Archive for the ‘Books, ‘Cause I Likes ‘Em’ Category

With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes – An Unauthorised Guide To The Avengers Series 1

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Following their excellent The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, writers Richard McGinlay and Alan Hayes have gone even deeper into Avengers esoterica in With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes – An Unauthorised Guide to The Avengers Series 1. The book focuses on the production history of the lost season, detailing everything from how The Avengers began right through to Ian Hendry’s departure in the aftermath of an actors’ strike and the ascension of Patrick Macnee to the lead role. Drawing on information from scripts, other histories of The Avengers, star biographies, and production notes, the authors paint the most comprehensive picture yet of the lost season.

McGinlay and Hayes open their book with a detailed depiction of the inception of The Avengers, initially conceived as a showcase for star Ian Hendry after the folding of his short-lived drama Police Surgeon. The addition of Patrick Macnee as “undercover man” John Steed, Ingrid Hafner as Dr. Keel’s nurse and assistant Carol, and a slew of producers, directors, and writers would make The Avengers what it eventually became: a combination of British noir, spy show, and genre-defying pastiche. From the rather harried early days of the show (that included Macnee being told that his character, already undeveloped in scripts, was not developed enough), The Avengers quickly became a sort of British noir, permeated with underworld characters and almost-anti-heroes.

Following their in-depth discussion of the show’s birth, McGinlay and Hayes cover each episode in turn. They divide their discussion into smaller sections covering existing archive materials, a general plot synopsis, production, location, star/writer/director biographies, miscellanea, contemporary press/media coverage, and finally a “verdict” on the episode itself. The division works well to present the complexities of production in a fairly readable manner, allowing writers and readers to delve into the various issues and occasional anecdotes that permeated the show. Some of the episodes have a fascinating production history and the book does an admirable job of charting the ebbs and flows of characters and plots, with new emphasis on the parts that various writers and directors played in creating the show.

With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes is quite readable, an impressive feat for a book concerned with the missing episodes of a niche TV show. The production histories are fascinating, as are the individual bits of information about different episodes. Some episodes are more comprehensively covered than others, largely due to the availability of material, but every one is treated with interest and respect. Although I rarely enjoy looking into extensive production circumstances, I found the behind-the-scenes look into this series more interesting with each word.

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There are problems, however, mostly to do with the more critical and analytic aspects of the book. The authors have an unfortunate tendency to editorialize in the “verdict” sections of their episode overviews, providing small reviews of the episodes based upon available sources. The verdicts appear out of keeping with the otherwise scholarly and historically-minded book; what is more, they are assessments of episodes which the reader cannot hope to question or refute, as the only material presented in the book is of general plot synopses and production history (script excerpts are confined to the other McGinlay/Hayes book The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes). The reviews come off as an attempt to pass judgment on character actions in a series that no one has actually seen, with the reader in particular left faced with the authoritative statements of the authors over against no other ability to fully assess the episodes for themselves. It would have been more efficacious to provide a deeper critical analysis of episodes, based on extant information, rather than the limited reviews here. Having read The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes and watched the available materials, I am neither as enamored with Keel’s character as McGinlay and Hayes – in fact, I think they give the character far too much credit, and rather short shrift to the complexities of John Steed – nor do I share some of their assessments of the episodes or the characters. This is a critical disagreement only, but McGinlay and Hayes fail to support their reviews or assessments with in-depth analysis.

At times, it appears that the authors cannot decide whether they are writing a popular work or a serious scholarly investigation into the series – the effect is that some elements of the series appear to be elided over, while others (like the biographies of directors, writers, and actors) delved into with greater depth. At the same time, Hayes and McGinlay occasionally employ coy language in discussing the sexuality or violence present in The Avengers. I was particularly bothered by the use of phrases like “unable to come to terms with losing the woman he loved,” just prior to describing a director’s almost murderous attack on his former girlfriend, a director of programmes – an occurrence that caused a production delay on one episode. This sort of editorializing seemed an out of place and somewhat saccharine treatment of the story. That the authors are otherwise rather coy about their discussion of Steed’s “philandering” and relationships with women, as well as the darker sexual and violent aspects of the series, seems to bespeak an editorial inconsistency that sometimes mars episode discussions.

As with The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, we see no photographs or images (save for a few lovely drawings of our heroes by artist Shaqui Le Vesconte), which again makes some of the episodes and productions difficult to visualize. The unwillingness of the authors to provide more comprehensive plot synopses makes it equally difficult to fully assess the episodes as fictional productions. Granted that those synopses are in the earlier book, it would behoove the reader to have both books on hand. I would encourage the reader to purchase both With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes and The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, and read them in tandem with each other to get a more complete picture of the season.

Finally, there is the matter of the appendices. Hayes and McGinlay have thought it fit to include an examination of several unproduced scripts for The Avengers, as well as discussions of “later” adventures of Steed and Keel, including comic strips that appeared in the 1960s and a later novel from the 90s. While the unproduced stories are fascinating, I cannot quite get behind the inclusion of a rather in-depth discussion of Too Many Targets, the novel by John Peel and Dave Rogers. Not only does it have little to do with a “guide to Series 1,” it really should be forgotten by the annals of time as a rather paltry form of fan fiction (of which there is also a plethora available on the Internet). If an appendix was absolutely necessary for this book, the authors might have been better served by covering the adaptations of the existing scripts in the Big Finish productions, if just a general overview of that resurrection attempt.

My objections to this book, however, are vastly outweighed by the positives. To my knowledge there has not been a more in-depth discussion of the first season of The Avengers, and certainly not one as accessible and interesting. Once more, McGinlay and Hayes paint a comprehensive picture of this season, giving us invaluable insight into the harried early years of a show that would eventually influence everything from James Bond to Marvel comics. As with The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, I found myself longing for the original productions, to see Steed and Keel rushing through London, tackling underworld characters, drinking gallons of Scotch, and grappling with all the excitement and danger that live television could offer. As it is, we can only imagine what it all looked like – but With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes goes a long way to fueling that imagination.

Both The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes and With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes can be purchased via the following links:

Lulu: The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes

Hidden Tiger: The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, With Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes

Amazon: The Strange Case of the Missing EpisodesWith Umbrella, Scotch and Cigarettes

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The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes (Book Review)

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Seldom do I attempt book reviews on this blog, but this is a special exception because it relates to The Avengers and my ongoing obsession with that strange, sometimes confusing, and always interesting show. Season 1 of The Avengers has long been a difficult nut to crack. All that remains of that season in watchable form are two and a third episodes – one of which that does not even feature the two lead characters of the show. With such limited material, it’s nearly impossible to consider the season as a whole, despite being the foundations on which every subsequent permutation of the show was based. So it is a fine and wonderful thing to come across The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, which attempts to fill at least some of the gaps in that first year.

Editors Alan Hayes, Alys Hayes, and Richard McGinlay gather together all the existent information on that first series, episode by episode. Using available camera scripts, plot synopses, and tele-snaps, they attempt to put together as complete a picture of each individual episode as possible. Following a brief introduction that explains why the first season is largely missing (and what we can do if we happen to have a copy of those original lost episodes), the authors dive into the thick of the season itself. The episodes that have existing scripts are the most well-developed reads, with extensive excerpts of dialogue and stage direction in the midst of the plot synopses. Other episodes for which no scripts or even complete synopses are available are harder to comprehend, but Hayes and McGinlay have done an excellent job of piecing together information to produce a basic synopsis, act by act. Some episodes require a leap of faith on the part of the writers, as they describe plot elements that might or might not be included – but even these are always footnoted with information about how the writers came to their conclusions, and where they simply made educated guesses on plot development and complications.

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The book is interesting and remarkably easy to read, an opportunity to experience the first season first-hand with minimal editorial interference. The characters of Keel and Steed are sharply drawn in the synopses and scripts – Keel in particular is fascinating, as we have so little of Hendry’s actual performance as a reference point. The nascent aspects of Steed are also present; though not, unfortunately, the development that Patrick Macnee himself gave the character. It is a revelation to see where the “undercover man” came from, knowing where he went. These episodes are much more noir in tone and characterization than later Avengers incarnations, though there are the occasional bizarre plots, weird secondary characters, and diabolical masterminds that will feature in later seasons. Many of these episodes are darker in tone than anything that even in the Gale period, with Steed and Keel doing battle against vice rings, assassination attempts, and organized thugs. There is a healthy dose of humor in most, however, mostly provided by our dynamic duo. One can see the development both of the characters themselves, and their relationship, with Keel usually strenuously objecting to Steed’s apparent callousness and tendency to use people to his own ends, while Steed blithely goes on his way, playing the hero. The least interesting episodes, for my money, are the ones that remove one partner, leaving the other to his own devices.

Unfortunately for the reader, The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes includes none of the tele-snaps or images from the original productions, which would have strengthened the experience of reading original scripts from a television show. This can hardly be laid at the door of the writers, as obtaining rights to these images is a complicated and expensive endeavor, but it’s a shame nonetheless (many images can be seen, albeit watermarked, on the Rex Features website and on The Avengers Dissolute website). Not included in the book are the two full existing episodes The Frighteners and Girl on a Trapeze – this also seems like an oversight, as their presence would have at least been helpful in painting a complete picture of the season (although it is understandable that the authors would not want to include two episodes that we can watch for ourselves).

There is really very little to object to in The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, and then it is mostly nitpicking. It gives the most complete picture of each episode now possible, and in many cases had me longing for a real look at the original shows. Take my advice: avoid the overpriced and poorly cast Big Finish productions that attempt (and fail) to give us a taste of the original Avengers. Jut The Strange Case of the Missing Episodes, and try to imagine Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry running around subterranean London in pursuit of dastardly spies and dangerous criminals. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted on this blog, mostly because I’m very popular and important.  By which I mean I had a job (YAY!) and have been writing for two other websites (Man I Love Films and newly with We Got This Covered, so check ’em out!) But this post is gonna be all personal and a wee bit snarky and very swear-y, so bear with me.

I have before expressed my sentiments that writers need to get some fucking balls, but I feel like it’s been more than confirmed.  My God, we do complain a lot! It’s either that the world doesn’t understand us, that the world doesn’t want us, or that we can’t write, we have writer’s block, we’re not good enough.  On and on and fucking on.  I cannot tell you how many articles and blog posts I’ve read that basically apologize and run-down their authors.  It’s one thing to be self-deprecating.  It’s another to be a fucking whinger.  What gets me the most is how often we apologize for being writers.  We’re embarrassed by it, we think that we’re posers.  And y’know what? It’s our fucking fault.

Yes, it’s difficult to get people to take you seriously when you’re asked what you do and say ‘I’m a writer’.  A lot of people don’t know what to do with that.  They think it means you sit around doing nothing all day and call it work.  Try telling someone you’re working on a novel and wait for that mixture of condescension and confusion to suffuse their face.  Wait for them to begin asking you ‘how’s that working out?’ Or saying, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’  It’s easy to start getting defensive, to start excusing yourself by saying things like, ‘Well, I also work at a cafe’ or ‘Oh, I’m applying for other jobs.’  To start explaining that you’re a writer but you’re not really a writer.  You do something else too.  Something legitimate.

We need to stop apologizing.  It’s difficult enough to spend days indoors typing away at a book that might never see the light of day, but then we APOLOGIZE for it? We make excuses to people who don’t believe that trying to be creative for five hours a day is work? Yes, it is work.  And it’s work that, more often than not, we don’t get paid for.  We want to — believe me, we do! — but we don’t.  All we can do is keep trying, keep hoping and, above all, keep writing.

I’m no longer embarrassed to tell people that I’m working on a novel.  I’m not particularly frightened to explain what it’s about, or that I write for two websites and my own blog and was just employed teaching others how to write.  I’ll likely have to get yet another job to pay the bills, to move from home, to do all the other things I want to do.  I know that perfectly well.  I’m aware of the difficulty of what I want to do for a living.  I’m aware that there’s a good chance that I’ll fail at it.  But it does no good to be embarrassed.  Writing is what I do, that’s what I want to do, and it’s probably what I will always do.

It’s time to own what we do.  Artists in general don’t get a great deal of respect, but we must learn to stop running ourselves down.   We cannot be embarrassed by saying that we’re writers.  It says a lot more about us than it does about the culture.  Why are we afraid? Because it’s not respectable? It’s not a real job? You know that it’s a real job, you know how tough it is.  So own it.  You’re a writer.  If someone doesn’t get it, you know what? Fuck them.

Ok, I’m all kinds of excited.  After much to-do, my short story ‘The Last Waltz of Witchery Row’ has appeared in RuneWright Publishing’s latest steampunk anthology, Penny Dread Tales Volume Two (yes, that is the greatest title for an anthology ever).  Editor Christopher Ficco has done a great job with this one.  The stories are all good fun and excellent examples of steampunk; that’s not just shameless self-promotion.

This, however, is:

Yep, that’s me, fourth story down.  So, the book is now available on Amazon, in print right now, and I believe will be more widely available in various ebook formats before long.  This is a small press and needs plenty of support … and besides, I want people to read my story.  So there.

Like Mark Twain (woot for not at all obscure literary references!) rumors of the novel’s death have been exaggerated.  It has endured for over two centuries now as the most popular form of English literature.  It survived the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars, the Atomic Bomb, even postmodernism.  But like all artistic mediums, it has been threatened time and time again.  The novel was going to kill theatre and poetry (both of which are like cockroaches and likely to survive a nuclear holocaust).  Then cinema was going to kill the novel.  Television came next.  Now, the Internet, ebooks and the decline of the printed word.  The supposed decline of the printed word.  Because the printed word still exists, it’s just more likely to be found on a computer screen than on paper.

The New York Times last week (still kicking and screaming their way into the digital age) published a rather confusing and not terribly informative article entitled ‘Why Write Novels at All?’ Despite the author’s apparent inability to form coherent paragraphs (I do so hope he does not intend to write a novel), the question seemed to be an interesting one.  Why indeed? Why should anyone want to write a novel?

Well, for starters, it’s an idiotic question.  Isn’t that sort of like asking why anyone should want to paint a picture, make a movie, play an instrument, compose a concerto? Because some human beings are fueled by art and artistic endeavors, even when those endeavors are not perhaps as elegant as the true greats.  Why write a novel?  Because it’s fun, you unconscionable dingbat.

But more importantly, why the novel? Why do we so venerate, worship, and respect a medium invented several centuries ago as an alternative to theatre and poetics? We like to tell each other stories, yes, but the form of the novel itself does not require us to tell stories in exactly that way.  As far as I can tell, those of us who write often write novels because we have yet to discover (or be offered) an alternative.

There seems to be a quiet desperation at work among the more famous/popular/self-satisfied novelists of our day.  As though the novel were on the brink of destruction and will fall apart unless held together by the few, the happy few, so privileged as to produce not just any novel, but GREAT novels (because, you know, anyone outside of the literary establishment cannot hope to contribute anything worthwhile to the cultural zeitgeist).  Well, I ask you: if the novel were to die, would we really lose that much?

Human beings will not stop writing.  We will not stop making up stories to tell to one another.  We have been doing it since we first crawled out of the primordial ooze and we are likely to carry on doing it until we crawl back again.  But the form of the novel is not so sacred as to not permit a change, a shift.  Perhaps the form of the future will be multimedia, a combination of words, sounds, even images that are weaved together on our little ebook readers.  Films, but not quite films.  Books, but not quite books.  Or perhaps our newest form of storytelling will be something we have yet to even consider, even imagine.  If the novel were to vanish, as a form, tomorrow (like epic poetry or verse plays), we would not lose what came before.  We would only move on.

If I sound snarky, it’s because I am angry.  I’m angry at the New York Times for being so complacent, so blasé, and so ill-informed.  I am angry at the literary establishment for pretending there is only one way of doing things, and that’s the way that many argue was perfected in the mid-19th Century.  Have we not moved on from the Victorian era by now? Well, no, we haven’t.  We still stick to the same dull form of the three volume novel, only we have the gall to pretend that certain ones are great art and that all others are so much tree pulp.  We continue to do things the same way because that’s the way they’ve been done for centuries.  And we balk at the concept that literature can change; indeed, must change, if it is to remain a viable art form.

So, let encomiums be written for the novel.  Let us mourn the decline of a great art form.  And then let us pick ourselves up, leave the old school behind, and move forward, into the great unknown.  The stories will still be there.

After some cajoling, a little bit of lying, and overcoming my natural aversion to things that are recommended to me by others, I finally read  David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  Having conquered Gravity’s Rainbow under extreme duress last year, Wallace’s ginormous tome seemed the natural step.  It’s spectacular, it’s amazing; the Decemberists based a music video on one of the scenes! Well, it is pretty big.  And a lot does happen, not all of it coherent.  But I am of two minds on this one.

Wallace certainly had a deft touch and was capable of making even banal events seem fascinating.  He dedicates huge swaths of the book to characters that never appear again, or only have a slight effect on the plot.  Whole scenes and subplots are introduced only to be summarily dismissed.  Figures who seem initially under drawn come back 500 pages later and the reader who has managed to pay attention feels somewhat rewarded for her efforts.  I am incapable, however, of not comparing this book to the other great post-modernist novels; i.e. to Thomas Pynchon, Cormac McCarthy, even American Psycho.  And what I conclude, the more I consider it, is not that Wallace is a bad writer (he’s not) nor that he’s overrated (he isn’t) but rather … well … it’s been done.

I don’t mean that anyone else has ever attempted to write a 1000 page book involving a tennis academy, a dead filmmaker, and a halfway house, among others; I mean that Wallace’s whole project simply smacks of overwriting.  I was about 150 pages into it when I suddenly realized that either this was the most brilliant book ever ever, or it was needlessly verbose.  Long-winded, if you will.  I happen to love ridiculously long books — I figure that I’m getting my money’s worth.  And I enjoy getting involved in the ups and downs of characters over several hundred pages.  If a book is good, how much better to get to spend lots of time on it? I’ve read almost all of Charles Dickens for that very reason.

My problem with Wallace is that I’m not convinced he’s as good as he’s supposed to be.  For all its circuitous nature, Infinite Jest is still a pretty standard, easy-to-follow book.  It does not take you on a roundabout journey through the contemporary moment — in fact, it’s already quite dated.  The technology has stopped in the early nineties, when the book was written, although it is set in the future.  The extensive examination of drugs and drug usage has been done so much, in movies, books and articles, that it feels quite tired.  And that is perhaps why, for me, the book ultimately fails to rise up to the status of a great work of literature.  Gravity’s Rainbow is set in WWII and was published in 1973, but it still resonates.  It’s a novel of apocalypse, of human folly and deconstruction.  It is long and confusing and packed with references real and imagined.  Love it or hate it, it is still a mindfuck.

I would not argue that a book has to be complex or almost impossible to comprehend in order to be great.  But I do think it has to transcend its time period.  Novels I consider great (War and Peace, Gravity’s Rainbow, Bleak House, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, A Confederacy of Dunces, Slaughter-House 5, to name a few) are all of their times, but they ultimately move past their times.  They do not merely attempt to define a moment or a generation — in fact, they do not seem to make it their project to define anything.  They are novels of humanity, stories that strike to the heart of what it means to a human being and do so with humor, tragedy, pathos, cynicism.  I felt curiously disconnected from Infinite Jest.  I admired the writing, but I did not feel connected to it.  It was being told a story that no longer felt relevant.

I don’t really want to set up any author as more worthy of admiration than Wallace … but I’m going to anyways.  Tristan Egolf is from the same generation, and operated in much the same milieu (and like Wallace, he committed suicide).  But to me there is more depth to the few books he completed than in all 1000 pages of Infinite Jest.  He’s unique; his characters are Amish werewolves and punk-addled teenagers with shotguns.  Lord of the Barnyard has no dialogue; Kornwolf occupies a lot of space in describing the experience of listening to punk music.  The novels are edgy, insane grotesqueries, breaking most conventions and totally annihilating others.  The author, like his characters, simply does not give a fuck.  Egolf writes like the end of the world is near.  And the only thing to do is to go out in a blaze of adrenaline-fueled glory.  I must admit, that’s something I can get behind.

Anyways, here’s a music video:

Zappy, zappy.

I hate Harry Potter.  Yes, hate is a strong word, particularly to level at a popular series of novels.  But I do.  I thank God that the last movie is FINALLY coming out.  This will be a diatribe.  I apologize in advance.

I do not know why I hate Harry Potter.  How can I? The books are very popular and well-written…to a point.  I will only concede ‘to a point’.  At the very least they have inspired people to read, which is always good, particularly children.  And fandom is something I can get behind.  I love Ghostbusters and I have friends who are obsessed with Lord of the Rings, comic books, video games, novels, etc, etc.  I have no problem with that.  I get obsessed too, usually over very esoteric things.  To object to that would be the pot calling the kettle, as it were.  So why do I hate Harry Potter? What has he ever done to me?

Well, he’s invaded my cinema, for one thing.  I believe that that was the start of my vitriol.  Before the movies began intruding on my life, I simply did not care about Harry Potter.  I don’t know if I was too young or too old or simply more interested in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to care about wizards.  When the first book came out I was eleven years old and obsessed with Sherlock Holmes.  So I never read the books as a child.  But I have seen the movies.  And even my most Potter-y friends admit: those kids Can.  Not.  Act.  They still can’t act.  Daniel Radcliffe has all the personality of a wet towel; Emma Watson has almost as many expressions as Mr. Potato Head; Rupert Grint whines and whines and whines.  This might be a fault of the source material, of course, or of the scripts.  Regardless, it’s positively grating to watch them on screen.

And what of the Aging British Thespians Brigade? Alan Rickman! Maggie Smith! Richard Harris! Gary Oldman! Ralph Fiennes! Emma Thompson! If you weren’t in Lord of the Rings, you got your chance in Harry Potter.  I love all those actors.  Rickman particularly seems to be enjoying himself immensely, but then he always does.  Every time he talks with one of the kids, I only hear ‘I’m Alan Rickman.  And you’re not.’  Which is fun.  It cannot carry a movie, much less a franchise, but it is fun.

The fact is that the movies are really only supplements to the books.  It’s impossible to follow them without having a serious knowledge of each novel in turn.  As I came to the movies first, perhaps that was my problem.  I was hopelessly confused most of the time.  With the possible exception of whichever film was directed by Alfonso Cuaron*, the movies are fairly dreadful, confused and confusing.  I am of the opinion that cinema should be able to stand on its own, and the Harry Potter movies do not.  So perhaps that is the source of my antipathy.  Like everyone else, I cannot divorce the books from the films any longer and the Films.  Suck.  That is my highly thought out critical opinion born of two years at film school.  They suck.

But even this does not suffice.  Because, the truth is, I should like Harry Potter.  I should like the idea of wizards and good versus evil and betrayal and all that.  I might even be persuaded to endure teenage angst.  I was an angsty teenager once.  I once felt like the world did not understand my intrinsic greatness, like I must be a wizard in disguise.  I love outsiders and rebels and grand adventures.  I should really have no problem with Harry Potter.  And yet…

I can analyze some of the sources of my intense dislike.  The books seem derivative, combining elements of Lord of the Rings, Greek and Roman mythology, folktales and old British traditions, not to mention the ever-present Christ story.  But then so do most books; everyone takes their inspiration from somewhere.  Perhaps it’s that the inspiration comes close to simply lifting whole subplots and characters from other places.

The Christ angle bothers me too.  Maybe I’m just sick of the ‘One who will save humanity (or wizardry) by sacrificing himself for…whatever’.  The Christ story has been done, over and over and over, so that whenever I hear those dreaded words (often phrased differently, but with the same purpose) ‘You are the one…’ I actually cringe.  The world is always coming to an end.  A hero must rise.  Again.  For the hundredth time.

Maybe I’m tired of good vs. evil narratives when we’re living in a world where that simply does not cut it anymore.  To separate characters into good and bad nowadays seems dull, simplistic, and potentially damaging.  Rather than understanding differences, we seek to vilify them.  Rather than examining the darkness and the light within every human being, we draw a dividing line.  We still do it, despite all evidence to the contrary in this world.  Despite the shades of grey.

I know that we need those kinds of narratives, if only to keep our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.  That was one of the sources of my adoration of Sherlock Holmes: he was the voice of reason and goodness in a terrifying world.  But he was also complex, not always nice, and sometimes not even right.  He believed in the rule of justice, not necessarily law.  I would never argue for always turning the world on its head, for always giving the villains the upper hand, for the defeat of the good guys.  I am not really all that cynical when it comes to humanity.  I believe that all human beings are intrinsically good.  I believe that the human capacity for good is greater than the human capacity for evil.  But I find it dull when it is all made so simplistic, so derivative, so easy to define.

I am a hypocrite.  I have not made an exhaustive study of Harry Potter and I am probably glossing over all sorts of complexities that make those books so popular.  So, I will tone down my language: I do not hate Harry Potter.  I  intensely dislike Harry Potter.  I don’t really know why.  Maybe I’m just contrary.  Maybe I’m a curmudgeon at the age of 24.  Maybe I should give the books another chance.  Perhaps it would change my mind.  I doubt it.  Good for Rowling for creating a character that so many people seem to love and identify with.  But I just can’t.

That said, I kind of want to see the last film.  I want to see Rickman sneer one more time.  I’m just not certain if it’s worth an 8 pound ticket.

*I thought it was Guillermo del Toro.  Thanks, Jon Morris, for pointing out the error.  Maybe it was wishful thinking on my part.*