Tag Archives: villains

“Titus Andronicus” by William Shakespeare: An Orgy of Violence with a Dose of Racism

TitusAndronicus

Because I am such a glutton for punishment, not only did I finish reading Titus Andronicus yesterday (considered Shakespeare’s worst play), but I also went to see it performed by a local theater company that same evening. I was familiar with the tragedy, having suffered through the visually disturbing film version starring Anthony Hopkins; but still, reading and seeing it back-to-back was a bit much even for me.

I totally understand why people hate this play. Really, there is not much to like about it. It is nothing but gratuitous violence taken about as far as you can go: rape, dismemberment, cannibalism, and murder (murder almost sounds trivial at this point). If Marilyn Manson was to ever record a rock opera, this would be the perfect choice. In addition, the play contains some very racist passages which are even more offensive considering the current issues that society is dealing with regarding race relations.

Arguably the most disturbing scene is the rape and dismemberment of Lavinia. She is raped by Chiron and Demetrius, who then cut out her tongue and lop off both her hands. They then proceed to mock her mangled and abused body.

Demetrius: So, now go tell, an if thy tongue can speak,
Who ‘twas that cut thy tongue and ravished thee.

Chiron: Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so,
An if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe.

Demetrius: See how with signs and tokens she can scrowl.

Chiron: Go home, call for sweet water, wash thy hands.

Demetrius: She hath no tongue to call, nor hands to wash;
And so let’s leave her to her silent walks.

(Act II, scene iv)

Scene from the film Titus

Scene from the film Titus

Although there is no shortage of villains in this play, Aaron, the Moor (or black person), is by far depicted as the worst of the lot. His skin color is presented as a display of his unrepentant lust for evil. Right up to the very end, he revels in the misery he causes. His only regret is that he will not live longer to cause more suffering. It is truly an offensive representation of a black person and certainly must have fed the stereotypes and prejudices of the time.

First Goth: What, canst thou say all this, and never blush?

Aaron: Ay, like a black dog, as the saying is.

Lucius: Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?

Aaron:  Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.
Even now I curse the day–and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,–
Wherein I did not some notorious ill,
As kill a man, or else devise his death,
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it,
Accuse some innocent and forswear myself,
Set deadly enmity between two friends,
Make poor men’s cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

(Act V, scene i)

As I made my way home after the performance, the images and words still vivid in my mind, I could not help but think of all the hatred, violence, and racism that still plague us. If this play has any redeeming value, it’s that it forces us to look at the world around us and recognize the horror of violence. I sincerely hope that one day we can look at this play as a relic depicting the dark past from which a loving, compassionate, and tolerant humanity emerged.

7 Comments

Filed under Literature

Star Wars: Vader Down – Part 3 of 6

VaderDown_3

I don’t have a lot to say about this issue except that it is really, really good. The writing and artwork are both outstanding and the story is totally engaging. Since I have a warm spot for villains, I have to say that I have really grown attached to Dr. Aphra’s droids, who are like the evil twins of R2D2 and C3PO. They have just the right amount of sardonic humor which one would expect from a pair of sadistic droids. I found myself chuckling quietly as I read.

I decided to read this comic this morning because the day has finally arrived for the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” I purchased my tickets in advance and will be seeing it tonight, and fear not… there is no way I would put any spoilers in any of my posts. Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I felt this excited about a film. And I’m very grateful to the folks at Marvel for putting so much effort into these new Star Wars comics. They are great and have totally awakened the Force within me.

It’s a great time to be a nerd!

Important PS – There are some people out there who think it is funny to post film spoilers. I will let you know that all comments here are moderated and I will not be reviewing / approving ANY comments until after I see the movie tonight. I will then block anyone who attempts to sneak in a spoiler to ruin the film for others.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Star Wars: Vader Down – Part 1 of 6

VaderDown_1

It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan!

I’ve been reading the latest Star Wars comics, getting myself psyched for the release of the new film. I’ve particularly been enjoying the Darth Vader comics, since he is such an iconic villain.

This issue is the beginning of a cross-over series, that will connect the Darth Vader arc with the main Star Wars arc. I have to say that this first issue is better than anything I have read in either of the other two arcs.

The premise is that Luke has gone to Vrogas Vas, a desolate planet that contains the ruins of an ancient Jedi temple. He has gone there to seek answers regarding his Jedi roots. Vader has discovered that Luke is there and has ventured there on his own to confront Luke, who he knows is his son, and turn him to the Dark Side. During an aerial battle, Luke crashes his fighter into Vader’s, causing both to crash-land on the planet. The tension builds as the stage is set for the father and son to confront each other.

The writing and the artwork in this comic are outstanding. I already have the next two issues in the series (yes, I’ve fallen behind in my reading), and I am ready to delve right into those. As I said, it’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Expect my thoughts on Part 2 very soon.

1 Comment

Filed under Literature

Darth Vader: Issue 1

DarthVader_01

OK, I’ll admit that Darth Vader is one of my all-time favorite villains. As such, how could I not read this comic?

First off, the artwork in this is outstanding. There are parts of this issue where for several pages there are no words and just images driving the storyline, and it works spectacularly. The writing is also very, very good. I find no flaws in the language and the personalities of the various iconic characters are accurately reflected in the dialog.

It is difficult to summarize the comic without giving away too much of the story, but I will try. There are multiple threads to the tale which have their beginnings in this issue. Vader, having failed in his previous mission, is dealing with the wrath of the Emperor. He is then sent to meet with Jabba the Hutt to negotiate on behalf of the Empire. But while meeting with Jabba, Vader says he has some personal business to discuss, which is not revealed. Finally, the Emperor is also meeting with some unknown person, who seems very dark and dangerous.

As you can see, there is a lot going on and this first issue is definitely intended to lay the foundation for what promises to be a complex tale. I for one am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. I believe issue 2 will be released soon, so expect my review of that in the near future.

Cheers!!

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Star Wars: Issue 2

StarWarsComic_02

OK, so I am officially hooked into this comic. I’ve always loved Star Wars and this embodies everything about the saga that appeals to me.

The story continues with the attack on Cymoon 1. Charges have been set to destroy the Galactic Empire’s weapons facility, and now Luke, Han, and Leia are struggling to escape along with a group of freed slaves.

Luke, with a show of his characteristic naïve foolishness, faces off with Darth Vader. I love these panels because the dialog does an exceptional job of capturing the essence of the two iconic characters.

Darth Vader: You hold that weapon like an untrained child. You have no right to it. You, boy, are no Jedi. Who are you?

Luke: You killed my father.

Darth Vader: I’ve killed very many fathers. You’ll have to be more specific.

(Luke strikes at Vader who easily knocks him down.)

Darth Vader: This is most pathetic. You are not worth the seconds it would take to finish you. Who sent you here to die like this?

As I read this, I could hear in my mind Vader’s deep, resonant voice speaking these words. Because he is such an iconic and well-known villain, anything short of perfection when writing his quotes would fail miserably. Personally, I think Jason Aaron, the writer of this comic, nails it. And not just Vader’s lines, but those of all the main characters. As Han and Leia are in the walker, bickering with each other, it really felt genuine and true to the original films. To quote Lord Vader: “Impressive. Most impressive.”

Speaking of Vader, he figures prominently in this issue, which I believe is intentional as a setup for the Darth Vader comic which was just released (and yes, I already have my copy and will be reading and reviewing it shortly).

Few things make my geek-heart flutter quite like Star Wars. Bottom line is I think this comic is excellent. Feel free to share your thoughts. Cheers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Magneto: Issue 13

Magneto_13

Just as I was thinking about discontinuing reading the Magneto series, I was reminded of how good it is and how thought-provoking the writing is. This issue is excellent and explores something I find fascinating: how stories affect our concept of reality.

Stories, when repeated, become part of the fabric of our collective consciousness. They teach us things about ourselves and build a bond which helps hold our society together. On a level, we know that these are just stories which, although fiction, express universal truths regarding the human experience. But sometimes, as this comic points out, people begin to accept these stories as facts which lead to the birth of urban legend, and in more extreme cases, self-deception.

What is the appeal of ghost stories? Gathering around a darkened room… speaking in whispers… recounting the tales of monsters that lurk in shadows. Is there comfort there? The reminder that… while we speak of the dead… we are all truly alive, or is it purely for the thrill? The pumping heart… the racing blood… the trembling flesh. Among these tales of terror… the “true” ghost story is among the most offensive. “Listen,” you say. “This is what happened to me.” You know the entire time that your every word is a lie… and your audience realizes the same… although they force themselves to believe. And so it is the ghost stories we tell ourselves… when no one else is listening… that are the most egregious. Lies for our own benefit. “This really happened to me.” Lies we force ourselves to believe.

This hit painfully close to home. When I was younger, I lied to myself as a way to justify my actions and to absolve myself from guilt and shame. In these stories I forced myself to believe I was the hero. I twisted history to view myself as making the right decisions, to validate the choices I made, to make it easier to live with myself. It was a coping mechanism for me and one that I suspect many people still rely upon. It is painful and difficult to look at yourself and judge your actions honestly, but it is important to do so. This is the only way that you can grow as an individual.

As you know, I love stories, but I must be careful not to allow stories to distort my view of reality. It is appropriate to use stories as a way to interpret reality, but it can be a slippery and dangerous slope when we allow stories to define our reality.

4 Comments

Filed under Literature

Magneto: Issue #12 – Is Peaceful Coexistence Possible?

Magneto_12a

This issue details the battle between the super-villains and the Red Onslaught. It basically moves the general story along, and as with all the installments in the series, it is richly illustrated and the writing is good. There is one panel that stands out for me, though. Magneto is remembering a discussion he had with Charles Xavier regarding mankind’s prospect of peaceful coexistence.

Charles: Don’t you think… can’t you imagine… that mankind has learned from past mistakes? Peaceful coexistence is more than just a dream.

Magneto: It’s madness, Charles. And it saddens me to think of the day such a realization will crush you.

Magneto_12b

This is something that has been on my mind lately. As I watch the news footage of the unrest in Ferguson, MO and the continued fighting and hatred in the Middle East, I cannot help but wonder if humans will ever learn to exist together peacefully. Are we capable as a species to learn and evolve, or is there some instinct that is hard-coded in our DNA that triggers the tendency toward anger, fear, envy, and resentment, the core issues at the heart of humanity’s intolerance toward others?

While my views on humanity are stained with cynicism, I am still a romantic and an idealist at my core. So yes, I feel that someday, although not likely in my lifetime, humans will evolve to an enlightened state where peaceful coexistence will become a reality. Unfortunately, I see a lot of death and destruction before that Phoenix can rise and become a reality.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized