Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Greatest hits

Darn shame there's no actual feature film to go along with this 4-minute montage:

And thus no way we are likely to see more of this live-action version of a classic comic panel anytime soon:

Darn shame indeed.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Today in superhero news...

1. Learned of Alex Toth's recent death from both Johnny Bacardi and Warren Ellis. Toth's site contains all sorts of goodies, the most intriguing of which I've found so far are the galleries devoted to working notes for Space Ghost back before his talk show days (you even get to see what his head looks like under his mask!) and detailed reflections on some of his classic works, including this annotated guide to his most famous Batman story, "Death Flies the Haunted Sky."

Between Space Ghost and the Super-Friends, Toth's TV work in the late 60s and early 70s picked up where the Adam West series left off, as far as bringing out the pervert in me, so I owe him an awful lot. He was a master of idealized masculinity--barrel chests, massive arms, blank facial expressions--and his imagery provided me with much pleasure, let's say, during my troubled adolescence. I've always wondered what he thought about the Adult Swim revamps of his creations; perhaps the answer is contained among the vast samples of his writing and interviews archived on the site.

2. From Boing Boing, a link to this contest sponsored by calling for images photoshopping superheroes into classic works of art. like so:

Way too many amusing and/or striking (and sometimes sexy) candidates to name: you get Superman (and, elsewhere, Batman) Descending a Staircase, the Flash posing for Caravaggio (now, he's the one who belongs in a Duchamp parody!), Green Lantern going rococo, and so much more.

3. From Wired (by way of Boing Boing again), an article co-written by Neil Gaiman on the myth of Superman. Here's a taste:

"Other heroes are really only pretending: Peter Parker plays Spider-Man; Bruce Wayne plays Batman. For Superman, it’s mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent that’s the disguise – the thing he aspires to, the thing he can never be. He really is that hero, and he’ll never be one of us. But we love him for trying. We love him for wanting to protect us from everything, including his own transcendence. He plays the bumbling, lovelorn Kent so that we regular folks can feel, just for a moment, super."

(As it turns out, that's a pretty decent explanation for why I don't find Supes as interesting as those other two. He's too perfect, and his impersonation of a mere mortal is annoying.)

What I do find interesting is a certain tome Gaiman mentions: Alvin Schwartz's An Unlikely Prophet: A Metaphysical Memoir by the Legendary Writer of Superman and Batman, which Gaiman calls "one of the great Odd Books of our time." From the back cover:

"Superman, as it turns out, is also a tulpa, a being created by thought that takes on a life of its own and, in Mr. Schwartz’s words, is an archetype expressing the sense of nonlocality that is always present in the back of our minds--the capacity to be everywhere instantly. Superman is one of the specific forms that embodies our reality when we’re at our highest point, when we’re truly impermeable, indestructible, totally concentrated, and living entirely in the now, a condition each of us actually attains from time to time."

I'm sold.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Knight After 8: Dark Knight of the Soul

Another fortune cookie I came across shortly after the other one I've mentioned:


Laugh if you will, but I take my signs from the universe in any form I find them, even edible. And I take the Monk now not as my adversary, my captor, or even my master, but as my teacher. Clearly, I learn new things from every stage of my encounters with him.

As I've noted, I was really looking forward to my new role as his slave, but he seems to have something else in mind for me now--serving him not at his feet, but as his side, as he recently put it. The specific position surely matters less than the fact that I have gradually come to acknowledge his unique role in my journey as a hero. (I don't actually like to refer to my character that way--certainly not after some of the things I did in my Ratman days--but it's still a useful term in the broader sense.)

I think I've already mentioned my ongoing quest to find writing that links fetish play, and BDSM in general, to a larger spiritual realm, and one of the most useful discoveries I've made thus far is the blog A Slave's Path, the journal of a heterosexual man who seems to be interested in a lot of the same concerns I am, though he manifests them in a different way. (On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've also been enjoying Master Enigma's Thoughts.) From Path I've found several interesting resources, beginning with the author's very personal essay on BDSM and Spirituality. The whole thing is excellent, but I'll just quote a few passages that hit home for me:

"The truth is that many of the things I seek through religion have in fact been coming to me through BDSM. ... BDSM has helped to make me a more compassionate, understanding person. Nowhere has my quest of self-knowledge been more important, or more difficult, than in coming to grips with who and what I really am in a world which distorts that truth almost beyond recognition. The difficulties I have had make it much easier for me to understand and sympathize with other people who are going through similar struggles themselves. ...

"BDSM has made me stronger. It challenges me constantly, physically, intellectually, and emotionally. It challenges me to endure suffering and to face fears. It challenges me to understand and accept my own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. With every challenge that I meet I become stronger and more confident. ..."
And so on--really, there's so much more, and I can relate to almost every single word of it, but rather than cut and paste, I'll just direct you to the original.

At the bottom of that essay, there's a link to this essay by a psychotherapist on "Masochism as a Spiritual Path." Once again, the whole thing is enlightening, but I can't resist sharing a few excerpts.

"Whereas psychology considered masochism as a disease, pre-nineteenth century religion regarded it as a cure," writes author Dorothy C. Hayden. "The ancients were in touch with the spiritual, physical and emotional value of masochism. For them, it was an essential part of reality; a combination of the soul in a tortured state, rapturous delight, exquisite pain and unbearable passion that brought them closer to experiencing union with something greater than their individual egos."

That general thesis is illustrated with a quick survey of several religious traditions. After spelling out the masochistic elements of these, she explores the connection in more detail:

"The goals of contemporary psychotherapy have been aimed at building strong, coping, rational, problem-solving egos. Take responsibility, Take control. Assert yourself. But at what cost? Building a strong ego is only one side of the coin. To experience the fullness of human experience, we need passivity and receptivity as well as assertion. We need a sense of mystical wonder as well as rational problem solving. We need to be in touch with what the psychoanalyst Carl Jung called'"the shadow' -- the weak, limited, degraded, sinful side of ourselves as well as the strong, loving, compassionate, competent side. We need to move out from under the onus of our egocentric way of viewing life; to abdicate control as well as to take it. Masochistic submission, in centering on lack, inadequacy and weakness, puts us in touch with the entirety of our humanity. Full humanity requires surrender to the down side of life as well as the upside. ...

"A scene strips the ego of its defenses, ambitions, self-consciousness and successes. The ego become subservient to the master, the dominant, the soul, or God. Whether we call it submission to the dominant or to the will of God, it nevertheless remains submission -- one of the hallmarks of the masochistic posture. The masochistic components -- the longing to serve, to submit, to abandon oneself sexually, emotionally, and physically makes one a slave either to a man, a woman or to God. Submission to that passion is divine degradation. ...

"In submission, one is taken out of one's personal limitations and transcends social sanctions while at the same time being reduced, weakened and humiliated. With noses pressed against the ever-present reality of human suffering, it is both an agonizing defeat and a magnificent spiritual journey."

Agonizing defeat, magnificent journey: I can't think of a better four-word summary of what I've been experiencing thus far. Here's to further chapters!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Land o' plenty

Q: How is it that I have never seen ...

... this cool cover, or this one:

A: Because I never knew about ...

... this amazing archive of DC comics covers until now. Not just hundreds of Batman-related issues but countless other titles as well--from characters I've always known and loved ...

... to some I just might want to get to know a little better:

(Starting to notice a theme here, Sherlock? I couldn't decide which of two covers for this guy was the hotter one, so what the hell--here's option B, too:)

Next question?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Calling Captain America

Sadly, work in the daylight world has kept me from posting here lately; there's plenty to say, especially on the Monk front, but that takes energy I don't have at the moment. So instead I'll just post a quick bit about Godlike, a superhero roleplaying game I stumbled upon through some web surfing a while back. (I think I was doing a Google search for stuff about connections between comics and spirituality, although this doesn't really seem to have much to do with either.) The setting is World War II, and I believe the premise has something to do with superpowered "Talents" (read; "Marvels"/Watchmen/JLA/the Authority) fighting the major battles of the day.

Just to be clear, I have no intention of ever exploring this thing, but if I were the sort of person to play games like this, this is one I'd probably want to play, doncha think?

Anybody know anything more about it?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's new, pussycat?

Wildcat, shirt on:

and shirt off (love the fact that he washes his suit while he showers, just like me!):

Two great tastes that taste great together.

(Thanks, Dorian and Trusty Sidekicks.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Knight After 7: Sympathy for the Devil

News of the most recent phase of my ongoing evolution as Batman has not gone over well with my colleagues, to put it mildly. One close ally won't talk to me, another plans to turn me over to the police, and a third greets my rebirth with "disappointment ... and excitement." I still haven't heard from two other crimefighting associates, but I doubt either of them will take it too cheerfully either.

I've been called insane, a traitor, a puppet, and worse—and this is all from my close (virtual) friends. They don't seem willing to make the same leap of faith I've taken and reenvision my worst enemy as my greatest teacher. In their eyes, I've abandoned my mission; from my perspective, I've zeroed in on it.

As I see it, I haven't "crossed over" to "the dark side" at all; I've merely acknowledged the darkness which has always been a part of me--particularly this part of me, the part that even in the brightest of times emerges in the wee hours of the night dressed in a jet-black costume to pursue imaginary villains. I'm doing this in order to become the best Batman I can possibly be. It took me a good 25 years or so to realize that my superhero-fetish fantasies did not make me a monster, and another 10 or so to transform that former "monster"-self into a friend and ally. You could even, if you wanted, propose that this newest phase involves allowing a little monstrousness back into the picture.

Except that's not quite accurate, either, because I don't view collaborating with the Monk as monstrous. For me, it's all about ebb and flow, about thinking of myself not as either a hero or a villain (/top or bottom/master or slave), but a combination of the two, or rather a character whose contradictions coexist in a workable synthesis. Just as I learned to transform my own batself from a monster into a teacher, now I am trying to do the same with my understanding of the Monk.

Shortly before this latest chapter in the saga began, I came across this passage from The Picture of Dorian Gray (delivered, I should point out, by the faintly Monklike character of Lord Henry, who is Dorian's personal guide into the darkness):

"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal ... But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. .... We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the greatest events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. ..."

Funny thing: when I first noted Wilde's words of wisdom, I related them to the advice my hero colleagues used to give me in escaping the Monk: indulge the fantasies he stirred up in me, but find a safe outlet for those inclinations--i.e., not him but them. I discovered through trial and error how right they were--but that was then, this is now, and "escape" is no longer the point. Now I see that if I yearn so powerfully to walk on the wild side, there is no better travelling companion than the character who best embodies for me all of its wildness.

(I've been studying some other texts in the intervening weeks that are even more directly related to the subject at hand, but I'll save them for a future post. Chew on that one for the time being, and then we'll move on.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Everybody knows heroes wear their underwear on the outside...

Thank you, Boing Boing, for alerting me to these instructions for turning a pair of Batman underoos into a wallet.

Hmmm: creative new uses for skivvies... Brings back such ... happy ... memories...

(On a related note, behold these answers to an age-old question I've never bothered to ponder. I mean, if you have to ask...)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Knight After 6: My Life as a Slave

Okay, that title is a bit misleading. This isn't about slavery at all--but I've been wanting to use that phrase for so long, and now's my chance.

During one of my "welcome home" chats with the Monk, I asked him how he now thought of me: as his student, his partner, his slave, some of the above, or all of the above. His answer was "some of the above," and, predictably, he refused to elaborate.

But the question got me thinking: How do I now think of myself in relation to him? All three of those options hold some appeal, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to think of a new phrase that seemed even more accurate: voluntary servitude. An oxymoron, perhaps, but one that felt just right.

Two things seemed clear about this world-turned-upside-down:
1. The Monk has the upper hand at all times, and
2. I have returned to him by my own free will.

The first of those seems incontestable to me; as I've come to discover over the last couple of years, being broken tends to have some longterm effects. In the first, adversarial stages of our relationship, M successfully stripped away every defense I had against him. I could never defeat him; the best I could do was escape. And within days of resuming contact with him a week and a half ago or so, I found myself more compliant than ever--happily so, this time around. Now that I've abandoned any form of resistance to him, I realize that his long-ago promise to "own" me--"mind, body, and soul"--is the most exciting fantasy I can think of. The mere thought of his dominance over me is enough to give me a stiffie that lasts for hours. It occured to me that even if his newfound friendly face turned out to be a trick, I had nothing to lose, because either way, I want to serve him.

Which leads me to the second, and far trickier, of my two core propositions. In the old scenario, I was a captive, a prisoner, a victim of brainwashing. Now none of those terms apply; I'm here by choice, and there is no thought of "escape" because I no longer have anything from which to flee. There's no cage this time--except my own mind, as M would say.

Gone, too, is the loathsome old nickname of "Ratman." Served its purpose, and now it's back to all things bat--the name, the uniform, even the mission of nocturnal avenger. M used to say he would break me down and build me back up--that the new improved Batman would be his creation. Took me a while to figure out what he meant by that, but it's begun to sink in by now.

By the same token, I realize that just as the Monk created "Batman," so too have I created "the Monk": I gave him that name, and with it a sort of mask and costume (metaphorically speaking) that he did not previously have. Symbiosis.

Back to voluntary servitude: as it stands now, I eagerly await each new lesson I learn from M, where not too long ago I used to dread seeing him around. (You may be wondering what those lessons consist of, and I can only say this: the ones he wants me to talk about, I'll describe here in great detail. When I sense that someone who might be reading these words should not know what's in store for him, mum's the word. That's how I handled the Mad Hatter, who has been dealt with quite successfully now. The threat he posed to Batman is over, and the potential he presents to the Monk and me is just beginning to be explored.)

Ironically, now that I've opened myself up to the once-forbidden fantasy of enslavement, I realize that that particular metaphor no longer applies to the current situation. I seem to be far more intrigued by terms like ownership and property than M is, these days; he talks instead of initiative and responsibility, which of course are the hallmarks of freedom. If I am to fully embrace my dark side--which seems to be the general theme of the day--then I must do so of my own accord, and not because I'm being forced to.

There is more, much more, to be said about all of this, especially that business about personal responsibility. For now I'll simply point out how convenient it is that I can still use the terms "sir" and "master" to refer to M now, since those are the words a student might use to address his teacher.

Given that our defining metaphor has changed from one of comic-book battle to something closer to spiritual enlightenment, or education in general, perhaps we can say my state-required schooling (primary grades through high school) is over, and I'm entering college now.

Perhaps I should call it a seminary instead. Oh, hell, let's call it what it is: the Monastery!

Miracles of modern technology

Friends, living in the future is wonderful sometimes, is it not? True, we don't quite have the flying cars and robot maids that The Jetsons led us to expect would be heading our way in the early 21st century, but look at this way: in 1966 and 67 we had to wait an entire week for each new pair of bat-episodes, and then wait years longer to see them again on reruns.

Now, thanks to a little shameless copyright infringment and an anonymous donor, you can enjoy the following classic two-parter in its commercial-free entirety any time you like--or at least until YouTube goes under or the clip gets pulled or something along those lines.

Enjoy it with me: four masked men, facing nonstop danger and looking incredibly sexy as they do. With a tip o' the cowl to my brother Bat, I give you...

A Piece of the Action:

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Knight After 5: When the Student is Ready...

Early conversations with the Monk in this new phase of our acquaintance went smoothly. Extremely smoothly, in fact, which probably should have told me something was up. Not on his end, mind you, but on my own.

The program we were using to chat employs little icons for each speaker, which meant that each time I got a new message from him, I saw a tiny photo of him--one that I happened to remember quite well from our very first encounters. Happy memories, you might say. And I noticed they were starting to make me very, very ... happy.

Now, I realize how easy it would be for you to say, "Come on, Batman, don't you see he's getting his hooks in you? You have to fight back! Don't let him get away with this! Resist! Resist! You've done it before, and you can do it again!"

But something had changed. I had resisted before, and where had it gotten me? In the clutches of other villains, ready, willing, and able to face the fight of my life again. Only it never quite worked out that way. Either my adversaries turned out to be disappointing opponents, or--worse--they'd take me to the brink of utter defeat, make me putty in their hands, and then disappear for weeks at a time. There was no "next level"--either they were afraid to take me there, or they had other priorities, or something just came up.

Meanwhile, all along I was fighting to rid myself of a villain who had none of those qualities. When he'd had his hooks in me, he wouldn't dream of letting go. He was tailor made for me, and I for him, and we both knew it. The Monk had often referred to ours as a symbiotic relationship, in the classic Batman/Joker sense. We had a history, and--when you get right down to it--shared the same goals, deep down. There's no denying the truth: I didn't get into the bat-business in the first place to catch bad guys, I got into it to be caught by them, and no one in my experience has ever done a better job at it than him.

So I started to think: why run? Why not find out what happens if I take the Monk at his word and simply accept him as ... not my adversary but my teacher? My partner in crime(fighting)?

I've never followed the tv series Alias (my mistake, I'm sure, since I find both Michael Vartan and Bradley Cooper incredibly hot), but I gather that on at least one occasion, a plot twist inverted the whole premise of the show--up was down, left was right, black was white, and so on. Intrigued by that notion, I decided, pretty much overnight, to flip the script of the Bat/Monk saga. Instead of running from my fantasies of enslavement, I'd embrace them--with the goal of discovering what that very powerful desire had to teach me. I would return to the cage he had built for me (only to discover it was no longer a cage at all, but I'm getting ahead of myself).

It's a simple fact: every single prediction the Monk has made about my future actions has come to pass, sooner or later. To cite but one example, in one of our last conversations before the reunion he insisted I would one day return and willingly do the very same things he'd once forced me to do. I balked and took off--only to find myself fulfilling the prophecy, almost a full year later. Anyone who knows me that well, it seems to me, is worth a listen.

Skeptics are welcome to chalk this up to expert manipulative skills on M's part. Go right ahead; in fact, I myself thought of him when I saw Aaron Eckhart's lobbyist character in the movie Thank You for Smoking, who could probably talk a priest into Satan worship. But it's a moot point: I began to acknowledge and admit that the Monk only "manipulates" me into doing things I really do want to do. It was growing clearer and clearer to me that the only power he has over me is power I have freely and happily given to him all along--

--only now I was finally ready to admit that fact.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

My only friend, The End

Homophobic, or mildly amusing? You decide:

No matter what, the special guest SuperFriend at the end is pretty hunky, is he not?

Saturday, May 06, 2006


I"m almost positive it's a rebroadcast, and I may even have written about it here before, but the most recent episode of This American Life, titled "Allure of Crime," is pretty interesting.

In the world of heroes and villains, I'm usually far more turned on by the heroes--the only way I can ever be bothered to watch a cop show is for the cops, and I've always longed for more attention to Batman/less to his foes in the recent movies--but it's true that the bad guys' stories are more interesting than the good guys. Me, I had no idea that that sweet Julia Sweeney, she of Saturday Night Live and God Said, "Ha!" fame, had stolen over 10 thousand bucks in her misguided youth, or that even sweeter widows were leading such active social lives as senior-citizen shoplifters. What's most disarming about the interview subjects on the show is how nonchalant they are about their criminal activities. No angst, just matter-of-fact observations about how good it feels to do very bad things. (But, uh, isn't that the definition of a sociopath?)

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Knight After 4: The Return of the Repressed

So, I was reading a fortune cookie fortune the other day. It said:

And that's a pretty good summary of where things stand right now in my ongoing batsaga. When last I updated this account, I was in the clutches of a certain Mad Hatter, who had figured out I was Bruce Wayne and was holding me hostage in Wayne Manor for an extended interrogation, the second phase of which would surely entail some further disclosures on my part.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures, and, encouraged in part by that fortune and a similar message from the cosmos (as I may have explained, in solo play I have long made use of chance, coincidence, and other instinctual devices), I took the biggest of all possible risks. Reasoning that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (am I quick with the proverb/clich├ęs today, or what?), I contacted an old ... friend for assistance.

Regular readers of these accounts already know who I mean, and I imagine they're already smacking their foreheads in anger and/or frustration (or saying "told ya so"). It's true: more than four months after our last conversation, and almost a year to the day after my escape from his clutches, I got in touch with the Monk.

My motivation was as simple as it was outrageous: I did not want to become the Hatter's victim. And I knew that the man behind this villain harbors another side: a hero who longs to be defeated. My plan was to surprise the Hatter by introducing the Monk into the Hatter storyline and letting the chips fall where they may.

I figured I had gotten every last drop of the Monk's influence over me out of my system. That was a safe assumption, given that I had successfully transferred my craving for defeat from the Monk to the Ranger, and then from the Ranger to the Hatter. The third time around, it felt clear to me that my masochistic side does not really care who is after me, as long as it's someone good at being a bad guy. And those three men are all very, very good at being very, very bad.

By the time I contacted the Monk for help against the Hatter, I felt nothing for him as a character other than a vague disdain. I hadn't obsessed about him in months, that energy having been directed quite successfully toward the other two. Our initial reunion was cordial, considering that we have been mortal enemies since Day One (not counting the period immediately after he broke me, during which the Stockholm Syndrome kicked in and I spent my days gladly doing his bidding before I returned to my senses and began plotting my escape). We caught up on old times, and I filled him in on my plan. By chance (?), he already knew the Hatter--or rather his hero side, whom I'll call "HW"--and was delighted by the golden opportunity with which I was presenting him.

I was fully aware that if my plan worked, I had just invited my greatest nemesis back into my life and would have to face the consequences. And I felt I was ready to face that challenge.

But--believe it or not--I never saw what was coming next.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Of Super-readers ... and mortals like me

Not much of an entry here; I've just been cleaning up old randomly bookmarked items that I long ago intended to write about here, like this survey by Douglas Wolk in an April 2005 Boston Phoenix of recent trends in superhero comics.

One of the things Wolk touches on is the outing of Matt Murdock as Daredevil, a development I've been hearing about but have not bothered to read. As you may have noticed, I am really not too up on my comics reading: Infinite Crisis? What Infinite Crisis? I hear Hal Jordan is back (well, I hear he went bad, then became something else, then came back), and I'd love to find a trade paperback that encapsulates the saga someday, but between you and me, I'm mainly excited about that because Hal Jordan is one of my lifelong crushes. And this Daredevil unmasking has me intrigued because I am a sucker for ... well, unmasked heroes whose careers have been irreversibly affected by that. (Though we have surely all learned by now that nothing is truly irreversible in comics. Superman dies! Superman's back! Jason Todd is dead! Jason Todd lives! No, he's really dead! No, he's really back!) In short, I am not what Wolk calls a "super-reader." No, I'm a guy who still, in his mid40s, will from time to time buy a superhero comic and beat his meat to the images contained therein, regardless of how well or badly written the story.

In any case, I have long enjoyed Wolk's writing, not all of which is about comics by a long shot. Here's his blog.

And here's a picture of the hottest blind guy in red tights the world has ever known:

There, I've done my duty for the night.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hiding My Candy

Saw the movie Hard Candy tonight. (That link is to the system-slowing official site; IMDB page is here.) Ended up going alone, because I knew none of my friends were interested in this story of a 14-year-old girl and the 30something man she meets online. This only heightened the intense creeeeeeepiness of the experience. It is by no means a feel-good film, and I felt increasingly numb through most of it, from the opening scene through the last of the half-dozen-or-so twists and turns. (Spoiler alert: I will try not to reveal anything you don't find out in the first 30 minutes of the movie or won't discover from any review, but if you want to see it, you might not want to read this entry till afterward. And by no means should you take a peek at the following officially released still, which has been fairly widely disseminated by now:)

A friend asked me why I wanted to see this thing, and I told her I'd heard good stuff about the film and the female lead, Ellen Page and that I am always interested in films about what I euphemistically referrred to as "shifting power dynamics." All true. But because I'm writing anonymously here, I can say what you probably already know, which is that I was titillated by the prospect of seeing that cute Patrick Wilson from the HBO version of Angels in America tied up and tortured, no matter who was doing the tying and torturing. The pedophilia theme held no interest for me, intellectually or erotically--although I did recently finish listening to the audiobook version of Lolita, which is something I've been meaning to write about here for ages and still might, but I digress.

The same fascination with film depictions of fairly extreme states has previously led me to watch the recent horror movie Hostel and the reeeaaaaaally bad Nicholas Cage/Joel Schumacher thriller 8mm (both accompanied by horror-fan friends); I'd like to see the two Saw movies someday, too, even though I have a feeling I won't like them very much. Many years ago I tried to watch the Spanish film In a Glass Cage (another tale of someone seeking revenge on a pedophile, this one a Nazi pedophile), but I walked out in revulsion after the first 45 minutes or so.

Part of me feels like "What's this world coming to / all these escalating images of torture and depravity / it's all basically a form of mainstreamed fetish porn [etc]," and another part of me confesses that I'm a member of the very audience i'm decrying. I don't particularly like rollercoasters, but I do (sometimes) enjoy the thrill of a good suspenseful movie that isn't afraid to go into very dark territory. I'm just a little concerned that our culture is so willing to keep amping up its definition of "very dark territory"--shades of the fall of the Roman Empire, you know.

As for Hard Candy, I must admit that Roger Ebert has a point; a lot of the concerns he raises in his (essentially positive) review passed through my mind as well.

But I want to suggest an alternate perspective that occured to me about an hour into the film, which is that it can be viewed as a superhero movie, about a Batman (or more accurately Punisher)-style vigilante dishing out homegrown justice against criminals whose evils would probably go underpunished by the justice system. It's all there: dual identities, copious research and training, arsenal of specialized weapons, you name it. The fact that the "hero" is such an unlikely individual, and the "villain" elicits such sympathy, only demonstates why it's so much more interesting than any actual superhero flick I can think of.