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Overanalysis: Don’t Be Batman

(Mild spoilers ahead for some Batman comics.)

We’ve all heard the saying “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.” And it sounds true, right? Who wouldn’t want to be the personification of awesomeness, running around on rooftops, driving a cool car, and beating up bad guys? Who wouldn’t want to be Batman?

I wouldn’t. And if you knew everything being Batman entailed, you wouldn’t either.

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Even a cool beard can’t make Batman happy again.

Think about it…

Let’s start with the basics. I don’t know if you’ve heard, it’s a very subtle part of Batman’s mythos, hardly ever mentioned, so possible spoiler alert, but … BATMAN’S PARENTS ARE DEAD. Gunned down right in front of his ten-year-old eyes. That’s enough to cause some serious trauma, maybe even PTSD. He probably deals with survivor’s guilt, blaming himself even though there was nothing he could have done to stop his parents’ killer. Sure, it was the spark for a crusade against crime so no child would ever have to experience what he did, but no matter how tough or scary or cool he may seem, some part of Batman will always be that kid in Crime Alley, kneeling beside his dead parents. He’ll never be able to move on from that moment.

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Especially if we keep seeing it in every single adaptation.

In fact, Batman’s so caught up in his parents’ murder that he’s obsessed with them. He vows to fight crime at their graves, the key to entering the Batcave is the time of their death, and any slur upon their names upends his whole world. Even the moment Bruce decides to become Batman includes him talking to–almost praying to–his dead father. He is Batman, not for himself, but for his parents, and any psychologist can tell you that letting your parents, dead or otherwise, control you is a great way to mess up your mind. Even Batman can’t be himself because he can’t let his parents, or rather his idea of his parents, go.

And speaking of losing people, Batman loses even more people all the time. So far, at least three Robins have died under his tutelage (although they have a tendency to come back), and plenty of his other allies have been killed or tortured or maimed, from Batgirl to Orpheus to Alfred. And forget keeping a girlfriend; if they’re not murdered by villains or being villains themselves, they get out while the getting is good. It’s a dark and lonely world Batman lives in; his trauma makes him nearly incapable of trust, and the few people he does trust, he pushes away to keep safe. I can’t say I blame him, given his friends’ usual fate, but it makes for an isolated and miserable life.

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Well, there goes another one.

That life isn’t exactly a life well lived. Half his time he spends wearing the mask of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, slacking off and running around with models and lavishly spending money and pretending not to care. It sounds fun, but it’s an empty life, especially considering the pain beneath the surface. And when he’s Batman, he only gets three hours of sleep a night, and Alfred would be the first to mention his erratic meal schedule. He’s a workaholic, exposing himself to massive amounts of life-or-death stress and injuries galore. Athletes work themselves out of a career early on in life with injuries not even half as bad; at this rate, Bruce will be old in his thirties. It’s an unhealthy life, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Why does he do it? To make Gotham City a better place, where innocent people don’t die and don’t have to be afraid. And yet, over the years, Gotham has gotten steadily worse, going from a city of crime and corruption to a city of homicidal maniacs. That’s not all Batman’s fault; people like Poison Ivy, the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Freeze probably would have shown up in Gotham anyway, and Arkham Asylum’s questionable policies don’t make things any better. But Bane wanted to test Batman’s strength and will, Riddler wanted to test Batman’s mind, and the al Ghul family would probably leave Gotham alone if Batman weren’t there. And let’s not forget the Joker, Gotham’s deadliest villain, whom Batman created and who has a massive obsession with the Dark Knight. Whether or not it’s Bruce’s fault, Gotham has gone to the asylum inmates since he showed up.

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You can practically see the revolving door from here.

Yes, Batman’s feats are impressive, and he makes a great symbol, inspiring us all to be heroes. But that doesn’t mean we should all be Batman, suffering from trauma, obsession, loneliness, and physical stress, all for little to no return. The man behind the mask has serious issues. So, given the choice, always be yourself.

And if you can be yourself wearing a Batsuit, even better.

 

Batman and all related properties are owned by DC Comics.

Overanalysis – Belle: Stockholm Syndrome or Character Growth?

Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s greatest classics. It’s got everything: romance, magic, big musical numbers, action, a strong female protagonist who loves to read, and a massive hairy monster with dreamy blue eyes … ahem. Yeah. It’s no wonder why so many people love it. But many more people claim its core relationship is unhealthy, accusing Belle of Stockholm Syndrome, falling in love with her kidnapper. And yeah, that’s one possible interpretation, but I think that romance is healthier than they give it credit for.

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No, really. Totally healthy and normal.

One of the key aspects of a healthy relationship is that both parties involved make the other better in some measurable way. And it’s obvious how Belle affects the Beast; because of her influence, he becomes kinder, well-mannered, and generally less beastly. But ask what effect the Beast has on Belle, and … well, that’s when Stockholm Syndrome gets brought up. But what kind of main character doesn’t change by the end of the story? In truth, the Beast has a profound impact on Belle, making her a better person for knowing and loving him.

Think about it…

When we first meet Belle, we know that she’s a social outcast and that she’s dissatisfied with her life and longs for adventure. What you might not pick up on, though, is her real problem: she never faces her problems. People think you’re odd? Don’t challenge their perspectives, just hide in a book. Want adventure? Never leave home, even when your father goes off to the fair. Gaston making unwanted advances? Don’t tell him no, just say you don’t deserve him, shrink away from him, and “accidentally” throw him out of the house. Not once does she ever face a problem head on in the movie’s introduction.

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“I could be explaining consent to Gaston, but instead I’m lying in a field of flowers.”

The first problem she actively tries to solve is her father’s disappearance. She tracks him down and offers to let the Beast keep her instead of Maurice. It’s a nice effort, but it doesn’t truly solve the problem, trading one prisoner for another, and it doesn’t involve much confrontation. After that, she goes back to hiding from her problems, whether by sobbing in her room, passive-aggressively rejecting the Beast’s “invitation” to dinner, or sneaking around his room without his knowledge. All the while she’s exposed to his direct, confrontational (and unhealthily so) approach, until she can’t take anymore and literally runs away from her problems.

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“Dude, you don’t just touch somebody’s rose without permission!”

Then the Beast saves her life, and she’s faced with a decision: does she keep running or stay and face her problem? She chooses the latter, standing up to the Beast and demanding that he control his temper. In doing so, she earns his respect, friendship, and ultimately love.

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“So there, you big bully!”

From that moment on, she starts confronting all her problems. She finally gives Gaston a firm no (not that hard when he’s basically holding her father hostage), she stands up to the townspeople who think her father is crazy, and she runs to the Beast’s aid when Gaston tries to kill him. All very direct and confrontational actions that the woman at the beginning of the movie probably wouldn’t have taken. And it’s all because, just like she helped the Beast become kind and gentle, the Beast showed Belle how to stand up for herself and tackle her problems head-on. Both are better for having the other in their life.

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And there’s the strong female character we all remember.

I still don’t claim that their romance is ideal or a model to follow. But it certainly isn’t as unhealthy as Stockholm Syndrome has made it out to be.

 

Beauty and the Beast is owned by Walt Disney Pictures.

Overanalysis – Bill and Ted’s Hope for the Future

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Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure may be one of the best time travel movies ever.

It’s a fun 80s comedy about two loveable idiots who travel through time in a phone booth, kidnapping historical figures for their history report so they can keep their band together.  It’s quirky, it’s hilarious, it’s quotable, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it mixes in just enough historical fact to suspend our disbelief while still having fun with these characters.

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You could say it goes deeper, offering hope that our future will be better thanks to these two and their music (which gets better, we promise).  But it’s kind of a stretch to believe that even the most bodacious rock band could align the planets, let us talk to household pets, and lead to an increase in excellent waterslides.  It’s just a fun, goofy movie.  Or is it?

Think about it…

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The historical figures in this film did great things, but their lives weren’t so great.  Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated, dethroned, and exiled.  Billy the Kid was caught and gunned down by the law two years after his time-traveling exploits.  Socrates was condemned as a menace to Greek society and sentenced to drink poisonous hemlock.  Sigmund Freud died of cancer from smoking too many of his iconic cigars.  Ludwig van Beethoven was already losing his hearing when Bill and Ted picked him up, and he eventually went deaf.  Joan of Arc was tried on a trumped-up charge of heresy and burned at the stake.  We don’t know for sure how Genghis Khan died, but it may have been the lingering effects of injury or infection, and he never saw his empire reach the peak of its glory.  Abraham Lincoln was assassinated after a long and cruel war.

All these people were destined to suffer tragedy in their own personal futures.  They would never see the results of their efforts, never know what all the hard times were for.  Or would they?

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Suddenly, Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan drop into their lives and took them to a far distant time.  Napoleon got to experience the child-like joys of Neapolitan ice cream and waterslides.  Billy the Kid got one last grand adventure, one he never would have thought possible.  Joan of Arc saw a world where women were equals, where they could join together in their own army of sorts, even if only for aerobics.  With his last vestiges of hearing, Beethoven heard the future of music.  Socrates, accused of corrupting the minds of youth, got to meet the teens yet to be born who would learn his wisdom thousands of years after his execution.  And Abraham Lincoln witnessed his Union, still intact and stronger than ever.

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All these people got a brief glimpse of a world they had only dreamed of.  Some marveled over wondrous experiences and technologies, while others saw the future of their work and knew their work was not in vain.  And when they met their tragic fates, perhaps their minds flashed back (or forward) to a place and time that was full of promise, a world they helped to create.

At the end of the movie, Ted tells Bill that their time travel adventures haven’t changed them.  “Look at us.  Nothing’s different.”  Maybe not, but your new historical friends are definitely different.  They have hope.  And that, my friends, is indeed most excellent. *insert guitar riff*

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is owned by Orion Pictures.

Marvel vs. DC: Who’s Winning the War?

For decades, superheroes have been duking it out at the box office, becoming especially popular and high quality in the last ten years or so.  But from this fun pastime, something greater and far less fun has arisen.  Two universes competing for dominance in the crowded, noisy, hypercritical entertainment world.  We call it … the Marvel/DC War.  We all know it’s being fought in the trenches of movie theaters and television sets.  But who’s winning?

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Just to be clear, we’ll be talking about the universes currently in the making.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which I love, is off the table.  So are the original Spider-Man trilogy and the Fantastic Four movies.  And for the sake of time, I won’t be talking about the X-Men universe.  That means we’re talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) including movies and TV shows, DC’s TV universe, and Man of Steel and related Justice League movies.

In terms of films, Marvel is clearly pulling ahead.  It helps that they got a head start on building their world; eleven movies in, they’ve established their characters, they’ve had team-ups and tie-ins and cameos, and they’ve left their mark on the world.  This may be the most important element: Marvel has a proven track record.  We’ve seen their movies, even the not-so-good ones, and we had such a good time that we want more.  That’s why Marvel can give us a list of upcoming movies and we start marking our calendars while DC does the same and our reaction is . . . meh.

We're excited for Ant-Man.  Think about that.

We’re excited for Ant-Man. Think about that.

After all, in terms of a cohesive movie universe, all DC has right now is one movie, a teaser trailer for another, and a whole lot of titles with no story behind them.  We don’t really know where they’re going; all we can do is postulate from Man of Steel, a movie which many loved, many hated, and I managed to both love and hate.  We have nothing to go on.  DC has yet to earn the right to throw titles at our faces and expect us to cheer, and this late in the game, they may not get that right.

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Superman, I love ya, but at this point you gotta work for it.

We can already see, though, that Marvel has a clear advantage in its characters.  Why?  They’re human, relatable, colorful.  They make jokes, they have flaws, they like ordinary things like 70s music and schwarma.  They sit around after parties and talk about things that don’t really matter.  In Man of Steel, everyone is larger than life.  Everything they talk about is grand and important, and we never see them take time to be human.  We’re less invested because as much as we may look up to these people, we can’t really put ourselves in their shoes.

You wouldn't see the Justice League doing this in the Man of Steel universe.

You wouldn’t see the Justice League doing this in the Man of Steel universe.

I’m not saying having your heroes be larger than life role models is a bad thing.  DC’s strength has always been giving us shining examples: Superman’s rigid morality, Wonder Woman’s spirit of truth, Green Lantern’s willpower, Aquaman’s regal might.  Even Marvel has their bastion of goodness in Captain America.  But the point of having someone to look up to is being able to look up to them.  Bringing them down to the dark, grey, brooding world of Batman simply because he’s the cool hero right now only makes them lose the one point in their favor.  If they’re so unattainable we can’t see ourselves in their place and they’re so dark and mopey we don’t want to be them, what’s the point of having a superhero?

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Come on, guys. One smile for me?

Another point in Marvel’s favor is that they’re breaking away from their superhero origins to try new things.  Sure, they still have classic superhero films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, but they’re not afraid to cross genres.  We’ve had spy thrillers like “Agent Carter” and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, space operas like Guardians of the Galaxy, crime dramas like “Daredevil,” and we’re about to get a heist movie in Ant-Man and a fantasy in Dr. Strange.  Breaking into these new territories is a good long-term strategy for surviving the superhero bubble.  Audiences are already getting super-fatigue from the constant barrage of costumed heroes, but diversity plus Marvel’s staying power will make it a household name for years to come.

The face of trying something different: the talking raccoon.

The face of trying something different: the talking raccoon.

That said, DC may be getting an edge on Marvel when it comes to television.  CW shows “Arrow” and “The Flash” have been wildly popular, and now “Supergirl” and “Legends of Tomorrow” are poised to continue that world in ways never dreamed.  Shows on different television channels sharing a universe?  Superhero team-ups on the silver screen?  A show that features time travel, reincarnation, resurrection, shrinking nanotech, and nuclear men?  These people might actually be a step ahead of the MCU.

It doesn't get any cooler than this.

It doesn’t get any cooler than this.

Why are these shows so great?  What do they have that DC movies don’t (so far)?  For one thing, not everything has to be taken so seriously.  The characters don’t have to be some mythical pantheon; they’re people with flaws and hang-ups and regrets and addictions, but they also aren’t afraid to laugh and have genuine friendships with each other.  Plus the cinematography is so much brighter and more colorful than the Man of Steel movies.  And DC TV isn’t afraid to be comic-booky.  You can have Rainbow Raider and psychic gorillas and time travel and Lazarus Pits, and people will accept it and have fun with it.  As long as we like the characters, we’ll suspend our disbelief till kingdom come.

And come on, how can you not like these guys?

And come on, how can you not like these guys?

Marvel TV isn’t bad, but it doesn’t stand out much either.  For a while now, it’s been represented by “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” which has suffered on-and-off from lackluster writing, overcrowding, not enough superpowers, and being held back by the big reveals in the Marvel movies.  “Agent Carter” and “Daredevil” have helped Marvel’s television track record, and the rise of more Netflix shows may well give it some traction, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe for now is planted firmly in the cinema, while DC owns TV.

But come on, we all want more of Hayley Atwell's Agent Carter.

But let’s admit we all want more of Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter.

So who’s winning the Marvel/DC War?  The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.  In a two-front war, Marvel is taking the theaters while DC is killing it in your living rooms.   They both do amazing work, and they both have flaws.  Fans love both and hate both.  So this war might be a draw, and I’m okay with that, because no matter who wins, we the audience will have plenty of high-quality entertainment that we can enjoy for years to come.  Now that’s worth fighting for.

Overanalysis: The Horror of Gremlins

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I’m not usually a fan of horror movies, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a movie set in a small town at Christmas to be scary.  Yet as I watched Gremlins for the first time, I found myself growing tense, talking to the screen, and even jumping in parts.  Afterwards, I went around the house and turned on all the lights.

I was eighteen years old at the time.

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Nightmare fuel?

How does a film like Gremlins frighten a college student?  How can such cartoonish creatures also be terrifying?  Perhaps it’s because the film, and even the gremlins themselves, are perfectly designed to horrify.

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Okay, not all the time, but you get the idea.

Think about it…

We all have certain basic fears: fear of the dark, fear of the unknown, and fear of monsters under the bed or hiding in the closets.  Gremlins are those monsters, hiding in places we least suspect.  They lurk in the dark, and light is a weapon against them, making them part of the darkness itself.  And we never see the transformed Mogwai until after a long, tense buildup and several unnerving glimpses.

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And yeah, they’re pretty creepy.

That long buildup gives plenty of time for character development.  We spend time getting to know real people with relatable lives, with dreams, problems, and flaws, just like us.  Because we know and relate to the characters, anything that can and will do damage to them becomes terrifying, tapping into our fear of losing a friend.  In a way, it’s even easier to put ourselves in their shoes, drawing us closer to the horror of their situation.

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Not looking so friendly anymore, are they?

Another tool the film uses to scare us is the placement of sound and silence.  It knows when to hold back on the music and use a mostly quiet room to make us uneasy, something that happens far too easily since we live in a world so full of noise.  It also knows when to use everyday sounds for the perfect disturbing effect.  When we know we’re not alone but don’t know who or what else is with us, a film projector, a Christmas record, and a PA system are enough to unnerve us.

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Dinner’s ready … and it’s you!

In the end, that’s really all it takes for these little creatures to get under your skin.  So go watch that movie again and tell me you aren’t checking your beds and closets for gremlins.  Tell me they’re not haunting the dark corners of your house and your nightmares.

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Nightmare Fuel!

Happy Halloween, everyone.

 

Gremlins is owned by Warner Bros.

Overanalysis: The Real Mandarin

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Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way:

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Of course, by now, almost everyone knows that the “Mandarin” in the Iron Man 3 trailers turns out to be a drug-addicted actor in the movie.  Some people liked the twist, while most hated it.  Pretty much no one accepts that Guy Pierce was the Mandarin.  But what no one seems to realize is that the Mandarin has already made an appearance in the movie.  His name is Raza, and he’s the apparent leader of the terrorist group that captures Tony Stark in the first Iron Man.

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This guy right here.

Think about it…

The Mandarin is best known as the wearer of ten rings of alien design, each with a different and dangerous power.  As you might notice in the picture above, this man only wears one.  But what was the name of the terrorist cell in the movie?  That’s right, the Ten Rings.  In the more realistic world of the first Iron Man movie, aliens hadn’t been introduced yet, so a terrorist organization was much better suited for this movie than two fistfuls of technology that would have shattered audience’s suspension of disbelief.

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The Mandarin is also the descendent of Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongol Empire which covered most of China and Central Asia.  Raza is of Arab descent, so it’s unlikely he’s physically related to the Mongolian Emperor.  As a spiritual successor, however, he works perfectly.  When he first encounters Tony, he gives a speech about how the use of the bow and arrow gave Genghis Khan the ability to conquer the world and how he wants to do the same thing using Stark’s weapons.  Similar goals and similar tactics illustrate another way of being descended from a great military leader.

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Let’s see this guy pull out some military strategy that doesn’t involve hiding under a bed.

But the Mandarin was Chinese, so they couldn’t be the same person, right?  The Mandarin was created in the 1964, at which time one of the greatest perceived threats to America was Red China.  Naturally, a Chinese villain was the order of the day.  The movie, on the other hand, was created during the War in Afghanistan, and the threat had shifted, now coming from radical Islamic terrorists.  Therefore, an Arabic Mandarin was much more likely to strike fear into American hearts.

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At least it can’t be any more offensive than this.

Raza certainly had the potential to come back into the series; as far as we’re shown, Obadiah Stane left him alive and temporarily paralyzed, although without his followers or Iron Man technology.  Still, the man survived an explosion to the face and only came back hungry for more power.  With the recent Marvel short All Hail the King stating definitively that there is a real Mandarin out there, it’s only a matter of time before he shows his face, and I’m betting it’s got burn marks on the side.

 

Iron Man and Iron Man 3 are owned by Marvel Studios.

Overanalysis: Transforming Foreign Policy

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In my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction, I said the only Transformers film I actually enjoyed was Dark of the Moon.  Admittedly, it was probably only good by comparison, but it was a breath of fresh air to actually care about what happened to the characters.  It’s still not a good movie, but it’s my favorite of the three that I’ve seen.  Besides, it’s filled with relevant political commentary on foreign policy.  Don’t believe me?

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Think about it…

Toward the end of the movie, Decepticons hold the planet hostage and threaten to destroy everyone unless the Autobots are sent away from Earth.  When the humans listen to their demands and shoot Optimus Prime and his followers into outer space, the bad guys break their word and destroy the Autobots’ ship and the city of Chicago.  In this one scene, the movie makes two bold statements about foreign policy.

First, nuclear deterrent is an important part of national security.  When the other guys have weapons that can obliterate you, you want to have weapons that can obliterate them.  A nation that gives up its WMDs leaves itself vulnerable to all the nations who kept their WMDs, and if it’s not on friendly terms with those countries, it’s in trouble.  Getting rid of the Autobots cost Americans dearly when the Decepticons refused to disarm; they left themselves vulnerable to an attack they couldn’t stop.  Thus Transformers become metaphors for nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

Second, never negotiate with terrorists.  If someone has shown the willingness and capability to hurt you, do not trust that person.  The world has seen the destruction wreaked by the Decepticons, but instead of forming a counteroffensive led by the Autobots, humanity decides to trade their protectors for their own safety, trusting the evil robots with “deception” in their name to keep their word.  This, of course, ends badly, and offers some intriguing commentary on recent events in the Middle East, including the Bergdahl swap.

Thus, Transformers: Dark of the Moon appears to hold a conservative view of foreign policy, demanding an unyielding defense of our country, backed up by force.  If I wanted to polarize by parties, I could say that the Transformers franchise is Republican (it does seem to take a certain amount of glee in fictionally tearing up President Obama’s hometown).  Then again, I’m not sure I’m doing the GOP any favors by saying that.

 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is owned by Paramount.

Overanalysis: Seeing Red in Mary Poppins

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I recently saw Saving Mr. Banks for the first time, and of course, I had to watch Mary Poppins afterwards and see what changed.  Watching as an adult and in light of the themes of Saving Mr. Banks, I realized the film was so much deeper and more meaningful than the whimsy and fun makes it seem at first.  So naturally, I had to do an Overanalysis of one of those layers of meaning.  And since anyone can do an analysis about fatherhood and childhood or maturity and playfulness, I decided to instead look at the color symbolism.

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Think about it . . .

In Saving Mr. Banks, P. L. Travers requests that the film Mary Poppins be made without the color red simply because she’s “gone off the color.”  One flash of crimson and she won’t sign over the rights.  As I watched the resulting movie, then, I wondered if they had really made the whole thing without using anything red.  The answer, of course, is no.  It does start out without the color.  In fact, most of the colors are muted, blending together in a watercolor sort of way.  There might be one or two red items, but they don’t stand out to the eye.

Then Mary Poppins arrives, and red slowly starts seeping into the picture in her wake.  A bow here, a waistband there, a carnation placed in Mr. Banks’s lapel.  Towards the end of the movie, Mary Poppins is dressed in a suit of vivid red.  If Travers really requested the film to be made without the color, I’d imagine she was furious by this point.  Worse, when Mr. Banks is dismissed from the bank, the room in which he stands is as red as can be.

What does it all mean, then?  Well, according to the Incredible @rt Department, the color red symbolizes “Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, all things intense or passionate.”  In short, red stands for anything energetic or chaotic that might upset Mr. Banks’s calm, proper, carefully scheduled life.  As Mary Poppins’s influence over the household slowly brings more excitement, passion, and chaos, the color red becomes more and more prominent.  Thus, in a way, red symbolizes Mr. Banks’s world slowly falling apart, until it all goes to pieces at last in the red room at the bank.  But when he finally learns the importance of fun, childhood, and nonsense, almost all traces of red vanish along with the turmoil he has experienced and with Mary Poppins herself.

Amazing, isn’t it, how a simple primary color can have so much meaning?  Was it intentional?  Maybe not.  But that’s never stopped us from reading too deeply into a movie.  This is, after all, Overanalysis.

 

Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks are both owned by Disney.

Overanalysis: James Bond is a Jerk to Women

Bond_-_Sean_Connery_-_ProfileWhen it comes to action heroes and espionage, no name is more recognizable than “Bond, James Bond.”  And from what I’ve been able to gather, the majority view is that Sean Connery is the best bond.  I can see the merit in this argument; in addition to being the first, he has the classy manner, suave poise, and killer instinct that made Bond so cool.  Besides, he’s up there with Arnold Schwarzenegger for best delivery of action hero one-liners.  But there are some habits of Connery’s Bond that we shouldn’t pick up, chief among them being his treatment of women.  Let’s face it; he’s kind of a jerk.

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Think about it…

In Dr. No, Bond discovers that he’s being lured into a trap by Miss Taro and her boss.  After escaping once, he decides to turn the tables on them by walking into the trap again.  Clever, sure, but while he is visiting Miss Taro, he takes advantage of her boss’s orders to keep 007 busy and sleeps with her, acting as though he trusts her and cares about her.  In the end, however, Bond tricks her into police custody, leaving her in the back of a car with only a grin and a one-liner.  I know she was trying to set him up for death, but that’s just cold.

Later, in Thunderball, Fiona Volpe and her henchmen are hunting down a wounded Bond, and the villainess finally traps him on the dance floor.  One of the goons tries to shoot Bond, but 007 spins around so that the bullet strikes Fiona instead, killing her.  Again, the woman was trying to kill him, but there’s something about using her as a human shield that makes this moment seem especially jerk-ish.

In You Only Live Twice, Bond goes undercover as an unconvincing Japanese man.  To complete the cover, he has to take on a wife.  Even though the union is only temporary and for show, he still balks at the idea of “marrying” a woman he deems unattractive.  You can see the distaste in his face as he is introduced to women who might be his pseudo-bride and the relief when he meets his real “wife.”  Clearly, Bond cares more about the woman’s outer appearance than about who she is.

It gets worse, though.  In From Russia with Love, Bond attempts to help Tatiana, a lovely Russian blonde who claims she is defecting.  But when Bond has reason to believe she is working for the bad guys, he interrogates her … by brutally slapping her around a train compartment.  Ultimately, he discovers they are both pawns in SPECTRE’s game, so all that violence didn’t help him at all.  Remind me why we’re supposed to be rooting for a hero who doesn’t even know that good guys never hit a woman?

So far, all these incidents have been part of the job: go undercover, interrogate suspects, and defeat the villains.  Most of this, therefore, would be overlookable.  There is one sin, though, that I can’t let slide, and it goes back to Thunderball.  James Bond is receiving treatment from Patricia Fearing, a beautiful therapist who clearly shows that she has no interest in Bond except as a patient.  That doesn’t keep 007 from sexually harassing her, stealing a kiss to her great disgust.  But when Patricia thinks she is responsible for an accident that almost kills Bond (she isn’t responsible, and Bond knows it), she begs him not to tell her superiors.  Bond says yes, conditionally … and then he pulls her into the showers.  This one act of blackmailing sex, completely outside of the spy job, was so shocking and so despicable to me when I first saw it that it continues to color my view of Bond, James Bond to this day.

Yes, I know James has done some really nice things for women as well.  Yes, I know other Bonds had their moments of cruelty to women.  But as the song says, “Nobody Does It Better.”  Or in this case, worse.

Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice are owned by MGM Studios.

Overanalysis: Haman is Hitler

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For today’s Overanalysis, I’m using a movie that might be obscure to many of my readers.  The film is called One Night with the King and retells the biblical story of Esther, Queen of Persia as she attempts to save her people from genocide.  While its overall quality varies, the movie features several performances by great actors, including John Rhys-Davies, John Noble, Omar Sharif, and a brief cameo by Peter O’Toole.  It’s not the best movie ever made, but I’m definitely glad I saw it.

However, I wonder just how intentional the filmmakers were in pushing the Nazi imagery, because it’s blatantly obvious.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Haman, the main antagonist, is the movie’s equivalent of Hitler.

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Think about it . . .

Let’s get the obvious part out of the way first.  Both Haman and Hitler want to exterminate Jews.  That much is clear, and neither is surprising if you know both their stories.  But that’s hardly conclusive proof of the correlation between the two.  Fortunately, there’s more evidence.  In the movie, Haman wears a special mark that his mother had made for him to remind him of his quest for vengeance.  Take a close look, and you’ll see a snake wrapped around a spiked piece of metal that looks an awful lot like a swastika.  It has four arms arranged like an X, each bent in the middle at a right angle.  If the endings were squared off instead of spiked, it would be an exact replica of the Nazi symbol.

But that’s not all.  At one point, Esther discovers Haman speaking to his followers.  Everyone is dressed in black, the arena is lit by torches, and several people are holding red banners.  While watching this scene, I kept expecting to see a bonfire of books or a “Heil Hitler” at any moment.  And up on a raised platform in front of everyone, Haman paces back and forth.  He often gestures ferociously and shouts his messages at the top of his voice.  And he constantly makes speeches about the evils of Judaism and of Greek democracy.  He denounces the idea that “all men are created equal,” asking, “Are you equal to a slave?” to the outraged cries of his audience.  Thus, not only is he preaching Jewish destruction, but also Persian superiority.  It may be a bit of a jump from Persian to Aryan, but the comparison is more than justified.

Is this correlation accidental or a mere literary ploy?  Probably not.  “History repeats itself,” as the old saying goes.  While the swastika might be pushing it, these two men are most likely much more alike than we might think at first.