Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Legend Of Hercules vs Pompeii: Pure Art vs Indoctrination

Neither Pompeii nor The Legend Of Hercules are very good films, however, their shared plot lines, and where those plot lines vary, reveal a great deal about the film makers behind them, offering the perfect platform for talking about the films without having to really talk about their weak points. Both films, for example, take place in ancient times (remember, dear reader, history films are never ever never ever NEVER about history, they are ALWAYS about the here and the now, always); both films have male heroes who are strong and fight in arenas like gladiators. Both male heroes see threats to not being with the woman they love, which they must overcome. Both heroes are enslaved and both heroes face the wrath of a tyrant against them, and both heroes had their mothers die at the hand of that tyrant. In both films, the woman is kept from the man she loves for political reasons. In both films, the heroes have gods on their side. Now, the two, primary differences between Pompeii--making it a socialist film--and The Legend Of Hercules--aiding in it being pro-capitalist--is that Hercules finds happiness and success at the end, whereas in Pompeii, there is no chance of happiness. If the film makers of Pompeii had wanted to provide a happy ending, it would have been possible, however, they intentionally chose an ending where everyone dies. On the other hand, it looks like The Legend Of Hercules has a sad ending, the princess stabbing herself so she can't be used against Hercules, but she recovers, they are married and have children, and live a long, prosperous life, so in blatant denial of the odds, The Legend Of Hercules provides a happy ending because it knows that a glimmer of hope is essential to the human condition, regardless of how hopeless circumstances appear to be. Another important similarity is that both films have treason against the crown as a theme (which we also see in Star Trek Into Darkness [Cap. Kirk having to decide if the Admiral is lying or telling the truth], 47 Ronin [when the Ronin band together to overthrow the lord who overthrew their lord] and Thor the Dark World [when Thor has to go against Odin and leave Asgard to try and kill Malkith]). In Pompeii, Milo commits treason by defiling the Eagle Standard and refusing to follow the "rules" of the arena; in The Legend Of Hercules, Hercules and those who have been abused by the tyrant rise up against the tyrant to reclaim their homeland and establish justice and prosperity for all (sound familiar?). Pompeii, then, calls for treason via revolution against the state, whereas The Legend Of Hercules calls for treason against the state that has failed to follow the laws of the state. 
This is an issue we absolutely must discuss.
When I, or anyone, applauds or condemns a film for being "socialist" or "capitalist," depending upon our respective positions, we base our reaction upon how the film measures against our beliefs. What is the difference between the beliefs of the liberals and beliefs of those generally considered conservative (myself included)? Liberals would say films that are capitalist are propaganda, but I would say films that are liberal are indoctrination; what does that mean? "Indoctrination" and "propaganda" are both political terms (which usually have negative connotations in America, but aren't meant to); is "pure art," free of political presence, possiblePompeii, just released this weekend, is obviously pro-socialist, but it bears striking plot similarities to The Legend Of Hercules which came out about a month ago, and is pro-capitalist. By comparing these two films, I hope to distinguish what the two positions are--indoctrination & propaganda, against the traditional role of art or "pure art" (and trust me, that phrase "pure art" has huge problems with it, but we'll just bracket those for the time being). Here is the trailer for Pompeii:
When the trailer was first released, I thought this was going to be a pro-socialist and it didn't disappoint, it was pro-socialist. Here is the trailer for The Legend Of Hercules:
The cast in The Legend Of Hercules sincerely tried to make it a good film, the script was bad and the directing was worse; regarding the special effects, half of them were mind-blowing (like the fight scenes in water) whereas other effect scenes were like they forgot the effects altogether (when Hercules is fighting the "lion," they forgot to exchange the stuffed toy for a CGI version). Regardless, how Hercules handles himself in the arena demonstrates that he understands competition and capitalism and how it can work to his advantage even though he occupies the state of a slave. Milo (Kit Harrington) in Pompeii occupies a one-dimensional world in which everything works for the upper-class and nothing works for the under-classes. A similarity between the two films (as noted above in the caption beneath the poster) is that both heroes, Milo and Hercules, call upon the gods for help: Hercules calls upon his father Zeus for help in defeating the tyrant, whereas Milo tells Corvus (Keifer Sutherland) that his gods are going to take vengeance on Corvus on Milo's behalf; who is Milo's gods? The erupting volcano, Vesuvius, in other words, the environment. The erupting volcano was probably a result of global warming,... even back then.
Need I say more?
A picture of the arena from The Legend Of Hercules, but it's very similar to the one used in Pompeii, as well as the "arenas" in The Hunger Games, Monsters University and 42 (the Jackie Robinson story, as the baseball field becomes an arena in which he's not only playing baseball, but fighting racism [real racism] as well). In art, such as films, there is a moral dimension to "the arena," as it takes on dimensions of the soul. For example, in The Legend Of Hercules, Hercules (a demi-god) isn't fighting humans who don't have a chance against him, rather, he's fighting his very own human self and trying to overcome it so the divine element in him will be stronger (we also see this in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters and, to some degree, in The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones). Why is this important? It's not important, it's imperative! You can only advance in the spiritual life if you are overcoming your weakness (sins), and you are only fulfilling your destiny if you are advancing spiritually, because if you haven't advanced and gained the virtues you need to meet the trials on your life's journey, you will fail those trials. Milo, of Pompeii, does not have a destiny, the film makes this clear: what keeps Milo going is his desire for revenge (and we see this in Loki of Thor the Dark World because he tells Thor, "Trust my rage," and Loki's refusal to take responsibility for his own actions leads him to revenge against Odin and Thor, and "revolution" in that he takes the throne of Asgard for himself, usurping it from both Odin and Thor). This is why Milo is such an incomplete character: he has an incomplete life, and the film makers seem determined not to give him one.
Those aren't the real issues in this post, but they will come up again (for example, in Noah when the massive flood destroys the world and even Maleficent--remember, she summons an army of creatures created from the earth, so we will have to deal with that in one way or another). Now, we have to be perfectly honest: what I describe as indoctrination in socialist films, they describe as "pure art," and when they call my films supporting Christianity and capitalism propaganda, I call them "pure art." How, if at all, can we distinguish what is occurring in this not-so-clear dialogue (and there are plenty who would say it can't be decided, art will always serve someone's agenda)? Let's look to an artist, the poet, William Butler Yeats.
Jared Harris portrays Severus, Cassia's father, and potential business partner of the new emperor Titus. Pompeii is a holiday town and Severus has plans to build a new amphitheater just for chariot races, and rebuild the whole town. Senator Corvus, responsible for the massacre of Milo's tribe in Northern Britannia when they revolted against the northern Roman trade routes, appears in Pompeii as the Emperor's representative. Corvus informs Severus that the Emperor isn't interested in investing in Pompeii, but Corvus himself is; it's revealed the next day that Corvus will invest in the new buildings if Severus agrees to let his daughter Cassia marry Corvus which she doesn't want to do because she's fallen in love with the slave-gladiator Milo. This is just one ugly portrait of business in the film, there is all the "business" transactions that take place regarding the slaves/gladiators, including the male slaves being brought out to be essentially "prostituted" for rich women during a party, as well as the standard payments of humans as slaves and property. Now, do you recall, prior to, say, 2011, many films focusing on "slavery?" There's been Django Unchained, Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Pompeii and The Legend Of Hercules, that I can name off the top of my head (it's probable that that work of pornography, 50 Shades of Gray, will somehow be linked into this, since that guy is a business owner and, thereby, he owns everyone, and no one has any power to say no to him; not that I have any plans of watching that whatsoever). Why, under the Obama administration, would "slavery" become such an important theme? Capitalists and socialists have different takes on it: to capitalists, if there is a centralized government, you are controlled by the Party (the socialists, the inner-Party running everything) and to socialists, if you work for someone who owns a business, than you are their slave and they rule over you. Each side presents arguments attempting to draw Americans to their side and persuade audiences of the "true" definition of freedom. Pompeii makes the argument that Severus, pictured above, is a slave to the Senator Corvus, because Corvus will invest in the new plans for Pompeii's development, Severus has to agree to give Cassia to Corvus in marriage, in other words, people with money are terrorists because they can control everyone, just like all the women in America who, over the last 50 years, have been enslaved in loveless marriages because men like Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, etc., forced their fathers to give up their daughters or else risk losing their jobs... think of all those poor women.
The motto of this blog, since the first week I started, has been adapted from the Irish poet who wrote, "Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth, passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius, but never abandoned." A socialist would argue that they disagree with this argument, and of course they would, because socialism insists that all art is merely one more resource at the government's disposal to control people and their thoughts. A socialist would not argue with this. I don't think many conservatives would argue with Yeats' statement--maybe offer a few suggestions--but it would be a fair starting ground at least. So, what is Yeats saying?
This is a fascinating crossroads for the two films (please click on the image to enlarge it). In the upper-left corner is Hercules, calling upon his father Zeus to help him overcome the tyrant; in the lower-left corner is a typical representation of Zeus that we see in Pompeii at the gates of the harbor several times throughout the film; in the upper-right hand corner is Mount Vesuvius exploding that Milo tells Senator Corvus is his god. In the lower right corner is Senator Corvus preparing to kill Milo. Hercules, in The Legend Of Hercules, is reluctant to call upon Zeus to help him because he doesn't really believe that Zeus is his father because Hercules is actually very humble and close to people, it's hard for him to reconcile that he is a demi-god (we see this in Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters also). Hercules does call upon his father and Zeus responds by giving his son the weapon of lightening that helps Hercules overcome the tyrant. In Pompeii, however, they do something radically different. The show a similar representation of Zeus (Jupiter in the Roman myths) and, at one point, Senator Corvus tells the crowd, when there has been a loud rumble from Vesuvius, that the "god Vulcan" wants Milo to go to Rome and be a gladiator there (this is the only time a god is mentioned by name, intentionally). Again, a bit later, as Vesuvius erupts and Milo has fought Corvus in hand-to-hand combat, but hasn't killed him, Milo tells Corvus that "My gods are coming for you," implying the lava, rock and ash are going to kill Corvus and it does. "Named gods," like Zeus and Vulcan, are part of the "establishment," whereas the raw power of nature that doesn't have a name, is the "god" of those who want to overthrow society and go back to a totally "natural state" of existence giving the environment priority over humans (again, this is probably what we will see in Noah, who, at the end of the film, wants to let humanity die out completely). Those who call themselves political "Progressives" would better describe themselves as "digressives" because they want to undo all the technological progress that has been and go back to living in a state that is barely human (films such as The Lone Ranger--when Tonto walks into the wilderness at the very end--Gravity, when she lands on earth and walks into a Chinese village that obviously doesn't even have a telephone in it and Jack the Giant Slayer that takes place during the medieval period, all want a "digressive agenda" to do-away with technological progress because where there is technology, there is innovation and that means a market for technology and socialists abhor that). When Vesuvius destroys everything, just like the flood will in Noah, that's the happy ending for the film makers because they despise humanity and don't want people to exist (trust me, horses get treated far better in Pompeii than humans). "Un-naming gods," then, is wiping clean the slate of human history so humans can be wiped out of history and we turn into just one more extinct species. Why do "Progressives" want this? Because it's an act of rebellion against God, who made mankind master over creation; that doesn't mean we don't have obligations to be good stewards over the environment, but nature was created for man, not man for nature. By un-doing mankind, "Progressives" want to deny God's role in Creation and His Plan for salvation. 
Art is the vehicle of truth (which is reality), so the purpose of art is not only to convey truth to its audience, but also the forms of the highest truths, society's ideal of heroism and religious observation (dependent upon which society in which the art originates). Again, to socialists, art and artists are the servants of the State--just like everyone and everything else--so the purpose of art is to glorify the state and, lest you doubt me, we just saw this in The Monuments Men: Hitler is gathering art to be in his State Museum to glorify his Thousand Year Reich, the Soviets are "trophy hunting" the art and the "monuments men" (Clooney, Damon, etc.) are using the art in the film to try and distinguish their brand of socialism from the Nazis' and Soviets' brand of socialism/communism, so to socialists, all art ultimately glorifies the state and exists only as a material artifact, not something upon which the audience is to ponder and engage (for example, in The Monuments Men, the film makers only see Michelangelo's Madonna is only a piece of marble, not a springboard for theology), and certainly art is not meant to be interpreted (as we do here at this blog) because that would be a form of freedom the State prohibits: the State tells you what to think, which brings us back to Yeats (please see Uncle Sam's Buying: The Monuments Men for more).
A fight scene from each film and, in both scenes, water is involved. In The Legend Of Hercules (in the left), the water is in the pit in which Hercules fights; in Pompeii (right) it's raining as Milo steps into the arena. Water, traditionally, and like most symbols, has a positive and negative symbolic presence: the positive symbol of water is that the character is being "born anew" (like when a mother's water breaks and the baby is about to be born, and the Christian Sacrament of Baptism) and is now a stronger, more virtuous person; the negative symbolic presence of water was that pertaining to sex (besides murder, adultery is the ultimate sin because it is so pleasurable, it deepens sin's hold on you, tying you to the world so your soul is enslaved to sin and not free to exercise virtue). Hercules, in drowning the man he fights in the pit, drowns part of himself just as the Biblical Moses buried the Egyptian in the sand after killing him, because Moses had to metaphorically kill the "Egyptian" part of himself so he could become the prophet of God he was destined to become (especially the part of Hercules that just wants to be with the woman he loves; Hercules is coming closer to understanding that he has a greater, more important role to play in the world, and being "reborn" in this scene is necessary for him to understand why he was born to begin with: to free his people). A socialist would look at this scene and describe it as barbaric because someone dies; again, socialists don't have the conceptual framework nor the vocabulary to accept "metaphor" and the workings of the soul because they believe humans are animals and we do not have a soul; we are controlled by appetites, not ideals, aspirations or moral teachings as most conservatives believe. The comparative scene from Pompeii, however, breaks the rules. Since Milo is a nature worshipper, the rain symbolizes nature's presence and approval of Milo,....? There's nothing in Milo to be cleansed--he never experiences any kind of a conversion the way Hercules does, or heroes in art in general--he remains the same throughout because the film makers see him in his oppressed state as a hero (more on this below), i.e., because Milo is enslaved (by the state) he is a hero, whereas Hercules is enslaved spiritually (he is enslaved but that's not the real enslavement that is of concern in the film, that's just the metaphor for his spiritual enslavement) because of faults and sins in his soul, and he must overcome that spiritual enslavement within in order to find freedom in society; this kind of scheme never enters the mind of a socialist, which is why they don't see problems with promiscuous sexuality, abortions, legalized drugs, people forsaking marriage, etc.: discipline is meant to build up the soul and build up the person in wisdom to use their free will, again, towards fulfilling their destiny; socialists see these sinful "behaviors" as only expressions of the animal appetites that are perfectly legitimate and stigmatized by religious institutions that want to control people.
For Yeats, and myself, art is meant to be engaged and expand our freedom, not limit it. Herein lies the most basic and radical difference between socialism and Christianity: socialists do not believe in the soul, God or any higher being; in believing in the soul and the soul's development (that the soul is damaged by sin but built up by virtue and love), Christian stories and the symbols within those stories communicate far more to us than they do to socialists because socialists only believe in the body and material existence (anything you can shake a stick at). For example, in the arena scenes in The Legend Of Hercules, a Christian intuitively understands that Hercules isn't killing other people in this story, Hercules is destroying his own inner-weakness, his faults and sins which pretend to be a part of Hercules, but is really a "false" version of Hercules, thereby building up the moral strength of Hercules and his courage of virtue, because if Hercules doesn't undertake these battles to better himself, he will end up becoming like the tyrant who killed his mother. Why can't a socialist understand what I am talking about?
Suffering.
Americans are used to happy endings, where all the issues have been resolved (okay, sometimes there are issues not resolved because of "sequels," but the pressing issues have been resolved) and there is a reward for the hero as a result of his labors, in other words, the trials and tribulations the hero has undergone and completed were not in vain, there was purpose to it and s/he can look forward to enjoying their rewards in a world that is now a better place; that's the American Way. That's not what happens in Pompeii. Milo and Cassia are on horseback, trying to make it to the hills, and Milo stops the horse and dismounts, telling Cassia she has to go on, the horse isn't strong enough to carry them both; so she dismounts and argues with him, sending the horse off. Okay, practically speaking, they should have just kept riding for the sake of a fighting chance; spiritually speaking, they give up because, in the socialist world view, there is no such thing as hope: it's better to just lay down and die then even try to go on living. THAT attitude is counter-intuitive, even contrary to nature, even by Pompeii's own standards because Cassia's horse, when the earth is about to cave in around him, does what he needs to do to escape and preserve its life, even animals have the survival instinct which the two "heroes" of this film have abandoned for themselves, whereas Milo and Cassia just give in and accept the fate nature has decreed for them (to be swept up by lava) because the volcano/nature is their god to decide their fate, they do not control nature, nature controls them. Why have an ending like this? Brainwashing. We haven't really discussed brainwashing, but it certainly belongs in this discussion. Brainwashing is undertaken to achieve an alternate way of thinking from what one would think otherwise. For example, my mom is a fan of the Netflix series House Of Cards and was anxious to watch all of the new season; she got to the third to the last episode (something like that, the episode directed by Jodi Foster) and there was a scene with a gay kiss (Foster herself is gay); my mom was irked but went ahead and finished the show; in the next episode, I believe directed by Robin Wright, there was a scene of gay sex and my mother turned the series off and won't watch it again. What this demonstrates is that the homosexual community is winning. The gay kiss, which my mother would never have tolerated two years ago, she endured because she has seen it so many times--she claims--she has built up an indifference to it, but that's not what has happened: she has been acclimated to seeing it as "natural," even if she disagrees with it (the dominant reason I don't watch television). Granted, she still turned off the TV when the gay sex scene came up, but brainwashing doesn't have to be successful every time, it just has to be constant, so that one gets so used to seeing something, you finally cross a line into accepting it (like all the lawless actions taken by the Obama Administration, we can't count how many times he has broken the laws). The same method is being employed by socialist films like Pompeii: get people used to nature worshipping, get people used to being told they are just animals, get people used to there not being any hope, get people used to stories where the rich are evil and the slaves rise up against them (Django Unchained): pound it into their brains, because there are more weak people than strong people and the weak will accept it and those are the only ones socialists want to survive anyway, because they are the easiest to control. The opposite of brainwashing is "inspiring," because a film such as Hercules is meant to inspire us to be strong and overcome our weakness, not accept what is less within ourselves, but to set goals and achieve them, to hope for something better and work for it. Socialists absolutely hate that.
No one wants to suffer--except those who are truly blessed and destined to become saints--and I especially don't like suffering at all, however, I understand that, in the economy of salvation, suffering is necessary to purge ourselves of all our faults and shortcomings, helping to strengthen our free will so we use it according to the absolute greatest good for ourselves and society. This is language that is utterly foreign to a socialist: free will? Soul? Suffering? Suffering, to a socialist, is a result of class inequality, intentionally inflicted upon people of lower social standing by those of higher social standing and people are absolutely incapable of taking care of themselves. Free will is an illusion because all of your will is controlled and determined by your necessity to survive or advertising telling you what to think and feel. Socialist, then, like Pompeii, will demonstrate how life is futile and suffering comes from those who have placed their self above you through social standing and financial resources. The only good that comes out of suffering is one, revolution, and two, revenge. How do you like that for a definition of "life?"
There are two gross inconsistencies in Pompeii: the first is, Milo (who shows no kind of religious devotion at all during the film except when he describes the lava as "my gods,") tells fellow slave-gladiator Atticus that he will see him again (implying in the afterlife because they are going to die). This is irreconcilable to worshipping nature as "god" because there is nothing immortal or divine in nature to bequeath a soul (by its very definition immortal) to humans that can "go on" after death, death is what happens in nature, not the afterlife, so Pompeii wants to believe in an afterlife, but by its own lack of a theological structure, it can't support it (we don't gain immortality from lava or rain or soil, only a Divine Creator). The second inconsistency comes from the government. Socialists believe that individuals are corrupted by power and money--and Senator Corvus certainly is--but that, magically, the government is all good and wise and fair and equal when it comes to the equal distribution of wealth and resources in a socialist state: in other words, the very instrument used to oppress people in the socialist view point (the government) is turned into a vehicle of benevolence for the people is was oppressing into slavery a moment ago (again, we see this in Loki in Thor the Dark World, when he tells Odin that he went to earth to rule as a "benevolent god" after he killed more than 80 people and led the invasion destroying New York City, Loki suggests that he would have just "magically" turned into a wise and generous ruler over earthlings). Now, IF A SOCIALIST WERE RESPONDING TO THIS CHARGE, they would say, this is unfair, these people in government are corrupted by money and power, so they don't count, good virtuous ("virtuous" by Marxist standards) leaders would be found to control the government, and Pompeii never intended to convey that Corvus is an example of good government; I respond, however, that they can't demonstrate one example of a fair and trustworthy government, either a socialist or capitalist government that isn't self-serving rather than citizen-serving, and the corruption we see now in the socialist-Muslim messiah of Barack Hussein Obama is a smidgen of the corruption that is really taking place and just a taste of what is to come; at that point, I would, of course, be called a racist. The problem is, socialists want to believe, and have you believe, that people like Milo (the slaves, poor and oppressed) are the ones who should be put in control of government, and because they are good, they will do good. As I stated earlier, Milo is at best a two-dimensional character, and this translates to how socialists see their own dream being carried out in reality: the people they believe would do good, don't exist. "Well I will lead the government!" the socialist responds, "I'm an excellent, virtuous person!" but, in reality, this is a person who has no accountability to anyone and has abandoned moral instruction and teaching as being a means of being controlled by religious institutions or inherent power structures in society. Socialists believe in their two-dimensional messiahs because they themselves never undergo conversions in reality, they expect the world to change instead of changing themselves, so they don't see how inherently bad they are as human beings, preferring to see everyone else as problematic instead. 
"Art" inspires us to be better, "propaganda" and "indoctrination" seeks to convince us about something other than what we all ready believe (if we believed it all ready, we wouldn't need to be convinced of it). Art, is for me, a means to become a better person, propaganda is for someone else to dominate me. In conclusion, there is no real conclusion to this debate, I have barely skimmed the surface. But I believe that you and I both have the choice to decide if our lives are going to be defined by the exercising of "heroic virtue" or by revenge and revolt? Is it more noble to believe that we are nothing but animals, so we should live like animals, i.e., according to our appetites, or is it more noble to believe that we are noble, and should strive for the very highest expressions of nobility every moment? I chose to be inspired by the heroic actions of others, rather than settle into my imperfections and blame others for them or depend upon the state to "care and provide" for me as the state sees fit. For as often as I fall short of my intentions, I have made my choice, and continue to make it on a moment-by-moment basis, and, in choosing the harder path to follow, that--in and of itself--debunks the socialists myths of what it means to be human.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner