Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The League of Gentlemen: A Disappointment

Sometimes I wish there were real, classy villains.

James Bond villains. Classy villains. Delicious men with such twisted idealism and beautiful plotting that you can’t help but fall into their gushing grins and want to be evil, too.

(On an unrelated note, I am wary of getting married because inevitably I only fall in love with people of questionable moral fiber, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison.)

There’s a scene in the episode “Engagement” in the second season of the show The Vicar of Dibley, wherein the Vicar invites Hugo to tea with her. She assumes he’s wondering why she’s asked him over, but to her surprise, he claims he’s figured it out.

You know the film League of Gentlemen, where they gather together the seven master criminals of the world, each of them skilled in their own particular trade—master of disguise, master lock-breaker, explosives expert, etcetera—are all assembled to pull off the greatest robbery of all time. I assume it’s that; am I right?”

He isn’t.

But, I did get the film to watch with my father—this old black and white film from the sixties that I had to borrow from another library system—just to see what Hugo is talking about.

via hypnogoria.com
Fair enough, men who have all been slighted in one way or another by the government/military gather together, all hoping to steal enough cash to embarrass their enemies and live comfortably on an island somewhere until they die.

It was an okay movie, I suppose (obviously, I have to make allowances for the film quality and choices, simply due to the era in which it was filmed), but the story frustrated me. Because these were not classy, dazzling men. They were miffed military men in suits and with petty crimes on their hands.

They ran everything like a polite military operation, secret and dirty and secluded in a day and age before security cameras and annoying neighbors could easily rat them out. Sure, they wore the right clothes, but the silkiness of an Alpha was completely absent.

What was worse, spoiler alert, in the end, they all get arrested because a little boy noticed the faulty plates on their getaway truck. He turned them in to the police and they tracked down the owners.

That made me mad—oh, why did they have to lose? Dad looked at me mildly amused, and reminded me that this was the sixties, and in the end the government and goodness had to win.

Which I thought was stupid.

Granted, I have a sense of morality (somewhere…) and I do tend to have faith in my government, and in the people around me to do the right thing at the right time. Murder is wrong, being mildly rude to someone isn’t particularly acceptable, and I go to church.

All that kind of goes away as soon as I enter a fictional novel.

Books broaden perspectives, change the fabric of morality, philosophy, and science simply as the author sees fit. Gods can be created and destroyed, beauty designed and ugliness tempered. Murder becomes a goal, death is desire, blood is a must and it glitters like rubies on the floor. I expect to breathe in the injustice from the pages and absorb it and breathe it out like smoke.

I wanted them to win… Obviously, this league of gentlemen wasn’t perfect and in fact, with a couple of tweaks to the storyline, I could have easily foiled their plan from the comfort of my own living room.

But I wanted them to win, because they were still the heroes. Their evil was the good. And they disappointed me.

Sometimes I wish villains were real. Not because I don’t have a sense of morality, or because I think that their fundamental actions and beliefs are justified. Sometimes I simply wish that there were people like that—classy, with shiny shoes and tailored suits, neatly combed hair, secret lairs, massive danger, and ultimate calm. People who can do their evil right.

Of course, I should be careful what I wish for. Getting kidnapped by terrorists would probably be just as educational, but I doubt I’d enjoy it at all.

Baron Samedi
Flickr Credit: Julien CARTRY
And yet… Kananga, Nero, Rugen, the Darkling, Thorne, the list goes on and on. No matter how much you root for justice, you also have to root for these guys, because they are fantastic.

Take that, my poor league of gentlemen. You deserved what you got.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Gift of Language

A Gift

I have an awesome friend in Japan who sent me a Sherlock manga for Christmas. It’s beautiful, soft cover, and came in the mail with twelve stamps—I almost felt like I was getting mail from the Weasleys. I haven’t taken the time to start really looking at the book yet, but sometimes one has econ homework. Blast.

But, fun fact, I don’t speak Japanese, much less read it.

And yet, I’m still excited.

What I think sometimes we misunderstand about languages is that we assume they are foreign merely because we do not speak them. This is silly. Certainly, it’s not my native language. And yes, it originates from another country, revolves around a different culture than mine, including the different slang, customs, and representations of a place I’ve never been.

Somewhere, though, I don’t think it’s that foreign to me.

I think of the language I am actually learning. Español. Tomo una clase de AP en las tardes con ocho otros estudiantes para practicar el idioma por clases en el futuro, y, quizás, viajes a los países hispanohablantes. Durante el verano, fui a la España con mi padre, a Madrid y Barce. Es un país hermoso, pero siempre puedo retarme en mi casa, también. En el año pasado, compré mi libro favorito en inglés para leerlo en español: HIVE, Escuela de Malhechores.

No entendía la mayoría del cuento. No me importaba. Es posible que el cuento haya sido tan familiar, pero también, la otra lengua me trajo otros pensamientos. Dichos. Vocabulario. Una perspectiva diferente.

And sure, I assume you might not speak Spanish. That’s okay. There may have been words that stuck out to you because they sound the same in English. Futuro means future. Surprise! Clase means class, practicar means practice—you get that there are cognates.

I don’t speak Japanese, but I expect that somehow, it’s not going to matter, completely. I have the help of the Internet to take a look at introductory characters, and a friend who lives in Japan to boot. Even then, it’s a manga so there are pictures.

Someone has made a meaning for me; I merely have to find it.

Yes, I have gotten an awesome gift. And sure, I won’t know everything. But when I was speaking in Spanish, did you think I had abandoned you forever?

So, what’s one of the best gifts you’ve gotten, lately? And, what are you reading this week?