Monday, August 26, 2013

Well, So Much Has Happened

Gosh, I take my birthday off work, and the world suddenly starts buzzing. So, let's hit on a few things that happened, and how they are tied together...


Ben Affleck is Batman in our Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman.

Internet explodes with negative commentary.

You people. Seriously. Shatner was right, you need to get a life.

Ultimately, I am good with this casting. In fact, I think it's a really, really good choice after the Nolan/Bale films. Does Affleck have the simmering brutality that Christian Bale brought to the role? Not really, but he does have the sense of keen intelligence that will serve both Bruce Wayne and a JLA-bound Batman well.

The chanting of Gigli and Bennifer, and all that's ludicrous. It's stupid, because far more people bitch about Gigli than ever actually saw it, and it was a long time ago. It was a time that Affleck himself has talked about as one where he lost his way. He dropped back, took some time to himself, started picking projects more carefully, and made some really good films (I urge you to see Hollywoodland, it's really good). Then he started directing, and he made some truly, truly awesome films. Films in which he also gave top-notch leading man performances.

Ben Affleck is hardly a bad actor. Far from it. In fact, take Good Will Hunting. For all the Matt Damon and Robin Williams love that film generated, it's Affleck who nails, completely, the film's best, and most realistically earned, heartfelt moment:

Is Affleck's Batman going to be a dark avenger of the night? Maybe not, but, with Warner Brothers hell-bent on aping Marvel's shared universe playbook (as is Fox with the Marvel properties they've licensed), that may not be the right take, anyway. Driven? Focused? Of course, but the Batman who's hanging out with Superman and Wonder Woman, as is the plan for Affleck's tenure, will have to be less solitary and extreme.

I think.

But, see? What do we know? Nothing. No pictures, no script, not one frame of footage shot. There is no reason to believe he can't be great, just as there's no reason to believe he will be. However, yes, I am an Affleck booster, and I prefer to err on the side of hopefulness. Y'know, outside of the fact it's still Snyder and Goyer running the show.

So, here's an idea...Let them make their movie, and THEN decide if it's any good. See, because the internet is littered with outrage and bitching about casting. Bitching and moaning that, more often than completely unwarranted, and proven baseless. Heath Ledger, Michael Keaton, etc, etc.

So, if you're the guy with the internet petition? Shut the hell up and get over it. I've had enough of your jealousy. Because that's what it is, you all sound like high school kids who didn't get cast in Grease.

Now, on the other side of the coin....

Anna Gunn has a problem with how her character on Breaking Bad, and, by extension, she, herself, has been treated by the internet. Her take is that this is indicative of how the world reacts to "strong women," and that the vitriolic response by the internet fanbase is emblematic of deep-seated misogynist thinking. I have to admit, I take this less than seriously.

Which, I want to be very clear, should not be taken as a dismissal, by me, of misogynist thinking in our society, because I do think we have a long way to go.

That said:

I can only look at this op-ed piece as an actor. What I'm reading is an actress dismayed about how her performance has been received. I feel for her, everyone puts time and energy into a performance, and it's painful when the response isn't what you expected. Bluntly, this "well, people can't handle strong women" thing, it sounds an awful lot like dressing room grousing after Time Out blasts a show I'm in, i.e: "Well, they just don't get it." 

Dear Anna Gunn: Please see Wil Wheaton, RE: Wesley Crusher, for the EXACT same situation, and I mean the EXACT SAME SITUATION. And he was a 14 year old kid with people saying they wanted to kill him, not a full-grown adult actress.

This is not a new issue, and it's certainly not an exclusively female one. Flat out, sometimes writers create (intentionally or unintentionally) characters that people do not like, and the unwashed masses, for good or ill, tend to regard television actors as their characters. Hell, I've, in my vastly less influential way, played TRULY horrible people on stage, and it changes how people react to you in the lobby.

But, see, that's the thing. A pure audience actually shouldn't know the difference. If they don't know you, personally, then you ARE the character. For good or bad.

The characters she mentions, Skylar (Breaking Bad), Carmela (The Sopranos) and Betty (Mad Men), are all created to act in opposition to the central character. OF COURSE the audience, who tunes in to see the continuing progression of said central character, is not going to like these characters. Why would they?

Perhaps, instead of questioning why the public reacts this way, which is logical, she should ask (Breaking Bad creator) Vince Gilligan why he decided Walter's wife had to become an aggressive antagonist to him? Because that's a decision he, as the creator of the show, likely made for specific dramatic reasons. I'd hazard to guess his hope was that the public would react just as they have.

Gunn seems to feel it's odd that more people didn't identify with her character, "a woman with a backbone of steel who would stand up to whatever came her way, who wouldn’t just collapse in the corner or wring her hands in despair. He and the show’s writers made Skyler multilayered and, in her own way, morally compromised." 

I understand her opinion of her character. She's an actress, and she CANNOT judge her character, but, y'know...everyone else, your audience? They get to, and frankly, their opinion, as your audience, trumps yours. Much in the same way that I feel that any creative endeavor can only be labeled "art" by it's audience, likewise, all your preparation, your steel backbone, and opinions of the character, are really not relevant if the majority of the audience feels like she's a bitch.

(Which also begs the question as to if that is really the case. God knows a very vocal, small group of people can make themselves seem like thousands, via the internet. Reacting in the way Ms. Gunn is really only rewards their behavior.)

She then undoes her own argument, frankly, in saying, "That viewers can identify with this antihero (Breaking Bad's lead Walter White) is also a testament to how deftly his character is written and acted." I would respond that, likewise, if viewers CAN'T identify with her much less traditionally awful character, the answer lies in the same place. Why do people hate Skylar? It's a combination of how she's written and how you play her. You cannot remove your own performance choices from the mix.

After all, we have Glenn Close on Damages playing a character that might very well be Satan, and everybody LOVES it. Rosanne Barr was the Queen of Prime Time for years with a grandly acerbic and aggressive character. We love to watch Angelina Jolie kick the crap out of people. It's not like American society has made a blanket dismissal of "strong women," we love the ones that we personally connect to. Unfortunately, it seems Skylar didn't connect with the audience the way you hoped.

Perhaps, instead of running to write this piece as the show was winding down, you could've discussed the direction of the character with Vince Gilligan during the run, and tried to address the issue. Maybe you did, and he refused, in which case that attitude is what you, very rightly, need to be talking about.

Just be proud of the fact that these people care so much about your show to have such strong feelings. Because, that, in itself, is a testament to your work.

1 comment:

  1. Agree with you 100% on Affleck in GWH. His last scene is my favorite in the entire film, and I think he's the true emotional core of that film. I am skeptical about his casting as Batman, but I'll reserve judgment on him until I see the film. I'm not excited about the film, but that has more to do with Snyder and the world he's established. But yeah, amen to you on all that.