A one-trick pony

11May06

Watched Sin City last night. I’d never read the comics–they didn’t look like my kind of thing. Seems I was right.

I liked the movie well enough. The visual spectacle was stunning and well-crafted. Robert Rodriguez definitely knows what he wants to see and knows how to get it.

The stories themselves were … well, I felt like I’d heard them all before. All the heroes are tough-as-nails, terse, grim killers highly skilled in the ways of violence–with some small “code” to their killing that sets them apart from the criminals they ravage. “I’m not killing you for my own gain, I’m killing you for this crummy, little ideal.” The women were pretty much the same, only a little less so. They’re all renditions of The Dark Knight. I guess Frank Miller only has one character in him, and writes about him over and over. And that character is perfectly on-target for the escapist power fantasies of boys and young men. Fully consumed by his rage, inhumanly compotent, emotionally dead–except for a single, fleeting, over-idealized spark that keeps him from “crossing the line”–this character allows all the vicarious joy of being evil and hurting other people, while still enjoying the authorial (and audience) approval of being the “good guy.”

I guess that’s why he’s so popular.

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16 Responses to “A one-trick pony”

  1. That’s basically my assessment of Miller as well. Never really saw the appeal.

  2. Actually, I take the view that he’s commenting to his audience the exactly opposite: “Hey, assholes, pay attention! Think this guy’s a HERO? Watch THIS. You all need to re-assess your heroes. ‘specially you weirdos in tights.”

    • If that’s what he’s trying to do, I don’t think it’s getting through. His art loves the violence and grime too much.
      Plus, I still think he’s repulsively misogynistic. Not quite as much as, say, Byrne, but what is it with the Madonna/whore thing?

    • Hi, Matt.
      While I do thiink there may have been a bit of that in The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, and perhaps his pre-Dark Knight Daredevil stuff (which I haven’t read in its entirety), the fact that he’s still doing it twenty years later, when it’s obviously not provoking the reaction in his audience, seems to suggest he should try another tactic — or he’s fallen in love with the violence for its own sake.

      • So, because people MAY be immorally misinterpreting an artist’s work, the artist should change up and avoid that? Why?
        Could the theme of Sin City be the following: Heroism means losing one’s decency; it requires you to treat other human beings badly?
        If you agree with that, why should Frank Miller avoid it? Because you don’t like it / are tired of it? Because others may be misinterpreting?
        I don’t think that’s ok. Is this theme not a valid issue to explore? Why should an artist avoid entirely anything he wishes to explore for fear he’ll be misunderstood?
        I do not believe that it follows that because it “hasn’t worked” before (because jackass pubescents got off on it) that he should avoid the topic altogether. That strikes me as an incoherent argument that goes like this:
        “Oh, I thought all this blood and guts and tits and ass was OKAY when he did in it back in 1991, but NOW its just obviously NOT OKAY.”
        Which leaves me scratching my head a lot. Why OK then, not OK now? Why the hell should an artist HAVE to change his work and style in order to REMAIN a decent, woman-supporting, violence-rejecting kind of guy? That makes no sense to me.
        Maybe that’s just not what you’re saying at all; it’s what I’m reading into it all, though.
        (Oh, and certainly we can argue whether my take on Miller is *correct*. That’s cool. Although, you seem to hint that it is correct by saying his previous work WAS in that vein.)

        • I don’t think he should avoid it.
          I just think he should do it better.
          Because right now, he hasn’t grown as an artist or storyteller in 20 years and stories that were once powerful are now just so much limp wristed snatching after former glory.
          Miller is the Wordsworth of comics, the young visionary who starts a movement only to end up a washed out impotent meaningless nothing lauded by contemporaries because of what he once was.
          Now join me for a reading “As I Wander Lonely as Sin City…”

          • Yeah, that’s what I meant. I read Miller 20 years ago, and he was refreshing. The gender stuff stilled pissed me off, but yeah, good critique of the genre, etc. Now, it just looks like self-parody. Where is the Miller of the Martha Washington stories today?

            • 8 Anonymous

              Um, guys, can we take it into perspective that Sin City is as direct-to-film homage as is possible for a series that’s over 10 years old? I’m not saying you’re crazy in your critiques (they make much sense, actually), but implicit in them is “Ah, Miller should know better by 2005-2006?” And, I’m thinking, “But, what the heck? This stuff was done in, like 1994.” I guess I just don’t fault the guy for getting his vision admirably translated (in my view) by Hollywood in that time.
              So, yes, critique away. But, I’m still head-scratching that the gist of this argument is “Miller should know better by now!” Maybe it’s the actual date we all interpret by the “by now” bit that’s hanging me up.


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