Friday, October 29, 2010

The Problem With Zombies

Tomorrow, "The Walking Dead" will premiere on AMC, the latest in what seems to be an endless wave of zombie-focused horror. Ever since 9/11, it seems like our cultural outlet for the sense of wrenching shock that hit us when the World Trade Center collapsed has been the endless variations on the zombie apocalypse story; it seems like the common thread to all of them is the main character waking up to suddenly realize that overnight, Things Have Gone To Hell In A Handbasket.

That theme runs through the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, "28 Days Later", "The Walking Dead"...and even in stories where the character is awake and active through the zombie apocalypse, it always seems like events move a little faster than the perception of them (as in "Planet Terror" and "Cell", for example.) You can never stay on top of a zombie apocalypse, anymore than you can keep up with events in a world where the Official Enemy is Al-Qaeda one day, the Taliban the next day, Saddam Hussein the day after that, and the entire religion of Islam a few years later. It's a potent symbol, a mythic pool that keeps on welling up as we express our nation's trauma.

But the problem is (yes, I'm getting to it, now that I'm done being pretentious) that what makes emotional sense doesn't always make literal sense. One of the big set-piece sequences in "The Walking Dead", one that they're replicating for the TV series, is the hero's trip into zombie-infested Atlanta. You see the endless hordes of zombies overrunning the city, complete with a crowd of them clustered around a deserted tank.

At which point, the logical brain rebels. (Or at least, mine does.) "No," it says to the emotional brain, "that is not a potent symbol of the impotence of traditional military power in the face of a terrorist fighting force that can control the grounds of engagement! That is a potent example of the dumbest fucking tank crew ever, because short of running out of gas in the middle of downtown Atlanta, there is absolutely no way on God's green earth that a tank could be stopped by any number of zombies you care to name! It's a TANK! Teeth and fingernails have about as much chance against a tank as Bambi does against Godzilla! It does not matter how many zombies there are--more zombies just means more time hosing down the tank treads after the inevitable victory! Gah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Because that's the problem with zombies. No matter how potent they are as a mythical symbol, no matter how many movies and books and TV shows and comics and audio plays portray them as an implacable, undying, endlessly patient force of primal killers, the fact remains that they are, at heart, a bunch of slow-moving unarmed and (for the most part) unarmored humans who don't use tactics, strategy, ranged weapons, or dodge attacks aimed at them. Ask the US military if they would trade off "has to be shot in the head" and "can turn their victims into members of their fighting forces" for "no weapons, no armor, no strategy, no tactics, no ranged capability, and oh by they way they don't know what the word 'duck' means", and the US military would say, "HELL YES!"

Basically, the only way the zombies win is if everyone is colossally stupid. And while it's fun to imagine a world where zombies have won, and will remain so, the other reason that the stories always start with the hero waking up to find out that the zombie apocalypse has already happened is so that the writer doesn't have to explain how the military loses to unarmed people walking slowly towards them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Did I Miss This One?

A while back, I posted some ideas for "mature" updates of kid's cartoons, complete with the blood and gore and nastiness that characterizes said updates. But somehow, I managed to miss an obvious one!

Steve is trapped in a strange house where everyday household objects seem to possess a malevolent intelligence. There's a way out, but can he find it before he falls into one of the deadly traps created by the sinister puppet-master behind it all? If he wants to survive, Steve will have to decipher every last one of...

"Blue's Clues".

It's like the 'Saw' movies with an evil dog-woman! I smell money, people...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An Open Letter to the Guy Standing Behind Me at the Obama Rally

So let me try to reconstruct your logic, here. Obama is up on stage, in front of a crowd of ten thousand people, in the middle of a speech about the need to get out the vote for the Democrats. Suddenly, during a brief pause in between two sentences, he hears two words ringing out from the crowd:


And suddenly, his train of thought is utterly derailed. He stops thinking about his speech and his mind shifts to another topic completely--the War on Drugs. It hits him: How could he ever have believed that the laws against marijuana use were fair and justified? How could he not have seen the vast public support swelling just under the surface? This changes everything, he realizes. He now has just one priority for the next two years as President, and that's convincing America to decriminalize pot. That nameless speaker was right! This is the answer to all America's problems! This is the time, this is the place! Let the call go out, America! Barack Obama says, "LEGALIZE IT!"

Was that what you thought would happen when you shouted that? Seriously? And if it was, did you think he maybe didn't hear you the first two times?

Seriously, people. I'm all for legalizing marijuana, but there's a time and a place to make your voice heard. That was neither.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Terminator Inference Theater!

It's funny, but despite really liking the "Terminator" movies (well, actually, I really like the first and third. I think the second his highly overrated...) I never did get around to seeing "Terminator: Salvation." And honestly, I don't think I will, because to me, a "Terminator" film that shows the actual war against Skynet is like a "Star Wars" movie that shows how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. The original films craft just enough of a story to give you an idea of how it happened, while letting you fill in the blanks with your own imagination. The result is a seamless illusion of a greater story that's just as amazing as you imagine it could be, because you are imagining it. You just don't realize it.

It's fun to look back at the Terminator films and try to extrapolate a version of the future from them. For example, we can assume that there was an original, unaltered version of the timeline, because we see that history changes from one movie to the next. Since the time travel doesn't cause a closed loop, then there must have been a "genesis" timeline, one that propagated the changes that led to the temporal war we see. Presumably, in this version, Reese came back in time to accomplish another, unrelated goal--perhaps to sabotage Skynet's systems in some way--and wound up falling in love with Sarah Connor and impregnating her with John Connor.

Presumably, John Connor's existence was a massive turning point for the war. It must have been, because we see from Reese's dreams that Terminators are common enough that humans have standard counter-measures for them, and yet Skynet only sends one T-800 back in time to stop John Connor. Since there's no reason not to send more, it stands to reason that they only sent one because that's all they could send. This implies that the time travel facilities were captured not long after the T-800 was sent back. (You could theoretically ask why Reese was the only human soldier to be sent back, but don't forget, Skynet was trying to change history and the humans were trying to preserve it. They have an incentive to keep disruptions to a minimum.)

Obviously, Reese succeeds in preserving Sarah (and John) Connor's existence. But he fails in one key aspect--he allows the T-800's remains to survive. This gives the designers of Skynet a boost, which explains why they send back a T-1000 instead of a T-800 in the second movie; they've managed to survive a bit longer in the war in the revised timeline, long enough to send back two Terminators instead of one (and one of them an advanced prototype, at that.)

It seems like the heroes win a big victory in the second movie--after all, they destroy much of the research conducted on Skynet, setting back the robot holocaust by years. (If T3 is to be believed, the nuclear war was originally "scheduled" for just after the T1000 arrived.) But the machines did achieve one important goal--they gave John Connor an affection for Terminator models that resemble the governor of California. This allowed them to assassinate John before he could complete his job of leading the humans to victory, which gave them enough time to develop the T-X model and send that back as well. It seems like the humans are losing ground with each film, in fact.

Of course, this doesn't take into account the Fox TV series (which I never got around to seeing, because despite Summer Glau, I just didn't have the time to invest in it) or the fourth film, either of which could contradict this timeline. And of course, there are always other explanations. I still want to do a fifth film in which it turns out that John Connor was never anything more than a red herring, used to divert Skynet's attention while the real leader of the resistance gets on with winning the war. At the end, after defeating Skynet and capturing the time travel facilities, he starts sending back Terminator after Terminator, each one programmed to contact Skynet and give it the vital information that destroying John Connor is the key to victory.

Oh, come on. You know it'd be a great twist.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Hate Wasted Opportunities

...and I just noticed a big one. I was thinking about "Rock of Ages", the classic JLA storyline from the mid-90s penned by Grant Morrison. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, it involves Lex Luthor reforming (or forming--DC continuity was still a little unsettled back then) the Injustice Gang as a group of "all-star" villains to take on Morrison's "all-star" JLA. Luthor has an ace up his sleeve, too, in the form of a powerful artifact called the Philosopher's Stone with reality-warping powers.

But even as most of the League takes on the Injustice Gang, a few heroes have gotten shanghaied by Metron to the future, where it turns out that Darkseid has taken over the world and enslaved its populace into mindless drones with his Anti-Life Equations. Worse yet, it turns out that the cause of all this was the destruction of the Philosopher's Stone at the hands of the JLA...defeating the Injustice Gang in the present is the beginning of Darkseid's ultimate triumph.

Needless to say, it's all resolved well. The heroes escape back to the past and stop Superman from crushing the Philosopher's Stone, the JLA defeat the Injustice Gang anyway, and everything is right with the world.

Now, fast forward a little over a decade. Morrison's star has risen, fallen, and once more risen with DC, and he's in position to write what they're marketing as the ultimate crossover, the big Darkseid epic to end all big Darkseid epics, the so-called "Final Crisis". In it, Darkseid's plans are finally coming to their ultimate fruition; he's got the Anti-Life Equation, he's destroyed or corrupted the New Gods, and he's ready to crush all free will in the universe and turn everyone on Earth into his mindless drones. And of course, the only thing that can stop him is...

Wait, what? The Miracle Machine? Seriously, Morrison? You ignore an absolutely perfect piece of foreshadowing that you yourself set up eleven years in advance in order to stick in an obscure continuity reference that only a handful of fans will even recognize?

Alright, nobody ever gets to complain about Mark Waid's hard-on for the Silver Age ever again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting Ahead of the Trend

I've been thinking a bit lately about the way franchises change over time as their fanbase ages. It seems like as the fans get older, they want to continue to have a main character in their favorite action-adventure series that they can relate to; if they're in their thirties, dealing with the challenges of mature relationships and child-rearing, then Spider-Man should too! They can't continue to identify with a young Spider-Man, and they certainly can't stop reading Spider-Man. Ergo, Spider-Man should change to be more like them. (Inevitably, the word "stagnation" gets thrown around in these discussions.)

But we older fans forget that younger fans age too. And if we want a darker, more "adult" take on our favorite characters, well...isn't it only logical that they will too? Let's go ahead and get to the grim and gritty take on the next generation of franchises now, and beat the rush, shall we?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Turtles are retired following the death of Shredder, but are forced out of retirement when Bebop and Rocksteady go on a brutal rampage that kills dozens of people. They follow the trail back to Baxter Stockman, who has gone insane, but he resurrects Shredder as a zombie Shredder who brutally tortures Splinter to death. The Turtles avenge their mentor by throwing Shredder into a wood chipper (see, irony! He's shredded!) only to find out, when they go after Stockman, that he's just a flunky for the true villain...April O'Neil! It turns out that Everything They Knew Was Wrong(tm), and O'Neil has been behind every villain they've ever fought. She did it all to further her stagnant journalistic career, including mutating the Turtles themselves (while pinning the blame on Shredder.) In the end, they kill her...but her body falls into the mutagenic ooze, setting up a potential sequel.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: When Rita Repulsa's love potion wears off, Lord Zedd mercilessly slaughters her in full view of the audience, and begins his plan to destroy the Earth...starting with the Power Rangers. His new nanoscopic monsters infiltrate Alpha's systems, secretly turning the robot against Zordon. Alpha sabotages the Morphing Grid, robbing the Rangers of their powers, then traps the Pink Ranger in their headquarters and tortures her. Dying, the Pink Ranger sacrifices herself to detonate Alpha's anti-matter power core, destroying him, her, Zordon, and the HQ. The surviving Rangers, unable to access the Grid, steal a space shuttle and break into Zedd's moon base, stealing his own weapons and using them against them. After a bloody shooting war (in which Goldar kills two more Rangers before they put him down) the Rangers reveal that the battle was only a distraction--this was actually a suicide mission, and they armed every explosive in the base. The resulting explosion can be seen from Earth, where a young group of teenagers watches it. The light show gives them strange, mysterious powers...

Pokemon: It's a show about a little boy who runs around capturing wild animals, locking them up in a tiny cage, and then pitting them against other wild animals in brutal gladiatorial contests. Really, I don't think there's anything you could do to make this one darker if you tried.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

My Confession

In the comments thread for the last entry (and by the way, I said it over on MightyGodKing and it's still true here, I love getting comments. Blogging is essentially unpaid writing, and getting feedback makes it all worthwhile. Thanks to everyone who comments on my posts!), sorry. In the comments thread for the last entry, Justin Garrett Blum said, "if it were true, then why did Tim Burton do such a dark film and why, of all of Batman films, was that the hugest smash hit?" (It, in this case, being my claim that the 60s Batman series made it hard for Batman to escape the label of being a campy kids' show.) And I'd like to respond to that, but doing so involves a confession. Crucify me if you may, but...I really don't like Tim Burton's Batman. I actually think it sucks pretty bad. And I think the only reason it has the reputation it does is because fans were cringing so much in anticipation of another Adam West-esque campfest that seeing a movie that treated Batman the way he was in the comics made them raise it onto a pedestal that it doesn't deserve.

The thing you need to remember, in order to make sense of all this, is that comics were actually popular and accessible to the general public back in the 1980s. (Rim Shot!) Seriously, Batman comics were easy for kids to get hold of back then, and the character had a massive fan following among teenagers. This meant that there was an enormous disconnect between the audience of Batman, who had come of age on Denny O'Neil and Alan Moore and "knew" the character to be a dark, serious, vengeance-obsessed detective who fought crime with grim brutality...and the popular impression of the character, forged by endless syndication repeats of the Adam West series, who "knew" the character to be a campy, brightly-colored kid's character who fought goofy pun-based villains like King Tut and Egghead. The discontent by Batman fans was bubbling under the surface like a pressure-cooker, just waiting for someplace to vent.

That someplace was Tim Burton's Batman. To Batman fans, and remember, finding out that the movie was going to be grim and serious and gothic was like finding out you'd just won a war you'd been fighting for twenty years. This was "our" Batman, not the stupid Batman for old fogies, and the word-of-mouth on that movie was killer. Every kid told every other kid that this Batman was going to be cool, not lame, and it created a buzz that turned the film into the smash it became. (Which, I hope, answers Justin's question. It's not that I think that Schumacher's films would have been good if not for the Adam West series, but the reason they were bad in the specific way they were bad was down to the 60s show.)

But setting aside that exuberant exhilaration at finally getting a Batman flick that didn't use the phrase, "Holy (Insert Stupid Catchphrase Here), Batman!"...which I can finally do, I think, after twenty-one years of emotional distance and lots of actually good Batman adaptations, including but not limited to the animated series and Chris Nolan's excellent film, The Dark's actually not very good. Michael Keaton is a decent enough Bruce Wayne, but he's clearly not physically capable of doing most of the stuntwork as Batman and the rubber muscle suit they put him in hampers him even further. The action sequences mostly consist of Batman standing still as thugs caper around him, until he finally manages to lift a fist up far enough for someone to run into. (Speaking of things that were long-term harmful effects, it does seem like it took a long time for people to get past the need to put their heroes into stiff, impractical costumes with sculpted muscles...)

The film labors, like most "first movies" in super-hero sagas, under the weight of having to introduce the character and its rationale. It's really most unfortunate in the case of Batman and Superman, two characters whose origins are already very well known and very simple to explain; honestly, there's no reason why, "My parents got shot by a mugger" should take longer than five minutes to show. But in practical terms, there's no Joker/Batman action until about forty minutes in, and that's too long. (Although, in the film's defense, it is better than the Donner Superman, which doesn't get around to even showing Superman in costume until about the same length of time has passed. I swear, cut off the opening Krypton sequence and people could be forgiven for thinking that the film is a coming-of-age drama set during the Great Depression for the first half-hour.)

Nicholson...on the one hand, he's just doing Nicholson. On the other hand, this is probably the film best-suited to him just doing Nicholson. (That's the big problem with his part in The never believe he's sane long enough to be surprised when he goes nuts.) On the other other hand...for a reported $50 million bucks, including his chunk of the gross, you'd think that he could have gone on a diet, maybe? The Joker is supposed to be gaunt, but instead he's pudgy. (Again, this goes back to the action sequences. The dramatic final confrontation between Batman and the Joker is two out-of-shape guys in their 40s wearing silly outfits kind of hitting each other. It really undercuts the climax when you can't believe either one of these guys could take the other in a fight.)

I could go on--the Smylex gas plot is undernourished, the chemistry between Basinger and Keaton is non-existent, the story involves (perhaps even pioneers) the terrible super-hero movie cliche of the hero revealing his secret identity to his girlfriend after swearing he'll never reveal it to her, and the Prince soundrack is, in retrospect, awful and overused. But at this point, I'm just piling on. The movie is a typical bloated summer blockbuster, plotless and star-heavy, and the only reason it was the success it became was that its target audience was desperate for any kind of Batman movie where the sound effects weren't presented in big word balloons on the screen. Now that we've tasted better fare, this one hasn't aged well at all.

Or at least, that's my opinion.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Insanometer: Batman and Robin

Part of me wants to say, "This movie isn't insane, it's just awful." And certainly, "awful" is a big part of it--nobody explained to Joel Schumacher that Batman could be other things besides the campy 60s series (not even after the seriously terrible "Batman Forever", which you'd think would have tipped some people off) and he set out to direct a movie that Adam West and Burt Ward wouldn't be out of place in.

(As an aside, I've never really liked the 60s TV series. I know some people say, "Hey, if you manage to set aside the pernicious and detrimental effect it had on Batman as a character, super-hero comics in general, and the reputation of the medium as a whole, it's actually got some funny bits," but every time I watched it, all those funny bits seemed to revolve around the idea that the people making it knew it was crap, instead of thinking they were doing something worthwhile.)

In any event, "Batman and Robin" is terrible, yes. But it's not just terrible...or at the least, it's terrible in such a way that you can't imagine how any sane person could have made it, which is the same thing for our purposes. The film opens smack-dab in the middle of what it laughably calls action, as Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mister Freeze steals a giant fake diamond with the aid of his evil hockey team and ice gun. Although honestly, I think that most of the security guards he froze solid probably preferred the icy chill of death to his constant ice-themed puns.

This is actually one of the strangest things about the movie. They keep the deadly-serious motivations of the villains, for the most part--Freeze is still trying to save his dying wife while trying to find a cure for his own condition, and Poison Ivy is still a madwoman who wants to wipe out the entire human race--but the actors play their characters like the comic relief B-villains. While Bane, who could probably sustain a movie in his own right, is reduced to being the comic relief C-villain...but plays his part relatively straight.

In any event, Batman and Robin spend what feels like forty years trying to stop Mister Freeze, only to fail miserably and get into a fight about how Robin is too impetuous and Batman doesn't trust him. (Hint: This will be a Theme.) Meanwhile, Michael Gough's Alfred tries to play his part with dignity, which is hard to do when your entire role consists of mouthing bland platitudes and then grimacing in pain after everyone else leaves the shot. (See, Alfred is dying. Just in case you didn't get that, the movie takes great pains to drive the point home with wince after wince of anguished pain. After a while, you start wondering if maybe he shouldn't eat an all-burrito diet.)

Then Alfred's hot niece comes to visit, played with role-destroying vapidity by Alicia Silverstone, and then that sub-plot stalls for time until we find out she's actually a rebellious kung-fu biker chick underneath her schoolgirl exterior, but a nice rebellious kung-fu biker chick who would love to channel her energies into vigilante crime-fighting if only she stumbled into the Batcave and found out that her dying uncle had made her a skin-tight spandex outfit. Hypothetically.

Then we cut to plant researcher Pamela Isley, who's insane. But not nearly as insane as her boss, Jason Woodrue, played with enjoyable scenery-chewing skill by John Glover. (Don't get me wrong, everyone chews the scenery in this movie. But Glover at least does it with some panache, and he's playing a mad scientist who's actually meant to be over-the-top.) Woodrue is using her research to create a super-steroid called Venom, which he uses to make a super-soldier named Bane. Then he tries to kill Isley, but only succeeds in turning her into Poison Ivy, which allows her to make a rather more successful murder attempt on Woodrue. (Uma Thurman, by the way, delivers all her lines like she's channeling Kim Cattrall in "Big Trouble In Little China".)

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne helps a bunch of scientists build a "telescope" which is actually a giant MacGuffin for whatever the plot needs to do in the third act, and we find out that he's got another girlfriend (continuing the streak of having a new "serious girl" every movie. Given that both Vicki Vale and Chase Meridian found out his secret identity, and that both of them vanish without a trace in the next film, it might be worth investigating some of those bottomless pits in the Batcave. Just saying.) Oh, and he announces a big charity auction with lots of diamonds involved, which he's planning as a trap for Mister Freeze because his freeze-gun uses diamonds for fuel. (Despite the fact that synthetic diamonds have been around for fifty years, super-villains who need to use them to power giant lasers always seem to need the real thing. Go fig.)

Batman and Robin show up at the charity auction, because the best kind of trap is always the kind that involves dozens of potential hostages! Poison Ivy shows up too, planning to, um...I guess, something maybe with money, or...maybe she any event, she shows up and uses her pheromones to turn Batman and Robin against each other. This takes the form of them bidding on the right to date her, leading to Batman pulling out the Bat-Credit-Card in what had to be the exact moment where audiences lost their patience with the entire franchise so badly that they wouldn't make another live-action Batman film for eight years, and that only after replacing the director and all the actors concerned.

Then Mister Freeze shows up, and after a brief, embarrassingly perfunctory fight scene, he's captured and sent to Arkham. Poison Ivy decides to break him out so that they can team up and destroy the human race. Because nothing makes a more natural team than a plant-themed villain and one who wants to freeze the entire planet in sub-Arctic cold! Oh, yeah, that's Freeze's new motivation, because Ivy murders his wife and blames it on Batman. Which creates conflict, because Bruce finds out that Alfred is dying of the same rare disease that was killing Freeze's wife, and Freeze is the only one who knows how to save him!

During the break-out, Robin gets hit with another dose of Poison Ivy's pheromones, and decides to strike out as a solo super-hero. Which is somewhat ironic, as this movie was so terrible it actually acted as a speed-bump for his acting career. Playing a character who wants to be more ambitious and stop living in other people's shadows, even as the part winds up forcing him to take supporting roles for a while? Yeah, that qualifies. I think. In any event, Batman and Robin are totally on the verge of breaking up their partnership, and it's certainly not the kind of problem that can be solved by a wooden, unconvincing speech delivered with an utter lack of interest by George Clooney. So there's that, then.

Then we get into the third act. It turns out that by sheerest coincidence, Bruce Wayne's "telescope" can be used to beam freezing cold all over Gotham City, and Freeze plans to do exactly that! Robin tricks Poison Ivy into telling him by pretending he's still under her spell, then Batgirl defeats her in an awkward, stilted, hideously sexist sequence that neither actress will ever live down. By the way, this is the point where the script remembers that everyone already knew Barbara was going to be Batgirl.

Then it's just a matter of defeating Freeze and beaming heat all over the city to melt the ice, which can apparently be done with Bruce Wayne's "telescope". It is really damned hard to escape the conclusion that Bruce Wayne built a gigantic, obvious super-weapon as a lure to maniacal super-criminals all over the world just to give himself something to do. Afterwards, they show footage of Ivy confessing to Freeze's wife's murder, reveal that she's not quite dead yet after all, and offer Freeze facilities in Arkham to cure his wife if he'll only save Alfred. It's sort of like a plea bargain, except that the actual law doesn't get a say in the matter. Freeze agrees, handing over the cure and saying, "Take two and call me in the morning." That's this movie's Mister Freeze in a nutshell--no matter how bleak his life and his outlook, he still has a sunny quip for every occasion!

So the movie ends happily. Alfred is cured, Poison Ivy is in jail (with Mister Freeze as her wacky cell-mate), and Batman and Batgirl and Robin go off to fight crime. And we're happy, because the movie actually ended. As bad as the description of the plot sounds, it doesn't do justice to the terrible performances, the bizarre art direction choices (every set looks like it was decorated by a twelve-year-old girl and then lit by blacklights) and the incompetent action sequences. The film itself? About an eight on the Insanometer. The fact that everyone concerned, at every step of the process, thought that this was going to be a quality summer blockbuster with the potential to set up a fifth film, "Batman Triumphant"? That's got to be an eleven. Maybe even a twelve.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Words Have Meanings, You Know

As we're now fully into the 2010 election season, being bombarded by political ads from all sides whichever way we turn, a question has finally occurred to me: Why are they called the Tea Party? I don't mean, "What's the historical context of the phrase, and does it somehow relate to the famed 'Boston Tea Party' of the American independence movement in the late 1700s?" I mean, why do these guys call themselves a "party"?

Because last I checked, a political party is a group of like-minded individuals that seek to have their views represented in government by fielding candidates for office. And also last I checked, there's not a single Tea Party candidate out there. There are plenty of independents out there--the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Reform Party, the Communist Party, even the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, although oddly enough, it's not fielding a candidate this year. ("You say your name is Fred Lieberman? Well, we just love that name! Can't get enough people in office with the last name 'Lieberman'!") But apart from the entirely unrelated and extremely tiny Boston Tea Party (which is mostly endorsing Libertarians this year anyway) there's not a single "Tea Party" candidate to be found.

Instead, we get Republicans. "Tea Party darling" Rand Paul? He's a Republican. "Tea Party favorite" Sharon Angle? She's a Republican. "Tea Party embarrassment and total headcase" Christine O'Donnell? She's a Republican. All of the supposedly anti-establishment, not-part-of-Washington-politics-as-usual, brand-new-party Tea Party candidates seem to have one thing in common: A little (R) behind their names that they'd just as soon you not notice.

Let's be blunt and call this what it is: An attempt to rebrand the Republican Party in the wake of their disastrous performance over the last decade. The Tea Party is nothing more than the radical right wing of the Republican Party, and should be referred to as such. Anything else is just giving them exactly what they want: A chance to pretend that despite having the same worldview, policies, and goals for America, the Republicans of 2010 have nothing to do with the Republicans we've thrown out of office over the last four years.

Not that I blame them. Heck, if I were a Republican, I'd want to pretend I was someone else too.