I suppose you could say I have been desensitized to the word “faggot.” I grew up with it, hearing my parents utter it, sans explanation or apology. They never used the term as a derogatory description of a homosexual man, but as a universal synonym for “a man of an unpleasantly-strange or otherwise unfavorably-singular personality.” I don’t believe I first associated “faggot” with a sexual description until some point in late elementary school. I couldn’t understand why folks considered it offensive, and when questioned, I explained my usage of the term was in-line with the original definition of “queer” and not intended to defame any social group. Most people were uninterested in hearing my claim and demanded I cease my “uneducated” utterances.
As far as I know, the dictionary does not provide my definition of “faggot,” but it does provide the common derogatory definition. “Faggot” may, indeed, be indefensible, but I was surprised to be greeted with hostility once again when I used the term “queer” in the traditional context, meaning “strange,” “curious,” “singular,” etc. I’ve attempted to explain the term’s inoffensive nature, yet people are uninterested in hearing my defense. The term has become besmirched, these people argue, and should therefore be expelled from the layman’s dictionary. One must tread with caution amidst the illiterate, and never describe a frugal man as “niggardly.”
When mingling with the unread, I refrain from using terms of suspicious origin; I do not use “queer” in the traditional sense. I do not use “niggardly” in any kind of sense. I do not use “bastard” to describe illegitimate children, and even the term “illegitimate” is often best avoided. I am, however, free to use all synonyms when writing for the world; in the field of linguistics, the failure to comprehend is the reader’s error. Should anyone attempt to complain of racial bigotry, claiming I am prejudiced because I wrote the word “niggardly,” that critic will be crucified as borderline-illiterate, and I’ll be free to resume using any word I wish.
Of course, there are exceptions. There are certain terms from which I must limply shy away; not because I’m trying to avoid offending people, but because I must sidestep certain connotations that have become widespread. For example, “comic book fan-boy” is not, in itself, a derogatory term, but it has been hijacked by certain writers -- including exploitation gossiper Nikki Finke -- and restructured as a word intended to defame those who read comics. In the broadest context, “comic book fan-boy” describes one whose affectations for the art of comic book transcend some nebulous social regulation. In the cinematic context, the term is more complex.
Within the past decade, Hollywood has invested in various comic book properties with which the general public was previously unfamiliar. Several of these films were less than lucrative, and writers such as Finke have subsequently impugned comic book fans for disrupting Hollywood’s business model. Of course, this argument is totally illogical; I somehow doubt the “comic book fan-boys” stormed the offices of studio brass and, under penalty of boycott, demanded adaptations of Constantine and Wanted.
This is what has actually taken place, so far as I can tell: Producers have forsaken the practice of original creation and are pillaging every medium for pre-written stories. It is the storytelling equivalent of purchasing frozen dinners. Obscure comic books appeal to producers, not because the producers erroneously believe millions of people read these comic books, but because the right-to-adaptation will likely sell for cheap. There is no overlying conspiracy to appease the aforementioned fan-boys, and contrary claims fail to consider the myriad remakes and adaptations of other products. Where is the ire against adaptations of children’s literature? Has everyone forgotten the tragic performance of The Golden Compass?
Speaking of financial disasters, I can’t stomach the claim that comic books have, by some undetermined method, bankrupted Hollywood. Critics who propound this rather tickling assertion betray their ignorance by the close of their first sentence. I cannot name very many adaptations of unfamiliar comic books that procured substantial lucre, but I can’t name very many that resulted in disasters, either. Watchmen was a major misfire, as was The Spirit, but how many others were egregious failures? Consider Kick-Ass, which was crucified by Finke’s gang of buffoons as an emblem of damnation against the comic book fan-boys because it failed to meet its studio’s expectations. Unfortunately, these amateur box office analysts failed to understand that Lionsgate’s aggressive advertising campaign was almost exclusively rooted in the internet, and promotion was therefore achieved for very cheap. Furthermore, the film was, apparently, profitable enough to beget a sequel, due for release next year.
Interestingly, no reader of Nikki Finke has crucified Dredd as the latest example of the comic book fan-boys’ hijacking of Hollywood, although that film has hitherto been an embarrassing failure. Dredd received acceptable reviews, some of which were on the side of high optimism, but opened in sixth place at the domestic box office and, within two weeks, has grossed just $10 million on a budget of $50 million. We are not dealing with an historic blunder, but we are looking at a film that has failed, and yet, the bevies that have previously been so vociferous are, at the moment, reticent in regard to this film.
Dredd represents Hollywood’s second effort at bringing the titular anti-hero to the big screen. Sylvester Stallone previously portrayed the character seventeen years ago, but comic-book readers were generally unimpressed with the cinematic effort. Dredd, on the other hand, has received high applause from the electronic community, with much praise reserved for the film’s thematic improvement over the 1995 original. Unfortunately, I’m not precisely sure why this film deserves any partitioned favoritism, as it is still a fairly monotonous mosaic of violence and one-liners. The film is very true to the spirit of 80’s action fare, in which gravelly-toned bodybuilders dismantle completely evil villains, but I don’t precisely understand why Dredd deserves our attention.
I recall taking similar criticism when I attempted to defend The Cabin in the Woods as a philosophical dissection of the horror movie template, but bear in mind, that film was actually attempting to say something about the genre. Dredd is not so ambitious. It is merely an exercise in the philosophy of 80s action, which is perfectly acceptable, and if my readers enjoy this type of film, I take no issue with their pleasure. I do, however, question why people continue to believe there is a market for this kind of film. The 80s action film represents a bygone era, and the simplistic characterization and rigid visual style do not compute with modern audiences. I’m not arguing modern viewers have any intellectual superiority to their 80s counterparts, but I would argue that the trends of homogenization have changed, even if the mechanics have not.
Dredd represents an attempt to resurrect the 80s cinematic model, but the film only serves as a reminder of why that model disappeared, in the first place. One of my colleagues argued that Dredd succeeds because it demonstrates the full potential of an 80s action film when bolstered by modern cinematic technology, but I don’t really see how gussying up the film with expensive special effects somehow overwrites the film’s thematic simplicity. Again, there is nothing wrong with this process in itself, but I would question whether it is wise to take an 80s action concept and pour additional money into the project. Personally, I’d consider that poor economics.
I believe audiences understand that, at least on a subconscious level, which is why a film like Dredd will collapse at the box office while an equally-foolish film like the latest Resident Evil will succeed: People are pleased to revel in their own muck, but when asked to revel in someone else’s muck, they abhor and turn away and straighten their shoulders in disgust. It is perfectly acceptable to mock a faggot when only your closest friend is listening, but when you hear someone say that word in mixed company, you must scold the speaker as insensitive. Defend your principles in public, but forsake them in private; such is the method of the one who lives through his subconscious.