From about sixth grade forward, I was a confirmed Marvel Comics guy. For years, I systematically collected the assorted superhero-themed product of Stan Lee and Co. (Captain America, Daredevil, Spider-man, etc.) — during which period I harbored nearly zero interest in the goings-on of their chief rival over at the DC Universe (home of Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, et al.)
That said, when my boys were younger I’d join them tuning in to the occasional episode of a DC-inspired creation — the Teen Titans animated series. I admit, it was a kinda cool half-hour of colorfully fetching graphics and sometimes interesting — if predictably comic-bookey — plotlines. I didn’t hold the program’s non-Marvel status against it.
So, a recent column about an upcoming live-action series based on that same title caught my attention — and sparked my ire. A just-unveiled trailer signals fans can expect Titans to be
a more adult take on the [Teen Titan] heroes … [T]he first images of … Robin … [highlight] not just his dark, battle-hardened look, but the bruises and blood of his crimefighting, the needle mov[ing] even further into mature territory. … Dick [Grayson] is tossing his Robin insignia in anger, viciously beating criminals and uttering “F*ck Batman”. … [T]hose who want a squeaky-clean Grayson be damned.
Ominous, moody, savage, crude, blood-spurting, bone-crunching, people-shrieking — yep, it’s a retooled Teen Titans for the “edgier” 21st century.
It’s part of a society-spanning pattern that’s been gallopingly apace for half-a-century now: Think of it as the pervasive sleazifying of the general culture.
I was flipping TV channels the other evening and noticed one network screening the first of the Iron Man films (2008), while across the dial the more recent Marvel offering Deadpool was airing. The former, among the finest comic-book films of this generation, boasts one of the truly unforgettable “conversion” stories of modern cinema: Tony Stark’s transformation from libidinous playboy to rocket-powered, armor-plated weapon of justice who resolves to not “waste” his life. It’s inspiring, moving, entertaining — everything you’d think a Marvel comics movie ought to be.
Compare that to 2016’s Deadpool which, ultimately, is an exercise in mutant-enhanced profanity, decidedly values-hostile salaciousness and barbarically show-offy violence. The flick is likely being intentionally ironic when X-Man Colossus scold’s its eponymous main character for his filthy mouth (“C’mon, Wade, language! Young one is present.”). No surprise, Deadpool ignores the admonition.
This corruption of a celluloid genre once presumed family-friendly is emblematic of Lotus Land’s habitual toxifying of much on which it sets its feculent sights. The decent, the innocent? They’ve gotta get slimed. (I could toss in as Exhibit B the latest Wolverine outing, Logan — another regrettably R-rated, Marvel-based crash into coarseness.)
And it’s not just the precincts of big- or small-screen succumbing to this trend. America’s political realm, similarly, is sinking into the fetid cellar. Elected or appointed officials appear to be gradually abandoning a heretofore expected commitment to keep their tone elevated above the sometimes potty-mouthed “regular guy” baseline. Not that long ago, recognizing their high-profile example actually mattered, national figures sedulously aimed at a public persona which was at least a notch more tasteful than Joe-Bar-Stool banter; now, increasingly, they merely echo it.
Of course, for our street-talking President, theatrical cursing is de rigueur. Trump’s “who-the-hell”s and “what-the-hell”s are standard political rally material. Following June 26th’s startling Democratic primary defeat of ten-term, New York Congressman Joe Crowley, he chortled to a North Dakota crowd, “They didn’t know what the hell happened. …Crowley, got his ass kicked”.
It’s prose that practically gleams with the reflected glory of the White House, isn’t it …
I’ve suddenly noticed Republican Trey Gowdy — a normally dignified, professing-Christian Congressman — spicing up his televised performances with unexpectedly shoddy phraseology. For dramatic effect, perhaps? But is it genuinely necessary? Or helpful?
June 28: The clearly exasperated South Carolinian lawmaker excoriated FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, “If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury…Whatever you got, finish it the hell up.”
During an early July Fox News interview, Gowdy snapped about a Democratic colleague, “I don’t think anybody on my side of the aisle gives much of a damn of what Adam Schiff thinks.”
A week later, when controversial former FBI agent Peter Strzok informed House Oversight Committee Chairman Gowdy he didn’t “appreciate” the accusation of an anti-Trump bias, the Representative tartly drawled, “I don’t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.”
As a kid, I attended public schools; I played sports and hung out with lots of youthful, lunk-headed males; I grew up surrounded by men — and a few women — who cursed routinely and fluidly. So, rough verbiage is no grand revelation to me.
And yes, with terrorism threats looming large, hundreds-of-thousands of babies aborted annually, a federal deficit cresting one trillion dollars by 2019, etc. — a few “hells” and “damns” uncorked by Washington heavy-hitters is hardly an apocalyptic issue. But it is an issue, nonetheless — and as society slumps into the cesspool, such low-rent rhetoric in prominent places plays its incremental role in dragging us down there.
Again, it’s not just movies or the telly or the political arena. Deepeningly, its every strata of the communities around us; everything getting mucked up.
Could the grown-ups step up for tactfulness once more; the honorable set mount the case for self-restraint and at least a stab at refinement? Refraining from superfluous grubbiness and opting instead for clever articulations minus the trash, colorful versus crass communications and conduct?
Yes, it’s still possible. Some folks need to model it – while the rest of us cease encouraging the sordid, defiling alternatives.
Promoting season five of her sci-fi drama Killjoys over at ew.com, actress Hannah John Kamen recently enthused, “I think we’ve added some swear words.” Then, borrowing one of our Commander-in-Chief’s favorite expressions, “It’s our last season, so what the hell?”
Huh? Excitement over multiplying cussin’ in a TV series? Nowadays it appears a growing segment of Western Civilization is imbibing precisely that. It’s a situation of such stupefying absurdity I can imagine Deadpool slapping a scorching, gutter-level epithet on it — but I’ll resist the temptation.
Meanwhile, we can pray there’ll be an energetically vocal bunch who’ll insist on a better, more ennobling way; and live accordingly.
Image: Screen Shot: https://screenrant.com/dc-titans-trailer-tv-show/