Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Ultimate Spider-man

Season 3 of Ultimate Spider-man just showed up on Netflix, and rumor is that Season 2 is about to disappear.  I've been behind, so I've been trying to go through them as quickly as I can so I can get up to speed.  I'd actually been pretty excited to see Season 3 and the whole Spider-verse story line, if I can.  Although now, with only two episodes to go to finish up Season 2, I'm... a little less enthused.


Spider-man was always one of my favorite superheroes.  I mean, sure—I've long had other favorites as well; Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Colossus from the X-men, and the Hulk being the most notable ones, but Spider-man kinda was always in first place.  The old 1967 animated Spider-man show, which was in syndication when I was a kid, is one of the first cartoons I remember watching.  I also religiously watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends when it was on, which was paired with an Incredible Hulk show.

All of these shows are now, of course, quite terrible, but I was a kid then, and good animation didn't really exist yet, so I didn't know any better.  It was only as an adult, trying to show them to my kids, that I realized how terrible they were.

However, we've had a few decent Spider-man cartoons since then, that are even good enough that I've been tempted to watch them.  The Spectacular Spider-Man was my favorite of these, although sadly it only had two seasons before business realities (i.e., Disney's purchase of the Marvel brand and unwillingness to allow a rival studio to work with their properties) brought it to a premature end.  The planned third season, which was never done, would have featured, according to producer Greg Weisman, Carnage, Scorpion, Hydro-Man and Hobgoblin.

Anyway, my point in all of this is that I'm a big fan of Spider-man as a character, I know him and his character quite well, and I know his "stable" of villains fairly well.  Although curiously, not as much from the comic books themselves (I've always been a somewhat indifferent comic book reader) and more from the cartoons that I used to watch as a kid.  When Spectacular got cancelled to make way for the new Disney XD show Ultimate Spider-man, I was initially skeptical—maybe even resentful—but I ended up more or less coming around to seeing the Ultimate show as a worthy enough legacy.

However, as the second season wrapped up, and I was binge watching several episodes a day (when I could swing it) for several days to get it finished before it vanishes from Netflix, I have to admit that I wasn't as thrilled as I had been.

Spider-man has become something very different from his original incarnation, and I blame the social justice convergence theory for it: the writers, in writing from a SJW perspective, have lost sight of what Spider-man is all about.  Or perhaps, the authors (the Man of Action collective for most of the episodes that I specifically noted—a sadly malapropos label) are simply beta male losers who are unable to get into the mindset of a capable, manly type character.

Not that Spider-Man is the epitome of manliness, but in this show in particular, he's supposed to be the leader of a group of other teen-aged superheroes that are all undergoing a kind of SHIELD internship or something, including future Heroes for Hire Power Man and Iron Fist, the Sam Alexander version of Nova (instead of Richard Rider, sadly—no doubt to up the Diversity™ cred on the show, itself a troubling red flag) and and the equally Diversity™-driven hispanic, female, Black Panther also-ran White Tiger.  It's supposedly loosely based on the Ultimate version of the comic, so it goes without saying that Nick Fury has also been Diversity™-fied and made black; but that's one change that, while equally arbitrary and insulting as the rest, at least kinda works, if for no other reason than because Samuel L. Jackson is cool enough to pull it off in the movies.  Fury and Coulson play recurring significant roles in the show, especially Fury,

It's not an exact copy or adaptation of Ultimate Spider-man the comic book, as you can see if by nothing else, the presence of the four tag-alongs that are now part of Spider-man's team, but also they managed to avoid making the worst mistake of the comic book and killing off Peter Parker to replace him with Miles Morales.  Curiously, Miles Morales does apparently make the jump into the cartoon continuity in episodes that I haven't seen yet (along with other alternate Spider-men) and will reportedly be joining the cast of Season 4 semi-regularly as Kid Arachnid.

As an aside, would it kill you guys to admit it that you made a mistake in killing off Peter Parker and replacing him with Diversity™ Spider-Man, crowing about how you created Diversity™ Spider-Man, and then pretending that you didn't actually create Miles Morales to be Diversity™ Spider-Man after all?  We already had a great alternate Spider-Man character in the form of Ben Reilly, and even a Diversity™ alternate Spider-Man in the form of Miguel O'Hara (who also makes an appearance) but the producers want to do everything that they can to make sure that the only white characters who show up are villains.  Grumble, grumble.

Anyway, I kinda lost my train of thought there; my point was that Spider-Man essentially becomes an unlikable and unlikely beta male loser, who for no apparent reason, succeeds.  There were at least three episodes in a row (as well as several more besides) where he was bratty and unruly to Fury for no good reason at all (in fact, actually for really bad reasons) and Fury is unaccountably proud of him, for sticking up for his flawed principles, or whatever.  There are at least three episodes in a row where Spider-Man's plan to defeat the villains is to swing around while talking to them, and telling them—in so many words—you don't really want to do this.  C'mon, man!  Be cool!  And Spider-Man's trademark witty humor is traded in for snarky and self-righteous and self-absorbed completely unfunny semi-preachiness and whining.

I'm really not feeling it after watching all of these episodes.  I still have two more to go to finish the second season before it goes away, and following that, I think I'll let the show "rest" for a while so I can watch a better show, like getting caught up on Longmire or Hawaii 5-0 or something.

I mean, it's not as painfully bad as The Flash where Barry Allen is such a cringe-worthy, stupid beta-male loser that its impossible to have any respect for him, and Iris West (reimagined as black Iris West for no reason at all other than Diversity™ and anti-white racism) is bitchy, entitled, and completely unlikable and un-watchable, and the writers seem to be completely oblivious to either fact.  Which is why this is a useful post, by manosphere blog author Vox Day.  Vox is, taxonomically, a "splitter" rather than a "lumper"—whereas its default to talk about alpha and beta males, and then through context or further description, give more detail as needed, Vox creates a number of additional variants.  What most people call your stereotypical beta male loser, he calls a gamma.  And the kinds of stories that gammas write tend to be, as he says:
No one knows how special he is. The Alphas unfairly rule and keep him down by trickery. Even the girl he loves in a way no woman has ever been loved before doesn't realize how special he is or how happy he would make her if only she would let him. Bad people treat him badly and unfairly. But through his clever wit, the Gamma makes fools of everyone through always having the perfect thing to say, culminating when he totally humiliates the Alpha and reveals him to be an unworthy paper tiger in a brilliant verbal exchange front of everyone, including the girl. The Gamma is finally recognized as the true First Man in Rome by everyone as the girl shyly confesses that she has always seen and admired his specialness. He calls her "milady" and roguishly offers her his arm as everyone looks on enviously and applauds the smoothness of his style.
In another post, he talks about it a bit more:
This is the danger posed by the Pugs [of the Riftwar Saga], the Rand al'Thors [of The Wheel of Time], the Harry Potters and so forth. In many ways, they are the precise opposites of the Frodos, the Conans, [...]. They are Special, with a capital S, but not due to anything they have ever done. They have Special powers and are innately recognized as superior beings with a right to lead, initially by the astute, but eventually by everyone. 
Most importantly, they don't have to do much more than show up in order to have leadership handed to them on a silver platter, nor do they have to do much beyond be a figurehead and occasionally make Difficult Decisions. If you think about it, they are essentially what the average millennial thinks a CEO is, and they are handed that quasi-CEO status for nothing more than being Special.  
[...] No wonder the Farmboy's Journey is so popular. It's basically psychological reinforcement for the Gamma mind. And, writers take note, the less the protagonist has to actually do, the more that his accomplishments revolve around his being rather than his deeds, the more popular it is likely to be with the Gamma crowd because it flatters their desire to lead, get the girl, and be the hero. 
Contrast this with Frodo. He is the hero, but he leads nothing and he gets no girl. All he does is shatter the power of Mordor and save the People of the West. Conan is the hero, wins a crown, and gets numerous girls, but he does it all through his deeds; he is the opposite of Special, being frequently dismissed as a mere barbarian. 
I might quibble just a bit with the notion that Conan is not special—being a barbarian was being special to Howard, and he wrote Conan with more than his fair share of nearly deus ex machina success with the handwavey explanation of "he's a barbarian" thrown in for fair measure.  But you see Vox's point; it's certainly not about Conan "angsting" away his problems, or talking them away.  He certainly is a Man of Action in a way that the writing collective who uses that name can't even seem to understand, much less replicate.  He's successful because he's decisive, and because he's competent and strong.  Exactly the kinds of things that beta male losers are intrinsically suspicious of, associating them with the jock archetype, or something equally banal.

Hopefully my criticism of the show is clear enough.  It isn't always this unlikable; I just think it went through a bad run of episodes there—or maybe I just hope that that's the case—so I'm not going to not watch Season 3, I don't think.  But if it continues to decline, I'll give it up and not look back; just like I did after a season of The Flash.

Which even then wasn't a complete loss; I watched season 1 with my younger boys, on DVR, and had plenty of opportunities to pause the show and stop and explain to them exactly why it was failing so badly.  I think they're going to turn out OK.

1 comment:

Gaiseric said...

Watched the penultimate episode of Season 2 last night; all I had time for, as it turns out. Spider-man again is a jerky, big-mouthed, entitled brat, who should be smacked down for his lip and disrespect, but for some mysterious reason never is. Also: Spider-man is observably quite stupid, which is again contrary to the entire concept of Peter Parker being a scientific genius, which is a key element of his character.

And again, Blade is now black as per the dictates of Diversity™ who seek to eliminate any sign that the white race ever actually existed. Of course, I can ALMOST forgive Marvel for this, since the Blade movies with Wesley Snipes are more well-known than the character of Blade otherwise, but then again, the producers of the movie never intended anything other than to cast a black actor, having approached L. L. Cool J, Laurence Fishburn, and even Denzel Washington.