Culture Clips: A Good Year for the Bad Guys

Frank Griffin from Godless

We’re three whole days into 2018 now, but it’s still wholly appropriate to look back at the year that was. Researchers have weighed the data to determine the year’s most popular books, movies and videos. Pundits have opined on the year’s biggest entertainment stories. But one thing’s clear, at least to the Los Angeles Times’ Jeffrey Fleishman: It was a banner year for the bad guys.

Fleishman singles out a few of them: The Scripture-quoting Frank Griffin from Netflix’s Godless; the racist cop Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; the Colonel in War for the Planet of the Apes, to namecheck a few. He suggests their power is a product of a polarized society and our own societal wrestling with the day’s big social justice issues:

The villain resides in our imaginations like a piece of darkness, rousing the hushed things deep within, part human, part something we’d rather not contemplate. We revel in their cunning, recoil at their perniciousness and bloodlust. They are fallen angels who hold our fears and weaknesses to the light, coaxing us into accepting their vileness or granting them a measure of understanding.

Granted, not all villains are so sympathetic. It’d be a rare (and rather disturbed) person indeed who would grant IT’s Pennywise the Clown a “measure of understanding.” But Pennywise was arguably the year’s most influential villain. Indeed,  thanks to IT’s popularity (the film made $327.5 million in North America), the horror genre has gone from marginalized to mainstream.

Not everyone is thrilled with this cultural turn to the Dark Side, though. Take, for instance, Mark Hamill, who was originally none-too-pleased that his iconic good-guy character, Luke Skywalker, seemed a bit jaded and discouraged in Star Wars: The Last Jedi—and he said as much before the movie was released. Now that the movie’s out, though, Hamill says he was wrong to voice his “doubts and insecurities.” “All I wanted was to make a good movie,” he wrote on Twitter. “I got more than that—[director Rian Johnson] made an all-time GREAT one!” (Hear that, you Jedi naysayers? Luke Skywalker agrees with me!)

(Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Star Wars—and possibly of pop culture villains—Star Wars creator George Lucas says that he may have gone “too far in a few places” in The Phantom Menace.)

Another star is apologizing for going a bit too far this week. Popular YouTube personality Logan Paul took a trip to a Japanese forest notorious for being the site of dozens of suicides—taking a camera crew along, naturally. Sure enough, he came across an apparent suicide victim, recorded it and posted it on his YouTube channel. The backlash was swift and severe. And after Logan first attempted to justify the video as a way to raise awareness for suicide prevention, the YouTube star pulled the video altogether and posted an apology on Twitter. “I’m often reminded of how big of a reach I truly have & with great power comes great responsibility … for the first time in my life I’m regretful to say I handled that power incorrectly,” he wrote. “It won’t happen again.”

Speaking of apologies, Paul Stark is looking for one, too from his favorite professional football team. According to the 80-year-old’s obituary in the Sandusky Register, Stark died after a brief illness that was “exacerbated by the hopeless condition of the Cleveland Browns,” who finished  0-16 this year. Here’s to hoping the organization at least sent flowers.

The new year is obviously a popular time for making resolutions, of course. (I, for instance, have resolved to stop using so many puns in my Monday movie blogs.) But as lots of us commit to cutting back on sweets and exercising more, several experts suggest that we—or our kids—could use a digital or social media diet. Oh, and the World Health Organization thinks that we really, really should cut back on our gaming: It’s getting ready to classify “gaming disorder” as an official health problem.

Meanwhile, Nintendo hopes to sell 50 million Switches by 2019. Hmmm.

The turn of the new year doesn’t just mean saying hello to another calendar: It means saying goodbye to some folks, too. And we lost plenty in 2017, from Mary Tyler Moore to Bill Paxton to Tom Petty. But 9-year-old Brian McGilloway was particularly upset about losing his favorite Doctor in Doctor Who—Peter Capaldi, who stepped aside to make room for Jodie Whittaker in Britain’s long-running sci-fi series. (The show has been running since the 1960s, more or less, and by necessity “The Doctor” regenerates on occasion.)

Well, Capaldi wrote a personal, handwritten letter to his despondent fan. “The new doctor always becomes your favorite and the one that goes… well, he never really goes, he is always there, somewhere in time and space, and if you think about him hard enough you’ll see him, and he’ll see you,” Capaldi wrote. “It’s like the Doctor says, ‘Everything ends and it’s always sad. But everything begins again, and that’s always happy. Be happy.’”

On the dawn of a new year—a new beginning, if you will—seems like good advice.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

That awkward moment when you find out that the Rotten Tomatoes audience score for Justice League is higher than The Last Jedi's.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I posted this on the last article, but didn't see any response so I figured I would put it here to see if others have found the same things I have:
The fan backlash for The Last Jedi is kind of foolish to be honest. I have seen the film, and I really enjoyed it. Curious as to why people disliked it, I read multiple reviews, both critic and fan, and talked with others who saw the film. What I will say is there is no consensus on why the film is bad. For example, some felt it was too rushed, others feel that the whole trilogy should be scrapped and replaced with the Star Wars Legends (basically all the books that were written about what happened after Episode 6 that Disney threw out), and I even found a reviewer who was annoyed that there were no female aliens commanding a Rebel Star Ship.  People that I have talked that disliked it have spoken eloquently of the flaws of the film, and then basically admitted that it wasn't their kind of movie. Personally, I really enjoyed it. I have to see it again, but it is definitely the best Star Wars film that has come out since the Originals, and parts of it rivaled the Original Trilogy in my opinion. It is truly sad that not all people enjoyed it, but that's to be expected with any fanbase. I've just taken it as a sign of a fickle fanbase, and moved along. Nothing to see in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

50 million Nintendo Switches by 2019? Maybe one of those will eventually be mine!

I'm holding back on buying a Switch for right now because
1) I just bought a PS4 a few months ago, and I'm already having a blast with it; no need to blow another $300 so soon, and
2) Smash Bros hasn't come out on the Switch yet.

As for George Lucas, hey, don't feel so bad. Without you, we wouldn't ever have Star Wars. Plus, not everything about the prequels (or everything that came from it) was bad. Sometimes, we have to go through a Batman and Robin in order to get a Batman Begins. Or in this case, sometimes we have to go through the Star Wars prequels to get the excellent Clone Wars cartoon.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
I'm sorry to lose Capaldi's Doctor Who too, especially since I thought his Christmas farewell was a little lackluster. I've yet to love any of the Who Christmas specials, but this one felt a little... self-indulgent and flat. I actually got bored, which saddens me, since I hoped to bid him a proper farewell. Ah well. I still have his past three seasons to re-watch. I'm suspending judgment on a Female Doctor for now. I wasn't happy with the announcement; we'll see how it goes.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bobed, just dab on dem haters

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sadly true, Bobed. Although it will be interesting to see whether this becomes a wake-up call that inspires some of the "look at me" social media crowd to think about how their actions and posts affect other people. A little empathy will never steer you wrong.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
"I, for instance, have resolved to stop using so many puns in my Monday movie blogs."

Noooo! Say it ain't so!
AsayPaul More than 1 year ago
Well, given that most of my resolutions last well into, like, the second week of January, you probably have nothing to worry about ...