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Outrage in the Age of Superhero Outsourcing

Outrage in the Age of Superhero Outsourcing (photo)

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He’s called the Man of Steel, not the Man of American-Made Steel. But apparently it’s a huge scandal that British actor Henry Cavill has been cast in the role of Superman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming reboot. It’s prompted the requisite fanboy outrage — let’s face it, fanboys have only one expressible emotion, and that’s outrage — and now the story’s spreading to legitimate outlets as well. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Heat Vision Blog published a story this morning called “Why Americans Don’t Play Superheroes.” It features angry fan reaction (“It’s disgusting casting to the highest degree, and I will never ever see a movie with a Brit as Superman.”) and a rundown of recent other “disgusting” castings like Christian Bale (British) as Batman, Andrew Garfield (British) as the new Spider-Man, and Chris Hemsworth (Australian) as Thor.

This whole thing is so stupid from so many angles I don’t even know where to begin. As a comic book reader myself, I understand Superman’s unique and important place in American popular culture. But is he any more American than Batman just because he supposedly fights for “truth, justice, and the American way?” I don’t recall a lot of hand-wringing over Bale’s initial casting; I remember a lot more over American George Clooney’s casting for “Batman and Robin.” And Bale’s Batman seemed to work out okay; unless I saw “The Dark Knight” 44 million times and gave it a domestic gross of $530 million all by myself.

I don’t see much difference between Batman and Superman; I do see a difference between Batman and Superman and Thor, since the comics’ Thor is an ancient Norse god who speaks in a faux Shakespearian dialect (i.e. “Thou shalt taste the might of Mjolnir!”). Why is an American actor any more qualified to play that sort of character than a British actor or an Australian actor? He’s a Scandinavian God; according to this sort of logic, shouldn’t a Scandinavian actor play the part? It’s American apples and Norse oranges.

On some level, yes, it is interesting that a British actor was hired to play Superman since that hasn’t happened before. And, yes, there are quite a few foreign born stars playing superheroes lately. But that Heat Vision article makes it seem like there are no Americans left in the superhero game, and that’s completely untrue. The biggest superhero franchise right now is “Iron Man,” headed by American actor Robert Downey Jr. He’ll next appear as that character in “The Avengers,” alongside fellow Americans Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Evans (Captain America, who’s got his own movie as well), and Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk, the second American actor to replace Aussie Eric Bana in that role).

The Heat Vision article expands this discussion of foreign actors playing so-called “American” parts to include Sam Worthington, who succeeded the great American actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “Terminator” franchise, and Daniel Day-Lewis who’s set to play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming biopic about the Great Emancipator. Day-Lewis is maybe the best actor in the world. He creates fascinating characters with flawless accents. In “There Will Be Blood,” he brought to life one of the most fascinating portraits of American greed in movie history. So why can’t he play Lincoln? Is it because he’s a President? I don’t remember people pulling out their hair when Anthony Hopkins played Nixon.

Let’s not forget either that Robert Downey’s other big franchise right now is “Sherlock Holmes.” Has anyone argued he can’t play Holmes because he’s American and that as a result he’s incapable of understanding such a quintessentially British character? No, because he’s an actor. This is what actors do. True, Henry Cavill doesn’t know what it’s like to grow up on a Midwestern farm. I’m pretty sure Henry Cavill doesn’t know what it’s like to be rocketed from his parents’ dying planet in a prenatal birthing matrix either. Somehow, he’ll muddle through.

I guess you could make an argument that these casting choices are objectionable for the same reasons that it’s objectionable when an American company closes their factory in Detroit to move it to a third world country. I have no doubt that Marvel and Sony felt Andrew Garfield was the most qualified individual to play Spider-Man. But I also have no doubt his selection was based on the fact that he was a lot cheaper to hire than the man he replaced, Tobey Maguire. Garfield is reportedly making half a million dollars in the role, a massive savings when compared to the $15 million plus that Maguire made for each of his two Spider-Man sequels. Basically we live in a new age of superhero outsourcing. You spend the money on the property, not the person.

Here’s the thing about getting upset about anyone getting cast in any role for any reason: unless you wrote the screenplay or created the character, you’re overreacting. I understand people care deeply about “Superman.” I understand Cavill — or anyone in that part — has big shoes to fill. Christopher Reeve was a great Superman. But he was a great Superman in a movie produced by Alexander and Ilya Salkind, a Frenchman and his Mexican-born son. And he was a great Superman in a movie based on a comic book that was co-created by Joe Shuster, a Canadian. Superman himself is something of an immigrant too, since he came to the United States from the planet Krypton. When Superman fights for the “American way,” that’s what he’s fighting for: the immigrant’s way.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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