Just Friends and Scott Pilgrim: Rom-coms for men?

Every year, I watch Just Friends and Scott Pilgrim, and I think they’re so rewatchable because they’re rom-coms unabashedly from the male POV (I’m male). Whereas I think most rom-coms are geared toward women as the principal audience and perspective.

In the case of Just Friends, I’m struck by the casual cruelty Amy Smart’s character delivers to the hopelessly kind character played by Ryan Reynolds. And his only response to the cruelty – be successful and strong and never again yield to emotion – is the stereotypically male response. The movie shows no pity for its lead, and no judgment for the cruelty. Instead it shows understanding – the cruelty is just “how it is,” it is not delivered with malice and the real problem is with those who stick around for it (allow themselves to be ‘friendzoned’).

And so what, the movie seems to say. It’s the prerogative of Amy Smart’s character to act however she wants. It’s Ryan Reynolds’ character that must find a way to navigate this. (We can imagine movie references to guys being jerks as the flip side of this theme). The answer, according to the movie, is not to complain, it’s not to judge – it’s to better yourself.

And in the end, when the guy gets the girl, we understand – that he proved his worthiness when he learned to incorporate strength and emotional vulnerability together.

Scott Pilgrim is also told from a male POV, but in this case, the roles are reversed. Scott Pilgrim is immature and casually cruel to the women around him. Again, it’s not out of deliberate malice, just a general, head-in-the-sky inattentiveness that causes pain to those in his orbit.

Scott Pilgrim doesn’t try to improve himself, because he doesn’t realize the problems are there. He simply reacts to the challenges thrown his way, and in the process of strengthening himself to face those challenges, he recognizes that he was being cruel.

And then when he ends up with the girl of his dreams, it’s earned because he’s accepted and transcended his immaturity, and also because those he’s hurt grant him forgiveness once he has sincerely atoned and recognized his error.

These two different romantic comedies are both told from an unabashedly male POV. In both cases, they showcase cruelty, and the power to transcend it with self awareness and strength. I wonder if there are other films like these.

The most bold “top 100 rpg” lists ever

Every single “Top 100” list will offend someone, and in this day and age, 99% of them will be a stupid, unreadable click through list that is designed to produce traffic.

With those two principles in mind, this list really shines. First, because it is the boldest list I’ve seen. It must be triggering someone, somewhere right now (I mean, Final Fantasy VII at #52?? That is bold). It also defies the genre, being easy-to-read and completely non-clickbaity.

So I heartily recommend it. Check it out here.

9 things you may not know about J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. The Two Towers In light of the September 11 attacks, some fans objected to Peter Jackson using this name, and circulated an Internet petition.
  2. The Beatles. At the urging of John Lennon, the Beatles seriously debated filming a movie based on the Lord of the Rings. Paul would be Frodo, Lennon would be Gollum, George would be Gandalf, and Ringo Starr would be Sam. The Beatles hoped to get Stanley Kubrick as the director. Tolkien didn’t like the idea and killed the project.
  3. Confirmed! LOTR director Peter Jackson confirmed this in a meeting with McCartney at the Oscars. Jackson mused that “there probably would’ve been some good songs coming off the album.”
  4. Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant was a fan of Celtic history and J.R.R. Tolkien, writing references in several songs. In Ramble On, Plant sings: “Twas’ in the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/but Gollum and the Evil One/crept up and slipped away with her.” In Battle of Evermore, Plant sings: “The drums will shake the castle wall/the Ringwraiths ride in black.”
  5. Manuscripts. The original manuscripts of the Lord of the Rings were purchased by William Ready, director of libraries at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Ready realized the value of Tolkien’s work immediately; he purchased the manuscripts for less than $5,000. They now reside at the Marquette Department of Special Collections.
  6. Strider was better. An original manuscript drafted featured a different name for the hero Strider: “Trotter.”
  7. Catholicism. Tolkien was a devout Catholic; he converted C.S. Lewis to Christianity.
  8. Pronunciation. Tolkien’s name is pronounced “toll-keen,” not “tole-kin.”
  9. Norse. Gandalf, the wizard in the Lord of the Rings, is also the name of one of the dwarves in the ancient Nordic work, The Prose Edda.

I found these facts when going through some very old papers, and thought it would be fun to put them on the blog.

Clones for organ harvesting

New startup aims to create embryos in artificial wombs, raising them to 40 to 50 days (when basic organs are formed). The organs would then be used for transplants:

“We view the embryo as the best 3D bio printer,” says Hanna. “It’s the best entity to make organs and proper tissue.”

Ethical issues abound. Imagine being born and grown simply to produce organs.

Some scientists say it will be difficult to grow human embryo models to an advanced stage and that it would be better to avoid the controversy raised by imitating real embryos too closely.

“It’s absolutely not necessary, so why would you do it?” says Nicolas Rivron, a stem-cell scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna. He argues that scientists should only create “the minimal embryonic structure necessary” to yield cells of interest

In fiction, it’s reminiscent of the planet Krypton, which grew clones so that organs could be replaced.

All Kryptonians had a number of clones made of them to replace any organs or limbs that may become damaged. Kryptonians were essentially immortal.

It’s hard to look away from immortality. The promise of this technology is that it can help with fertility and longevity. It could reboot the immune system of the elderly, and help with infertile couples. Those are promising benefits. And another reminder that if it can be envisioned, it can one day happen.

Cloning for organ harvesting did end up leading to a war on Krypton:

Cleric’s message of the evils of cloning continued to spread across Krypton, leading to unrest between those who saw clones as nothing more than spare parts and those who saw clones as sentient beings who deserved to be free.

Science fiction is perhaps especially valuable as science advances, not only for visualizing new worlds but for giving humanity some extra time to think through ethics.

More Interesting Links

  1. Cooperation among strangers has increased. If true, my guess is that the Internet allows us to crowdsource funds for people we haven’t met.
  2. First lines of famous literature – if there was no childcare. I assumed this would be preachy and annoying; it’s not, it’s hilarious.
  3. Color palettes of famous movies. Addictive.
  4. An interactive map of notable people. Kind of like Google Earth, if all the landmarks were famous people. Great for figuring out what famous celebrities lived in or near your hometown.
  5. Recreating KMarts in 3D. And roleplaying in them.

Why do countries modify the truth?

The obvious answer is because it makes them look good. Martin Gurri, author of The Revolt of the Public, has a lot to say in this interview:

The highest calling of true elites is to translate the flux of reality into a coherent story.  To most Americans, who believe reality must be approached “scientifically,” this sounds like spin or propaganda – but it’s much more essential than that.  Every society is organized around specific ideals and habits of behavior.  The institutions of government, information, commerce, even science, are erected on the basis of those ideals and habits.  That’s how they attain the authorizing magic of legitimacy.

The stories are essential, but they’re stories. So telling them effectively requires being the storyteller:

The stories are not necessarily false and not necessarily propaganda, but they are partial and perspectival – and they can be picked apart.  That is true of every explanation, including those provided by scientists.  Human knowledge is much more limited than we like to admit.  To shape the flux of events into a story that will persuade the public, therefore, the elites must control the means of communication.  When that control slips, the elite class lapses into a state of crisis.

There is hope, if the storytellers adapt to a world where fact-checking happens in real-time. But:

I would say that our institutions are structurally (and, I believe, catastrophically) mal-adapted to the new information environment, and that the people who run them are both unable and unwilling to reform them.

For those who’ve read Gurri, the storytellers behave as if we were still in the 20th century, and information is still their monopoly. Unfortunately that model is outdated.

Read the whole thing.