Wednesday 27 February 2019

WOW this wake is LIT

"When did people get so angry?  What has happened to the civility of our discourse?"
People are dang angry, it's true, and we act like it's a new thing, but if we're honest it's been here this whole time just like peanut allergies and gender dysphoria, we just didn't have to acknowledge it because it wasn't an issue that affected us or the people we know and love.
Social media sure changed that by creating connections between us, however tenuous or slight, and rather than admit that we happily lived in ignorance of the suffering of others and would like to go back to that, we tell ourselves that politics has polorised and extremists have taken over and we want a return to "sensible" or "the middle ground" when what we really want is for those who have found a voice to shut up because the terrible alternative is to admit that we just choose not to see that we are still living in history and that's the reason the glittering futures promised in our youth never arrived.  We're still serfs, this is still the dark ages, and nothing has changed just because we have the sum total of human knowledge and experience at our fingertips at all times because the only thing we've chosen to do with that knowledge and experience is to get angry at it when it tells us something we don't like.
"When did people get so angry?"  Fuck you.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

I should go walk off this boner

I don't want to worry anyone, but I think this time travel story featuring Robocop doesn't make logical sense.
It's interesting to find myself not getting along with Robocop/Terminator: Kill Human, as how does one say with a straight face that something "does not respect the Terminator continuity"?  This is a franchise that has Genesys in it, after all - and strange but true, Genesys is actually a massive rip-off of Terminator: 2029-1984, a Zack "Not Joss, But Close" Whedon comic from 2011, which is not actually as dreadful as I imagined it might be - surely the highest praise I have ever given anything.  That comic was about a character from the future traveling back in time to the events of the original Terminator movie and OMGod what is it with me and rambling posts about Robocop?  Anyway

Kill Human starts with the rogue AI Skynet finally winning its campaign of extermination against the human race, and though this first chapter sets up an intriguing spin on the cornerstone premise of the Terminator franchise while delivering a neat twist, it doesn't actually explain how this alternate timeline in which Skynet is victorious comes to pass, as not winning the war against the humans is not only the aforementioned cornerstone of Terminator lore, but the comic itself later references events in Terminator 2 which can't have happened if Skynet won the war, as it was losing the war that prompted it to take the actions that caused the events of the first two movies.  It's a bizarre breaking of the grandfather paradox at the heart of the franchise that was entirely avoidable and is never explained, much like Robocop traveling through time despite... well, despite being Robocop and not being covered in organic matter - not being covered in organic matter is kind of the cornerstone premise of Robocop, too.
Terminator doesn't have many rules, and there's no reason to think you can't break those rules or subvert expectations that those rules will be adhered to in order to tell a story, but Kill Human doesn't do that and tries to have it both ways: it disregards the closed temporal loop in which Skynet attempts to prevent its own destruction and instead ends up guaranteeing it, but by the second issue predicates the rest of the series on those same elements still being in place.
Maybe Robocop's line "Show me how the time travel works" is some sort of meta self-awareness thing, delivered mere moments before he travels through time in a way that the Terminator movies have expressly stated to be impossible.  I dunno.
Fun fact: I read the novelisations of the movies - I was a very lonely child - and they had the T1000 traveling through time by first covering itself in cloned flesh.
So, so lonely.

Fellow Norn Arishman PJ Holden does get to render Robo sticking the nut on Arnie, surely a defining moment in our culture, but his Robo - like all other Robocops in comic form - is emotional and expressive rather than deadpan and mechanical, and I totally understand why artists do this - especially with scripts that explicitly call for Robocop to shout and scream and look anxious and angry, etc as this one does - but I can't help but feel that it misses the appeal of Robocop as an unflappable straight man in a ludicrous world, though obviously going down this avenue of criticism involves me, an amateur comics artist with (counts fingers) 7 professional credits to his name, criticising someone who has drawn Judge Dredd for over a decade, so uhhhhh probably this is the wrong hill to die upon.
I don't like my Robo to be too emotional or ahead of the game is what I am saying, as he's at his best when he's doing that deadpan reactive thing, or - at a push - when he is driving a burning pimpmobile.  Which he does not do in this, I notice.

The art is actually pretty good once you look past the whole emotional Robocop thing, with a particularly great money shot of a character from the franchise getting their head lopped off that I would have greatly appreciated seeing when I was 12, but there's only so much heavy lifting it can do for the script, which after the first issue covers some very Genesys-like ground in the final three chapters before just sort of stopping without answering any questions, the most obvious of which center around Robo suddenly turning into a time-hopping Machiavelli.  I guess they expected to do a follow-up series or something.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Take off your top and come shotgun a beer with me

Okay, I have figured out my Robocop metaphor conundrum, and I am reasonably certain that what I was working towards when equating the UK's welfare system with the prison system was establishing that even at its most childish and anodyne, the Robocop franchise was still capable of tackling subjects that would remain relevant even in the crazy world of the future we call 2019, as there is legitimately an episode of the 1990s Robocop tv series in which the lead character deals with the fallout of the establishment of Universal Credit as an alternative to existing benefits.  No, really.

They don't call it Universal Credit, obviously, because Sweet Christmas you guys the writers of Robocop weren't actually looking through time itself and using this ability to write episodes of a children's tv show, within the fiction it is called "Webcare", but otherwise things are absolutely identical to what has happened in reality: a sanctimonious, slimy shitheel character representing the worst in humanity and an obvious parody of fascist capitalism hiding behind an unconvincing facade of self-righteousness takes bribes to implement a replacement for the regular system of benefits that already exists, but it's all a ploy to control the poor by forcing them into debt through an obstructive application process overseen by third party contractors who are rewarded for withholding benefits to which people are legally entitled via a regime of sanctions which actively prevents them from finding jobs, and eventually the disgusting, slimy subhuman piece of trash behind this is taken to court to force him to act within the law, so he simply has the law changed to protect himself from prosecution, all the while being protected from exposure by a corporate-controlled media whose clumsy attempts at deflecting blame are just about believable for a television show aimed at 8 year olds, and amazingly, this is also what happens in the episode of Robocop called "Provision 22".

Would this have actually helped my clumsy blog post about Robocop comics from the 1990s?  In retrospect, probably not, but dedicating brain space to figuring out where I was going added a dash of mystery and excitement to an otherwise drab couple of weeks, and now it's over I don't know how I'll ever get that sweet rush back again.
I did like the episode ending essentially being where an old white guy swoops in and declares a return to the shitty old welfare system and everyone hails him as a hero, which was probably quite black and funny in 1992 but in 2019 is probably the absolute best outcome to events that we in the UK can actually hope for.

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Give me a dirty look so I know you still love me

As the writer of a blog dedicated mostly to Robocop, I have begun to wonder if art is morally neutral.  Specifically, I was thinking about the ethics of consuming art created by bad people after watching the film Bohemian Rhapsody, and I was helped along by a combination of factors such as the still-fresh-in-my-mind recent viewing of the always-watchable Lindsey Ellis' visual essay,  Mel Brooks, The Producers and the Ethics of Satire About Nazis  and the sight of Alistair Campbell yet again trending on Twitter because his moral authority in true Hitler Loved His Dogs And Was A Vegetarian fashion* has been reasserted thanks to his opposition to Brexit and the fact that One Million Dead Iraqis would be harder to interview on The Last Leg - I mean, One Million Dead Iraqis would certainly be funnier than the Last Leg, but having them on would present people in the UK with the difficult mental hurdle of actually acknowledging One Million Dead Iraqis and how they might have become dead in the first place and who might be responsible, so I can understand Channel 4's preference to platform a myopic war criminal instead - Alistair can play the bagpipes, don'tchewknow.  What a delight.
Anyway, the Last Leg, in helping Campbell's rehabilitation, and in satirising people with no platform of their own, and in - I poop you not - causing one of their own fans to have a nervous breakdown after ridiculing her on the show for ascribing the wrong peace award to Jeremy Corbyn**, continue a trend I've been noticing more and more in the media of satire switching its target from the powerful to the powerless.
I suppose I really first dedicated some of my typically Robocop-filled mental real estate to this matter when someone put forward the notion of Black Mirror as the new Twilight Zone and I thought "No, Black Mirror is too dark for that", as Twilight Zone's creator and primary writer, Rod Serling - a fascinating character once lambasted by a  superior officer while on active duty in the Pacific Theater for wandering around daydreaming on an island that was literally half occupied by Japanese soldiers - was an optimist and his darkest tales are cautionary, while Black Mirror's creator, Charlie Brooker, is... well, let's say he is not noted for upbeat delivery or heartwarming moral fables, preferring to make tv shows about how technology and social media in particular is ruining lives and causing the destruction of society, a surprisingly conservative outlook from someone held in quite high esteem by leftists.  Yes, I know, I shouldn't ramble on so much and instead get to the point otherwise it'll just be the Robocop post all over again, but this time it's different because I have clearly written "ethics of consuming art created by bad people" and "modern satire targets the powerless" on a notepad.  I've learned my lesson.  Not enough to write down why these two things are linked, I grant you, so let's hope this post comes together in the end.
Black Mirror is not the new Twilight Zone, because Black Mirror punches down.  The Last Leg also punches down*** (and, y'know, reinforces dominant media narratives even when they are provably false and/or directly harmful to the programme's viewers).  Bohemian Rhapsody is an enjoyable film, but its consumption aids the financial viability of its director, Bryan Singer, whose issues I shall not go into here since they require trigger warnings, and it also glosses over the issue of Queen breaking the cultural embargo on apartheid-era South Africa.
Is it ethical to watch Black Mirror, The Last Leg, or the films of Bryan Singer?  I don't really think I am equipped to answer this in a satisfying way as the solution likely does not involve Robocop, and before you ask: no, my referencing Robocop does not represent an attempt by me to introduce a touchstone element of moral or legal absolutism through which I might unravel this ethical tangle by retreating at the last to the rule of law or societal consensus as the future basis of my actions, I just really like Robocop.

* Hitler wasn't that keen on dogs and wasn't a vegetarian, this was image management - and given people are still banging on about it nearly 74 years later, Hitler clearly had a great PR team and centrists needn't work as hard on his behalf as they currently do.

** But the presenter later apologised... for not getting permission to broadcast the video footage.

*** If I was a better writer, I could figure a way to work into the post how the satire in Robocop targets the excesses of corporatism and consumer culture rather than the populace, but here I am writing this observation in the footnotes like a total chump.