I was kidding when I said let's do a "Melt Your Face Off With Fire Challenge”.
But before we get to the scorched meat and potatoes of world star hip hop, first some world-culture-context: One sunny day, not long ago, I sat perched in a waiting room and half-read this super sad article. It was about these teens who immolate themselves ($5 word! It means “set yourself on fire”) in far-away-from-me countries because their governments are worse than our own or don't belong there. So they feel oppressed or repressed or plain old possessed by demonic Chinese overlords they can't exorcise from Tibet.
While the government's clamped down on it a bit, there are still lists of monks and kids and generally fed up folk who've taken part in this practice. And those who “volunteer as tribute” make their last plea for China to GTFO and bring back Mister Dalai Lama and they have included kids as young as 15 years old. For these teens, it’s an act of rebellion against tryanny in times of pain and suffering. It’s an ultimate sacrifice in order to show others just how bad conditions are so that those you leave behind after your short life know that it’s now their responsibility to keep going on. Your act says to be strong. Try harder. Be brave. Never back down from this cause in which I believe so deeply that I’m voluntarily burning, slowly to death for it… so that you don’t have to.
Meanwhile in America...
We've got teens lighting themselves on fire too! Their cause?
Internet celebrity. While their facepalm parents film it for them:
Yes, this is an actual thing now.
I’d normally pick it apart and say how much dumber we are than other countries – but I’m on a spiritual path, so I try to have empathy and think about what their motives were - and see the similarities between cultures. Not the differences. And find a solution from there.
The similarity we share here is that the young people of both countries are lighting themselves on fire – voluntarily, yes? So... like maybe the solution is that we can just send our teens on over to these foreign countries where the young people actually have a radical and revolutionary cause that lasts beyond 15 minutes of Youtube fame? And our American kids with no purpose can be ignited with a purpose (and with actual fire) when they serve as a sort of rotisserie whipping boy? That way, courageous young revolutionaries can still live on and change their nation's future. So, in a way, these little videos are like audition tapes. We could start a whole immolation social media website, and let the rebels with actual causes recruit our bored brats like Russian mail order brides for a one way vacay that culminates in a luau.
And on an empathetic level, I see "why" our children do this. It's not their fault.
In fact, it's their destiny.
You can only breed stupidity for so long before a kind of evolutionary apoptosis sets it.
So all of us benefit: our overseas friends who need someone else to burn so they can keep on fighting the good fight - and us too - when those who “fail” the challenge prove to be a win. A win for Darwin – when they clean up the part of our gene pool that’s somehow supernaturally been defying him for so long.
Ah, I love it when science and spirituality coalesce for a common solution.
Mmmkay. So when can we launch Burn-A-Brat.com?
(Alternative name options on table: “FiredFromAmerica.com” and “IncendiaryFriendRentals.org”)
Some people just aren’t bout that crime life.
Usually, these people are the ones who aren’t very good at it. Like some New York Taco Bell supervisors who tried to think outside the funny money formula of the crooks who’d come before them... and failed miserably. And when they got caught, it was by their own 17-year-old employee who knew the difference between real money and Monopoly money and wanted no part of the game.
But wait, the fun’s in the details.
Let's start with the quality. Instead of taking the time to go to Best Buy and get the new Mafia Money Copier 2000 (they keep it in the spesh room in the back where Christopher Walken and Adam Sandler hang out and there’s a wormhole to Bed Bath and Beyond – ridiculous since it’s right across the street), they pumped out their faux finances with some old school potato equivalent.
And for whom does the Taco Bell toll? Like Hemingway’s novel – everyone.
Well… everyone paid cash at that Manhattan locale.
‘cause after a cheap Xerox sesh, they slipped queer cash into the register, and told employees:
“Ohhhh… You must have stupidly accepted it from a customer! Welp, you can either try and pawn it off on other unassuming patrons or you can replace them as punishment for you grave stupidity of having accepted them in the first place.”
–Paraphrased speculative non-direct-quote, compliments of MissAshleyPants.com
And while I’m still wondering if “queer cash” is a hate crime terminology, I needn’t worry, because the only ones who got effed in the end (#zing) were these counterfeiters. The teenager wasn’t having it – so as a last ditch effort, the supervisors dressed up as (wait for it…) NYPD and told her they were undercover funny money fuzz. And that she would be arrested if she didn’t keep doling out the bogus bills.
Wow. Bravo for commitment?
In the spirit of fast food comparisons – is it just me, or is this starting to sound like a convoluted Aqua Teen episode that evolves when Master Shake starts with one unbelievable lie and subsequently goes to the ends of the earth protecting it and his ego, just to pull one over on his wad of meat roommate? Who keeps reaching when such an egregiously constructed fib is about to get them caught? They should have made their final act be: “Dude, you’re right – those are fake! Who would do this to us?!” and exit the stage when they kid first caught on. Not a mid-play improvisational costume change.
But I like to try and help the less intellectual.
Which is why I'm willing to revamp your plan.
Get a pen and take notes. 'cause here's what you say next time:
1.“You’re right, AJ! Those are fake, give them to us to take to the police!” (then put them back in the drawer later.)
2. "Come on, man. This is your second warning – WE found fake bills in the drawer AGAIN this morning. Be more carfeul. This could totally fall back on us.”
(collect bills – put back in the drawer again)
3. (During a serious pull-employee-into-your-office-and-don-a-solemn-expression-business-meeting): “AJ, what’s going on here? I hate to ask for a piss test from you, but… what’s happening? Is it something at home making you overlook the authenticity of the change you’re taking from customers? What can I - as a legitimate, hard working, honest to goodness employer - do to help you? Help me help YOU.”
(Take money. Put it back in the drawer again. Now, this part’s important: Wait for brain rape to either take effect whereupon the kid voluntarily gives it away or replaces it with his own income out of false shame. Or if HE brings it up again, the following):
4. “I’m glad you were honest in bringing these to me, buddy. But I’ve got a business to run here before I go home and weigh out bags of cocaine to sling over at the Pussy Liquor. So we’re going to have to let you go for not being more careful. The good news is we’ll be happy to give you an awesome recommendation, but maybe you just need… ugh, how do we say this… more experience. No, no, don’t be sad. You’re young yet and you’re a great person. Also, we promise not to tell Wendy’s about your lack of attention to detail when they call for a reference. MmmkayBubye now.”
5. Hire someone dumber.
I mean, is it that hard for a group of supervisors to come up with that thing I just did alone now?
Or did I just miss my criminal calling?
What context am I missing?
It’s interesting to me, this story, because I can’t help but be reminded of the counterfeit tale I covered several months back – about the dude who turned himself in. And when I reflect on that story, I can’t help but wonder – why do people who are really good at crookery retire early when people like this who suck so much at it keep pouring their terrible ideas all over it like diarrhea inducing queso toppings? Is it that the talented ones are so proud of themselves for being so good at it that they want people to know? Like, they want validation? Even if it’s made of metal bars and cement? I dunno. What I do know is this:
If your crime scheme burritos are covered in uninspired nacho cheese ideas…
…then wise guy style crime’s “nacho” forte, my dude.
But that's why you took this job, in the first place, no?
Sidenote: Although a law suit’s happening, apparently the f’real cops have not made any arrests after the kid didn’t fall for what I’ve been envisaging as a bad Reno 911 impression from Taco Bell. Dude – what if the cops ARE really in on it? Surely they’d provide better bills to circulate from evidence or something?)
With fall forthcoming, what better way to festively celebrate the seasonal change than by…
…dancing on the graves of Native Americans? Who also killed settlers for coming there?! (#MetaDeath) That’s right. A Halloween twofer! Not far away from me, yonder in West Virginia, there’s this creepy old amusement park with a quaint bit of entertaining history....
Bought in the 20’s, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was built on the burial ground of massacred settlers and the feather wearing friends whose land they trespassed upon. When kids started drowning in the lake and getting killed on the swings, people started to think that maybe it had to do with the Clay family – some settlers who got the murder welcome wagon from their new Native American neighbors, including having one of their kids burned alive at the stake.
So they shut it down in the 60’s.
Now, it’s opening again for tours – just in time for our favorite creepy commercial holiday!
You can even bring your cameras to the walkthrough so you can record the experience for Youtube and profit off your own documented feigned fear about the ambient sounds of woodland creatures scratching their asses in the night – ‘cause why not? Better to make money off thrill-fear than the-world’s-going-to-shit fear, amIrite? Plus, it’s always nice to skip the middle-man of doing it on T.V.
I couldn’t make it through this whole clip, so you'll hafta gimme a rundown.
But what I do like is how she gets to determine ghost law:
“They cain’t killya, but they kin touchya…” It sounds like a rule you’d hear in the back of a supernatural strip club of a parallel Tim Burton universe before the chilliest lap dance ever. How does she know what they can do? Is there a bouncer here with us too? Move the ouija! Tell us! Besides that's a myth - the whole "long as the covers are over me, I'm alright" wives tale. Pssh. Heard that one before - right before getting sucked under the bed by the clown who lives there.
Plus... what if there are ghost genes? And they can mutate? And the survival of the fittest ones can kill people? And then ghosts take over the world? Come on, lady. Do you even science? Or if that’s all too complicated to have to consider, you can avoid contact issues altogether by bringing your ghost buster floor vacuum contraption (they weigh about the same as an iphone anyway).
The world’s your oyster. As for me, I’ve yet to be levitated outta my bed and ping ponged across the walls while my furniture does the Merlin cleanup dance around me of its own volition. (#yet) But what I do have an opinion about is our own emotions – and how negative associations can be powerfully haunting to ourselves while we’re still alive, as well as other people who are able to pick up on that weird energy, too. In a place like this, the perception about dead Pocahontas and friends is an illusion manufactured by your own head.
That said, the fun "haunting" aspect happens when that preconceived fear energy domino effects to others around you. Especially a tour group. But if you can’t make it to poltergeist park this Halloween, don’t feel too badly. Besides, it fails embarrassingly to meet my expectations as a novelty fall event anyway. And that’s not just because of the disrespect to the Clay family, either. Don’t wanna say “they had it coming”, but I would probably get a bit violent too if some pale aliens came and squatted on my family burial plot. Rather, it fails for the following two reasons:
A. It’d be a whole lot cooler if they were actually reopening the rusted rides for bizz
B. There are far scarier things in West Virginia. Year round.
In fact, much like our indigenous friends, they aren't big trespassing fans either.
(Although it looks like some of them apparently know French.)
Ever heard of orthorexia?
Apparently it's when you're obsessed with eating foods you believe to be healthy.
First, I feel like "candy corn" is the plural form. (That "s" makes me uncomfortable.)
Second, so you mean... picky eaters?
Isn't this isn’t this just another dietary label for people who chronically can't balance because they don't listen to their bodies and get caught up in some irrational goal about being a certain way, internally or externally? (Hopefully that mouthful of an inquiry is healthy enough for my literary orthorexics out there to nom on).
I mean, an obsession crosses over to “unhealthy” or “addiction” when it becomes a detriment to yourself and/or those around you. Is it keeping you from seeing anyone? Look into that, then. Is it making your hair fall out? Look at that, then. Imbibing becomes alcoholism when you take too much and frequently. Juicing or fasting to detox becomes anorexia when it turns into a week which then turns into a month which turns into a “Mayhaps I’ll go breatharian”. Same with cosmetic alterations.
But if you’re happy and not hurting anyone with your commitment to un-health, who am I to judge just how quickly or slowly you race to the six foot drop at the finish line every damned one of us is heading towards? Who is anyone to question that? What the question is, is: are you being a parasitic cancer to society and your friends or family or yourself because of it?
Because that does affect other people.
Which means you may need to stop.
I know, I know. It's hard to accept the transient nature of everything – whether it’s our weight, youth, or that nice cockle-warming buzz you get only with that first quarter glass of wine. Our inability to deal with the discomfort of living is wrought out of a desire to be or feel our best all the time. That's impossible. So some of us make ourselves all sad inside about it. With a dietary obsesh, you might wake up retaining water or feeling depressed - so you go to a polar extreme to compensate. Even spiritual path trekkers are guilty - it's easy to end up morphing into an aghori when you try to meditate on just how you’re fcking up. Sure, you had a good intention and wanted to fix yourself. But you’re so anxious about being out of control – that you end up missing the entire point of what you're doing - and also the human connection because you couldn’t STFU your brain enough now to be less distracted later.
It's all about the "deal with it" freefall.
Like that chick from Frozen says:
This “orthorexia” is just the non-balance from not letting go of illogical life expectations.
Which makes it no different than the common freakout we all share when there's a schism between our best laid plans… and reality. We buck logic and get pissed off that we couldn't will our desires into existence. Then we self-sabotage until we do enough spiritual spelunking to realize how ridiculous we're being.
That's why the piece I read on “I was a borderline orthorexic” kinda surprised me.
Because with such a deep meditation practice as she illustrated (to the point of compulsion – the whole point of the article), how did it take her three years to figure that out about herself? I don't mean that in a judgmental way, either. I say it because, for me, the insight that I was being such a bad-at-life douchebag clobbered me over the cranium like a cosmic "wrong way" sign on my first five minute try with meditation. It's something I have to re-learn every time I do it too, apparently. Hence the reason I'm less of a transcenderexic (#AshleyOGterm) than some. Still, I do it. And while every sesh is indeed an act of ego masochism, it’s worth mining this shiz outta ourselves.
‘cause like Oscar Wilde says:
We've all got afflictions. Our charge is to find out the imbalance, set it right, and eschew the shiz that doesn't serve us anymore. So - just remember - while you most def matter and are important in this world, you've got to do the work to make the scales fall even. Just like the rest of us. Which means that even though I love ya... you're not special.
And neither is your -rexia.
I had the most terrifying “my god, you’re right!” truth bomb dropped onto me recently.
It was this lil nugget o’ knowledge:
(I kept this image small. For obvious reasons.)
This inoperable tumor on the fear lobe of my brain that normally tells me, “Just squash it! Hit it with a book!” has been the bane of every non-sleep since my reading of it. What do I do? Murder this arachnid avatar of satan? Move to the top of my standalone Tiffany lamp and remain perched there for a week when I see one on the floor? Or clutch myself while rocking back in forth in the corner for a week about the fact that I just released it back into the wild in the hopes that the bugs who’ve got eight legs more than they do brains mate and remain stupid?
Then I realized – why am I even asking myself this?
First, this is a non-sequitur. The ones who do come into my house just like my house the same reason everyone does. Because it’s awesome (*camera pan to address falling off the front door*) and I'm awesome and I do awesome things in here by my lone.
And their affinity to be near me and in my home doesn’t make ‘em any less or more good at being sneaky than their brethren. And even if it did – why would I care - when the intelligence quotient of these creatures is irrelevant to me? When I see you, I wanna give you a fast SPLAT, not a lengthy SAT. (Be glad, homie, I’d have welcomed the former over the latter in my formative days).
Thus, if the stupidity gene is linked to the same one that makes him feel that magnetic pull to my domicile (while the smart ones know to remain in hiding far, far away where I can pretend they don’t exist), then why not let Lucifer’s minions manifest their Darwinian destiny that keeps them off my wall and out of my face holes as I sleep?
Your move, spider loving logicians.
What’s more, a recent story I just read about this chick in Australia (who clearly done lost her mind) is the cherry on top. This bish gathered up a suck ton of golden orb spiders to study (#nopenopenope) before coming to the conclusion that the further away from woodland spiders are – like in cities and towns – the larger they get. There are a few suggestions as to why – like the “heat island effect” – where they grow more massive under warmer conditions and the fact that food’s easier to come by.
But honestly, I don’t care the reason.
Whether it’s Vitamin D or Mccy D’s making these motherfluffers so large is irrelevant.
In the end, I just see it as an excuse to do what I was gonna anyway.
Something’s gotta give with this low-cal and alleged no-cal artificial food.
Usually, it's our bowels.
Sometimes it's just the obv fact about their non-fact advertising.
I mean, while stuff like this may hold true...
... it still took me a bit to realize the duh factor about the lie of zero calorie claims.
And make my own dietary annotations to info I was told:
For example, I lived on “no calorie” crap like Coke zero for a good while in college – a fantastic supplement once my Stacker tolerance began kicking in. I’m not sure why I kept punishing myself with a life punctuated by frequent restroom trips. It was like colon clockwork, that stuff. Every lecture, I’d end up suffering a plight like the comeuppance of a villainous soon-to-be-ex boyfriend in every other romcom (see: Van Wilder, Wedding Crashers, The Other Woman) and hafta leave class.
TMI? Fantastic. Then we’re off to an epic start for Monday.
Less epic, looking back, was that later life-realization that my weight loss efforts were in vain. Not the good kinda vain that makes you leave the house looking like a young Kim Novak, either. I mean the kind of vain where not only are you vomiting out of the wrong end – and it’s to NO end because they lie when they say “zero” calorie on this tooth-staining crap. And legally they’re allowed to. Indeed, mislabeling something as zero is okay if it has no more than five calories. At first it kind of made me want to get gussied up in my Stepford best, hold a meeting with whoever made this rule, and ask:
“What’s the difference between zero and five …
But as I furthered my biology career, I started to have that “should’ve known better” mentality creep over me. It was that old familiar embarrassment about having been duped by ads just as badly with coke as I’d been with cosmetics all my life.
And advertising isn’t solely to blame for this misconception.
Some are just old wives tales you’ll here from friends in high school that stick with you your whole life despite that part of your brain constantly saying, “That can’t be right… can it?” Take, for instance, the “negative calorie” myth about celery. Is it low calorie? Yes. Is it good as fckk for you? Absolutely. Does your body burn more calories processing it than it retains?
Even the healthy green guys get us - they don’t just melt into the watery body abyss.
(Dude, I had to look up and see if Wicked Witch and Mommy Dearest were the same person)
‘cause it's still a net of about 5 cals per stick or stalk or whatever the hell they’re called.
But that just makes them “wicked” good – especially celery – because it’s high in fiber. Now there’s something – fiber – that doesn’t have calories in it in and of itself. But that’s only because we don’t really digest it. When it magic school buses into your system, it’s with the goal of playing pied piper to your cow pies till they reach the final destination of a drowny porcelain death. (Or a pile of detritus, mayhaps, if you’re Mick Dodge style livin’ it up in the woods). I’m too lazy to review what happens with the rats at the end of the fairy tale. But in your human happily-ever-after, the fiber piper dies along with his colonic cult. ‘cause your body doesn’t digest it – just whatever was around it.
And, I probably could have used a bit more of that fibrous celery in my Coke zero days (although with my then diet, I’d probably have just gotten excited because I would have mistaken it for the longitudinal cross section of an oversized Starbucks straw that meant they were now selling bubble tea).
But, to be fair, I can see how Coca Cola gets away with their mislabeling.
Ya see, I call it the "poophole loophole".
For one, that “zero” could technically be read as more of a “T minus 0” second warning – the precise time you have to reach the loo before being blasted off into oblivion by your own fecal fuel eruption. Secondly – the calorie count could be more of a “net” thing. Like, mayhaps it wasn’t calorie free going in. But it definitely does a negative dip when you shiz that fizzy drink out.
Along with yesterday’s breakfast.
And your entire intact skeleton.
Sooo glad I prepare f’real food now with good cals so I’ve got actual energy to use ‘em, not avoid ‘em.
…most of the time.
Back in spring, I gave my plea to Starbucks to bring back seasonal drinks.
I meant then. And that was only because it was still freezing ass cold outside. I was at a point where I was downing ventis less out of a need to stay awake and more to stay warm and entertain my taste buds since playing outside was a non-option. Even so, they defied my agonal cries to appease these not-yet-vegan cravings I was still suffering and which only creamy peppermint chocolate coffee could satisfy. And now that it’s getting chillier in the early morning time and at the end of these gradually shortening days, they suddenly see fit to prematurely ejaculate pumpkin spice lattes all over their stores before it’s even fkkn September.
I don’t like this for two reasons.
One is the inconsistency. I mean, they didn’t see fit to carry on with selling my lard inducing lattes back when I needed them in my life and my ass was gathering a growing layer of frost and moss due to a delayed onset of spring-like temperature. So you can’t just make the fact that temps are dropping this month be the green light for your java pushing like some Autumnal shotgun. Not when you went and moved the foamy finish line ribbon a mile up the line - way before spring’s first sun rays, and left me with my bib (the racing kind) in my hands. It’s not equal. I don’t like it.
This is worse than when they stretched school out into summer because we had a few snow days wasted on that powdery bullcrap you can’t even build a snow barbie doll with, but you force your friends to die trying with you anyway.
Even though I had more reason to complain then because I was being cut short of an actual summer vacation, I suppose my lack of any real drive-the-eff-as-far-away-as-you-can-so-you-can-dread-coming-home-in-one-week kinda vacations as an adult makes it an equally miserable psychological assault. Starbucks doesn’t control the weather. But with its too-soon reminder drinks, it does interrupt my fantasy world where summer lasts forever and we burn all our sweaters with the heat of the round-the-clock sun rays and the magnifying glasses we brought with us in case we ever wanted to see what our “problems” ever were back in that miserable blue-filtered world we called reality.
And that, in effect, also interrupts the fantasy where I don’t turn 2xrke#na&$ next month. (Yes, where I come from, our ages are in captcha. We also mate be depositing semen into sweaty sneakers and leaving it outside overnight for European Santa Clause to come fertilize.) So, Starbucks, I expect an apology cake from you and the retraction of these cool weather lattes, effective immediately.
“I said apology cake, asshole. Not "birthday" cake - especially when I'm turning captcha - not this numerical nonsense that doesn't even start with a '2'. Get out of my rapidly fading geriatric sight…”
You see? This is what happens when I make a caffeine conglomerate my god.
I blame it for the transient reality about everything on earth.
And that reality is that… calendars are the ones to blame!
They’re the cancer of my happiness.
F’real, if we’re using the elements to decide seasonal sells, how about my 3 point plan:
1. From now on, we hold off at least till summer bugs depart.
2. We’ll make a September special with a spesh name.
3. We can even call it “The Sayonara Mosquito Mocha”.
When I was little, I remember hearing about prime time tales of microwave murder.
Small animals and babies were the quick-shock stories, while the slow-death of “standing too close” to the buzzing magic machine were more cautionary for those of us with the “watched pot never boils” syndrome. Even so, we were willing to wait and gain tumors, so long as that “never” held the sweet promise of a majestically piping hot Jimmy Dean breakfast sammich filled with as much grease as the donuts we’d eat right after had cream lard. Then, as I got older and Dean lost its allure, my microwave enchantment channeled elsewhere. Plain pyromania took over when I learned…
I can set fire to things with it?
What sorcery is this?
What else can I ignite with it?
What’s happening inside therrre?
My Tom Waits inquiry couldn’t wait for answers and my already budding intrinsic scientist couldn’t either. I started small at home. But once I got to college, all bets were off. Tin foil. Forks. A bottle of nail polish! My carpals quaked excitedly in their skin while setting the timer numbers like a combustion lottery. And my eyes glistened with that first fiery spark I’d see shoot off the object it was rejecting. It makes your heart dance the same way it does when you decide to go for a run after you’ve just heard there’s a tornado watch or while standing over a weak bridge in a gushing, flooding, powerful river. But, if you’re not 100% psychotic, you press the stop button before the grand finale you'd likely end along with. Sadly, that lack of last 5% crazy – much like everything else I start and don’t finish – has left me also unable to conclude these chaotic salsa dances on which I thrive. That’s why today I’d like to add to my gratitude list:
People who have me beat at microwave madness.
Like this one guy who straps down his microwave...
...and makes all of my incendiary dreams come true.
(Exhibit A: a can of spray paint):
(“Let’s throw snow at it” – classic.)
And this lava lamp:
Or eyeballs and other bits nicked off roadside carrion – along with Halloween props:
And the iphone:
Disappointing because I’d built this one up in my brain and thought and prayed it’d be a bigger explosion. Although the accessory dialogue in a lotta these fails in its attempt to be funny with its over-the-top-ness, I’d still like if they did my phone next. I’m getting that familiar nausea wave just hearing the sound byte they interject of it jangling.
Admittedly, when I see these vids, I have that same feeling a single person gets after watching a romantic movie. You know – the one where you just wanna detonate something with the magic radiation box living on your counter? To celebrate the freedom of being unattached? Sadly, however, being an adult means I can’t afford a second microwave when this one blows up. Or a third when I blow that one up. This is all just another reason I should’ve stayed in Neverland with Michael Jackson who could’ve afforded to buy me as many microwaves as I’d wanted.
*Choose your own bad joke adventure ending:
Option A: “Let’s try my face next, Eee-HEE!”
Option B: “Now I get to put my flesh fork in your microwave, SHAM-o-NA!”
That’s ignoraaant, you two options above me! I’m far too spiritual to speak ill of those I don't know - especially when they had such a horrible childhood with a tyrant father. Now everyone shut up and watch while I microwave this smaller microwave with a baby bird inside of it.
While suspended over my balcony.
In a blanket.
For our next RFTV, let's give Heath Ledger’s “Joker” a round of applause.
This character was one to root for two fold because the story had legs to it.
And those legs were rooted in a sad reality, even though we see the final product of a fantastical classic narrative – which also has layers: a comic hero (Bale's Batman, “The Dark Knight”) and his nemesis played to perfection by Mr. Ledger. The thing is, within the parameters of the story, I’m not thinking “gee, I sure hope he kills batman” – mostly because of the two facts that we know: that’s never how it ends and that it’d be inconsistent with the Joker’s motives. He may not be a man with a plan, but he “needs” him to stay alive to enjoy the running Tom and Jerry style gag of seeing Batman writhe about not killing the Joker when he wants to. Besides, we don’t like Bale any less just because his nemesis is terrifying, hilarious, and somehow still charismatic (even with that lumbering gait of an Initech worker who's just lost his job and blown up the building upon departure).
We like Ledger’s rendition because he’s so committed to the character that you get a bit lost in the performance. It's the reason we watch movies at all. And while the uninspired, more forgettable films seem to senesce, scenes like Heath's abscond into our subconscious mind and rise for blogs like mine, time and again.
There's the "makes ya think" quality of him - that reminds me of that quote about heaven and hell being a line that runs through the hearts of men. He and Batman aren't the sole soul-tortured torch bearers. Any of us carry the gravitational capacity to tumble into madness, as he says while whooping maniacally and suspended into the night air from the side of a building.
And the fact that he so ardently seems to believe in his own logic (which - like a Nietzsche novel - begins to increasingly and frighteningly make more sense the more you take it in), is also magnetic. I remember seeing a science article on how psychopaths are often alluring because of the appearance of confidence. The Joker's no exception - even as a fictional fixture.
Then, as with Breaking Bad or any other otherwise morose show, there are the necessary moments of comic relief to keep you from hating the character, leaving the movie, going home, and scheduling a sky diving sesh sans a parachute. Like his reaction when the hospital bombs don’t detonate straight away. Or when he delivers a subtle “Hiiii…” in that infamous Lynchian voice through a façade of melting clown makeup and oily hair while donning a nurse’s outfit. And the fun-ception of it goes a layer deeper into our brains that love irony – and thus also love the fact that his seemingly anodyne greeting belies the fact that he just killed a nurse to acquire said hospital camouflage.
Still, my fave may be the moment when Maggie G enters and he gently pushes his greasy hair back with graceful fingers... that belong to the same hand gripping the murder weapon... which he'd use to kill her with, remorselessly.
That irony carries over to the aforementioned reality element of the film, too.
Many of us know as we watch – if only at our subconscious level – that this was the second to the last film that Ledger did. Given the fact that death is automatically actor canonization and that he particularly brought his method-best to the role, it’s inevitable. To my shame, there was admittedly a sort of morbid excitement that accompanied going to watch this in theaters. I’m not proud of that raw human emotional response my culture has cultivated in me – because I know he’s a person like you or me and it’s awful that he died – whether it was because of the role, his own demons, or some cinematic synthesis of the two that would make for fine biopic Hollywood fodder. But since that Hollywood pantheon with all its performance deities is something I was raised to believe in exalting or ridiculing (by the example of everyone around me focusing on it constantly) , it’s hard to not have that first-reaction impulse be an inward iconization or objectification of seemingly inhuman idols. Things. Not flesh and blood. But, deep down, we know that's not right.
I suppose that's why I always liked the reality element of the “stars” (not reality stars) and valued interviews over the actual work they'd done. Sure, they still improv act for a talk show - but without a script, those little nuances and traces remain of the last role - the ones they just can't seem to shake when they do a press junket. Like how Heath seemed to still be trying to shake the symptoms of his nasally, lip-licking Joker like an obstinate flu, in this last interview:
And that was likely exacerbated exponentially by the physical symptoms and identity thievery of the drugs on which he’d become dependent. Maybe he'd struggled with them long before, or perhaps he'd taken it up during filming – to sleep at night after delving into such a dark role, day after day.
Thus, the fact that the story-character Joker was partially faulted for Heath’s real-life downward spiral, only amplified this intrinsic response of mine. For me, the comparison of reality to the movie is that I wish he could have enacted the same superpower of self-control that Batman uses to get The Joker mental help (since he can't kill him) to get himself help. But addiction - like the comic cyclical rival narrative itself - can never be maimed or stopped; only kept at bay, one day at a time. One fight at a time.
Sadly, the The Joker of this no-joking-matter disease won the not so little fight.
It reminds me of when Phillip Seymour Hoffman passed - and I was asked by a nice, well-adjusted person how I thought someone so rich couldn't just buy constant psychological help to dissuade their impulses to abuse drugs or alcohol. And I get where they're coming from. It's really hard for someone who sleeps without an incubus hovering over them each night - that some people do. And that it doesn't want our wallets. It wants its claws in our sanity. To slowly drain us of our blood and make us do the same to those we love as it's doing to us.
And it often wins.
For others less educated or unable to conceive of the condition of addiction, Heath's character's akin to watching the visual echo of that sexy, psychopathic ghost we all might have residing within us - and the crime scene forensics outlining the undoing of a talented man. All played out on silver screen.
That Heath was so brilliant as an actor and that the Joker became so iconic...
... just made the echo that much louder after his passing.
(From Imaginarium, his last film - Depp played an alter ego of Ledger’s character along with Jude Law and Colin Farrell to finish it.)