The Cultural Gutter

the cult in your pop culture

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

The Good Outnumber You: A Look at Heroism in Storytelling

powerman and iron fist picture

When I was a mere lad, I picked up a battered newsstand copy of Power Man and Iron Fist. I had grown up with superheroes in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Incredible Hulk, and The Herculoids on the television, but my comics reading prior to that issue of Power Man and Iron Fist was […]

“The Rape of James Bond”

Sophia McDougall writes about “sexual assault and ‘Realism’ in popular culture.” (via @Pornokitsch)

Catharsis denied: when fiery doom
is an anti-climax

lego mount doom 2

When I was about 12, my parents took me to see a stage version of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings performed with life-sized puppets. As Frodo was agonizing over pitching his precious ring into the fiery pit of Mount Doom, Sam, exhausted from the epic journey but determined to help his beloved friend, inched […]

Some superpowers are just useless enough to be real

astral projection

My best friend growing up had a theory about people claiming to have special abilities like ESP, levitation, or astral projection. She had a babysitter who claimed she could levitate, but only when she was alone. My friend’s theory wasn’t that these things were impossible, but that realistically they wouldn’t be very cool. She figured […]

Batman and the Heroes of Aurora

Gail Simone has written a very personal, moving piece on the Aurora shooting and the power of heroes. “I write stories about morals all day…stories about fictional heroes and fictional villains. And I want to believe they have influenced my life, that they have taught me to stand up when called upon, to try to […]

“Mary Sue, what are you?”

There’s an interesting exploration of the fan fiction term “Mary Sue” and it’s sexist connotations at Adventures of Comic Book Girl:  “So the only time female can be default is when discussing a badly written character, someone who is more powerful or important or liked than they should be allowed to be, someone the plot […]

How to Make Better Heroes

How to make better heroes?  Weaken them.

Big Damn Heroes


For all his various meanings, attributes and forms, the hero of a Romance novel is really just the male protagonist.  He can be heroic in nature, of course, and he often is, but it isn’t required. Sometimes the actual heroism, should there be any, falls to the heroine.  And sometimes it falls to the writer.

Heroes vs. Villains

It might be Round 7, but it’s not too late to particpate in Cinematical’s Heroes vs. Villains tournament. Vote here.

What’s Happened to Superman?

At his superb blog, Too Busy Thinking About My Comics, Colin Smith wonders, what’s happened to Superman? “For I can’t help believing that Clark isn’t walking across America to find either it or himself, but to avoid finding himself. Or to put it another way; he isn’t walking to anything at all, but rather, he’s […]

Heroine Addict


Apparently, once I get started on archetypes, I can’t stop. So having touched on the archtypes found in stories and in heroes, I’m going to have to complete the trifecta. Theories about the nature of the modern Romance heroine are legion. She’s a placeholder. She’s an expression of modern femininity. She’s an aspect of human […]

The Pitiful Death of Monsieur Mallah

mallah bashed 80.JPG

There’s a sickness in my stomach I’ve been carrying a while, an unpleasant acid feeling that bothers me when I’ve been reading or reading about comics lately. And I guess it’s time for me to cough it up and see what the hell is burning a hole inside.

Noir, With Feelings


Some types of stories are so familiar that the only way to tell your own version of, say, a detective yarn is to find an interesting new angle. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series makes the title character a wizard who solves supernatural crimes in Chicago. Additionally, Harry has feelings, which seems like the more interesting […]

Holding Out For a Hero


I recently read a column by Ilona Andrews about heroes, which A) though light-hearted was also informative, and B) I immediately decided to steal use as a springboard for an article of my own.< There’s a lot of discussion as to the role of the hero in modern Romance. Is he a placeholder for the […]

Lost And Heroes, Compared.

James Poniewozik on Lost and Heroes: “Put another way: you have to be willing to suck if you ever want to be great. ‘Awesome’ and ‘awful’ are actually closer to each other on the continuum of quality than either is to ‘meh.’”

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  • Of Note Elsewhere

    At Playboy, Jake Rossen writes about the story behind the filming and the restoration of Manos: The Hands of Fate. “For a long time no one wanted to see it unless it was accompanied by MST3K’s taunts. Then, in 2011, a collector of film prints uncovered the original negative of Manos and embarked on an inexplicable project to restore the film with all the white-glove attention archivists give to Hollywood classics. His efforts would incur the wrath of a mysterious man with a fake New Zealand accent named Rupert, as well as Joe Warren, Hal Warren’s embittered son, who intends to preserve the Manos legacy at all costs.” (Thanks, Ed!)


    At Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!, Todd reviews the two part Ghanian director Ninja’s film, 2016. “2016 is a movie that I am obligated to review by virtue of my having long ago joined the internet chorus of people trumpeting on about its insane trailer—and this despite the fact that all of you with any interest in seeing it have most likely tracked it down already. In that case, you already know that it is essentially a no-budget remake of Independence Day set in the suburbs of Ghana. And if that sounds like a massive over-reach to you, you obviously know very little about Ghanaian action cinema, and even less about the films of maverick multi-hyphenate Ninja.”

    Read about part one, here, and part two, here.


    Look, it’s the trailer for “The Abominable Snowman” a new episode of classic Thunderbirds. Huffington Post UK has more: “It’s exactly half a century since we heard the ominous tones of voice actor Peter Dyneley bringing us the Thunderbirds intro ‘5 -4 – 3 – 2 -1 Thunderbirds are go’, and to celebrate, the team are producing three brand new original episodes, based on audio-only recordings made in 1966, which means fans will get to enjoy the original voices, with some 21st century gadgetry thrown in on screen.” (Thanks, Todd!)


    At the Guardian, Elizabeth Day talks with Geena Davis about feminism, sexism in the film industry and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. “I mean, it’s freaky when you start examining it. For decades it’s been the same ratio – we’ve all grown up on that ratio. Could it be that women’s presence stalls at about the rate of female participation in the fiction that we watch? Could it be you get to that level and you feel done? That that looks normal? It’s just a completely unconscious image that we have in our heads that women only need to take up a certain amount of space and then we’ve done right by them.”


    At fbomb, Sabrina N. interviews Ashley Armitage. “21-year-old Seattle-based photographer and filmmaker Ashley Armitage’s work is largely a tribute to female friendships and femininity. Her dreamy, nuanced photography lets viewers into the intimate, magical moments of girlhood. They depict beauty routines and sleepovers. They unabashedly celebrate and normalize body hair, tampons and bras. The collection is a celebration of girlhood by one of its own products.” (via @GeekGirlCon)


    You can read every issue of No Magazine. “Be warned before you download and open these issues—they aren’t exactly safe for workplace viewing. If Larry Flynt and the Vienna Aktionists got together and published a punk zine in the late ‘70s, it would have looked a lot like NO MAG. NO MAG‘s publisher Bruce Kalberg, and the sordid turns of his life, were recently covered in LA Weekly‘s piece ‘Beautiful Loser, Tortured Killer.’”  (Thanks, Stephanie).


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