Mollie goes Lebowski

Quote of the year candidate:

In any case, what the White House is probably realizing, in hindsight, is that painting Bergdahl as a hero and the swap as unbridled good news were horrible errors. If President Obama had said that sometimes you need to do awful things — like give up five really bad terrorists in exchange for one deserter — because we never leave even our weakest man behind, he would have probably been fine. If he could have further explained why he needed to break the law requiring him to notify Congress of such deals, even better. 

But what Americans instead got was someone micturating in their mouth and telling them it was raining.

– Mollie Hemingway; The Left is Terrified Right Now About the Bowe Bergdahl Story

The Personhood of Orcs

Jake Meador offers some great insight on violence in Tolkein, this time going up against the Deep Throner progenitor:

There’s a further Tolkien-related question that needs to be discussed after last week’s comments by George RR Martin, concerning the role of violence in Tolkien’s legendarium. Martin asked in the interview if Aragorn hunted down and killed all the orcs after his ascent to the throne, “even the little baby orcs in their orc cradles?” 

As it happens, this is a terrible way of raising an interesting point. We need to talk about violence in Tolkien if we are to talk intelligently about his politics, but talking about the orcs is the wrong way of doing that. Tolkien is fairly dodgy about the origins of the orc, but the best hints we have are that orcs were originally elves who joined with Morgoth, the original Dark Lord for whom Sauron was a mere lieutenant. Due to their allegiance to Morgoth, the orcs were, by definition, evil to their core and were incapable of redemption. So the only thing left was to fight them and attempt to eradicate them. You can find ambiguity in Tolkien’s work regarding violence, but if you go looking for it in his treatment of the orcs you’re looking in the wrong place. 

Martin’s comment about “little orc babies” is especially telling as it betrays a surprising ignorance of Tolkien’s world—it’s far from clear that there ever were such things as baby orcs. Tolkien never describes how exactly an individual orc comes to be, but there’s some reason to suspect that Peter Jackson’s view that orcs were made rather than born is correct. Indeed, if one reflects on the fact of Tolkien’s Catholicism it’s not hard to imagine him thinking that orcs, by virtue of their essential selfishness and lack of even the most basic form of affection or love, would be incapable of having sex and giving birth in the same way as the free peoples of Middle Earth. The simple act of sex, as Tolkien understood it, would have been the least orc-ish thing one could possibly do. (It is perhaps unsurprising that a man who writes sex in the way that Martin does would fail to pick up on this point.) So while it may seem an obvious place to go in thinking about violence in Tolkien’s work, the orcs are not the best place to begin.

In any case, I’m sure we can easily predict what argument from the Old Testament George R.R. Martin would use when saying why he’s not a Christian. Never change, cultural elites.

05/06/2014 update: changed pronoun to George R.R. Martin

Bob Hoskins 1942-2014

James Gandolfini, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and now Bob Hoskins  have all died this year.
Hoskins’ death is particularly sad to me, as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” will always remain in my top three of all-time.

Rape of the Schlock

I’ve not watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, nor read the books.  I do not intend to start.

At first I would retort that I don’t watch Game of Thrones because I’m not that interested in “Lord of The Rings with breasts.”  Much like the way Battlestar Galactica used “frack” as a way to show how it could use an f-word without losing its rating, I find the use of gratuitous sex to be poor and lazy writing.  Great writing uses the boundaries to the author’s advantage.  Anyone can re-write the rules for their own benefit.

Turns out, others are willing to risk the wrath of Deep Throners.

Criticizing “Game of Thrones,” it turns out, is about as thankless a task as criticizing Ron Paul. Somebody has to do it, but be prepared to get an earful from legions of angry and fanatical supporters.

What I find particularly annoying about “Game of Thrones” fans is that they have been pampered by universal praise from highbrow critics—which in my book is a sure-fire sign that you’re on the wrong track—so they can’t imagine anyone could possibly dislike the show. If you do dislike it, they become belligerently defensive and feel free to impugn your integrity, claiming that you could not possibly have even watched the show, so you’re basically faking your review.

Sounds a bit like Dallas Cowboy fans, too.

But then after a week of this sort of thing, “Game of Thrones” serves up an episode in which this happens. Let’s just say that if it were an episode of “Friends,” it would be titled, “The One Where the Guy Rapes His Sister Next to the Corpse of Their Murdered Child.”

Really, at this point “Game of Thrones” has descended into self-parody, because that is exactly the kind of scene a satirist might have invented to mock the show’s promiscuous lust for shock value.

Is a justification really necessary for why a person would choose not to watch sibling rape, let alone a show where it may occur?  At the risk of sounding transformational, the best way to “engage culture” here is to simply condemn it.

As for the idea that “Game of Thrones” is uniquely unpredictable, it is becoming dreadfully predictable. Here is the pattern: every time we start to like a character, he will be a) killed, b) made to suffer some agonizing humiliation, or c) promptly commit some horribly immoral act, making him unlikable again. That’s not creative; it’s a schtick.

The common theme of these defenses of “Game of Thrones” is: heroes are boring, they’re unrealistic, they’re a myth. Instead, “Game of Thrones” puts us in touch with brutal, cynical reality.

See what I mean? No one is really challenging my factual description of the show. They’re complaining that I reject a dark, brutal worldview as realistic, interesting, and desirable.

What’s most interesting about this objection to Game of Thrones is that it comes from an atheist.  His worldview raises more than a few issues about why he objects, but that is for another time.