Friday, March 8, 2013

An Acquired Taste For Acquiring Things: Jack the Giant Slayer & New Socialist Myths

From director of Jack the Giant Slayer, Bryan Singer:

It’s a very traditional fairytale, probably the most traditional thing I’ve ever done. But it’ll also be a fun twist on the notion of how these tales are told... Fairytales are often borne of socio-political commentary and translated into stories for children. But what if they were based on something that really happened?.. What if we look back at the story that inspired the story that you read to your kids? That’s kind of what this movie’s about. (emphasis added)

I don't get golden nuggets like that very often, so I like to exploit them for all they are worth when one happens to drop in my lap. The film is 100% pro-socialist, the question is, what socio-political commentary is Jack the Giant Slayer born of?
Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer continues utilizing the staples in the battleground of language in the struggle for America's soul between capitalists and socialists. As a capitalist myself, there were two “new” weapons deployed in Jack the Giant Slayer which causes me concern, but two grave mistakes which should be concerning socialists and they just happen to be the exact same thing: why this country was founded and the “self-made man.” We've seen both sides—capitalists and socialists—resorting to history for ammunition, but socialists seem to have pulled out a gun that has severely backfired on them.
 Where else have we seen the “hero” entering the mouth of an enemy? Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) asks Jarvis in The Avengers if he knows of the story of Jonah and the Whale, to which Jarvis responds, “I don't think he is a role model” and Tony responds by flying through the enormous, metal, alien fish and now Jack does the same in entering through the “mouth” of the giants (besides there are two more important places when Jack drops something down the giants' mouths, the honeycomb and the last bean). The film takes place sometime in medieval history; while the castle of Cloister is done in a high-Romanesque style, late in the Middle Ages, the crown which plays such an important role in the film is later labeled that of Edward's, supposedly Edward the Confessor, who became the model of all later English monarchs, and his reign was significantly earlier than the Romanesque style of the castle, but several generations after the story of Jack, so the story doesn't exist in an actual “time period,” and the same happens with Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, there are numerous anachronisms in that film as well, and the compression or elongation of time in art should not really concern us unless it appears something is deliberately being falsified. So what do the beans symbolize? In the trailer above, at about 1:02, the voice of the giant says, "Wait for the seeds of revenge to grow," and the "storm" which provides the water for the seeds is the "political storms" of a dissatisfied populace which provide the atmosphere for growth. It's possible that there is another reference: the highly popular East Of Eden with James Dean was literally about growing beans and capitalist advances in society to make money, and which way America would go after World War II (Dean's mother in the film runs a brothel and he gets the money to start his bean-growing experiment from her, so what do you think all that symbolizes?).
The first task we must complete is an examination of the most important elements in establishing who is who in the film. Before the title of the film even comes up, we have been told that the giants “Acquired a taste for acquiring things,” as well as a taste for humans which they eat at every chance. The direct linking between material goods and the appetites is one you are well familiar with by now, and clearly establishes the giants as those who “have the most” or are able to “acquire the most” and eat other humans, i.e., capitalists, the 1% despised by Occupy Wall Street and the wealthy in general because they are the giants in American society (this human-eating motif is not foreign to us, it's a direct relation to the idea of capitalists as “vampires” which we have seen in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Gangster Squad, Dark Shadows and Hotel Transylvania). As a “tenant farmer,” then, Jack is clearly someone who doesn't own his home or the land he works (the subtext is that it's one of the “other giants” in the story, a member of the nobility who “tower” above Jack on their horses). Jack as a proletariat-hero, and the giants as those towering above all others in American society, presents a neat and tidy dichotomy, however, numerous strands of the story don't fit in so nice and tidy, reflecting the gaping holes in socialist theory to begin with.
 “Fee-Fi-Foe-Fumm, Ask not whence the thunder comes,” the line is repeated throughout the tale and deliberately changed from the original, "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman! Be he alive or be he dead, I'll have his bones to grind my bread." Why change this line if socialists want to instill in the audience's mind how blood-thirsty capitalists are? What does it mean? This is the second popular film examining thunder in relationship to a character, the other being Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Thor, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World, to be released in November); whereas the Asgardian god of thunder protects the earth and symbolically examines the role of America as a super-power protecting the nations of the world, and the most proper way for us to fulfill that role, Jack the Giant Slayer correlates thunder to the giants who mean to eat humans and steal all their stuff, in other words, those who are “on top” of the social ladder of society (symbolized by the bean stalk) let loose the thunder when the “underlings” don't do as they are told, and the underlings are not to question (correlating to, "Ask not whence the thunder comes") why society is this way instead of that way (why some people are up on top like the giants and nobility, whereas others like Jack are on the bottom and can't rise to the top); the same theme will probably be explored, to a lesser or greater degree, in the upcoming film UpsideDown.
Towards the end of the film, we discover that the crown which controls the giants (much more on this in a moment) later becomes the crown of King Edward; the form of government during the film, however, is feudalism, in which peasants were “tied to the land” and lived and died on the same bit of land generation after generation, retaining a bit of the fruit of their labors for themselves, but giving up most of it to the lord who owned the land, usually a gift from the monarch for some favor rendered (and everyone was either nobility or a peasant, and no one ever rose from being a peasant to the nobility unless there was a freak accident).
Image of the actual Crown of King Edward (the Confessor); the very base of the crown is supposed to be the crown created by "Eric the Great" in the film, the king who first slew the giants by taking the heart of one, having monks melt it down, then forming a crown from it. Later in the film, Roderick steals the crown and the bag of magical beans from the dead king's tomb and plans on using them for himself, but the beans are re-stolen by a monk; Roderick keeps the crown. The reason the crown can be used against the giants, according to the film, is that it's cut from the same hard rock as their heart, so for the giants to deny the crown's power over them is to deny their own existence because it was made from their own heart,... pretty clever, isn't it? Now, IF we can deduce that the giants symbolize the wealthy and powerful in American society (I know, you're thinking of the Princess Isabelle and her father, but just give me one moment) what crown made from their own heart would they have to bow before? The self-made man, the achievement of rising above poverty and "making it big" (attaining the status of a giant) for yourself. Because the wealthy in this country have to acknowledge the opportunity that everyone has the chance to make it big just like them, if they deny when someone makes it big, and that person now belongs to their economic and social standing through their achievement, then they deny the very motto of America that everyone can become a success if they ignore those who have actually achieved it; in bowing to whoever wars the crown, the giants acknowledge that person has become one of them, Roderick through his deceptive practices to take over the kingdom, is obviously not a good model of a self-made man, the virtues we generally uphold as being worthy of emulation reserved for Jack, so Jack wears the crown at the end and commands the giants. This debate over "rising" in the social order and "falling" (Jack's fear) are themes we will see in The Great Gatsby, Upside Down and Iron Man 3, and which we have all ready seen in The Dark Knight Rises and Gangster Squad.  In other words, only someone who has attained to the giant-status of the 1% in this country CAN tell them to give up their wealth because they can give up the wealth they have worked so hard to earn,... oh, wait a minute, Jack doesn't give up his wealth, does he? Jack actually ends up acquiring things, doesn't he? Uh, I guess this is just one of the many contradictions of the film... oh, no, it's probably not: the film makers are just hoping that we don't think it through all the way: it's okay to take from the 1%, but since I am not a member of the 1%, my stuff and wealth won't be taken from me (like Jack and Isabelle).
When Jack tells Princess Isabelle he is a tenant farmer, they don't own the land (and we never see Jack actually working, by the way, just talking about it), we are really meant to understand that in today's terms: Jack is a proletariat, not a member of the bourgeoisie, or a business owner, and this is an intentional class conflict designed to make audience members, such as myself, feel the same disparity between classes as between Jack and the “guardians” of the realm, Elmont (Ewen McGregor) and Crawe, who can only be nobility. This conflict introduces the “new myths” of socialism.
 In his History of Britain, available through Netflix, English historian Simon Schama makes an important point that—for survivors—the plague was a sole means of “class mobility,” because most of the nobility, being removed from the rat population carrying the fleas carrying the plague, were physically unaffected by the disease, whereas the peasant population lived beside the rats and were nearly decimated, making the peasants who survived far more valuable than previously to the point they could demand higher wages for the work they did and claim land left vacant by deaths of entire families. In Jack the Giant Slayer, young Jack's mother has all ready passed away when the film opens, and within ten years, Jack's father passes away as well (another historical anachronism because this is the very early medieval period, the Dark Ages, and the plague didn't start until the high Middle Ages, hundreds of years later), so Jack is left to his reluctant uncle. Jack calls themselves “tenant farmers” because they don't own the land, but they would have been peasants, and there would not have been as many possessions as what the uncle goes to sell at market after Jack fails at selling the horse, nor would Jack have been able to read, nor would they have had any books, books being a luxury item only the very wealthiest could afford. Why am I pointing all this out? Socialists tend not to think of history as knowledge, rather, more like a buffet, where you just take what you want and you can ignore the rest, and the same mistakes made in the historical record being presented reveals the mistakes of how they view reality today, the world in which we are living right now; if they can't get one right, why should we believe they have the other right? Further, the film makers know they can get away with these kind of huge historical mistakes because they believe their audience to be totally ignorant of history, and that young journalists don't even know who BOB WOODWARD is makes their point; in other words, socialism can take root because people are ignorant of history, but it can't when people are educated about history.
One of the primary critiques capitalists wage against socialism is that, when everyone is equal, when there is no advancement based on merit (we saw this at work in Total Recall) no one has any motivation to excel or do anything great (and this is being challenged in The Croods), in other words, it's the very idea of reward that is at the essence of people doing great things. Almost by name, through the character of Crawe, one of the nobility searching for Isabella, we are introduced to this very concept: “I imagine a piece of cake right in front of me,” he tells Jack as he is about to slide across a rope from one side of the bean stalk to the other, “and I am going after that cake” and that's how he's able to accomplish things, he imagines the reward he will receive and Jack later tells Isabelle he has started doing that. This presents one of two aspects socialists put forth in Jack the Giant Slayer in an affront against the advantages of capitalism, and the second example they present is,...
 Why is Jack “not real keen on heights?” It's not, as he corrects someone during the story, that he's afraid of heights, but afraid of falling, and that aptly categorizes socialists, because they always want someone there to catch them before they fall. Consider, for example, a very similar situation in The Dark Knight Rises, when Bruce Wayne is in The Pit, and he keeps trying to make the leap to freedom and can't (symbolic of the social climb and class mobility); he's told to make the leap without the rope, because then he will have more to lose and he's apt to work harder to make the leap if he knows nothing is there to protect him, i.e., the government isn't going to offer him bail out money or come and give him unlimited unemployment benefits, food stamps or create a job for him. Jack's “fear of falling” might be considered a slam against the upper-class (those who have wealth can always lose it and “fall” into poverty) but most likely it's meant to stir in the audience their own fear of falling/failing so they will always want “Big Brother” there to catch them just like in Ice Age 4 ("We watch out for each other").
Jack's “class mobility.”
On the one hand, the film contends that the upper-class is bad, while on the other, Jack becomes a "farmer-boy prince" who moves into the castle, rather than Isabelle moving into the cottage. Here's a perfect example of what the film believes conflicting with what the film wants. As a young woman, Isabelle symbolizes the motherland and it's future; as a member of the nobility, she symbolizes the future of the nobility in the land; the men "attacking her" is exactly what the socialists want to do: rape the upper-class of their wealth (her bracelet one of the men see before the clip starts); the men attacking Isabelle are, by the film's standards, capitalists because "you look a little too drunk to do that" Jack tells the man who hits him, meaning he has been indulging in his "appetite" for beer:
Prior to where this clip begins, they were watching "little people" act out the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, so the audience wants you to know, when Elmont rides up behind him, that Jack is the "little person" and the nobility is the giant; this is repeated later in the film, but reversed, when Jack wears the crown and the giants appear to be bowing to Elmont but actually bow to Jack behind Elmont, which the film considers to be poetic justice. Elmont (McGregor) will literally pay for his piggishness when he's wrapped up in dough by the giant Cook and baked liked a pig in a blanket (a direct undermining of the anti-socialist story Animal Farm and referencing the anti-capitalist film Lawless that capitalists are pigs) but, because Elmont will see Jack's worth and bravery, he will be saved in the end because he reforms his own bad behavior (this also happens with the King):
This clip serves two purposes: first, it punishes Elmont; secondly, it encourages people who are of the upper-class to "join ranks" with the lower-class so this kind of thing won't happen to them, and to encourage them to see their own faults so they will want a just society to keep them from committing these faults (no, self-reform isn't an option for socialists, because everyone is mindless with no free will of their own and there is no individuality, but magically, when society becomes socialist, the government will suddenly be run by great leaders who care only for the welfare of others, not their own pockets, and everyone will sing and be kind and perfect, although they still won't have any free will or individuality or souls or anything like that).
Why is General Fallun the only giant with two heads? Because he's not the only giant with two heads, Roderick (Stanley Tucci) is a "giant" in the city of Cloister, the highest ranking bureaucrat who holds the three most important positions in the kingdom, but he couldn't do it without Wicke, pictured with him above, almost like the smaller, echoing head of Fallun on the left. In other words, whereas capitalism claims that people have a right to individuality in a capitalist society, socialists make the argument that "little people" have to answer to the big people and arent allowed to have a mind of their own or they get killed (of course, we won't mention what happens to people who disagree with President Obama). It's also a device to link the military with the 1% (the giant's name is General Fallun) because the military protect this country and therefore they protect the 1%,... uh, wait, no, that can't be right, that doesn''t make sense, does it? The socialist would want you to think of the Tony Starks and the Bruce Waynes of the world, those who have "capitalized" by America's need for a military and being a super-power, so Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's desire to get rid of the military is reflected by Obama's desire to get rid of the upper-class.
So Jack achieves class mobility by killing the giants,... oh, no, he doesn't. He gets a bag of gold from the king, but he still can't marry the princess because he's a commoner. It isn't until Jack has worn the crown that makes the giants bow to him that he can marry Isabelle, because then the king will change the law, so what does this mean?
What about the Church's role in this film? Is this anti-Catholic? No, it's worse, it's propaganda. The kingdom is named "Cloister," as a means of summoning up images of the religious life, it's a monk who steals from Roderick to keep him from using the beans, monks forged the crown that rules the giants and we see monks praying at the base of the beanstalk when one of the giants falls to earth. In a time when there are plenty of reasons to dislike, or even hate Catholics (I myself am a convert to the Church), these generally seem like positive images, but are they? The monk who trades the beans for Jack's horse so he can escape, promises Jack he can take the beans to the monastery and the Abbot will pa Jack; Jack relates the deal to his uncle who reminds Jack the monks are poor, in other words, because the Church is supposed to espouse poverty, they should not support the giants who acquire wealth and riches for themselves, therefore, the Church should support the socialists. The faithful of any religion never fare well under any form of socialism because they adhere to God when the socialist government wants citizens to adhere to it.
The crown symbolizes the "crowning achievement" in society of making it to the top on your own, becoming a giant from a little person, climbing the ladder all the way to the top, because that's what industrial giants in American society "cherish" in their hearts, the person who has made it all the way. To deny the crown is to deny their own hard hearted, Roderick (Stanley Tucci) tells them, and that's because capitalists at the top have to admit that opportunity exists for everyone and everyone can make it because if they deny that truth, they are only nobility or tyrants or something like that. So, once Jack has the crown, he earns the respect of the upper-class (this is exhibited when Elmont makes Jack a Guardian of the Realm because Jack has earned Elmont's respect) and then they bow before him,... or do they?
In the trailer at the top of this post, at about 1:00, it mentions the giants "waiting to conquer the mortals below," and the giants at the top, as they symbolize capitalists and the wealthy, would refer to subjugating the lower-class. This is an important theme because we will see this in Iron Man 3 in the relationship between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Now, here is where the film deconstructs on itself, because (and we saw this same concept in Gangster Squad) now that Jack has killed two giants, and rid the land of them, and earned the respect of all, and gets to marry the princess, he goes from being a farm-boy commoner to a prince and he,... wait, he doesn't do anything. He acts just like the giants he has been calling filthy, disgusting pigs the whole show. Three times it is pointed out to Princes Isabelle, "Think of all the good you can do," but she never does any good! Nor does Jack once he becomes king! Where is the sweeping social reforms, the new justice? When do they give all THEIR wealth away to the poor the way they want others to do? In other words, socialists are good at taking from others, but believe what is theirs, is theirs, and they know how to hold onto it. Which leads us to the egg,...
Throughout the film, Isabelle seems to be in a cage of one sort or another, and that's a not-so-subliminal message to the upper-class, that you're really not free to do whatever you want when you are rich, you are "constrained" by rules and regulations and must follow protocols, you are not free to go and do what you want, but I guess the film makers never heard of the Berlin Wall, or check points, or having to have your identifying papers with you at all times in the Soviet Union,....
In the original story of Jack and the Beanstalk (at this link), Jack goes up the beanstalk three times, first taking a bag of gold, then a hen laying golden eggs, then the golden harp. This story corresponds to the advances of capitalist wealth  in getting your money (the bag of gold), and getting a "nest egg" for yourself to provide against rainy days, and the harp is meant to bring harmony to others (good public works to benefit society with your surplus); these elements of the story represent the original theories of capitalism (we can't go into here, sorry). So, in the film, Jack goes into the gaints' treasure room, and Jack sees the harp (actually, we are shown the harp twice in the film, the first time at the very start in an illustration, and then when Jack passes it by in the treasury) so the film makers want us to know that they know about the harp, but they chose to leave it out; why? They don't want harmony. Socialists want unrest so the "seeds of revenge" can grow. What does Jack take (what does he steal?)? An egg. Why? Eggs symbolize life, new life, and any highly ornate egg reminds anyone of the iconic Russian Faberge Eggs, so it sends a message of "new life the Russian way," i.e., new life the communist way (although the eggs were commissioned by the Tsars).
This looks almost exactly like the egg Jack steals from the giants (although we don't know if it opens or not).  Why is this important? Well, perhaps they want to mimic James Bond's device of using stolen art in their films, because this particular egg also happens to be stolen from an English jeweler just as Jack steals it in the film. Thieves broke the window of a jewellery store to get this egg, and that might be the film inciting people to break into the wealth of the giants in society (the film The Bling Ring details this very thing, as well as Now You See Me) because their wealth will give them "new life" they won't have otherwise. In the original story, Jack has to climb the bean stalk three times; Jack the Giant Slayer doesn't want you to have to work that hard, just take what you want. 
The last issue I want to address is one line in the film Roderick says to the giants: after they conquer Cloister, "We are going to test the Viking myth of land beyond the sea" which, of course, is America, and suggests that it was "giants" of society (the wealthy) who were the founders of America so they could exploit it for their own good. The truth is, the poor were migrating so quickly to America--they weren't leaving anything behind because they didn't have anything to leave--that the British Parliament nearly passed a law forbidding immigration because landowners couldn't find anyone to work their land or render basic services (such as metal smiths and cobblers); the poor knew America was their chance to "make it" and have a new life to attain wealth for themselves, it wasn't founded by the wealthy although many earned wealth here.
"A princess is such a useless thing," she tells Jack, and a princess like Isabella really is worthless: she doesn't do anything. Twice she is told of all the good she can do, but she doesn't do any thing good, even after her and Jack are married, it just shows them telling the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk to their kids, the film doesn't show Isabella relieving the poverty of the people, or handing out her wealth to everyone in Cloister. It seems that she is "caged" most of the time, either the cage of the castle she constantly complains about, or the cage the giants keep her in. Jack supposedly frees her, but once freed, she doesn't do anything but cause problems and get in the way. Why? Socialists talk about women being equals, but really don't believe it, and Feminists support them because they don't have anyone else to support. So, if you are a socialist/Feminist, complain about this film because it reveals how poorly the socialist movement you support really thinks about you.
Perhaps the lasting image of the film is the "tug-o-war" between the giants and the "little people," and Elmont saying, "Let's cut a few of them down to size," because that's the accurate illustration of what socialists see in our society today: socialists on one side, the little people, and the giants of wealth on the other, but the difference is, who is on which side of the bridge. The socialists want you to believe they are inside the castle, they are defending what is really and all ready American, and the giants are trying to gain unlawful entry in, when it's the giants home that is being invaded, like Tony Starks mansion being blown to bits in Iron Man 3.
The king is supposed to be a "modern" ruler in that, when the giants have seized the castle, he doesn't go to safety, rather, he stands and fights with his people; rightly so, that's what Americans expect from a leader, someone, like Captain America, who leads because they go first and don't ask anything of others they don't do themselves, and that's what makes them worthy to be leaders: they work and recognize themselves as the servants of their people not the lord or king of the people. In other words, Obama should stop playing golf long enough to get some work done...
Jack the Giant Slayer has some problems of its own it should slay. At the start of this post, we have the quote from the director about stories encoding socio-political commentary, and his certainly does. While it wants to create the myth that people can socially advance under socialism once the giants have been slain, and everyone will gain a "new life" once wealth has been re-distributed and that's not stealing but justified, and your wealth won't be touched, just those who are really ugly and greedy, it falls, like the bean stalk, under its own weight and fails to deliver anything logical, substantial or accurate. There are themes int he film we will be seeing again, so it's important to keep track of them, and we will.
I couldn't find an image of it, but as the giants attack Cloister, one of them throws a windmill, and that's probably a reference to the "giants" of society not wanting green energy or to protect the environment; likewise, they throw several big trees in the siege against the castle. There have probably been times when you think I go too far; I don't blame you, but remember, I'm not the one making the films, these are the visual images the film makers want to impress on your memory with grand special effects in 3D and HD so you will remember it and associate the giants with environment killers.
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