The Spirit of Film

I’m worried.

I knew about The Spirit before I started studying how to make sequential art (AKA comic books), but the crime-fighter’s creator, Will Eisner, is well-known in the industry as setting the standard for that kind of storytelling. I haven’t read too much of The Spirit, but what I have read was quite charming and fun.

Hold on for a sec. In my comments on my Iron Man review, I got called on giving Superman Returns two more stars (out of 10) than I gave Iron Man. I admit that Superman Returns had a lot of imperfections, including a let-down ending. And as I said in the comments, I am a lot more forgiving to films that I consider to have “a good heart.”

It’s hard to explain what that means. Part of it is the general message of the story. In a book by Peter “The Hulk” David on writing, he (Mr. David not The Hulk) says that although Spider-Man plots the adventures of a superpowered teen with spider powers, what it is about is “with great power comes great responsibility.” It seemed to me that Iron Man was about “the answer to guns is more guns,” but maybe that’s just me. That was only part of the problem I had with the movie, but like I say, if it had a better heart, I would have rated it better, like I did with Superman Returns even though as pointed out there were a lot of weak points in the telling. Despite those flaws I think that Singer’s “does the world need Superman?” vision was somewhat redeeming.

The stories of The Spirit, noir crime-fighter from the 1940’s, seems from what I’ve been exposed to have a good heart – full of humour and pathos and everyday white collar earnestness. But now I learn that it’s being made into a movie written and directed by Frank “Sin City” Miller. In case you don’t know what I think about Frank Miller, completely apart from his ability to draw comics, let me put it to you with this quote of his:

“9/11 did change everything: the West is confronted with a fascist, misogynist, homophobic, genocidal blood enemy that is dedicated to the annihilation of everything civilization has achieved in three millennia. At the very least, my idea of what makes a true villain has changed. An existential threat to everything in the world that’s worth a damn clarifies the mind…Look at the world. Almost half my country equates flushing a Koran down a toilet with sawing the head off an innocent contractor, or using airplanes those barbarians could never have invented to slaughter thousands of my neighbors.”

As if he’s one to talk about misogyny and homophobia (re: 300).

“I intend to be extremely faithful to the heart and soul of the material, but it won’t be nostalgic. It will be much scarier than people expect,” Miller told Variety.

Well, I am scared.

ps: the quote I used is in reference to a Batman comic Miller is working on called “Holy Terror, Batman!” a propaganda piece where Batman fights Al-Qaeda.

11 Replies to “The Spirit of Film”

  1. Ack! Speaking of a misogynist, homophobic enemy. Miller’s treatment of women and the LGBT community isn’t exactly “one love”.

    …and “innocent contractor” I assume he is referring to those helpless ex-military contractors who protect American interests in Iraq. Poor guys just wandering around in Iraq – I mean it’s not like they are actively contributing to colonization and imperialism.

    I read this and the sound of your Godzilla video game shouting “rage” came into to my head. I feel like it accurately described how I felt.

  2. I’m looking for where he’s wrong in that first quote you posted. *Fundamentalist* Muslims are facist, misogynist, homophobic and genocidal. Don’t believe me? For starters, read this new story about a father in Iraq who stomped on and killed his daughter because she was infatuated with a British soldier. It makes my blood boil. He was arrrested, but released without charges, and he and her uncles spit on her body as they rolled her into a grave. Here’s a quote right back at you:

    ‘Death was the least she deserved,’ said Abdel-Qader. ‘I don’t regret it. I had the support of all my friends who are fathers, like me, and know what she did was unacceptable to any Muslim that honours his religion,’ he said.

    His own daughter! Because she HAD A CRUSH. And you disagree that the idea of a true villain hasn’t changed because of 9/11?

    As for winter_coat’s excusing of beheading of contractors because they were “contributing to colonization and imperialism”, it makes my blood boil that you would think that (even granting that he *is* doing that) they got what they deserved. Maybe you could go talk to Nick Berg‘s family and tell the guy who:

    once traveled to Kitende, Uganda to help a village, by among other things teaching villagers how to make Bovl Blocks, a modular concrete block Berg invented for use in tower construction where steel is not readily available or is cost-prohibitive.

    Go ahead and tell them that their son deserved to have his head cut off because he was over in Iraq trying to help rebuild after the war.

    Or Daniel Pearl, a reporter.

    You want to talk about shouting “rage”? Do it when innocents are captured by fundamentalists and butchered.

  3. Fundamentalism of any religion is a problem. Let us not forget about the white Western Jesus cult fundamentalists to whom most of us owe our well-to-do status quo. If 9/11 changed something, it’s not that it introduced a new enemy to “the West”, it’s that it brought already existing hate and intolerance more out in the open (which is not all a bad thing in that it opens up a dialogue…between some, anyway). I’m not going to defend fundamentalists of any religion. The message of the post is that Frank Miller has counter-progressive morals and I am worried they will poison the spirit of…The Spirit.

    And I think it’s presumptuous to infer that wintercoat suggested that anyone deserves to have their head cut off. Maybe she does but that’s not what she said.

  4. At the very least winter_coat is implying that he’s not “innocent”. The sarcasm in “Poor guys just wandering around in Iraq – I mean it’s not like they are actively contributing to colonization and imperialism.” rings through even though it’s a typed comment on the Internet. I still strongly object to that kind of hand-waving dismissal of the kidnapping and butchering of a civilian.

    Yes, in much the same way that I strongly object to the treatment of prisoners in Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo. The US certainly isn’t innocent here. Berg, on the other hand, was. So was Daniel Pearl. The assholes who cut off their heads didn’t care.

    The fact that fundamentalists of all types are a problem doesn’t diminish that Muslim fundamentalists are on a radically different level of — let’s use the word — evil. They’re kidnapping guys who are trying to rebuild their country and then cutting their heads off on videotape and then dancing around proudly with the severed head.

    Fundamentalist Christians, on the other hand, are trying to stop the HPV Vaccine because it “encourages premarital sex to not be worried about catching HPV”. Yes, they’re loony, yes they’re dead wrong and their ideas should be fought against, but it just doesn’t compare to beheadings and killing your own daughter and spitting on her corpse — and getting away with it because the police agree with you.

    In short, Miller’s right that 9/11 changed the concept of a villain. How can you compare old-school Lex Luthor with a villain who has his lackies fly planes into buildings full of innocents?

    Whether or not he’s the right guy for directing “The Spirit” movie is barely relavent to this discussion. He may not be, but that’s not what I was talking about.

  5. I’m not going to get into an argument about who has more evil points, ex-minister Paul Hill who murdered an abortion doctor with a shotgun in Florida, or Abdel-Qader who beat his daughter to death in Basra. There are murderous nutjobs in every part of the world and you’re right, if we’re going to talk about how much real evil there is in the world we have to live in, it has very little to do with how much cartoon evil there is in our escapist comic books. It doesn’t compare. It is two separate discussions.

    Which is part of the reason it disturbs me to know that the film director of an old school comic book is so interested in marrying the two.

  6. Puck has a point. This would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, if the kettle wasn’t sitting in his basement making a bomb and convincing the soup ladle to crawl into the spice rack and detonate it.

    Patriotism, the virtue of the vicious. ~Oscar Wilde

    Miller may be a homophobic, misogynist crypto-fascist, but at least he’s working out his personal issues in pen and ink, and not by murdering people.

  7. I admit – I don’t think they are innocent. However, I don’t believe that that they deserved to be murdered for their lack of innocence. THat is a leap in logic I will call you on. Additionaly, I am not innocent either. I pay taxes and my money is being used to support the military in Afghanistan. I see this as a colonialist mission which is supported through villianizing all followers of Islam as crazed fundamentalists.

    Fundamentalist christians are actually doing much worse than merely stopping the HPV vaccine (which is actually harmful due to the link between HPV and cervical cancer – this does kill women – it is just slower but if you have seen people die of cancer it can be just as brutal). There is the fundamentalist mormon sect which is marrying 14 year old girls to 58 year old men and routinely physically, emotionally and spiritually abusing women and children.

    Every year in the US 1,400 women are murdered by their partner and 1.2 million women are sexually assaulted (some more than once). Transition house workers and advocates also die for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is dangerous, underfunded work.

    This happened before 9-11 and we didn’t care. It is happening right now and the US and Canadian governments are spending billions on “saving women” overseas when they are not willing to address these issues at home. I have personally sat in courtrooms where men where being charged with attempting to kill their partners and watched the men get off. I have then helped those women flee the region with their children as the court had just given the guy permission to try it again. Do not tell me that the war is justifiable in protecting women until we can offer women and children safety in their own homes. Frankly – the idea of a man killing a women out of jealousy is not unique to any one culture.

    My concern is that Miller is a misogynist – there is an obscene amount of violence against women in his work. I just wondered how he could define villiany as his own depictions of violence are causual but can be linked to real harm.

  8. I thought Puck was referring to the truck drivers and other civilians that have been targeted, and not the mercenaries who are also referred to as contractors. But even if we’re talking about the mercenaries, the moral equivalence argument still doesn’t work for me.

    If you capture an enemy soldier, the moral ladder goes something like this:
    1. Imprison him
    2. Execute him
    3. Torture and execute him
    4. Videotape him reciting his crimes and behead him for propaganda purposes
    5. Carrot-top

    I’m in agreement with Ms Coat about Frank Miller. We shouldn’t be listening to him, or any comic book artist, about politics. Even Mr Atkinson. Shut up Toren!

  9. What part of shut up don’t you understand? 🙂

    I kid. Without your plucky refusal to up shut, there’d be no blog and one less way for me to waste time at work. And that would make the baby jesus sad.

    p.s. I saw YOUR GIRLFRIEND today!!!!!111!!

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