Monthly Archives: September 2016

I Hate Sausage Party and Family Guy

About a month ago Sausage Party came out in theaters, I didn’t care to see it because let’s be honest if you’ve seen one Seth Rogen comedy, you’ve seen all Seth Rogen comedies. I have nothing against his movies, and I’m sure he’s a great guy, but I’ve already seen a movie that gives the middle finger to religion twice in my life. The first time in a smart respectful way in the form of Kevin Smith’s Dogma (like seriously that’s one of my favorite movies), and a second time with This is the End staring Seth Rogen and a shit load of celebrity cameos.

Today though I’m stepping away from my high horse of gay representation in the media and religion and I’m going to talk about how fans of animation in the United States will always be screwed over (just like the animators for Sausage Party!)

The movie was advertised as a middle finger to Disney, Pixar, and probably Dreamworks SKG too with cute animated foods swearing as much as possible. Now I love giving the middle finger to big companies as much as the next person, but my issue with this movie is a big one; it was also advertised as the first R rated animated film, which is not true since we had an equally moronic Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie about ten years ago.

Rather than trying to be smart and edgy, or taking a better rout with the views on religion, Sausage Party sets out to be like adult oriented animation for the United States. Nothing but dirty jokes, swearing, violence, and one huge food porn at the end (thank you tv tropes for saving me nine dollars from this mess).

Not All Adult Western Animation is Bad

I don’t hate all adult western animation, but let’s just say I’ll pass on most of it. There was once a time I liked watching Family Guy, but having five to six classmates constantly quoting it during eighth grade made me hate it with a passion as a teen and make me continue channel surfing as an adult. I will admit I am likely to watch an episode of American Dad (I don’t know why).

For a long while [adult swim] green lit quite a bit of adult targeted animation based on the success of Aquateen Hunger Force. And most of it was about the same quality or worse. I think most of it got cancelled after one season. With few exceptions though it was more or less the same type of humor.

There are adult animated shows I do like; Futurama, The Boondocks, Bob’s Burgers, and some episodes of South Park. I think it’s because the following shows trust their audience to get the jokes. Futurama (my personal favorite of the batch) managed to sneak in a mythology arc, have character development, shame me for being single, educate me concerning ecology and mathmatics, and added the term meatbag to my vocabulary. There were even episodes where comedy took a backseat for actual stories, one of them my favorite episode Leela’s Homeworld.

Kids Cartoons with Adult Tone

There are also cartoons aimed for kids with adult tones; I would like to talk about Young Justice, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Avatar The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra, and W.I.T.C.H., but there are actually a few handful of cartoons I watched as a kid that were not meant for kids.

From Mainframe Entertainment (now known as Rainmaker Entertainment) children of the nineties were exposed to war, murder, death, genocide, tragedy, and even girls that are there to be slightly more than the token girl. Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Shadow Raiders, and Roughneck Starship Troopers were all war oriented CGI cartoons aimed for children (probably boys) with all the horrors of war attached to the story and no sugar coating how dark the situation was.

Characters were killed off in all of the above mentioned shows; Beast Wars killed off many named characters with most of the characters dying before the series ended. In continuation of Beast Machines life gets worse and worse for the Maximals. Shadow Raiders starts off with a mass genocide and the destruction of an entire planet along with themes of many races overcoming prejudice animosity towards one another.

Finally there is Roughneck: Starship Troopers Chronicles which was anything but made for kids. First the cartoon is a spinoff from the R rated Starship Troopers and it only gets darker from there. Elements are taken from both the film and book series, there are little to no funny moments, characters are killed (offscreen), assimilated into a bug/human hybrid, and are driven insane (coincidentally all three character types were loved by one of two token girls). The series is dark, much darker than anything shown on Kids WB in the late nineties and early in the new millennium and ended on a cliffhanger that gave little to no hope for all of our heroes who barely have enough assurance they will win the war.

For modern youngsters there is the above mentioned Justice League and Young Justice cartoons that were good and realized it’s audience was more than what Cartoon Network wanted them to attract. There is also Star Wars the Clone Wars, which although was something to keep Star Wars fans happy, became something more with the subject of war becoming darker and darker beyond  “Obi Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka getting into crazy adventures,” with the war having horrible effects on a friend of Ahsoka’s and resulting in Ahsoka questioning the point of the conflict.

Anime

When I was growing up I had anime, and around the age of eleven I realized not all anime was for kids after watching Blue Sabmarine No.6 where in the climax the lead villain is crying over the death of his creator saying his “father” was going to tell him of God and Jesus one day. Of course there was the badass violent anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and The Animatrix that I liked alot and knew weren’t for kids at all. [adult swim] did expose me to fairly uncut anime like Inuyasha and Cowboy Bebop and I loved it. Then there were other anime movies I saw.

In Japan anime is seen as a normal thing, they have cop shows, comedies, dramas, political thrillers, and many other genres. It has seasons and fans in all parts of the world waiting on fated breath for the next chapter of manga and the next exciting episode to be released so they can discuss, criticize, and agonize over their ship.

Until recently most form of story telling never got me to cry, except one time as a teenager. The one time I saw Grave of the Fireflies I was traumatized enough to never want to see the movie again. It brought a reality to me that I had suspected and been curious about in history class that was always glossed over because we were ‘the winning side’. It showed the perspective of two Japanese siblings who lost both their parents to the war and through foolish pride and decisions made by one sibling a series of tragic events follow.

So what is your problem with Western Adult Animation?

My problem is no one wants to take animation seriously when it comes to adults. We can get better stories out of the ones aimed for kids like Zootopia and Inside Out, but unless there is swearing, or it’s a adult oriented comedy all animation is seen as “something to get the kids to shut up” by most adults.

Maybe it’s because I grew up with the nineties Disney resonance, maybe it’s because of my teens watching anime and annoyance with classmates quoting family guy, but I just get annoyed and tired that the only way to get some adults to watch animation in the west is for it to be along the lines of Family Guy or South Park and sticking closer to the former.

I will say that I’m happy that in the case with comicbooks and YA literature that is not the case since in comics mature themes are explored and handled seriously, and there are cool plots without resorting to humor to be interesting. No I have nothing against humor, but it’s a nice breather. The ironic thing is that I do enjoy kids comics more.

Disposing of Villains

In alot of stories there is something to cause conflict, we usually call this something a villain. The villain exists because let’s face it a story would be as dull as dirt with just main protagonists. Granted a story doesn’t need a villain gloating twirling his evil mustache at the hero. Sometimes the conflict is something beyond anyone’s control, but today we will be talking of how in many works of fiction villains can be defeated in a variety of ways. Sometimes fans are satisfied, sometimes they’re not. Note I will be primarily covering select solutions to villains from works of fiction I’ve seen or read or watched, if you wish to counter argue some points you are welcomed to do so in a respectful way.

Spoilers for Many Works of Fiction, gosh I gotta find a way to write these things without spoilers.

Kill the Son of a Bitch!

That’s right, sometimes the solution to all of the conflict it for the hero to kill our antagonist! We see this action frequently in fiction these days where a villain is so bad they just need to be killed. The hero either kills out of necessity of a final solution unwillingly, because it needs to be done, or just because the villain needs to die.

This is somewhat common in anime and manga; in the Sailor Moon manga our heroines kill nearly all the villains they run into without any hesitation or second thought to the idea of killing someone because they are a bad person. I had an issue with this problem since when I got to read the Sailor Moon manga I had already watched the anime where alot of these villains didn’t die. This is probably so since Naoko Takuichi had to continue to get to the main plot of the story and didn’t have time to develop most of her villains and needed a reason for Sailor Moon to show off her fancy new powers for the new arc.

Both the anime and manga of Dragon Ball featured Goku and friends usually kill the antagonists they run into because it was their only resort after Piccolo and Goku fought in the world martial arts tournament (so many beings in that fictional universe that have the power to destroy planets with ease). In this situation though it’s because said villains are threatening the planet earth on a regular basis and don’t seem to think killing innocent lives is a bad thing.

This isn’t something restricted to just anime and manga; Disney is guilty of this too, just not too often. In Sleeping Beauty the good faries having had enough of Maleficent screwing around with them and ruining their best flowers take Prince Edward and show the bitch and her minions who’s boss. They turn her beloved pet crow to stone and enchant a sword that Edward throws into Maleficent’s heart killing her efficiently. Even in her version of the story Maleficent is pushed far enough that she has to kill her enemy for the greater good.

There is also Mulan, while she technically isn’t a princess (she only hugged the emperor of China), she has the highest headcount of any of her princess counterparts committing mass genocide against the Han via avalanche and launching a giant firework/rocket into the leader of the Han. Tiana kills Dr.Facilier and while not exclusively Disney, Dorothy Gale did kill two witches, both times as accidents though. Same for her book counterpart. Same goes for Anastasia who unlike the previous girls in this paragraph kills her foe in cold blood.

Back to television this is very common on kids tv; most seasons of Power Rangers have the Rangers kill the main antagonist because they’re evil. Not all antagonists are killed, but I’ll get to that later.  So far all three seasons of Agents of Shield have had to resort to killing the antagonist of the season because they’re that insane. And finally on Doctor Who, while the Doctor himself has a rule set for himself that he won’t kill an enemy (post reboot anyways), that doesn’t mean his companions are always as compassionate/willing to follow his set of rules.

Finally in literature it is a common theme in dystopia novels that the final solution to defeating an enemy is through killing. In The Hunger Games series it appears Katniss’ solution to the issues in Panem is to kill president Snow, however rather than killing THAT antagonist, Katniss chooses to kill president Coin realizing she’s just as evil (possibly more evil) and lacking in compassion as Snow.

In contrast with above, the heroines of The Lunar Chronicles only choose to kill Queen Levana because she’s that insane, has the power to control people against their will, and is just that much of a jerk to make people miserable. She even tries to pull the compassion card with Cinder by just asking the lead heroin to let her “just be pretty again” before attacking Cinder in a rare moment of gullibleness.

Then there’s The Chronicles of Narna where despite being Christian literature many foes are killed. Not in cold blood though, but rather because the enemies are just variations of Satan. The final book in the series does have all the remaining antagonists and grey area entities fates left ambiguous (probably in hell) and in a unique twist all of the protagonists died.

God/Nature/Gravity/Someone Else Does the Dirty Work

This is more common in children’s entertainment where it’s not such a good thing to have the protagonist kill, so why not have nature or gravity do the dirty work for them? This is very common in works of Disney so I won’t list any specific movies from Disney where this happens.

Outside of Disney this is fairly rare, but since it wasn’t always a Disney franchise there is the original Star Wars trilogy. Luke goes on a mission to try to redeem his dad and has to deal with the constant sarcasm of Emperor Palpatine, Anakin reawakens in Vader and kills Palpatine for Luke leaving the young Jedi fairly pure still.

The first few seasons of Power Rangers actually has all the villains constantly trying to one up each other rather than having the rangers kill the main antagonists. Supposedly had the franchise not been a success, actress Machiko Soga would have been flown to California from Japan so they could film the five rangers placing her and her team back into a dumpster and sending her back to space.

While the antagonist doesn’t have to necessarily be killed for this solution, it is a good way to keep the protagonist from getting their hands dirty and keeping a fairly clean image and my second least favorite approach to the problem.

The Nonviolent Solution and Possible Redemption

Continuing with Power Rangers in what was thought to be their final season Power Rangers in Space where all hope is lost in the universe and five Rangers on earth and other rangers teams/allies fighting a losing galaxy wide battle against the Alliance of Evil consisting of all their previous foes teaming up together and doing planet wide attacks rather than sending one monster at a time. Zordon orders Andross the red ranger in this hopeless moment to kill him thus reducing nearly all the villains to ashes and redeeming villains such as Rita, Zed, Divatox, and even bringing Andross’ sister back from the dead.

Power Rangers Time Force went a step further and rather than killing the monster of the week, the rangers arrested them and froze them to be imprisoned. It is in the finale that the main villain Ransik chooses to surrender to the rangers in a moment of realization at the evil he has caused after nearly killing his daughter Nadira. Nadira had previously turned against her father after being told by a friend to break the cycle of hate that had caused the events of the season (oh and helping a woman give birth when she went into labor when Nadira was robbing a store). Ransik chooses to surrender to the rangers and be arrested.

As stated above in the Sailor Moon anime many villains and antagonists are in fact still alive because Usagi and friends treasure life and the power of love and friendship is that strong that all enemies can be redeemed. Didn’t work for Nephrite though. The French/Korean children’s show Miraculous LadyBug actually runs on this where on a weekly basis the protagonist Ladybug has to use her Lucky Charm powers to solve problems without killing any of the antagonists.

This is also a major issue with the children’s cartoons Avatar The Last Air Bender and Avatar the Legend of Korra where both incarnations of the Avatar choose not to kill the final antagonist. For Aang  in the final episodes of the series he is conflicted by his personal belief that killing is wrong despite the past Avatar incarnations saying that it was his duty to kill Fire Lord Ozai belief’s be damned. However a new option is presented and Aang jumps at that opportunity to save the day. In Legend of Korra, the lead heroin does kill one of her adversaries, but admits she regrets that there was no way for her to save him. In her series finale she approaches Kuvira and rather than using force against her talks her down into surrendering. Kuvira does not get off easy with Korra’s friends though.

Finally there’s the Twilight saga, as bad as the series is I do respect it for one reason. Rather than going for the bloody intense fight that Stephenie Meyer had been building up to in the final book Breaking Dawn our author chooses to have our protagonists and antagonists not go into battle with one another.

I will say that despite how anticlimactic this solution is at times, this is my preferred solution to a story since in real life (joking aside with my friends) I am a pacifist and I’m not particularly fond of violent solutions to problems.

Why Does it Matter?

Fifteen years ago today there was an event that affected people around the world and changed the world we live in. Where lives were lost and people felt emotions from sorrow to anger. It was the day my dad took me aside and decided to take the religion he had chosen for me more seriously by telling me that the people responsible for so much death were bad people, but that not all the people of the Islamic religion were responsible for all the potential days meant to be lived by those people lost.

Ten years later on May 2nd 2011 Osama Bin Ladin had been killed. I remember that day crying because I realized something horrible. That in the act of him being killed by US soldiers and celebrating his death that we had sunken to the level of evil (conspiracy theories aside (all conspiracy theory comments will be deleted btw)) needed to claim so many lives. I know not all of the world felt joy in his death, but it felt very wrong to me at that moment and even now that it had to be the final solution to a problem that still hasn’t been fixed as a result in today’s world.

To finish this, I’ll leave a quote from Fred Rogers; When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look at the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”