Friday, February 14, 2020

From the Writer's Studio: The Sexual Politics of Toy Story IV

Welcome back to the Gauntlet of Balthazar for another deep dive into the art of screenwriting.

As a starting point I guess I should confess from the get go that I have a slight aversion to animated films in general. I'll admit it's a peculiar undercurrent of "un-enjoyment" that I have a hard time explaining, or justifying, in that I readily watch South Park, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, think that Fantasia was one of the great classic films of yesteryear, and if CG is any indication - I watch tons of content that has been altered by some form of animation.

Regardless, I must give PIXAR credit where credit is due. Forgoing the fact that the 21 feature films (and shorts) are animated, (and well animated I must add), it is obvious that what attracted throngs of fans to their films was the writing. The folks at PIXAR, originally a Lucasfilm subsidiary, and now a Disney property, was founded in 1979, and through the assistance of various investors such as Steve Jobs, at the time of their purchase by Disney in 2006, PIXAR had a valuation of $7.4 Billion.

At least five of their films - Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Monsters, Inc., and Toy Story are franchises with sequels that account for 13 of the 21 features. At the time of this blog post the most recent of them is Toy Story IV, which is listed as having a $200 million budget and drawing almost 1.1 Billion over its six week box office stint. So, yay, Go PIXAR!

What I personally have always admired about PIXAR, or at least leading figures like John Lasseter, was their uncanny ability to make adults sob uncontrollably in response to the sentiment- ality and overall relate-ability of their story-lines. Masters of catharsis - the bastards! Still, kids of all ages are capable of watching movies like UP! over, and over, and over, again.

So let's look at Toy Story franchise, and the newest sequel in the series, shall we?

First off, the protagonist of all of the films is a cowboy doll called Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks. All of the other characters are secondary or tertiary perhaps with the exception of Buzz Light Year - a not so brainy space explorer figure, who supplies the role of a comedic Enkidu to Woody's Gilgamesh. Buzz's best moments were arguably in Toy Story III where his story arc included a memory loss, bouts of self-doubt, and a budding love relationship with a cowgirl doll called Jessie.

Gone is all that in Toy Story IV. With a screenplay penned by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom with some story blocks contributed by Lasseter, and even the delightful Rashida Jones, who I like very much as an actress, the focus moves firmly back to Woody.

So, you're probably wondering about now, "what does this have to do with sexual politics?" - as mentioned in the article title. Well, I'll illuminate.

It's the Little Bo Peep character.

While she is clearly presented as a potential love interest for Woody, she lacks entirely an internal story arc of her own. Sure, in her absence from the series she's become a bit of bad ass having lived out on her own without her former friends as a "lost toy", but my question is, is that enough?

I suspect that the writers felt that by making her a capable, outspoken, woman that they had sufficiently empowered her persona to stand as a shining example of modern femininity. But did they? I think not. For while giving her character a healthy dose of vim they absolutely failed to impart to her a story arc of her own.

On the other hand, In Toy Story IV Woody clearly experiences an crisis of conscience and an existential malaise arc throughout, defined by his dedication to his leadership role in his group, his feelings of uselessness and abandonment in regard to his new child "Bonnie", and the regret of not leaving earlier to explore a romantic relationship (we suspect) with Little Bo Peep.

These arcs all resolve by the end of the film.

But Bo Peep, for all her so-called "archetypal feminism", does not evolve at all over the acts. Thus, in the guise of virtue signalling their feminist stance, the writers failed to make Bo Peep an actual human. Uhm, a toy of course, but you know what I mean. For goodness sake, if she just talked about Woody or one of the male characters a tad more the script would have surely failed the Bechdel test.

Being the weird deconstructionist I am, I of course re-wrote the problematic issue in my mind as I watched. I do this by imagining what I suspect is going to occur, but in this case, never did. I think upon Woody encountering Bo again, she should have feigned good will regarding his quest of rescuing the captive "Forky" from the erstwhile villain of the piece "Gabby Gabby". While Woody would have been fooled by giving her the benefit of doubt, upon meeting up with Gabby, Bo Peep should have sold Woody out for something that she wants from Gabby. While this casts her more in the position of an antagonist, Bo then has the entire script / film to, first; feel remorse for her betrayal, second; to turn on Gabby, and third; to acknowledge her feelings for Woody. She even had a built-in chorus in the form of her sheep who could have prompted her to question her bad decisions. As Bo came to the rescue at the end of the story, the completion of her own arc would have paralleled Woody's, creating a perfect ending, both structurally and emotionally.

The way the film is now, she can take or leave Woody, and the onus of him staying with her specifically is neutral enough that they could just be friends. Now I know that these films are for the most part made for children, but you may recall that there were several notable romances that littered the plot of the last film - specifically between Ken and Barbie, Mr. and Mrs. Potato head, and Buzz and Jessie. My suspicion is that the left-wing virtue signalling culture of the Hollywood elite - long infected by Marxist Intersectionality and Post-Modernism has become so entrenched that relationships, maybe even more so hetero-normative ones, are unconsciously (or maybe overtly) perceived to be best avoided altogether. This is probably why familial (particularly sister-sister and mother-daughter) and platonic friend relationships have supplanted dashing Prince's coming to the rescue in all of the most recent Disney Princess outings, such as Frozen and Maleficent.

While I understand that the outdated images of a helpless, agency-bereft waif like Cinderella or Aurora requiring a man (or Fairy Godmother...or both) to swoop in and save them from their plight is a bit of utopian wish fulfillment that is even more disastrous for female character writing than Peep as she stands, as I understand it, fictional characters are designed simulate humans, and must behave like, well, the humans we all interact with on a daily basis.

Clearly in a climate where upon writing a male-female love relationship, a mob of Twitter goons attack you for not making the couple in question homosexual, or start re- visiting Metoo rape culture topics, or worse, they up the ante and denounce the creators as bigots for not addressing the triggered feelings of the non-binary trans-gender midget furry demographic, it is all certainly concerning to say the least.

I personally like writing...good writing. Writing that is so solid that it stands the test of time. And when I'm talking about time I don't mean just in the decade sense, but in the century and millennia, across culture and language sense.

Don't get me wrong, catering to a specific audience is some- times a fully sound and appropriate premise, but robbing char- acters with previously established personas of their humanity is never a good thing. I mean, did Buzz and Jessie just sort of fall out of love since the last movie? Ken's desperate protectiveness of Barbie was certainly not in the mix. And even the touching concern Mrs. Potato Head expressed repeatedly for her spouse was relegated to, snippy complaint.

In my mind Little Bo Peep was not just a "capable" woman, she deserved to learn and grow through the film, like Woody, and to experience her own epiphanies and feelings, that we, the audience would have shared with her in catharsis.

But alas, while I generally enjoyed the ride of Toy Story IV, and their forays into childhood sentimentality were still effective enough to urge me to feel great pathos for both the heroes and antagonists in the film, the mismanagement of Little Bo Peep's character arc suggests that it is surely the weakest written film in the franchise.

Come on PIXAR. Don't walk on eggshells. Just stick to your model. Write great scripts!

Till next time.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thank You, Nancy Pelosi!

Wow. Just wow.

Welcome back to the mighty Gauntlet of Balthazar for yet another terrifying glimpse into the dark psyche of the creature inaccurately, but nevertheless self-described as "a progressive liberal".

As moderates, centrists, Independents, Libertarians (left and right leaning), Blue Dog Democrats, Republicans, and Conservatives (religious and/or fiscal), we have in the past often turned a blind eye to the elitist and judgemental abuse that Neo-Lib Statists and Marxists have become accustomed to, and I might add, are very comfortable heaping upon us.

From (Hillary Clinton's and Barak Obama's mentor and political guru) Saul Alinsky's play-book (Rules for Radicals) via their dominance over the mainstream media and the educational system, the left has consistently inverted reality for their own ends and has routinely cast their own negative attributes onto their perceptions of their opponents - disregarding their mounting cognitive dissonance and the reality of history, as well as any thought of consequences.

But, every once in a great while, the so-called "liberals", who are truly illiberal, come up with an action - a single action, that ushers them into the light of day as surely as pulling back a thick and velvety red curtain that impedes the progress of an oncoming and suddenly pained thirsty vampire in an old Hammer Film horror classic.

But, let me explain.

In case you didn't catch it, or missed, the recent State of the Union address, let me fill you in on the events that transpired, and relate just how telling and beautiful they were. You see, for those of you who don't know, the President of the United States is required to formally address the entire government and the American people each and every year, and relate the accomplishments of his, or her, administration and pitch a list of upcoming plans and the like.

Well, regardless of what anyone thinks of President Donald Trump's off-the-cuff use of language and quips slathered in smart-assery and douchbaggery, his administration has been remarkable in the sheer volume of the achievements they've accrued in a very short time when compared to all but a few of the US's earlier leaders. Historically this alone places him alongside the founders, Lincoln, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt as a leading "agent of change" in the history of the nation.

Of course, his agenda reflects the post-Tea Party right, or as I like to term it, the Neo-Whigs, who are not only opposed to the policies of the Neo-Libs and Marxists, Socialists, and Communists, but also to the Neo-Conservative regimes of the past and the entrenched bureaucracy of Washington D.C. - often referred to as the "Military-Industrial Complex", the "Deep State", or the "Shadow Government". Trump calls them "The Swamp". As I mentioned earlier, the left was very comfortable with "tolerating" Republicans on shared Neo-Lib and Neo-Con Kleptocracy issues, and they accepted the paradigm for many years, and thus, partisan back-biting was by today's standards quite mild.

However, as the renewed Whigishness of the right mounted through the Obama years, spurred on by the GOP attempting to force Neo-Con disappointments like John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Jeb Bush to the forefront of each Presidential bid, the anti-Neo-con's like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and yes, Donald Trump took center stage.

In reaction, the Democrats quickly sought to enlist their Neo-con allies in order to push down this affront, but instead, many former Neo-Con's (such as Senator Lindsey Graham) began showing signs of moving to the Right-Libertarian side of the spectrum, and those who supported the previous regimes were summarily labelled "war mongers", "swamp creatures", and of course, "Never Trumpers".

What were the Dems to do? Well, call everyone racist was the first order of business as usual. I mean it was Alinsky 101. I might be digressing here, but in case you're not familiar with Marxist agitator Saul Alinsky, and since I've now mentioned him twice in this article, here's a handy list of his suggested tactics for the left to use to turn America into a Socialist state.

Sounds familiar, huh? Well it certainly should be because this is the roadmap the increasingly far-left has used for years against the right, with only the polite, soft Conservative and Objectivist push back from the William Buckley and Ayn Rand types as they sipped their tea and shook their heads.

But now, the Democrats had a real problem on their hands - a populist.

The media barrage, highlighted by Marxist race, class, and gender warfare rhetoric just wasn't working fast enough to get rid of these pesky deplorables and their douche-bag king. So, they worked their box harder, and their box was Congress. The Mueller report, Wikileaks, Russia, Ukraine, and the impeachment "trial", all ended in partisan loggerheads with the Senate dismissing the Democrat's inverse conspiracy theories (Rules 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 and 13). Sadly, the Democrats chose to not heed Rules 7 and 12.

Thus, when Trump delivered his most recent State of the Union address, mind you, just prior to being acquitted by the Senate, he very rightly never mentioned the trial and was on his best behavior, speaking in perhaps his most gentle, eloquent, and statesman-like fashion. I guess he can turn it on and off when he chooses.

Apparently this was just too much for the so-called resistance to take, and many Congress-persons representing the former pro-slavery party just up and walked out, 'cuz they were "too triggered" by the fact that it appeared like their wonderful post-Marxist religion might not be everyone's cup of tea. Worse, lo and behold, Trump and his devotees might not be the monsters they had depicted them as, and worse yet, the disease seemed to be spreading. Hell, even traditional ethnic hubs for the Democrats were breaking rank and moving to the other side. Good numbers of Latinos, Blacks, Jews, and Asians, (that Northern Democrats gained by playing race politics in the first half of the 20th century) as well as Moderate Democrats, started looking for lifeboats to get away from the now all but Democrat in name only Socialist Party.

But being a member of a resistance movement takes a toll on the psyche, and soon PTSD sets in. In this case we've deemed it TDS, or Trump Derangement Syndrome, and some folk have it bad, spurred on mainly by social media, and their quest for greater clicks.

When Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and leader of the Democrats in the government, ripped apart the transcript of Trump's address for her base and the cameras, she was making a statement of resistance. It was an "I'll never stop" gesture to her base.

However, to moderates it appeared as simply petty and childish, and to Republican's - the effect is perhaps the most interesting part. The right looked at Nancy's tantrum, not only as the unhinged rant of a sore loser, but it illustrated viscerally, that these people for all of their invoking of the spirit of the founders, and God, and patriotism...have none.

Often politicians pay lip service about caring for citizens and the nation while really only being obsessed with their own power - and this was it. In Republican eyes the Democrats ceased to be Americans (in the same way) in that instant. They were revealed as the power-hungry moral bigots and hate mongers we've always suspected they were, and the latitude we extended to them went out of our collective hearts in that instant.

Sadly, I can't underscore that point enough.

But, it is what it is.

So, I must thank you once again Nancy Pelosi for crystallizing that moment in time so clearly for everyone, especially for those of us on the right. Perhaps we've been pulling our punches too much. But I fear those days are now over. So I hope your petty gesture and victory lap were worth further alienating a public that you were already losing.

See you at the ballot box, or in the unemployment line.

Till next time.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Finally: Happy Brexit Day!!! - Globalism Versus Sovereignty in Symbolism

Hey there and welcome. Perhaps it's just me, but I for one am quite relieved that as of midnight January 31st, 2020. Brexit has indeed finally come to pass.

Now I know as an American being so interested in a British issue might seem to some as an odd and distant concern. I mean, they (the Brits) play weird games like Cricket, occasionally drink warm beer, don't have the most interesting gastronomy of Europe, and in some regional cases "English almost disappears" to quote Professor Henry Higgins of My Fair Lady fame.

Still, I think many of us (non-Brits, that is) have peripherally followed the intransigence of the Left / Labour Party in the United Kingdom as well as the vexing fecklessness of the Tories throughout this long process of referendums, calls for renewed referendums, talk shows and YouTube videos, three trillion articles, and demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. We must admit that such divisiveness is nothing new and went hand-in-hand with the increasingly vitriolic left-right rhetoric and felt eerily familiar to anyone who has watched the Trump versus Left paradigm in the US, the Yellow Vests versus Macron in France, the Democracy calls of Hong Kong against the Chinese Communist government, and the post-Arab spring world, etc., etc.

So, what, you may ask, does all of this mean?

Well, rather dwelling on notions and emotions, I'd rather focus on the philosophic root causes of the Brexiteers versus Remainers schism and point out that it occurred for the same reasons that caused Donald Trump to be elected US President in 2015. As a microcosm of this issue we only need to look to what can only be seen as a predictable response to the above hypothesis that I imagine would slip from a typical leftist's mouth as they flippantly quip, "Yeah, both the average Brit and average American are just racist, xenophobic, misogynist, capitalist A-holes".

Those are of course not the reasons, but merely the reaction the left has been programmed by the media in order to respond to all those who do not share their opinion of the glorious road into the future. I mean, they're trying to save the world, literally, for future generations, don't you know? How virtuous they are!

So let's look at the big picture, shall we?

For the majority of its history the Labour Party in the UK was a Classical Liberal outfit that was generally moderate but incorporated Progressive ideology starting in the Victorian and Edwardian Periods. Their primary cause was the betterment of the lives of the poor, working-class people of Great Britain - mainly by offering them a representative voice in the areas of Trade Unions and National Health issues.

Just as in the Democratic party in the US, Labour gradually incorporated more and more Socialist ideology into their platform, until, within reason, their leaders often propounded notions that would be much more comfortable within a Communist context.

Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone today that Labour Party Big Cheese Jeremy Corbyn and Presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders pretty much parrot one another in almost every respect.

As so called Socialists, or as they like to frame it (for those of us with weaker hearts) "Democratic Socialists", who are in actuality just Communists in sheep's clothing, they are by their nature, inclination, and dogma, "internationalists". In case you've forgotten your Karl Marx 101, I must remind you that Communism is meant to take over the entire world - with Socialism serving merely as the gateway drug to saddle the nascent embryo of those ideals onto otherwise Democratic systems. Socialists often deny this, but this was indeed Marx's premise of political evolution.

This internationalism is exactly why the left will go to no ends to distance themselves from their Socialist brethren who opted to attempt to institute these sort of dramatic economic changes on a per nation basis. They will swear up and down that any conflation of Nationalism with Socialism is by definition is "right wing", confusing the Civic Patriotism of Conservatives and Republicans with economically Socialist, yet Authoritarian regimes, such as the Pan-Arab Ba'ath Socialists of Saddam Hussein and the Assad boys, the payback-seeking Serbian Socialist junta of Milosevic in Bosnia, and of course the king of all secular Ethno-Nationalists - Hitler and the German Workers National Socialist Party, otherwise known as the Nazi Party.

In the US Globalism entered into the political sphere via the Populist Party in the 1880's and can be seen as coming into crystallization under President Woodrow Wilson's administration during the first World War and his goal of establishing the League of Nations - the precursor to the largely useless and mostly corrupt United Nations.

Regardless, "Globalism" - sometimes disguised by the term "Trans-Nationalism" (a term which I believe was coined by Nelson Rockefeller) festered through the mid-twentieth century and stood as a respectable counter to "Marxist Globalism" in that it still held that Capitalism was something that can be worked with rather than "eliminated".

The means of production were not to be taken over by the state (as in Communism), they merely would be regulated (kind of like Fascism). Within reason, the same re-distributive premise that is overt in Socialism was involved and in the establishment of the European Union, and the economies of all member states were designed from the start to be managed, controlled and manipulated by a faceless, un-elected, bureaucracy based in Brussels. Yay!

Many of the early philosophic founders of the European Union admired the organization of the Fascist dictatorships, and while Fascists and Communists have sworn an eternal pact they are the Lawful-Evil and Lawful-Good of the political spectrum, we must never forget that every Communist state that has ever existed has instead applied the term "Socialist" in their national moniker, and ended up being guilty of the same authoritarian Fascist behavior that they insisted they were so against. Regardless, a government with "Socialist" somewhere in it's name was literally and, ahem, collectively, responsible for well over 100 million deaths through genocide and culturcide in the 20th century. 

So in a nutshell, Marxist Globalists want the world to eventually come under the control of a single Utopian Communist state, Trans-National Globalists want the world to eventually come under the control of an Elitist left-leaning bureaucracy. I would almost call this the conflict between Globalism and Globalization, if you get my drift. On the other hand Ethno-Nationalists (such as the Nazis or ISIS) want their specific country and / or ideology to dominate first their nation, then their region, and then the world.

On the other, other, hand Civic Nationalism insists that each country is entitled to exist, and to be free of inclusion from these supra-blocks if they so decide so. In the past this was simply called "Patriotism", and in the US, the founding fathers made it clear that this had nothing to do with race, but rather ideology. Washington, Jefferson, and Adams were not concerned with "foreigners" adding their numbers to America, they were only concerned that those new arrivals would not understand the core Classical Liberal values they had striven so hard to establish.

For one to be patriotic, one requires a nation -  a sovereign nation - to exist, and ideally that nation will democratically represent the interests of the population. This is what Brexit was really about. A referendum was called and the majority wished to leave the European Union. The Remainers, much like the bitter Democrats, their puppet media, and their strangle- hold on the (re)education system, were not able to properly process that their dogma was not unilaterally dominant in all matters. Like "Trump Derangement Syndrome" the Remainers quickly cultivated "Brexit Derangement Syndrome".

This is mostly due to the fact that the increasingly radicalized left has historically always just sort of "tolerated" Conservatives and Republicans in both the UK and USA, as long as the latter kowtowed to them and approved whatever idiotic policies they wanted to have financed at the moment. You give me Trans- gender bathrooms and we'll let you have some more tanks and submarines. That sort of thing.

However, it seems abundantly clear now (especially since the Tea Party, etc.) that the left might not gotten the memo that world has indeed changed of late. Frankly, it's their own fault for turning their their agenda "up to eleven" and not expecting a backlash.

In the last twenty years Communism and Socialism has started to die globally. India, a previously Democratic Socialist land embraced Capitalism and low-and-behold, suddenly created a 500 million person middle class where none existed before. Likewise even Communist China, after incorporating Free Trade zones, sudden had a 650 million person middle class on its hands. Russia - the role model of the Communist nations, for all of it's Kleptocracy, embraced Capitalism, and now has more billionaires than anywhere else on earth. Vietnam, Cambodia, etc., etc., have all shifted away from full-tilt Marxism, and only outliers like the destitute North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela remain as stunning examples of how failed Karl Marx's utopian notions were.

Within reason it can be argued that Marxism, Socialism, and Communism lost well over a billion devotees around the globe between the years 2000-2020, which I guess makes it all the more ironic that in the same period Europe and the USA have seen swells of (mostly younger) people identifying as Marxists in their political arenas via Marxist Intersectionality (Race, Class and Gender Warfare), Post-Modern language policing (PC), and in general, "Woke" politics.

It seems that rather than the rats fleeing a sinking ship, leftists have opted to go on the full-tilt attack, transferring all of their negative attributes onto their opponents (as suggested by Saul Alinsky). The Democrats (who were / are the party obsessed with race, have routinely slandered the Republicans as the "racist party" for years, notwithstanding the fact that it was they who were the pro-slavery / pro-segregation party and the Republicans were the ones to put slavery to an end. But I digress. Well, maybe I don't, because this is exactly what the Woke Labourites have done to the Tories and to those who voted them in, and who voted for Brexit.

Rather than looking at this conflict as simply a difference of political opinion, the left looks at this as a moral conflict. They are good, the other side - bad. And as this is the framework in which they work. They were incapable of losing a vote to such "horrible" and "stupid" people. The "basket of deplorables", as Hillary Clinton deemed all Trump voters / most Republicans. Thus, while there should really never have been such a thing a Remainer, there should have also never been the phenomena of Tory Brexit apologists. The vote was what it was. I mean, the nation is a democracy, isn't it? Oh, I forgot, Socialists sometimes find it very easy to slide into authoritarianism, as witnessed from the aforementioned data.

In order to get their way the left of course went the alarmist route, and if you listen to a typical Remainer, you might have gotten the impression that they thought that in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU a wall was to be built around the island, that they would no longer be able to visit the continent for vacations, and that England would more or less be at a state of war with the rest of Europe. This was / is simply concocted hysteria, and not appreciably different from the left's endlessly tiring invective against Trump. I mean, at any moment everything is about to go belly-up, right?

Anyway, I wish you, and all pro-sovereign anti-globalists out there a Happy Brexit Day!!! Maybe if we're lucky next time we'll have "Frexit", and leave the Germans to their "Fourth Reich".

I'd like to leave you with one last thought, which is a quote displayed in the European Union Parliament in Brussels. I think it says it all, and perhaps most ironically, it was penned by a a citizen of the UK - Philip Kerr; the 11th Marquess of Lothian, British Ambassador to the United States, and well-known appeaser of Hitler in the Pre-War years.

“National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times…The only final remedy for this evil is the federal union of the peoples.”

With archetypes like him you don't need any enemies.

Till next time.