Is Batman a Narcissist?

Before we start, I want you all to know how much I love Batman. I’m not trying to ruin his 75th birthday here, and however I end this post, I’m still going to love Batman. The sheer amount of Batman-related shit I own would be embarrassing if I were still capable of feeling shame about such things. Here is a photo of my specially allocated Batman cupboard, taken three years ago. It’s even more packed now (but I’m not at home to take a fresh photo); 

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This Bat-Narcissism thing only came up, because a few days ago when I was having a totally normal conversation about Batman’s political alignment on Facebook and a friend of mine characterized the Dark Knight as ‘self-loathing’. That’s something that rang true when I heard it, because, of course right? Batman is all dark and broody. He blames himself for the death of his parents. 

But when you take a step back and really think about it, it all falls apart. Not only does batman NOT hate himself, I think he actually loves himself considerably more than is healthy. 

I’m going to pull examples from various corners of the Batman universe as I make my argument - and you might rightfully argue that Batman isn’t necessarily a singular entity and rather a multitude of characters based on the same ‘Batman’ theme, but I think that by the end of this I’ll have at least some of you convinced that 'Bat-Narcissism' is an item found in most Batmens’ Utility Belts.

Going back to the start of it all, the majority of Batmen exist as the result of the incident that took the lives of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. Depending on the version of the origin story you listen to; the three of them left either a movie theater, or a live performance via an alleyway exit, where they were gunned down by a generally unknown assailant in a senseless criminal act. Bruce Wayne never fully recovers, and dedicates the rest of his life (and his vast, inherited fortune) to fighting the kind of crime that robbed him of his family. 

It’s been said by many a Batman and many a Batman writer, that Bruce Wayne is the mask Batman wears, not the other way around. I believe the artist Alex Ross once wrote that Bruce Wayne died with his parents and that’s when Batman was born. I think an episode of Batman Beyond had Bruce Wayne realize he was being psychically manipulated when he noticed he was thinking of himself as 'Bruce' and not ‘Batman’. It’s also been noted on numerous occasions across Batman media that 'the Batman voice', (where it differs from Wayne’s own, which it doesn’t in every interpretation) is the REAL voice, and the jovial Bruce Wayne voice is the act (a fact that makes Nolan’s Dark Knight movies sort of hilarious). 

Either way, the point is that Batman isn’t just a mask, he’s a whole personality. The real personality. The real man. 

So what does this say about Batman’s obsessive branding

I mean, besides beaming a big bat signal out over the city every night…

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It’s appeared on helicopters, planes, cars, clothes, credit cards…

image

… burned into the sides of bridges…

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… and meticulously painted onto the sides of things that are about to be blown up…

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'Heh heh heh… me.' - Batman (probably).

Does it seem likely that a self-loathing man would want to write his name on everything he touches? Sometimes in giant flaming letters? 

I mean, I don’t think anything makes my point more clearly than that last image, because let’s face it, Batman has no reason whatsoever for drawing that shape. He could draw a squiggle or a cross, but nope - he’s got to draw that symbol. And why? For his own amusement. Because he loves that symbol and that symbol is Batman. He loves himself.

Still not convinced? OK, maybe I have one more thing you can think about; see that big flaming Bat on the bridge two images above this sentence? Remember how Bane was controlling the city and the Scarecrow was down below sentencing people to death in Kangaroo courts? How long was he up there on that bridge making that perfectly symmetrical bat shape? I get that he wanted to send a message to the people that their hero had returned, but Jesus Christ, Batman, prioritize! 

"BATMAN BLAMES HIMSELF FOR THE DEATHS OF HIS PARENTS"

I think that sentence is something most Batfans would instinctively agree with. That’s why he’s Batman right? Except, you could change one word of that and most Batman fans would still agree with it.

"BATMAN BLAMES CRIME FOR THE DEATHS OF HIS PARENTS”

Batman’s actions certainly support the second statement more than the first. After all, Batman doesn’t start a one-man-war against Bruce Wayne, or people like Bruce Wayne, his war is against crime. 

Whilst we’re on the subject; what sort of a man thinks he’s capable of fighting something as large and abstract as ‘crime’ by himself in the first place? That doesn’t sound like the pursuit of a man who is self-loathing. Would a self-loathing man believe he was capable of mastering several (or all known) martial arts? Would a self-loathing man have enough belief in himself to think he can fight the kinds of huge, supernatural battles Batman fights and win?

Would a self-loathing man believe he had the moral authority to break laws about such things as… driving unlicensed vehicles, committing assault, child endangerment, pergury, kidnap, harassment and more, all in the name of STOPPING crime?

Would a self-loathing man believe he had the right to stand next to people with actual superpowers and call them his equals? Personally, I think a self-loathing man would pick up the latest issue of the Daily Planet, see Superman on the front page and think; ‘I really hope that this more competent and powerful entity can solve the nasty crime problem,’ then reach for the third donut because, ‘damnit Bruce, what’s the point in fighting the pounds, no one will ever love you anyway…’ 

Or, maybe a self-loathing man wouldn’t think he would solve the institutional crime problems in Gotham City, and he would channel his abundant wealth into getting other, more competent people to fix them? Granted, he’s been seen doing this with Harvey Dent (throwing a career-making fundraiser for him in Dark Knight), but why is he putting all of his eggs into one Dent? Bruce Wayne clearly has money, power and connections, he’s clearly been outside of Gotham, he must have met other people just as capable of reforming the city as Dent was. For every criminal lawyer freeing members of the mob, some lawyer out there somewhere must be better at sending assholes to jail, so why doesn’t Bruce put his money into luring THOSE people to Gotham? 

Batman doesn’t do that because he figures; ‘I’ve got this.’ At the end of Nolan’s Dark Knight, he even rides off whilst monologuing about how he’s ‘the hero that Gotham needs’. That sentence is loaded. Do self-loathing people think of themselves as heroes? Do they believe they are needed? Do they decide what a whole group of people need?

When Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson called himself 'The Peoples' Champion' in the WWF, he was saying that because he was meant to be a narcissistic heel… but he at least seemed to be aware that he was bragging. In the context of the ending of Dark Knight, it strikes me that Batman considers being the true savior and most important man in Gotham a genuine burden. ‘I’m so cursed for being this awesome…’

Or maybe that’s just what he WANTS people to think, because his image is pretty damn important to him. Did I mention the branding yet? I did? OK, well then let’s look at the ending of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy and how (SPOILERS) Batman survived that explosion…

You realize that in order to escape that bomb-blast without anyone knowing how or why in the climax of The Dark Knight Rises, Batman must have had a plan, right? That means that when he gave his long emotional goodbye to people who cared about and respected him, he knew he was full of shit. He even needed his closest confidant and father figure Alfred to think he was dead because of… reasons? And he planned all of this during the largest terrorist occupation on American soil since the founding of the country as we know it. Jesus Christ, Batman, prioritize! 

The only explanation for why he even did it that I can think of - is that deranged billionaire Bruce Wayne didn’t feel like people were appreciating him enough that day, so he had to show them how fucking horrible the world would be without him.

What a dick.

-MVB

amazinglymediocre:

natebear:

m-v-b:

This came about in a debate about Marvel’s decision to change Thor’s gender. In a thread of disgusting comments, this one stood out to me. This guy really thinks he’s gotten it all worked out, because it’s not like Marvel comics had any female fans before the movies, is it? And really, what else could they possibly like about the movies besides, you know… biceps and eye-candy? Completely unrelated, but here’s a photo of a Batgirl cosplayer wearing a perfect imitation of a Batgirl costume that as far as fans were concerned -didn’t exist- until less than a week ago.  If I ever meet this lady (who I’m given to believe is named Helena Stark), I’m going to ask her if it was George Clooney’s biceps or Adam West’s biceps that first drew her to the character. I’ll also ask her if it strengthened her connection with her husband/boyfriend, because I’ll go ahead and assume that was the goal. 

And maybe I’ll ask my wife which X-Men actor’s biceps turned her into a lifelong fan of the franchise, 10 years before the first X-Men movie hit theaters. Actually, no I’m not. Because I’m not a dick. -MVB

Really? Cuz i only read Superman because of his huge boobs.

I thought everyone was into Superman because of dem titties.

Nate Bear now needs to draw Superman with womens’ breasts, I’ve decided. 

amazinglymediocre:

natebear:

m-v-b:

This came about in a debate about Marvel’s decision to change Thor’s gender. In a thread of disgusting comments, this one stood out to me. This guy really thinks he’s gotten it all worked out, because it’s not like Marvel comics had any female fans before the movies, is it? And really, what else could they possibly like about the movies besides, you know… biceps and eye-candy? 

Completely unrelated, but here’s a photo of a Batgirl cosplayer wearing a perfect imitation of a Batgirl costume that as far as fans were concerned -didn’t exist- until less than a week ago.  If I ever meet this lady (who I’m given to believe is named Helena Stark), I’m going to ask her if it was George Clooney’s biceps or Adam West’s biceps that first drew her to the character. I’ll also ask her if it strengthened her connection with her husband/boyfriend, because I’ll go ahead and assume that was the goal. 


And maybe I’ll ask my wife which X-Men actor’s biceps turned her into a lifelong fan of the franchise, 10 years before the first X-Men movie hit theaters. 

Actually, no I’m not. Because I’m not a dick. 

-MVB

Really? Cuz i only read Superman because of his huge boobs.

I thought everyone was into Superman because of dem titties.

Nate Bear now needs to draw Superman with womens’ breasts, I’ve decided. 

Today’s best post in the category of ‘stupid internet dickheads…’I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I don’t know what’s worseIs it that he thinks the government is using Marvel comics as a tool for malicious social engineering?That he believes said ‘messed up’ conspiracies are characterized by the widespread acceptance of women, people of colour and gay people?That ‘wake up’ has become a shorthand for ‘ACCEPT MY BIGOTRY AS WISDOM’? Or maybe it’s that AT LEAST two people reading this figured; ‘sure, that sounds about right’ and tapped the ‘like’ button. Oi vey. -MVB

Today’s best post in the category of ‘stupid internet dickheads…’

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. I don’t know what’s worse

Is it that he thinks the government is using Marvel comics as a tool for malicious social engineering?

That he believes said ‘messed up’ conspiracies are characterized by the widespread acceptance of women, people of colour and gay people?

That ‘wake up’ has become a shorthand for ‘ACCEPT MY BIGOTRY AS WISDOM’

Or maybe it’s that AT LEAST two people reading this figured; ‘sure, that sounds about right’ and tapped the ‘like’ button. 

Oi vey. 

-MVB

The weirdest Facebook conversation I’ve ever had.

 

the quickening has begun

A woman Thor and a black Cap? It’s a bad week to be a misogynist racist fanboy. 
BADASSDIGEST.COM
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My Apology.

I strongly feel I should apologize for the ignorant & offensive remarks I made about extra-terrestrial immigration and artificial intelligence in last week’s interview. To anyone out there who took my words the wrong way and has taken up arms against these entities, I urge you to stop.

My words were hurtful and disgusting, but I don’t like how right-wing media has twisted them to suit its agenda. 
They do not represent me and I do not represent them.

First and foremost, I’ve ALWAYS been an advocate of the rights of artificial persons. I marched in Ultrawashington for the right of artificial people to vote. I should have known not to use the language that I used in the interview.

For instance, I realize now that the R-word is offensive (I had no idea it was derived from the czech word for ‘slave’) and has no place in the modern age. I also see that referring to artificial intelligence as ‘artificial ignorance’ is the kind of downright unforgivable kind of bile that thwarts social progress.

Furthermore, my heart goes out to any extra-terrestrial lifeforms (be they people or other) who were hurt by my comments. I have no excuse. No extra-terrestrial lifeform has never harmed me and truly; I apologize if I have harmed any of you with my words. I must learn to be better.

Thank you for your time.

-MVB

This came about in a debate about Marvel’s decision to change Thor’s gender. In a thread of disgusting comments, this one stood out to me. This guy really thinks he’s gotten it all worked out, because it’s not like Marvel comics had any female fans before the movies, is it? And really, what else could they possibly like about the movies besides, you know… biceps and eye-candy? Completely unrelated, but here’s a photo of a Batgirl cosplayer wearing a perfect imitation of a Batgirl costume that as far as fans were concerned -didn’t exist- until less than a week ago.  If I ever meet this lady (who I’m given to believe is named Helena Stark), I’m going to ask her if it was George Clooney’s biceps or Adam West’s biceps that first drew her to the character. I’ll also ask her if it strengthened her connection with her husband/boyfriend, because I’ll go ahead and assume that was the goal. 

And maybe I’ll ask my wife which X-Men actor’s biceps turned her into a lifelong fan of the franchise, 10 years before the first X-Men movie hit theaters. Actually, no I’m not. Because I’m not a dick. -MVB

This came about in a debate about Marvel’s decision to change Thor’s gender. In a thread of disgusting comments, this one stood out to me. This guy really thinks he’s gotten it all worked out, because it’s not like Marvel comics had any female fans before the movies, is it? And really, what else could they possibly like about the movies besides, you know… biceps and eye-candy? 

Completely unrelated, but here’s a photo of a Batgirl cosplayer wearing a perfect imitation of a Batgirl costume that as far as fans were concerned -didn’t exist- until less than a week ago.  If I ever meet this lady (who I’m given to believe is named Helena Stark), I’m going to ask her if it was George Clooney’s biceps or Adam West’s biceps that first drew her to the character. I’ll also ask her if it strengthened her connection with her husband/boyfriend, because I’ll go ahead and assume that was the goal. 


And maybe I’ll ask my wife which X-Men actor’s biceps turned her into a lifelong fan of the franchise, 10 years before the first X-Men movie hit theaters. 

Actually, no I’m not. Because I’m not a dick. 

-MVB

LADIES OF LIGHTNING

With Marvel announcing their latest progressive shift towards a more diverse roster of characters and flagship titles, the internet has responded with the usual torrent of abject misogyny and fear at the idea of change. I’ve seen multiple people refer to her already as multiple mash-ups of the name ‘Thor’ and the word ‘Whore’.

Well, fuck those people. That’s the fast track to my block-list, I’ll tell you that much. But good on Marvel. If people are going to be pissed of at you, better it be the worst people in the world. 

Anyhow, I decided to compile a list of women previously deemed worthy of Mjolnir, just to show that there is a strong precedent for ladies wielding that hammer.

Here are all of the instances I’m aware of, but I’m sure I missed some feel free to add your own.  

Thor: 

First up we have a bit of a cheat. That’s actually Thor serving out his latest ironic punishment within the pages of Earth X - an alternate future of the Marvel Universe. I’m not sure if the revealing costume is part of the punishment or if Thor was just especially proud of that body.

Jane Foster

Next up (thanks Nigel Haynes for bringing this to my attention) we have Jane Foster in her own ‘What If’ title. You know, if Thor can make a copy of his hammer for a Horse Man from Space, or for a god damn Frog and some guy he was buddies with, you’d think he’d be able to make one specially for the woman he loves…

Wonder Woman:

Back in the 90s we saw a crossover between Marvel and DC where Space Gods made the heroes beat the shit out of one another to determine which universe would survive. Thor lost his hammer in his battle against Captain Marvel, but Wonder Woman found it right before she faced off against Storm…

Storm:

WAHBOOM BADA BOOM! Fuck yes. Punk Era Storm get’s Marvel’s most massive upgrade. More of this please.

Natasha Romanov:

I didn’t read it, but something about a former Russian Spy being deemed worthy of the Hammer appeals to me. The Gods are above our Earthly Politics. 

Rogue: 

I remember the image, but not the story. I think it was a What If where Rogue absorbed Thor’s power and essence, killing him and kind of becoming him at the same time.

Crusader:

(Thanks to Christopher Turner for this one) In ‘What If starring; Secret Wars 25 years later, Captain America’s daughter Crusader wielded Mjolnir when Thor’s own son couldn’t lift it. To rub it in, she was holding Cap’s shield at the same time. 


Lemme know what I missed. 

-MVB

I watched Spike Lee’s Oldboy.

A year ago I saw the original Oldboy (which henceforth for the sake of this article, I will call ‘GOOD Oldboy’). I fell in love with it instantly. It’s a fucking horrifying movie that you just can’t turn away from. It’s exciting, well acted, beautifully stylized and (for me at least) entirely unexpected.

If you haven’t seen it, you should go and watch it right now. I think it’s still on Netflix. You want the one with the Asian guy, not the one with the white guy. If you get the one with the white guy by accident, stop playing it, clear your browser history and wash your eyes with soap and water. I don’t care if it stings. 

You done?

If not, don’t read past this point, because in order to continue talking about Spike Lee’s atomic turd, I need to spoil one of my favourite movies for you - and I don’t want to do that. We’re entering Spoiler country, population; anyone reading this without foreknowledge of the original Oldboy movie. 


I’m going to admit up front that I may have gone in with the wrong attitude.

Having found the thing on Netflix with a suggested ‘two-stars’, it seemed like their algorithm was trying to tell me not to bother, even as they pushed the movie in my face. It was only out of morbid boredom that I decided to click on it. 

Still, I’m not against remakes and adaptations, even ones that raise as much contention as this one. I do, however, believe in a series of points that make for a good remake and this movie failed on every front. I believe that theme and tone are more important than directly retelling the story, but most important of all; I believe a good adaptation stands on its own. I repeat; this movie fails on every front.  

In fairness, Good Oldboy itself is a Korean film adaptation of a Japanese Manga. And in many ways, it’s fails as an adaptation. The manga ‘Old Boy’ (two words), was considerably tamer than the movie. Near enough everything in the Korean movie beyond that initial setup, (a man is plucked from his life and imprisoned for decades in a hotel room with no explanation - then randomly freed) is wholly original.

What the director added to the story created a massive tonal and thematic departure from the original work. For instance, one thing now synonymous with Oldboy, is the incest theme that runs through it. That’s not from the original source material. That’s something Good Oldboy director Chan-wook Park added in. 

That’s something I’ve come to expect more from cross-cultural adaptations however. Korea is a very different place from Japan and like every country, they have their own storytelling conventions, their own expectations and their own ideas about how things work. I have to believe that Chan-wook Park factored that into his decision to make his Oldboy movie the way he made it. A Korean vision for a Korean movie, first and foremost for a Korean audience. 

Fundamentally, It’s like they took ‘Spider-Man’ and somehow made ‘A Clockwork Orange’ out of it. But that’s OK too, because where it isn’t a good adaptation, it is a great movie in its own right. Frankly, I’d have had more respect if Spike Lee had done the same thing. Unfortunately, his movie lacked any vision of his own… and through his directorial decisions, he repeatedly reminded viewers of this, almost as if he wanted us to hate it. 

His movie (henceforth dubbed ‘Crap Oldboy’), starts out nigh identically to Good Oldboy, but with the woefully miscast Josh Brolin as the shithead protagonist. I like Brolin, but he was wrong for this movie. He’s too rough and imposing to begin with and as a result we miss out on the transformation we saw his Korean Counterpart (played by Min-sik Choi) go through in the good version of the movie. Min-Sik Choi looks like a investment-banker at the beginning of his movie, Brolin looks like a slightly out-of-shape boxer. 

It’s in those early scenes that we start to see Spike Lee’s own flourishes, and it’s… not good. 

Though set in America, featuring a predominantly white American cast, Lee seemingly tries to recreate the feel of the original by setting much of the movie in and around (what I’m guessing is) a K-Town. Brolin first drunkenly tries to buy a duck toy for his daughter from an Asian lady who sells such things from a stand on an empty street… at nighttime… with the repetative sales pitch of… ‘Five dollar! Five Dollar!

It is then that we see the sadly stereotypical silent Asian femme-fatale pop up to kidnap the drunken Brolin right out of the street. Between her and the English villain we meet later on, it’s hard to believe Spike Lee was taking this seriously. 

Then it’s time for the twenty year imprisonment, which is similar to (if less effective than) the version we saw in Good Oldboy. To remind everyone that this is a remake of an Asian movie, Crap Oldboy shows how Brolin is fed the same dumplings every day from a fast food container, even though he hates dumplings. He is also given a bottle of vodka every day, presumably to keep him nice and alcoholic. As in the Korean version, Brolin’s Character watches the passage of time via a TV set. He finds out his wife was murdered, he was framed for it. His daughter was adopted out and puzzlingly, her new parents appear on a crime show to talk about it and share footage of the child playing the violin. This is where the story does start to diverge in the most significant way. 

In the original movie, the character does have a wife and daughter, whom he neglects, and his wife is murdered and his kid is sent away for adoption, but neither of them are really mentioned after that for some time. In Crap Oldboy, Brolin’s daughter is the cliched motivator for everything he does. 

The protagonist in Good Oldboy is motivated entirely by a lust for vengeance, having had his life taken away from him without reason given, when the protagonist of Crap Oldboy is released, he is on a quest to save his daughter from the nasty man who trapped him. This vastly changes the meaning of the movie, making Brolin into a more noble and somehow less-compelling character.

When Brolin is released, he is given a smartphone with a picture of his daughter (now an adult) on it. There is a countdown clock implying that he has a finite amount of time to rescue her. 

In both versions the protagonists are paired with a love interest/helper whom they meet shortly after their release. In Good Oldboy, it’s a chef played by Hye-jeong Kang, who works in the restaurant that hosts one of the movies most iconic scenes - where the protagonist eats a whole, live octopus (Min-sik Choi actually did this, in spite of the fact that he is a vegetarian). In Crap Oldboy, Brolin is paired up with a nurse, played by the little sister of the Olsen twins (who seems like a competent actress by the by). The two of them go to a restaurant where they see an octopus. That octopus was the first of several reminders that, hey, this is a shittier version of a pre-existing movie. 

So skipping ahead a bit, past some shitty scenes with Brolin’s unnecessary buddy-character, and some amateur sleuthing, he has some of the sex. And I want to talk about the sex, because the sex is very important in both versions of the movie.

In Good Oldboy, the protagonist is a dickhead, even after his release. Arguably less-so maybe, but there’s nothing particularly noble about him. When he fucks Hye-Jeong’s character, it’s a primal, aggressive and somewhat degrading act. It’s not a sexy sex scene. It’s something I actually found hard to watch, because she is in pain as it happens. She is consenting. Whether he loves her or not, it’s clearly an act of lust. 

In Crap Oldboy, 
you see a standard hollywood love-scene. There are brief flashes of Elizabeth Olsen naked. You believe that for whatever reason, on some level, this is intended as an act of love, not lust. It’s gentle. I expect that’s because a scene like the one in Good Oldboy wouldn’t work with a more noble protagonist who is doing it all for his daughter. 

The earlier introduction of Elizabeth Olsen is a peculiar moment in the movie, because if you’ve seen the original, you know exactly who she is meant to be and you know that all of the imagery you’ve seen so far depicting Brolin’s ‘daughter’ is a sloppy misdirect. Yes, she IS his daughter and the whole re-imagined plot about trying to save his fake daughter seems like it was intentionally included to confuse people who saw the original. 

So yeah, in both versions that character is unknowingly his daughter, and in the crystallizing moment of the plot, the protagonist fucks her. Later when you find that out, in one movie you have one guy who was manipulated into making love to his daughter and another movie where the protagonist was manipulated into violently fucking away 20 years of pent-up sexual frustration with his daughter.

In the Korean version, the protagonist is so horrified by this revelation that he cuts out his own tongue (his gossiping tongue ruining lives is what got him into this in the first place). After the villain dies, the protagonist attempts to have his mind wiped of that horrific memory by confronting one of the people who mentally manipulated his daughter into falling in love with him. As the movie ends, you don’t even know if it worked.

We do see a severed tongue in Lee’s movie too, but it belongs to Brolin’s buddy, and it was cut out by the scenery chewing stereotypical British villain. Like the Octopus before it, this seemed to be another reference to a better movie.

What Brolin’s character did, upon realizing that he’d made love to his daughter, is send her a sweet little package with the duck toy he’d bought her in it and a ‘I love you, but don’t look for me’ letter. Then he went and checked himself back into that hotel-prison again so that he could smile at the camera for the last few seconds of the movie.

The main theme in Good Oldboy was Vengeance (it was part of Chan-Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy). The protagonist sought vengeance for his imprisonment, and ultimately you find that the man who imprisoned him sought vengeance for the way Dae-su inadvertently ruined his life. It’s a dark, captivating symmetry. Not only that, but this plot is so tightly wound that everything important in the movie is informed by vengeance in some way or another.

In Crap Oldboy, the villain’s motivation is much the same, but desire for vengeance is only incidental to Brolin’s character’s daddy-quest, first to clear his name and gain his fictional daughter’s love, but then after his release, to rescue her. 

No one element in this movie was an improvement on its Korean predecessor. It’s rare that I find a film that has literally nothing to say and no reason to exist, but right here, this is one of them. It is an incompetent, boring movie and I am alarmed that it got made. 

Oh yeah, Samuel L. Jackson was in it. So… it had that going for it. 
 
-MVB

Pain

When I was ten years old, I got into what was probably the fight of my life. 

I’ve had what felt like worse beatings before and since, but one thing about this particular fight causes it to stand out among all of the other fights and beatings, because one blow that was struck still resonates today. 

At the time, I lived in a maisonette on a council estate, the name of which was whimsically enough; ‘Cranworth Gardens’. That name paints a picture of a nice place, with… you know, gardens  and friendly kids who play kids’ games in those gardens. Google Image search it right now and you’ll see beautiful townhouses surrounded by greenery that could be the backdrop of some movie. 

What we got were two square blocks of ugly grey maisonettes (two-storey flats) separated by a stretch of plain grass and surrounded by concrete forecourts. There was a gang of kids who all smoked and use to lean over the balcony to hock green phlegm on our linen-line (we were on the bottom row. You don’t want to be on the bottom row).

The kids weren’t all from there, many just congregated there because of the ones who did and because the surrounding estates used to point troubled children in our direction.

There was ‘technically’ a play park nearby, it had long ago been stripped of equipment and now resembled a concrete pit below a wall with ‘PINK FLOYD’ spray-painted on it in faded letters. If you tried to play a game in there, the women who lived in the adjourning building would come out to yell at you and send you over to Cranworth Gardens.

I forget how this big fight started exactly, but it had something to do with a friend of mine who lived in the opposite block of maisonettes. I assume it went the way these things usually did, and we were just trying to cross that stretch of grass. I didn’t generally go looking for fights. I generally just looked like an easy target.

The fight was standard kid-fighting up until a point. There were two of them and two of us. Things changed when one of them ran away to grab a weapon. I can picture it quite clearly. It was a broken metal steering lock with a red plastic coated handle. You could always find junk like that scattered around Cranworth Gardens. I remember seeing him drop the thing to the ground afterwards. 

He’d brought the thing down with such force that I’m pretty sure it caused me to black out for a few seconds after it connected with my spine. I imagine a loud ‘crack’ when I think about it now, but I’m probably imagining that. It didn’t break my bones.

(That kid’s family were later evicted, in part because of this. We’d already left the estate by that point and my mum swore I had nothing to do with their eviction, but I saw the eviction notice as plain as day and it seemed to point to this exact scene)

I had to go to hospital. My dad couldn’t drive me for some reason, so my mum and I had to walk. The hospital wasn’t far, luckily, just a few blocks, but every step hurt like hell. They took X-Rays.

I remember most of it in vivid detail.  No fractures. Lots of bruising though. I went home, had a week off school and nobody visited me. Mainly I remember the worst part being how I stared outside during that recovery period, like the guy from Rear Window - and saw the kid I was friends with playing football with the kids who attacked us. At the time, I don’t know what messed me up more.

I told you this story because I get headaches. I’ve always gotten headaches, but after that day mine got more frequent. No one made the connection at the time because 1) I’d gotten migraines since much earlier and 2) the kid struck my back, not my head. 

In the years that followed, Doctors repeatedly attributed my headaches to migraines. I think it was the popular diagnosis. I did used to get migraines, though I don’t believe they accounted for the majority of the headaches I got after that. I tried lots of migraine medication, I always assumed it was worthless crap that didn’t work. It probably would have worked if I’d analysed the kinds of pains I was getting deeply enough to differentiate and used the medicine at the appropriate times. 

I have good days, but ever since I was ten years old I’ve experienced some degree of pain on a daily basis. Sometimes I wake up with a headache, sometimes they last for days. 

I noticed back then that the more I walked around, the worse it seemed to get. School  was often difficult. I never liked sports, but it got to the point where I avoided PE class at all costs, because running around the way they expected me to would bring on a headache that would crush me for the rest of the day. I often say that I didn’t go to high school, but that’s not strictly true, I was there for less than a year and one memory I have of it was having to climb several flights of stairs to get to a German language class. German had been a subject I excelled in, but after all those stairs I invariably wound up with a headache that destroyed my ability to focus.

Most people assumed I was full of shit, I think. I still get it now. Most friends I’ve brought this up around have tried to tell me that I’m making it up because I’m lazy or just a miserable person. I’ve had otherwise good friends call me a liar to my face when I’ve tried to explain this to them, even though I now have better language to explain it.

The older I got, the more different diagnoses I got. After a few of them said I had Photophobia, I wound up getting special tinted lenses in my glasses for a while. I thought they improved things to some degree, but ultimately I think that it was the placebo affect. I’m not good with bright lights, but I don’t think that gives me headaches. At least, not any more. 

That one was especially embarrassing. I remember a co-worker at Borders once asking me why I wore ‘sunglasses’ indoors and when I tried to explain the supervisor interjected to say; ‘no, that’s not why, you wear them because you want to tell people that so you seem like a vampire.’ After that I slowly stopped wearing them because it was embarrassing and that decision factored into a disciplinary hearing under the heading of; ‘what I could have done to prevent taking so many sick days.’

Eventually a doctor asked the question; ‘have you ever experienced back trauma?’ We talked about that. He suggested that it was a neurological condition causing my headaches and that the pain was running up to my head from my back. I took some pills, they made me too drowsy to function. I was meant to go for physiotherapy, but wound up moving to the USA instead.

That one made the most sense to me. I wake up with headaches because I slept in a bad position. I get headaches when I carry heavy boxes and bags, I get headaches if I run. Hell, I get headaches if I walk too far, or stand too long.

After my last retail job in 2008, life has been less physically demanding. When I don’t have to stand, or walk, or carry things for hours, things don’t generally get as bad as they used to. Still, I’ve come to accept that pain as a factor in my life that isn’t going away and I have an odd system of balance for it. I base what I’m going to be doing most days on how shitty I feel at a given point. If I don’t feel shitty, I can plan to do a lot before I know I will feel shitty. I can walk a long way, stand a lot, etc, but I know I’ll probably feel pretty terrible by the end of it.

I felt like talking about this, because I wanted to have something to point to the next time this comes up. I know I’m an irritable person. I swear a lot, I get agitated easily most of the time. Things other people have no trouble letting go of are things that bother me constantly. I almost singularly focus on the negative. That’d be why this blog is called Most Valued Bastard and not… I don’t know, Most Valued Bard or something more upbeat. 

No one really seems to understand why I’m so irritable. Not my friends, not my wife, not my family. I think I get why they don’t get it. I don’t tend to look at people around me who aren’t visibly in pain and think; ‘that person might have a headache right this second’, or ‘that person is dealing with things we can’t see.’

So for those of you who know me, but don’t understand me, let me put it this way; have you ever had a nagging pain - not necessarily an incapacitating one, but it’s there and it’s annoying you and you can’t really do anything about it? A headache. Neck pain. Sprained wrist. Stomach cramps. Period pains. Anything.

When you feel that way, if someone accidentally steps on your toe, or knocks into you, or takes too long in front of you in a line, or talks in a theatre, or plays their music too loud on the bus, or says something incredibly stupid… how does that make YOU feel? You’re already dealing with this one irritating thing, so all the other stuff irritates you more right? Don’t you have enough to deal with already? Why can’t things just go how they’re meant to go?

Now imagine that’s 70% of your life.

Welcome to my world. 

-MVB