Thursday, August 11, 2011

Important issues of the day: Pirates vs. Ninjas

I know, I know, it's an old debate that's been beaten to death, but I thought I'd throw my two cents in.

First of all, I think it'd be best to say what side I'm on to get it out of the way: I prefer pirates.

I've never been crazy about ninjas simply because they have no personalities. Think about it: Your typical ninja doesn't even reveal his entire face, denying us a huge chunk of potential expressions. They're always jumping around, looking real cool, but what else is there? Any good writer ought to know that mere skills, no matter how impressive, do not make for a compelling character. Ninjas are almost always identical, faceless assassins that merely serve to get in the hero's way. I've never even heard of a ninja who had a distinctive personality, appearance, or much less played the main character.

If you ask me, there isn't any comparison. Pirates are extremely flexible characters, with an array of costumes, voices, weapons, quirks, ethnicities, and potential positions on the scale from good to bad to choose from. They can even be supernatural. I've heard the argument that pirates are dirty, scruffy characters (which is actually part of the reason I like them), with no style or grace, while ninjas have grace to spare. Who says a pirate can't be graceful? What about Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn?

I honestly think it's better to make a comparison of pirates and cowboys. But the trouble is that they both has similar advantages and a similar flexibility, while the main difference is that one is skilled on land, the other at sea.

It is perhaps best to ask ourselves what the differences between pirates and kung fu warriors are. Kung fu warriors can have any kind of personality they please, as proven by Kung Fu Panda. Or perhaps samurai. But it kinda boils down to aesthetics, really- what environment the stories take place in, what fighting skills they possess, and the style of the costumes and art.
When you get down to it, it's all about aesthetics. You could compare pirates to old-school gangsters, or medieval knights, or barbarians. It's all kinda depends on what they wear, what weapons they use, what time period it takes place in, and what the buildings look like. Everything else is fair game.

But so long as ninjas remain one type of ninja, I don't think the rivalry is valid.

Canonicized lameness

Something that's really been bugging me about entertainment targeted towards preteens and young adults lately is that I frequently can't tell if it's being ironic and satirical or if it's actually trying to represent how young people act and think.

I'm thinking mostly of Disney Channel sitcoms. I'll see the young teens on that show saying things like "Wazzzzuup, muh homeeeez? We's gunna party fo' sheeeeezle!" and the audience is expected to laugh at it, but then I recall that when I actually was surrounded by people of this age- around the time when Shrek first came out- they would say these things as if they were simply the sort of things you said.
What I'm trying to say if that it seems as though it's trendy to lame and dorky- that it's cool to be a poser.

There have been many times when a character on TV will use a word or phrase I've never heard before, and they act like I'm supposed to know what they're talking about, without any context. It usually doesn't sound like the way real people talk (which, admittedly, isn't something I'm fully knowledgeable of).
One example I can think of is from an ad for the cartoon Johnny Test- which is a cartoon I'm surprised still exists, considering that when it was on Kids WB, I watched one episode and found it incredibly dull and stupid- and the main character uses the phrase "ice cream mouth". He says it with such conviction, it's like it's supposed to be as common as "brain freeze" or "milk mustache". Since when did people who aren't four-year-olds get ice cream all over their faces, anyway?
And I've been hearing people on TV use the phrase "ice cream headache" instead of "brain freeze"- almost as if "brain freeze" is copyrighted or something. Saying "ice cream headache" takes twice as long to say, so I'm thoroughly unconvinced that anybody uses it in real life.

It's become increasingly frustrating not knowing what's real and what's a parody. Sometimes I suspect that the people who write this stuff are secretly brutally mocking their audience while being the sort of swill that they actually go for. You can't expect me to be interested in modern trends, but I would like to be able to glimpse at it and understand what the heck is going on. It's like when someone tries to be sarcastic but isn't very good at it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011