Those who are less than enthusiastic about sports are often confused by the vehemence with which a true fan can celebrate their team. A team can change the entire roster of its players, can change the coach, the owner, the logo, can change every single facet of itself, and the fan will continue to cheer without question in a complete validation of Theseus’ ship. This is because the fan is connected to the idea of the team rather than any tangible aspect of the team itself. The critic is baffled as to why the fan would bother with something that is so incredibly alien to them. The answer is simple enough, however: the fan sees the team as part of their tribe.

Sports television is very aware of this. Pre-game shows often deliver the stories and travails of the players and teams as a whole. Relationships will be analyzed and champions will be celebrated. It’s all gossip, and gossip is how we navigate tribes. How is Susan doing? Watch out for Bill. Did you hear what happened to Karen? Gossip is what keeps us safe and connected in our communities; it’s a natural human attribute. When we talk in-depth about the stars and heartbreaks of the previous night’s game, we are engaging in communal gossip.

The thing is, your sports team is not your tribe. The stress of a close game and the pride toward a favourite player kindles deep instinctual drives, but modern sports are “entertainment.” You can’t call any of your team for emotional support during a difficult time. The success of the quarterback does not bring food back to your table. A loss has no concrete consequences. Knowing who is a dangerous player will not keep you safe. Fandom is not so much the connection to an idea of a team, but to an idea of a community.

world series tickets

I value baseball over having a life partner! I’m sure I’ll be able to count on the Red Sox in turn to help me cope with the emotional devastation of losing said life partner

There are merits in the celebration of athletic prowess and remarkable skill. An argument could be made that sports facilitate community by acting as a shared interest among friends, and that’s fair. However, sports as an interest is then interchangeable with any other interest, and the accompanying gossip becomes meaningless.  If a group subscribes to the full tribalism of intense fandom, then it is in the same danger as described above. The importance of interdependence and mutual support in a tribe could easily be lost in shallow relationships centred on extrinsic factors.

We are, all of us, literally all of us, living in a time when the necessity of our tribe is morbidly obvious. Communally-deviant behaviours such as hoarding, ignoring physical distancing measures, neglecting essential workers, and spreading disinformation are representative of large swathes of the population feeling disconnected from the real-life human beings that surround them. We’ve been so focused on our false tribes for so long that we’ve forgotten the value of our neighbours.

covid toilet paper

We seem to recognize the destructiveness of wealth hoarding when the wealth is toilet paper. Wouldn’t it be sad if there were far worse forms of wealth hoarding taking place that people go to great lengths to justify? But I digress…

Whose shoulder can we cry on? Who will drop off groceries for us if we’re sick and unable to go out? Who will help us financially if we’re out of work? Who will mourn us as we lay dying, even if from afar? These are the people who matter. These are the people who have always mattered. None of them are on the television hanging in a sports bar. Let us no longer be distracted by idolatrous practices meant to profit off our deepest human instincts.

 

Movies shape our view of the world. We are socialized not just by our parents and peers, but by the stories we consume, and movies are one of the most predominant storytellers of our current era. This makes the content of films of paramount importance. We can learn courage and determination from John McClane. We can learn responsibility from Spider-Man. We can learn about changing the world from Neo. Our virtues are shaped by the heroes we learn to emulate, since the very practice of storytelling puts the protagonist on a pedestal. A generation growing up on anti-heroes is likely to be as cynical and morose as their paragons, learning that these are admiral qualities to embody.

Rick

Rick is genuinely a bad and miserable person. The show is quite clear on that. Fans struggle to emulate against him rather than from him because of the nature of the protagonist pedestal. Similar things can be said of Bojack Horseman. I know these are TV shows. Shut up.

SJWs seem to be aware of this, and so a new spat of movie trends throw women and ethnic minorities into the protagonist role, allowing these demographics to see a hero that they can relate to. This then allows black youths to learn responsibility from Miles Morales rather than Peter Parker. We now have Katniss Everdeen to teach us how to be fearless, and Melissa McCarthy to teach us how to bust ghosts.

This seems to anger some people. Those who think that women can’t bust ghosts or that black youths can’t be responsible decry this new trend as ruining film. There are those who, regardless of quality, think that these kinds of movies just shouldn’t even be made. Soon, films won’t have white men at all, and it’ll be the great replacement all over again! It’s that cancer Feminism running amok once more!

Ghostbusters

What’s next? A remake of Leprechaun with a female leprechaun!? UNACCEPTABLE! Leprechauns can’t be female!

Let’s take a deeper look at our lessons from these common tropes. We might learn to be responsible, but it’s a responsibility to our tribe at the exclusion of the Other. We might learn courage, but it’s a courage to defend the normal rather than a courage of standing up as someone different. We might learn to change the world, but if we’re changing it into an exact copy of what has come before, this type of change is more an enforcement of the status quo rather than its repudiation.

Is this trend truly feminist? Carol Gilligan, a notable feminist, would likely disagree. All of our ethical systems since the ancient Greeks have been philosophized by men. And not just any kind of men, but men who grew up in societies that did not care about women at all. This means that these ethical systems that they devised were not informed by the situations of women whatsoever. Gilligan decided to ask the question, what if we considered women when thinking of ethical systems? Thus arose the ethics of care.

The ethics of care is born in contrast to what is typically called the ethics of justice. The ethics of justice represent systems of ethics that see moral situations in objective terms. There is a right answer, whether that rightness is determined deontologically or consequentially, and that right answer is determined in the abstract. The ethics of care seeks to find rightness is the salvaging of relationships, of meeting needs, and existing in concrete situations that are determined by the individuals and the relationships they share. While Gilligan does not dismiss the intentions of justice, she does seek to imbue care into that system in order to incorporate women’s perspectives into the ethical discourse.

in a different voice

This is coming from a book, one of the least predominant storytellers of our current era.

If this is a feminist ethic, then very few of these movies are actually feminist at all. The latest Terminator movie (Dark Fate) perfectly encapsulates this distinction. The villain is literally an unfeeling machine that will not stop. Regardless of how many Hispanic women you throw into this movie, it is a film defined by a relationship that cannot be repaired. Patriarchal ethics exist in a Manichean dichotomy that pits absolute, rigid and uncompromising evil against absolute (though occasionally nuanced) good. Feminist ethics cannot exist in this universe because the way the villain is written. If these kinds of stories are what shape our virtues, when we look at our universe, it is much easier to see our own antagonists as dogmatically inflexible monsters who cannot be bargained with. What this means is that Doctor Strange is actually more feminist than the 2016 Ghostbusters film because it conceives of a solution wherein the villain (after some degree of coercion, sure) settles their score through a dialogue. The villainy of the ghosts allows no such relationship.

The socialization that these kinds of films are expanding is actually patriarchal in nature. They indoctrinate their viewers into an ethic of domination, of a good guy with a gun ultimately crushing a bad guy with a gun, but now the good guy can be a good black woman with a gun. Those angry with these films correctly assert that they are propaganda, as all stories are propaganda for the ideology that underlie them, Die Hard as much as Into The Spider-Verse, it’s just that the propaganda isn’t feminist.

Post-Script: For those who read the title and expected a listicle, and still made it this far, congratulations on your attention span!

New year, new beginnings. Time to start fresh. Throw the old ‘you’ into the trash fire from whence you came and rise like a new, slightly-less-trashy phoenix. That’s what we all seem to want: not just a new beginning, but to be rid of the mistakes of the past. We are no longer that horrid person who doesn’t eat well or doesn’t call their mom. We are better, and it’s best that we just forget that jerk we used to be.

DumpsterFire2

Rise from the ashes!

How do you measure a beginning? Is the beginning of a house when the lot is cleared or when the first nail is driven? When the architect completes the design or when they first dream up the idea? What about World War II? Did it start with the invasion of Poland or China? With the machinations or the election of Hitler? Or was the stage set by the end of the first War, simmering for decades? What about the current tensions with Iran? There are those alive today who have lived through the assassination of Suleimani and the coup of Mosaddegh. Sometimes we long for the simplicity of a beginning because it gives us the convenience of dismissing everything that has come before.

The truth is there are no firm beginnings. Our world is beset by temporal gradients. History is a long series of blurred events bleeding into one another. So it goes with our own lives. However, we try desperately to reject this reality. The question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, is a repudiation of evolution in favour of enforcing a concrete origin. The Sorites paradox offers a much better reflection of reality for acknowledging the ambiguity of beginnings.

egg came first

It’s just inconsiderate

If we want to change, we need to take into account, not just the entirety of our lives, but the context of the history around us. We would need to accommodate our previous habits, the caliber of our will, the willingness of our surroundings to accept our change, the conditions that shaped both our selves and our environment, and then the maintenance of that change in the face of the constant flux of both our selves and our environments.

Who do you think has a better shot at overcoming trauma? The person who accepts that it happened, recognizes their triggers, and has developed the necessary skills in the face of those things, or the person who chooses to begin anew? The problem is that whether we believe in starting fresh or not, the reality of the world around us and the psychological history within us will carry on regardless. What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, that would be absurd; it just adds another drop to the soup of our collected experiences.

The alcoholic who relapses after 10 years of sobriety is not starting from scratch, just as the Resolutioner at the gym is not a tabula rasa upon which a lifestyle of fitness can now be engraved. We shouldn’t live our lives denying the gradual evolution of our selves. We shouldn’t accept yearly incremental distinctions as any more valuable than our astrological signs. Make change by growing out of who you’ve always been, not because some doomed-to-fail tradition tells you it’s time.