2018 Editorial: Were the 1980s REALLY That Bad?

The 1980s: They were the best of times AND the worst of times. Find out my opinions why below.

Happy Halloween, readers!

First off, let’s make something perfectly clear: I don’t know everything about everything. 2018 alone ought to prove just that, too, what with me having posted three of the most ineffective poems I’d ever posted on this blog with the last one being as recent as August 25. To be honest, they seemed good at the time I was writing them, but in my haste to provide this blog with the content that draws eyeballs to it, I neglected to discover for myself just how much I’d forced their messages into certain formats and how unthorough I was in fleshing out the points I’d intended to make about the following topics:

A) Political agendas being inserted into storytelling media
B) The oversensitivity of certain individuals and special interest groups to certain aspects of modern media over others
C) How media creators these days keep milking the past by reviving beloved franchises from a given era with a “modern” (i.e., jaded, immature, self-indulgent, tone-deaf, etc.) spirit as opposed to the kind of spirit that had made such licenses beloved in the first place

Hopefully, I will be able to revisit these topics in the future and approach them with a clearer mind, although I can’t promise anything. At any rate, though, I apologize for having posted such poorly executed pieces of prose in the first place and promise to be more thoughtful the next time I add a poem to this blog—especially considering that my poetry generally seems to receive a positive response from my readers. That said, however, I have a question for you all that’s at least somewhat relevant to the third topic I’d just listed above:

Were the 1980s really that bad?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that the ‘80s were necessarily a golden age of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, from a historical standpoint, the decade had its fair share of turmoil: Mount St. Helens erupting on March 20, 1980; the growing violence and civil discontent in the Middle East and the consequent rise of Islamism (including the Iran-Contra affair, otherwise known as Irangate); the continuation of the Cold War until 1989 or 1991, depending upon which historians one wants to believe; the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing of 1988; the Challenger explosion of 1986; the AIDS epidemic; homophobia; racism against black people (including the four-on-one act of police brutality that led to the 1980 Miami riots); the growing scientific and political awareness of global warming (at least to those who believe in it); the 1986 post office shooting in Edmond, Oklahoma; rampant drug addiction and abuse; the growth of the “adult film” industry; the rise of tabloid/“yellow” journalism; the whole “Satanic panic” surrounding Dungeons and Dragons; the video game crash of 1983…and those are just the events I can name at the top of my head.

Likewise, pop culture was quite the mixed bag in terms of quality. Take the music scene, for instance, where for every classic song like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Bon Jovi’s “Living On A Prayer,” we had the likes of Toni Basil’s “Mickey” or Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night”—songs that simply haven’t aged all that well, according to some people’s tastes. Likewise, for every well-written and memorable sitcom such as Golden Girls, Night Court, Newhart, and Cheers, we’ve had such oftentimes kitsch-riddled punching bags as Small Wonder, Mama’s Family, She’s the Sheriff, and Joanie Loves Chachi. Finally, for every cinematic masterpiece like Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, the original Karate Kid and RoboCop films, Heathers, and The Princess Bride, there was a silver screen atrocity like Jaws: The Revenge, The Being, Ishtar, The Garbage Pail Kids, Cocktail, and Bolero. I could go on with teledramas, video games, cartoons, and other forms of entertainment, but you get my point. I’m not even going into all the jabs the 80s have taken in terms of the clothing, hairstyles, and cars for which the decade has long been known, either…not that the decade is alone in having more than its fair share of crummy things in such categories, of course (Remember bowl cuts, tube tops, and oversized jeans, ‘90s kids?).

And then…the 1990s had fashion like THIS. See the article at Good Housekeepng for more info.

In short, anyone who wishes to bash the dickens out of the 1980s certainly has plenty of ammunition for such a campaign. Then again, if the music of the 80s was really nothing more than glorified noise pollution, why is it still so widely honored today to the point where many twenty-first-century bands and music artists make a point of performing covers of certain 80s tunes? If 80s cartoons were (at least largely) little more than glorified toy commercials, then why have so many 1980s cartoon franchises been revived for the twenty-first century thus far for both the big and small screens in one form or another—usually with results that fail to live up to people’s memory of the original product? If television and cinema really were as unwatchable as some critics have made them out to be, then why do so many 80s flicks and shows receive reboots, spinoffs, and belated sequels oh so many years later, and why are so many characters from these shows as well-remembered as they are? Well, if it were up to me to answer this question, I would suggest that the 1980s had something that I, at least, haven’t seen as much of in the 2010s as I would have otherwise liked:

A sense of imagination, wonder, and hope.

Let me put it to you this way: The 1980s were a decade in which the world embraced many technological advances and moved away from planned economies in favor of accepting laissez-faire capitalism, both of which promoted a great economic change around the globe. Many aspects of pop culture began to change as well during this time, whether coincidentally or because of these sociopolitical changes, thus resulting in a lot of the forms of entertainment that many people—specifically those of us who grew up during this time—still embrace today. It was time for the world to grow bolder, brighter, and start trying out new things and sharing new ideas with one another as we stepped away from what we once knew from previous decades. Henceforth, while disco died, other styles of music like new wave, glam metal, and progressive rock stepped into the musical limelight, and music acts showed their willingness to incorporate such “toys” as synthesizers and drum machines into their work to produce the sounds that gave the decade its melodic identity. Alternative comedy rose to stand side-by-side with the usual family-friendly affair to make the masses more socially and politically aware than we had been back in the 70s, 60s, and so forth. New action heroes rose to the forefront to join the comic book superheroes we’d long known and come to love on the small and big screens, engage in new adventures of their own, and encourage kids to buy their action figures so that they, too, can invent further quests for them to embark on. Science fiction, fantasy, and even horror films began utilizing more advanced practical effects during this decade (e.g., chromakey, animatronics, and thermal imagery) to tell stories that filmmakers were only beginning to present towards the end of the 1970s. Even fashion took on a new life of its own during the 80s as people traded in their corduroy for denim, their checks and pinstripes in for neon, and their sideburns and afros in for mullets and hairspray-enhanced spikes. All these changes and more, for better or for worse, reflected our willingness to adapt to a new way of life and an attitude to go along with it.

Cartoons

From Dragon Ball, Voltron, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Jem and the Holograms, the Smurfs, and the Gummi Bears, the 1980s had some of the most beloved cartoons of all time.

Pop culture especially stands out to me when I think about the 1980s, and being a writer myself, I can’t help but think back to all the cartoons that appeared on television back then, both the Saturday morning fare and the stuff that appeared on syndicated television. Honestly, the assortment was astounding back then, and while many of these shows clearly show their age through their animation and a good brunt of them were essentially created to sell one product or another to kids (specifically toys), I could nonetheless appreciate the diversity of cartoons I saw at the time. Observe this short list of the genres of animated programs, and you’ll see what I mean.

Cartoons aimed towards younger audiences (Care Bears, Glo Friends, Snorks, The Smurfs)
Adventure cartoons (DuckTales, The Mysterious Cities of Gold)
Music-based cartoons (Jem and the Holograms, Kidd Video, Alvin and the Chipmunks)
Teen-based “slice of life” cartoons (Galaxy High, Beverly Hills Teens)
Movie-based cartoons (RoboCop: The Animated Series, The Real Ghostbusters, Rambo: The Force of Freedom)
Cartoons specifically aimed towards girls (Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake)
Comedic cartoons (Inspector Gadget, Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats, Dennis the Menace)
Action cartoons about crimefighting (M.A.S.K., The Mr. T Show, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Soldier-versus-soldier action cartoons (GI Joe: A Real American Hero, Centurions, Spiral Zone)
Science fiction action cartoons (Ulysses 31, Transformers, Bionic Six, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors)
Fantasy action cartoons (Galtar and the Golden Lance, Thundarr the Barbarian, the Dungeons & Dragons animated series)
High-tech/fantasy hybrid action cartoons (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, ThunderCats)
“Wild West in Outer Space” action cartoons (Bravestarr, The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs)

To think, too, that I’m not even scratching the surface with the genres and titles I’ve listed here! Indeed, the variety alone is enough to prove how hard it can be for one to not be at least mildly nostalgic for the 1980s when one grew up with such a wide variety of cartoons within which to invest oneself. Granted, not all these cartoons hold up all that well today, what with the strict work schedules to which animation studios were held until 1996 or so, and with as large a pool of any type of media, there are surely some stinkers tucked within this subgenre of programming. The reputation that this era of animation gets for toy-peddling certainly doesn’t help, either, especially when it comes to those cartoons that have historically been cancelled simply because the toy lines that they represented failed to sell well (e.g., Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors). Even so, one would think that even if a cartoon was meant to sell toys, it’d at least be somewhat well-written with likable, relatable protagonists venturing forth on exciting adventures and oftentimes confronting despicable villains who, despite their malicious nature, are also identifiable in their own way. After all, if a cartoon is meant to sell something, the very least it could do is do its best to entice its audience in investing its money into that very thing.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors: Who knows where this cartoon in particular could have gone, has its longevity not been determined (i.e., cut short) by low toy sales?

Well, if nothing else, at least these cartoons made some sort of effort to give their young viewers some positive (albeit fictional) role models whose examples they could learn from. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, for instance, gave us its titular protagonist: a brave and noble warrior who put both his might and his mind to the test when it came to foiling his monstrous nemeses’ schemes to conquer his homeworld of Eternia. In fact, due to the broadcast standards of 1983 to ’85, when He-Man aired, He-Man was forbidden to punch or kick his adversaries, lest they were robots, or even fell them with his trusty, nigh-indestructible Power Sword, the latter of which he used more as a means to transforming from the humble and presumably lazy and carefree Prince Adam into He-Man in the first place and back again. As such, there were more times than people realize in which he used his wits to outsmart his allegedly craftier arch enemy Skeletor, thus proving that he was much more than the meat-headed barbarian he appeared to be. On a similar note, He-Man’s twin sister She-Ra was also written in such a way to promote strong values in children, using cunning just as often (if not, in fact, more so) than her great strength and acrobatic skill to thwart the tyrannical Hordak and his Evil Horde. She was also known to possess various super powers that many consider to be of a passive, softer, “feminine” nature such as healing, empathic understanding, and mental communication with animals. Her story was also one of redemption, considering that in She-Ra: Princess of Power, she was kidnapped from her and Prince Adam’s parents to serve as Hordak’s foster daughter and a Force Captain in his Horde. That was, of course, until Adam as He-Man delivered unto her the Sword of Protection through which his mentor, the Sorceress, telepathically revealed to Adora her true origin, thus encouraging her to defect to lead the rebel forces of Etheria against her foster father. Having uncovered that, She-Ra was not only a solid role model for girls and young women who grew up during the era when she was arguably relevant the most, but also more than just the overhyped female clone of her brother that her detractors often call her out as being.

He-Man and She-Ra: Be honest. How much of a conversation about 1980s cartoons can one have without at least mentioning these two?

Of course, He-Man and She-Ra were only two 1980s cartoon icons who served as good role models for their viewers. I could go on with other action heroes such as Lion-O from ThunderCats, who grows up from adolescence into adulthood as the show takes its course to become the ideal leader for his fellow Thundera refugees within their new home of Third Earth, or the operatives of G.I. Joe, whose values of national pride and courage in the face of potential global disaster are still values that many Americans (and many First World people in general) still hold in their hearts today. Non-action cartoons had their fair share of well-remembered characters, too, such as the greedy and hot-tempered yet adventurous and family-centric millionaire Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales and the well-meaning yet nevertheless mischievous Dennis Mitchel from Dennis the Menace. Even many of the villains from these programs had understandable motives behind their evil schemes, which thus made the plots not only simple to follow, but also sensible within the context of each show and thus all the easier for kids to invest themselves in. Doctor Scarab from Bionic Six, for example, was on a power-mad quest to discover the secrets behind the superior knowledge in bionics as possessed by his brother Dr. Amadeus Sharp, PhD., who also happened to be the mentor of the Bionic Six’s patriarch, Jack “Bionic-1” Bennett. Murky Dismal from Rainbow Brite, meanwhile, desires to rid the world of all color—a life mission that stems from a childhood memory of his in which his mother scolded him for drawing upon and painting the walls of his home. Such are the kinds of characters that all good cartoons—heck, all good narrative television programs, period—should have as opposed to the deconstructed and thus morally unrecognizable heroes of old that many animated programs of the 21st century have been accused of having (e.g., Teen Titans Go!, ThunderCats Roar, the 2016 relaunch of Powerpuff Girls, and much of post-2004 movie SpongeBob SquarePants). Additionally, though many 1980s animated programs primarily ran on self-contained, single-episode stories, there have been shows that have more mindfully developed their overall plot so that certain story arcs expand over several episodes which in turn made the obstacles that the heroes sought to overcome just that more challenging, be said challenges the results of the villains’ actions or simple matters of circumstance. Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the first five episodes of Inhumanoids are three such examples of such a practice, which ultimately proved that the whole “villain/adventure of the week” formula wasn’t as all-encompassing a tactic as critics of 1980s animation would otherwise like to believe. The Dungeons & Dragons animated series took this premise a step further by giving the six young protagonists the goal of ultimately escaping the mysterious, magical realm they’d stumbled into and returning to their own reality. Finally, what about the lessons that popped up at the end of each episode of certain shows? Sure, the idea may seem a bit hokey and silly by today’s standards and even come off as though the programs in question were talking down to their young viewers by repeating whatever moral the story they’d just watched tried to illustrate. On the other hand, one must give the writers at least some credit for finding a way to prove to viewers and critics alike that their work was about more than just peddling merchandise to youngsters and flashing pretty pictures or acts of tamed, fictional violence before their eyes. Even G.I. Joe and C.O.P.S. provided their audiences with thirty-second-long PSAs after each of their respective episodes, and even if/when said tips didn’t exactly play into the moral of the episode in question, who’s to say that they didn’t play at least some small part in inspiring one young person or another to grow up and become a medic, firefighter, or any other kind of professional with the life mission of saving lives or protecting the common citizen? In such a case, this extra measure only further promotes the theme of the show in some respects and gives onlookers reason to see more value in it as opposed to just see it as a loud, obnoxious, glorified toy commercial.

“And knowing is half the battle!”

In short, cartoons from the 1980s may not have been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they still had their merits. Yes, many of their stories had plot holes. Yes, many of their scripts had campy and cliché dialogue, among other writing hiccups. Yes, many of them were based off ideas at which contemporary sensibilities would scoff, and the animation of most of these shows clearly shows its age these days. Guess what, though: It’s not as if the 21st century animation scene has been flawless, either, especially with many cartoons from the past couple of decades relying on either stiff and stilted two-dimensional animation with low frame rates or poorly rendered and simply hideous CGI. There have also been cartoons that have suffered from simplistic artwork that fails to stand out from that of other programs, poor morality, blatantly disgusting or otherwise lowbrow jokes that end up appealing to nobody, and unabashedly random humor that usually appeals to short attention spans does little to nothing to move along the show’s plot. The need for more modern cartoons to follow certain trends, whether they’re established in pop culture or by said programs’ contemporaries, further shows just how the animation scene has yet to fully embrace what it can be, given that which we’ve seen before. Sure, the cartoons of the 1980s can be accused of chasing trends as well, as is true with any era of animation before or since, but one would think that at this point, we’d have learned to embrace the diversity within different forms of media and not immediately do something that someone/something else did just because it was popular. After all, who’s to say that a given trend will get old within barely any time at all while audiences move on to something else entirely?

Then again, there’s a reason why many animated programs from the 1980s still resonate with viewers today and why so many brands from that decade continue to resurface in one format or another, from My Little Pony and Jem and the Holograms to Transformers, G.I. Joe, ThunderCats, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to even Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite. That reason is quite simple, too: The creators of these properties focused first and foremost on telling a solid story—no pandering to the lowest common denominator or any given social or political agenda…just good old fashioned plot and character development. Yes, there were guidelines that they had to follow when they pieced their narratives together for their viewers’ enjoyment, but they were nevertheless mindful and clever enough to do so within the confines of such guidelines and, as the result of that, ended up creating characters and franchises that many still remember fondly today. That’s why I can look back on many an 80s cartoon and see the potential for greatness that lied within it, regardless of how well it had aged or whether it was ultimately crafted with the intent of hawking merchandise. Granted, there were a few stinkers that managed to seep through the cracks, as has been true with any era, but to paint all animated shows of the era the same shade of fecal matter brown simply doesn’t seem right. That in mind, my advice to any fan of animation who doesn’t have that much of a soft spot for 1980s cartoons is to go back and watch a few episodes of these shows again and pay attention to the stories they tell. Who knows? They just might be better than you’d previously thought, even with whatever flaws they do have.

Music

Just a sample of the New Wave bands who staked their claim during the 1980s

Another aspect of the 1980s that receives plenty of derision is the music—not always as raw a form of storytelling media as novels, television, or cinema, but still a reflective one when it comes to understanding the nature of any given time. This is especially true for 80s music in that the decade was one in which the masses celebrated the art’s evolution, most notably in Europe and the United States with the likes of MTV and VH1 rising to prominence and broadcasting music videos that featured the latest hits of the era’s hottest music acts and Solid Gold joining American Band Stand, Soul Train, Top of the Pops, et cetera to further showcase the music of the period for eight straight seasons. Now, to be fair, I grew up listening to plenty of 80s tunes and learned to appreciate most of those that I’d heard for one reason or another, so I’d be lying if I was to claim a complete lack of bias towards this specific time in music history. Then again, I’m not so attached to 80s music that I’ve brainwashed myself into thinking that every 80s song was a masterpiece and thus am in any need of some snarky, self-important know-it-all music blowhard to come along and tell me why a given song is poison for my ears or mind. If anything, I’m more likely to vomit upon listening to Robin Hilton of National Public Radio’s All Songs Considered snicker with condescension upon claiming that the 1980s “really were that bad” for pop music and go on to belittle the decade like any other self-gratifying music hipster than I am upon listening to Starship’s “We Built This City,” which many music critics have called the worst song of all time on account of its apparently mixed message concerning corporate-rock commercialism. Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, the otherwise talented performers who made up Starship at the time surely meant well in the effort they put into this song and the message they wanted to pass on through it, even if said effort fundamentally backfired on them after all was sung and done. Hilton, on the other hand, can completely fade away from public attention altogether, and I doubt that anyone outside of a handful of people would even bat an eye at his disappearance. On a similar note, I’m more likely to groan dismissively at ASC guest Carrie Brownstein of the Monitor Mix blog accuse Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne of “embarrassing themselves” during their duet in “Close My Eyes Forever” than I am at the very song she happened to trash during that very episode of the ASC podcast. Honestly, just because the 80s received the lowest votes for “favorite decade of music” among one internet program’s listener base doesn’t automatically and ultimately dictate the true quality and subsequent value of the era’s music, nor does the collective opinion of said broadcast’s hosts and guests. Sure, I know how cliché it is of me to counter such an argument with the whole “Music is subjective” mentality, but I seriously can’t help but wonder just how much music from the 1980s these people specifically have listened to prior to the ASC episode of which I speak. I mean, sure, one might miss or even dismiss the whole post-Vietnam anti-war message of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” on account of the song’s striking and seemingly patriotic instrumentals, and hearing the following lyrics from “De Do Do Do De Dad Da Da” by The Police…

And when their eloquence escapes me
Their logic ties me up and rapes me

…kind of makes me rear my head back in consternation a bit. I can similarly understand why people might find such tunes as Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry be Happy” to be insipid, despite both songs striking me as being little more than harmless background music, and prude though I might be, I don’t care much at all for the tones or themes of “Cherry Pie” by Warrant, “Seventeen” by Winger, or “Girl School” by Britny Fox. Nonetheless, I can listen beyond the bass-devoid bubblegum pop of Deniece Williams’s “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and find a great moral within the song’s words about loving someone despite his or her flaws. I can also listen to Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” and accept that it doesn’t share the same definition of “wild” as, say, “Wild Side” by Mötley Crüe (or any other heavy metal song ever recorded) while appreciating the energy and imagery it offers in lieu of that—even without the aid of the highly ambitious music video that Russell Mulcahy had directed for it prior to his days directing the 1986 cult classic film Highlander. I can even tune in to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and think to myself, “Eh…maybe if [the late Freddie Mercury] sung ‘no time for losing’ instead of ‘no time for losers’” without taking the slightest bit of offense from such a minor lyrical mistake while later on checking out Corey Hart’s “Never Surrender” and think, “Yeah…I suppose this song could be a little more steadfast in its delivery,” yet still connect with its inspiring lyrics and the meaning behind them. I can’t say the same, on the other hand, for the likes of Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out,” Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” Katy Perry’s “Peacock,” LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” or Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid ***”…and no, it has nothing to do with the fact that those four songs are products of the 2000s or 2010s. Rather, it’s a simple matter of me not connecting with either the message or the music of any of these latter five songs or any such song like them. If anything, they all simply come off to me as being very loud, obnoxious, shallow, self-indulgent, and just plain oblivious—almost as if the artists created and performed them simply because they could rather than in the name of having something meaningful or worthwhile to say. The previously mentioned four songs from the 80s, on the other hand, all had a purpose and a message to them that rang true with me that worked well together on one level or another with the instrumentals that accompanied them, and it’s because of that that I never find myself bolting out of the room, shutting off my radio, or the like, should any of these songs be playing at any giving moment. I can say the same for plenty of songs as performed by more modern acts, too, such as Masterplan (“Spirit Never Die”), Charlie Puth (“One Call Away”), Michael Bublé (“Haven’t Met You Yet”), Delain (“Virtue and Vice”), Rachel Platton (“Fight Song”), Kelly Clarkson (“Dark Side”), and American Authors (“Best Day of My Life”). Heck, even Chubby Checker—a man best known for his 1960 hit, “The Twist”—came out with a surprisingly poignant single called “Knock Down the Walls” in 2008 that was not only fan-friendly, but also carried a message within it to which anyone could relate, which I could also say about his 2013 gospel song “Changes,” which he released on iTunes on February 25 of that year at the ripe old age of seventy-one. To put things simply, then, it’s not the era from which a song comes that makes it awesome for me, but rather what it communicates and how well it does in doing so.

Ark Music Factory: One argument from the early 2010s against the claim of 1980s pop music being as bad as some people claim it was

Furthermore, let me ask again a question I’d asked at the beginning of this editorial: If the music of the 1980s was honestly as terrible as some music elitists say it was, why have many 21st century music acts made cover songs of popular 80s tunes? Is it really because they feel they can do better than the original performers had, or are their covers simply an act of paying homage to said artists and bands? Because whichever the case is, there have been some impressive covers of 80s songs in recent years, from what I’ve heard. Take, for example, “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.” Didn’t like the original as sung by former Go-Go’s lead singer Belinda Carlisle because it was too “poppy” for your tastes? No problem. Italian folk/power metal band Elvenking released a cover of it on their 2008 album Two Tragedy Poets (…and a Caravan of Weird Figures), as did EightyHate on their 2014 EP Step By Step. Looking for a more intense, “rocking” version of “Rock Me Amadeus” by the late Austrian pop singer Falco? German industrial metal band Megaherz more likely than not has what you’re listening for with their 1998 cover of the song, as does German power metal band Edguy on their 2014 album Space Police–Defenders of the Crown. Even Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out” has received a couple of covers from the likes of Bullet for my Valentine and Gloomball, and people still debate with one another as to who covered Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” better between Dope, Drowning Pool, and Adrenaline Pool among several other bands. Heck, I’ll even give credit to American industrial rock band Orgy for their hard-hitting take on English rock band New Order’s 1988 dance hit “Blue Monday.” Now, to be fair, cover songs can be pretty hit or miss when it comes to capturing the very essence of the initial composition and adding just the right personal twist to it to bring out something new within the tune that it hadn’t previously demonstrated. Sadly, many is the cover song that flops in either of these two categories, thus proving the original song superior by and far in the long run—not unlike movie remakes in the 21st century, according to most cinema buffs these days. The specific covers I’d listed just now, however, not only manage to do their original counterparts justice on both fronts, but according to some individuals, they even surpass them. Truth be told, saying such a thing might sound like a putdown of the original tune. On the other hand, one can also take such a statement as a compliment to the initial song in that even if its maiden performance proves to be more hype than anything else, a strong cover can present it in such a way that proves its ultimate value in the end, usually by bringing out another side to the tune that it hadn’t expressed in the first place. In other words, if you’ve ever listened to the original versions of any of the songs I’ve listed in the paragraph and didn’t quite like them for whatever reason, yet listened to any of their covers and found yourself enjoying them, then that definitively proves that the earlier version still has value in that it served as the inspiration for its own cover and, through said cover, gets to live up to the potential it always had, regardless of whether it lived up to it or not at the time.

Two Tragedy Poets (…and a Caravan of Weird Figures) by Elvenking: An album worth listening to even if only for the band’s cover of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth”

All this in mind, if the music of the 1980s was truly as awful as the Robin Hiltons, Carrie Brownsteins, and various other music snobs of the world claim it was, then why do so many people around the globe still cherish these songs today? I only ask because from where I’m sitting, it was just like any other ten-year stretch of time as far as the music scene was concerned with its fair share of misfires, hits that have only grown to show their flaws over the years, and numerous classics that have managed to be every bit as good nowadays as they did when they first hit the airwaves. Note, too, that I haven’t even begun to discuss how the music business in the 80s influenced the contemporary music scene in general in more ways than some people remember, including the advent of music videos and how they provided viewers visuals to accompany the songs they featured, thus making the latter even more memorable in the long run than they would’ve been by themselves. Not only that, but I could go on for a good couple paragraphs more discussing the stars who’d staked their claim during this era, whether they were breakthrough artists or bands who were just starting to make a name for themselves (e.g., Madonna, Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, and Bon Jovi) or long-standing acts who were continuing the success they’d garnered in decades prior (e.g., Styx, Fleetwood Mac, Diana Ross, and Michael Jackson). Indeed, the 80s had a huge effect—nay…impact—upon the music world that still rings true nowadays in the 2010s, and anyone who dares to cry out that the decade was the “beginning of the end” is, at least according to me, in serious need of a timeout. Sure, they’re allowed to think what they want, and having preferences is a natural way of life. It’s the way in which these individuals express their opinion, though, that makes them sound juvenile and self-entitled in the end, and truth be told, we have more than enough of such behavior in this world today, both on and outside of the Internet.

Movies

A mere sample of the much-beloved titles that the motion picture industry gave America (and the rest of the world) back in the 1980s

Last of all, the 1980s was quite a time for the cinema with a broad span of genres staking their claim in theaters worldwide from action and horror to sci-fi and fantasy to even romance and adventure. Many were the original properties that came to be during this time to catch audiences’ attention that people still remember fondly today to the point where a good portion of them have received remakes in the 21st century. Many was there a film remake in the 80s, too (e.g., Scarface 1983, The Fly 1986, and John Carpenter’s The Thing) that took a film that had originally hit the big screen decades prior, retooled it to focus on an aspect of the flick that it hadn’t fully expressed in its initial form, and retold the story in a different light, much to the enjoyment of cinema attendees at the time. Even certain 80s flicks that did poorly in the theaters (e.g., Big Trouble in Little China) and/or received mixed reviews at best (e.g., Highlander) managed to win over enough fans to become cult classics, thanks to specific scenes, characters, quotes, and so forth. This was also the time where the industry placed brand recognition upon the actors and actresses who partook in the films that made them prosperous rather than upon the films themselves, thus turning many of said players into A-list celebrities and among the most well-remembered public figures of the late 20th century. Sure, not everything proved to be sunshine and rainbows in the world of cinema, as many a movie had surfaced during this period that the masses have blissfully forgotten for various reasons until certain “Digital Age” movie buffs brought it upon themselves to bring them back to the public’s attention decades later. Even so, there was a sense of excitement and even wonder back then concerning the movie world, more likely than not resulting from the industry’s focus at this time on original properties as opposed to the previously established licenses and other easy, blatant cash grabs (e.g., sequels and spinoffs) that the business all too often leans upon today. Films were also simple and straightforward, even at their most complex, and channeled more of their energy into sensible and fun storytelling than into the things that annoy today’s movie goers like blatant trend-following, obtrusive storyline swerves with no buildup, and political messaging. That’s not to say that the 21st century movie scene is utter garbage, of course, as there have been quite a few box office successes in recent years. Rather, it’s that many of these great films—most of which industry insiders refer to as “surprise” or “sleeper” hits—all too often don’t receive the attention they deserve in the wake of film studios continuously aiming for the almighty dollar with the same tired characters over and over in hopes of securing a safe bet with modern audiences. Little have today’s movie executives learned yet, however, that it takes more than recognizable set pieces to make a good film—particularly when industry suits deliberately steer present films in a direction in hopes of support their pocketbooks rather than their directors’ artistic visions.

Indiana Jones, Lt. Ellen Ripley, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, Martin Riggs, John McClane, and John Rambo: Six of the 1980s’ greatest action heroes

I especially miss the action films of the 1980s. Sure, some people nowadays might turn their noses up at them and dismiss the brunt of them as being dumb, loud, obnoxious, cheesy, and ripe with the kind of machismo that only a stereotypical, testosterone-driven male would love, but let’s face it: There’s just something that speaks to the human soul to see an individual—man or woman—triumph in the face of seemingly unconquerable odds and save the day, oftentimes in the name of a greater cause. Such was the fundamental theme that served as the foundation of many a beloved 80s film, be it a science fiction tour de force like Predator or Terminator or something linked more to a semi-realistic setting such as Rambo or Die Hard or even something of a more fantastic persuasion such as Highlander or Conan the Barbarian. Even sports/martial arts drama films such as Rocky III (itself the third installment of the time-honored Rocky film series) and the original Karate Kid provided audiences with protagonists who literally fought to prove themselves to be the best contenders in a given sports league or tournament whose struggles teach the importance of perseverance, hard work, and determination through the use of compelling dialogue, hard-hitting fight scenes, and plot progression that encourages viewers to empathize with the heroes and root for their success. Furthermore were the protagonists of these movies themselves, many of whom still live on in the memories of movie watchers today because of the courage and steadfastness that they expressed throughout the course of the stories within which they took part. Honestly, who can forget the likes of Indiana Jones and the many treacherous traps and adversaries (Nazi and non-Nazi alike) he’s had to overcome or the various occult or otherwise mystical treasures he’s reclaimed on his perilous, globe-spanning expeditions? What about “Mad” Max Rockatansky, the hardened Main Force Patrol officer from dystopic Victoria, Australia, who ends up losing his career, partner, family, and worldly possessions in a series of nasty and violent events that transform him into a drifting loner who helps out whichever small pockets of civilization he comes across along his near-aimless journey in an effort to prevent himself from fully falling into utter savagery? How about plainclothes police officer Axel Foley of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, who won fans over with his smart mouth and reckless, rule-breaking method of crimefighting, both of which helped to set him apart from the commonplace stoic, squarer-jawed, powerfully built soldiers and warriors for which critics typically know the 80s for hosting? If nobody else, at least he reminds us all that 1980s action heroes weren’t always about overpowering their antagonists with superpowers, fisticuffs, or the biggest gun and that it oftentimes requires brainpower and attitude to help see one through a harrowing situation and put evil in its place. Such is the kind of variety that I miss when it comes to action movies, and I hope that we can return to having such a mix of action heroes in film one day without having to rely chiefly on those from movies past or from comic books or other licensed products. After all, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can’t be the only actor in Hollywood who can portray a convincing heroic lead in an action film…right?

There were also plenty of films from the 1980s that I’ve enjoyed that were made with kids or families in mind, many of which I still enjoy to this very day. Whether these films were live action or animated made no difference, nor did the genre they happened to belong to, be that genre adventure, sci-fi, comedy, any combination of the three, or something else altogether. All that really mattered to me was whether they told a good story, and in many cases, they did. The NeverEnding Story, for example, was a sadly underperforming cult classic that taught me the importance of always having hope during the darkest of times, just as ten-year-old Bastian Balthazar Bux and his Fantasian counterpart Atreyu learned to do during their respective adventures that eventually intertwined with one another and led to the preservation of Fantasia in the face of the mundane world’s apathy and cynicism. This movie also taught me to never let go of my imagination, for should I make the most of it in the wake of whatever circumstances may come my way, I can overcome obstacles and open up a whole new world for myself filled with numerous opportunities to further grow and develop, which…let’s face it…is an important lesson for any novelist to have. Jim Henson and George Lucas’s 1986 joint venture Labyrinth, another movie that was woefully unsuccessful at the box office, teaches the same moral to some degree, but adds in the importance of one’s imagination even as one grows up, as per the case of fifteen-year-old protagonist Sarah Williams, and the importance of family and friends in the wake of uncertainty (i.e., Sarah’s infant half-brother Toby and newfound friends Hoggle, Sir Didymus and his steed Ambrosius, and Ludo). However, if I could name any “kids’ movie” of the 80s that captures the decade’s heart and spirit better than any other, my choice would be The Goonies. This gem from Amblin Entertainment circa 1985 tells the tale of Michael “Mikey” Walsh, a young boy whose family faces foreclosure on their home in the Goon Docks area of Astoria, Oregon and—upon coming across a doubloon from 1632 and an old treasure map in his family’s attic—sets off with his three oddball friends on an adventure to reclaim the treasure of “the original Goonie,” the famed pirate “One-Eyed” Willy with his older brother Brandon and his two female classmates, Andy and Stef, soon joining them. What ensues afterwards is a rollicking adventure as the kids face off against a family of local mobsters in their efforts to gather just enough of Willy’s fortune to pay off the neighborhood’s collective mortgage and save the residents’ homes, during which every member of the four Goonies gets a chance to shine, from Clarke “Mouth” Devereaux’s fluency in Spanish (which he uses to translate One-Eyed Willy’s map) to Richard “Data” Wang’s inventions. Even the klutzy Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen gets his moment when he and Sloth—the mentally handicapped and sympathetic deformed son of Ma/Mama Fratelli—intervene at the very end to rescue the others from Ma and her sons Jake and Francis. It was a frank, honest, uncomplicated escapade that had just the right amount of action in it to keep us viewers on the edge of our seats as well as compelling characters with whom we could identify.

The Goonies: A triumphant blend of action, adventure, and humor that many an 80s kid remembers fondly to this day.

The Goonies likewise had a hearty dash of comedy in it to make us chuckle, which was especially welcome not only because of how well it meshed with the movie’s other elements, but also because comedies on the big screen weren’t quite as plentiful as films from other genres during the 80s. Moreover, in an interesting twist of fate, the humor itself wasn’t always as clean as one would think it would be, given the picture’s PG rating and the age of its protagonists. I specifically remember the scene where Chunk accidentally knocks over a nude male statuette belonging to Mikey and Brandon’s mother, breaking off its lower extremities as a result and forcing Mikey to try to put the figurine back together, only to put the severed privates back on upside down, which in turn coaxes Brandon to make a wisecrack about the figurine “****ing” in people’s faces. Dirty and immature? Yes! Even so, the joke was organic enough to not drive us away from the movie. On a similarly note, neither did the deliberately mistranslated instructions that Mouth relayed to housekeeper Rosalita on Mrs. Walsh’s behalf that described the Walsh family’s allegedly unscrupulous activities, including drug addiction and torture. Luckily, the film doesn’t go overboard with the tackiness, and a lot of the laughs come more from the kids’ reactions to the bizarre occurrences that happen to them throughout the course of their wild adventure, whether those occurrences be their survival of a particularly nasty pitfall, the discovery of something decidedly macabre (i.e., a decayed human corpse), or Chunk first meeting Sloth during his imprisonment by the Fratellis. It was a natural style of comedy that fit in seamlessly with the young heroes’ adventure rather than try to overtake it and served as a form of levity to (and therefore break from) the suspense and drama that made up the film’s main goings-on. This was exactly how the humor worked in the original Ghostbusters movie from 1984, which continues to play into that picture’s timelessness even today and, in some ways, could explain why many comedic theatrical releases over the years have fallen as hard as they have. Too often have I noticed in 21st century films the apparent need for the comedy to dominate the story and get in the way of what could easily pass as heart-pounding action or suspense or, worse yet, a particularly poignant moment just for a cheap laugh from the audience. I can understand, for example, why many a Ninja Turtle fan would get irked from listening to Raphael’s speech from the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film during the scene where he, the rest of the turtles, and April O’Neil were falling from the remains of that collapsing skyscraper. Sure, the speech was heartfelt and showed just how capable of emotion Raph was as he proclaimed his love for his three brothers in face of what seemed to be certain death for them all, but that record skip at the very end ruined it all by taking away all that tear-jerking sentimentality and making Raph’s words seem like little more than a sappy joke. It didn’t help, either, that the beam upon which the gang was all riding down towards the ground came to an immediate stop in its descent right then and there and hit the ground with a thud, leaving everyone intact and safe upon impact. Then again, it equally annoys me—if not, in fact, irritates me even more so—when the humor involved in a film is little more than nonstop schlock like in the Netflix exclusive from 2018 Game Over, Man! and essentially goes out of its way to be tasteless and “edgy” to please its viewers. I’m sorry, but I’ve never found deliberately R- or X-rated humor to be “mature” in any way or even for “mature” audiences. If anything, I’ve always rolled my eyes and shook my head at just how immature and disgusting it all is, what with all its blatant and unrestrained volume, profanity, nudity, substance abuse, toilet and sexual humor, and utterly thoughtless obnoxiousness. Sure, Troma Entertainment has produced plenty of films back in the 1980s that involve such elements that have gone on to become classics among certain movie buffs, and even today, it prides itself on including as much of such material as it can in its pictures. Guess what, though: I’m not a fan of any of those movies or any movie made by any other film company that includes such content, regardless of the era from which said picture came. That said, as crude as The Goonies can be at times, at least it has enough heart and brains to know when and how to be funny in other ways and not use its crudeness as a crutch. In short, give me The Goonies over The Toxic Avenger any day of the week…or, for that matter, any movies with similarly crass humor such as Game Over, Man!, Kick Ass 2, Rough Night, and Tammy.

Final Thoughts

All in all, were the 1980s perfect? No. There was plenty of crap going on at the time that people who are nostalgic about the era all too readily forget. Then again, they weren’t so bad that they deserve every ounce of ridicule their naysayers shower upon them, as there was still plenty of good about the era that makes it a memorable one for plenty of people for just as many right reasons as wrong and, quite possibly, even more so. Yes, things got tough plenty of times back then, but at least there were enough good things going on in pop culture that folks could turn to as a means of escaping the real world for but a moment and, in the process, witness a good story in the process that would come to last for decades afterwards and could very well last decades more, should the memory of such media remain intact. Not only that, but fewer 80s films, shows, songs, and so forth wreaked of “80s cheese” than detractors remember, and as such, these specific media have aged more gracefully than their critics give them credit for. Granted, these are the opinions of someone who grew up during such a polarizing decade and was blessed enough to experience it during a time in his life when he could gaze upon the world around him in awe and wonder. Nonetheless, I’ve become a pretty hardened—almost jaded—adult these days whose learned time and again just what kind of crap this world can be full of, whether it’s the trash I’ve taken from the rude, selfish, oblivious, and even infantile creeps whom I’ve had the displeasure of meeting firsthand or the rubbish I hear and read about and from equally scummy jacks and jills who’ve caused trouble elsewhere around the globe. It’s thus hard for me just as much as it is for a lot of other people to appreciate the good in things today when I find myself listening to and seeing so much negativity rearing its ugly head here and there, from Mother Nature’s wrath and large-scale acts of humanity-crafted death and destruction to the human race dividing itself along various politically charged lines in the sand to people simply being petty, shallow, childish scumbags in general. Honestly, all the natural disasters, mass shootings, acts of terrorism, et cetera that have happened during this century so far have been bad enough with which to deal. Add to them, however, all the angry, bitter individuals whose messages have made waves over the past couple of decades, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the 2010s in particular have so far been the biggest powder keg of a time period America (and perhaps even the rest of the world) has ever known, even with technology bringing humanity so much closer together than ever before…perhaps a little too close, dare I say. I’m not even talking the ideological feud between liberals and conservatives, either. Just name any debate between two or more opposing groups—Christians versus atheists, for instance, or even Baby Boomers versus anti-Boomer, anti-“Millennial” Gen-Xers versus Generation Y—and you’ve got a scene simply oozing with venom between the bickering parties. One view of such a scene, whether it be on the Internet or out in the world, and surely, you’ll surely understand why people continuously pine for the “good ol’ days” when things were simpler…or at least seemed so.

Such is exactly why I’m as adamant as I am about there being great pop culture in society, no matter the year within which we might be living or the drama that takes place within it. This world can be a nasty place within which to live, after all, and while high-quality entertainment can never be enough by itself to change that, media can at the very least—as I’ve mentioned earlier in this article—offer people something they can lend an eye or ear to upon stepping away from the chaos of the real world for a bit and learn to appreciate, should the entertainment in question present itself within the proper context. Furthermore, there have been times in which television, motion picture, music, novels and other books, and even video games have encouraged their audiences to think as well as feel by showing us the state of things as they could be, should humanity as a collective whole or as select individuals either travel down the wrong moral path or take the correct steps towards a given goal. Let’s not forget, either, that good media not only reflects the times within which its creators have made it, as all media does, but also that it can show and tell stories so compelling, memorable, and rich in quality that they transcend time and last for generations after their creation. Such is why I have as much respect for 80s pop culture as I do, for even at its worst, it was a necessary evil that dared to experiment and step away from the tired old styles, tropes, and formulas that media from previous decades had relied upon to carry out its objective. Outside of that, I can regard 80s pop culture and find myself enjoying it to some extent on many an occasion, even when it comes to those programs and films I’d never chanced to watch back in the day or those songs I’d never heard when they’d first hit the airwaves. It’s that “it” factor that catches my attention and encourages me to keep watching and/or listening, and by “it,” I usually mean at least one of several things: simplicity, straightforwardness, an undeniable sense of fun, or just plain good writing with plenty of tender loving care and attention to detail in how each character plays out and evolves over the course of the film, show, or even song as it progresses. Many are the people out there who go on to prove the staying power of these media brands, too, with the likes of MacGyver and Magnum PI getting relaunches in the 2010s while motion pictures like Lethal Weapon and Heathers have gotten television adaptations around the same time. Plenty of cartoons, too, have either gotten revivals of their own or have been scheduled/rumored to receive relaunches either on television or in movie theaters, from He-Man, She-Ra, My Little Pony, and ThunderCats to G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even Jem and the Holograms. I’ve also mentioned how Hollywood has remade so many 80s pictures with varying degrees of success, and while film buffs may take umbrage with the whole notion, the Hollywood machine will no doubt continue to pump out such works, actual quality be damned. Sadly, this is the double-edged sword that comes into play when it comes to these properties, as their revivals may have the name of the original product they’re trying to emulate, but only a handful of them have that “it” factor that made the original so beloved in the first place. Often enough, the people behind the revival take their projects so far away from the beloved source material off which they’ve based their projects and turn out something that fans of the initial franchise can only barely recognize and hence have a hard time appreciating, albeit understandably so. Whether it’s incorporating themes into the story that clash with those of the original, presenting a side of the tale from an already present direction that falls flat and makes the storytelling come across as awkward, or—worst of all—completely abandoning that which made the original narration so captivating in the first place, these new iterations more often than not flop, flounder, and fail to live up to the story that fans had come to know and love from years prior. This thus begs the question of why the party responsible bothered to reboot the original property in the first place. To play off fans’ nostalgia and make a quick buck, perhaps? To outright spit in the face of the brand and those who’d created it? To attempt to honor the licenses that many have come to grow up knowing, only to have their blind insight and gauche approach to the source material lead them into forging the exact opposite of what they sought to make in the first place?

Let’s not forget, either, the 2010s revival of the hit 1980s soap opera Dynasty on the CW.

Personally, I’m not pining for the return of any 80s franchise any time soon, regardless of whether I loved or loathed it in its original form. If anything, I’d much rather media creators give consumers brand new characters, stories, and licenses within which the latter party can invest and call their own the same way kids of the 1980s like me did with the material we grew up on. My reason for saying this is simple: We as a people can only tell so many stories with the same time-honored characters over the years before the properties to which said characters belong grow old, tired, and stale and we hence lose interest in them. It’s thus only natural to build upon our social mythology by introducing new franchises onto the scene to introduce to us all new and fresh thoughts and ideas with new and fresh characters with whom to identify and as such add to our cultural identity. The plots that these characters find themselves in can be fresh, too, whether they be based upon familiar ideas that the creators breathe new life into with unique twists and reconstitution or (though admittedly less probable) wholly original ideas that have yet to be explored. If anything of a 1980s feel needs to be thrown into the mix, let it be the heart and spirit that the decade had in their media—that energy and optimism that shows that not only are the creators eager and willing to try something new to freshen up the entertainment world, but also willing to have fun doing so in the process. I’m sure I’ve already said this plenty of times on my blog, but for the record, I’m so sincerely sick and tired of the same drab, miserable, “edgy” approach to things these days, especially where comedy and drama are concerned. Blatant profanity and sexual references, bodily/gross-out humor aplenty, tone-defying stupidity over tension-easing levity, overabundant tonal darkness that tries far too hard to be what it is, many a mean-spirited jab between characters, and little to nothing to balance it all out—I’ve seen and heard so much of this garbage in twenty-first-century entertainment that it’s far from shocking anymore. Truth be told, it all annoys me more than anything else because while there are forms of media out there today that have the kind of heart and spirit I’ve long needed to see, it still seems as though the products that contain this element never receive the attention or respect they deserve and must always have the spotlight cast away from them while all the crass, vulgar, soulless, and braindead material gets all the love and praise from the masses. It’s a real shame, especially considering that even programs like Roseanne and The Simpsons—two sitcoms from the 1980s that were known (and respected) for having a lot more bite than most of their contemporaries—had more intellectual and emotional spark about them than many of the popular sitcoms that have played throughout the past nineteen or so years. Sure, televised storytelling has evolved over the years in that more programs, especially dramas, are willing to showcase story arcs that span several episodes as opposed to just one, thus involving more plot and character development over time and in turn encouraging more viewers to invest time into them. Even so, without there being any heart or soul within these tales, what point would there be for anyone to dedicate their time to keeping up with such work at all? Wouldn’t it thus make more sense to have both—you know, the one element to bring them in and the other to keep them around? That’s how I’d do it, leastways.

Long story short, though, people, it’s my personal belief that no, the 1980s weren’t as bad as a lot of people make them out to be. Sure, the era had its fair share of problems, as all decades do, but as far as pop culture is concerned, there was and still is plenty of merit for one to witness. If nothing else, 80s media has played its part in the evolution of media as we know it, and we all can look back upon the movies, music, television shows, and so forth of the time and see for ourselves what went right and wrong with them and where we can go from there in the present. I surely look forward, too, to the day when the entertainment world attains the creative energy that once flowed through it like wildfire during this period and with it churns out stories that will surely last a lifetime for those blessed enough to see and hear them for themselves. When that will be, however, I can only guess, for while I don’t think today’s media is quite as bad as it could be, it’s obvious from my perspective that the trash more often than not gets in the way of us enjoying the treasure, and twenty-first-century media as a whole could definitely—at least in my opinion—use that certain special something that will make the masses want to reexperience it all over again thirty to forty years from now the same way many people today enjoy reexperiencing 1980s entertainment. There’s no better time, either, than right now for us all to see to it that such a shift happens. After all, we only have 2019 left, for as far as the 2010s are concerned, and the sooner we all do our part to find and support media that has both earnest effort put into it and the kind of skillful execution we expect from it, the sooner those within the entertainment industry will take notice and do all they can to shift the nature of the business in a direction that will benefit us all in the long run. From there, then, there’ll be a stronger sense of hope for the 2020s to be one of the best eras of not only pop culture, but culture, period, for as small a sphere as media is in reflecting who we are as a people, it has the power to influence nevertheless and steer humanity in a direction that forges it for better, should we all take the right steps to make it happen.

Love them or hate them, the 1980s will always be cherished by many for what they brought to the table, especially as far as pop culture is concerned.

*****

To all who’ve graciously read this editorial and understood its message, thank you so much for your time. I’d been meaning to put this one out much sooner than I had, truth be told, but I’d found out while writing it that I had more to say than I’d initially realized. In fact, I haven’t even gone into everything I’d wanted to talk about, but honestly, I think I’ve made my point clear. At any rate, I hope you enjoyed this article all the same and that the next one won’t take me quite as long to publish here on my blog. That, and thank you for the five hundred subscriptions I’ve recently received. I really appreciate the support, everyone.

Speaking of support, though, feel free to drop me a “like,” leave me a comment below to tell me what you enjoyed about this read, let me know what else you’d like to read about here on my website, subscribe if you haven’t already, and visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to check out my current list of books. Aside from that, don’t hesitate to come on back for more editorials and poetry in the future, and until then, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

The visuals used within this article belong to the following sources:

SlidePlayer.com
20 Style Mistakes We All Made in the 90s by Sam Escobar (GoodHousekeeping.com)
ObserevationDeck.com
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors Theme (Extended Mix) by 910dohead (YouTube)
WhatsOnTV.co.uk
 G.I. Joe Reggae by NoodlesHahn (YouTube)
Sites.Google.com
Jukebox.fr
Ark Music Factory
Metal-Archives.com
FandangoStar.com
Top10Films.co.uk
Uproxx.com
Metro.co.uk
Biography.com & Boston Herald
Zazzle.com

All opinions expressed within the above article, however, are solely those of the author himself.

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Poem of the Week: A Writer’s Work

A Writer’s Work
August 14, 2018

A writer’s work is never done,
Whether it’d be a chore or fun,
And it starts when you begin your first book,
So have a moment and take a look
For something that stimulates your mind.
Then, from there, it’s to the grind
To work on something hopefully fresh
That puts your talents to the test,
Telling a new tale that with which
Has turned on your brain like a light switch
Flipped by a soul entering a dark room.
Question, though, is will your mind bloom
With twists and turns for your tale to take,
Or will your brain suddenly hit the breaks
Once your idea first hits the page,
Then fume and boil with flustered rage
As it tries to think of what comes next,
Only to end up hopelessly vexed?
After all, it pays not to force
A story that simply won’t take course,
And it only makes sense instead to try
Another route by which your brain won’t fry,
Taking notes along the way
To see just how your story will sway
And taking control when things get rough
‘Til your tale’s at last solid enough
To submit to an agent, who
Won’t turn up her nose and go “poo-poo”
All over it like it’s a load of crap
Like a free-to-play, pay-to-win phone app,
But show it to a publisher, who will
Give it the attention it needs to fill
Your dream of giving the next generation
Something to inspire their station.
Then, should your book become a hit,
Who knows which step you may see fit?
A sequel, perchance, to book one
With more to come ‘til the series is done?
Another work that’s entirely new
To give readers’ brains something to do?
Perhaps a new genre entirely
To show what kind of writer you can be?
Also, what of the meet-and-greets
That take you out of the writer’s seat
So you can show gratitude towards your fans
For making you famous ‘cross the land?
What of the interviews and conventions
Where you talk about your written inventions
Old and new and try to showcase
Your best side and thus make a good case
For your right to be written in history’s
Annals as one whose work’s worthy to see?
What ‘bout a new agent, should the one
Working for you announces he or she is done?
Who’ll help you spread your name far and wide
As the greatest writer on the countryside?
Do you look for a new one and carry on
Living out your dream until you’re gone,
Or do you retire to live off of
The cash you’ve made from your labor of love?
Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure
In this land so riddled with the impure:
A writer’s work is never done
Once it begins ‘neath Heaven’s sun
’Til he or she him- or herself calls it quits,
And that’s only when he or she sees fit.
Don’t you give up, then, literary stars,
For you could someday reach past Mars
And give the masses a reason to care
‘Bout what you’ve to say to all anywhere,
And your legacy shall live on for days,
Weeks, months, years—eons, in some ways.
All you need to do is take that first step,
And you just might be successful yet.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk
Twitter: @DustinMWeber18

In Relation to My Work: How I’d Like 21st-Century Storytelling Media to Evolve, Regardless of Platform

Before I can begin this article, I’d like to apologize for being tardy in posting it. Truth be told, I’d been hoping to post this editorial much sooner. However, between work, family matters, and my current writing schedule, doing so has proven to be a lot more difficult than I’ve expected. All the same, from what I’ve seen in the media in recent months—particularly this past month, what with so many new programs coming out on television during the fall season—the content included in the editorial below is still pretty relevant to what’s been going on in the world of television and motion pictures. That being said, thank you all for your patience, and again…I’m sorry in taking my dear sweet time in uploading this, as I do plan on posting future articles here on this blog in a more timely fashion in the future.

Thank you all for your time, but for now, enough kvetching. On with the editorial!

*****

Hello, readers.

On January 23, 2016, I’d written an article on this blog about the kind of books I’d have liked to see come out in whatever at the time was left of this decade. Truth be told, I still have the same attitude regarding my suggestions as I did back then, but now my opinions have expanded towards other forms of media. After all, even though I myself can admit that the “good old days” of the 1980s and 1990s weren’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination, the fact still remains that no matter the crap that was going on in each of these two decades, there was still plenty of entertainment media out there for audiences to sink their teeth into and as such help them look beyond it all, even if only temporarily. That’s not to say that today’s entertainment scene is complete and utter trash, of course, for there’s still some good stuff out there for the masses to enjoy as well a good number of avenues through which they can check out said stuff. It always seems, however, as though such movies, television shows, and the like end up taking a back seat to whatever garbage seems to be flooding the market, which in turn leads to said garbage attracting more attention from folks by and large. Don’t get me wrong, either, for I’m quite tempted myself to vent about some of the flotsam and jetsam that’s been bob, bob, bobbing along the mainstream like buoyant fecal matter for years. Then again, what would that accomplish, even in the very unlikely instance that some major entertainment exec was to come across this humble little blog and read this specific entry? For all I know, nothing more or less than the person in question rolling his or her eyes, clicking off this page, and muttering to himself or herself, “Oh, great…another miserable malcontent from the vocal minority…”

That being said, I present to you all a small list of the kind of things that would encourage me to invest myself in a given form of entertainment. As was true before, the following represents my own preferences. If there’s any kind of idea that you think would make for a movie, television show, or similar form of media that I’ve neglected to mention, please leave it in the comments section below. Otherwise, enjoy!

Ease up with the remakes.

Just a VERY small sample of all the movies that have been remade over the years…mostly with much negative reception

One of the biggest complaints that’s been circling the Internet since the beginning of this decade has to be about Hollywood’s apparent lack of original ideas and the necessity to remake, reboot, readapt, and simply flat-out re-everything they lay their hands on. Now, granted, not every movie that happens to be a remake or reboot of a previously existing film is necessarily an unholy abomination that has no business to exist. I’ve already mentioned Dredd from 2012 on December 2, 2016, for example, and its superiority to the original Judge Dredd movie from 1995. The same can be said for John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982, Scarface from 1983, The Fly from 1986, The Blob from 1988, Cape Fear from 1991, Gone in 60 Seconds from 2000, Ocean’s Eleven from 2001, Chicago from 2002, The Italian Job from 2003, and The Hills Have Eyes from 2006, just to name a handful. Sadly, critically and monetarily successful remakes like these have recently become few and far between, as movie studios are more content to simply take something that either was or still is popular and remake it into a whole “new” film for little to no reason outside of making a quick buck from something with an already established audience. The result: Movie remakes have gone up in quantity, but down in quality. Whether such films as these are lazy, uninspired, shot-by-shot rehashes of their previously established counterparts (i.e., Gus Van Zant’s Psycho from 1998 and Samuel Bayer’s Nightmare on Elm Street from 2010) or nearly to fully complete overhauls that completely miss the point of their source material (i.e., 1999’s The Haunting or 2014’s Robocop), the fact remains that they usually only succeed at two things: alienating fans of the original works and making the originals prove all the more that they can stand on their own just fine without having to be remade. Very rare these days are remakes that respect the idea of the original property while adding something new to the formula to give audiences a movie-going experience that is both fresh and pleasant. Honestly, I can only begin to tell you the kind of backlash that the following movies, amongst others, have received for one reason or another from both audiences and professional critics alike, regardless of their financial successes.

Annie from 2014
Bad News Bears from 2005
Black Christmas from 2006
Carrie from 2013
Clash of the Titans from 2010
Conan the Barbarian from 2011
Friday the 13th from 2009
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call from 2016
It’s Alive from 2009
Mr. Deeds from 2002
Planet of the Apes from 2001
Poltergeist from 2015
Power Rangers from 2017
Pulse from 2006
Rob Zombie’s Halloween from 2007
Rollerball from 2002
Shutter from 2008
Straw Dogs from 2011
Michael Bay’s two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies
The Karate Kid from 2010
The Eye from 2008
The Omen from 2006
The Stepford Wives from 2004
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003 and its 2006 prequel, TTCM: The Beginning
The Wicker Man from 2006
Total Recall from 2012
Walking Tall from 2004

To think, too, that there are plenty of potentially eye-opening ideas out there that would more likely than not translate into excellent movies, if handled right, and possibly even be successful at the box office, should said movie receive the right kind of marketing. Alas, it’s proven to be much less of a financial risk for some studios to remake an already established product than to create a brand new one, regardless of whether doing the former or the latter is the wiser or more popular thing to do. It’s a shame, really, for if Hollywood doesn’t soon establish a keener production balance between new projects and the remakes it’s been churning out, who knows just how severe its already established creative drought will further blight the whole motion picture scene in the long run? Not only that, but if movie producers would learn to look at films from an artistic standpoint as well as a financial one, then if nothing else, they would at least come to the realization the real reason to remake a film: to do something new with its narrative that would help to improve it, such as telling it from another perspective or focusing on an element upon which the original had neglected to focus.

David Sandberg’s Kung Fury: One of the most highly regarded original films of 2015 and a definitive example of the power and effectiveness of originality

I could go on with this topic by talking about how many belated sequels to previously established films suffer from problems similar to those of film remakes as well as how this whole remaking trend has affected the television and video game industries as well as the world of cinema. The truth is, however, that I’d just be repeating a lot of the same points I’ve already made concerning the movie industry. Plus, let’s not forget that even though these studios are the ones responsible for putting out all these remakes the masses have taken issue with in recent years, we consumers are just as much to blame for buying tickets to see these flicks in the theaters. Even spending our hard-earned money on the home edition of these films puts cash into the producers’ pockets, which only further proves the profitability of their kind in this day and age, regardless of how many people take to the Internet to complain about them. Taking that into consideration, it seems as though the only way for us to put an end to this whole trend—or, at the very least, slow it down—is for us as a collective whole to stop paying to see these movies. Then, when the studios start to receive less and less cash flowing into their bank accounts on account of these remakes that we’ve all been taking issue with, they’ll learn to rethink this whole remakes fad and how we’ve grown sick and tired of seeing so many time-honored films receiving one subpar reincarnation after another. Granted, that’s not to automatically say that whatever original films they’ll be giving us from that point forward will automatically be instant classics. If anything, we’ll still be receiving a mixed bag as far as originals movies are concerned, just as we always have. We can still at least hope that the brunt of them will be good, however, although in that case, it’d be a matter of whether or not movie studios will have the wisdom to regard the hits of the past artistically, find out which elements made each of them work, and apply those same elements to their newer flicks.

Bloody Roar reboot: Make it happen, Konami. You’ve made a Bomberman game for the Switch, after all, so why not?

One final note about remakes, cinematic or otherwise: If there’s ever been a time I refused to see a remake of anything that I’d seen or neglected to see back when it first came out, it was never out of fear of the remake “ruining my childhood.” If anything, as I’ve said before, even a terrible remake only confirms the original’s worth to some degree. Rather, I’m more of the opinion that the entertainment industry give today’s young people a childhood of their own of which they can be proud rather than be fed that which the people of my own generation had already been fed when we were young. Quite frankly, the sole exception to this rule is the only product out there that I personally want to see receive a remake in the near future, and that would be Bloody Roar. Simply put, BR was an IP that never reached its full potential back in the day and deserves a chance to redeem itself after the much-maligned latest entry in its franchise, 2003’s Bloody Roar 4. I mean, hey, if Killer Instinct can be brought back to life after seventeen years of inactivity with a game that retells the original story with greater clarity than the first two games combined did, then why can’t BR receive similar treatment? Aside from BR, however, I’m more apt to look forward to more original products rising up from this moment forth so that new creators can have the opportunity to change the entertainment scene for the better.

Knock it off with the snark and other forms of lazy, lowbrow humor.

A small example of the cleverness that actually makes me chuckle

As it’s been said before time and again, humor is subjective, and that which makes one person laugh could very well annoy or even offend another. That being said, I’ve grown so sick and tired of most of what passes for humor in the media today that it isn’t even funny…if you’ll forgive the unintentional yet admittedly predictable pun. Trust me, too, when I say that I can go on for quite a while about how ironic it is for most modern-day humor to be as consistently raunchy, tone-deaf, mean-spirited, and simply lowbrow as it’s been for the past decade-plus in an age where PC culture has been playing as proactive a part as it has been. Truth be told, I can see why to some extent, but just because I can doesn’t mean I’m at all among the masses who’ve jumped on board such a bandwagon. To be fair, too, I haven’t seen every single sitcom, sketch comedy show, or standup comedy act of this era. Most of what I have seen, though, has given me a bad taste in my mouth. Toilet humor, sex jokes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the back of one’s head, graceless slapstick, blatant and ceaseless profanity—I’ve seen and heard all of the above and then some in recent years through various outlets, and none of it has ever made me laugh. If anything, such material simply makes me roll my eyes, shake my head, and wonder about the kind of mentality one has to be in to appreciate anything so lazy, thoughtless, and cheap.

Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn’s characters Tommy and Audrey Macklin from 2012’s The Babymakers upon finding out about the negative reception their failed movie had received upon its limited cinematic release on account of its crass, immature humor (1 out of 4 stars from the late Roger Ebert, 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 49 reviews with a 3.5/10 average rating)

I know I’ve already touched upon this topic back in my original article from last year, but honestly, I feel as though I can’t stress it enough. After all, you don’t have to be “edgy” or offensive to be funny. Just look at the success of such comedians as Gabriel Iglesias, Ellen Degeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Anjelah Johnson, and especially Brian Regan—all of whom have garnered many a laugh from audiences over the span of their careers with jokes that didn’t need to rely on foul language, “shocking” ideology or imagery, shameless pratfalls, or any other form of below-the-belt humor. Granted, there have been instances in which a couple of these comedians have strayed from their usual path, such as with Gabriel’s “racist gift basket” routine and even Ellen dropping a couple of S-bombs during her famous Taste This comedy album from 1996, but even then, these comics relied more on their wit than on straight crassness to tickle their audiences’ fancy and make them think as well as laugh. Such is the key to timeless comedy, as has been proven time and again not only by the aforementioned comics and other, similarly successful comedians, but also by many a well-remembered sitcom or sketch comedy. Even The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable herself, Tony Award winning actress Phylicia Rashad, can attest to this based on the following piece of information she once shared in an interview with the Huffington Post:

Phylicia Rashad, Tony Award-winning actress and mother Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show as interviewed April 6, 2014 by Huff Post Live

“Drama appeals to the emotions. Comedy appeals to the intellect.”

Such were the words that the late Dr. Frank M. Snowden, Jr. of Howard University in Washington, D.C., said to Ms. Rashad after she’d answered a question he’d posed to her and the rest of her classmates concerning whether they preferred drama or comedy, and considering my own personal comedic tastes, this comparison makes a lot of sense to me. After all, as Ms. Rashad goes on to say in the same interview, most of the sitcoms from “back in the day” that the masses know and love today had writers working behind the scenes who all worked with each other in the same room day after day as they fleshed out each episode of the show they were putting together. Such would explain why the plot and character development of these programs flowed in a smoother, more logical fashion than it would on a more recent show such as, say, the not-too-distantly-cancelled Mike & Molly. Honestly, the two titular characters first cross paths with each other at an Overeaters Anonymous conference, yet subsequently stop attending meetings that the support group hosts after they marry each other, and Mike subsequently reverts back to his rapacious couch potato ways every now and then with only the occasional reminder of his original objective to lose weight. Add to that Mike inadvertently no longer sleeping with the help of a respirator around the same time, the couple moving out of Molly’s old bedroom and into the Flynn family basement only to eventually move back into Molly’s bedroom, and so forth, and it can be pretty easy to see where viewers can be disenfranchised with such a show, regardless of M&M having lasted six seasons on CBS from 2010 to 2016. On a similar note is how M&M and a good number of other 21st century sitcoms tend to repeat the same tired jokes over and over again with little to no payoff, usually within the same episode and—worse yet—within the same scene. You know…in case the audience hadn’t gotten them the first time. Then again, even that practice isn’t as annoying and insulting as when the writers of a given sitcom decide to change certain characters that either don’t make sense within the show’s narrative or go against their established personalities altogether. I can certainly say that I could have done without the writers of Everybody Loves Raymond turning the once-sensible Debra into a bitter, self-pitying shrew who takes every opportunity she gets to throw a tantrum at Ray and the rest of the Barones or start weeping and sobbing as though someone had just run over the family dog. Come to think of it, the whole show, in my opinion, went downhill when everyone within the Barone family started yelling and screaming at one another on a regular basis. It wasn’t pleasant, clever, or fun in the slightest…only dull, grating, and utterly obnoxious. It didn’t challenge my mind at all, only my sanity, which is exactly why most of the sitcoms I’ve seen these days have turned me away from them. Stereotypical characters, predictable situations, exhausted jokes, and a bitter tone that practically everyone has seen in so many other shows of its kind—all of the above are elements that have dumbed down many a recent sitcom that I’ve regrettably watched and made me pine for the days when Night Court, Golden Girls, Cheers, Frasier, and the like ruled the airwaves with their keen wit, palatable charm, and the kind of punchy sophistication that has time and again managed to put a smile not only on my own face, but also on countless other people’s faces from one generation to the next.

If this wasn’t a warning sign of the kind of regular situations viewers would see in Everybody Loves Raymond’s later season, then I don’t know what is.

Of course, as irritated as I’ve become with the banality and vulgarity that I’ve discussed earlier, there’s one more trait in today’s comedic scene that I’ve grown to abhor: snark. Now, sure, I get that the world can be a very unforgivingly (and unforgivably) unkind and frustrating place within which to live, and sometimes, one needs to just let off a sarcastic remark here or there to cope with it all. Likewise, there have been plenty of people popping up all over the Internet who’ve made snarky remarks about this, that, and the other since blogging first became a thing and editorials were no longer limited to opinionated journalists. All the same, as with everything else that has made comedy so nasty these days in comparison to what it used to be, snark has reared its ugly head so much and so often that I wonder as to whether or not I’m the only one who’s noticed it, much less has grown fed up with it. Don’t get me wrong, either, for once upon a time, I used to like characters like Dr. Peter Venkman from the classic Ghostbusters films and Chandler Bing from the earlier seasons of Friends for their wry charm, world-weary wit, and occasional sliminess. However, these two specific characters and all others like them back in the day actually had charm on account of having writers behind them who knew how to pace these characters’ sarcasm effectively and only had them pop off with a remark at moments that called for them to say something flippant so as to keep them from being completely rude, disrespectful, malicious scumbags. Additionally, no matter how despicable and depraved characters like Peter and Chandler might have come across as being at times, their writers wisely made sure to give them characteristics that would have made them at least somewhat likable to their intended audiences. For instance, Peter’s shrewdness, streetwise sociability, and secretly sweet disposition easily balanced out with his course, flippant, womanizing charlatan ways, especially when he uses his diplomacy to help free himself and his fellow Ghostbusters, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, from prison. Similarly, Chandler’s refusal to quit a job that he otherwise hates (i.e., an IT procurements manager) and dedication to his girlfriend-turned-wife Monica, best friend Ross, and everyone else in their social circle temper his otherwise bitter, cynical nature. Sadly, I don’t get that same feeling from more modern comedy characters such as Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men or Dr. Leonard Hoffstadter from The Big Bang Theory. I know that’s probably going to earn me the wrath of Chuck Lorre production fans everywhere, but honestly, the way each of these two leads is written—which I could also say for the rest of the show to which each man belongs—is so thoroughly grating that it’s easy for me to forget about whatever good there might be in either of them. In fact, the further I stay away from Charlie with his hedonistic, misogynistic, scoffing self-absorption and Leonard with his needy, spineless, self-pitying, and at times ironically condescending pessimism, the more at ease I ultimately feel. Sadly, Charlie and Leonard are only two of many characters who define sarcasm according to 21st century humor, and unless there’s a more recent example of a character out there who can be sarcastic with the same grace and deftness as Peter Venkman, Chandler Bing, and the like used to, then by all means, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll remain convinced that snark is here to stay, much to my chagrin. It just isn’t appealing to me in the slightest, as it isn’t at all endearing, witty, or clever. Rather, it’s simply bitter, jaded, spiteful, and outright repulsive.

Dr. Peter Venkman from 1986’s Ghostbusters: One of the most beloved spewers of sarcasm in cinematic history and a prime example of snark RIGHT

Worse yet, snark not only makes characters within fictitious works come off as unlikable assholes, but also real-life people who try to be all cute, funny, and “personable” when the situation doesn’t call for such behavior. Just read AgentQuery.com’s guide on how to write a query letter, and you’ll see the kind of annoyance I mean. Seriously, though, AgentQuery staff, grow up and knock it off with your smart-ass remarks about people’s imperfect manuscripts, query letters, and so on, and the whole idea of the “Generation Y” having a collectively short attention span on account of only a select portion of “Gen-Yers” living up to that idiotic stereotype. People come to your website to discover information that would help them procure someone who can help them get their books published. There’s no need for any of your members to act like a bunch of flippant, pompous brats in the process. It isn’t the least bit funny, as I’ve mentioned before…only tiresome, predictable, pathetic, oblivious, and obnoxious. Knock it off and act your ages, please.

Brian Regan, one of the funniest “clean comics” known to modern stand-up AND one of the most deserving of a sitcom of his own

Bottom line, I really hope comedy evolves soon, if it hasn’t been evolving already. After all, I read humorous books, tune in to comedy shows, and watch comedic movies in hopes of finishing something to make me laugh and forget about my cares for at least a little while. Alas, very little of what we call comedy these days is intelligent or thoughtful enough to do just that and instead merely backfires and makes me feel even grouchier than I otherwise would have been, had I not come across it in the first place. It’s not even so much that all of which I’m taking issue with here is necessarily offensive, either, as I’ve said. If anything, it’s all just so irritating, tactless, immature, and straight up nauseating…almost as if the people making these jokes are going out of their way to alienate those who see it for whatever reason. Again, I know one person’s trash is another’s treasure as far as this topic is concerned, but since when did it become comically mandatory to deliberately set forth to annoy or offend people? What happened to simply aiming to make people laugh or, at the very lest, smile? Whatever happened to using one’s intellect to stimulate people’s minds and ultimately put them in a good mood as opposed to stooping to the lowest common denominator? Are the days of merry banter, quick-witted quips, sharp wordplay, and the like forever dead? I sure hope not, for with all the crap that’s still going on in this mess of a world within which we live, we all more than ever need material that brings joy to our lives, not more pain and anguish. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from these past couple of decades, there hasn’t been enough of that substance going around, and quite frankly, it’s enough to make me sick.

Smarten up your writing…PERIOD.

The quote speaks for itself.

I’m pretty sure you’ve all noticed this by now, but there have been times in the past where people have proven to be pretty stupid—not merely uninformed or unobservant, either, but simply and utterly witless. I know that sounds disparaging and rude, but let’s face it, folks: We’ve all more likely than not seen, heard, discovered, and probably even known people in our lives who’ve habitually said and done things that make us question whether or not they even know how to think at all. Heck, even now, such people continue to thrive and contribute to what one can very readily call the continued downfall of society as we know it, and even the most intelligent amongst us have forgotten how to use our heads, even if only for a brief moment, and succumbed to saying or doing something that has made others question our own sensibilities. That in mind, is it any wonder as to why certain forms of entertainment that a sizable portion of the audience considers to be pointless, tasteless, or otherwise idiotic still exist these days? Is it likewise any wonder why so many people tune in to such garbage, even when they know it’s bad for their brain and doesn’t warrant their attention? Thankfully, there do exist certain forms of entertainment, comedic and dramatic alike, that appeal to folks who despise having their intelligence insulted. Sadly, even they don’t last forever. In fact, too many of them never catch on well enough to last longer than a handful of years at best and are cancelled before they can truly make much of a mark upon American pop culture as we know it. So severe is the problem, too, that one could write up an entire essay on it if one wished to tackle the issue in depth. Who knows? I myself might do just that on this blog, should it remain standing long enough for me to do so…and should I get the gumption to follow through with such an idea. For the sake of simplicity, though, there are some key traits that indicate why a given piece of fictional media might not be as well written as it otherwise could or should be:

Raj Koothrappali: Often an afterthought compared to the rest of the characters from the other characters The Big Bang Theory and as such a prime candidate for one of the show’s most poorly written characters

Poor character portrayal and development. Have you ever watched a TV show or movie that featured a character that the writer had meant for audience members to perceive one way, only to come across as being completely different? That’s basically poor characterization in a nutshell, and to be quite frank, I’ve seen it happen in one form of storytelling too many. It’s never worked for me, either, regardless of the excuse that the writer or writers of a given work may offer to excuse the character in question acting in a way that doesn’t make sense for him or her. Maybe the writer(s) didn’t know what to do with said character beyond a certain point and felt the need to pull something out of thin air just to keep him or her relevant…even if that very something more or less made no sense in regards to who or what he or she already was or had already experienced according to the story’s overall plot. Maybe the writer(s) had meant to have him or her progress beyond a given point, yet had failed to do so out of negligence and thus either gave up on him or her altogether or forced him or her into a situation that would have him or her grow in the direction that he/she/they had initially intended for him or her. Whatever the case, failing to allow a given character to evolve naturally during the course of any given production is a great way to ruin any kind of story—even one that was already unimpressive to begin with.

Unlocking Blaze Fielding’s “bad” ending in the original Streets of Rage: An interesting choice to make in the game itself…but how effective would it be if SoR were a novel, movie, or TV show instead?

Poor plot progression. This next trait tends to ruin just as many stories as poor character development and portrayal do and, more times than not, works hand-in-hand with the former to create some of the most negatively received forms of fictitious media that humanity has come to know. Far too often do these particular stories feature character actions and other events that simply don’t make any sense, usually on account of the writer either compulsorily or carelessly stringing events together in an attempt to show and/or tell the story at hand. Sometimes a character will react to an event in a fashion that portrays him or her as having more knowledge than he or she should, such as a young girl automatically deciphering the coded glyphs that adorn a bizarre ancient compass that she has just received. Sometimes an event will occur in a way that betrays the rules of reality, such as an alleged murderess in a mansion turning off all the mansion’s lights when she is located in the mansion’s basement while the power source to the lights is on the ground floor. This later occurrence can even happen in science fiction, fantasy, and even some horror stories, which are notably more lax in their rules of reality. Say, for example, you were watching a fantasy film in which it has already been established that trolls can regenerate wounds caused by anything but fire, and it just so happens that the heroes are caught in a violent confrontation with a troll. Would it make more sense for the heroes to dispatch of the hostile creature with flaming arrows and a bow…or a simple silver stake through the heart? Even choices that a given character makes can mess up a story’s plot, such as the protagonist and her friends finally coming across the crime lord they’ve been gunning after throughout the course of the tale, only for the protagonist to agree to become the crime lord’s right-hand woman without any prior foreshadowing of or motivation for her betraying her allies. Such is the kind of stuff that would make any audience member scratch his or her head and wonder just what the writer(s) were thinking—if, of course, he/she/they were even thinking at all.

How I usually envision those who laugh at jokes about rape, suicide, tragic historical events, and the like as well as blatant sexual humor and similarly low-hanging “comedic” fruit

Deliberate shock value. Call me a prude all you want, but many has there been a movie, television show, comic book, novel, or video game that just had to go that extra mile into “adult territory,” only to turn out to be a tacky, hollow, shallow, pandering, lowbrow, soulless mess on account of such a misguided decision. Granted, there have been instances in which extreme violence, foul language, sexually explicit content, and the like have been used in fiction to great effect and paint a rather bleak mental picture for audiences to perceive the story’s overall themes and message. At other times, however, such content has been thrown into such works haphazardly “just for the hell of it” for the sake of drawing in viewers, readers, listeners, and/or players. The result: an egregiously incognizant product that may draw in the morbidly curious for a while by promoting its “shocking” content, only to send such an audience off either offended once said content rears its ugly head or disappointed once its effects upon them wear off. It is in such works that extreme violence becomes less about dramatic, heart-pounding action and more about wanton gore. Similarly, characters spew forth so much profanity to the point where they come off as petulant and immature more than they do tough, sex scenes become more nauseating and lust-based than genuine and even alluring, and all other adult-themed content similarly loses its necessity throughout the course of the story. Granted, some people may end up enjoying these products ironically, but in the end, what more are they to these people than guilty pleasures? Worse yet is how the brunt of these pieces have shown to have very little to no substance lying beneath their “gritty” and “edgy” style and end up coming across as the blatant smut that they truly are, and even those pieces that do happen to have substance aren’t always guaranteed to tell a better story than their tamer counterparts unless their storytelling is spot-on from start to finish. As a result, such productions are either doomed to live on in pop culture infamy for their schlock value or die off almost as quickly as they’d come. Either case is usually for good reason, too, especially within the presence of so many other works just like them out on the market waiting for curious eyes to fall upon them and said eyes’ owners caving in to temptation and giving them a watch, read, listen, or play…only to discover the cold, harsh reality in the end.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: 5% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 57 reviews with a 2.5/10 average rating, 13 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 16 critics, and nominated for six different Golden Raspberry Awards on account of its “tacky, numbingly inane” humor

Pandering to the lowest common denominator. This final flaw, in my opinion, has got to be the most fatal of them all when it comes to providing audiences with decent fiction. After all, even the most intelligent viewer, listener, reader, or gamer may want to shut his or her brain off every once in a while, but that isn’t reason enough for the producer of a given work of fiction to offer them something that treats them and the rest of the audience as though their brains don’t work at all. Even so, many is the moment in which the audience’s intelligence is either flat-out or accidentally insulted, such as when a joke or other occurrence is explained in-work for those who might not have “gotten it” or when random scenes successively take place with little to no context between them. I could say the same for events that occur with little to no buildup (particularly major ones, such as the reveal of a narrative’s chief antagonist) or when seemingly important information comes up during the plot’s unfolding, only to go on ignored later on either by the writers reducing its overall irrelevance or even outright refuting said information altogether. Don’t even get me started, either, on when a writer offers his or her audience a scene that defies conventional wisdom or logic simply to steer the plot in a given direction. Trust me, folks, for I, too, have felt as though I’d been talked down to when situations like this have played out in the fiction that I’d come across, and it’s not a very flattering feeling in the slightest. I’m sorry, but if a writer feels the need to explain to me the context of what had just happened, expects me to simply go along with a seemingly nonsensical chain of events taking place without any common ground between them, or demonstrates anything that is similarly jarring in his or her story, then I can’t help but question his or her mindset. Personally, I would like to think that the writers who commit such errors do so on account of just not paying close enough attention to their work. Otherwise, they would catch these mistakes in their screenplays, manuscripts, and demos before their ultimate production. I’m certainly no different, as I myself have fallen prey to my own anxiousness and have let a mistake or two slip through my fingers upon publishing my work. I’ve been making efforts to avoid repeating that process, however, and hope that other writers—regardless of the form their fiction takes—do the same. Alas, not every writer has proven to take note of his or her botches and done anything to correct his or her creative approach in the future. In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who are unconvinced of how weak their grasp on storytelling actually is, and my gut instinct tells me that we all will be seeing more intellect-insulting narration down the line. Hopefully, though, it won’t be as bad as it’s been in recent memory.

All this in mind, let it be known that in order for intelligence to at long last claim a hold upon the realm of fiction, it’s up to the masses to recognize the poorly written stuff for what it is and do everything in their power to not support it. Sorry, folks, but it just isn’t worth it. Schlock is schlock, no matter what form it comes in, and even morbid curiosity—especially in the vain hope of liking something ironically—should never be considered reason enough for people to spend their time or money on it. Doing so, after all, only rewards the creators of such filth for making it, and if people are as adamant about the television, motion picture, video game, and literary industries smartening up and consequently creating more intelligent products, then they need to actively demand better. That doesn’t mean simply voicing one’s opinion about certain forms of media whenever and wherever one can, either. Sure, speaking out against the world’s dreck is a good start, but as the old saying goes, actions do speak louder than words. On that note, then, always regard that which you see and hear with caution when it comes to certain products, and if what you perceive doesn’t sell you completely on the product being advertised, then follow your gut instincts and keep your money and your time to yourself. Remember…first impressions might not be everything, but they still carry quite a bit of weight when it comes to determining the value of a given piece of media.

Somewhere out there, there’s a book out there with a sense of charm that can rival that of even the best Harry Potter novel that deserves every bit of attention that J.K. Rowling’s time-honored franchise has received over the years. If only one had the courage to seek publication for it…

In short, despite what progress we may have made recently in improving the quality of fictional media, we’ve still got a long way to go in achieving the level of storytelling excellence that I at least expect from this day and age. I’m sure that there are plenty of other obstacles that I haven’t even mentioned that creators need to overcome in order to tell the kind of stories that they think would captivate today’s jaded, demanding audiences. The apparent death of originality in modern-day media and the pressure of certain interest groups to create films, TV shows, and the like that appeal to their own specific tastes are certainly two that come to mind that are definitely worth tackling. However, without thoughtful, creative, intelligent writing serving as a foundation, no story can hope to win audiences over. After all, no matter how many people within the entertainment business will tell you that talent is “overrated,” we need talented and attentive writers more than ever nowadays to create the very works we need to immerse ourselves in from time to time and give us a break from this cold, harsh, and unforgiving reality we’ve all come to know. I sure know that as a writer myself, I have been improving my craft since the day I first created this blog, and hopefully the day will come when I can leave a positive grand-scale affect upon the literary market. Until then, though, I encourage the creators of today’s fictional media to step up their game and give us masses something we can support on a regular basis with sincere pride and satisfaction. Not only that, but I also hope that the undiscovered talent of today at long last get their time to shine and have their stories published, filmed, and presented for the masses to enjoy, thus proving to the world that artistic vision has more value than the detractors may realize. After all, considering the kind of crap we’ve had to endure over the years up to this point, I believe the time has come for us all to change things for the better in one way or another.

*****

All rambling aside, thanks again for stopping by, and as always, be sure to visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:

CarPedalRecall.com
PatandJason.com
Lampray and Laser Unicorns
PixBit.com
PicSauce.com
IndieWire.com
Phylicia Rashad’s April 6, 2014 Interview with Huff Post Live
Giphy.com
GoodMenProject.com
Imgur.com
NotableQuotes.com
FansShare.com
MegaGrey’s Streets of Rage (Genesis) Blaze’s Bad Ending
FunnyJunk.com
RottenTomatoes.com
Infinite-Loops.Wikia.com

The opinions discussed within, however, are the author’s own.

Bonus Poem of the Week: A Message for All Aspiring Novelists

A Message to All Aspiring Novelists
April 18, 2017

No one likes being rejected and tossed into the muck,
Having noses turn up at him or her and wished “Best of luck.”
No one likes being cast out from where he or she wants to be
Or denied that which he or she’s been fighting for. Believe me.
No one likes to struggle, especially when it comes to
Simply getting through the day. This I can assure you.
Even when there’s a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end,
Crossing said rainbow can be a chore. On that you can depend.
So much of a chore it is, too, that time and time again,
Too many people throw up their arms and walk away in the end,
Never to realize their dream, whether they deserve
To live that dream or not, all because of how their nerves
Have become shot over the course of months or years at a time,
And in the case of the worthy folks, it really is a crime,
For who’ll ever know the stories they could’ve shared with the world?
Certainly not the commonplace man, woman, boy, or girl
Or anyone who’d benefit from the messages within,
Even if said benefit is merely escaping the sin
And vice that’s been gripping the world for far too many years now.
Trust me…we all could use some escapism these days…and how!
We all deserve new stories with each year that passes by.
We all need something new to feed our hungry ears and eyes.
Otherwise, the old tales, good and bad, will grow stale,
And as they do, so will our minds, lest new storytellers prevail
To provide us with new substance with which to enrich our souls
And awaken within us the will to carry on into the fold
And accept each day as it comes, no matter what’ll be in store
When it happens to arrive, so long as it isn’t an utter bore.
After all, life’s one big adventure that we all undertake,
And it’s up to us to make the most of it with what we make
In terms of goals and other decisions and the choices that lead
Us down one path or another, and what better way to heed
This message than gleam inspiration from the stories we learn
To spark our thoughts and ambitions and help our hearts’ fires burn
With the passion that keeps us going every hour of the day.
That being said, why let rejection keep getting in the way?
The dream is still worth having, even though it may not seem so,
So keep your chins up and your noses to the grindstone and tally ho!
Keep your wits about you, too, and learn what makes a sale,
And may courage, creativity, and wisdom help you prevail
In the seemingly never-ending saga of chasing a dream
That might actually be more attainable than it might now seem,
For stories are more important than even you may ever know,
And only a sharp mind and a strong heart will help you see just so.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: Stupid Media, Stupid People

Stupid Media, Stupid People
March 10, 2017

Stupid media
Stupid people
People without standards
People with dead morals
Morals gone down the toilet
Morals and values
Values we all should have
Values we’ve all given up on
On TV
On movie screens
Screens filled with bleakness
Screens filled with gratuitous crap
Crap like brazen sex
Crap like excessive violence
Violence already rampant
Violence without levity
Levity from toxic stimuli
Levity that we all need
Need and want
Need but don’t have
Have we no spine
Have we no mind
Mind to reject this filth
Mind to demand better
Better for tomorrow’s generation
Better from media creators
Creators with more cash than credibility
Creators with more praise than talent
Talent elsewhere being ignored
Talent elsewhere being rejected
Rejected for little to no reason
Rejected at the gate
Gate locked tightly
Gate locked shut
Shut on new ideas
Shut on fresh ideas
Ideas that could reinvigorate
Ideas that could revitalize
Revitalize a scene so stale
Revitalize a scene so deprived
Deprived of vitality
Deprived of human interest
Interest from a new generation
Interest in something different
Different times
Different measures
Measures to be taken seriously
Measures to be taken now
Seriously!
Now!

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: What Awaits on Your Wings?

What Awaits on Your Wings?
May 21, 2016

Good grief! Listen to what you’re saying!
Why are these the games you’re playing,
The movies you’re watching—and TV, too—
When they all make you scream “Screw you!”
At someone who doesn’t even exist?
I don’t understand it. What’s the gist
Of flipping your feces over obvious fiction
When there’s plenty of stuff causing friction
In the real world like disease and war,
Economic crises, street crime galore,
Bigotry, bullying, promiscuity—
Just to name a few things threatening you and me?
Alas, you don’t care, for you too involved
With some fake person to even try and solve
Any of the dilemmas rocking the world
And making things rough for all boys and girls.
No, let’s whine about Character X
And how the pain in the neck leaves you vexed
With how she makes things worse for the girls,
Boys, women, and men in his or her own world—
A world you can never go to and be,
By the way—and makes regular folks say, “Gee,
What a lazy, obnoxious, condescending brat!
I’m glad he or she’s nowhere that I’m at.
Just get a load of all the heinous trash
He or she gets away with. That pain in the ass!”
Then, normal people would walk away
To carry on with the rest of their day,
Not stew in their hatred for someone they
Cannot control nor will meet in any way,
And when they move on, their minds are free
To do with they can to support family
Or otherwise contribute to society
And keep it afloat for the likes of you and me.
They don’t throw tantrums or write death threats
Or biased fanfiction or, more shameless yet,
Write journal entries or make videos
Flashing their fangs over minor woes
Pounding their desks like horny apes
Whose carnal appetites they’ve yet to slake
And screaming like banshees atop their lungs
All ‘cause they felt the need to be high-strung
At one single character from media,
In which he or she can just say “See ya!”
And never play, watch, or even listen to
Again. Now, tell me: Is that really you?
Are you really a whiny, oversensitive brat
Who doesn’t know where your sanity’s at
When it comes to someone who doesn’t exist,
Or is there a fact about you I missed
That shows me you are sane after all
With brain cells aplenty to get through it all
And can function like everyone else
Once you tuck that media upon a shelf?
The question’s yours to answer honestly
When you wish, but really, enlighten me:
Is this habit of yours what you want it to be?
Do you really enjoy being this way,
Or do you want to see a brighter day
When you can walk away from fiction clean
And not act so outlandish and obscene
Over something so petty in the grand scheme of things.
Come now, my friend. What awaits on your wings?

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

In Relation to My Work: Stuff I’d Like to Read about in (What’s Left of) the 2010s

How’s it going, readers?

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to find the perfect topic to discuss on this blog in between poems, and after giving it much thought, I finally…finally…decided to discuss the kind of themes and other traits that I myself would like to discover in whatever books become published in whatever’s left of 2016—and, quite frankly, this entire decade. I’m sorry, but I simply can’t buy into the whole idea of originality being “dead,” even now. Rather, I believe that there are some ideas out there that can translate well into good novels, should the right author come around and craft his or her next book with at least one of them in mind. As a matter of fact, I’ve been able to come up with eight such ideas that would make for a novel that I myself would like to read—not even as an author myself, either, but as a fan of good literature. Who knows? Maybe by the chance you folks read this blog post, at least one of these ideas will have been made into such a publication.

Keep in mind, of course, that the following list simply reflects my own preferences. If there’s any kind of idea you have in mind that would also make for a good book, feel free to share it in the comments section below. Also keep in mind that each of these ideas need not be limited to material for novels, either, but also materials for other works of fiction like movies, television shows, video games, comic books…whatever medium might suit the premise at hand. After all, with the way various forms of entertainment often receive adaptations into other forms of media (e.g., books receiving movie adaptations) and the way people have become disenchanted with entertainment as a whole these days, trying these ideas out might be worth a shot to revitalize things somewhat. That considered, then, I hope you enjoy my list.

When the traditional werewolf story just isn't enough to whet your appetite...

When the traditional werewolf story just isn’t enough to whet your appetite…

1. A story involving the scientific explanation of popular supernatural creatures.

In an age where one can argue that vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other such monsters have been done to death, it can be pretty hard for readers to find a unique, compelling story involving these creatures. However, even seemingly tired characters can be revitalized with the proper twist, and in this case, rather than stage the usual supernatural romance, interspecies war, or monster apocalypse, why can’t someone create a story with a premise that mirrors that of X-Men or Bloody Roar? In this example, monsters like the ones I’ve just described live amongst baseline humanity and use their inherent abilities either for the good of all humankind or for their own selfish and oftentimes destructive desires. However, scientific breakthroughs within the reality in which this setting takes place have revealed that the abilities of such individuals aren’t strictly supernatural per se, but actually the result of previously undiscovered advances in human genetics. According to this model, humans are either born with regular DNA or with a strain of genetic material that grants them one of a number of unique supernatural conditions such as vampirism, lycanthropy, and the like. These conditions grant their possessors the abilities and even relevant weaknesses of the monsters with which we are familiar.

Porphyria and rabies: Two diseases that scientists have, in not-too-distant times, associated with vampirism

Porphyria and rabies: Two diseases that scientists have, in not-too-distant times, associated with vampirism

For example, humans with vampirism are generally nimbler than baseline human; have keen nocturnal vision; are more resistant to toxins, pathogens, aging effects, and physical damage; and can (and must) subsist upon the blood of their prey—or, at the very least, artificial blood plasma. On the other hand, they likewise must subsist on foods with a low sulfur content to survive, hence their aversion to garlic, and are incredibly allergic to solar radiation and running water, among other classic weaknesses. What further makes this model interesting is just how real life science ties into the myths revolving around creatures of this nature, particularly specific ailments from the real world that sparked the myths behind such monsters. Porphyrias, for instance, are rare inherited or acquired disorders of particular enzymes that normally help to produce heme (a component of hemoglobin, a.k.a. the red pigment of blood cells, and various other hemo-proteins) that are also cited as a collective explanation for the origin stories behind vampires based upon given similarities between the ailments and vampire fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries. Some forms of this condition, according to The Brain Bank at ScienceBlog.com, lead to the deposition of toxins in the flesh that activate via exposure to sunlight and eat away at the skin, most notably the lips and gums. Such a condition would account for the dislike of sunlight that we associate these days with vampires, and the lattermost part in particular would explain vampires’ fanged, corpse-like appearance. Rabies have also been linked with vampire folklore, according to the research of Spanish neurologist Dr. Juan Gómez-Alonso. Usually transmitted through the bite of an animalspecifically that of a bat or a wolf, both of which recorded history has associated with vampiresthe rabies virus affects the brain of such animals (as well as the brains of dogs and humans) through the peripheral nervous system and has been known to produce traits in its sufferers that are similar to the traits we’ve long associated with vampires. One symptom of rabies, for example, is hypersensitivity, which could very well be the cause of vampire’s susceptibility to light (including sunlight), water, strong odors such as that of garlic, and similar stimuli that cause spasms in the facial and vocal muscles that can in turn result in the baring of teeth, the utterance of hoarse sounds, and especially the bloody fluid frothing at the mouth for which people have most frequently associated with rabies. The disease also attacks the brain’s limbic system, which regulates emotions and behavior, and as such results in disturbances in regular sleeping patterns (thus explaining vampires’ nocturnal nature), hypersexuality, and the tendency to bite people. There’s even the legend of how a person who was not rabid could look upon his or her reflection, which harkens back to rabies sufferers’ aversion to stimuliin this case, mirrors and other reflective surfacesas well as to the myth that vampires have no reflection. On that note, both porphyria and rabies could very well be precursors to vampirism in the reality of this setting, and sufferers of either of these two diseases could either be mistaken for vampires or possibly even become vampires themselves at some time during their illness. Such is how other genetic mutations would work in this story as well, which could very well keep the baseline human characters (and even some of the genetically enhanced characters) of the setting on their toes and wondering who’s who, what’s what, and how to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Another aspect about this storytelling model would be the idea that the protagonists need not be genetically gifted. Unlike X-Men and Bloody Roar, which follows a specific handful of characters who happen to be of the “alternative breed” of their reality (i.e., the X-Men themselves being “Homo superior” and the heroes of BR being zoanthropes), one can still have the heroes of this franchise be baseline humans and be able to tell a compelling story. In fact, said story might be better off having regular humans as the leads so as to better illustrate the masses’ fear of the unknown and thus give the setting a feel that is more akin to the standard horror genre. For a better idea of how this setup would work, one needn’t look much further than the likes of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments book series; television shows like Supernatural, Grimm, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; or Aegis Studios’ table top RPG Contagion. In each of these franchises, the heroes are, for the most part, ordinary human beings who find out that the world around them isn’t exactly as mundane as they think, but rather filled with many a creature that most other people would expect to find in myths and fairy tales. Then again, rather than take the approach that these franchises take in investigating the bizarre and macabre, this particular setting would handle the existence of these beings in a manner more reminiscent of The X-Files and examine these creatures’ existences, capabilities, weaknesses, and such from a scientific point of view. This approach would also help to nullify the obligation of having the chief protagonist possess a legacy of some sort that he or she must fulfill throughout the course of the story (i.e., Buffy’s calling as a Slayer and Nicholas Burkhardt’s legacy as a Grimm) as well as a set of metaphysical powers with which he battles the forces of evil. Sure, such a hero can still exist, but even in said character’s absence, the writer can get away with having his or her focal characters simply be commonplace folks with, at most, exceptional skills in monster hunting. This model also leaves open the possibility for genetically gifted characters to become members of the party without any pressing necessity, allowing such protagonists to exist as they learn about their strange conditions and those with whom they share their extraordinary nature while accompanying their fellow heroes to achieve a greater good for the ever-evolving society around them. As a whole, then, this model would provide a wide berth for whatever direction the author wishes to take his or her story.

Speaking of supernaturally endowed humans, however…

An example of a ríastrad as shown in the British comic book Sláine

An example of a ríastrad as shown in the British comic book Sláine

2. Any story that focuses on (or at least involves) ríastrads

In Celtic folklore, a ríastrad is a state of body-distorting battle frenzy in which the subject’s muscles twitch violently and undergo a warp spasm that transforms him or her into a mighty and terrifyingly grotesque monster that fights with reckless abandon. Such a condition is known to be the supernatural gift of both Cú Chulainn of the Ulster Cycle of Irish folklore and Sláine, the titular hero of his own Celtic-themed barbarian fantasy adventure series as created in 1983 by the “godfather of British comics” himself, Pat Mills. To my knowledge, however, these are the only two documented characters to possess such a talent, although Marvel Comics’ very own Dr. Bruce Banner’s ability to transform into the legendary Incredible Hulk can be compared to it, regardless of its origin (i.e., gamma radiation vs. supernatural endowment). This thereby makes ríastrads quite unique in comparison to episodes of similar blessings/curses such as lycanthropy, and it’s because of this that I’d love to one day read any story in which they play a part. Imagine, if you will, a protagonist who happens to be a distant descendant of Cú Chulainn and, as such, an inheritor of the hero’s gift who must learn to cope with her birthright and keep it under wraps as she tries to live an ordinary life among the rest of humanity. Unfortunately, her secret leaks out, and she soon finds herself on the run from both those who come to fear and hate the monster that lies beneath her skin and those who want to exploit her inheritance for their own selfish goals. Then again, perhaps one could also write a story in which it isn’t the protagonist who undergoes warp spasms, but the antagonist, who could either be a straight-up villain who revels in his strange power or—if one would rather—a sympathetic character like Dr. Henry Jekyll doing everything he can to suppress the evil Mr. Edward Hyde within him. The possibilities are practically countless, especially with a broad array of subgenres of fantasy, horror, and even science fiction from which to choose. No matter what, though, one cannot deny that ríastrads make for a rather underused plot device as far as monster stories are concerned these days and would certainly help to breathe new life into the whole supernatural scene with which today’s audiences have become at times a little too familiar.

Words of wisdom from Michael Hyatt on one aspect on how to leave a positive mark on the entertainment industry

Words of wisdom from Michael Hyatt on one aspect on how to leave a positive mark on the entertainment industry

3. A literary work that investigates the morals and values of the entertainment industry and how things can change for the better.

Many people these days have complained left, right, and center that movies, music, television, video games, and books aren’t what they used to be, and for good reason. Sure, one might chalk things up to such people simply being “bitter old fogeys” longing for the “good old days” and resistant to the changes that the world has undergone since then. I can’t say I blame anyone for saying such a thing, either, considering that not everything from the 21st century has been trash, nor has everything from yesteryear been as golden as I myself would like to think it’s been. Trust me, though, folks: Simple, attentive, straightforward observation is often enough to show anyone that things can indeed be—and, in some regards, have been—better than what they’ve presently become. In one regard, one could equate matters to how overtly cautious society has become in recent years and how certain people’s oversensitivity has actually held certain forms of entertainment back from being as gutsy and, in turn, as wide-reaching and appealing as they once were. Comedy is one particular genre that a good number of individuals have claimed has suffered over the years, which I myself can’t help but agree with, and for reasons that I’ll explain later on in this article. In contrast, there are those people who have become convinced that the masses have settled for mediocrity, period, regardless of how politically correct or incorrect such material may be in the long run. Again, I agree, as I myself have seen one form after another of unfiltered smut and vulgarity smeared across the American landscape, promoted to be the next best thing in its particular neck of American (and sometimes world) culture, and go on to make millions upon millions of dollars for its creator(s). Meanwhile, countless individuals have created other forms of media with all the tender loving care in the world and have ensured that such creations possessed at least some substance to them, and yet, such creations have by and large been ignored and rejected in one way or another, never to be elevated by the masses as the genuine forms of entertainment that they truly are. It’s a sad thing, in my opinion, and I’m sure that there is at least one person out there who has made note of this fact and even written an essay on the matter that, if read, would surely drive the matter home into all but the hardest, greediest hearts in the entertainment industry. To read about this phenomenon in novel form, however, would really hit home with countless readers by presenting the issue in a way that would make them feel as well as think and as such get them talking about the state of modern entertainment to want to change it for the better. It might not immediately change the way people are entertained, but at least it will get the idea out there and encourage people to think outside the box to where they can identify genuine, quality entertainment and distinguish it from the crap with which we’ve been bombarded for so long.

The cast of The Carol Burnett Show, Jonathan Winters, Victor Borge, and Foster Brooks: All classic examples of timeless, beloved comedy that today's comedians can (and, in some cases, SHOULD) learn from today

The cast of The Carol Burnett Show, Jonathan Winters, Victor Borge, and Foster Brooks:
All classic examples of timeless, beloved comedy that today’s comedians can (and, in some cases, SHOULD) learn from today

4. Any story that involves good old-fashioned humor that will actually encourage people to laugh.

It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine, and from what I’ve seen, too much of what has passed for comedy in the 21st century thus far has left the masses in a rather sickened state of affairs. On one hand, we have humor that plays it so safe that it’s practically flat, sterile, and devoid of personality and therefore can hardly be called humor at all. On the other hand, sadly enough, is the most mean-spirited and obnoxious sleaze that anyone with an ounce of self-respect could ever stand to sit through—the kind of “comedy” that takes the laziest, cheapest, most thoughtless route possible to appeal to its intended audience’s funny bone. You know what I’m talking about, right? The kind of drivel that patronizes its intended audience by flagrantly clobbering it over its collective head with as much excessive profanity, sexual content, toilet bowl humor, flippant and unabashed bigotry, exploitation of real-life tragedies, and other tacky and insulting subject matter it can to get a cheap laugh. Thankfully, we still have our fair share of talented comedians on the scene today who don’t have to resort to such cheap tactics—or, for that matter, steal other comics’ material—to get a laugh from an audience. All these people have to do, really, is tell a funny story or a series of amusing jokes, one right after another, to put people in a good mood and subsequently earn their respect.

Such is the comedy I want in a book these days: simple, honest, and good-natured without being too timid to be a little “out there” at times or going out of its way to shock and disturb people. Granted, it’s the kind of comedy I expect from the entertainment world in general, but believe me when I say that if books that had this kind of humor were promoted more, then maybe—just maybe—the literary industry would benefit in the long run, and we would be able to see more books that are simply fun become best sellers. Then, if that were to happen, it could even be that the television and movie industries would follow in suit. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

The Justice League, the Avengers, the Power Rangers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: All popular action heroes, even today...but why should they (and others of their era) be the only ones going strong today?

The Justice League, the Avengers, the Power Rangers, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
All popular action heroes, even today…but why should they (and others of their era) be the only ones going strong today?

5. A brand new action adventure.

Nostalgia has become quite the thing in the 21st century, which even I can understand. I mean, come on! Who doesn’t want to go back in time and relive the days when tough-as-nails heroes battled evil masterminds who wanted to either take over or destroy the world in one way or another? Sure, the formula can be pretty cut-and-dry at times, but the very basic nature of this premise was what made it work back in the day. Not only that, but there still are several—if not, in fact, hundreds of—different ways in which authors can tweak the formula to suit whatever story they may want to tell. However, I specifically would like to see some new superheroes and other action heroes come forth in American media following 2016, even if only for the reason that today’s youth deserves such icons of their own. Don’t get me wrong, however, for I’ve got nothing against any of the superheroes from the Marvel or DC Comics universes, nor do I resent motion pictures, TV shows, and the like reintroducing today’s kids to G.I. Joe, the Transformers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the ThunderCats, or any other franchise from the 1980s and ‘90s that has experienced a revival in the past couple decades or so. Nonetheless, I’m sure there are some aspiring artists out there who’ve drawn inspiration from these figures to create heroes of their own who could help carry the torch for the next generation to enjoy. After all, we can only go to the well of yesteryear so many times before things dry up and we either have to move on to the next big thing or risk rendering the beloved brands from our childhood stale. Furthermore, despite this particular genre arguably being more suited for comic books, motion pictures, and television shows than it would novels, I’m convinced that taking a more literary approach to this genre just might offer something fresh and fetching for fans of this particular subgenre. Never mind the notion that the hero or heroes in question would stand out from the competition on account of their literary beginning, either. Rather, the story itself would stand out against other middle grade and young adult novels and offer readers and alternative from the usual supernatural, sword and sorcery, and post-apocalyptic adventure that’s been on the market for so many years by this point. Additionally, I myself wouldn’t object to seeing the usual action tropes translated in novel form. If nothing else, I’ve seen them presented many a time in such novels as First Blood by David Morrell and the Failstate series by John W. Otte, so there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work well again for whatever new action heroes could be in store for readers in the future. If nothing else, it’s worth a shot.

Moving Forward Motivational Poster Kid (MoveMeQuotes.com)6. Any story revolving around the theme of moving forward.

I will freely admit that even here on my blog, I am guilty as sin for showcasing a lot of negativity in the poems that I post, no matter how much of a spin I try to put on them otherwise. Even so, I myself know that when it comes to reality, there is only one direction in which time flows: forward. Sadly, in this day and age when the economy’s still not in all that great of shape and news stories of violence and political turmoil seem to come one right after another, we all must remind ourselves that this era isn’t going to last forever and that each of us must do everything he or she can to not only keep our spirits up, but also to ensure that the years to come are a relief from all that we’re having to endure now. Many is the story, too, that has taken this concept and crafted it into a narrative that has touched the heart of many an audience member and stuck with him and her throughout time to remind him or her that no matter how great a loss one has suffered or how imposing another kind of obstacle one might face in life, all one needs to do to succeed in the end is take a deep breath, screw one’s heels in, take action, and never give up until one finally conquers said obstacle. However, no matter how many writers have created stories with this theme in mind, I doubt that there could ever be enough, and quite frankly, I’d love to see one such novel top the best sellers list this year based on general principle alone. After all, it’s a lesson that—even if only in my own opinion—we all must remember as we carry on through life.

The Shēngxiào according to the 2005 cartoon Legend of the Dragon

The Shēngxiào according to the 2005 cartoon Legend of the Dragon

7. Any story based on folklore.

If there’s one thing I always enjoy, it’s learning about another culture’s mythology—heroes, deities, monsters, artifacts…you name it. I’m quite thankful to know, too, that such a series as Rick Riordin’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians has garnered as much success as it has since its inception, and I wish for Mr. Riordin nothing less than the same amount of success with Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. That being said, I look every bit as forward to the next literary adventure involving one kind of folklore or the other simply because of how fun it is for me to learn about the tales of old that influence a given people’s history. Even when writers only give their readers bits and pieces of mythology in the stories they write, it’s enough to encourage said readers to delve deeper into the mythos they’re learning about and find out more about it. On that note, why can’t writers and publishers encourage these people to explore these tales even further by writing more novels involving the folklore of civilizations past and present and allowing such tales to be published for the masses to enjoy? One doesn’t even have to retell the legends themselves, even though that in and of itself would still be very compelling—especially for lesser-explored tales like the Lament for Ur (a.k.a. the Lamentation over the City of Ur) from Sumerian legend or the Raven Tales of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Instead, simply including elements of these myths can help a writer tell a story that would appeal to readers who want to escape modern reality for a good hour or two. I’ve already mentioned Percy Jackson and Magnus Chase as two solid examples of stories that use bits of mythology to help direct the plot, but television’s own Hercules: The Legendary Journeys based itself on ancient Greek lore—even if only superficially—to illustrate the fictitious adventures of the legendary Greek hero and his loyal friend Iolaus. Granted, the show has been known to confuse its timeline from time to time, according to Wikipedia, as well as mix in elements of Far Eastern, Egyptian, and Medieval culture as well as the occasional 1990s reference for an occasional gag here or there, but even then, the show was popular enough to run for five seasons from the January of 1995 to the November of 1999. Heck, I could even throw the 2005 BKN International cartoon Legend of the Dragon onto this list on account of how its premise revolved around many elements from Chinese mythology, particularly the twelve animals of the Shēngxiào (Chinese zodiac) and the principles of Yin and Yang, and managed to gain a loyal fanbase in spite of lasting a mere two seasons. Such just goes to show that franchises with this specific theme do have their place in today’s society and can be adaptable enough to tell whatever story the writer has in mind. The only real limit to consider is one’s own imagination.

Will any book series of the 21st century garner a legacy for itself the way Harry Potter has since 1997?

Will any book series of the 21st century garner a legacy for itself the way Harry Potter has since 1997?

8. The “Next Big Thing” in middle grade and/or young adult fantasy.

Many has been the franchise that has captivated younger readers and shown them that reading can be every bit as exciting as watching a TV show or a movie. Then again, when it comes to more recent times, no other literary endeavor has proven this to be true to the extent that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has. Dating as far back as its UK release on June 26, 1997, the saga of this orphaned boy wizard has enjoyed a decade-plus-long lifecycle on bookstore shelves in original releases alone with the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, hitting the market initially on July 21, 2007 and having an estimated worldwide sales record of forty-four million copies. Not since have the masses received a new Harry Potter book, and yet, the titular hero’s legacy continues to touch readers, even with so many franchises—including Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series, Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, James Dashner’s Maze Runner quintet, and even Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series—coming to light since its inception. Many of these literary franchises are quite beloved, too, but only a handful of them have even come close to garnering the same level of celebration that Harry Potter has gotten since day one.

All this achievement in mind, that’s still no reason for authors to not try to produce something of equal prestige to Ms. Rowling’s signature series, especially with Writer’s Digest’s Writer’s Handbook 2016 reporting the rise in popularity of juvenile (picture book, middle grade, and young adult) literature (p. 8). According to their reports, Nielsen data shows that juvenile e-book sales since 2004 have grown from twenty-three percent to thirty-seven percent of the total book market with 2014 having the highest reported sales since records began. Juvenile fiction overall, furthermore, grew eight percent since 2009, which further indicates a growing trend towards the popularity of books aimed towards a younger demographic. Hopefully, then, that should make enough room for the next breakout series to emerge in the not-too-distant future, and perhaps that very series from book one onward will garner every bit as much good fortune as Harry Potter did in terms of movies, merchandising, and all-out fan support and become as iconic for our times as Harry has for his.

*****

Well, that should do it for this entry. Sorry it’s been a while since my last article and that I’m particularly late in writing up this one, considering how far into the “new” year we’ve already gotten. I still hope you’ve enjoyed this article nonetheless, and believe me when I say that I do look forward to some new, talented authors coming to the forefront of the literary industry so that they can offer today’s readers some excellent stories that can hold their own with the timeless classics that the masses have come to love and help cleanse our memories of the garbage that has tainted the literary scene. Chances are, too, that by now—as I’ve said before—there’s already at least one story that has used one of the eight ideas I’ve presented here as its basis, and if there is, I’d definitely check it out. If there isn’t…well, then, maybe it’ll be up to me to provide such a work for someone to read. Stranger things have happened, after all.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for now. I’d like to thank you all for reading this, and as always, be sure to visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:

After Sunset: Werewolves
https://Rare-Diseases-Conditions.Knoji.com
Imgur.com
IrishComics.Wikia.com
MichaelHyatt.com
CrazyAboutTV.com
PasteMagazine.com
IMDB.com
RetroVideo.com
ComicsBlend.com
Marvel-Movies.Wikia.com
TheComicBookCast.com
BeAGameCharacter.com
ClipArtBest.com
MoveMeQuotes.com
LegendoftheDragon.Wikia.com
Infinite-Loops.Wikia.com

Additionally, cited fact in Section 8 belong to the following source:

Friedman, Jane. “Juvenile Remains Strong Growth Area.” Writer’s Digest Writer’s Yearbook 2016: 8. Print.

The opinions discussed within, however, are the author’s own.