Archive for March, 2021

On Conspiracy Culture…

Posted in Grumblings on March 30, 2021 by chemiclord

Okay… deep breath time.

I’m about to criticize some good friends.

Now, as I do so, I want to lay down some opening caveats. Firstly, there is no way the creators here could have anticipated what was going to unfold in our society at the time they committed to their story. Secondly, it’s not really a criticism of them, as much as it is a criticism of our entertainment and the tropes it leans on. Thirdly, people should be able to make the distinction between fantasy and reality.

Now, with all that said, let me paint you a rhetorical picture.

A cabal of elitists, potentially spanning the entire globe, have been pulling the strings of society for decades, if not longer, manipulating people, killing people, starting wars, conflicts, abusing men, women and children, etc… all to advance their twisted machinations of power… until a small movement of scrappy heroes untangle all those sinister knots and finally take the fight to the secret society!

Does that story sound familiar? You’ve probably seen that many, many times in the dramas of our age. It’s one of the most enduring tropes in dramatic entertainment for the last fifty years.

I’ve never been a fan of “Illuminatti” style storylines. I don’t think they represent how people or societies work at all. We can’t even keep a secret between three people for more a couple days. A group of logistically thousands (if not more), operating in secrecy across an entire country or the world? There is no way that doesn’t come unraveled even before a second generation has a chance to take the reins.

Think about it. There is no massive covert operation that has survived more than a couple of decades, even in the most repressive countries in our planet’s history. And even those were more of the “open secret” variety where anyone who wanted to know could have found out, but there was an implied investment of the public to not confront it.

Watergate literally came unraveled because one dude couldn’t figure out where to stand. You want me to buy that a cabal has gone [x] number of years without even one critical misstep? Sorry… my suspension of belief only stretches so far.

So when The Uniques went head on into the secret society angle, my eyes started rolling. And they kept rolling as it ticked every single “conspiracy” trope in the book. Our intrepid heroes, taking on the “burden” of exposing this themselves? Check. The nutty recluses that have a few critical pieces but are too out there for anyone to take seriously? Check. The galaxy-brained chess masters who have every step our heroes make plotted out ten moves ahead of time? Check.

I am giving the creators the benefit of the doubt, because they have been so very good at twisting tropes on their head. But… ugh… I will admit that this particular part of the volume has been a tiring slog for me.

But now, I have another reason to not like this type of story.

Because that picture I painted for you at the start of this blog post? That was also in the heads of the people who charged the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. People are believing this sort of shit, and it’s getting people hurt, and even killed.

Our entertainment is awash in conspiracy theories. As I said, it has been one of the most enduring tropes in our entertainment for a long time. We are obsessed with conspiracies, and I do believe that our fiction is tinting how people see the real world.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Comfort Love and Adam Withers have any culpability in a bunch of morons who thought baby-eating leftists were trying to steal an election from Donald Trump. And they would have no way of foreseeing this happening at the time they were plotting their magnificent story.

But it is informing me as I read through this storyline, which is but one of hundreds and hundreds of such stories that fill our media every year. And it reinforces to me that I really need to remain committed to a different direction.

Being a Product of our Time…

Posted in Grumblings on March 2, 2021 by chemiclord

A moment of disclosure, I wasn’t really a Dr. Seuss fan even as a child. While my peers were reading Horton Hears a Who, I was reading Where the Sidewalk Ends. While my friends were flipping through pages of The Cat in the Hat, I was lost in the pages of Where the Wild Things Are.

Point is, this current scuffle over the legacy of one Theodor Geisel doesn’t hit me as deeply or strikes the core of my childhood like it does a good many people. So, if I seem particularly dismissive of the impact he has had on so many developing minds, I apologize. Nonetheless, as he has become the latest front in the United States of America’s ever expanding culture war, I am compelled to speak on it, as it ties to something else I have noticed repeatedly as modern society tries to reconcile with its past.

The facts aren’t really in dispute. During Geisel’s rise as a cartoonist, he did a lot of work that contained exceedingly blatant racism. As in nakedly obvious, even for the early 20th century. It was a trait that informed even his later work where he tried to be more inclusionary. And he did try, even if the work was more allegorical rather than direct… and even though it still fell short in many instances.

This reality and problematic history has been met quite frequently with the same refrain that a considerable number of historical creators and figures when their own backgrounds are brought to the forefront of the discussion.

“They were a product of their times!”

On its surface, this is a true statement. As bad as we can be culturally in terms of inclusion and tolerance in the current day, past eras were far worse in nigh every aspect, and it is easily seen by what was considered acceptable discourse in those times by those who influenced those cultural periods, and that culture would inform and influence every single person who grew up and contributed to it.

So, I do not object to the statement. I object to its usage.

Because when this line has been invoked, it is used as a deflection. It’s used in hopes of burying the troublesome so that it doesn’t have to be reckoned with, and those who enjoy it can continue to enjoy it with a clean conscience. They want a clean break that doesn’t require retrospection… because that would invariably lead to introspection, and there’s nothing your average American hates more than having to look in the spiritual mirror and take stock of the warts on their soul.

We want to be free of the troublesome aspects of our icons, without even knowing why its troublesome to begin with. Even if it was good faith attempt (and in most cases, it isn’t), it is akin to sweeping all the dirt under the rug. It doesn’t actually solve the problem.

I’d contend it’s of utmost importance to remember that everyone is a product of their time, especially as we consume their work. I dare say that is vital. Because it’s with that knowledge that we can learn and build upon the past to be better in our time.