In spite of my young atheism and my naïve devotion to scientific optimism, profoundly religious works of literature shaped my spirit. The first novels I read, in the summer between second and third grade, were The Chronicles of Narnia.
There’s no Buddhist detachment or serenity in this monastery. The carved dragons have a madness in their eyes, and they laugh with a kind of insane abandon from every column and bit of tile. They clutch little envelopes with Chinese characters in their claws, and if they could move it seems all but certain they would tear your face off and flee laughing into the clouds.
Baijui tastes like turpentine. It is one of the most god awful things I ever drank. I would drink a few shots of it over a cigarette with the ex-military cab driver who owned a little dive just outside my apartment in Fuzhou: a filthy concrete hovel with a kitchen the size of a coffin and a dining room that could seat no more than a dozen…
Spider Jerusalem, a drug-addled gonzo journalist of the future is forced out of seclusion by his publishers. Armed only with his laptop, a pair of camera-glasses and a ray-gun called “the bowel disruptor” (which does pretty much what it sounds like) Jerusalem proceeds to rampage all over the dystopian city of the future, culminating in a battle of words with two corrupt presidents…
But then I came to the People’s Republic of China, and going to the movies here is a special kind of experience. Besides the fact that a ticket costs the local equivalent, compared to the cost of living, of $120 (that’s without the popcorn that they infuriatingly dust with sugar rather than salt), they censor everything that wasn’t made in China.
Like it or not, the end of the world narrative has crept into our culture, bled out from Christianity into all kinds of secular progressive causes. The vision of a global warming apocalypse stands out as a prime example. There is now scientific consensus that global warming is occurring, and that it is being influenced by people in a predictable fashion.
Herein lies the gulf: Marvel is trying to interweave some of their key characters into an internally consistent world, whereas DC is comfortable allowing each of their characters to stand alone, and even be simultaneously re-imagined by different directors. The former is a fanboy’s paradise, but the latter allows for better storytelling.
I’m saying that we have to start thinking differently about what public and private mean. The net result of this transparency is a kind of honesty that shouldn’t make us reform our lives— it should make us reform our vision of what a responsible life is all about. Responsible people get drunk, they rant, they have and think about sex, they doubt themselves, they change their opinions, sometimes they’re assholes, sometimes they’re naive.