Three years ago when my buddy found out I’d moved to Los Angeles, he suggested I was secretly cast as Dr. Strange.
There were hundreds of reasons that could never have been true, but the one I retorted with was, “The fans would have a meltdown if Dr. Strange was Asian.”
Maybe it’s unfortunate that that’s the first place my mind went. But the backlash when traditionally white male lead characters are portrayed in film as either not white or not male is no small thing. To an extent, it’s understandable — race and gender-bending characters with decades of history and thousands of fervent followers for the sake of diversity shouldn’t be done lightly.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized Asian Dr. Strange made sense.
Master surgeon? Asian. Arrogance that stems from his skills? Pretty Asian. Locks himself away in a solitary sanctuary to fight magical and mysterious threats which may or may not be delusions brought on by loneliness? Sooo Asian. It also solved a few problematic elements since having a plucky Asian sidekick or a wise old Asian master are well-trodden tropes if a character’s white.
That didn’t happen of course. Not long after, the ‘Batch was cast and his supporting staff began to fall into place. There was some controversy over race-bending The Ancient One to be white, but since they also gender-bent the character I was okay with it. It solved the aforementioned problematic element and Tilda Swinton is awesome.
I found the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice teaser trailer thoroughly underwhelming. The project had been in production for years at that point and our first real look was sparse to say the least. But in spite of lacking visuals, the audio told a fairly interesting story.
This was not long after Season 1 of Marvel’s Daredevil was released on Netflix, which I had promptly binged. As a result I still had all these striking images and themes freshly imprinted on my brain and I couldn’t help using them to fill in the gaps. Being a video editor though, I decided to actually fill in the gaps. I meant to do this months ago but you know, video editor.
I pooped roughly seven times the following morning. And by roughly seven times, I mean I pooped seven times and they were all rough. Presumably it was once for each buck of the seven dollar pizza. I hadn’t quite paid double for it at the time, but I definitely did in the end.
In spite of the day I had just endured, I was up before eight o’clock. Once I’d voided what I hoped was the last bit of liquid from my body and gotten my throbbing leg strapped in, I set off for nowhere; this was my designated full day for exploring and with my knee already slowing me down, I wasn’t interested in wasting a minute more than necessary. When I stepped outside I was pleased to find it brisk rather than frigid. I popped into a nearby grocery store for some of that Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt I hoped would reset my digestive system and headed for the trusty subway station. On the way there, my first destination came to me: Ground Zero.
They say everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 and for me that’s true. I was in Ms. Biggs’ English class when an office aide came in and delivered the news that all after school activities were cancelled and briefly explained why. I also remember thinking, “Why should I care?” In my defense, I was an angry pop-punky teenager who didn’t know and didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone I didn’t know (and not many of the ones I did either). Also I wasn’t really sure what the World Trade Center was. One of the many downsides of being from a tiny Texas town with no TV. Thankfully a decade of college, cable, and high-speed internet had changed that. Maybe it was residual guilt or maybe it was contemplative mood I found myself in, but I felt it was a good way to spend the first morning of the New Year.
It wasn’t. Turns out you had to buy tickets to see the memorial in addition to reserving them in advance for some reason. Yes the site still looked to be under construction, but apparently charging admission was going to be a thing even after it was done as a way to ensure it stays maintained (you literally pay your respects). Instead I found a good bench in the tower’s shadow with a view of Lady Liberty in the distance and had my moment of silence there instead. No one was out save a few dedicated joggers (or new ones making good on their resolutions). With a shopping center opening up in the future, I like to imagine that was one of the quieter mornings this spot would ever see. So it wasn’t a complete bust.
Afterwards I just walked the streets for a while which was equally as nice. It was undoubtedly one of the more upscale areas I’d been without being packed with people or commercialized to hell. The busiest spot was of course Wall Street where the tourists were out taking pictures for reasons I can’t fully comprehend. There was a really gnarly-looking old church nearby that was much more interesting to look at, though selfies with the tombstones is probably discouraged. At one point I ended up taking the train back up towards Central Manhattan and was pleasantly surprised to find little bronze sculptures strewn about the station. I later found out they’re the work of artist Tom Otterness’ Life Underground project with over 100 of these guys depicting life in NYC in comical/political fashion.
Everyone’s a critic. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
People are judgmental by nature, from the early days when we judged whether or not to eat that sketchy-looking berry (don’t do it) to now judging whether or not we can beat that red light ahead (seriously, don’t do it). The thing is, as survival becomes less of a concern and more of a thing that just happens, that judgment is shifting to more and more trivial things. Like, for instance, movies.
The horrendously-titled Fant4stic was released this weekend and in an instant every critic regressed into primates who couldn’t wait to throw their word-poo at the lumbering monstrosity. If there were a way to harness all the hatred and bile poured onto that film, it could probably power the teleportation device it portrays. Admittedly I was among those naysaying the movie all the way up until its release. I wasn’t keen on the direction they’d chosen for the franchise and the near-constant reports of turmoil behind-the-scenes had me tempering my expectations for the project, along with that of anyone who would listen. I never dreamed it would be the mess it became.
I haven’t seen it, I have no plans to see it, and so I don’t have any real reason to continue deriding it. I’ve read the reviews though and I’m completely aware of its many flaws, most of which can be traced directly to “rumored” problems during production. The insane thing to me is how so many people profess that problem X, Y, and Z could have been solved if only they’d done A, B, and a little more C. Of course it seems that simple from the laptop they’re camped behind, but when you’re in the midst of a multi-million dollar production just trying to make it through the day, all those poor decisions become a lot more reasonable. I’m not trying to absolve anyone of blame here, because it’s obvious that there’s plenty to go around. But from my perspective, it all starts with the script.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written a treatment for Fox-produced Marvel films that had no hope of being made, bought, or even looked at. Yeah it’s a fairly pointless exercise, but I get to channel some frustrations with the real thing into something more creative. And hey, if it actually manages to entertain someone, even better. I am, however, deep in the throes of trying to write professionally, so I promised myself I would only spend a weekend on this (which I ended up doubling of course. In other words, a production weekend).
In an alternate timeline of real life, this is the movie that gets made by Marvel Studios to kick off their version of the franchise. As such, it is an origin story (wait, don’t go!) in that they start with no powers and acquire them during the course of the film. But really it’s a story about family. Assuming you’re a member of one of those, you know there is no real point of origin, they just flow from one generation to the next. Here our heroes aren’t teen prodigies anymore, neither are they full-fledged grown-ups, but somewhere in between trying to figure out how to interact with one another and find their place in the world (I’m almost 30, what did you expect from me?). If you make it through all 4,500+ words, you should notice inspiration from films like Apollo 13, Interstellar, Indiana Jones, and of course, parts of the comic books themselves. Also, dubious science. But that’s a given.
And I think I managed to avoid the dreaded “let me figure out how my powers work” montage, sans time jump. So there’s that.
Hope you like it.
Present day. A sandy beach looking out on the sprawling Atlantic Ocean. Two kids splash in the shallows, their skin deeply tanned from years of tropical sunlight.
One of them picks up a handful of wet sand and rears back to throw it when… the earth rumbles, the palm trees shiver in response. They look up: a mushroom cloud plumes from the center of the island. One of them stares in wonder while the other recoils in horror. They run into the ocean, swimming hard against the tide. The waves grow larger and larger as they get further out and they begin to tire. A massive wave threatens to push them under, when the trees on the shore are torn to shreds. The kids dive as the bomb’s impact washes over the shore and into the surf, flattening the wave.
One of the kids comes up for air, searching for the other in a panic and sighing in relief when they pop up nearby. They swim back to shore and follow the damage into the island, marveling at strange wisps in the air. When they reach the epicenter, they find a massive crater but no fire damage to speak of.
It’s graduation season, and for many of you that means another big step in the ever-so gradual transition from dependence to independence. Take a moment to contemplate your achievements. No I’m not being sarcastic, graduating is a big deal. It’s one of those single-serving holidays where you get showered with presents from you family (and booze from your friends) in the name of maturity. It’s like some kind of scholastic Ba(r/t) Mitzvah.
Enjoy it while you can, because your accomplishments have your loved ones contemplating their existence and they are eager to dump some on you. In no time at all, the authority figures in your life will be trying to help you avoid the mistakes they made in their youth. Teachers, distant relatives, friends who graduated last year — they’ve all mastered the art of regret and are determined to find what’s best for you. Probably.
Not that there’s anything wrong with their good intentions. Passing on information in the name of progress isn’t just a noble cause, it’s human nature. But experience is the best teacher and biased opinions can be toxic to that learning process. So in truly ironic fashion, I’ve waded through the tropes and clichés and to help you figure out what’s useful and what’s not.
Without further ado, here’s all the great advice you’re going to be hearing and why it’s complete garbage.
“F*ck the haters.”
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and haters inevitably hating. That last one in particular has become increasingly apparent in my lifetime. The anonymity of the Internet set free the flying comment section monkeys, flinging their word poo to and fro without fear of repercussions. Some have evolved and shed their masks, building digital empires on their vitriol and smearing themselves in their own self-loathing like fecal war paint. Kids these days — raised on this behavior — are leaking the unmitigated hate into real life at an alarming rate.
It didn’t take long to figure out that acknowledging the hypercriticism in any way only makes the problem worse. No matter how well-worded or well-researched the response, it’s a reaction and that only feeds the machine. Better to ignore them completely. To turn a phrase, if they aren’t saying anything nice, pretend they didn’t say anything at all. It’s an elegant solution, at least until it too worms its way into real life.
Constructive criticism is one of those concepts they teach you in school that’s nice in theory is absolutely useless in real life, like the Pythagorean Theorem or getting good grades. In a perfect world, everyone you meet would wrap their comments in courtesy and send you scuttling into self-improvement with a pat on the back. But this isn’t a perfect world and if you want manners, you’re gonna have to pay for them.
You know who gets hate dumped on them daily? The highly successful. Think they got to where they are by dismissing their detractors? Hells to the no. They’re the ones who figured out how to separate ‘brutal’ from ‘honesty’ and personal from business. They found value in the insults. They rose above the hate by standing on top of it, and so can you.
Real Advice: Every criticism is constructive if you build on it.
I must confess, I’ve been pretty damn good at every job I’ve ever had. Above average at least. And I’ve also been chewed out least once by every boss I’ve ever had, usually because I made a bad call. I could’ve turned around and bitched about it. I could’ve just ignored it. If I tried hard enough, I could probably lawyer the situation into being their fault. But I didn’t.
When someone criticizes you, there are two positive ways to handle it: you can accept what they’re saying is true and resolve to change it, or you can reject it and remember that one day when you’re in their shoes you’re going to handle things differently.