DID YOU READ

The Summer’s New Hero: Thor-ge W. Bush

The Summer’s New Hero: Thor-ge W. Bush (photo)

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This post contains SPOILERS for the movie “Thor.” If thy desire is to avoid details about the plot of this buster of blocks then, verily, thy dost need to read something else this fine May morn.

I don’t know Kenneth Branagh’s politics. I don’t know the politics of screenwriters Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, and Mark Protosevich. All I know is when I saw “Thor” last week, I became convinced that it was all about George W. Bush. Chris Hemsworth looks like Thor, the superheroic God of Thunder from Marvel Comics. But his story is a straight-up allegorical fantasy of the last decade of American foreign policy; the misadventures and redemption of Thor-ge W. Bush.

Our hero, Thor(ge), is the arrogant son of a powerful ruler of interdimensional beings called the Asgardians. Their sworn enemies are the Frost Giants, icy villains from the world of Jotunheim. Centuries earlier, Thor’s father Odin defeated the Frost Giants and left their civilization lying in ruin, but decided not to depose their ruler Laufey. On the day that Thor is to be sworn in to replace Odin as the new King, the Frost Giants mount an assault on Asgard’s home soil. They infiltrate Odin’s armory and attempt to steal a mystical casket; Thor, believing that the best defense is a good offense disobeys his father’s orders and leads a small party of warriors into Jotunheim for a retaliatory attack. The battle is not successful, however, and as punishment for his impudence, Odin strips Thor of his mystical powers and exiles him to Earth, where he must redeem himself before he can reclaim his place as heir to the throne of Asgard.

Granted, lots of this stuff is taken from the original Marvel Comics first created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby in 1962. Their very first Thor comics involved the God of Thunder displaced on Earth learning a similar lesson in humility by sharing a body with a doctor named Donald Blake (listen closely and you’ll hear references to this guy in the movie; he’s Jane Foster’s ex-boyfriend). But Branagh and company’s take on the Marvel mythos is a bit different, and rather blatantly reflective of the reign presidencies of the Bushes George.

According to some narratives about the War in Iraq (like Oliver Stone’s biopic “W.”) President George W. Bush invaded Iraq primarily to correct the oversight he felt his father made back in 1992 when he left Saddam Hussein in power at the end of the first Gulf War. Stone’s version is surely a simplification, but he thinks it all boils down to daddy issues: W. could never live up to George Sr.’s expectations, so he set out to do the one thing his dad never could.

That’s basically what happens in “Thor:” cocky son of the King wants to finish the job started by his father with a preemptive strike on their enemies, but he goes off half-cocked without much of an exit strategy. You could argue that Thor’s brother Loki represents Vice President Dick Cheney, the seemingly subservient right-hand man who exerts an undue amount of influence on the Commander-in-Chief and maybe even craves the throne for himself. The two themes that thread their way through “Thor” are issues about fathers and sons and the question of what is the proper use of military force. As Odin tells Thor before he journeys to Jotunheim, “A wise king never seeks out war, but must always be ready for it.”

All of these parallels hit in “Thor”‘s first act while he’s still in the mystical realm of Asgard. After he’s dumped in New Mexico — which does bear a certain arid physical resemblance to Iraq — he comes into conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D., another concept with its roots in Lee/Kirby Marvel Comics that’s also been reformulated for post-9/11 resonance. Instead of the comic books’ clandestine organization of James Bond-ish super spies, the S.H.I.E.L.D. of “Thor” acts like a Patriot Act nightmare, surveilling people and confiscating private property with impunity. Even when they find the weapon of mass destruction in the desert — Thor’s mystical hammer, Mjolnir, sent to Earth along with him — they don’t even know what to do with it.

Eventually the film’s real world connections begins to fall away; if they didn’t, “Thor” would have to end with the God of Thunder deposed to Texas after credit default swaps cripple the Asgardian economy (then again Thor’s outfits on earth, khaki jackets over blue shirts and slacks, do look a lot like W.’s ranchwear when he’s chainsawing brush down in Crawford). In some ways, though, the events that follow Thor’s dismissal by Odin represent a kind of dream of how we wish things had turned out in the last decade, as the world is saved and united by a leader who understands that might doen’t always equal right, but isn’t afraid to kick a little ass when it does. We’ll have to see whether writer/director Joss Whedon carries over these parallels when he brings Thor into his movie of “The Avengers” next summer. In that movie, he’ll be hanging out with Captain America, a symbol of American patriotism from a simpler era, The Hulk, our fears of nuclear war made flesh, and Iron Man, a weapons manufacturer who also learns that the wise never seek out war but must always be ready for it. The potential is there to assemble a lot more than a bunch of famous comic book characters.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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