- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Green screen

“Marvel Comics is now — unarguably — the leading source of today’s cultural myths. After the recent pulp-to-screen, large-scale adaptations of ‘Spider-Man,’ Daredevil,’ ‘X-Men’ and now ‘Hulk,’ Marvel has ‘changed our ways of presenting human nature, if not human nature itself.’ That quote comes from scholar Harold Bloom’s summary of Shakespeare’s Western pre-eminence, but it also describes Hollywood’s grave reliance on Marvel-esque special f/x fantasy.

“Enter Ang Lee, the most humorless of acclaimed contemporary filmmakers, always hankering for the ‘intelligent’ and ‘tasteful’ — which now includes the appreciation of graphic novels as the popular measure of human experience. If some preview audiences were disappointed by Lee’s ‘Hulk,’ it’s only because they don’t realize what it means. Lee officially elevates their low-brow pop icon to middle-brow status — and dryness. …

“Lee is a no-fun filmmaker. … He’s an adult. But attempting pop iconography with absolutely no panache is just arrogant.”

Armond White, writing on “Mean Green,” in the June 25 issue of New York Press

A few good men

“One of my own favorite instances of war-reporting idiocy was NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten’s statement on March 21 — exactly one day after troops crossed the Kuwait border into Iraq — that ‘if the war is still going on a week from now, that will be a bad sign.’ Priceless. Here is a guy who I’m willing to bet has never won a fistfight, never mind a battle, telling Americans that if it takes more than a week to subdue a nation bigger than the entire northeastern United States, that constitutes failure. …

“One must ask where this kind of negativity toward soldiers operating in difficult circumstances comes from. The answer is: from the inchoate anti-military suspicion that is permanently in the air in most editorial suites. …

“Yet few of the reporters I observed did much to earn the trust of the fighting men they were writing about. … During my Iraq sojourn, I observed media folk passing far too much time hobnobbing with fellow reporters, mocking military mores in snide jokes, chafing at the little disciplines required by the military’s life-and-death work …

“If you want to file accurate and illuminating stories, a lot more homework and humility toward your subject are called for. Especially on this subject — because few reporters know much about the fighting life. Worse, many show scant respect for the fighter’s virtues. Many of the journalists embedded among U.S. forces with whom I crossed paths were fish out of water … clinging to their world of offices and tattle and chatter where they could feel less ineffective, less testosterone deficient, more influential.

Karl Zinsmeister, writing on “Jayson Blair’s World, and Iraq,” in the July/August issue of American Enterprise

Cool Blue Ribbon

“Pabst Blue Ribbon — PBR, as fans call it — is currently enjoying a highly unlikely comeback. In 2002, sales of the beer, which had been sinking steadily since the 1970s, actually rose 5.3 percent. It is endorsed in ‘The Hipster Handbook’ … and is popping up in trendy bars from [San Franciscos] Mission District to [Manhattans] Lower East Side. Sales in Chicago are up 134 percent. …

“The most interesting theory is that PBR’s fan base grew not despite the lack of marketing support, but because of it. The beer industry as a whole spends about $1 billion a year to pitch its product. … Long-neglected PBR had no image. It was just there. …

“The trend-explaining industry has mostly framed the rise of PBR as part of an alleged ‘retro-chic’ movement. … One zeitgeist-meister has even suggested that PBR drinkers were inspired by the blue-collar heroes of September 11.”

Rob Walker, writing on “The Marketing of No Marketing,” in the June 22 New York Times Magazine

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