There are many, many reasons to dislike Zack Snyder’s awkwardly named Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. A miscast villain here, a forced Justice League tie-in there, and a confused attempt to mash the stories of The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman together ruin what should have been a slam-dunk of a movie. There are a ton of weird choices that went into making this the disaster that it is, but the most alarming to me has to be the way Batman was characterized in this film. Ben Affleck gave a fine performance as Batman, but the central issue with his character all comes back to his hotly debated “no killing rule” that gets more than a little bent in this film, and more critically, entirely ignored. Fans have debated whether or not Batman should even have such a rule for years, “The Rule” has served as a central plot point in both The Dark Knight and Under the Red Hood films, and Batman himself exists as likely the most iconic practitioner of this rule in fiction. My issue with Snyder’s Batman isn’t that he kills criminals (directly and indirectly) with sadistic glee, but that it happens without any discussion within the film for what that means for Batman. I know the last thing this film needs is more pseudo-philosophical drivel shakingly spoken by insecure meat heads, but in this case it’s kind of an important thing to get out of the way.
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Transparent is the story of an L.A. Jewish family based on the life of its creator Jill Soloway. The character that acts as Soloway’s proxy on the show is Ali Pfefferman. Ali Pfefferman, it turns out, is a sociopath. I realize that’s a strange thing to say, considering that Ali is the character one would expect Soloway to give a more sympathetic view of, and because the word sociopath isn’t really a recognized term in the world of mental health anymore, but it’s a very convenient way to classify someone who behaves in the way that she does. She doesn’t just have some anti-social traits, her presence actively damages the society she lives in. The family at the show’s centre is filled with awful people who possess varying degrees of crappy personalities, but at least you can understand what motivates their actions. Sure, there is a listlessness to all of them, moving from interest to interest, not truly knowing what they want out of life and making terrible decisions along the way, but within those moments where they have to make a decision, those crucial little pockets of time, you can understand and even relate to what motivates them. That is not the case with Ali. It gradually becomes clear what lies at the heart of her actions throughout the series, but it’s really difficult to accept as it becomes more and more obvious. One of the central questions of the show is “what does Ali want” and I’d imagine that’s a result of Soloway’s own indecision at this stage in her life, but on Transparent, as it becomes more and more obvious what Ali wants, you just don’t want to accept it. After watching every episode of this show, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing that Ali really wants is to cause other people to suffer, whether she’s consciously aware of it or not, that seems to be what truly motivates her actions.
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