Culture, Hollywood, Movies

Michelle Rodriguez calls out Hollywood on lazy diversity shortcuts, apologizes to online babies

Michelle Rodriguez Machete Kills

You can get yourself in trouble by telling the truth in Hollywood. Just ask Michelle Rodriguez of “Fast and Furious” and “Machete” fame. Early Saturday morning she was asked by TMZ if she was going to play the Green Lantern, and her response prompted enough backlash by oversensitive online babies that she apologized on Facebook hours later.

TMZ: Michelle, are you going to be the Green Lantern?

Michelle Rodriguez: **Laughing ** That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

TMZ: Really?

Michelle Rodriguez: Yeah. I think it’s so stupid for like everybody because of this whole  minorities in Hollywood thing…

TMZ: Well, it’s been all over the internet.

Michelle Rodriguez: But it’s so stupid, it’s like, ‘Stop stealing all the white people’s superheroes. Make up your own. You know what I’m saying? What’s up with that?”

Comic book fans are still laughing at how Marvel writer Dan Slott slimed them as racist for having a similar opinion over arbitrarily changing Peter Parker’s race. How long will it be before Mr. Slott starts lecturing Ms. Rodriguez on the importance of turning Guy Gardner into “Lady Gardner,” or John Stewart into “Jane Stewart,” or Kyle Rayner into “Kylie Rayner”?

M Rodriguez
Can you read Michelle Rodriguez’s mind? It says: “I can’t believe I have to apologize to these oversensitive babies for telling the truth.” Since the ‘Fast and Furious’ star is wearing a Nirvana shirt, perhaps it will inspire a screenwriter to pen a tale where Kurt Cobain was born Katy Cobain.

The kind of people who couldn’t sleep at night until a Ghostbusters reboot with an all-female cast was announced obviously started hounding Ms. Rodriguez’s social media accounts because hours later she was posting a sleepy-eyed apology to her Facebook page:

Hey guys, I want to clarify about my comment yesterday. I stuck my foot in my mouth once again. I said that people should stop trying to steal white people’s superheroes. I guess it got taken out of context because a lot of people got offended or whatever. I have a tendency to, you know, speak without a filter — sorry about that. What I really meant was that ultimately at the end of the day there’s a language and the language that you speak in Hollywood is ‘successful franchise.’

I think that there are many cultures in Hollywood that are not white that can come up with their own mythologies. We all get it from the same reservoir of life, the fountain of life. It doesn’t matter what culture you come from. I’m just saying that instead of trying to turn a girl character into a guy — or instead of trying to turn a white character into a black character or latin character I think that people should stop being lazy. People should actually make an effort in Hollywood to develop their own mythology. It’s time to stop. Stop trying to take what’s already there and try to fit a culture into it. I think that it’s time for us to write our own mythology and our own story. Every culture. That’s what I really meant, and I’m sorry if it came off rude or stupid. That’s not what I meant. So, cheers.

When Ms. Rodriguez apologizes for speaking without a filter, what she really means is “I’m sorry for telling the truth.” She laughs at the thought of playing Green Lantern because she knows that she has the creative and intellectual chops to play a new hero — one who will etch out her own special place in American culture — instead of some Green Lantern derivative that is created to appease online diversity activists.

What is more respectable: Michelle Rodriguez playing “Letty Ortiz” in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, or Michelle Rodriguez playing a female Green Lantern knockoff because Warner Bros. dropped the ball with its 2011 attempt? While it is sad that someone like Michelle Rodriguez must apologize to online babies for speaking the truth, it is refreshing to see an artist in Hollywood whose unfiltered self values originality over uninspired diversity.

Michelle Rodriguez FF6

Comics

Dan Slott’s Spider-Verse Epilogue: Wrap-up oddly more exciting than main story

SpiderMan SpiderVerseDan Slott is an interesting guy — when he’s not trolling random women on Twitter or casting countless Peter Parker fans as racist rubes, he’s making the epilogue to his big Spider-Verse tale more exciting than the main story. In some weird way, the constraints imposed upon the writer by his epilogue — he had to wrap up countless loose ends and couldn’t engage in superfluous Spider-Ham jokes — forced him to put forth a tighter product. The result is, oddly enough, the most satisfying issue of The Amazing Spider-Man in months.

The good thing for Dan Slott with an epilogue like this is a.) there is no real need for characterization — readers are essentially told, “Hey, this is where are heroes ended up,” and b.) it provides the author with an easy opportunity in terms of providing fans with some “feel good” closure. With no defenders in his way, Dan Slott managed to sink a layup at the buzzer. He still lost the game…but at least he made his last shot.

With that said, Spider-Man fans might be disappointed when the thrill of seeing Peter Parker crack Doc Ock with a left hook wears off. As Peter Parker stands above Otto, the villain unmistakably telegraphs the vehicle that will carry him to revenge. Otto tells his hologram girlfriend “Now, Anna, as we discussed.” Was Peter Parker deaf, or did he just shrug his shoulders and say “What was that was all about? Eh, probably nothing.”

Doctor Octopus SpiderVerseAnother bizarre instance occurs when Karn reveals that the nuclear wasteland the Inheritors have been imprisoned on “fortunately” has a bunker “teeming” with spiders. What are the chances? It’s almost like Master Weaver giving the heroes a scroll with “everything” they need to succeed, or Silk conveniently teleporting to the planet and finding the bunker to begin with. Dan Slott’s Peter Parker is big on the “no one dies” mantra, but he’s apparently okay with the “shut you in a bunker and force you to live on spiders for all eternity,” verdict as well. Under normal circumstances such a panel could be laughed off, but since the writer has invested so much in “no one dies” during his tenure, it should not be ignored.

SpiderVerse EpilogueIf you’ve purchased the rest of Spider-Verse and were thinking about skipping the epilogue, then you may want to reconsider. Dan Slott may have oversold the book when he promised “Big Things” (shocker, I know), but it’s still one of his better efforts in quite some time. If nothing else, Spider-Verse: Epilogue shows that Marvel might get tighter stories out of its scribe if it puts more constraints on him.

Obama Administration, Politics

David Karp, Tumblr CEO, intellectually tumbles down mine shaft during Net Neutrality debate

David Krap clueless net neutralityTumblr CEO David Karp is one of a small group of individuals who has influenced the Obama administration behind the scenes on Net Neutrality. On Feb. 24th he appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to talk about the White House’s plan to treat broadband services like a public utility. The segment featured him tumbling down an intellectual mine shaft after the least bit of push-back from the panel.

Please — I urge you — watch as the guy who runs a digital playground for socialist kids everywhere shows why the self-appointed masters of the universe should have no say in how to “fix” the Internet (that was never broken to begin with).

Rebecca Quick: If you talk to someone like AT&T — Randal Stevenson — he will say right now they have more capital expenditures than any company in America. They have invested heavily to build their network. And that if you turn it into a utility it will not be profitable to continue investing like that. And that as a result things will slow down.

David Karp: It’s just not true. It’s just been disproven.

Rebecca Quick: How’s it been disproven?

David Karp: It’s disproven too by the the tech end of it, too. There’s a tremendous amount of artificial throttling right now. They have the bandwidth to deliver this. Look, if we could move further in breaking down the near-monopoly situation we have right now, we would hopefully see more competition.

Rebecca Quick: You have a monopoly because it’s really expensive to build the pipes. And so you have not had multiple people who will build the pipes to the door.

David Karp: **Awkward silence** Ummm. Ahhh. I cc-confess, not my area of expertise. …

Joe Kernen: In general, do you think heavy-handed government regulation is a good thing or a bad thing for an industry?

David Karp: I think a bright line rule that spells out these sort of foundational principles we believe in — I think the Bill of Rights is a good thing. …

Joe Kernen: I don’t see how that’s an answer at all, comparing this to the Bill — I understand the Bill of Rights.

Notice how Mr. Karp looks like a small child who just had a handful of quarters magically pulled from his ear by his grandfather. It’s obvious that he’s never heard decent arguments against Net Neutrality, probably because he spends a lot of time reading the Tumblr feeds of clueless kids and attending Democratic fundraisers.

The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 4:

Mr. Karp told Mr. Obama [at a New York fundraiser] about his concerns with the net-neutrality plan backed by Mr. Wheeler, according to people familiar with the conversation. Those objections were relayed to the White House aides secretly working on an alternative.

How ironic is it that the CEO of a company that theoretically works in the free exchange of ideas isolated himself inside an ideological bubble, which then broke the moment it was nudged by Joe Kernen and Rebecca Quick? David Karp Intellectual Bubbles: impervious to an Obama fist-bump, but prone to popping with a Rebecca Quick mind-prick.

David KarpMr. Karp seems completely oblivious to the unintended consequences of letting the federal government upend an entire industry, which is odd given that unintended consequences of Obamacare are impossible to ignore.

If you get a chance, I again urge you to watch as a man who has helped shape Mr. Obama’s opinions on Net Neutrality crumbles on live television.

Net Neutrality Peoples Cube

Comics

Dan Slott: Spider-Man writer slimes countless Peter Parker fans as racist

Spider-Man scribe Dan Slott took a break from bullying random women on Twitter this week to demonstrate a new an improved way of showing how clownish and immature he could be — he painted anyone who thinks “Peter Parker is a white character who believes ‘With great power comes great responsibility,'” as racist.

Dan Slott Peter ParkerYes, that’s right, in Dan Slott’s world, if you describe the white character you’ve read for decades as “white” when someone asks you, then you “don’t get” him.

This is the man who is Marvel’s ambassador to Spider-Man fans. This is the man who, ideally, would unite Peter Parker fans of all ages. This is the man whose argument (by his own admission) boils down to: “Would you go up to a [non-white child] and say ‘You can’t be Spider-Man’?”

Dan Slott TwitterNotice what Dan Slott has done — he conflates the idea of a “Spider-Man” with the character millions of people around the world recognize as Peter Parker.

When Dan Slott started this weird conversation Feb. 12 I put it this way:

I understand that it is the essence of a man that is important (e.g., “The Phantom” lives forever as different men who embody his noble spirit), but once you essentially start going down the, “Let’s just arbitrarily make Peter Parker black tomorrow and if you get annoyed, then you’re a racist” road, then that’s where you’ve lost me.

Marvel successfully pulled that off with Nick Fury. That makes sense because he was never a figure with national/world-wide recognition. It’s a different thing when basically the entire world has a vision of what “Peter Parker” looks like and guys like Dan Slott start screwing with it.

It would be like if Nintendo suddenly made Mario and Luigi black and said, “What? What? There are black Italians. What are you, racist?” to people who started rolling their eyes.

Well, no, I’m not racist Nintendo executives, but I think you’re just taking the racial sensitivity thing to an absurd level.

If someone asked me to describe Blade, one of my “thousand” adjectives used to describe him would be “black.” The same goes for James Rhodes. Or “Robbie” Robertson. Or any number of black characters. But perhaps in Dan Slott’s world, Marvel fans are allowed to describe long-established black characters as black and that doesn’t have an effect of their understanding of the character.

As I said Feb. 14 in the comments section of a previous post (I was hoping Mr Slott wouldn’t continue to belabor this conversation and prompt me to expand it into a full-blown blog post):

I’m not sure if Dan Slott is just a giant troll, or a complete doofus. He starts a conversation that he knows is going to annoy people by insinuating that maybe it might be a good decision to arbitrarily make Peter Parker black or Hispanic or Asian — when generations of people associate Peter Parker with a very specific look — and then he acts incredulous when people start talking about doing the exact same thing to other characters.

If Charles M. Schulz were still alive and he randomly changed Snoopy from a beagle to a golden retriever, would it matter? A dog is a dog, right? Yes, it would matter for many Peanuts fans because the world fell in love with a very specific Snoopy.

I wouldn’t want Marvel randomly making Blade a white guy, and I wouldn’t want Marvel randomly making Peter Parker a black guy. In both instances, it would be a weird editorial move.

Sounds reasonable, right? Not to Dan Slott. Here is how he responds to other reasonable Spider-Man fans (great customer relations, Marvel): “My grandma knew Jim Crow laws. Didn’t make ‘em right.”

Dan Slott SpiderMan raceSome random Peter Parker fan essentially says, “Even my grandma would be able to describe Peter Parker to forensic sketch artist, and he’d be white. That’s pretty iconic. I think it would probably be odd to randomly make Peter Parker black.”

Dan Slott’s reaction is to start talking about Jim Crow laws. Seriously. You, dear reader, are apparently the type of person who would tell a little black child he couldn’t be Spider-Man and you would probably admit to supporting Jim Crow laws if it was just you and Dan Slott drinking alone at the bar one night.

In his never-ending quest to fish for compliments in his Twitter feed while also putting himself up on a gigantic moral pedestal, Dan Slott is now resorting to needless race-baiting conversations with Peter Parker fans. Does it get any worse than this? Why does Marvel let him get away with acting like a petulant man-boy with a penchant for burning bridges? Since when did Marvel decide that its business model for attracting attention to Spider-Man comic books was to hire a writer who invents ways to slime customers?

The ironic thing about all of this is that if Dan Slott were to magically make Peter Parker black tomorrow, then he could very well be fending off racial conspiracy theory charges soon afterward — Peter Parker is a shell of the character he once was thanks to Dan Slott, so making him black at this stage in the game would actually be an insult to race-goggle wearing comic book readers everywhere.

One day a writer will take on Spider-Man who will bring together fans from a variety different backgrounds, ages, and political persuasions. He or she will do it without all the unnecessary antics, and when that happens Dan Slott’s legacy will sink even lower than it already has.

Update: No amount of race-baiting would be complete without Dan Slott referring to “white history months.” This is the man who writes The Amazing Spider-Man, ladies and gentlemen. Pathetic.

Dan Slott race baiterRelated: Check out Hube’s take over at Colossus of Rhodey.

Obama Administration, Terrorism

Obama tells Muslim scholars they aren’t Islamic; jihadis laugh, go back to growing caliphate

Bakr alBaghdadiThe Obama administration would do itself a huge favor if it would pass out copies of Graeme Wood’s most recent piece for The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants,” to all of its staff. At a time when the commander in chief can say with a straight face that the Islamic State group is not Islamic and State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf publicly focuses on getting terrorists better job prospects, it is a must-read.

Mr. Wood writes:

Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

Their skepticism is comprehensible. In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.

Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.

This is an incredibly important point. The leadership of the Islamic State is not interested in merely acquiring power for the sake of acquiring power — its quest is directly tied to a serious reading of the Koran that can be debated, but not dismissed.

Mr. Wood continues:

Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.

The Islamic State’s ideology exerts powerful sway over a certain subset of the population. Life’s hypocrisies and inconsistencies vanish in its face. Musa Cerantonio and the Salafis I met in London are unstumpable: no question I posed left them stuttering. They lectured me garrulously and, if one accepts their premises, convincingly. To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win. If they had been froth-spewing maniacs, I might be able to predict that their movement would burn out as the psychopaths detonated themselves or became drone-splats, one by one. But these men spoke with an academic precision that put me in mind of a good graduate seminar. I even enjoyed their company, and that frightened me as much as anything else.

Mr. Wood nails it again when he observes their “academic precision.” For his piece he also interviewed London’s radical cleric Anjem Choudary, accurately articulating many of my own opinions on the man. Say what you will about Mr. Choudary, but he is not stupid and he is not psychotic. To say that he and his ideological allies are not “Islamic” is ludicrous and invites policy makers to embrace doomed strategies for dealing with them.

Mr. Wood offers sage advice to Mr. Obama when he says:

Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).

When a U.S. president tells the American people not to take seriously the religious motivations of men who now control a land mass the size of the United Kingdom — in the heart of the Middle East — he is doing the free world a grave disservice.

Here is what I wrote Feb. 9:

It seems much more likely that Islamic State will publicly cheer on any “lone wolf” attacks that may occur in the U.S. in the next few years while privately amassing more wealth and allocating resources to grow its nascent caliphate in the Middle East.

Here is what Mr. Wood said for his March article:

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one. (The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January was principally an al‑Qaeda operation.) During his visit to Mosul in December, Jürgen Todenhöfer interviewed a portly German jihadist and asked whether any of his comrades had returned to Europe to carry out attacks. The jihadist seemed to regard returnees not as soldiers but as dropouts. “The fact is that the returnees from the Islamic State should repent from their return,” he said. “I hope they review their religion.”

Question: Why are we both coming to similar conclusions?

Answer: Because both of us don’t go around deluding ourselves that a lack of good office jobs is anywhere close to the primary driver for Islamic State recruitment. Taking these men and their interpretation of the Koran seriously yields the kind of information policymakers need to make sound decisions; telling them that the Islamic State group is not Islamic is a recipe for disaster.

If you get a chance, take the time to read “What ISIS Really Wants.” Mr. Wood’s piece for The Atlantic is superb. Unfortunately, the can’t same be said for the Obama administration’s attempts to deal with Islamic terrorists around the globe.

Culture, Politics

CPAC denies Log Cabin Republicans again; 80 percent friends now 20 percent enemies

The Conservative Political Action Conference will be held Feb. 25th – 28th, and once again the Log Cabin Republicans have been given the cold shoulder. In the world of CPAC organizers, someone who is 80 percent your friend is 20 percent your enemy.

The Huffington Post reported Thursday:

WASHINGTON — The wave of progress on LGBT rights has yet to reach the halls of the unsuitably named Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

For yet another year, the Conservative Political Action Conference will exclude from its list of sponsors the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that advocates for gay rights. The conference has increasingly become an exhibition for the movement’s more bombastic characters, but it remains one of the more high-profile conservative events each year, providing a window into the id of the Republican Party at a given moment. Several potential presidential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), are slated to attend this year’s conference, which will be held next week.

Pro-gay rights conservatives who hoped they’d get to participate in CPAC in a more formal way this year were disappointed when the answer came back from the event’s sponsor, the American Conservative Union.

This blog has been consistent for years when it comes to shutting down debate — it’s a loser. It’s a loser when NPR and other media outlets shut down the comments section of controversial topics, and it’s a loser when conservatives at the ACU find weasel ways to deny the Log Cabin Republicans a voice at CPAC.

If an organization of gay men agrees with me on national defense, fiscal policy, education, and a wide range of social issues — but it disagrees with me on the definition of marriage — it would be incredibly strange for of me to make that group feel unwelcome in my company. Denying the Log Cabin Republicans a sponsorship at CPAC is just as tone deaf as Mitt Romney saying his ideal immigration policy would force Hispanic families to “self deport” (i.e., Maybe if we make your life miserable enough, then you’ll just go back to where you came from).

Note: Jesus didn’t walk away from troubled souls — he walked towards them. Social conservatives shouldn’t fight to exclude a group that agrees with 80 percent of the conservative platform — they should fight to have the booth directly next to them.

It’s a sad day when CPAC will welcome Ron Paul fans who push nightmarish foreign policy ideas into its annual conference, but then kick the Log Cabin Republicans to the curb.

Books, Culture

Niall Ferguson’s ‘Civilization: The West and the Rest’ is a masterpiece

Civilization The West and the RestIt is hard to describe the joy of reading a book so well-crafted that words like “masterpiece” and “genius” come to mind. Reading Niall Ferguson’s “Civilization: The West and the Rest” feels like getting bowled over by an intellectual wrecking ball again and against and again — but you keep coming back for more. If you can take the punishment, then you too are handed a wrecking ball of your very own upon completion of the final page. With your newly acquired weapon you can knock down cultural relativists and anti-Western internet trolls who are too lazy to go through Mr. Ferguson’s gauntlet.

The task before Mr. Ferguson was great: he had to break down the entire history of Western Civilization and explain the key traits — the “killer apps” — its members downloaded to make them rise above the rest. He then had to explain how nations like the U.S. and the U.K. are at risk of letting it all slip away.

Ferguson’s six “apps” are:

  1.  Competition
  2. The Scientific Revolution
  3. The rule of law and representative government
  4. Modern medicine
  5. The consumer society
  6. Work ethic

A sentient drop of water in Lake Ontario would have no clue that it was going to shoot over Niagara Falls in a few days without a broader sense of perspective. Likewise, it can be difficult to see just how close Western civilization is to going over a cliff without trying to obtain a bird’s eye view.

Mr. Ferguson writes:

What is most striking about this more modern reading of history is the speed of the Roman Empire’s collapse. In just five decades, the population of Rome itself fell by three quarters. Archaeological evidence from the late fifth century —inferior housing, more primitive pottery, fewer coins, smaller cattle — shows that the benign influence of Rome diminished rapidly in the rest of Western Europe. What one historian called ‘the end of civilization’ came within the span of a single generation.

Could our own version of Western civilization collapse with equal suddenness? It is, admittedly an old fear that began haunting British intellectuals from Chesterton to Shaw more than a century ago. Today, however, the fear may be more grounded. — Niall Ferguson, Civilization: The West and the Rest (New York: Penguin, 2011), 292.

To make matters worse, those charged with providing that elevated view have done a horrible job — for decades. The author accurately observes in the preface:

For roughly thirty years, young people at Western schools and universities have been given the idea of a liberal education, without the substance of historical knowledge. They have been taught isolated ‘modules’, not narratives, much less chronologies. They have been trained in the formulaic analysis of document excerpts, not in the key skill of reading widely and fast. They have been encouraged to feel empathy with imagined Roman centurions or Holocaust victims, not to write essays about why and how their predicaments arose. …

The current world population makes up approximately 7 percent of all the human beings who have ever lived. The dead outnumber the living, in other words, fourteen to one, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril. … [T]he past is really our only reliable source of knowledge about the fleeting present and to the multiple futures that lies before us, only one of which will actually happen. History is not just how we study the past; it is how we study time itself. (Preface, xx)

‘Civilization: The West and the Rest’ is an extremely important book. If you find yourself looking around and asking, “Where did it all go wrong? What’s happening to us?” then you should buy it today. Mr. Ferguson and the researchers who helped put together his book should be proud. It’s a masterpiece that will be studied for years to come, whether Western civilization retains its global seat of prominence or not.