behavior or perfect attendance.”  Back then, teachers used to start students at a particular number of points for behavior.  Every student would have, say, 100 points by the start of class. And if the student acts up, behavioral points would be deducted.  Mine were of course always 100, except for one year when I received a 98 for walking out of class without permission to use the water fountain.  My report card was stock full of “E’s.”  E stood for excellent.  In elementary school, or at least in mine, the grading scale consisted of E for excellent, G for good, S for satisfactory, P for poor, and F, of course, for fail.

In 5th grade, my grades begin to drop.  Coincidentally enough, this is about the time when my parents finalized their divorce and I switched schools.  Catanzaro assures that tragic incidents in one’s life cannot lead to ADHD.  “Well, environmental stress can certainly be associated with not performing in school, lack of energy, and they can lead to anxiety.  But it cannot create ADHD.  ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Now, it’s very possible that environmental that environmental factors or tragic incidents in someone’s life can affect how they perform with ADHD,” said Catanzaro.  I lost interest in doing my homework.  I was constantly daydreaming in class.  My mother thought it was time she bring me to see a psychiatrist.

I’ve been to several throughout my childhood, but one psychiatrist sticks out the most.  His name was Dr. Donald Manhal.  He was a tall, husky, goofy looking man with thinning gray hair and big coke bottle glasses and one of those mustaches that old men have when they are compensating for something else.  He always tried to be my buddy.  He’d always ask me to go to McDonald’s with him to talk, which became an inside joke with me and my friends for years to come.  When he told me I had ADHD, I denied it.  I arrogantly told him that I did not think I had it.  Even then, I thought I was smarter than a doctor’s analysis.

“There’s nothing wrong with having ADHD,” Manhal said when I told him I didn’t have it.  “I know.  I didn’t say there was anything wrong with it, I said I didn’t have it,” I said back.

Manhal prescribed me methylphenidate, better known by its major brand name, Ritalin, for the first time.  It took away my attentiveness and allowed me to focus on a task or assignment.  When Catanzaro first became my physician, he also began to prescribe me Ritalin.  It became a staple of my life throughout my high school years and helped me overcome my inattentiveness.  It wasn’t until high school when I noticed I was showing symptoms of hyperactivity.

“There are many forms of ADHD.  There’s inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are elements of ADHD.  A person doesn’t have to have them all in order to be ADHD, and each element could appear in a diagnosed person at different stages of life.  It can appear at any age,” said Catanzaro.

My hyperactivity began to show up rather late in life.  I was a teenager, which is about the time most symptoms of ADHD begin the fading away process.  First, someone with hyperactivity does not mean he or she is not a generally calm person.  As Catanzaro said, someone with hyperactivity simply means he or she may the urge to fidget something, get up to walk around frequently, or talk excessively; and a person with hyperactivity does not have to possess all of these aforementioned attributes.

For me, I can’t stay comfortable in a sitting position for very long.  I have to constantly move my legs, whether it be slouching in the chair or sitting with one leg over my other one.  Also, I have the constant need to juggle things around.  When I’m doing assignments that require brain activity, I take short breaks to throw a bouncy rubber ball against a wall and try to catch it, pretending I’m a goalie.  Currently, I have been able to manage without any prescribed medications.

I stopped relying on Ritalin during the summer after my senior year in high school, going into college.  I walked into Catanzaro’s office for my annual physical.  As he scanned my medical chart, he said “Just so you know, I don’t prescribe Ritalin anymore.  So if you’re looking for that, you’re going to have to go to a different doctor.”  I was not going to ask him for it anyway.  Although it is sometimes difficult to focus without it, I can still manage.

One of my worst memories of inattentiveness in higher learning was in my college composition class, the very first college course I ever took.  The instructor surprised the class by assigning us different chapters out of the book to read, during class time.  Then we had to put together an impromptu presentation discussing the chapter we just read.  She gave the class approximately 20 minutes to read their assigned chapter and then another few minutes to organize a presentation.  I was quite anxious as I was reading.  I kept thinking to myself, there’s no probable way I can read a long chapter in 20 minutes and sink in enough information to present it.  I had seen some students finishing up their reading and closing their texts.  I was still scanning the chapter, over and over again.  Had the instructor told the class to read their assigned chapter at home, I could have read it on my own time, and all would have been well.  But with 20 minutes of class time to read and present, it made it very difficult, especially when I seen other students finish before me.  I thought the instructor was rather unorthodox in not only having the students read from the textbook during class time, but requiring us to give a presentation without any prior knowledge of it.

Currently, the only supplement I take is a cup of coffee before an exam.  I’m not upset I have this mentality.  I cherish it.  My only disadvantage is that I have to study and work a little harder and longer than most people to accomplish something.  I could have been born with no limbs, no eyesight, or no brain.  Next to that, it seems quite trivial.  I have accepted that it is something I have to live with and I don’t really spend my time thinking about it anymore.  After all, worry doesn’t help tomorrow’s troubles.  It only ruins today’s happiness.

#

Sources:

Dr. Paul S. Catanzaro, physician specializing in internal medicine, St. Anthony’s Medical Center, 10004 Kennerly Rd Ste 186B

Dr. Donald Manhal, psychiatrist, St. Louis (now deceased)

Laura Bland, my mother, laura.bland@sbcglobal.net

Categories: Feature Writing

Confessions of an E-stalker

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Serena Meyer sat down at her computer.  It was a typical day after class.  She needed to catch up on some procrastinated homework.  To her surprise, things were not looking normal.  Her computer screen was frozen.  Meyer had been noticing strange things happening with her computer as of late, but she never thought to be concerned.  After all, these things happen with computers.

Meyer shut her computer down the only way it would allow her, by turning off the power surge underneath the desk.  She let a few hours pass.  She attempted to log on again, and this time it appeared to work.  Meyer logged onto her online banking to pay some bills when she noticed something strange.  Her balance was less than it was yesterday.  Shortly after, she began to get instant messages from her online buddies saying they have recently talked to her when Meyer has not been home all day.  Meyer’s history essay that she had worked on for the past two weeks was gone.  Meyer was a victim of online harassment.

“I was just about done typing a report, for my history class, and then my computer was attacked,” said Meyer.  “My bank account, my photos, videos of my little cousins, everything was wiped clean and destroyed.”

Internet harassment, or commonly called e-stalking or cyber bullying, is one of the most common crimes and the easiest to get away with.

According to Dr. David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, an average of one in only four youths every year will receive an unwanted sexual image, and one in five youths will experience some form of online harassment in the past year.  “Harassment over the web is so common because it’s so easy.  The internet provides a means for predators to easily pick a target and harass them, and at the same time, concealing their identity,” said Finkelhor.

Internet stalking is the preferred choice of stalking for sexual deviants, because unlike the conventional method, it is easier, more accessible, and does not require the aggressor to leave his or her house. According to Finkelhor’s research study, 33 percent of children every year have experienced the most serious instances of Internet harassment.  This involves a solicitor setting up a meeting date for his or her underage victim, sending the victim gifts via mail, or calling their victim’s house.

“Although the majority of web harassment involves sexual reasons, it doesn’t have to,” states Finkelhor.  “And it does not have to involve children.”  Adults, like Meyer, have been hacked for the pursuit of information, such as credit card names, passwords, and bank statements.

Frank Rizzo, 29, now considers himself a veteran e-stalker, although he does not prefer to use that term.  He has had a chat room on Yahoo for the past 10 years where he meets his online group to discuss their next victim or to play “caps” for one another to watch.

A cap, short for capture, is online slang for a video recording of someone, usually a female, doing sexual acts on a webcam.  The term “cap” is generally used when the victim in question did not know she was being recorded.  These women do sexual things on webcam for a group of people or one person they trust, but unknowingly are being recorded, and their videos would be shared with an underground Internet community.  These “cappers” can either hack the victim’s webcam, pretend to be her friend using a fake screen name, or she simply lets the capper view, unaware of what will happen.

Rizzo is known among his online group for having the best caps.  “I have a master cap collection.  I have around a thousand caps since I first starting doing it.”  Among his group are guys with nicknames such as Mojo, Kero, Raize, Pr0jecTerr0r, and Sk8.  Rizzo goes by Rizz.  These are their hacker aliases.

Most e-stalkers cannot actually hack, but their expertise comes from getting their victims to think they are being hacked.  Rizzo explains “Just so you know, I don’t do this anymore, now they come to me, but back then, they thought I was hacking them so I’d get them to do stuff for me.  All you got to do is get them to think you’re [messing] up their computer somehow.

A simple method e-harassers use to get a victim to think s/he is being hacked is simply to Google or search his or her screen name.  This leads the stalker to more information.  Then, the stalker uses his new found information and Googles that.  Eventually, the e-stalker gathers most of his prey’s information: her Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, AIM, Hotmail, and whatever various networking websites and online blogs she may have.

According to Finkelhor, online users should never give out their Facebook to people they do not know personally, or make it accessible for a stranger to obtain.  “Before the growing popularity of Facebook, web users were very precautious about putting their last name anywhere online.  It just generally wasn’t heard of.  Putting any information about yourself, including your last name and telephone number, you were ostracized by your peers.  Facebook changed all that.  Now people are comfortable about putting their last name on the web for the world to see.”

A Facebook is golden to the e-stalker.  He now knows his victims full name and can enter it on sites including but not limited to whitepages.com, pipl.com, mylife.com, and find out her address and home phone number.  Some of these sites may work and some may not.  A skilled Internet stalker performs trial and error until he finds the information he wants.

Now comes the point of contention.  The e-stalker uses his newfound information to scare his prey.

“Um, how’d you get my number?” The victim asks, worried.

“I hacked you,” replies the stalker.

Meyer has learned her lesson and has made a new screen name for every online account she has.

“I used to have the same screen name on Windows Live as I did on Yahoo,” explained Meyer.  “I had a bunch of people on my buddy list on Yahoo and Windows Live was more private.  Well, people would add me on [Windows Live], getting my screen name from Yahoo, and make fake screen names pretending to be my friends.  For the very first few weeks I would fall it, and end up having really in-depth conversations with them thinking they were someone else.”

Rizzo also explained his use password cracking.  A password cracker is essentially a program that stores thousands of passwords in its memory.  The culprit enters in a screen name, clicks on the scan button, and the cracker will scan every password in its memory to see if it has a match in the midst of seconds.  If there is a match, the culprit has his or herself a new screen name.  Users can always add more passwords to the memory as they please.  There is a simple solution, however, to never being a victim of password cracking.  All that is required is a user make sure he or she has a unique password that would be unlikely for anyone else to think of, something with a lot letters, numbers, and special symbols.

It used to be where people would fear giving away any information online.  It was hobby.  Now, with social networking constantly advancing, people aren’t just getting online for a hobby or to treat boredom, people are becoming one with the online community.  It is involved with work, education, and family.  With social networking, people keep in touch with people, such as second grade classmates, when fate would normally keep them apart.  This reliance on social networking can be very rewarding, but also very dangerous.

#

Sources:

Serena Meyer, skittles_serendipity@yahoo.com

Frank Rizzo, online hacker/capper

Dr. David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, david.finkelhor@unh.edu

Categories: Feature Writing

The Negative Portrayal of the Law Enforcement in the Comic Book Films

May 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Films that are adapted from comic books (or later spawned comic books) often feature vigilantes in lead roles.  The law enforcement in the form of police officers, detectives, or courts, often are portrayed defamatorily and are essentially the antagonists.  Viewers often identify with the vigilant, sometimes anarchist hero while accepting the law as the enemy.

Cops are heroes of the real world.  In theory, the police protect society from crime.  Civilians call them when they need help.  Without them, anarchy would ensue throughout cities and counties everywhere.  However, there seems to be an underlying theme involved in films based on comic books (and films that spawned comic books).  Virtually all comic book films portray the law enforcement as being the antagonists, while the law-breaking vigilante plays the dutiful role of the protagonist, or hero, of the film.  Vigilantes are those whose ideology is to break the law in order to achieve a higher good.  When watching these films, individuals and groups tend to identify, or root, for the underdog vigilante more than the law abiding authority figures.

The protagonists in comic books work for themselves and are often running from the law.  The one popular exception is Superman, who works with the law enforcement and is appreciated by them.  Most, however, including but not limited to Batman, the Crow, the Punisher, Spider-man and the Watchmen, are essentially taking the law into their own hands disregarding the rules set before them.  While these heroes represent the anti-law, viewers still identify with them as heroes.

Negative portrayals of the law enforcement are relevant.  Whether society notices it or not, they are there.  It’s not difficult to find messages of anarchy and anti-establishment hidden within a comic book film.  It makes on ponder the question, is this just coincidence?  Or do the writers and producers of these films have a political agenda they want to subliminally impose into the general public?

Negative portrayals of law and vigilant leads not only exist in films adapted from comi books, but also films that spawned them after their release.  This suggests that there must be anti-law.  The Terminator, The Matrix, and The Ghostbusters franchise have all spawned comic books after the first film in each franchise was released (Hadju 344).  All have several factors in common.  They all feature vigilante protagonists, the protagonists in some way cause property damage, and the law serves as an obstacle preventing the heroes from achieving their goal.   Society never sees a comic book based off of Bridges of Madison County.  Therefore, there must be some connection between comic books and anarchy.

Take Terminator II: Judgment Day for instance.  T2 spawned a series of comics manufactured by Dark Horse, Inc.  There are several characteristics that could be pointed out to define this film as anti-establishment, but the main factor is obvious.  The protagonist of the film (Arnold Schwarzenegger) dons biker clothes, equipped with a motorcycle, cowboy boys, and a leather jacket.  The enemy, the metallic T-1000 (Robert Patrick) ironically enough chooses a police uniform as his accoutrements.  Evidently, the film wants viewers to cheer on the bad boy while instilling that the police is the enemy.  In The Matrix, the heroic protagonists Neo and Trinity (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss) shoot and kill several police officers resulting in a bloody decimation.  Were the police really the enemy here?  Or were they just trying to do their job?

One might consider that there are several films with feature those working for law enforcement, mainly police officers or detectives, in lead roles.  This is correct; however, even police officers in lead roles are breaking formal policy in some way.  Even police officers in protagonist roles are still portrayed as vigilantes in their own right.  Consider Detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) in Beverly Hills Cop and its sequels.  Foley breaks official policy several times.  He impersonates the President of the United States, steals a house, and attempts bribery.  Sergeant Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) in Lethal Weapon tells his partner Sgt. Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) to shoot to kill even though he has no authority to do so.  John McClane, a New York City police officer who took reprimands from his authorities when he made it his duty to apprehend terrorists in a Los Angeles building, even though it was not his state, let alone jurisdiction.  These said policemen, particular McClane, caused several thousand dollars in property damage.

Property damage is yet another major characteristic of a comic book vigilante movie.  Vigilantes in film rarely ever pursue their climatic goal without damaging property en route.  Take Batman Begins for instance, where Batman jumps buildings from rooftop to rooftop with his highly technological vehicle, damaging every shingle his vehicle touches.  Buildings catch on fire, factories are destroyed.  Consider Terminator II: Judgment Day when The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) completely destroys the Cyberdyne building via guns and explosives, rams a truck straight into a steel mill factory, and breaks out windows at a bar.

Ironically, several films that feature property damage and bad portrayals of police officers were later turned into comic books.  The aforementioned T2 and Matrix are examples of this, and also Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II.  The climactic battle in Ghostbusters had the heroic foursome battle a gigantic marshmallow man, incurring severe damage to New York City (property damage) in the process.  In GII, the protagonists were given a restraining order (negative portrayal of law) preventing them from investigating the supernatural.

The first official comic book appeared in 1934 during the aftermath of the Hays Code.  The Hays Code (also known as the Production Code) was formed in 1930 by the Motion Picture Procedures and Distributors of America (MPPDA) and heavily regulated sex, violence, and other controversial subjects (Bordwell 216).  Under the Hays Code, even married couples in film had to be shown sleeping in two separate beds.  The Hays Code had detrimental effects on the box office.  Films that portrayed the law enforcement negatively, such as Scarface (1931) and Public Enemy (1932), were heavily censored and pulled from theaters (217).

The heavy censorship of films caused by the Hays Code led to the advent of the comic book industry.  Unlike films, comic books were not regulated, and writers and illustrators could publish any controversial content they wanted (Hajdu 6).  As a result, the comic book business boomed.  The comic book industry gave the general public, particularly their teenage demographic, a means to see the sex and violence they could not see in film (31).  By 1940, the comic book business was here to stay.  The number of comic books ballooned from 150 publications in 1937 to nearly 700 in 1940 (34).  Comic books became a perfect median for writers to emblematize their and political and anarchist agendas.

To compensate for the disallowance of controversy in films, comic books in the late 1930s and 40s showcased racism, pictorial beatings, shootings, stabbings, strangling, and graphic scenes of torture.  As the comic book industry boomed, juvenile delinquency began to escalate (Hajdu 97).  Dr. Frederic Wertham, then a psychiatrist who taught at John Hopkins University, conducted a research study and concluded comic books were “corrupting young readers.”  Wertham describes the cover of one comic book featuring a young African American adolescent boy on his back, grimacing in pain while a girl pinned him to the floor and another stabbed him in the arm with a fountain pen (101).  Wertham concluded that “comic book reading was a distinct influencing factor in the case of every single delinquent or disturbed child we studied.”  Wertham considered superhero comics especially dangerous.  He considered Wonder Woman represented fascism and Batman and his sidekick, Robin, represented homoeroticism (235).

In a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case, Winters v. New York (333 U.S. 507), the owner of a comic book shop was sued for selling comic books with graphic images.  Under New York penal law at the time, comic books and magazines could not consist of criminal news or stories of deeds of bloodshed or lust, so massed as to become vehicles for inciting violence and depraved crimes against the person.  The Supreme Court declared in Winters’ favor, stating that the statute was too vague and indefinite as to declare what constitutes graphic images.  Also, the Court ruled that enforcing such a strict censorship violates freedom of expression and is unconstitutional.

However, comic book freedom was not going to last.  Wertham’s research led to a federal Comic book censorship in 1954, called The Comic Code Authority, which banned the words “terror” and “horror” from being written in comic books.  The Comic Code Authority also enforced that “No comics should encourage vigilante crime nor depict crime in a heroic fashion,” “excessive bloodshed, gory and gruesome crimes shall not be permitted” and “Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority” (Hadju 291).

The time of graphic comic books was over, albeit they eventually would make their return.  By 1955, more family-oriented comic books were released (Hadju 295).  Batman, who made his first appearance in 1939’s Detective Comics, was a dark character.  The comics he appeared in were graphic and crime-ridden, and targeted for older teenagers.  After The Comic Code, Batman comics were reduced to camp.  Batman was drawn in lighter colors, featuring a blue cape and cowl, and had a sidekick named Bat-mite (297).  It is obvious that the Twentieth Century Fox’s 1966 campy satirical Batman series was based on this era of Batman comics.

Comic books would eventually lose their censorship and comic book films would become a huge box office trend.  Other than Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) and Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), comic book films had not yet hit the mainstream until the late 90’s.  Only the most popular heroes were considered to be box office draws.  There were low budget made-for-tv superhero films in the 80’s and early 90’s, such as Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Spider-man; not the Tobey Maguire film but the made-for-tv films starring Nicholas Hammond.

The comic book film revolution began in 1999 with Bryan Singer’s X-men (Goldstein 144).  Since then, the comic book film industry boomed.  Virtually all comic book heroes were given their own big budget film treatment.  Not only were the most popular comics, Spider-man, Superman, and Batman given film treatment, but so were unpopular heroes who most of the general public has not heard of before.  Heroes only popular to comic book fans, such as Hellboy, The Watchmen, Kick-Ass, Jonah Hex, Scott Pilgrim, and The Incredibles, were all given big budget film treatment.  In earlier decades, this would be considered box office suicide (Hadju 328).  However, this was a new time and a new decade.  Comic book films were now a billion dollar industry, with ten on average being released per year since 2002 (330).

What appeals one to comic books films?  How can a film with such an anarchist theme appeal to such a large fan base?  The fascination with anarchist vigilance dates back to the era of film noir.  Comic book films were heavily influenced by film noir.  Film noir typically consisted of depressed private eyes, damsels in distress, and the lead often running from the law or reprimanded by the law in some way (Silver 2).  Many confirm that aftermath of World War II led to the film noir genre.  Film noir often consisted of the protagonists showing off their patriotism with off color remarks.  Film noir was a form of escapism during and after the war.  It was a means to let people take out their anger and express their patriotism.  In the 1943 Batman serial, the first live-action Batman feature, Batman constantly calls his enemy, a Japanese scum lord, a “filthy jap.”  Currently, this would be unacceptable and politically incorrect; but then, it was intended to show patriotism during the World War.

Anarchism and anti-cop establishment appeal to film viewers only if it’s fake.  In a 1994 research study, college students were shown several clips of real life violence (McCauley 143).  Each student had a control device that they could click when they did not want to watch anymore.  The first clip showed a dinner table in which a live monkey is the centerpiece; the monkey’s head is hammered several times on camera, until he dies a slow death and the dinner guests dine in on his still-pulsing brain (144).  The second clip showed a man being tortured in a third world country.  The third clip showed a young girl going through brain surgery, where surgeons pull the child’s face inside out (144).  Most of the college students, on average, turned these videos off halfway through their runtime.  After this, the same students were asked to watch scenes of graphic torture in film.  The ear-cutting scene of a police officer in Reservoir Dogs was one, and a police officer dining on a human body in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was another.  Virtually no students clicked these off, and in fact, appeared to enjoy the violent depictions, even though the scenes depicted were much more graphic than the footage of real violence (155).  The conclusion of this research states that society as a whole appreciates the violence we see on film and television, but not real life situations.

In sum, comic book films serve as a means for the general public to escape the confines of an authoritarian society and to subconsciously enact revenge on the police who did them wrong.  Most of civilization will say that appreciate the law, however, very few appreciate the law when they get a speeding ticket.  Very few will say “I’m so happy I have a speeding ticket, this means the law is doing their job.”  Society likes having the law around, to protect them, except when the law is not in their favor.

Comic book films allow the viewer to have the best of both worlds.  It allows the viewer to identify with a vigilante lead, who stops crime, and at the same time, hate the law.  Comic book films are genius; they suggest anti-law without being pro-crime.  Though the absence of crime is not possible without lawful authority, comic book films allow the viewer to escape in that world for just a couple of hours.

 

 

Work Cited

 

Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson. Film History. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill,

2003. Print.

David, Hajdu. The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed

America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008. Print.

Jeffrey H., Goldstein. Why We Watch: The Attractions of Violent Entertainment.

New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

Alan, Silver. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style. 3rd ed. The Overlook  Press: Woodstock, New York, 1992. Print.

Categories: Feature Writing
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