There are a lot of political things to be said today and in the coming weeks, and they should be said by people smarter than me.
But I just want to point out that today is the finish line of a marathon. (To be fair, it’s a marathon that we thought ended two months ago, but just like the actual finish line of a race, it turned out to be just a bit farther off than it actually was.)
And at the end of a marathon, you see a sea of humanity. Some people are overjoyed. Some people are totally wrecked. Some are bewildered, delusional. You see people staggering about, zombie-like. You see people sprawled out, nearly lifeless, on the grass. You see people high-fiving and hugging strangers. (Maybe not so much this year. Y’know, COVID and all.)
Because a marathon is this incredibly demanding, physically destructive thing, right? You train and train and then on the day, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other for mile upon mile and you stop and catch your breath at the aid station but there’s really nothing to do except keep on running toward the next one and the sun’s getting higher in the sky and your nipples are chafing and that twinge in your ankle transforms to white fire with every step and all you hear, all you trust, all you know is the soft metronome of your footsteps, the muffled roar of the breath going in and out, the blood pumping in your ears.
We’ve all been through it over the last four years, and the last year, especially. We’ve all been running a mental marathon, and it’s been absolutely brutal.
No matter which “team” we’re on, 2020 was a rough one, and 2021 seems not to want to be outdone so far.
But we’ve all crossed the finish line, or at least, *a* finish line. There are more miles to be run. But not today.
Today is a day for celebration at reaching the end, it’s a day for nursing injuries. It’s a day for walking down the stairs backwards because your legs just can’t handle the strain.
And it’s worth remembering that all our neighbors have just run the same race, even if they’re not showing it on the outside. And even if, instead of the jubilation that I feel, they’re shell-shocked and lying at the grass or screaming at the sun in hopes of somehow changing reality.
Nobody’s mind is right after a marathon.
Take a few days, at least, to recover. And know that everybody else is recovering, too. And spread a little kindness.
Because a marathon is a hell of a thing to go through. We’ve earned a couple of mental rest days.
There’s a bit of wisdom going around in social media circles: that the real New Year doesn’t begin — here in America, at least — until Jan 20 (not incidentally the day we have a new president). I like that and I need that, because so far, 2021 is delivering no relief from the constant, unrelenting pain 2020 wrought.
I mean, we’re still losing thousands of people every day (more than ever, in fact). And less than a week ago, our actual capitol was literally assaulted by people who somehow think that our soon-to-be-ex-president actually won re-election, despite zero evidence in favor of their argument and piles and piles of evidence against it. And, oh, by the way, they plan to come back in greater numbers in capitol cities across the nation in a week’s time. No big deal!
As is no great surprise, the turning of the page on the calendar offers little in the way of change for things in the world. These numbers and assignations are all made up, of course… January 1st, 2021, could just as easily have been Hunsplith the 89th, 86742, for all the care the universe has for our resolutions and the new year.
And I know some people out there and even our own backyards have managed to be productive and to make forward progress despite all this turbulence … but it’s been nigh impossible for me. To have any awareness of the news at all is like listening to ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles blasting down a residential street at three in the morning … all the time, every day.
Can we improve ourselves in times like these? Or is surviving, making it through one day to the next, all we can ask of ourselves?
It’s often said that we are “living through history,” but rarely do you feel it as keenly as we felt it yesterday.
To see American citizens storm the Capitol building is not a thing I will forget. It’s not a thing that history will forget. And it’s not a thing that will be laughed away or thought kindly of, ten years from now, twenty years from now, fifty years from now.
We saw the president incite a mob to lay siege to the halls of government then watch from afar as their havoc played out on our television screens.
We saw guns drawn in the “sacred chambers” of government.
We saw deaths in the same halls, deaths as a result of violence.
And we saw a tepid call from the same president for his supporters to cease their violence, while still parroting the lies and proven falsehoods that had brought them to a frenzy.
We saw an American tragedy play out in real time.
I’m not the right person to write about this or reflect on what it means for our country or for history or for the world. All I can say is that as shocking as the images were, they were by no means surprising. This is a president who has flouted the law, and norms, and common decency at every opportunity. A man whose moral character wouldn’t fill a thimble, who has lied to the country and especially to his most fervent followers specifically in the hopes that, if and when he was ever defeated, they would come to his rescue through means exactly like what we saw yesterday: Chaos and confusion and fear.
Those of us who have never been fans of this man are not surprised, we are only saddened that it got this far.
Every day with this man representing our nation has been a day too long, and every day he remains in his position is a day longer than any of us should have to bear.
Has he made America great again?
Look at the pictures from yesterday. If you think he has made our country great, then you simply are not seeing reality the way I see it.
He was the nicest guy you could imagine; this gentle giant of a guy. Soft spoken, always smiling, the kind of guy who somehow always seemed ready to drop what he was doing to help you out with whatever minor inconvenience was on your mind at the minute.
Basically the polar opposite of me, which is an amusing enough happenstance, but not particularly relevant.
I don’t remember much about Pete, because I have the memory of a coked-up goldfish on its fortieth trip round the little castle with the little cage-helmeted deep-sea diver (“OMG what is THAT??”). But I will never forget this story.
It’s February. And it’s bloody cold outside; cold for Georgia standards (I was living in Athens at the time, Go Dawgs) and probably even cold for non-Georgia standards… I want to say temperature in the teens? For Georgia, heckin’ cold.
But Pete was from up North.
So when the winter weather came, he was prepared for it.
Anyway, it’s bloody cold out, and we had, overnight, had that just-a-hint-of-precipitation-that-threatens-to-turn-into-snow-but-never-really-does-down-in-Georgia stuff that leaves a sturdy sheen of ice and frost over car windshields and made for some treacherous walks down the front walk. (Georgia does this stuff remarkably, by the way. It comes down liquid and then freezes, so you’re left with this layer of crispy-crunchy-not-quite-snow over a compacted layer of ice. Nasty stuff to hit on the predawn roadways, and nasty to try to chip off your car.)
But like I said, Pete’s from up North, so he’s totally unfazed. He grabs his marshmallow-man coat and heavy gloves and tromps outside to free his car from its icy prison. And he starts chipping away, like Tim Robbins digging his way to freedom in Shawshank.
And as he goes, he sees, a few units down, a woman, bundled up, walking toward her car, just a few spaces away from him.
A woman carrying a steaming cup.
Now, seeing somebody carrying a steaming cup in the cold weather is no big deal, because coffee’s a thing, right? But still, something resonates in Pete’s lizard brain and he looks again. It’s not a coffee cup she’s carrying. It’s an oversized plastic kitchen cup, a re-usable big-gulp. With no lid. Which can only mean one thing.
It’s boiling water she’s brought out to thaw her windshield out in a big damn hurry.
“Ma’am, don’t!” Pete cries.
She looks at him. Says nothing. Cocks her head sideways that way dogs do.
“You don’t wanna do that. Give me a second, I’ll come scrape your windshield for you.”
I can’t speak to what this woman’s life experience was. I can’t tell you what made her so grumpy, so unresponsive to a good-faith offer of help, so contrary to not only decline Pete’s offer, but to do so with gusto, with flair, with joy, the way she did. I can only report that she sneered, shouted at him, “Oh, PLEASE. I don’t need your help,” and tossed the steaming contents of her cup onto her windshield.
Which promptly spiderwebbed and sank into the front seat of her car.
Look, we get a lot of transplants in Georgia. It’s entirely possible she was from Louisiana or Texas or sunnier states out west, and this was her first brush with snow and cold weather, and she had no idea what rapid thermal expansion can do to a windshield. But there she was, uninformed, presumably in a hurry, certainly not wanting to be inconvenienced by perfectly sensible and, under the circumstances, necessary measures to solve the problem at hand. And rather than accept the help that was offered to her — by somebody who knew what he was talking about, by somebody who was offering to give up some of his time and convenience to help her out, by somebody who just wanted to do right by her — she went ahead with her own thing and ruined her morning (to say nothing of costing herself several hundred dollars) in the process.
I think about that a lot, lately, in the face of current events.
Over 350,000 people have died in this country because so many of us think the way to solve ice on our windshield is to throw boiling water on it.
Conceptually, I mean. Like, she’s basically the answer to Superman, right? This broad, poorly designed skillset. She can basically do anything the situation calls for, as long as she “discovers the power within herself” and she’s doing it to save somebody, or save some institution, or you know, she feels like it or whatever. I mean, she flies in the new movie. Lassos bullets. Heck, she hookshots and Tarzan-swings off of friggin’ lightning in the new movie.
And it’s awesome. Who cares if it makes sense? I wasn’t a fan of the comic books or of the old school show or anything, but you know what? She’s a great girl-power character, the first movie is tons of fun, and it’s a harmless guilty pleasure. Is the first Wonder Woman a great movie? I dunno. But it’s definitely good enough to rank in the top half of the superhero movies out there, and it’s probably near the top of DC’s catalog. (Sorry, DC. You kind of suck.)
And there’s a new Wonder Woman out! Holy shnikes! Wonder Woman has this new badass gold armor with wings, oh my god. And it’s in this awesome 80’s aesthetic with that new-wave soundtrack? That was so cool in Thor: Ragnarok! This is gonna be amazing. I couldn’t wait.
And I gave up on the movie about twenty minutes in.
I can’t even speak to how good the movie is generally, because I couldn’t get past this one thing. The movie went so horribly and stupidly off the rails before it even got out of the first act, it never got me back.
Mild spoilers here — I’m not going past the first act as I mentioned — but here’s your warning.
Her love interest from the first movie is back.
Was that in the trailers? I can’t remember. I remember seeing a trailer in the movie theatre back when we could still go to movie theatres, which was what, about seven years ago?
But he’s back. And I get it, he’s the big-name co-star in the franchise. He’s probably contractually obligated, fans maybe want to see him; this is Hollywood. Okay, fine. But if you saw the first movie, and if you have basic math skills, you recognize there’s a problem here.
The first Wonder Woman is set in the time of World War I, when Chris Pine plays a pilot. Wonder Woman 1984 is set in … 1984. So there’s some time passed there, and they can no longer (if they want to be story-consistent) have young, beautiful Chris Pine in the movie; that doesn’t make sense.
So instead, Gal Godot, young and immortal because Wonder Woman and all that, is approached by some rando at a public event. He hits her with something only Chris Pine would say. Slaps Chris Pine’s old wristwatch into her hand. It’s him. Her old flame. They go back to his room. We see the rando in the room, but there’s Chris Pine in the mirror, and from here on out, rando dude disappears and we only see our beautiful, rugged, contractually-obligated Chris Pine in the movie.
But like … how? I mean, I get it. Chris Pine’s soul or whatever has wound up in this random dude, but the movie has no interest in explaining how or why he got there. Wonder Woman literally asks him “how” and he’s all “I have no idea,” and that’s about as close as the movie gets to explaining this.
This is bad storytelling.
This is not in and of itself a bad plot idea — and certainly it’s been done in movies before, to better or worse effect. But here, it’s handled so badly that my eyebrows shot up to the top of my head and did not return to normal until hours after the movie was over and I had fallen asleep. I mean, explaining this thing away is easy, right? There is, literally, magic in the world when Wonder Woman is involved. The first movie’s big villain is the Greek God of War, for heck’s sake. Literally call on any god watching out for Diana, wanting to do her a favor, to squirt her old flame’s soul into this new husk like Cheez-Whiz into an olive, and bang, there’s your answer. But no, the movie just hand-waves it away and we’re expected to go along.
Or how about this? Start the movie not from Wonder Woman’s perspective (do we really need to go back to the island where the first movie started, aside from the super-obvious plant about not taking shortcuts from princess Buttercup?). Start instead from this rando’s perspective. Show his apartment. He’s obsessed with tracking Wonder Woman. He’s got newspaper clippings of this strange woman at the site of all these strange occurrences, pictures of Diana walking around town. The stereotypical red yarn zig-zagging across a big creepy stalker bulletin board. Dude is obsessed with her and we don’t know why. Feels creepy. Is he the villain? Is he gonna try to kill her? Then we go to the same big event. He’s got his collar pulled up, his hood hiding his face. He sees her. She moves away from the crowd. He makes his move — he’s gonna grab her, DANGIT WONDER WOMAN DON’T GET PUNKED BY THIS FOOL — and there’s the watch. And she knows it, and we know it, and okay, we haven’t explained any more what’s going on with this guy but we’re at least involved and we care about him.
But we don’t get that. We get a rando who Diana recognizes immediately as her guy and we’re asked not to worry about it. And I can’t do it. If you’re gonna bring back a character who should be dead or at the very least aged into uselessness to go on an adventure with your heroine, you have to at least make an attempt at telling your audience how it’s possible. I mean, audiences maybe aren’t as tough to please now as they were a year or two ago? COVID has softened our hearts. We just want to be entertained. Take us on a journey.
But that doesn’t mean you get to pretend we’re stupid.
And the presence of Chris Pine in this movie says that we’re stupid. It feels like the movie studio throwing up the big middle finger to us, saying “whatever, it’s a Wonder Woman movie and Chris Pine comes with the Wonder Woman movies, so just shut up and sit on your couch and eat your popcorn.”
Is WW84 a good movie?
I really can’t tell you, because I never got past this crap.