The Cultural Gutter

we've seen things you people wouldn't believe

"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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 Salon, Matt Ashby and Brendan Carroll write about irony and cynicism, sincerity and honesty in art: “At one time, irony served to challenge the establishment; now it is the establishment. The art of irony has turned into ironic art. Irony for irony’s sake. A smart aleck making bomb noises in front of a city in ruins. But irony without a purpose enables cynicism. It stops at disavowal and destruction, fearing strong conviction is a mark of simplicity and delusion.

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    Eastern Kicks has an interview–and a gallery of photos of–director Park Joon-hung.

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    Get ready for a new season of Mad Men with this collection of Absurdist Mad Men promotions, which the Cultural Gutter participates in and even encourages. Duck Phillips rules an undersea advertizing empire and “Pete feels slighted.”

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    Some interesting thoughts on South Korean cinema with “A Dish Best Served Bloody: Revenge In South Korean Cinema” and this Cannes program piece on Arirang (1926) and the history of Korean film.

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    Al-Jazeera America profiles John Pirozzi’s Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, a documentary about Cambodian rock’n'roll and musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge. “Until 1975, music thrived in Phnom Penh, with clubs full night after night, crowds gathering in the streets around transistor radios to hear the latest releases, and the biggest stars being feted by the king. Enter the Khmer Rouge, communism and the war on intellectuals. Between 1975 and 1979, about 2 million Cambodians, roughly a third of the population, were rounded up and either were killed or died of starvation. Artists were particularly disliked by the Khmer Rouge, which saw creativity as decadence: Almost all of the biggest names perished during that era.”

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    Architecture Daily has an excerpt from City of Darkness detailing the development of Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City. “By the 1970s, the City had filled out to its maximised form, with buildings of up to 14 storeys in height, and virtually no ground level daylight penetration save at its centre. Its density was estimated to have reached a mere 7 square feet per person. The yamen area had somehow remained an exception to the vertical development, leased to a missionary society in 1949 for use as an almshouse and old people’s home. Eventually, it defined the sole substantial void within the Walled City, with visible sky above it.”

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