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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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.