Old Criticisms

I find myself bothered when it comes to criticism. Well, not the abstract concept of criticism, but when people do it. Actually, I think I'm mainly bothered by people, period; but that's a whole other story.

With the recent surgence of remakes of classic science fiction movies, it has dawned on me that we humans tend to not be easily satisfied (if it is at all possible).

For example, fictional characters, when being remade, are usually criticized for being "too new": the new Khan didn't quote Moby Dick like the original did, Superman shouldn't kill because the original didn't, the new Spiderman is too nerdy and socially awkward from the original, and Uncle Ben didn't say the classic quote of power and responsibility.

[By the way: the original Khan Moby Dick's quotes were cute but ultimately made the Ahab comparison too on the nose and made me lose interest in the character; Superman does kill Zod and the two other kryptonians in the comics and is considered canon (Superman #22); Peter Parker was nerdy as hell, but we didn't realize it because we ourselves were nerds; the power and responsibility quote is not originally from Uncle Ben, it is said by the narrator (Amazing Fantasy #15).]

This situation is beautifully presented when it comes to Star Trek movies. There's this generally accepted rule that the even-numbered films (Wrath of Khan, Nemesis, etc.) outperform the odd-numbered ones (Search for Spock, Final Frontier, etc.). So, when people start describing something as "too new", it implies that they are comparing it to supposedly better things in the good old days. My question here is: which things are they comparing them to? Mathematically speaking, half of the things they are comparing them to are regarded as crap.

We can take this further if we then consider that those characters, in other circumstances, were criticized for being "too old": Superman Returns was too boring as there's nothing new on the character; every self-respecting Spiderman fan hated the Maguire movies because they didn't add anything to the character; the new Spiderman sucked because it's the same old story.

[By the way: Superman Returns puts Kal-El in an emotional journey having Louis' boyfriend be a good dad to his own kid, something rarely seen in the comics; the Maguire movies turned out to be the gold standard when the Garfield one came out by those same self-respecting Spiderman fans.]

So, apparently, we want things to stay the essentially the same, but have a fresh perspective on the subject matter. Sadly, this contradiction also goes for "too depressing but not too cheerful", "too violent but not too bland", and "too intense but not too indifferent".

If we want something to get better, the first thing it requires is that its faults are pointed out, and satisfaction should only be an option until it gets better. I would be all for it if it were that. This, however, is not a step to get something better, but a vehicle with which pseudo-opinions are presented as a type of evidence of an intellect that craves being acknowledged and regarded as edgy and non-mainstream. I would call it pedantry, but it would require that those opinions were well-founded, but this is rarely the case.

If you don't like something, fine, but at least have the balls to be true to yourself and know that the reason you don't like something is not because it is "too this" or "too that", it is because there is nothing that is going to beat your past. You know, the past, when you were young and energetic and everything that was good in your life happened. These types of criticisms are not objective thoughts of the present, they are subjective feelings of the past.

I drink a glass of milk after a meal and love the smell of burning wood. I'm aware that these are things I like because they have a subconscious weight on my feelings, and I let them flow through, but I don't expect everybody to regard these things as enjoyable.

I didn't like the Dragonball movie or the Last Airbender movie because they presented a reality that was too far away from what I like of those characters. However, they are not "too new" nor "too old" nor "too violent" nor "too bland", it's just that I, me, myself, didn't like them. I am the problem. The movie and I are far away from each other, but the movie is already made and can't be changed, so I am the one that is too far away. If I didn't like the movie, the problem is not the movie, the problem is me.

Answering "why didn't I like this movie?" instead of "why did this movie sucked?" provides much more interesting answers and, at the very least, makes for a much more interesting conversation when discussing the movie with other people that have a different opinion than me. Saying "the movie didn't show the character as it should have" is a statement that is really implying "the character I like is the one I knew when I was 5; this movie didn't portray that, so I didn't like it". Hell, even "there is this concept of the character in my head that no movie has shown, and this wasn't the exception" is a more amusing topic of conversation and, not to mention, it has the rarely quality of being true.

Bully

My name is Caleb, and I was bullied... heavily. I was beat up, called a "puto" (fag), "marica" (pussy), "culebra" (snake; because I was skinny), I was publicly ridiculed because of my good grades (which can really screw up a kid's priorities), and thrown into trash cans making me feel, literally, like trash. I can still smell the rotten banana in my face.

I was bullied. So, to the parents that are going to read this and don't like it and are going to defend themselves with saying that I don't have children, that I don't know what I'm talking about, to those parents I say, "I was bullied. In this regard, I know your children better than you. In this regard, you don't know what you're talking about."

Words can hurt more than punches (believe you me). "Standing up to the bully" for many parents means to punch back or insult back. It doesn't work, it just escalates it into other kinds of violence. What it really does is to create bullies from the bullied, and I know, I was one too. It was thought as the "natural order of things": you get beat up by stronger kids, so you beat up the weaker than you. It doesn't work, it just feeds itself.

The problem with all of this is that it is thought that the solution can be brought from outside the home: the school should be a safe haven for kids from violence, punish bullies from saying "bad or offensive words" (like faggot or pussy, as if they wouldn't make up another word with the same sentiment behind it), bring in the police if necessary.

What about the parents? The usual is to not even bring up the concept of talking to the bully's parents because "most of them won't care". My answer is "fine, then don't". Although, for the record, it may be possible to make a case that raising a kid to be violent is a type of child abuse. Still, my point when asking that question is not about the bully's parents, I'm talking about the bullied's parents.

The reason why I'm still here, not having committed suicide (which I thought of, a lot), is because of my mom. She ripped it out of me one day, when I came back from school after getting beat up (which I usually hid because of shame). Bullies are smart, they will hit you in places that are difficult to notice scars or bruises. Once she forced me to confess (she knew when I was hiding something, still does) and saw what was done to me, she didn't call the principal, she didn't call the other kid's parents, she talked to me, and what she told me became the prologue to my fight against bullying: "They didn't do this because you did something wrong, and it was because there is something wrong with them."

That completely turned the whole ordeal around for me. It wasn't instantaneous, it took a while to wrap my head around it (years even), but the prime feeling that I used to feel for them shifted from anger/hate to sympathy. I tried to find out what was happening to each of them, to get a backstory of why they were so angry, and every time I was put in front of their anger I knew why it was happening. I didn't say a word in the beginning, but almost at the end of junior high, I started to speak up. Not in an insulting manner, but as an offering "I know why you're doing this. If it makes you feel better, go ahead."

Radical I know, but that sentiment was disarming, even to the point that a couple of times I made friends that way. Not "lets go to the movies together" type of friends, but more of the type of "I won't call you 'culebra' anymore", which, given the circumstances, was a step up.

With one bully and me in the principal office, I was making up a story of why I had scars in my neck ("these aren't scars, I just had an itch"). The bully at first thought that I was making it up for the sake of not tattling (which would've meant more hurt after for me). The principal knew I was lying, and asked me if I was sure that's what happened, and after I said "I don't want him to get in trouble because of a silly misunderstanding" his face changed. He knew I meant "trouble" as in "get beat up by his dad". His face remained changed the rest of my stay in that school.

When one bully (one of the harshest) was being considered for expulsion from the school, the principal and some teachers came to our group and asked our opinion. When my turn came to speak I said that "He has friends in this class that make him happy." (alluring to the fact that he wasn't happy at his house) The principal responded that I was one of the persons that he most aggravated. I responded "I didn't say I was one of them. But, he's still a classmate." Coincidentally, when he was let back into the school, he avoided me. Again, a step up from the routine.

It wasn't easy, and, sometimes, even brought more hurt than good, but my parents were always there to talk it over (which we did, a lot), always watching that I wasn't getting too hurt, and always telling me that they were proud of the sentiment I had behind of what I was doing. It made me a better person, I think, and brought me closer to my parents as well as my classmates (at least, some of them). It made me realize that the "bully" was not a criminal that we should lock away and forget, but only a troubled kid that I could help, if only a little.

I think this is the way to tackle the "bullying problem": yes, with the parents, but with all of them (both the bully's and bullied's). The school is not somewhere you just drop your kids and having them returned as complete human beings. If you think that the school is a safe haven for anything, you're giving too much credit to its capabilities. The teachers provide knowledge and, sometimes, inspiration; the curriculum, some structure; the cafeteria, bad food. Other than that, it is up to the kids and their parents to get along. There are going to be bullies throughout the child's life, and making him a victim will only come back to bite him in the ass in the long run. So, I propose to use the situation as a learning opportunity for sympathy towards somebody that really needs it; to not to "stand up to the bully", but "stand up with the bully". I bet it'll be the best lesson your kid will ever learn from school.