Rant #1: guilt session

November 9th, 2009

The other morning my son asks if he can watch a DVD. Mummy suggests that he hold off on that score because, guess what? Superman II is on this afternoon and he won’t be allowed to watch it if he spends the morning in front of Chicken Run. I felt good about this choice at the time – a little guilty that we let our three and a half year-old watch any of this brainrot, for sure – but basically good that we draw the line somewhere with his telly watching. That, however feebly, we put our feet down! Such is the terribly compromised lot of a parent.

I felt good about it on another level too. My son, you see, is a superhero addict, and that’s my fault, or at least very largely my fault. When other kids were getting their kicks from In The Night the Night Garden, the Boy was watching a bloody Spiderman DVD produced by Brian Michael Bendis. Okay, that wasn’t strictly my doing, but I can’t shake the feeling that I pull the four colour spectrum towards me like some weird ass black hole. It seems certain that were I not the colossal geek that I am the little chap wouldn’t be quite so obsessed with smashing his toys (“baddies”) to smithereens with his Batman action figure, and that he’d never have been found sweaty and crying in his bed whispering “Mongul” under his breath.

Ultimately he opted to reject a Superhero flavoured experience in favour of another one. Didn’t matter that in many ways it was a like for like swap, the absence of pants over tights was the deciding factor in my approval, which when you think about it is pretty weak sauce in the quality parenting stakes and almost certainly says more about my guilt than anything else. To be honest I probably would have approved of his redecorating the living room with plasticine if it had meant that he was proactively eschewing capes and booties in favour of something, anything else. Thankfully, so strong is the urge to run and jump and multi-play when you’re nearly four that the Boy didn’t have too much time for the joys of Melly Mel “I mainly like it when people are whipping me or shoving torture instruments up my arse” Gibson and his Ardman pals, and so it was that Chicken Run was overwhelmed by more constructive activity and our parental anxieties faded.

Ah, but the day drew on and tempers started to fray and TIREDNESS (has a special meaning when applied to one’s very own misbehaving children) started to set in. Oh yes, and four forty rolled around and right there was the remote and “God, I need to sit down!”, and – *bumf* – the television finds itself on and switched to Channel 5.

And here’s where I have to make an admission: I was secretly very happy

But I was strong, I didn’t push for it. I didn’t even hint that I’d like to watch it. I felt very, very bad about entertaining such thoughts let alone vocalizing them. My wife sat the Boy down and turned on the box. I – the geek – was busy doing the washing up in the kitchen while all this was happening. In fact the only evidence of my joy could be found in my post the fact observation that “Superman will be on in a minute”. Had anyone looked deep into my eyes at that very moment they would have spotted a slathering fanboy clawing at the insides of my retina screaming and crying with glee.

Anyway, Superman II begins and, as ever, I’m almost moved to tears. Kal-El’s mother selflessly surrending her son to an uncaring universe, the glacial white of Krypton, the blackness of space, and WOOSH! the Superman symbol trailing red and blue and that orchestral blast. This, I think, must be what all those folk get out of those mega-prayer gatherings, and when you come to think about it isn’t Superman a bit like Christ?. I start to wonder whether this is as close to a hardcore Chrisian experience as I am likely to get, but then I glance down at the boy – he’s rapt – and I realise that actually these thoughts might not be so healthy. In fact the entire scenario is making me feel slightly sick: here I am seriously considering the possibility of a Superman religion and selfishly (unlike Superman’s Mum) exposing my son to the same fucked up training that got me into this sorry state in the first place…

And the scary thing is that you’re just like me. That’s the threat, not the violence or the sex or Jeph Loeb. You, your fucking brain on pants and booties.

Here endeth the guilt

28 Responses to “Rant #1: guilt session”

  1. Botswana Beast Says:

    You are not at all like Superman’s mum, whatever her name was.

    …Mongul is pretty scary, when you think about it. What I really, really approve (and by ‘approve’, I mean some codification of the oppression I fully intend to bring unto my son, this shared and terrible goal) about this is that it’s a third-tier Superman villain.

    My lad’s still at the Thomas the Tank Engine and Postman Pat stage, really; Cartoon Network had a marathon of that Brave & Bold on one day, though, and by God he was made to share that for an appallingly long time. My zeal did not seem fully reciprocated, alas.

  2. Botswana Beast Says:

    Spongebob! He loves Spongebob, which is actually pretty brilliant and – as these things go – probably a healthy option.

  3. bobsy Says:

    While we’re sharing, a little Mindless Dad-in:

    In case you cared, two-and-a-half IS too young for Star Wars. The Emperor’s transformation in Revenge of the Sith is a surefire route to a sleeples night.

    (No guilt, except for in how I was enjoying RotS far too much. I think it’s the second, maybe third best of the lot.)

    Now, all she wants to do is cuddle Wookies and, sensibly, appears to have adopted Yoda as some kind of guru-companion figure in her jokes and stories.

    She’s not interested in Transformers: the Movie after the point Optimus dies.

  4. Botswana Beast Says:

    I was informed a couple years back by my wife’s friends that a 6-week-old shouldn’t really be exposed to Scarface? WTF?! I don’t think he was really registering it, you know?

  5. The Beast Must Die Says:

    To be honest I’m not sure I’m that interested in Transformers: the Movie after optimus prime dies.

    (Right up there with the notorious ‘Otrayu’s horse dying’ fake-out from Never ending Story – you just don’t do that to kids)

  6. bobsy Says:

    We saw the horse die, or as good as. The one that’s running around at the end is just some abominated simulation, a dread zombie thing with no life in its eyes, drained of all anima and meaning. Do not trust it, that happy ending is purest bullship.

    The opening movement of Transformers the movieis definitely the best (not to make it sound too much like the day’s first sit-down). There are corpses of generation-1 Autobots all over the place in the first act, but the sense of threat dissipates as soon as Optimus goes all grey, despite Unicron & Galvatron’s arrival.

    As I watch it again (and again) I now realise quite what a pair of girl-hating chuckleheads Springer and Ultra Magnus are, and how much Arcee wishes she was having her adventures with Hot Rod and Kup. Perceptor is OK, if a bit of a eunuch, but you can almost see the look of relief on Arcee’s face when the Junkions arrive, finally someone to talk to.

    The look of disdain a two-year old can muster when you tell her the new all-conquering saviour-champ is called ‘Rodimus’ is quite chilling.

  7. Zom Says:

    I really enjoyed ROTS the other day too. In fact I think the wife quite liked it an’ all. Improvements could be made, however:

    1. “Younglings” = no
    2. Better acting – Hayden Christensen whilst kinda right in a moany way could be improved on. Good actors can do moany AND be convincing
    3. Grievous’s cartoony foreign voice = no
    4. Final fight is undercut by some very obvious CGI towards the end (is a very good fight otherwise)
    5. Still not sold on Chewbacca – way to shrink your universe, Geoff

  8. The Beast Must Die Says:

    I wish I could enjoy them. I sat down and tried to watch Attack of the Clones t’other day, and as soon as Darth N-Sync and Princess Monotone appeared I just switched the fuck over.

    Does it help if you’re drunk?

    Perceptor is OK, if a bit of a eunuch

    Fucking LOL. the Junkions are actually totally great. Great concept, great design. Eric fucking Idle.

    I never saw a Junkion in the shops, so to me they possibly never existed as a toy. Holy Grail. You Americans don’t know how lucky you are.

  9. Zom Says:

    AOTC is arse

  10. bobsy Says:

    AOTC is definitely Sixth of Six.

    Agree with you about ROTS, Z – I think those inarguable weaknesses are compensated for by the genuine (to me at least) heightened sense of drama, which does hit some weird, mythic-operatic level at a couple of points, as my inner youngling is cruelly cut down by the harsh sabre-light of time.

    The performance by Ian Thingy as the Emperor is perfect, he seems to understand the creepy, camply-serious tone of the piece better than anyone, though Macgregor makes a good fist of it too, for the first time in all three prequels. The Chewbacca thing, while mitigated somewhat this time round by someone bellowing ‘It’s Chewie daddy! It’s CHEWIEEEE!’ in my ear (she only knew Chewie before from his all-dancing appearance on the Muppet Show), is a silly bit of fan service, and, when you think about it, makes the Jedi seem more and more evil and deserving of a right good massacring: so when Kenobi and Chewbacca meet on Mos Eisley, that quiet look they share, was this all planned? Did they let Luke’s Auntie and Uncle die so as to give him some motivation? Is it all just about Kenobi and Yoda, not just salving their guilt, but actually avenging their defeat? ‘Revenge of…’ seems like the more sensible title for ROTJ after all.

    God. Such a geek.

    I think ‘Geoff’ is going to be THE on-street diss in 2010. Remember a couple of years ago when suddenly everyone was just ‘going to the corner shop to get a “Re-Up” on some bread and milk’? It’s gonna be like that.

  11. plok Says:

    Oh shit, Bobsy…your inner youngling. Christ, that just made me howl. Got neighbours banging on the wall now.

  12. plok Says:

    And, no fooling now…”Unicron”?

  13. bobsy Says:

    Yeah, you know, Unicron, Orson Welles’ last role, transforming, planet-devouring planet… what’s the what?

  14. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Orson Welles?


    Citizen who?

  15. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Oh yeah, and Bobsy, your superbly creative retconning always wins me over until I find myself actually sitting and watching some of this drek.

    But I’ll maybe give ROTS a go again. Like a lamb to the frickin’ slaughter…

    When did we turn into Newsarama?

  16. Zom Says:

    Surely my point is that in a way we always were


  17. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Gaze into the abyss…

    ..and see preview pages.

  18. Botswana Beast Says:

    Ian McDiarmid, the Emperor of the Universe, was born in my hometown of Carnoustie. I like ti imagine he emerged from an abyss, given there are no hospitals. And Alan Cumming, Nightcrawler, went to my high school while we’re at it.

    …I don’t really care about Star Wars, which is sort of anathematic to any even slightly fan- boy of our generation, but I just invested all my kid juice in they Transformers. You got a Wreck-Gar (Eric Idle’s greatest movie role? Unquestionable) toy, btw, but no other Junkions. It’d've been good if you had several and could interchange limbs etc.

    Er, yeah, Spongebob the Movie, though; highest rec for the kidz – it’s more like Final Crisis than one would reasonably expect!

  19. Linkblogging for 10/11/09 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! Says:

    [...] Zom is worried that he might be influencing his kid to become a superhero fan. [...]

  20. Zom Says:

    The Boy likes Spongebob but he likes Batman B & B a hell of a lot more. As do I.

  21. Zom Says:

    Question, BB: what did you do before Transformers came along?

    I was hugely into them as well but there were a number of years to fill (with Star Wars) before that.

  22. The Beast Must Die Says:

    what did you do before Transformers came along?

    He didin’t exist. None of us did.

  23. Botswana Beast Says:

    I’m a bit younger’n yous, so I started playing w/ TF’s age 6 or 7 (’85/’86); lived in Africa before then and wasn’t really exposed to the brunt of Western Commerce, just played dinky cars I guess. Outside, in the sun. It was healthy, it feels like a long time ago.

    Also, I lived round the corner from a Hasbro sales rep, so I got special things like Fortress Maximus and pre-release display models (his son wasn’t that interested.)

    If Zoids had been any good, or a bit more successful, I’d maybe have dug them, I did the comic.

  24. Zom Says:

    I lived round the corner from a Hasbro sales rep


  25. Botswana Beast Says:

    Oh man I would totally have swapped my dad for him.

    Nah, it was great though, perfect for a young’in, and he was himself really, really genuinely enthused by the toys (at least until that Action Masters bu–sh’.) So, yeah, Fort Max was a biggie, I got that for Xmas but I got loads of other shit like one or two Headmasters before they came out, an off-model triplechanger Octane, a whole set of the Stunticons… Maybe that was about it, actually, but it felt like a fucking lot, you know? Kids today, with their… oh yeah, with their Transformers – in my day you got fucking lead parts. Straight G1 shit, represent.

    …I’d argue Spongebob is a superior cartoon item to Batman B&B which is – for me, it’s like: holy shit, that’s some obscure characters they’re using, like Bronze Tiger or Owlman or something, that’s the juice which imbalances my critical judgment up to a point. But Spongebob is straight dope.

  26. amypoodle Says:

    were the predacons, monsterbots and sharkicons gen 1?

  27. Botswana Beast Says:

    Yup, although I think none were traditionally available in Europe. G1 is basically any Transformers toy from ’84-’91ish.

  28. Zom Says:

    Ah, but we had them thanks to mother’s work trips.

    You had a rep, we had very guilty mother.

    (Not sayin’ B:B&B is better than Spongebob in any objective sense, you understand)

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