August 21, 2013
Direction For 20 Something Male Protagonists

When I was a teen I was kinda annoyed that all the male characters being sold to me seemed to have no direction in life. Don’t get me wrong, women get a raw deal in movie roles, but this trend of the “directionless male slacker” never really sat right with me, mostly because I knew exactly what I wanted to do (write books) but faced various challenges to other social milestones that other men my age seem to reach so easily (love, sex, a job, a sense of community) so any attempt at writing something aimed at somebody my age was forever tainted by this lens rather than the “this is no ordinary love story” twee indie romantic comedy lens which bothered me because not only did a lot of these stories like Juno and (500) Days Of Summer assume I’d dated at least one woman by the point I’d reached the protagonist’s age, but that I’d be completed by this wacky woman who is market tested to appeal to men in ways I barely understand, namely because as an Aspie/high functioning autistic there are differing degrees of manchild I’m dealing with of the developmentally delayed kind as opposed to the 30-40 year old Peter Pan dreamed up by LA screenwriters living a world away from my own situation both in location and emotion. Like if I told somebody “I love MILFy, maternal women cause they’re fun to cuddle and really sweet.” you’d either write me off as a perv objectifying women or you’d, as a woman, be offended that I’m into maternal gals when you’re wanting to take your life in a much less motherhood oriented direction. Of course if you ask a non-Aspie guy what he likes and he says he’s into MILFy chicks, the subtext of a need for comfort and nurture is usually gone and you’d write them off as a perv. Most of the time.

So imagine my surprise when I read a lot of YA novels aimed at a dude/teenage girl YA audience and from Looking For Alaska to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, I was saddened that these books weren’t about people like me, and I don’t mean that in the way the Girls writers mean about white people in New York, I mean “Do these protagonists who are male have any real identity beyond quirky hobbies and the quirky women they date? What art do they wish to create? What inspires them? Have any of these men spent nights awake in bed, alone, with AKIRA or Heavy Traffic on replay on their computer monitor as they return to the classics of not just literature, but comics or animation or TV or cinema for comfort? Are any of these men disabled? What if they’re like me, but they’re not white, yet I still relate to them?”

Then I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and found my answer. The problem wasn’t that the character’s race or gender made me care more or less about the story, it’s that a lot of these twee indie love stories the late 2000s tried to sell me on had no real grit to make the battles these men faced matter. Oscar Wao felt like a real person living in a time when nerds were a new idea and Hollywood had barely begun to sell out our imaginations for cheap cash ins. I could feel his pain when he described the sci fi leftovers of the library as his only comfort. These were not pandering references, they felt like this weird docudrama about the sort of person born in the wrong era, before he’d be loved for who he is. In comparison stories like (500) Days Of Summer, Looking For Alaska and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower felt like Buzzfeed fantasies of what being a young dude finding meaning in a turbulent era was, no real insight, just… Platitudes of what being a dateless dude with a clear goal beyond getting laid faces would be like if I was not born with autism and not socially isolated and not born in a country far away from New York City. Fucking Disney movies respected my intelligence and dignity more than these pandering ass stories, Disney panders, yeah, but they do it in this way you’re happy to buy into because it’s a bright and colourful cartoon world you know is fake but you wish was real. It’s like why Star Trek TOS is so brilliant, they created an empire out of styrofoam and tin foil, because it was all they had. And they made you believe it. I feel rather conflicted about stories aimed at 20 something dudes. I’m scared to admit that I don’t relate to Annie Hall nearly as much as I did the first time I saw Heavy Traffic, the tale of a lonely cartoonist that creates in his bedroom for lack of a better world. I’m sorry, Woody Allen, I need to get older for you to sell me on the idea your life is hard. I still can’t relate to (500) Days Of Summer the way AKIRA rocked my world, because it wasn’t just a story about motorbikes and psychic children. It showed me a side of men where they were emotionally vulnerable at times of crisis, in ways they’re afraid to let you see. I want good stories, not just a self insert fantasy. I want to come away from a story with another wrench in my toolbox to face life with.

March 4, 2013

I feel like I belong to fandoms nobody else cares about and/or just aren’t popular enough to warrant a steady supply of GIFs.

I’m watching Fantasia right now, proto-My Little Pony is happening to the Pastoral Symphony. But as much as I love Disney I just feel sad that Heavy Traffic, my favourite Ralph Bakshi movie, doesn’t get the GIF action it deserves.

Not to mention I’m drafting a Cannibal Holocaust Professor Monroe centric fanfic where he teaches anthropology students life lessons, like Dead Poets Society with sociology. But I worry nobody would read it, most of you probably don’t even know Professor Monroe was the name of the character Robert Kerman played in that movie. Considering the titanic screen presence of Robert Kerman, the name of his actual character is easy to miss.

My point being is that I belong to fandoms that not only don’t have huge nerd followings, but even hipsters can’t fathom the appeal of these things I like, ironic or not. I feel like the blue centaur in Fantasia who’s sitting by himself and the other blue centaur can’t find him.

February 23, 2013

I just watched the Bela Lugosi version of Dracula, which turned my theory that the relationship between artists/writers/indie bands and the nerds and hipsters that consume their work is not unlike how Dracula is idolised by Renfield, and he gets scraps in return for his devotion, while Dracula slowly takes over the village he resides in, word of mouth grows about this mysterious man, and Renfield, his fanboy/poorly paid social media consultant, has the job of bragging to others about how awesome Dracula is, even if Dracula does some reprehensible things.

Like Dracula, artists and creators need their own hypnotised, crazy fanboys/girls to promote their work and do their bidding as they grow in popularity. And in this analogy, Van Helsing is the equivalent of haters on the Internet who keep dissing the work of artists who may or may not be talented but are probably hiding that they’re terrible people.

January 15, 2013

So I’ve been reading The Hole Of Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett. It’s pretty rad, perhaps even… cooler than me. And I’m okay with this. A lot of things I enjoy are cooler than me. Both the movie and manga versions of AKIRA contain characters who are cooler than I will ever be, and yet I’m not made angry by this. In examples like AKIRA and Tank Girl, the characters being badass men and women who trash the city being all rebellious is simply the life they lead. They’re not doing this to impress anybody, not even themselves. They aren’t afraid to show vulnerability even though doing this risks us thinking said badass men and women are uncool. But this makes them even cooler, because we now have empathy for characters we previously understood as cold, detached punks and bikers in an urban wasteland.

Comics like Tank Girl and AKIRA don’t mock the reader for being less cool than their creators or the characters, Tank Girl mocks a small subsection of the audience a bit, but the core audience of “people who enjoy sequential art” isn’t mocked nearly as bad as in Mark Millar’s comics work like Wanted or Kick Ass.

I need to read the Scott Pilgrim comics again to make a good judgement about this, but Scott Pilgrim’s worldview as a comic seems to hate hipsters and indie band culture as much as it celebrates them as the voice of a generation.

Can’t shake the feeling I wouldn’t get invited to the hip parties in Scott Pilgrim though. That’s always bothered me about this interesting, but flawed work. I may come back to this Cooler Than Me thought train later.

June 8, 2012
Well Meaning White Guy has Minority Friends

Well Meaning White Guy has Minority Friends

June 8, 2012
Well Meaning White Guy watches Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

Well Meaning White Guy watches Fresh Prince Of Bel Air

July 14, 2011
You think you’re too cool for these films, but you’re NOT

You think you’re too cool for these films, but you’re not.

- Quentin Tarantino

Basically sometimes I wonder if I once exhibited hipster tendencies because sometimes, I really feel underqualified as a nerd, even though my skill-set is good in some areas, the remembering of Star Trek plotlines and comic book continuities is not one of those skills I’m good at.

And I think the difference between people trying to like things to look cool and people who do it for the love can be summed up by the quotation above, from the maestro of mashup, Quentin Tarantino.

This. This right here sums up why I consider myself a nerd rather than a hipster still.

Because as annoying as Quentin Tarantino is, Tarantino is annoying in a way that only the geekiest of film geeks who got a window into the industry he devoted his life to studying and cataloguing media of could ever be, whereas hipsters who only watch Bollywood films and obscure knock off Kung Fu films to be “ironic” are not even close to fitting the Tarantino “I don’t care if you think I’m annoying, I love what I do” kind of nerd mould.

There was a time when I was asked to speak on radio to a prominent TV and radio personality in my country, about Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha manga. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t geeking out for the love, because they certainly didn’t pay me, but what they did do is admit I was the only Osamu Tezuka expert they could find in the country, and that I was familiar to a large degree of the God of Manga’s works. Oh, and I got to talk to somebody I wanted to meet in person my whole life on his official radio show. That was cool, but at the same time, Tarantino levels of nerdy as well.

What I’m saying is, I have far more respect for Tarantino levels of geekery than I do for hipsters, because when these types of geeks geek out, they not only feel qualified to make bold statements about specific media without fear, but they ARE QUALIFIED TO DO SO. This is kind of why I’m wary to think of myself of a comic book reader versus a guy who grew up in the anime and manga boom, and thus am a terrifying result of growing up in a decade where anime and manga exceeded the popularity of superhero comics in my country a long while after the 90s Dark Age I don’t feel nearly as qualified as Linkara to talk about.

In addition, I’d like to point out that not all art students are hipsters. For starters, if I was to tell you that I owned the two most useful books about the works of Daido Moriyama available in English on my shelf, and the DVD documentary of his art practice, theory, and technical skills/influences, you would probably peg me as some geek who knows more than is good for him about the Japanese photographic artist, Daido Moriyama. This is not something I do to make me look “cool” - it is something I do because I regard Daido Moriyama awareness to be awesome.

Compare this to people who go to art school because it’s a way to look cool and creative without reading too much, despite the fact that while the visual arts are a visual medium, sometimes you really do have to crack open a book and study to get any decent idea about what your influences are actually saying with their work.

This is why I regard Takashi Murakami’s Superflat artwork as hiding some subtext of unknowable psychological horror that lurks under the surface of Japan’s otaku culture, versus people who went to a Murakami exhibition because they wanted to see the cute sunflower smiley artworks and heard about those weird life sized sculptures where the guy makes a lasso out of his jizz and the anime girl status with big boobs makes a skipping rope with her milk, and only heard about these because these are the more infamous works Takashi Murakami is notorious for versus what he was actually trying to say with them.

There comes a time when one really has to search out what identity fits them. College/University is one of those times. Trouble is, during this experimental period, pretending you’re something you’re not is all too easy to do by mistake.

In essence, I think this is why I feel kind of nervous when I’m talking to other nerds in different schools of nerd thought, such as comic books versus manga. I don’t even know everything there is to know about anime and manga, as even I haven’t seen all of the creme de la creme of what there is to see as far as those two Japanese cartooning artforms are concerned.

Yet somebody as notable as John Safran, the TV and Radio personality I mentioned earlier, called me an “Osamu Tezuka expert”. Why is this? Probably because I knew much more about Osamu Tezuka than he did. “Expert” is a weird word to apply to people, and it’s a bit nebulous - especially if you’ve seen the sketch by The Chaser who make fun of “experts” on Current Affairs programs who are smart looking people with no real credentials on these sorts of programs who spout nonsense at you but you believe they’re experts because they have a bookcase, and GLASSES. How could they not be experts?

Sadly, I have to point out that as far as Osamu Tezuka nerds go, I might not have a PhD in Tezuka Studies, but compared to the sort of “experts” on Current Affairs programs, I’m kind of overqualified in this department. Yet you’d never be able to call me a “CLAMP Studios expert” because I haven’t even seen many CLAMP anime and manga beyond half-remembered episodes of Card Captor Sakura. It’s all very subjective what “expert” in a medium of entertainment really is, as you may now realise.

See, a lot of the time I imagine some older bloggers than me, like Chris Sims and those kinds of professional comics bloggers, far more qualified to talk about Batman and related Batmanology than I have any right to, because he is a product of a time when Batman had much more exposure in the popular consciousness than he did when most superheroes only get noticed these days if they get a big budget live action movie. I’m not making fun of people like Chris Sims when I say this, but what I’m saying is, compared to him I feel dangerously under qualified and misinformed when it comes to trivia about The Dark Knight compared to my seemingly vast knowledge of the minutiae of Osamu Tezuka’s stellar and justly celebrated career.

Somebody like Chris Sims might be Batmanology’s most formidable and knowledgable professor, but I suspect if I set him an exam on Tezukan Studies I wouldn’t be surprised if he would try and think, What Would Batman Do? as he attempted to use a paperclip the exam papers came with to escape the locked room where his brain is being tormented with questions about “How long did Osamu Tezuka attempt to practice medicine before he gave it up for a career in manga?” and “How did Osamu Tezuka come up with his manga, Metropolis, if he didn’t even see the movie of the same name?”.

This is not a bad thing. Nerds need to accept what skill-sets of trivia and practical skills they possess, and in this department it’s part of why when I read comics blogs about superhero comics, I really begin to feel lost and wishing I knew more about what these professional geeks are talking about when they’re discussing the Green Lantern live action movie and why it is a good or bad adaptation.

When I read these well researched insights into contemporary comics culture, it makes me wonder if, hypothetically, I was raised in an environment where comics were easy to come by, and born into a generation familiar with superhero comics versus manga, I would be able to converse with these types of geeks much more easily than I’m able to because I’m terrified of seeming misinformed or a poser. Perhaps… a bit of a hipster in comparison.

It’s why sometimes I don’t think my experience in nerdy media and pop culture is significant enough to have myself counted amongst the few, the proud, the geeky, but then I remember that just because my childhood wasn’t rooted in the Reagan era and subject to the last epoch of true mass culture everybody shared in, doesn’t mean my nerd cred has no value at all.

All this does is make me skilled in discussing different things to different people. It doesn’t make me less of a nerd. It doesn’t make me particularly cool either, nor do I need it to make me cool.

To those who think you’re too cool for the films I watch, the manga I read as well as the outright dorky literature I’ve buried my nose in for lack of a girlfriend to share my fandoms with to snuggle into, you’re not. And I’m probably not much cooler than the stuff you probably like either.

July 12, 2011

Pretty much this is what my life feels like, only my collection of nerd ephemera is nowhere near as big of this more conventionally pretty and adorkable guy than I am’s collection is.

Look, it has to be said, I’m at the opposite pole of a lot of twenty somethings right now. I know EXACTLY what I want to do with my life, in fact, I’m in university learning to do just that right now… but what does it matter if you’re creatively successful if you don’t have many friends you can turn to?

It would be nice if I had some idea of what romance my life had in store later on when I’m about twenty three or four, but right now it just feels like I’m going from loft party to loft party and not really finding who my special somebody might be. Maybe I was never meant to find them while looking for them this way, and it’s starting to look more plausible by the minute.

But come on, man. When the board game geeks at the Uni society kick you out of a game of Ninja Burger for being too slow in understanding the instructions when it’s loud around you and you feel nervous because you’ve waited two hours to find a game with somebody, you start to wonder whether you really fit in even with the nerds you thought you fit into back in high school.

It would be easier to deal with these situations if I had an anchor in what subculture I actually was beyond “guy who makes things in his bedroom because he has nowhere else to go”. I don’t think I try and join subcultures because I think this is the answer to my identity either, it’s more of a solution to find more friends that haven’t been easy to find outside of the internet.

Australia’s pretty much a prisoner island, a lot of the people who I confided in during my dark night of the soul three years ago live in America where I can’t really go out and meet up with them so easy. I don’t think Australian culture has locked in to the consciousness of internet forums as meeting places for the outcasts yet. But I don’t think, as the new century gets a little less new, that this will be the case for much longer.

I once saw the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie with a bunch of complete strangers I only knew from anime blogging at one point. It remains one of the more surreal moments of my still young lifetime, and I don’t think I’ll forget it in a hurry. Because that was one of the turning points where I thought to myself, “My God. Densha Otoko was right, man. My Internet Bros have got my back, son.”

Oh, and if you don’t know the story of Densha Otoko, Project Densha has a free public domain translation of this forum story that changed my life, made me who I am today. If some people consider themselves Buddhists in religious thought, I consider myself a “Denshist” in the realms of new ideas about how cyberculture works. I find the “/b/tard” nilhilism dissatisfying when the ideas that Densha, whether he existed or not, have so much more potential in changing the way we think about how online relationships between both men and women can shape the way we live offline too.

And if I ever manage to nab me a wife who loves me, and have grandchildren, I’ll probably have to tell them “Yeah, you know how your mother told you, never talk to strangers? Funny story about that, because when I was a young man, it wasn’t so black and white. Heh.”

That’s really what it comes down to. Densha Otoko turned everything those primary school PSAs about stranger danger I had crammed down my throat on its head. If 4chan’s /b/ represents a cess pit of un-helpful nihilism, Densha whether he existed or never was at all, presents a modern day prophetic ideology that’s much more future friendly when it comes to how humans meet and become brothers and sisters across oceans and as local as across cities and states.

February 19, 2011
Why Men’s Magazines Suck (For The Reasons You Never Knew)

This is a little rant leading off from this article from GQ magazine:

http://www.gq.com/entertainment/movies-and-tv/201102/the-day-the-movies-died-mark-harris?printable=true

1: GQ is a men’s magazine. That’s not the problem. The problem is that as a high roller kind of men’s magazine, it doesn’t cater to the Wizard Magazine type of reader.

Which leads into the next problem:

2: GQ has a tendency to be sexist not always to women but to other men who don’t meet the requirements of their “cool factor”.

I’ve read a number of GQ magazine articles in the past while waiting for my haircut at the men’s salon, but they usually have articles like “Death of the Douchebag: Is the Jersey Shore Trend Over”? - what makes these types of articles worse is that while geeks and nerds are blamed for the “infantilisation of the media” - the so called “Douchebag” class of people aren’t nearly as ridiculed for their fandom or belief system (Guidos and GQ share some value systems) but they’re ripped on for being annoying. They are not referred to as “immature” like fans of comic book movies and book adaptations of stuff like Harry Potter are.

3: Men’s magazines are not evil, but they suffer a lot from the same problems that magazines aimed at young girls and women do.

Men’s magazines like GQ present a sophisticated, intelligent analysis of modern culture - but sometimes take sexist (towards men) approaches to how to approach issues that men face that may be more complex than they seem. They also seem to have a very classist approach to how certain news stories are presented, see the article I paraphrased earlier, “Death of the Douchebag”. What concerns me is that while it’s considered obnoxious to behave like the Jersey Shore stereotype, the attitudes of “do whatever it takes to succeed”, implying one must trample over weaker men who do not have the same financial or even physiological or biological security other men this magazine is aimed at to attain an alpha-male role.

Problems with this are prevalent because men’s magazines are so vague in what actually consists of the actual demographic a man would read a magazine for to gain information about issues of their interest are ignored in favour of gender stereotyping applied to males.

Compare this to magazines about the Arts, which are very gender neutral indeed. Many Arts magazines acknowledge that their audience’s gender is nowhere near as important as the ideas they need to read about to gain awareness of the current state of the art world. Even though nobody really knows the gender demographic of Arts magazine readers, everybody working in that sort of publishing at least acknowledges that art shouldn’t be a matter of buying a new suit to look fashionable and appealing to women.

Arts magazines aren’t about seducing women, or impressing other men. They simply exist for the discussion of ideas.

Meanwhile in Men’s Magazine Lad Land, the marketing team for a lot of these magazines has no idea what the archetypal “male demographic” wants. GQ tries to act sophisticated when presenting a viewpoint on a current issue, but there exists such a things as being sophisticated and pretentious at the same time.

Lad’s mags like Maxim however, have no pretensions in pandering to a demographic marketers already know exists - teenage to early twenties males who enjoy cheesecake. While questions are raised about whether such magazines are sexist towards women - it can never be argued that such magazines are deliberately sexist against men, because the kind of men who enjoy Maxim will buy Maxim, perhaps on a regular basis - without being judged by the journalists of the magazine Maxim itself.

GQ is more of a grey area. GQ isn’t just a light fluffy magazine like Maxim, and light and fluffy magazines do need to exist. They need to exist because otherwise, the world is just too depressing. Even the most hardened haters of girly mags like Tiger Beat know that.

The world, I’m sad to say, FUCKING NEEDS Tiger Beat, because it is like a light and fluffy marshmallow in magazine form which exists to allow females in its demographic to enjoy and entertain fantasies about cute boys and make up solutions.

However, GQ has problems of the variety that it seems to be presenting itself as an intellectual and sophisticated magazine all the while discrediting many male subcultures as not worthy of being a part of GQ's alpha-male agenda.

Discrediting other subcultures in male culture can be justified in some cases of legitimate criticism, but I don’t think enjoying the Harry Potter movies is equal to being an immature male. Blame the geeks and nerds all you want for why Hollywood isn’t making “movies for adults” - but the praise of Inception despite it being a movie geeks and nerds also enjoy puts your argument into question, GQ.

Inception makes heroes out of pragmatic corporate raiders who have a code of operations that rewards betrayal of anybody who doesn’t support the mission. Sure, Leonardo Di Caprio and his buddies are marketed as dream world super-spies, but let’s not kid ourselves. Geeks and nerds like Inception because of the interesting ideas presented about when the world of dreams and future age technology collide. GQ seems to like movies where stereotypes about male role models such as in Inception, a movie that makes heroes out of handsome, fashionable - corporate white alpha-males is the norm, and emotional attachment to anything prevents you from completing your mission.

Which worries me, actually, about how close this seemingly is to GQ's imagined reader demographic. Inception is loved by both geeks/nerds, and GQ's writers and readers as it seems. But I don't think they have quite the same agenda in why they like it so much.

Which leads me to the final problem I have with men’s magazines.

4: Men’s magazines tend to oversimplify issues pertaining to men as a gender rather than going about the political or cultural conflict since it’s more acceptable for the media to see a problem as political or cultural when it may actually be a gender trouble or even a male dilemma.

Does it bother anybody but me that unlike women, who treat their issues with gender a lot more seriously than men do, for many important reasons - men seem to brush off their woes as half of a species out of conformity to the idea that a certain type of male-ness is something to be aspired to?

Where are my articles detailing the increasing about of male suicides that go unreported in men’s magazines because it doesn’t fit with the half-serious male dialogue about entertainment disguised as “criticism” of media you’re supposed to be lending to issues like THAT ONE?

Why is it that men’s magazines assume everything in a man’s life comes down to being solved by sex (according to these types of mags, preferably with women) or money (where gaining it by trampling over weaker men who “don’t deserve the rewards you won” is encouraged as if we still live in the Darwinian Neolithic era!)?

There are complex problems that men have that are actually worth discussing in magazines aimed at men but are not taken seriously enough - not just by feminists who critique male privilege but the very possessors of male privilege that ignore these problems exist for men in the first place!

It baffles me that all men, according to these magazines, care about on an unconscious level is sex and money. Surely men think about other things right? Like their loved ones, hopes and dreams for the future, bettering the world around them for everybody involved?

The feminists say, “We’ve come a long way baby.” But the masculist movement is so obscure and ignored my fucking spell check doesn’t even recognise it as a damn WORD.

We haven’t come a long way at all as men who come from all kinds of backgrounds. We haven’t even fucking BEGUN.

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