Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Transformers: Not Buddhists In Disguise

 To no one's surprise who reads this blog, I've been thinking about the Transformers again lately.

The comics, not the movies, and I've especially been thinking about them in the context of Buddhism.

Buddhism is fueled by the idea of change, of impermanence. It was born as a response to the inevitable human conditions of old age, sickness, and death.

Transformers are less vulnerable to those conditions. Individual Cybertronians measure their years in the millions. Parts can be replaced, fallen friends rebuilt.

In that context, how possible for them is any lasting change? Less bound by the positive and negative feedback of irreversible consequences, what motivation is there for real growth, for permanently ceasing hostilities, for Megatron to permanently change his ways, for the Autobots to break their dependence on Optimus Prime to come back yet again to save them, for Starscream to stop wash-rinse-repeating his cycle from ambition to self-destruction, for Hot Rod to mature and temper his recklessness?

The Transformers' situation is practically a meta-comment on comic book characters in general.

Consider Spider-Man. For over fifty years his life has been a never-ending barrage of villains, clones, costume changes, secret wars, deaths, rebirths, alternate timelines, crossovers, team-ups, and World Shaking Events...only to be eternally, inexorably reeled back by the slow gravity of the status-quo.

What would that do to a being, do you think?

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mr. White

Reservoir Dogs opens with eight men--seven of whom will soon be dead--having breakfast. One of the dead men, Mr. Brown, says, "Let me tell you what 'Like A Virgin' is about."

"It's about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick," Mr. Brown goes on to explain. "She meets this John Holmes motherfucker and it's like, 'whoa baby.' She's feeling something she ain't felt since forever: pain. When this cat fucks her, it hurts."

Here's my question: Is the pain Mr. Brown is describing the same pain Mr. White feels at the end of the movie when he learns Mr. Orange has been fucking him?

*  *  *

An exasperated Nice Guy Eddie refers to Mr. White as "Mr. Fuckin' Compassion." One could make the argument that Mr. White is the most compassionate of the thieves. One could even argue that compassion is his undoing.

 But compassion isn't Mr. White's tragic flaw. Mr. White's tragic flaw is delusion.

He refuses to see his tendency to get too attached to his co-workers. He tells Joe what was getting to him about working with Alabama was "that man-woman thing."  But Mr. Orange is not a woman, and Mr. White's affection for his self-appointed protege blinds him not just to the truth, but to even the possibility of truth.

Similarly, his antipathy towards Mr. Blonde seems as much about himself as it is about Vic Vega. He wants to believe he is different, more compassionate, less murderous than Mr. Blonde. He tells himself in the mirror that he "ain't no madman."

Maybe not..

But from the way he talks about cutting off the jewelry store manager's fingers, from the way he shoots the cops while escaping the robbery, from his response to learning of Mr. Orange's betrayal...

He might be different. But he ain't that different.