I have a mouth, so I guess I must scream

There are a lot of things wrong with American society. Poverty, inequality, racism, sexism, crumbling infrastructure, selfish foreign policy, inadequate healthcare, insane incarceration rates, environmental pollution, gun violence, pitifully underfunded education systems…the list goes on and on. But these things are all very, very hard to fix. Even the simplest of those problems couldn’t be corrected in less than a very hard fought decade. But I want to look like I’m changing the world, without actually, you know, changing the world. So what should I do?

I know! I’ll write long screeds attacking pop culture! Attacking movies and music is so easy. Everyone sees movies , so I don’t have to explain anything complicated like long term economic trends or the greenhouse effect.  I just have to point at something on a screen and say “See? Look! Bad!” That way, I can pat myself on the back for making a difference, while not actually putting out any of the effort required to actually make a difference. Thanks, CNN!

Editor’s note: Lewis Beale writes about culture and film for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and other publications. He has taught writing about film at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Keep this in mind as we go through this guy’s article. He teaches writing. In real life. To actual students.

In the latest “X-Men” film, Magneto levitates RFK stadium and drops it around the White House; the stadium is destroyed.

In “Godzilla,” the monster fights off what looks like the entire U.S. military while he flattens both Honolulu and San Francisco. And in the new Tom Cruise film, “Edge of Tomorrow,” opening Friday, Paris is left underwater after an alien attack, and a futuristic D-Day-like invasion leaves a French beach strewn with dead bodies and smoldering war materiel.

There’s plenty more mayhem to come as this season’s glut of blow-’em-up flicks rolls out: “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (aliens drop a cruise liner on a city), “Guardians of the Galaxy” (outer space vehicles liquefied by the dozens), “Hercules” (the title character fights off lions, sea monsters and a whole army of bad guys) and “The Expendables 3” (Sly Stallone and gang; train rams into prison).

Entertainment Weekly recently referred to it as “the summer of destruction.”

But let’s call it what it is: destruction porn.

When writing, you want to have some kind of theme linking together the various threads of your prose. Mr. Beale’s parenthetical statements attempting to establish his theme are what I would call “reaching”. “Outer space vehicles liquified by the dozens”? “[T]he title character fights off lions, sea monsters and a whole army of bad guys”? What the fuck? How exactly are these things linked?

What genuinely irks me, though, is that final sentence. He’s treating the term “destruction porn” like it’s an actual phrase in the English language that means something. Like it has a definition, or that anyone anywhere agrees on what counts as “destruction porn”.

“____ porn” has become the new “-gate” suffix of bad writing. It used to be, if you couldn’t come up with anything original to say, you just find some scandal and call it “[blank]-gate”.  Today, if you’re a hack with nothing to say, just find something that you know little about but think is over-indulgent, and call it “[blank] porn”. The Saw movies are “torture porn”. 50 Shades of Grey is “mom porn”. News coverage of weeping relatives of tragedy victims is “grief porn”. Fucking pathetic.

Like real porn, these movies play to our most atavistic instincts.

That’s not what “atavistic” means. A dolphin with hind limbs is atavistic. Our ancient ancestors millions of years ago couldn’t possibly have thrilled at skyscrapers crumbling or spaceships blowing up, because none of those things existed millions of years ago.  Get a fucking dictionary.

And where the fuck did you get the idea that “real porn” (whatever that is) is atavistic? People don’t have sexual urges any more? Jerking off is a thing of the past? Modern life, right now, doesn’t involve sexual indulgence? What planet do you live on?

They all include some sort of buildup, the titillation of expectation that really bad, but cool, things are about to happen. They generally climax — pun intended …

This guy teaches writing.

…with a massive set piece of CGI carnage. And like real porn, afterwards we’re supposed to feel deliriously fulfilled and exhausted.

I don’t think you know how “real porn” works. Maybe you feel “deliriously fulfilled and exhausted” after stroking yourself, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were going for. What the hell does “deliriously fulfilled” even mean?

Additionally, the fact that you keep using the term “real porn” is a pretty clear indicator that you damn well know the term “destruction porn” is bullshit.

Fact is, we should hate ourselves for feeling this way, as if we’d just had really bad sex.

Writing professor, folks. Calling Dr. Freud.

But that’s not the reaction destruction porn elicits.

Can’t imagine why it doesn’t elicit your perverted reaction in most people. Maybe delirious fulfillment followed by self hatred just isn’t in vogue.

Even worse, we’re exporting this American blood-lust globally, giving outsiders the impression of a country that has totally gone over to the Dark Side.

Star Wars references kinda undermine what you’re going for here. Or does Alderaan not count as destruction porn?

It’s not as if there hasn’t been massive carnage in the movies before this. Hollywood has produced plenty of war films, ecological disaster flicks and alien invasion epics in the past. But the sheer frequency of destruction porn these days — at least 11 movies of this type in summer 2012 (“The Avengers,” The Dark Knight Rises,” etc.) and 12 during the same season last year (“White House Down,” “World War Z,” etc.)…

11 movies in 2012 and 12 in 2013. Please note that he’s throwing out these numbers without ever defining what counts as a “destruction porn” movie, and without ever specifying which movies fit his non-existent criteria, or how any movie possibly could. There were precisely 11 of such movies in 2012, but he won’t bother to explain where that number came from. These are entirely made up statistics. Well, I can do the same thing. I just created a new category called “Shitfuck journalism from hacks”. CNN published precisely one such article which I’m looking at right now.

…and our delight in seeing things blown up, should make us worry about the mental health of society.

Public schools failing, gun violence, suicide…no, wait, fuck all that shit. We should be worried about The Avengers. That’s the important shit.

Idiot.

Movies have always reflected the anxieties of their age. In the 1950s, we had plenty of nuclear paranoia films,often featuring mutated life forms. (Can you say “Godzilla”?)

Can YOU say Godzilla? You keep bringing up this imaginary entity called “destruction porn” as if it’s something new. Have you seen any classic Godzilla films ever? Do I need to explain to you the whole “Guy in rubber suit smashing cardboard buildings” leitmotif of the entire series?

But the recent spate of films seem to reflect a collective psychic collapse.

What the hell is a “collective psychic collapse”? Who the fuck watches Maleficent and thinks, “Yup. Collective psychic collapse.”?

Sure, there are reasons for this: fear of terrorism, the insecurity created by all those mass murders, like the recent episode in Santa Barbara. We feel that world has gotten even more chaotic. That there’s too much of everything. That society has gotten way too complicated, with too many people, too much technology, too many opposing ideologies clashing against each other.

Look at me! I’m vaguely aware of modern political issues! And I get paid to express that never-more-than-vague awareness with statements like “all those mass murders”! I teach writing!

I’m the 700 billionth person to point out that modern life has complications that didn’t exist in the past! I have absolutely nothing beyond that regurgitation to contribute to the discussion, but CNN needs to fill up space, so here I am!

It recalls the classic 1959 dystopian novel “A Canticle For Leibowitz,” by Walter Miller Jr., in which the end of industrial civilization is referred to as “the Simplification.” It’s as if we’re preparing for a global meltdown.

In your writing classes, do you ever address hyperbole?

And the summertime, when we’re supposed to be mellowing out,…

Who’s the fucking “we” in this sentence? The next time you eat at a restaurant, tell the over-worked and under-paid waiter that “we” are supposed to “be mellowing out” since it’s summer, and see what kind of reaction you get. My guess is it’ll be something along the lines of, “I’m smiling because if you don’t tip me, I starve.”

…is a perfect time for Hollywood to exploit our growing appetite for this kind of carnage. There are two specific reasons for this: Most filmgoers are in the under-40 demographic, looking for a night out away from the heat and to put their brains on pause — and believe me, there’s nothing more mindless than watching stuff blow up.

I can think of something more mindless.

The second reason is the importance of the foreign market, which now accounts for nearly 70% of total box office gross.

Our global neighbors tend to go for what we do best, which is make big budget films with state-of-the-art special effects, a minimum of dialogue (explosions speak a universal language) and lots of mayhem. Lots. Just to take two recent examples: the just-opened X-Men film has grossed $168 million in the U.S., and twice that much overseas. And the new “Captain America” flick — “Captain America,” no less! — has grossed $255 million domestically and a whopping $454 million overseas.

America: A country where scenes of mass destruction are the norm, and carnage is preferred over peace, love and understanding.

Go fuck yourself, you sanctimonious douchebag.

If you actually bothered to watch and think about the movies, rather than pontificate like a self-righteous blowhard, you’d see the themes in both X-Men and Captain America. X-Men is a metaphor for the gay rights movement, while Cap is about the surveillance state and the bullshit notion that we have to sacrifice our freedom and privacy for security. Neither film is subtle in this regard. They wear their metaphors on their sleeve. If you took two fucking seconds to think about it, you’d see it. But that’s asking way too much from you, Dr. Writing Professor.

Oh, and I can’t help but notice the term “global neighbors”. What other fucking neighbors do we have? What’s the difference between “global neighbors” and just plain fucking “neighbors”?

Is this the kind of negative image of America we want to export?

Better explosions than pretentious douchenozzles.

And sure, we all know that “It’s only a movie,” but don’t kid yourself: When we get geeked at the leveling of entire cities, it says something about who we are, and where our society is going.

No. It says something about who you are that this is the kind of thing you judge other people for.

And you’d think after 9/11 and the never-ending mass murders in this country we would be a bit more sensitive to scenes where cities are destroyed and thousands of lives lost, but the opposite seems to have taken place: We wallow in it. We cheer it. Like porn, we can’t take our eyes off it. It’s seductive and incredibly addictive.

Your presumptuousness is much more offensive to me than any explosion in a make-believe movie. “You’d think”. Fuck you. The difference between you and me is that I do actually think. Hey, Dr. Writing Professor and Film Critic, did you ever notice how the original Godzilla came out in 1954, just 9 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki got nuked? Did your tiny little pea brain ever consider the idea that movies are artistic expression, and that they reflect these societal anxieties precisely because that’s what art does? Yes, filmmakers are expressing their feelings about 9/11, and audiences are responding. You can see that in many modern films. This isn’t something new. It’s how art works.

Wish fulfillment? Catharsis? Just good old entertainment? It really doesn’t matter. While we’re in the grips of whatever social psychosis is stoking this ravenous appetite for mayhem, Hollywood will be happy to oblige.

You really are a complete tool, aren’t you?

You managed to write 1,000 words without ever saying a thing. You excel at speculation, allegation, and sensationalism, while stridently avoiding anything that even resembles actual fucking journalism. You pass judgment on others for the specific purpose of generating a headline. You invent terms without ever bothering to define them. You then invent numbers because numbers look like science and reason and that makes dumb people think you’re credible. You use pop psychology to make it look like your verbal diarrhea is actual human thought. And you do all this in the hopes that you’ll stimulate CNN’s audience into irrational fear of an imaginary problem, just so you can do it again next week.

You write news porn.

*Head Explodes*

With gay marriage passing in Maryland and Maine, and weed legalization passing in Colorado and Washington, this was a great election if you like drugs and dick. I’m not into either, but I support people’s right to do them if they want, so I was excited about this. The weed thing really surprised me–I never thought it would pass. Plus, the Democrats managed to keep control of the Senate and prevented Rapey McGee and Rapey McGoo in Missouri and Indiana from reaching it. So that’s awesome. Oh, and something or other about the White House happened. Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Obama won. But I find it difficult to get excited about him. He’s a moderate democrat masquerading as a conservative democrat who knows how to add nice touches of rhetorical flourish to his speeches but not how to follow through on his promises.  But one thing I was looking forward to was watching the right wing’s many bloated heads explode when he won a second term. And Joseph Farah of WingNutDaily handed me a healthy dose of schadenfreude with this headline:

America pronounces judgment on itself

*Kablooey!* Little bits of Farah head smear the walls, and I laugh my ass off.

I feel like this title was intended to be read ominously through a booming megaphone with Carmina Burana playing in the background. Fire and brimstone rain down on gay weddings in legal marijuana stores. Black people have buttsex with terrorists for affordable healthcare in the streets while the Four Horsemen read Karl Marx and eat arugula. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

And the amusing hyperbole continues in the article itself.

For many of us, the unthinkable has happened.

I felt the same way when the Thunder traded James Harden away. You know what? I got over it. But the conservative “traditional values” crowd aren’t exactly known for getting over things. Hell, they’ve still got their panties in a wad over losing the Civil War.

And in what universe was this outcome “unthinkable”? Obama lead through most of the campaign, and most experts picked him to win. You may not like it, but you should have seen it coming. Oh, wait, that’s right. Those are “facts” I’m referring to. I apologize. I forgot about your fact allergies.

In sum, lots of things are unthinkable when you don’t think.

America has decisively turned the corner away from the constitutional principles of limited government and self-government with the re-election of Barack Obama.

And by “limited government and self-government” we mean ” don’t stick your dick in a butt.”

There may be no way home for us.

Boo hoo hoo! You lost. Someone has to lose every election. Deal with it. Seriously, what a fucking crybaby.

We have allowed our fellow Americans to pronounce judgment on the nation.

That’s what Obama represents to me – God’s judgment on a people who have turned away from Him and His ways and from everything for which our founders sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

Farah is so flabbergasted by things not going his way that the only explanation he can come up with that seems to fit the momentousness of his not getting his way is that an omnipotent being must be punishing millions of people for the horrible crimes of not fag-punching and giving medicine to poor people.

This does shed some light on what he meant by “unthinkable” earlier on. So enamored is he with his own delusional worldview that the thought of it failing is simply unfathomable. His little lizard brain just can’t process the cognitive dissonance.

The nation is divided like never before – intentionally so.

I hate it when people say this bullshit. So are we more divided now than we were during the Civil Fucking War? And not even just that. Are we more divided now than we were during the Vietnam War and the struggle for black civil rights? Are we more divided now than back when thousands of black people were being lynched and black churches full of children were being bombed by white terrorists? Are we more divided than we were in 1920 when the debate over women’s suffrage was raging?

It’s become a common trope amongst those who follow politics but don’t think about politics that our nation lacks “civility”, and that politics used to be so “civil” back in some fantasy past, but now we’re “divided” and the “tone” of politics today is just too “strident” and “negative”.  Bullshit. American politics was never civil. Alexis de Tocqueville noticed this way back in the 1830s, and discusses the vociferousness of American political debate at length in Democracy in America.

We’re not divided like never before. We’re doing what we’ve always done, such as call the President a Marxist Terrorist Communist Atheist Muslim Usurper from Kenya who hates America and wants to kill your grandmother. Normal politics, actually.

That has been Obama’s game plan from the beginning – to build a constituency of special-interest groups that truly believe their salvation is found in bigger government, more programs, irresponsible spending and unconstitutional policies.

Religious right groups are interest groups too, you stupid fuck. This would be like if the coach of the Charlotte Bobcats said that the reason they suck is because of Teams. If it weren’t for all the dirty, filthy Teams ruining the NBA, the Bobcats would be on top and make basketball the way it used to be back in the past, the way Naismith intended it to be. Stupid teams.

This election could very well represent the beginning of the end of the American Dream, American exceptionalism, the American way.

The American dream and the American way never existed to begin with, and American exceptionalism can fuck itself with a live badger for all I care.

But it’s no time to give up – to throw up our hands in disgust and walk away from politics. Neither is it time to surrender to the radical social agenda Obama has championed to win his victory.

It’s time to change tactics.

Change tactics? You mean, like, stop demonizing minorities, stop lying about science, stop inventing fake history about the Founding Fathers, stop using other people’s rights as wedge issues, stop attacking women’s rights, stop spreading lunacy about your invisible friend, stop trying to start war after war just to sate your lust for the blood of brown skinned people?

It’s time to raise our collective voices of outrage.

Voicing outrage is all you people do. What would the religious right have to live for if not outrage? I was honestly beginning to believe that outrage was some kind of currency among you people.

But, at the end of the day, people generally get the kind of government they deserve.

No. Not true. Nobody deserved George W. Bush. Nobody. Not even Texas. I wouldn’t even wish him on Canada.

I’m not going to lie to you.

LOL.

The America haters are running the country for another four years.

Well, the ones who insist that they’re the real America lovers really fucked the country up between 2000 and 2008, so I’ll take my chances with the haters.

Most of all, it’s time for collective repentance.

Only a miracle can save us – and we need to humble ourselves before God and pray hard for one.

Maybe god could give us one of those miracles from the Bible that proves he’s so All-Powerful. Like fish-multiplication. If he turned a small number of fish into a large number of fish, that would prove that he’s got power over THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE and save America. At least, that plan makes more sense than how he chose to “save” us.

Can we find our way home? Is the political system even viable for us anymore? Has our heritage of representative government been permanently robbed from us?

For guys like Farah, a government isn’t representative unless it represents the right people. Obama won the election and takes office supported by the majority of Americans? Screw that! Democracy isn’t about the people voting for the candidate they want to represent them. It’s about someone who agrees with me fucking over people I don’t like.

And don’t think I don’t smell the “second amendment remedies” lurking in a god-humper who asks “Is the political system even viable for us anymore?” We all know what that means.

But we must not retreat. We must not hide. We must not be intimidated. We must not stop fighting for truth, justice and the American way.

Okay, that last bit convinces me that Farah wrote this while wearing his Superman undies and cape while crying over a sad little peanut butter sandwich that his mom cut the crusts off of for him. His mom wipes crumbs off of his hideous mustache and assures him, “There there, dear. Don’t you worry about those mean old rational people. You’re still mommy’s little boy! Now, go harass a fag or two and you’ll feel all better.”

Maybe we deserve this punishment for taking our lifestyles for granted. Maybe we deserve this judgment for our own individual and collective sins. Maybe there’s still time to turn things around because we serve a Creator of second and third chances.

Since when does eternal punishment involve second chances?

Whatever. The article ends with one more blob of the inert jelly that passes for brains in Farah’s head splattering against the wall:

One thing is for certain: Our national condition is going to get much worse before it gets better.

Not as long as I have you around for entertainment, Joey boy. As long as the Democrats keep winning and you keep melting down, I’m a happy man indeed.