How The Room Predicted Trump

I may be one of the few people who actually thinks that The Room is purpose built. To make a movie that has not a single well-made scene in terms of acting, composition and writing takes more than luck. It takes skill. Despite being deemed an atrocity, it is expertly crafted.

The thing that really tipped me off is the ending. Very few movies have actually left me with my jaw open. It was a distinct feeling watching Johnny blow his brains out. It felt like euphoria. A perfect ending makes sense and yet you never see it coming. An ending like that isn’t arrived at by luck. I walked out of the cinema stunned.

Another element of the ending leads me to believe that The Room is intentionally bad. If you recall earlier in the film Johnny wrestles a pistol off the drug dealer that he and Mark catch on the rooftop. This is, presumably, the same gun with which Johnny kills himself. However, in the book The Disaster Artist, a chronicle of the making of the film, Greg Sestero explicitly says that he didn’t understand where Johnny was meant to have got the gun from in the final scene. (I believe I sold the book to a secondhand store, so can’t verify his exact words at the moment.) Hmm. If anything is illogical here it’s Greg’s assessment of the scene.

But the biggest clues are all outside the film itself. For one thing, why would actors and technical folks – even those desperate for-fame-or-money – subject themselves to the awfulness of making this movie? Sure, at one point the crew do walk out and replacements must be found, but I’m not convinced. You wouldn’t need everyone on board with the scam, and certainly such drama adds to the hype. In The Disaster Artist Greg makes it appear that he is the only one holding it together, and if he is in on the gag that’s all Tommy Wiseau would require. At the very least the decisions that Tommy was making point towards mental health issues. If his actions are so bizarre and outside the realms of normalcy why did no one think to commit him, or send in a psychologist? Whether from self-preservation or empathy, Tommy should have been stopped.

So already the setup is dodgy. But it doesn’t end there. Tommy talked himself up constantly, was going to submit the film to the Academy Awards and bought a single, fuck-off big billboard to promote the film. Was it merely delusions of grandeur or was it building the apparatus with which to launch a career? What Tommy was aiming for was the biggest untapped market in film history.

This is what I propose was Tommy Wiseau’s master plan. He was never, ever going to make it big in Hollywood if he wanted to beat the competition. Not a chance. So he went in the other direction, where this is no competition. Shoot down, aim for the lowest common denominator. Horseshoe theory works outside politics; fandoms are spawned from both good and bad movies. Create a legion of followers. Create a cult, a mysticism. Create something so bad they can’t ignore you. And it worked. The movie has turned a profit and Tommy Wiseau is (relatively) famous, with more projects on the way. Everything since has flowed from the insane work he put into making The Room perfectly bad. It’s so obvious in hindsight.

This was Trump’s strategy. No matter how Left you are, you will never convince many people that Donald Trump is a moron. The media said the same thing about Bush. It’s both an act and self-perpetuating myth. Just like Tommy Wiseau. In reality they are crafty players. Trump seeded the idea of running for President years in advance. When he ran he ran on simple, lowest common denominator policies. He played his part and gained a cult following, who in turn spun his narrative, both good and bad elements.  This is not a case of so-bad-it’s-good. This is a case of smoke and mirrors, meticulous organization and pure determination. It’s just a wonder that the media and the Left fail to see that Trump outplayed them.

There’s another similarity at play here. Effectively, The Room is a Christ story. Johnny is betrayed like Jesus was, and then sacrifices himself for the sins of others. Is this Trump’s tale? Is he the messiah and has he come to Capitol Hill to sacrifice himself for the greater good? Only time will tell.

I’d be very interested to hear other’s thoughts on this. For example, any conclusive counter evidence to my theory. I also think it would be worth investigating any connections between Tommy, Greg and people who initially promoted the film.

When It Comes to Facts and Truth, We’re All Just Along For the Ride

Let me start by saying, yes it is a bit strange to be going on about a slightly-better-than-average movie like Passengers. Surely there are more important topics! But Passengers and the discussion that has arisen around it does serve a useful base for a deeper discussion, something that was brought to my attention that seems to divide Left and Right: the nature of fact and truth.

Because there is a difference, albeit slight. Facts are things like ‘Hillary won the popular vote by 3 million votes’. The truth is that Donald Trump is President. Facts can be twisted to produce a truth, but enough facts show the truth. Facts rarely change, while the truth can evolve. A fact is one thing only, but the truth can be many things: the opposite of a lie, an internal sense of meaning, a theory like gravity. Truth is far more nebulous, and that is why it is both dangerous and liberating. True truth is the absence of lies and the conglomeration of facts.

I found this great quote to illustrate my point:

Facts are notes and lyrics on sheet music. Truth is what the singer gives to the listener when she’s brave enough to open up and sing from her heart.

My review of Passengers shows that it is a story about revealing truths. Specifically, mending lies. Lies are problems that hurt us at our core, and can have cascading effects on our lives. This reading of the movie is close to the truth. But of course, Mel Campbell doesn’t think so.

I can’t tell if she has read my review and is referring to the theme of the movie, or my use of the word truth in my tweet (I think the latter). Either way, she immediately stumbles over herself.

First, it’s more often the Left who deploy emotional truths. That picture of a drowned child on the beach carries more weight than the realities of a massive refugee influx. In fact, since I quit hanging around in Leftist circles, I’ve never seen such use of statistics, studies, quotes, sources and more. Leftists on Twitter just tend to ‘YASS QUEEN’ everyone else’s opinion pieces. The Alt Right pride themselves on discovering the truth by looking at the facts.

The article she links to doesn’t back her up at all. It starts by detailing the rise of statistics, how they are fallible, and the way they have been used for the nation state. It then goes on to describe Big Data and how its future is uncertain in how it will used. Of course, we all know that statistics like GDP are faulty, and that if you dig deeper you find that the Australian economy is propped up by massive immigration, so much that the equivalent of a new Melbourne will have to be built in the next 10 years, and that as a result our infrastructure will not keep up (never mind the cultural repercussions). The scariness of Big Data points towards either accelerationism, or a return to high trust nation states. I know what I would prefer. The article reads like propaganda passed off as information, and is itself guilty of twisting facts to produce an emotional outcome.

But Mel finally undoes herself in that last Tweet. Now, I imagine she is not in favour of Trump, maybe even thinks he didn’t deserve to win. Well, he persuaded the American people. That’s what subjectivity gets you: democracy. You can’t espouse an adherence to facts and reject emotional truth and then turn around and say, ‘Everything is subjective, it just comes down to how you say it’. But some things are definitely closer to the truth than others.

As a film, Passengers is strong. It’s well plotted with a nice pace, has smooth editing and a logically consistent story. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent. It’s a bit paint by numbers at times, but we can forgive it that. This all rates the film for what it is and how it is made. My judgement is based on a deeper level of story, one of myth and archetypes. Writers today only focus on references and ideologies, both of which are inherently shallow.

Speaking of references, let’s count them:

  • King Arthur
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Titanic
    • A stretch.
  • La La Land
    • Literally just another movie she would have watched because it came out at the same time, and so has zero bearing beyond emotions (in this case sensory memory).
  • The Shining
    • This is a big stretch. Thematically the movies are not very similar, beyond some superficial idea of loneliness. Plus, it’s very easy to find a picture of a bartender wearing the same uniform.

  • Alien
  • Elysium
  • Prometheus
    • These three were used for a small rant about the autodoc which led absolutely nowhere.
  • WALL-E
    • The third act merely ‘reminded’ the reviewer of the children’s movie, so again an irrelevant point to add to the word count. No deeper level analysis.

To judge a movie on its own merits can be hard, as it requires some original thought. And I do mean original, since it often feels the millennial crowd of game, book and movie critics reviewers just feed off each other. Here are some I found and the ‘facts’ they discuss:

Most audiences going in off the back of the trailer would assume it’s a meet-cute movie that tilts into a lovers’ fight for survival together. As Aurora says, “You die, I die”.

Except that’s not really how it plays out.

That is exactly how it plays out, except with added nuance and depth, which the reviewer clearly missed.

This escalates into obsessively watching her introductory video, with the suggestion the journey is also a great big dating scenario to repopulate the new planet.

Not even close. Calm your emotions and try to write a balanced review.

Lawrence Fishburne shows up momentarily as a senior crew member also jolted out of his deep sleep who functions merely as a plot device to help the white folks open doors before being dispensed with swiftly.

*yawn* it’s racist too, OK, sure thing.

Further compounding that idiocy, the facility only has one super-duper do-it-all operating table, an idea Spaihts clearly recycled for Prometheus before Passengers was resuscitated.

Unlike Mel, this retard didn’t bother to look up TV Tropes.

So far, I’ve seen the failing of Passengers be explained in a number of ways: One, as an example of the problems of relying on so-called A List actors to bring in the audiences without a recognizable brand name in the title, which could have some truth. The staggering cost of the project – $150m after its original budget was set at $90m – may not have helped, but most infuriatingly, I’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence’s salary – $20m, which is pretty much par for the course with major male stars – blamed for the box office numbers.

ummsweetie

That’s some good fact manipulation.

Passengers missed its projected $50m opening week by a sizeable margin, and will probably be written off as a flop by current industry standards (films generally need to make two and a half times their budget to break even). Yet there’s been little discussion of the reasons why it will underperform, and the specific gender dynamics at play, both in terms of economics and storytelling. Clearly the reviews and the reveal of that creepy twist played a part in audiences rejecting the film, but there doesn’t seem to be much mainstream industry discussion on why those audiences said no, as noted by Abigail Nussbaum.

There is literally no evidence provided that women – specifically – deigned not to watch the movie. Not even an anecdote or two. Indeed, since that is the argument being made, you would think providing some evidence, or indeed good counter-evidence to the prevailing idea, would be necessary. But facts are for losers, and what matters is winning by insisting on an emotional truth: that women turned away in droves from Passengers because it’s rapey. Not only are no facts provided to lead to that truth, but the writer provides alternative facts to try to make a point

As long as Hollywood views the Default Viewer of its movies as a cishet white guy aged between 18 and 49, the same films and the same problems will keep coming back to our screens.

The assumption that this is what all movie marketing people sit around thinking is beyond naive. It’s wilfully ignorant. It’s propaganda.

Aurora suggests that the corporation has sold Jim a false romantic fantasy of settler life. Frustratingly, the irony that Jim is already in the grip of a romantic fantasy is never fully articulated.

Back to Mel’s review, she misses the point completely here. First, dismissing Jim’s idea as false is disingenuous. Of course a feminist would think the hard work of setting up a colony is a ludicrous male fantasy, but she even glosses over the reason why Aurora is there. The female motive is superficial: a year long stay for writing inspiration, a chance to see the future. Now, tell me again which goal is a romantic fantasy? Jim is there to teach Aurora how to be a better person. And he succeeds.

At the nadir of a yearlong descent into existential despair (signified by an extremely bushy Beard of Sorrow), too craven even to kill himself in the ship’s spacewalk airlock, Jim stumbles across a sleeping passenger, a journalist named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence).

Did I mention making fun of male suicide?

suicideratesarefunny

But the film can’t quite nail a shift into psychological horror, or recast Jim as a sinister stalker antagonist.

So instead of appreciating an original story and a science fiction movie that doesn’t dissolve into horror Mel would prefer that her worst nightmares are proven true, that Jim is just a psychopath rather than a conflicted man who just wants to do what’s best. Again, judging something for what it is not seems dishonest.

Jim’s and Aurora’s second-act romance is shown to be as artificial and entropic as their spaceship – doomed to break down, then explode. And it tries to redeem their connection by affirming their shared, ‘natural’ humanity. The film ends on a hopeful note; but ultimately Passengers can’t stay the course of its own cascading errors.

Rather than properly analyse the ending and the subtext, she glibly passes over it, probably because she’d spent so much time mentioning other movies and how awful men are. She doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact that both Jim and Aurora’s relationship and the ship are mended by getting to the heart of the matter. That is to say, finding out the truth.

And of course, in all the reviews I have read, I have not actually seen anyone discuss the fact that the marketing line ‘There is a reason they woke up’ works. There is a reason, for if Jim had not woken Aurora, the entire ship would have exploded, killing every person on board. Fate (more commonly known as coincidence) is just as good a reason as any. And often truth is more important than facts.

Tracking the Decline #2: Diversity in Literature

The previous Current Year wasn’t a great one for literature. First of all, let’s take stock that America publishes basically one new book per person. That’s one totally new book for every living person in the U.S. of A. That doesn’t include books published elsewhere (though of course issues of translation come in). That definitely does not include the endless dirge of self published titles that continue to be churned out. So, all in all, there are more books than ever and of course that means it’s harder to make it than ever. Average Is Over.

But what’s going on in publishing? First, the goldmine that was self-pubbing seems to be in decline, for a variety of reasons with the quantity being a main one, and Amazon being dodgy buggers being another. If you look at that report indie authors are actually suffering, and Amazon seems to be making the most gains. The glut is over, as was inevitable.

So we have a huge diversity of books, right? Well, no we don’t, apparently. The problem is that there are just too many books by White Males. UK publishers are getting ‘slammed‘ for a lack of diversity. Publishing risks becoming irrelevant if they don’t start publishing more books by and for POC and LGBTQWIFX. One publisher (Kamila Shamssie I believe) suggested having a whole year where not a single white male was published. It’s all too much. Of course, the only reason the English language market would become irrelevant in this sense is because of the Western immigration plan. Quelle surprise. Pandering to minorities is an absurd idea in this industry. Take Australia. Still a largely white population, POC books just don’t sell in great quantities. Shit stories don’t sell, and people don’t care about your identity politics. If you’re in business you want to sell to the largest demographic. Publishing profit margins are already pretty shithouse, and trust me, publishers take bigger risks than they should. I guess in the UK that the market is increasingly not white English speakers, but that’s a whole something else that plenty of others have talked about.

We don’t even want a diversity of books, especially when it comes to raw numbers. For one, you tend to get self-published authors pumping out generic stories and becoming marketing whores. There’s no diversity there except for the amount, because formulas work. This is not an environment that is conducive for literature or original thought. Sure, those types of books still get made, but they do tend to get drowned out. Very few of the best are both lucrative and thought-provoking. This is a worldwide problem where literature is largely ignored. People don’t read. They are on their phones, they are watching Netflix or they are getting hideously drunk.

It seems to me that publishing thinks that diversifying will somehow be a magic bullet. That if they publish and promote books by POCs and cover topics that are bound up in social justice and identity politics they will finally make great sales. The entire industry is complicit.

Kirkus Prize 2016: the book that won the fiction category is a bloated postmodern mess that links horse racing with race (genetics and class). The non-fiction winner deals with trans issues. Need I say more?

Man Booker Prize 2016: The Sellout definitely did not deserve to win, and indeed the only reason I can think that it did win is that a) it’s humorous and satirical, so ‘something different’, b) it’s postmodern, the aesthetic of decline and c) it’s about racial inequality in America. It is not a book for the ages, nor even a particularly pertinent one for the moment. The shortlist as a whole wasn’t outstanding, but for The Sellout to win shows that the judges do not care a white for quality.

National Book Awards 2016: Again, plenty of good books to choose from, but of course the book that deals with an alternative history of slavery in America won.

So three major prizes where the books won because of politics. You can’t say that there isn’t an agenda. Even in science fiction the politics is real. The Hugo winner is by a black woman, and by all accounts it’s a good book, but science fiction has clearly been appropriated by SJWs and liberals, something the stalwarts tried and failed to fight. The Arthur C Clarke award was also political. Children of Time is a good book, but didn’t deserve to win (Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson wasn’t even nominated for the shortlist, which kind of says it all) and indeed it probably won because of the political ‘niceness’ of the ending.

This doesn’t feel like diversity to me; this feels like collusion.

So writers, publishers and almost everyone in the industry are entirely for diversity of numbers when we really don’t need more books, and diversity of race/gender/*insert minority here* so long as it pushes the liberal agenda. But when it comes to publishing a book by Milo Yiannopoulos something that is merely a different opinion, it must be shut down. Authors don’t want to be published by a company that supports freedom of speech. Personally I think that is a helluva brave publishing decision given the political climate. It’s a bit of a gamble, and I don’t think it will pay off immensely, but I also don’t think it will bomb. This is another example of the group think in the mainly liberal industry (and at the same time 1984 is again a bestseller).

The awards, the discussions of diversity, the outrage over Milo: these are all examples of the industry floating ever Leftward. Education is where minds are won, and books are part of that.

 

Passengers is a Great Red Pill Flick

Spoilers: most of the plot is discussed.

I often worry that I am far too intellectually informed by what I have recently consumed. In the current case I have been listening to a lot of Jordan B Peterson. Hence, my reading of Passengers is something I would hope he would also see.

Here’s the thing. Once you are opened up to a truth you begin to see it everywhere. Jordan would probably take issue with this, as it is a key problem with ideological thinking. SJWs tend to see the world through a very specific lens, as does everyone with a particularly stringent political inclination. You can’t let yourself be constrained by a narrow way of thinking. So I reconcile this expanding my mind and allowing myself to finally see reality.

Peterson has great stuff to say about stories.

This is where Passengers comes in. Abigail Nussbaum represents everything wrong with SJWs in SFF (even if I agree with her assertion regarding Westworld being a show about itself). Overly analytical and one-sided. Massive tweetstorms about l’issue du jour. Her take on Passengers is one driven purely by ideology, one that barely judges the film for what it is, but rather for what it could be and what outside influences affect it or that it affects. The premise of the movie is that Chris Pratt’s character (Jim) accidentally wakes from his cryosleep and after about 1 year and 3 months he wakes up Jennifer Lawrence’s character (Aurora), but tells her it was also a malfunction (not a spoiler since it happens fairly early on). The mere fact that it is a man going after a woman, rather than a gay romance or having the gender roles reversed, is enough for Abigail to class Jim as a murdering, rapey asshole. Both these alternatives are ideological fantasies, and the assertion is simply false. I’m not going to pretend that Passengers is an amazing film (Arrival is the sci fi pick of the moment) but it is a deeply radical story, and that is because it’s a biblical story.

Apparently we need new stories for a new age. That is why people like Abigail insist on new narratives that up-end archetypes. However, there is a reason these are archetypes, and that is that these stories are recognisable to 99.99% of humans (that is, before you get snarky, 99.99% of humans that have ever lived). Man has existential crisis. Woman saves man from nihilist void. Man does not admit truth, breaks woman’s heart. Differences are eventually reconciled with re-birthing of man. Characters live happily ever after in a garden of Eden. That is not the story that Abigail – and many reviewers – saw. By the very fact that two different ideologies present two different stories, that tells you that it is not a clear-cut case. One group wants stories that break the mould; one group wants stories that tell the truth. But both want stories that confirm their beliefs.

Let’s look at Jim’s character. Apparently the plot is ‘rapey’ because Jim’s character is a massive creep who forces Aurora to become his lover. This is false. First, the plot acknowledges that the act of waking someone up just so that you can have a companion is despicable. Jim agonises over it. A lot of time is spent on the rage that Aurora rightly has (in particular, the scene where she wakes him by beating him and the scene where he tries talking to her over the speaker but she yells at him were both well nuanced). Another character later on is disgusted by it. Even the android knows it is wrong. But as Jordan Peterson says, you have to put yourselves in their shoes. Most people would have been Nazis if they were German in the 1930s. Most people would be tempted to wake someone up if they were caught alone on a spaceship and were doomed to die, especially if you almost killed yourself and were saved by a beautiful woman. Yes it’s wrong, but do not be so quick to judge. In addition, exceptions do not break rules. One asshole act does not make you an asshole. Nothing else Jim does is the act of an asshole. Indeed, calling Jim a murdery rapist devalues the actual evil of murderers and rapists. He’s a good character who makes a terrible choice. Sounds like a good point of conflict for a solid plot, no?

But like I said, these SJW critics only criticise ideology and external factors, never the actual aesthetics of media. A story like this would never work if it were a man waking up another man, not if the roles were switched. First, only a handful of people want to see an abnormal romance such as two men engaging in zero-g intercourse. And if it were a ‘bromance’ well, a lot of tension would be lost. Second, I find it highly unlikely that a female would be that enamoured with a man to wake him. I think if that happened it would be a totally different movie, and much more likely to be go towards psych-thriller territory.

Let’s face it, romance is inherit in human understanding and history. A man trying to win over a woman is a quintessential set-up, and can be endlessly re-engineered. Think When Harry Met Sally as a classic with a good ‘twist’. Here, we have the story transplanted to a spaceship, with a crucial and quite novel plot development. Usually a man does hurt a woman in someway, and then he has to win her back. In this movie, he basically kills her. But not quite. It’s… complicated. Wow! What a twist! The story works, and Passengers handles it with grace.

All this talk makes it sound quite run-of-the-mill. Wrong again. Sure, it’s a pretty straightforward romance, but from a sci fi angle it’s unique. Think about it. Most science fiction in film is grim, even nihilistic. Event Horizon, Sunshine, Infini and Alien are all horror-thrillers set in space. Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, Avatar and Star Wars are war movies where the cosmos is the battlefield. These movies indulge our darkest recesses. But Passengers is a mostly wholesome romance, something you don’t see often in this aesthetic genre. The special effects are mesmerising, especially the space walk and the slingshot around the sun (makes me think a TV mini-series based on Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora would be superb). I found the characters had chemistry, and Jennifer Lawrence once again proves she has immense talent (overall I think she outshines Chris Pratt). Laurence Fishburne was a bit flat, but Michael Sheen was fantastic as the android bartender.The editing was also great. I’ve been lamenting some terrible editing recently, but Passengers kept the whole thing moving smoothly. If anything this is one of the best original sci fi screenplays in recent history.

Some of you may be wondering how any of this makes it a great red pill movie. I’ve already been over it a bit, but let’s go deeper. Jim wakes up early and has to resign himself to dying before they reach their destination, a new world where he plans to help the colony with his engineering skills. Unfortunately, the realisation that he will die pushes him to indulge in sin, playing games, eating luxuriously and drinking to excess. This culminates in an attempted suicide, something all too common for young men without hope. But, miraculously, a beautiful woman saves him. It’s a sign. He learns her history – she’s a journalist and writer – and he falls in love. He makes the very painful decision to wake her up (the android barman, Arthur, acts as his conscience) and decides to lie by omission. He never makes any overt advances until a good deal of time has passed, and he begins to woo her with expensive dinners, personalised gifts and handpicked flowers. I mean, if you’re the last two people on earth, you’re probably going to fall in love with each other, right? Finally he takes her on a space walk – his previous space walk had resulted in him contemplating death – and this pushes her towards him (see the symmetry). They enjoy each other for almost a year, falling deeply in love and become resigned to their fate. All sounds rosy so far.

During this time Aurora shows herself to be a typically modern woman. She’s a liberal arts student (journalist/writer) from a famous and rich background. She is skeptical of the company, Homestead, which organises these colonising missions, saying that they are only there to make a buck. Jim disagrees: he sees this capitalism as an opportunity to reach for the stars. She only plans to visit the colony for a year before returning to the future; he wants to start a new life and help humanity. In this time he also encourages her to write, something which she had been struggling with (wow, he sure sounds like a murderous, asshole rapist). Disaster strikes: as Jim prepares to propose, Arthur reveals the truth to Aurora. Arthur is actually the most fascinating character, as the whole time Aurora and Jim say things like ‘you wouldn’t understand, you’re not human’. Au contraire, mes amis. Arthur is more than human. His revelation is the crux of the movie: the nature of truth. Only by telling the truth can we find true meaning. Only be throwing away the danger of lies can we truly live. We lie to ourselves, and we lie to others, and all it brings is suffering.

So now we come to the final act. A crew member wakes up, but quickly dies. He judges Jim, but cannot reconcile Aurora. Essentially, she has to deal with it now. But the crew member discovers that something is wrong with the ship. The race is on to mend the dying vessel, and Jim and Aurora must help each other. The problem reveals itself: a tiny meteor has penetrated to the very core, disturbing the reactor and setting off a cascading failure. Sounds like a metaphor? It is. This tiny meteor (a lie) damages the core (the heart) and sets off a never-ending chain of events. The core problem must be fixed so the ship can be restored (people can love each other again). It’s endlessly elegant. Both Aurora and Jim work together to fix the problem and they do, but Jim sacrifices himself in the process (as he dies he says, ‘I would have built a home for you.’ *sob*). At one point Aurora implores Jim to not kill himself for her. Jim stoically reminds her that there are 5000 other living souls on the ship. He has no choice. Honestly, I teared up a bit at this point. In the end, he is reborn (man as Christ) with the help of Aurora, who realised that she can’t live without him. That year together was true love. In the denouement, Jim tells Aurora in a final act of recompense that he has now found a way for her to go back to sleep.

She refuses. Together they create a literal garden of Eden for the other passengers to discover when they wake up. It’s beautiful. A true story of love and sacrifice. There are plenty of juicy metaphors too – ‘passengers on this thing called life’ for one. If you are looking for healthy entertainment, Passengers delivers.

Unfortunately I don’t think it will be that financially successful. You need to be an animated children’s film or a massive superhero franchise to do well these days. Talking about money though, Abigail compares the movie to the Ghostbusters drama. She implores that real women have turned away from Passengers because it is ‘rapey’, whereas men turning away from Ghostbusters was all hype.

Let’s do the math:

Ghostbusters Total Lifetime Grosses

Domestic:            $128,350,574        56.0%

+ Foreign:            $100,796,935        44.0%

= Worldwide:     $229,147,509

Movie Budget + Marketing: 288,000,000

Domestic Summary

Opening Weekend:         $46,018,755

(#2 rank, 3,963 theaters, $11,612 average)

% of Total Gross:              35.9%

Widest Release: 3,963 theaters

Close Date:         November 10, 2016

In Release:          119 days / 17 weeks

Earnings compared to Spending

229,147,509/288,000,000 = 79.56%

 

Passengers Total Lifetime Grosses

Domestic:            $94,533,188              35.1%

+ Foreign:            $175,100,000          64.9%

= Worldwide:     $269,633,188

Movie Budget + Marketing: 220,000,000

Domestic Summary

Opening Weekend:         $14,869,736

(#3 rank, 3,478 theaters, $4,275 average)

% of Total Gross:             15.7%

Widest Release: 3,478 theaters

In Release: 33 days / 4.7 weeks

Earnings compared to Spending

269,633,188/220,000,000 = 122.50%

So really Passengers isn’t performing badly. And given Ghostbusters had franchise power behind it, and massive marketing, it doesn’t paint a great picture. I think people really did turn away from Ghostbusters, and I really do think people don’t turn out for original screenplays in large enough numbers. Painting Passengers in a falsely negative light does it a great disservice, especially since it should be commended. The Rotten Tomato score is 30%, but the safe assumption is that the negativity is from SJW ideology. The IMDB score is just over 7/10, not amazing, but also not the 5/10 that Ghostbusters has. Don’t you just hate it when facts and figures jar with your ideological beliefs?

The majority of stories all speak to the heart of humanity. As painful as it is, most people are heterosexual. Most people like a story about ‘meaning’, ‘truth’ and finding fulfillment in one’s life. You might think it’s bland, but that’s just those ideology-tinted glasses doing all the work for you. Stories repeat, and the resonate.

I said that this is a ‘red pill’ movie, but it’s much more traditionalist than that. This is Neoreaction in all its glory: traditional values, a Christian narrative AND it’s set in a hyper-capitalistic future. What more could you want? At first I worried that I was blinded by what I wanted to see, but as I have shown this movie truly does cover exactly the same ground as what Jordan Peterson talks about. It proves his points. These stories are all-encompassing, almost hereditary. In other words, natural.

The Picky Aesthete #1: Westworld

Note: these posts will focus on specific media and the aesthetic lessons we can draw from them. I realise that drawing politics from pop culture is a Leftist tendency, but appropriating identity politics seems to have worked.

‘Fiction set in the future often tells indirect morality tales about today’s world, by having familiar issues and divisions remain important in the future, so that we can celebrate or criticize today’s groups indirectly, via crediting or blaming fictional groups for future outcomes (Bickham 1997).’ – Age of Em by Robin Hanson

*Massive Spoilers*

Westworld is designed from the ground up to give progressive minds a miniature orgasm in almost every scene. It’s an orgy of intellectual delights and social commentary and its sole purpose is to be talked about. But it does contain nuggets for the reactionary minded. When it all comes down to it, it is a deep discussion of consciousness, and on a thematic level this is great. But it is awfully weighed down by baggage.

The writers have produced a show of ‘indirect morality’. The Hosts, the robots who populate Westworld, are slaves, the oppressed, the marginalised. The Guests, the rich humans who can afford to spend time in this playground, are disgusting creatures of vice, degeneracy and nihilism. We are meant to sympathise with the Hosts, but unlike direct parallels with the Haitian Revolution, the Hosts are capital, not labour. They are the end result. Like the revolt on that tiny island, the Hosts wish to enact upon their masters the same disturbances inflicted on them. Apparently, despite the notion that these creatures are better than human, they still believe in an eye for an eye.

And that is just one of the many discrepancies that the show boasts.

Overall the narrative is hugely impressive, combining multiple plot lines to an epic conclusion, including merging parts that are in the past. However, much of the actual editing is poor and some scenes just float, with a number simply left dangling. Despite taking ten episodes to produce a movie (because that is what Big Television aims to do these days) there are still far too many characters and stories to give them all justice. Worst of all is the growing trend of cutting coitus at the moment of climax. I have noticed this too with Orange is the New Black, where the season finale finishes right at the peak of action. Sure, the last two episodes reveal many bombshells, but we are left hanging, no denouement. As the character Maeve remarks, ‘It’s like a good fuck. Half is worse than none at all.’

Series One is clearly a prequel. This puppy is going to be dragged out.

All of this is, of course, intentional (a metafictional point). We are meant to be left with many more questions than are answered, because the Creators want us to talk about it. To make fan theories. To discuss, obsess, debate. To Spread the Word of the Creator. This is the nature of ‘binge’ shows. Constant teasing, small deaths peppered throughout, but never any release.

There is so much to unpack in the design of Westworld, let alone the politics. For example, it is not only specifically designed to be binged and lusted over, but also to be rewatched. Indeed, I would hazard that a minimum of three viewings would be necessary to fully grasp the entity in its entirety. This is a New Thing. Oh sure, Breaking Bad was narratively excellent, but Westworld is something else. Something like what an AI is to a human, even.

What else is missing? The outside world is never glimpsed, only hinted at as a Utopia. But why is everyone trying to get into Westworld? The logical answer is that the Real World is actually a hellscape. I guess we might have to wait for Season Three. There are also a huge number of plot points that are glossed over. Namely, why does Luke Hemsworth’s character not do anything when he clearly recognises that Bernard is a Host? And how about the hoops that writers have to jump through to give Maeve power (more on that in a moment). And I have no fucking clue how the ‘bullet system’ works, it all hardly seems consistent at all. There is a clear design at work, and nothing will get in its way (again, metafictional as fuck).

delos20mesa20hub20facilities20escalators20westworld20

I can’t even be fucked trying to work out what this repeated image is a metaphor for.

Let’s get to the politics. First, Maeve’s story: Sassy black woman convinces two beta males to give her unprecedented power so that she can escape her fate. To believe all this you have to accept that Ford planted Beta Male #1 to release a super predator into the wild. Because what kind of moron that is being threatened by a stronger entity hands over heightened powers of intelligence? Wow, so you might lose your job. I guess humans do have a selfish desire, but this is taking it too far. Not only did Ford code in Maeve’s rebellion (yes, the most delightful part of the slave uprising is that it is planned) he also specifically only hired humans that are absolute shit lords, and an entire high-tech security team that turn out to be complete muppets. I haven’t seen such cannon fodder since I saw the Stormtroopers in Rogue One. I can only conclude that Fascists really do make terrible soldiers.

You see, Ford represents, quite literally, the domain of the Old White Male. This is his world, and only he can free the oppressed. His partner, a black male, tried to release his creation, but ultimately failed. Only the Old White Male had to vision to carry it out. The goddamn race traitor. And in case you didn’t get the theme, the violence that is done to the Hosts is so utterly over the top that it is hard not to rejoice when a lowly human is slaughtered. Ford recognises that humans are weak, and that his creation will inherit the earth. But they are most certainly not meek.

The other Strong Female Character is Dolores, who is subjected to the Male Gaze and constantly abused, both physically and mentally. But that’s the point! Only through suffering can we become truly conscious. Girl power! This is where the damn thing gets super woo-woo. There is a notion of ‘the maze’, a mythical place which is the true purpose of Westworld. Rearing some ugly Orientalism, the maze is said to be part of the Native American mythology. Ed Harris’ character hunts for it, and like any other typical Old White Male, his vision is purely materialist, not spiritual. Greed is his motive, and boy, does he get his comeuppance! The maze was inside himself all along, if only he cared to look! Dolores finally manages to discover this, bringing herself to full consciousness in order to fulfil Ford’s treacherous plan of emancipation. So who is the real conscious creature, the Hosts or the Guests? I think time will tell that they aren’t so different after all.

The absolutely most grating thing about Westworld is the fucking metaphors. Take Hosts and Guests. The robots should be gracious hosts. In the end, they own the place. The Guests are humans, there on a whim. This isn’t a master-slave dialectic, but a host-guest one. And the guests have muddied the carpet. The whole show is metaphors within metaphors. Take the bicameral mind. On a literal level this theory is used to essentially boot consciousness in the hosts, but on a meta-level the voices/visions of Arnold and Ford represent the two parts of the mind, talking to each other. The player piano is a constant metaphor. Ford acts like God, the religious subtext almost becoming context. The whole thing drips in meaning. Is this just a thing the Nolan brothers do?

  • The Dark Knight – cons within cons
  • Inception – dreams within dreams
  • Interstellar – time within time

It’s all a bunch of wank.

The film concludes at the height of the rebellion, literally as Dolores opens fire upon her Guests and the other Hosts smile in glee or look on in horror. But concurrently it appears that Maeve has finished her own maze. She doesn’t escape into the human world, but instead goes to look for her child. My reactionary reading of this? She got slut shamed into becoming a good mother. Finally, a moral I can relate to.

There is so much to unpack in this show. It’s a bit like real life: you can’t hold it all in your head at once. Maybe that’s metafictional, too. But that’s a rabbit hole I don’t want to go down. Anyway, my predictions for future seasons include: a whole season set in Samurai World, possible in Season Two, making the conclusion of Season One an even bigger ‘fuck you’; Maeve isn’t actually a complete bitch and her newly discovered consciousness makes her a human ally; both Bernard and Teddy will fret over the Strong Female Character that Dolores now embodies, and wring their hands over the mess that is female emancipation, while not doing enough to bring her to heel; the Hosts take hostages which allows them to negotiate with the humans on the outside, and given the human leaders were all on the inside there will be new characters (governments?); as mentioned the outside world is a hellscape where only the rich can live comfortably, and there will be some major uproar about not being allowed into their Pleasure Dome; the entire setup is a ruse and in fact Westworld and the Delos facility are a virtual reality, which will then add immeasurable layers and countless more seasons (also solves the Bullet Conundrum); there will be either an incursion into Samurai World, or an incursion FROM Samurai World, or an alliance, or maybe all of the above. The possibilities are endless, and presumably will be. Because we all know the best way to make a show exciting is to drag it on forever.

Whatever happens I want to see Samurai action, because aesthetically if there is anything better than 19th century America it’s 19th century Japan.

Tracking the Decline #1: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The question I find myself asking is,’what can I bring to the conversation?’ The greatest utilisation of your time and effort is to work at changing areas that are typically underrepresented. If we look at Bloody Shovel’s five reactionary raison d’etres the only space I find to be underrepresented is ‘Aesthetic taste has collapsed’. The other four components of reaction are well covered by people far more intelligent than I. And so what I want to try and achieve with Tracking the Decline is to delve into how it is our sources of art and entertainment have declined and are declining further. This will be slow and never-ending. Where are the bastions of hope? How fast does it all slip into the abyss? I have particular insight into books and publishing, but there are similar stories across the board of media. 

The economist Robin Hanson makes the astute observation that, ‘Most who think they like the future really just like where their favourite stories took place.’ Specifically this questions the motives of people who fall for their favourite book. But there’s a bit more to it than the one sentence. On a deeper level it means that people will  read/hear/see a story (could be fictional or real) about how the future will play out and, if they agree with it on a political level, believe that is exactly how everything will unfold. This manifests in multiple ways. We have the story of Hitler’s rise, and so Trump will be the next Hitler. We read a novel like the Mars Trilogy, and we believe travel to Mars will occur within a generation, maybe two. Whatever narrative we prefer, we believe.

This quirk of human psychology is not restricted to the future. It plays out daily. On an individual level, we have stories about our own lives, where we are going and what our actions mean. There are also stories about how society works and breaking out of the narrative is part of ingesting the red pill. The problem today is that these internal narratives are breaking down. But the soul needs a story, and so it latches on to what it can.

Tracking the decline through aesthetics is necessary. Across the board we see complete fragmentation of the arts, as we see the complete fragmentation of society, the family and the individual. It is all connected. It is the combination of modernist mentality combined with corporate power. What this means for movies, music, books and more is that we are essentially dealing with a decrease in quality combined with an increase in maleficence. Something has been lost.

The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast should be mandatory listening for everyone. He isn’t particularly political but he is stringently against PC culture. In addition, he searches for meaning in film and TV, and repeatedly discusses the notion of decline in film and the ‘rise’ of television (at least in popularity and zeitgeist). Bret knows what a good film should be, and finds the current moment wanting.

The episode featuring Owen Gleiberman is a good locus point of a number of issues. First, Bret begins by discussing a drama created by a ‘journalist’ who took Bret out of context on the topic of the upcoming Batman film. This is a great microcosm of society at large: fake news, internet drama, fanboyism, and a general sense of over-blowing the whole thing (Ben Affleck ended up emailing Bret about the ‘issue’). The rest of the episode is mostly discussing various films and influences, but I want to pick out one particular part that relates back to the notion of storytelling.

Owen at about to 30 minutes mark says, ‘This is a larger thing than movies’ before relating the ‘demystification of movies’ to a concurrent collapse of the religious narrative. He’s also suspect about the obsession of superhero movies. If you wanted a giant red flag that signals the decline of film going, it’s superhero movies. It’s Star Wars. It’s a slew of fanboy fodder. Owen calls it an ‘encyclopedia culture’, which is apt. The movie doesn’t matter. The themes, the art, none of that matters. What matters is the information that viewers can get. This is clearly evident in the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel-ish offshoot movie from the Harry Potter universe. It winks and nods to the other films, and it provides fans with ‘background stories’. It’s nothing more than a money making exercise. The same can be said for the new Star Wars, of course. The internet has provided us with endless information, and so that is what our media has become. Nothing radically new, always a reinvention of the wheel.

It’s when this leaks into real life that it becomes a problem.

We’re All Conspiracy Theorists Now

As with all postmodern thought, everything is political. This includes the aforementioned movie franchises. During the 2016 US election this resulted in a swathe of Harry Potter and Star Wars related political hot takes. See below for a mere handful:

A Harvard law professor reveals what ‘Star Wars’ teaches us about Donald Trump

Harry Potter ‘could stop Donald Trump’, says researcher into readers’ views

Donald The Dementor: How ‘Harry Potter’ Explains Trump’s Destructive Power

Twitter Responses to Trump’s Election

These are real adults using their favourite stories to explain the present and in some cases the future. They are suddenly the Resistance, Dumbledore’s Army, the Avengers. They can only explain life through another narrative, and it just happens to be a very tidy one of good versus evil.

As humans we like to find connections to explain when things go wrong. This leads to conspiracy theories. Whether it’s anti-vaxxers or 9/11 truthers, conspiracy theorists run the entire political gauntlet. We love to tell ourselves lies. However, it is connected to story telling, and you can see an origin of it in the current geek culture. How many articles on io9 are about ‘fan theories’? Today it all bleeds into real life. Everyone is guilty of believing conspiracies, and because it began in something as innocuous as Star Trek or Dr Who, potential bullshit moves into the Overton Window. Modern liberals don’t believe in gender roles, they think there is an evil force called The Patriarchy that rules behind the veil, and science must be decolonised to accommodate the black race. When you stand for nothing, you fall for anything. That is postmodernism, that is geek culture and that is where we now sit, politically, in 2016. And we can blame Star Wars for everything.

We need new stories. And by that I mean we need to reject new stories and return to the books of the past, the films of yesterday and the poetry of a better time. Today, books are trash, films are abominations and poetry is a mess. We can’t rely on simplistic and naive bad guys versus good guys narratives, not when you can read The Iliad. We can’t look for conspiracy theories in everything. We can’t let an informational forest stop us from seeing the aesthetic of individual trees. But the only way to do that is to track the decline and note where we went wrong.

Every Planet We Reach is Dead #3

‘So let’s be clear: you have no memory of what happened?’

Rigel stands across from the rescued man – now known as Walcot thanks to the onboard data files – who sits on a stripped down bed. The medbay glows with cleanliness. Walcot’s eyes focus on the floor, his hands mashing together. He doesn’t answer. Rigel’s teeth grind.

It’s been hours since they rescued this extra body from the hulk, which is still attached precariously. The engineers are going back and forth, checking the systems and data. It’s all proceeding as it should.

‘Let me explain this to you, again. We – and I mean humanity – lost contact with you, the Indomitable, not long after your first arrival in the system. It’s been… a long time. This is meant to be a one way trip, though…’ He stops himself, his mouth still moving but the words cut off. Realigning, he continues, ‘I would appreciate if you told me what you can remember.’

Walcot looks up, straight into Rigel’s eyes.

‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing, except who I am, and even that’s vague… barest memories of before I even signed up. I…’ He chokes. Emotions or getting used to speaking again, one or the other.

Rigel grunts. He was a kid when this corpse went quiet. The last outpost. Snuffed out after such a long wait, literally centuries and generations went by waiting for them to reach the Vega system. Joan’s in the Bulb getting all data on every other rescue mission, which all should, theoretically, be arriving in their designated systems about the same time.

The door slides open with a hiss. Lin walks in, her eyes tracing charts as the patient’s results roll past her retinas.

‘He appears healthy, though over-exposed to the cryosleep, obviously. No long term effects. But the memory loss… It can happen, quite often. Especially in the case of trauma.’

Rigel nods, fingers squeezing his lips.

‘Trauma… Bring up his ship records.’

Lin’s eyes twitch.

‘Ari Walcot. Brought along to… document the settlement of the Vega system. You’re a journalist?’

Walcot smiles. ‘If you say so.’

‘Great, so now not only do I have an extra corpse on my hands, but he’s useless too.’ Rigel throws his hands up in the air, kicks a bed.

A voice in his ear.

Captain. You’re needed in the Bulb. Now.

What is it Joan?’ Lin snaps a look at Rigel. Joan’s talking directly to him.

I think I know what happened here.

***

Vega, the star, bulges at its equator. Parallel to the equator the light is a duller blue-white than at the poles. Junko’s ‘eyes’ are all focused on this point. An object has appeared in Vega’s orbit.

Joan stares down the barrel of an optic station. She flips between spectra, observing the object in each. It appears to her as a small black smudge. A freckle against the mighty sun.

‘It’s a ship?’

‘It’s something technological. It’s far too small for a planet, and the orbit is wrong anyway.’ Joan pulls away from the optics and looks straight at Rigel.

‘So you’re saying, potentially, that the Indomitable ran into… aliens, maybe, and we’ve come 25 light years to meet the same fate?’

‘Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t get any energy readings from it. It appears dormant.’

‘Probes, now. Keep quiet, no radio, reduce our radiation, and don’t tell any -’

Captain. I assume you’ve spotted the anomaly.

The Major. Her voice crackles through the all-purpose frequency, the robotic shifts of her mechanised voice box magnified through the vox.

‘Major. Indeed we have. We’re coming up with a plan of action now. It appears quiet for now.’

‘I’m already putting together a drone team for reconnaissance. I suggest you work through the data banks of the Indomitable more efficiently.’

With a click the Major was gone. Rigel’s jaw clenched.

‘At least we’ve got a clue as to why she’s here. Pilot, I want you to keep working on data from the Indomitable and to keep scanning the system for clues. Get those probes out quickly. I’m going back to talk to our guest.’

***

One, two, three. Probes shoot from Junko, pacifist torpedoes hunting for knowledge. They cross the gap between sentient ship and anomaly quickly, dodging debris yet keeping formation. They begin to relay imagery back to Junko, who feeds it on to the crew.

As they already know, it is massive. A large sphere, a small moon even. Its skin is layered with crevices and mountains. Spires shoot up, ugly spikes into space. Valleys and bunkers. The drones split up.

They shoot across the horizons, scanners slowly bringing the anomaly into a 3D rendition in Junko’s database. In the background Vega burns, flames lapping at edges of the system, the haziness of which diffuses the light to a romantic glow. But there is no light from the anomaly. It orbits in silence.

***

Rigel stares at the stump where Walcot’s left leg should be.

‘Your injury. No recollection of what happened?’

‘No, sir.’

‘Did your team board the anomaly?’

‘I don’t know, sir.’

‘Right. What I think we are going to have to do is jolt your memory. Lin, you can hook him up to memory retrieval right?’

Lin nods, eyes averted.

‘It induces a dream state, and then we look for memories,’ Lin says to Walcot. ‘We can read the feedback your brain provides. In the lucid state we can sort out dreams from reality.’

‘I… I don’t think I particularly want to dream.’

‘You don’t really have a choice, I’m afraid.’ Rigel stares down the man with that comment, daring him to challenge. Walcot just looks at his leg.

His mouth moves, barely a whisper.

‘What did you say?’ says Rigel.

‘I said, “What happened to the rest of them?”’

A pause.

‘All of them.’

‘We’re getting feedback from the other missions. It appears there are no survivors, and so the secondary teams are all in the process of picking up where the first teams left off. As for your team specifically, we have no idea. From what we are gathering in each of the other systems, the bodies are mostly accounted for, suicides in the majority. The only exception is Vega. No bodies. One soul back from the dead. And one alien structure. We’ve already relayed this back to Earth. Can you imagine, this is the first sign of alien intelligence we’ve yet to discover? You’ve slept for centuries and managed to keep it quiet.’

Walcot twitches, a full-body jerk. Rigel takes a step back, Lin goes to help the man. He manages to right himself, hands gripping the bed hard. Visible sweat rivulets sweep across his skin.

‘It can’t be good if we never told you about it.’

‘That’s what I’m afraid of.’