I wanna be your “fuck you” man

I had a dream once, and in that dream I loved someone who was sick, who was dying.

She saw how difficult it was for me to tend her, and so, she told me to leave.
She told me it was OK to go.

These are the words I had for the woman in my dream.

“I want to run away,
like all those hard times in my past,
when I left a relationship
not because I stopped loving them
but because staying to love them
hurt too much.
But I don’t want to be that man for you.

I wanna be your ‘fuck you’ man.

Because I’m scared,
I’m so fucking scared.
And I want to run away again.
I want to run away
and hide
until the problem is gone,
but I won’t.
Because I don’t want to be that man anymore.
Because I want to stare down
that man and those feelings
and say,
‘Fuck you.’

I don’t want to be the man
who makes a terrible time of your life
even worse.
I want to be the best part
of the worst part of your life.
I want to stay by your side,
brave in spite of my fear,
strong in spite of both our weaknesses,
giving at a time in your life
when you need everything I can give you
and maybe then some.

I want to be one of two kinds of man:

I want to be the man
you can turn to
once all this is over,
years down the road,
the one with whom
you look back on it all and say,
‘Thank God you were there.
I don’t know how I would have made it through without you.’

Or if I can’t be that,
if God or fate,
disease or this shitty world
makes that impossible,
then I want to be the man
you look up to
from your deathbed and say,
‘Thank God you were there.
I don’t know how I would have made it through without you.’

So fuck you,
I’m not leaving.”

Loving someone can be hard.
Loving someone can be terrifying.
But love can be brazen and audacious.
Love can be as profane as it is profound.
And love…can be fucking stubborn.

On Endings – Risk and Reward

Today I want to shift the discussion of Endings to a more economical aspect: risk and reward. In short, what are the heroes or heroines sacrificing and what do they obtain in exchange? What do they receive for what they gave up?

Are the protagonists reaping rewards they have not earned? Are they altruists who do not mourn the sacrifices necessary to save the day (or the world)? Or has the story found that sweet-spot where we the audience ask those very questions ourselves?

Was it all worth it, in the End?

For my first example, I would like to use an American classic:  The Lone Ranger.  In every episode, The Lone Ranger has a grand adventure, saves the day, and rides off into the sunset.  It’s all nice and pretty:  the eternal hero is always there to fight, to save the day.  But what does he get for his time and trouble?  Nothing, but the chance to serve again.  The eternal hero asks for nothing and gives everything.  And while that is a lovely dream, it’s hardly real.

What about a hero like Dr. Who?  He is another example of the “eternal hero”, but his story is very different from The Lone Ranger.  The Doctor’s story has tragedy. It has fear.  It has death.  The character himself is based on the premise that he can die, but he will regenerate and be reborn as someone new.  (I’m highly paraphrasing, of course.  It’s more complicated than that, but that is outside the scope of this conversation.)  But he can, he does, and he will die – time and time again.  What does that mean for him as a character?  What does that mean for us as an audience?

For all The Doctor has done, loving and losing, suffering tragedy and celebrating victory, is he really any more than a gladiator fighting in our television Colosseum?  Are we really any better than a vulgar mob, salivating in anticipation at his next victory, his next tragedy, his next loss or death?  The mythology of the character says that he can only regenerate a limited number of times, and (if I recall correctly) he has used his last one.  What happens to him now?  What will his next death bring?  Do we, as an audience, even care?

The character seems so tragic to me.  He is so widely popular, but we love him with such malicious glee.  But the Greeks explained that the difference between a comedy and a tragedy is whether or not the hero in question resolves the conflict that originally lead to their quest, and if the hero can reharmonize with the world.  If so, it is a comedy.  If not, it is a tragedy.  And since The Doctor’s story is yet unfinished, calling it tragic may be premature.  But there will be tears – I would bet on that.

Will it be worth it all in the End? Will everything he’s sacrificed and lost be balanced by all the joy he has gained – all the good he has done? Maybe it’s not even that kind of story. We must wait to see.

Finally, I want to discuss the Ending of Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film: The Dark Knight Rises. I won’t argue it is a perfect film – far from it. There are plot holes, and plenty of times when I wish things had been executed better. But I love the way the ending of the film ties the overarching storyline from all three movies together.

In the first film, Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne’s life is destroyed. His family is killed, and he wanders the world – lost and without purpose. He wants to fight evil, but does not know how to do so constructively. And by the end of the film, he discovers how to do that: become Batman. It’s a great origin story.

In the second film, The Dark Knight, we are shown the consequences of Wayne’s choice. We see how criminals are reacting now that they’re cornered, and the lengths some of them will go to in order to beat him. The Joker is especially of note – not merely because of the late Heath Ledger’s amazing portrayal of the character, but because The Joker GETS Batman. The only way to beat someone who has become a symbol is to fight them symbolically. It reminds me of a line from the movie The 13th Warrior: “War is in the will.” The Joker gets that, and proceeds to try and destroy Batman the best way he knows how. But he loses at the end of the film, because Batman makes the sacrifices necessary to protect the city and still maintain his ideals, even if they make him a pariah.

Then there is the third film.

And here we see the cost of the decisions made in “The Dark Knight”: Wayne is crippled from the physical exertions of his exploits as Batman, his company (his parents’ legacy) is in shambles, and he has become a recluse – holding parties which he does not even attend. But when a new threat appears, Wayne becomes Batman again, even though he no longer has the strength to fill the role. And he loses because of that. But he rediscovers that strength and returns to save the day at the end of the film. However, it seemingly costs him everything: his money, his company, his home…he even fakes his death at the end of the film so he metaphorically loses his life.

But what does he gain?

Batman is another version of the “eternal hero”, and his story is often told in a very similar way to The Lone Ranger. No matter how dire the straits, Batman saves the day, rides off into “the sunset”, and will return next time to save the city. But that is the way Nolan’s film differs from the other tellings of the story.

In Nolan’s story, Wayne’s final reward for being Batman is that he no longer HAS to be Batman.

Bruce begins his story of Batman from a place of vengeance and redemption. He’s trying take revenge on the kind of people who killed his parents, and make the world a better place (or counter the decline). His dedication to improving the world is what differentiates him from a mere avenger. He contrasts the violence he uses to fight with a rock-solid set of morals that allows him to operate honorably even as a vigilante. But he is still the “dark” knight. For all his virtues, he is not a paladin.

Bruce shackles himself to the past, a single tragedy that set the course of his life. But at the End of the Nolan films, Bruce escapes that cycle. Yes, he loses his money and social standing, but how much were they helping him? He used everything he had to further the mission of Batman. How much did he really care about those things in the first place? I doubt they meant much, since he walked away from them once already in the first film. Yes, Alfred leaves, but that is a positive event in the long term: his caretaker is gone, and Bruce has to grow up. He has to start living his life.

He also meets Selina Kyle in this film, and over the course of the film she gets to know him. At first, he’s a mark for one of her jobs. But by the end of the film, she becomes his ally, and knows some of his most guarded secrets. She is in fact the one to kill Bane, not Batman. She even argues with him in the final act of the movie, saying, “Come with me. Save yourself. You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them EVERYTHING.” She’s seen what he’s done, and is trying to save him from his self-imposed burden. How many people have tried to save Batman? And the final time we see her is with Bruce, when Alfred sees the two of them together at a cafe.

So what does Wayne lose? His money, his social standing, his mission, his surrogate parent – every keystone of his life.

But what does he gain? He gets…his life back. He’s free from the burdens of the things he lost – those obligations are gone. And in the last scene we see him, he’s with someone who sees him for who he is, knows his secrets, accepts his past, and is trying to build a life with him.

Batman was born when a young boy lost his family. Nolan’s story of Batman Ends when a man makes his own life and creates his own family. The story of Bruce Wayne goes full circle – and the wrongs that created an avenger are rectified. Bruce Wayne reharmonizes with the world. The story Ends, and he seems happy.

And I like that Ending. I like that the reward for a life’s work is not more work, but rest. Like a quote from the movie Hero starring Jet Lee, “A warrior’s ultimate act is to lay down his sword.” The war ends, the hero gets to go home.

Happy Ending.

Seven Years of Silence

I thought the first was hardest,
the sudden change leaving a schism
between the then and the now
which I did not know I would survive.

But the second was harder still,
and I grew sick for loss of sound.
The echoes of old words
haunted my dreams.

The third year I spoke,
I laughed, I danced, and I sang.
They beat me for my defiance,
and left me faint on the floor.

I hated them for the fourth.
All.
Goddamn.
Year.

The fifth year I managed to move again,
my aching body
going through the motions of living
with none of the vigor.

I learned to live again in the sixth.
food felt lush on my tongue,
I grew stronger,
and my body became hale and hearty.

I spent the seventh in stillness,
surrendering my newly mobile limbs
in searching for a nimbler mind
with mute motivation.

I sought balance in the eighth year,
looking for the fine line
where I could be my best
without sacrificing myself.

In my ninth year, I found my heart again,
fallen among the fragments of my faith.
I took it back and welcomed it home,
whole again at last.

My tenth year I waited,
refining lessons learned,
and forging fiercer strength
for the day I would be free.

I spoke again on my eleventh year.
Three simple words:  “Let.  Me.  Out,”
ringing loud and clear –
they set me free.

On Endings – Happily Ever After

The concept of “Happily Ever After” is a common theme in stories.  The heroes or heroines complete their quest and are rewarded with long, happy lives.  Sometimes the viewers are shown the cliffsnotes of that happy future, while other times we are merely left to imagine what has happened to our protagonists.  The story trails off like a sentence whose completion we forget mid-speech.

But sometimes these fade-away Endings don’t leave us satisfied.  Sometimes they do not answer all of our questions (or any, in rare cases).  Sometimes the story trails off not because it is the End, but because the writers and producers want to give the viewers a reason to return the following season.  It’s not an Ending, nor an ending – it’s bait.

Are these proper Endings to stories?  Should we the viewers be given all of the answers?  Or must we earn the truth through critical thinking and analysis?  Do unpopular stories deserve to End without rewarding those who did stick with the show?

What the hell is up with Endings that are, and are not, Endings?

The first story I want to discuss is the movie Inception.  It’s the story of a group of people who dive into others’ minds and attempt to discover secrets.  The protagonist of the movie is a man named Cobb, who has been doing this work while on the run from the law as a suspect in his wife’s death.  He wants nothing more than to be able to return home and see his children.  The client for the final job in the film promises that he will clear the charges against Cobb if Cobb and his team perform an “inception”: the implanting of an idea in someone’s subconscious in such a way that they believe the idea to be original, not planted.

Those dream divers like Cobb carry something with them at all times called a totem, which they use to differentiate between reality and the fantasy of the dream world.  Throughout the film, Cobb is seen spinning a top to test whether or not he is dreaming.  If the top continues to spin endlessly, he knows he is dreaming.  If the top falls over, he knows he’s awake and in the real world.  At the end of the film, Cobb and his team complete their job, the charges against Cobb are cleared, and he is allowed to go home to see his children.  But just before he goes out to see them, he pulls out the top and spins it.  He then leaves the room, but the camera remains focused on the top.  And just when it appears that the top may be starting to slow down and fall, the screen goes to black, and the viewer is left wondering if the Ending is real or another dream.

This isn’t typically what we mean when we refer to the Ending of a story as “Happily Ever After”, but we, the viewers, are still left imagining what is in store for Cobb.  Did he finally get to go home to his family, or was it all a dream?  The Ending is left to our imagination – or is it?

One of the core principles of a totem is that you are supposed to keep yours with you at all times, and never give it to anyone.  The reasoning for this is that if someone else knows how a person’s totem works, they could influence it in the dream world.  They could make someone believe they are awake even though they are still dreaming.  But earlier in the film, it is shown that the top Cobb is using was previously used by his wife.  It violates that rule.  But I have read articles that suggest that the top is, in fact, not Cobb’s totem.

Throughout the film, Cobb also plays with his wedding ring, and the articles I read observed that Cobb only wears his ring in the dream world.  It is never present in the real world.  If that is true, then it is Cobb’s true totem, and the top is a deception – both to the viewer, and to the other members of his team.  And the question of whether or not Cobb is able to finally return home to his children at the End of the movie is answer by whether or not he’s wearing his ring.  The “Happily Ever After” Ending we are left to imagine is also deceptive – there is an Ending to the film, the final question is answered.

But I won’t tell you the answer – you’ll have to watch the Ending yourself.

The next kind of “Happily Ever After” I want to discuss is the kind of Ending that is left open in order to allow for a sequel to the story.  If it Ends there, we have our Story. We may have questions like with Inception, but we do have an “Ending”.  But if a sequel is financed, then we will have more story.  Otherwise, we are left with an open Ending, and must use our imagination to fill in the details.

This is often the case with television series.  Their seasons sometimes end with a hook that will keep viewers motivated to return for a following season.  And the show I would like to discuss is the BBC show Sherlock (a modern reimagining of Sherlock Holmes).  Specifically, I want to discuss the ending of season 2 (or series 2, as the British call it).

At the end of that series, Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty has cornered Sherlock and put him in a position where Moriarty tries to influence Holmes to kill himself.  If Holmes refuses or takes too long to decide, Moriarty will have Holmes’ closest friends killed.  Moriarty even goes so far as to kill HIMSELF to prevent Holmes from tricking him into revealing anything that would get Holmes out of the situation.  Holmes makes one last phone call to John Watson, his closest friend and partner, before leaping from the roof.  The last scene of the episode and series is that of Holmes’ friends standing over his grave, and John makes a final request for Sherlock to make one more miracle – to pull one more trick and not be dead.  With tears in his eyes, John walks away, and the camera shows a very alive Sherlock Holmes standing in the distance watching his friends as they stand over his “grave”.

Now, it was never in question that a show as popular as Sherlock would be getting a sequel.  We would see what happened.  But that is not always the case with stories.  There was an American vampire show called Moonlight which ended in a similar way: the loose ends of the season were tied up, only to have the final scene of the season, and ultimately the series, be one that hints that the story has just begun.  But that show was not renewed for another season, and the viewers never got a conclusion to the story.  That ending ended up being the Ending for the story.

And while I think it’s a good way to sell another season of a show, keeping the ending of a story hostage to the whims of television financing feels a bit cruel to the viewers.  Sometimes we find out what happens.  Other times, we never get a proper Ending.  We are left with only questions that our imaginations must struggle to answer.

And while that’s not very happy, it is our Ever After for these cut-short stories. It’s sometimes the only Ending we will ever get.  And isn’t that just a little sad?

Songbird

The songbird sings a lovely song,
the spring is in her tune.
And though the flowers flex their powers,
her voice is the brightest bloom.

The songbird sings a lonely song,
it’s raining in her soul.
The long years and buckets of tears
have taken quite the toll.

The songbird sings a bitter song,
the world can be very cruel.
It took her best, it smashed her nest,
and made her feel the fool.

The songbird sings an ugly song,
she doesn’t see her beauty.
The world’s lies clouded her eyes –
her flaws are all she sees.

The songbird sings of sweet rebirth,
for all her dreams came true.
Loved at last – the clouds have passed;
only the sky is blue.

On Endings

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my musings on film and series Endings.  I’m a fan of Endings, and I think the final Ending to a series or franchise is incredibly important to the overarching story.  This discussion will be open to not only films and television series, but also books.

It should go without saying, but…  Since this is a discussion of Endings, there will be spoilers in these posts.  Understand that continuing to read could/will spoil the ending of a movie or series.  I will try to avoid discussing anything that ended within the past few months, but ANYTHING and EVERYTHING from 2014 and prior should be considered fair game.  You have been warned.

The topics I’ve decided on for my discussion of Endings are:  the Neverending Story (long-running serializations and their effect on Endings), Happily Ever After (open-Ended stories), and Risk and Reward (a discussion of the worth of an Ending based on what the protagonist/s gained and lost).

First things first though, why am I capitalizing the word “Ending”?  I’m doing that to distinguish it as the final Ending for a story.  I am referring not to season endings, but series endings.  I’ll be talking at length about the ending of the last movie of a trilogy, series, or franchise, though I may reference earlier endings in my discussion of the ending of the last film and the Ending of the story.

In short, I will use “ending” when referring to a singular ending, and I will use “Ending” for the final Ending of the story and its characters.

So why all the fuss about endings or Endings or whatever?  Well, frankly, it’s because I want to talk about it.  I have opinions on certain Endings, and I wanted to discuss them without dedicating a single post to each story. But~ I’m going to do that anyway.

Because I love stories, and I always have. So for the next few weeks I’m going to talk about a few of them, and I hope you enjoy.

What hath God wrought

The electric telegraph was invented in 1837.
by two teams, independently.

One was Cooke and Wheatstone,
whose model was accepted by the UK.
The other was Samuel Morse and associates,
whose model became the standard for Europe and the United States.
In 1844, Morse sent his iconic message, “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT”.
The last telegram was sent in July of 1999,
and a signoff followed the message.
And 155 years later,
the words echoed:
“What hath God wrought?”

God hath wrought war:
The American Civil War,
The Boxer Rebellion,
The Russian Revolution,
The Mexican Revolution,
The Great War,
World War II,
The Korean War,
Vietnam,
and the Iraq War
to name a few.
But not all.
No, not all.

God hath wrought equality:
The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution,
The 15th Amendment,
Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas,
and The 24th Amendment.
Feminism:
The First Wave,
Women’s Suffrage,
and The 19th Amendment.
The Second Wave,
Equal pay,
Roe vs Wade –
the fight continues.
The Third Wave,
fighting The Man,
discarding old labels,
redefining yourself,
redefining the world
and what’s to come.

God hath wrought shame:
an indivisible nation divided,
the shadow of Jim Crow,
and Segregation.
Prohibition,
The 18th Amendment,
the rise of The Mob,
and the 21st Amendment.
Watergate,
Iran-Contra,
W.M.D.s,
or maybe there weren’t any,
and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.

God hath wrought nobility:
Harriet Tubman,
Susan B. Anthony,
Mother Teresa,
Rosa Parks,
Mahatma Gandhi,
Martin Luther King Junior,
The Tank Man of Tiananmen Square,
Nelson Mandela,
and many, many more…

What hath God wrought?
A brave new world that has such people in it.