Supermovie Geekery

So, as is probably obvious, I’m kind of a comic book nerd. I’ve been reading comics, off and on, for over 20 years, and been a pretty heavy reader for about the last decade. Early on in the last decade, I read almost anything I could find – Marvel, DC, Image, Wildstorm, Dark Horse, Vertigo, I read quite a lot. While Captain America has been my favorite character for a long time, I also used to be really fond of Justice League and Justice Society, as well as Outsiders, Superman, and Green Lantern among the DC titles. I was really happy when they rebooted the Batman movies with Batman Begins in 2005, and then Marvel got into the game (for themselves; there were other Marvel-property movies, like the X-Men, before that) with Iron Man in 2008. I’ve read the comics, seen the cartoons, watched the movies.

For the most part, I was really happy with the way the Marvel Cinematic Universe began to take shape, and I liked the Nolan Batman trilogy, too – sure, it was dark and gritty, but Batman is a dark and gritty kind of character. Marvel went in a different direction – Iron Man is loud and flashy, in some ways a polar opposite to Batman; they’re both rich genius-types, but Tony Stark really is a playboy billionaire, while Batman just pretends to be one. Then Marvel moved on to the Hulk, then Thor, then Captain America, before finally bringing them all together in The Avengers. Marvel built their universe with a variety of colorful characters, and went through 5 movies, all connected and within the same cinematic world, before bringing the team together, and that work is what made the Avengers a success – they did the work.

With DC, though, it feels like they’ve just been playing catch-up, and not very well. The Nolan Batman movies were pretty awesome, especially Dark Knight. But I don’t think they were ever conceived of as the beginning of a similar cinematic universe, and it shows. Where Marvel used several different directors and styles in their movies – the action-realism of Iron Man, contrasted against the, let’s say high-tech Shakespearian of Thor – DC moved from dark and gritty Batman to… similarly dark and gritty Superman in Man of Steel. I was disappointed with this, because Superman has never been a dark character – he wears blue and red tights, he flies and shoots lasers from his eyes, and is often called the Big Blue Boy Scout. Using the same style of movie for Superman as for Batman was a choice I thought missed a crucial part of the Superman character.

Now, with Batman vs. Superman, I think DC missed the mark again, and this time it’s worse. There will be spoilers for the movie, so if you haven’t seen it, stop here.

 

Still reading? Well, this movie (I’ll use BvS as shorthand) seems to have completely missed the point of both Batman and Superman, at least in my opinion. Batman, as a character, is not mentally healthy – I mean, his parents getting killed in front of him has driven him to train harder than anyone to be the best detective, fighter, and gadgeteer he can be, then dress up like a bat and beat criminals up. That’s not something your average, mentally healthy person is going to do. But non-BvS Batman is generally aware of his shortcomings and his personality issues, and he has a code – the most important part of which is, NO KILLING. Batman doesn’t kill people. But in BvS, he’s rage-filled, terrifying – even to those he saves – and entirely willing to kill. In fact, he does so a number of times. His plan for dealing with Superman involves killing him. While Ben Affleck does well with what he’s given, the Batman of this movie seems like a Batman who has been pushed almost as far as Harvey Dent in Dark Knight, and is almost to the point where I wouldn’t consider him a good guy anymore.

Superman is probably even worse, in my estimation. The dark, dreary presentation of him in Man of Steel continues, but this time, he’s not just learning to be Superman; he’s been Superman for almost two years. And virtually every shot of him as Superman is of a man who just looks exhausted, pained, and nearly hopeless. For a man with virtually limitless power, hope seems to be one of the few powers he doesn’t have, and considering one of my favorite Superman scenes is portrayed in this link, that’s practically criminal. And while one of the many criticisms of Man of Steel was that Superman made no effort to save innocent people in the final battle in Metropolis, we see little of that here – a 30-second montage of Superman saving a girl from a burning building, dragging a ship to safety, rescuing a crew module from an exploding space launch. Otherwise, the only person we see Superman make an effort to save is Lois Lane. When the congressional hearing he is called to explodes, leaving him standing alone in burning wreckage, he just looks defeated, but never made any effort to help. This Superman is portrayed as a distant god, with near-limitless power, but virtually no connection to humanity, rather than the Kansas farmboy -with corresponding moral fortitude and a certain degree of naivete – who just happens to be a superpowered alien. He even says, talking to Lois, that he is Superman not because he believes in it, but because it’s something he thinks his father would have wanted. While it is certainly some vision of Superman, it is not one that I enjoy, or that I think is anything like his typical portrayal.

Even the Lex Luthor in this movie is a pale shadow of the character from the comics and cartoons – and even previous movies. This Lex is young, and arrogant, and seems intelligent, but has several moments where he can’t seem to put words together coherently. And his plan in the movie is nonsensical, and only seems to work because somehow he has managed to out-think the world’s greatest detective AND figure out the secret identities of both titular heroes. Instead of seeming smooth and self-assured like most portrayals of Lex, this one is frenetic, almost manic; personally, I think they would have been better off casting Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor from the Smallville TV series) than Jesse Eisenberg – this Lex seems to have more in common with Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network than any Superman villain.

The fight between Batman and Superman, while impressive, is built up for far too long, and has poor foundation – if Batman wanted to confront Superman, he could easily have done the same thing Lex Luthor did and find out that his secret identity is Clark Kent, rather than building a mechanized Bat-suit and hijacking a shipment of kryptonite. The reason for it ending without the death of Superman is equally poor – they essentially stop fighting because Superman, about to be stabbed by a kryptonite spear, tells Batman that he needs to save his mother, Martha – and Batman, upon hearing that Clark’s mother has the same name as his own, suddenly not only stops fighting Superman, but volunteers to go save his mother. This poorly-contrived fight is in contrast to the conflict that has been building between Captain America and Iron Man since The Avengers, which is built on in Age of Ultron and will come to a head in next month’s Captain America: Civil War – a conflict that is given solid foundations and which seems to follow the way the characters are portrayed. The whole movie makes it seem like DC is rushing to try to make their own big team movie, Justice League, even having teasers for The Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman in BvS.

The best part of the movie was the inclusion of Wonder Woman, who shows up first as a mysterious woman at a party, and reveals her heroic self in the final battle. She looks the part, and acts the part, and makes me hopeful for next year’s Wonder Woman movie.

While I haven’t been a fan of every Marvel movie – I think Thor 2 was probably the weakest movie in the MCU, and didn’t have many great moments – I’m far more concerned with the direction DC is taking. I don’t think Zack Snyder is a good choice for their flagship movies, and I don’t think he gets superhero movies at all – I mean, he has this to say about the inclusion of Jimmy Olden in BvS:

“We just did it as this little aside because we had been tracking where we thought the movies were gonna go, and we don’t have room for Jimmy Olsen in our big pantheon of characters, but we can have fun with him, right?”

Oh, I should note that this little aside he’s talking about? It is a LexCorp mercenary shooting Jimmy Olsen in the face. Yeah, Snyder kills a classic Superman support character in one of the first scenes of the movie. So I’m not interested in anything else Snyder has to do in the DC universe. I’ll stick to their TV offerings – shows like Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl – all of which seem to be more true to their characters, and seem to have more fun as part of a comic-based universe.

 

Internet Intermingling

So just recently, I joined one of the more popular internet dating websites, Match.com. After doing so, it became pretty clear to me why I haven’t had a lot of success with similar dating sites in the past – after reading through dozens of profiles, I seem to share virtually nothing in common with anyone, even the people the site seems to think are ideal matches with me.

See, I’m an introvert, and a geek, and those two things are huge parts of my personality. I tend to have a hard time getting to know people – I’ve talked about it extensively in the past. Even after being at my current job for almost a year and a half, it still feels difficult striking up a conversation with my co-workers, even the ones I know share similar interests. I’m kind of conversationally awkward, and I don’t really parse silences and breaks in the conversation very well. But once I get to know somebody, I’m extremely loyal, even if I haven’t talked to them in a long time, even years. And I have a lot of passion for the topics I find important – RPGs, things like comic-related properties, mental health, and a variety of generally kind of nerdy things. I could go on about them for a long time, and I can often have difficulty telling when someone is getting tired of listening.

And with a lot of the people I get paired up with presumptively on these dating websites, I see the same things keep popping up – enjoying long walks, romantic dinners, travel, looking for someone who makes them laugh, willing to try new things, is well-educated… I could go on, but – at least from where I’m sitting – all of these things are frustratingly vague. There are no specifics to help start a conversation – no favorite movies, specific travel destinations they’ve liked, what kinds of things make them laugh. And without something like that, I have no idea where to even begin, and so I hit the ‘Like’ button and hope maybe they’ll ask me something that can help start a conversation. I try to include some favorite movies and books and such in my own profile, to try to differentiate myself, but I know that letting my geek flag fly right off the bat might not be the best idea. So I’m stuck in kind of a weird area.

There are places that say that online dating is ideal for introverts, and I can see why – as this article in Psychology Today notes, it can be far easier to send out an IM or e-mail than try to communicate immediately via phone, or in person. And there are other sites, like this one, that try to help introverts create an attractive user profile for online dating. There are even some online niche dating sites, though I’ve never had any luck there – the user community tends to be exceptionally small, and they tend to be very heavily populated by other guys, and despite living in a pretty big city there never seem to be many viable matches within a reasonable distance.

I wonder sometimes if my lack of experience with relationships makes even something like online dating harder. While I’ve had strong feelings for two women before, neither ended particularly well for me, and I’ve only been on one date. Since I tend to overthink things – especially when I’m not sure what went wrong – I’m not quite sure if things going wrong was because of something I did, or because of where she was in her life, or we just didn’t match up as well as I thought we did, and not having the answers makes my thoughts on the matter go kinda wacky. I wish I could ask, but the questions I want answered are probably way too personal for someone who no longer wants to be a part of my life, or I’m no longer the same person that I used to be and so wouldn’t find the answers very helpful. It feels, in a lot of ways, that while I live on my own, have a job and am going to graduate school, that my prospective romantic life is still very much stuck in a teenage mindset. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, or to what extent other people feel that way, but it feels weird.

But I’m hopeful – even if I don’t find anyone who is interested in me romantically on a dating site like Match.com, I think I can at least find someone to talk to, hopefully about some of the things that really interest me, and about the things that interest her, as well.

I feel kinda weird being optimistic about something – guess I’m still not used to it yet.

 

Emotional Labor

This is something that just came in a conversation online, and reading and learning about it struck such a note with me that I felt a need to post something about it. It has nothing, thankfully, to do with childbirth, but rather a type of work that a lot of people are expected to do, but which a lot of people might not think of as work, and so don’t see as something worthy of compensation.

Emotional labor (here’s the Wikipedia article on it), essentially, is emotional expression (or suppression) that you have to perform as a part of your job, in the simplest definition. Those waiters at your favorite restaurant? The counter workers at the local fast food place? Virtually any retail worker you actually see wearing an ID in a store? That’s what they do. They aren’t naturally happy, perky, and helpful (well, most of them, anyway); it is a part of their job that they have to appear to be positive, even (perhaps especially) when they don’t feel like it. Even if they’re having the worst day of their lives, they have to look and act like they’re always happy, always willing to help you, all the time. And as someone who spent the first year or so working at a bookstore working at the cash register, it’s exhausting – more exhausting, on a lot of days, than the physical portion of the job. While it took a while to get used to being on my feet for 8 hours a day, I did get used to it – but I never got used to pretending to be happy all the time, and I think that, more than anything else, sucked the energy right out of me.

But that’s not where emotional labor ends, and it’s something I wish I had known, or been able to get around my privileged position on, a long time ago. Because you can also end up doing emotional labor on behalf of those around you in your personal life, and in a lot of circumstances, it’s never something that is seen as labor, even though it can be just as exhausting emotionally as helping someone move. I can think of at least one friendship that I might have been able to save if I hadn’t been asking for, and expecting, such a great deal of emotional labor from someone who should not have felt obligated to give it. It’s one of those things I never really thought about before it was brought to my attention, but asking (or expecting) emotional support from a friend constantly can be just as tiring to them as asking them to help you constantly move around all your heavy furniture. I think women are probably hardest-hit by this one, because it seems to have become an expected part of what women do, but I’m not sure I Can explain that without being terribly insulting, so instead I’ll just point you to this article – “Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor.

I know that, having gone through some pretty serious psychological treatment, that there are times when I will need a lot of emotional support. I just wasn’t really aware of how draining it could be for those being asked for it, especially if they’re getting nothing in return. So that’s my big, heavy topic for the weekend.

Also, for completely unrelated reasons, I’ve had a song running through my head for about a week now, and while I generally try not to inflict my musical preferences on others, I thought I’d share this one with you:

What Your Tastes Say About You

I was finishing up a paper for my Human Behaviors class yesterday, and while I was on a break between sections, I stumbled across this article: ‘Your 10 favorite movies may just say something about the real you‘. It seemed like an interesting idea, but after reading it, I thought about it for a minute before getting back to my paper. But now I’m wondering – can things like your favorite movies, or music, or books, tell you, or other people, something about you that isn’t generally obvious?

In thinking about this, I was considering the movies I consider my top ten, and for convenience’s sake, I’ll share that list here; I’m cheating a bit because I condense a couple trilogies into a single place on the list, but it’s my blog and I can do that if I want, right? In no particular order, my top ten movies are:

The Crow

Lord of the Rings trilogy

Star Wars original trilogy

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Princess Bride

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Avengers

Unbreakable

The Usual Suspects

The Dark Knight

This list has actually had several changes over the past couple of years.  28 Days Later, The Prestige, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves have dropped off the list, replaced by Captain America, The Avengers, and Mad Max. Not to say that I don’t still love all three of those movies – yes, even the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie, I’m not ashamed to like it – but the three that have moved up have just grabbed me in a way I find much more satisfying to watch; I try to watch each of these movies at least once a year, if not more, and if I happen upon the movie playing, I’ll almost always sit down and watch one of these ten.

If I were to take a stab at what these movies say about me, I think I’d probably notice a few things. First, a number of these movies are very dark in tone; this fits, because in general I’m a pretty cynical person. Second, only one of these movies could conceivably be set in the ‘real’ world, that being The Usual Suspects – I am a big fantasy, science fiction, and comics fan, so that’s not terribly surprising. And despite being dark, a lot of these movies turn out rather well, or at least have a lot of hope attached to them. Eric Draven gets his revenge, and is welcomed back to the afterlife by his love. Frodo destroys the ring. Luke defeats the Emperor and helps redeem his father. Captain America saves, and is saved by, his childhood friend. Wesley and Buttercup get together. Furiosa takes over from Immortan Joe. The Avengers stop Loki. Bruce Willis stops his Samuel L. Jackson supervillain. Only the last two don’t end on hopeful notes.

So, what do these movies say about me? That I have a healthy imagination, and I feel more comfortable in unreal worlds than in the real one? That I’m generally cynical, but largely because I have a lot of hope and yet keep seeing it dashed?  I’m not sure, but these answers sound plausible. But I’m curious – what do other people think these movies say about me, if anything? And what do your favorite movies, or music, or books, say about you? I’m curious to find out, so please share your thoughts.

 

How the Brain Feels the Hurt of Heartbreak | SciTech Connect

How does your brain “feel” heartbreak? We examine the neurobiological overlap between social and physical pain.

Source: How the Brain Feels the Hurt of Heartbreak | SciTech Connect

This article goes over some of the things that were discussed in my Human Behavior class yesterday. We also went over some ideas on attachment (which I’ve covered in the past, in Attachment and Attachment, Part 2). It’s fascinating stuff to read; I never would have really considered that relationships can be addictive, in a sense, and losing a meaningful one can harm the body and mind in the same way as withdrawal.

Willingness to Change

Alright, so it’s been a while since my last entry. Just over a month, in fact. I’ve got a couple of entries in various stages of completion, but I never quite felt like I had enough to say to make it worth posting them; they didn’t seem like much more than the kind of stream-of-consciousness thinking I occasionally get when I’m up way too late (though some of those lines of thought did lead to some good papers). I’ve been mulling over my current topic for about two weeks now, trying to figure out what to say about it, and them my class today touched on it really well – I had no idea that there were essentially several social work theories related to it.

So one of the things I noticed most when I was in Menninger for really intensive treatment was that the people who actually wanted to be there, the ones who knew they had a problem, acknowledged it and how serious it was, and actually wanted to find a way to get better? Those were the people who both put the most in and got the most out of the various classes we had to attend, whether they were on Perfectionism, or Family Dynamics, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

I know, right? It seems pretty obvious that the people who admit they have a problem and want to do something to change it would be the ones who actually get the most assistance out of treatment. But some people seemed to be genuinely confused about this, and there were quite a few who were just in treatment because they were told they had to be, or because going through treatment would get them something else they wanted. Oddly, the people who were in treatment not because they wanted to try to manage their mental health issues but because theory had other reasons to be going through treatment were the ones who didn’t get much out of it.

I have to admit, when I was in Menninger, these were the people who frustrated me. I was paying a lot of money to be there and get treatment, and I figured that others would be serious about it, too. I found it aggravating that there were people who would sit in classes and either give one-word answers, or unhelpful answers, or make fun of the whole proceeding, because their unwillingness to admit their issues made them really disruptive, at least to me. I didn’t know why the MHAs, social workers, and psychologists, as well as other professionals, put up with their behavior. But now that I’m in a social work program, I think I’m getting more insight into what’s going on.

There’s a theory in social work called the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. That’s a pretty big mouthful, but it also goes by Stages of Change. Essentially, it breaks down people’s willingness to change, and progress in making change, into six stages. Depending on where someone falls in these stages, some approaches will work better than others on them, and some approaches for helping those further along in the stages will completely drain the motivation from someone in an earlier stage. The stages are as follows:

Precontemplation. This is the earliest stage. Essentially, people at this stage have no intention of change, and may not have even thought about it. They might have some vague wish that something was different, but they probably don’t have any specific ideas as to what. It is likely that others around this person, though, have noticed a problem that should be addressed; someone who goes into any kind of treatment at this stage likely is doing so due to pressure from others.

Contemplation. At this stage, the person is aware that there is a problem, and is thinking to some degree – possibly quite seriously – about how to overcome it. Still, while they acknowledge a problem, they haven’t quite gotten around to doing anything about it, and this is the stage a lot of people are likely to languish at for some time – usually at least six months.

Preparation. This is the stage where action is about to occur, on some level. someone in this stage may have tried to change, but without much success, or have finally worked up the motivation to actually make an effort; they may not be working on change immediately, but it it generally imminent over the next month or so.

Action. This is the stage where most change occurs. It requires not just acknowledging a problem, but being willing and motivated to do something about it. It is likely to be both energy- and time-consuming, and while change might be slow, it is starting to occur.This is the stage when intensive treatment – someplace like Menninger, for example, for someone with a mental health issue – is going to be the most effective.

Maintenance. This stage is one of the hardest, because it assumes change has been made, and that once made, that change will continue to occur or at least be maintained. To hit this stage, a person needs to have been in the process of change for six months or more. This stage is where a lot of relapses occur – someone who went on a diet for half a year, or a year, gives in to the temptation or a week-long binge, or someone who quit smoking has to have just one more cigarette. It’s also the stage at which most people dealing with mental health issues, once they are managing them successfully, stay at, because there’s generally not a permanent cure.

Termination. This is where change is permanent; the challenge is overcome once and for all. With mental health conditions, this is a stage that is unlikely to ever be reached, but some personality disorders, like Borderline Personality Disorder, can be worked through to a point where they are no longer affecting a person.

With a model like this one, what a therapist, social worker, or other professional trying to assist a client needs to do is first assess where along these stages their client is. Once the client’s progress is assessed, the therapist can begin to tailor treatment accordingly; gently nudging someone to move from Precontemplation to Contemplation, for example, is unlikely to bee effective for someone into the Action stage. And treating someone who refuses to acknowledge that they have a problem as if they are in the Action stage might put a client off of seeking treatment – once they eventually acknowledge the need for help – entirely.

In fact, one of the articles we read for class (Norcross, J. C., Krebs, P. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2011). Stages of change. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 143-154) notes that those in the precontemplation stage should be treated with special care, because if they are pushed too hard to admit something they aren’t ready to admit yet, they might well give up completely. People in precontemplation often tend to underestimate the pros and overestimate the cons of their situation, while not being very aware that they are even making value judgments like that, and trying to force them into seeing their problem is likely to delay their ability or willingness to get treatment for quite some time.

So, like I’d been thinking over the past two weeks or so, it is the people who acknowledge their need to change, and are willing and motivated to attempt to make such change, who are the most successful in getting treatment to work for them. But those people I found aggravating, the ones who made snide remarks or zoned out in class? They have to be treated with care, so that when they do acknowledge that they might have problems, they trust the people (like therapists and social workers) willing to help them rather than avoiding treatment.

So if you have a friend or family member who seems to have issues – particularly mental health issues – don’t be surprised if they aren’t willing to see or acknowledge them; they just haven’t reached that stage yet. Asking them to see a therapist or similar professional could work, but you can’t force someone else to change; they have to change on their own, and trying to force them to move faster than they are willing to go might result in them abandoning help altogether. It might be frustrating, but maybe you could ask said therapist if they can help you match your behavior around this other person to the stage they are in, and maybe help things move a bit more smoothly. Just remember to take care of yourself, as well – you can’t help anyone else if you’re falling apart.