Tag Archives: fathers and daughters

Marvel-ous – and Not So Marvelous – Fathers

Not long after it came out, a friend of mine began watching the new Marvel’s Spider-Man television series. I have only watched it under duress, since I find the animation poor and am unhappy with some of the changes to Spider-Man lore within the series. Not to mention the fact that I am a little tired of Marvel beating dead horses to pieces and splattering me with their blood, proclaiming all the while that I should be happy to receive this disgusting shower.

Thank you very much, Marvel, but even vampires do not go this far (from what I know of them, anyway). But my friend insists on cornering me and making me watch it, making me less than eager to discuss the series with said compadre after an episode has aired.

Following the episode introducing – and then killing – Flint Marko/Sandman so he could be replaced by his daughter, my friend had an interesting observation about the show. Mi amigo pointed out that Flint never went after his daughter during the episode’s climactic battle. This friend went on to add that it was interesting when Sandman’s daughter killed him, Flint’s last words were: “I love you.”

“It’s a little like Han Solo and Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens,” my friend said. “Flint won the argument, just like Han did, and their children are worse off than they were before.” Then, in typical fashion for my friend, it was suggested that I write a post about how Flint is/was a better father than Norman Osborn.

When it comes to this friend of mine, I have a hard time saying “no” to any request made of me. I promised to think about the episode, though I added the caveat that my brain had zero suggestions for how to bring up the topic here on Thoughts on the Edge of Forever any time soon. But then something somehow removed this block from my mind and the ideas came rushing in.

Image result for marvel's spider-man sandman and keemia

The episode of Marvel’s Spider-Man in question is titled “Sandman.” In this episode, Spidey is relaxing with his fellow science whizz friends at Coney Island. At least, he is relaxing; the rest are still working on their school project (hint, it makes a nifty, living black suit). While they are out a sudden sandstorm erupts and the Arabian Desert, complete with a seeming genie, blasts through the park.

This is Spidey’s first run-in with the Sandman, a.k.a. Flint Marko, in the series. Here, Flint is a lackey for the mobster villain known as Hammerhead. He began working for him in order to provide a better future for his daughter, Keemia. But Flint made too many mistakes on the job, so Hammerhead tried to make an example of him by burying him under several tons of sand mixed with toxic chemicals.

Of course, this did not kill Flint. It turned him into a living being made of sand. He intends to go after Hammerhead to rescue his daughter, whom the thug has somehow taken into his home. Spidey, touched by Sandman’s devotion to protecting his little girl, joins Flint in storming the castle to rescue the fair damsel.

But Keemia does not want to be rescued. Like any normal girl, she followed Flint into the warehouse when being left in the car creeped her out. So when Hammerhead tried to kill him, she was exposed to the same toxic sand that her father swallowed. Unlike normal girls, she detests and blames her father for her own natural instinct to avoid being alone. She goes on to repeatedly state that she hated the work he did for Hammerhead and planned to better her own future by studying science. Now that she is made of sand, which has replaced her right eye, she accuses Flint of being the source of her misfortune and lashes out at him.

Image result for marvel's spider-man sandman and keemia

Keemia Marko (Sandgirl)

Not once during the battle which follows does Flint respond to Keemia’s attacks. He tries several times to hurt Hammerhead, but Keemia protects the mobster as she continues to assail the man who really wants to keep her safe. Like Han in The Force Awakens, Flint allows Keemia to (apparently) kill him, offering her no resistance whatsoever. Spidey, naturally, is very upset by this, though I do not think anyone is going to take the time to explain why. I hope to do so myself, but I have a few other things I want to expound upon here as well, and that may get lost in the shuffle.

The first thing to address here is that this is quite clearly another case of political correctness run amok in Marvel. Sandman was always a sympathetic villain; Spidey and other Marvel heroes tried several times to bring him to the light. He was even an Avenger there for a little while. Marko never was a very strong personality, which is what made us fans feel some measure of compassion for him.

As with Kylo Ren, there is nothing to make us feel kindly disposed toward Keemia Marko. Blinded by the modern Sturm und Drang, she lays all her troubles on her father. In doing so she does not see Hammerhead manipulating her to hurt Flint, but seals her fate as the mobster’s secret weapon by killing her dad.

Image result for 2017 marvel's spider-man norman osborn and harry osborn

Harry and Norman Osborn

How, you ask, does this make Flint a better father in this scene than Norman Osborn has ever been, period? In this series Norman is focused on being top dog in the scientific Tech Pack on Earth. Norman treats Harry more like a tool here than a son. Marvel’s Spider-Man portrays him as a greedy, grasping rich man who sees his boy as a means to an end – nothing more, nothing less.

Marko never used his daughter to make life easier for himself, and he probably could have. While I do not like her and consider her a nuisance best dumped at the earliest opportunity, the fact is that Marvel has illustrated a truth in Sandman’s first and final episode here which must be addressed.

The entire reason Flint went to work for Hammerhead was to provide for Keemia. He did not like working for a mobster any better than she did, but because he was a single father trying to make ends meet, he did the best he could with what he could get. It was not what he wanted for either of them, but he did not have the capacity to search for a job that would give them more satisfaction.

Related image

Keemia, a product of the modern school system and the popular mindset, did not see what a sacrifice her father was making for her. He compromised his sacred honor and his own hope to be a good man in order to protect, feed, and clothe her. If he could have found another way to support them, he would have. A stronger man might have managed that, or at least managed to convey his distaste for his illegal work to Keemia. Flint could do neither of these things and that is, perhaps, one of the reasons why his daughter blamed him for her condition.

It is also important to mention that Flint is a single father here. This means he had to work a lot to make ends meet, so he was not as present in Keemia’s life as he would have been if her mother were alive and present in the home. (I do not know what happened to Sandman’s wife/girlfriend.)

Now Sandman’s lack of presence in his daughter’s life is not his fault – not in this TV series, anyway. The case in the show is blatantly transparent: Flint could not support the two of them and be with his daughter a hundred percent of the time. This is all too true of many families where only the father or mother is alive or caring for the children. These single fathers and mothers cannot feed, clothe, and shelter their children and still have enough time leftover to play, help with homework, or discuss problems in most cases.

This is why Flint did not see the extent to which Keemia was taught to despise him. She was taught this by our modern society, which either treats fatherhood like a joke or holds it in reproach (more on that below). Her disgust with Flint’s line of work is quite understandable, but it was used and manipulated, first by society and then by Hammerhead. Neither society nor Hammerhead explained that Flint was sacrificing a lot to take care of her by doing the only work he could find, and this left Keemia open to the Dark Side.

Flint did not see any of this until it was too late to do something about it. But that did not make him love his daughter any less. Spidey, I think, sensed how much Flint had sacrificed on behalf of his daughter by working for Hammerhead. The fact that Sandman showed such devotion to her, to the bitter end, affected him deeply because Keemia threw away what he lost years ago. Although Peter Parker loves his aunt and uncle, they were not his parents and they never could be. He did not know his father, but seeing Flint’s love for his daughter probably made him yearn for what could have been if his own had not been lost. (Ha! I got his reasons for being upset at Flint’s “demise” in here after all!)

Image result for 2017 marvel's spider-man norman osborn and harry osborn

Norman, as we have seen, does not care to this degree about Harry. He has Harry make all sorts of sacrifices to please him. As yet we have not seen the future Green Goblin going out of his way to do something nice for his son. Even his founding of Osborn Academy is questionable: is it truly for Harry’s good, or is it so Norman has access to some of the brightest intellects in New York City – legal and illegal?

Thinking about this subject, I was put in mind of other Marvel characters who have less-than-stellar fathers. One of the reasons society these days makes a mockery of or abuses fatherhood is the mistaken opinion of many that bad fathers make bad people. This is a fallacy, insofar as it is portrayed as a widespread occurrence; it can certainly happen, but I very much doubt it transpires with the frequency portrayed in film, television, and books. Not all bad people become bad because of evil fathers – or evil mothers. All who become evil choose to be evil.

One can easily prove this by comparing Keemia Marko’s story to the history of the Avenger Hawkeye/Clint Barton. Hawkeye had a physically abusive father; Mr. Barton Senior liked his liquor, not to mention beating both his sons and his wife. When his sons were still young he died a drunkard’s death after he crashed his car. In the process he killed his wife and left the boys orphans.

Yet, if you look at Hawkeye now, you would have to be told all this about his past to know that it had happened – especially in the films. He was scarred by the experiences of his childhood, to be sure; Clint has never been able to fully trust those in influential or command positions. This is because the man who should have taught him to respect authority instead gave him every reason to distrust it.

However, Clint did not follow the Dark Path to the point that it could dominate his destiny. Yes, in the original comics, he worked with the Black Widow when she was a pawn of the Soviets. But he did not do this because he agreed with the Communists or because he liked being a bad guy. He did it out of misguided sentiment and love for Natasha Romanoff. This eventually redeemed the two of them and led to their joining the Avengers, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and we fans/readers/viewers are the better for this.

Unlike modern writers, Stan Lee and Don Heck knew that it is possible to choose a better path than the one your parents did. So they showed Clint Barton choosing to turn away from the darkness and toward the light. Time and again, until the most recent comics, Clint did his best to avoid following in the footsteps of the men who raised him. He chose to be a better man than his father. He also chose to be a better man than his mentors, the Swordsman and the original Trick Shot. He chose to be a hero rather than a villain.

If you dig a little into the histories of many Marvel heroes and heroines, you will find several others with similar pasts. Both Rogue and Nightcrawler were rejected by their fathers and continue to be abused by their mother. The Maximoff twins are still dealing with the aftermath of having Magneto as a dad. Peter Quill had a lackluster father, as did Gamora. Yet they and other Marvel characters with similar backgrounds still became heroes and heroines rather than villains.

This is something modern pop psychology says is a denial of the inner self; a rejection of the monster inside, to borrow from Mr. Whedon. Yet Mr. Lee and Mr. Heck made this choice for Hawkeye and the other heroes I listed above. And you know something? It worked.

Related image

Unlike these heroes, Keemia has chosen the Dark Side. And she has done so without using the “father abused me and that’s why I am what I am” excuse. In some cases, real and fictional, I do not doubt that ill-treatment can convince a child to turn into a monster of the same type as the one heaping pain on him/her. But that, as I just said, is an excuse. Being evil or being good is a choice. One choice takes a lot more work than the other, and believe me, it is not evil.

Keemia has no excuse for her choice to become evil. She has no excuse for killing her own father. She cannot hide behind the pop psychology argument that her father was terrible and so she is terrible, which is what I think the writers were trying to have her say. I think they wanted us to sympathize with her, suggesting that she turned into the monster “Sand-Girl” because of her father through her long, moronic speeches charging him with high crimes and misdemeanors against her.

That claim does not float. There are many Marvel heroes and heroines who endured far worse from their fathers and mothers than Keemia ever did at the hands of Sandman. They are not evil. She is. And it is because of the choices she made, NOT because of her father’s (or mother’s) choices.

Image result for avengers assemble house of zemo

Barons Heinrich and Helmut Zemo (Avengers Assemble)

This is the reason why I did not like the writers’ attempt to pin Helmut Zemo’s decision to be evil on his father in the Avengers Assemble episode “House of Zemo.” This is why I do not like what the company’s writers have done to Tony Stark’s father. And this is why I blew up when I learned what Marvel did in its Secret Empire comics to Cap’s father in order to make him a Nazi.

These changes are the signature attacks of people who despise fatherhood and want to destroy it; either the authors or their bosses want to continue this harmful stereotype in order to continue to excuse “the evil that men do.” They are trying to convince fathers to rescind their proper place as role models in society, role models who will teach and love their children like no one else in the world can or should, which means the children born to these fathers will be left without one of their best defenses against the darkness in this world.

This modern fictional trope hurts real people, readers. It hurts those who do – or did – have lousy fathers and who want a better life. If they are continually told that they have no chance whatsoever to be a better man/woman than their fathers or mothers, they will destroy themselves. I do not mean they will kill themselves, although that is a distinct possibilty. I mean they will make wrong choices using the excuse, “My daddy/mommy did this to me, and so psychologically I have no choice but to carry on this abuse.” Ask Dean Koontz about it. He had an abusive father himself.

Evil is a choice, readers. It is a real, palpable choice with genuine, hard, ugly results, for us and those around us. We are all confronted with it, every day, in small or great ways. And because we are weak humans we can excuse or rationalize away the evil that we do because it will make us feel better about “getting what we want” out of life, family, etc.

Bad or evil fathers do not make bad men and women. Men and women make choices to be bad or to be good. If they choose evil, then they choose it of their own free will. They will make excuses to allow them to continue doing their evil deeds with untroubled consciences, but the fact is that they have chosen the Dark Path freely.

Pop psychology does not recognize those heroes who had bad parents and yet have gone on to become good men and women. It does not recognize them because they do not fit the pattern which produces the desired result. There are many good men and women who had or have bad fathers/mothers, but who have gone on to become great fathers/mothers themselves because they chose to be better than those who raised them.

This is the real difference between heroes and villains, readers. Heroes choose the Light, while villains choose the Dark. Modern society wants you to be confused about this distinction, but the fact is that there is an objective good, and an objective evil. You just have to keep your eyes open to see it.

Avengers Assemble!

Advertisements

Happy Father’s Day!!!

Only A Dad
Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.
Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.
Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Well, readers, here I am. Transformers: Age of Extinction has been out since last year, but I did not see it until recently. I was much preoccupied with other things when the film first came out, so I did not watch it in theaters. Plus, I was rather disappointed with the first three Transformers movies (especially Revenge of the Fallen), so I was not sure I wanted to see Age of Extinction.

But curiosity got the better of me, and one day I tried looking up some of the scenes from the film. I did this several times until I decided I should just rent the DVD and watch the movie. And that is what I did.

All things considered, I enjoyed Transformers: Age of Extinction more than the first three Transformers films. Age of Extinction’s lead human character, Cade Yeager (portrayed by Mark Walhberg), is a human who can roll with the punches in the film and is much less intimidated by his situation. Shia Labeouf’s character was too busy having a panic attack every time the flak started flying; I do not know what the scriptwriters were thinking with the first three Transformers films and, judging by the results, I am not sure I want to know.

Walhberg’s Cade Yeager was the big selling point of Extinction in my opinion, as I mentioned above. He did not whine about being thrust into an alien war, he jumped in and started shooting – several times!

The other great thing about Cade being the movie’s lead human, and the wonderful thing about his more mature approach to the battle, is how he bonds with Optimus Prime. Like Cade, Optimus is front and center in Age of Extinction. The Autobot leader’s previous roles in the prior Transformers films were somewhat distant and trimmed down. Optimus had a big part in each film, but none of those films managed to give us an idea of what really and truly drives him.

Yes, Optimus fights for truth, justice, and freedom in all the films. But he does not do this for himself; he does it for his Autobots. And humans, once the Autobots land on Earth.

This is where Age of Extinction gets really interesting. Optimus’ desire to protect and defend those who are not able to look out for themselves is sorely tested when a special CIA unit begins hunting down and destroying all the Cybertronians on Earth, without the knowledge of the government. Autobots and Decepticons alike are targeted and taken down, their remains hauled away to be studied and duplicated by a private company. Optimus himself narrowly escapes capture in Mexico City. He races across the border, severely injured, and finally goes into stasis inside an old theater in Paris, Texas.

Cade finds him there and, mistaking the Autobot leader for a wrecked semi-truck, buys him from the proprietor of the crumbling theater. He hauls the “truck” to the home he shares with his daughter, Tessa. Trying to earn enough money to pay off the mortgage, the electric bill (Cade is siphoning electricity off of the grid via his neighbor), as well as acquire enough money to put Tessa through college, Cade turns toward Optimus and decides to strip him down for parts. When he begins poking under the hood, however, he realizes he has not bought a truck but a Transformer.

Further prodding leads him to discover a missile in the Autobot’s engine. He pulls it out and learns the missile is live – though it does not blow up in his face. With the missile out of his engine, Optimus awakens and transforms.

Having been betrayed by humans, Optimus is not a happy camper when he comes to. But he is also not in a position to really defend himself either, let alone escape. Still, he is determined to protect his Autobots.

Drawn to the Autobot leader by sheer curiosity, Cade points out that Optimus will not get far in his current condition and offers to repair him. Personally, I think Cade was also moved by Optimus’ constant murmurs about returning to his Autobots. As a father, Cade understands what it is like to worry about someone he is supposed to take care of. The fact that this alien being cares about others of his kind in a similar way leads him to realize that Optimus is not a monster or a lump of mindless metal. He is, in essence, a father who is very much concerned about the Autobots under his command, as they are the closest thing he has to children.

I thought this theme was repeated several times in the film. It first recurred when the CIA arrive at Cade’s property and discover the missile he dug out of Optimus’ engine in the trash. When Cade slips and mentions he knows nothing about “him” in reference to the “truck” he had bought, the CIA pin him and Tessa to the ground. Threatening to kill Tessa unless Cade tells them where Optimus is, Cade says he was in the barn, even though the agents had already cleared the building. Whether Cade was aware that Optimus had ducked into his barn’s cellar or not, he gave the CIA agents no more information but begged them to release his daughter.

Hidden in the cellar, Optimus hears Tessa’s screams and Cade’s pleas. Knowing that Cade is still protecting him, even with the threat to his daughter’s life, Optimus busts out of the cellar and buys the Yeagers time to escape.

Optimus is, of course, naturally inclined to defend those who cannot defend themselves. But the interesting thing about this is he has been betrayed by humans, and although he allows Cade to begin repairing him, he is still wary of the human. So was it his natural protective instinct which made him come to the Yeagers’ defense, or was it hearing a human father trying desperately to protect his daughter?

Personally, I think it was the latter. Optimus would do whatever was necessary to protect his Autobots, and anyone with a cork eye could see Cade was willing to do anything he needed to do to keep his daughter safe.

Viewers do not have to wait much longer for more hints of Cade and Optimus’ growing friendship. After escaping the CIA, Optimus takes Cade, Tessa, and the girl’s now not-so-secret boyfriend, Shane, to the Nevada desert. There they meet up with the remaining Autobots – Crosshairs, Hound, Drift, and Bumblebee. When the humans make camp with the Autobots that night, Drift insults and starts a fight with Bee, prompting Crosshairs to say that he has been waiting for the other ‘Bots to kill each other off so he could go off on his own. Noting the dismal state of discipline among the Autobots, Cade turns to Optimus and says bluntly, “Well, it looks like you’ve been missed.”

While it is possible that Cade was being sarcastic, pointing out that Crosshairs and Drift were unconcerned about Optimus’ return, I have a different theory. To me, it sounded as if Cade was talking to Optimus as a fellow father, implying something like this in his statement, “See what the kids get up to while we dads are away? You leave ‘em alone for five minutes and they start a brawl which wrecks half the living room.”

Later, while working on infiltrating KSI, the company dismantling dead Autobots and Decepticons, Cade chides Tessa and Shane for getting cozy on a nearby couch. Tessa marches out in a fury and Cade mutters something like, “She never listens.”

Optimus’ reply is: “Yeah. I had the same problem with Bumblebee.”

In contrast to the friendship between Bee and Sam in the preceding Transformers movies, Cade and Optimus’ friendship is given much more attention and development in this film. Bee and Sam were too busy being teenagers in their separate worlds after the first Transformers film to really be friends. Sam had to leave Bumblebee behind when he went to college in Revenge of the Fallen, and in Dark of the Moon, he is barely allowed to contact any of the Autobots, let alone Bee.

It is possible that any sequel Transformers films will similarly separate Cade and Optimus, but for now I will not get into that. Suffice it to say that, in Age of Extinction, Optimus and Cade gain a great respect for each other because of the fact that they are both in positions of authority and care for those under their charge. Cade respects Optimus for this; he also understands his feelings of betrayal and bitter resentment towards humans.

For his part, Optimus learns from Cade that humans are prone to making mistakes. But mistakes, Cade points out, are how humans learn. If Optimus pays attention only to those humans who persist in error, then he will condemn not only them but all mankind – especially the innocent humans who learn from their mistakes – to an evil fate.

It is Cade’s hopefulness, his willingness to pick himself up and dust himself off after making a mistake, which leads Optimus to realize that, while humans and Cybertronians are very different from each other, they do have one thing in common. They are equally capable of good and evil. There are humans who are as evil as Decepticons. The wheat and the thorns grow up together; until harvest time, there is no way to separate them without hurting the wheat.

Optimus learns the lesson well, telling the Autobots before he leaves Earth to protect the Yeagers and to “protect all they can be.”

On the whole, Age of Extinction is a definite improvement over the previous Transformers films. It is a bit too long, but it is much better than the first three movies and gives me hope that any sequel Transformer installments will only get better.

So, readers, “Let’s roll out!”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

http://borg.com/2014/01/02/all-the-movies-youll-want-to-see-in-2014/

http://borg.com/2014/02/03/super-bowl-reveals-the-latest-genre-movie-trailers/

http://borg.com/2014/03/08/first-look-wahlberg-in-awesome-first-trailer-for-new-transformers-flick/

http://borg.com/2014/12/29/borg-coms-best-movies-of-2014/

http://borg.com/2014/11/03/transformers-age-of-extinction-comes-to-blu-ray-in-stunning-3d-imax/