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MISCmedia MAIL FOR 120/17: (MORE) NEWS ON THE MARCH
Jan 29th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Our Monday e-missive is, natch, mostly about the weekend’s “emergency marches” against the immigrant ban and the Sleaze Machine that devised it. But we also find space to remember a local TV legend and nationally renowned Scandahoovian-dialect comedy singer.

A DISNEY VILLAIN FOR OUR TIME
Jan 26th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

The total-control regime in Washington DC, and its egomaniacal central figure, are existentially frightening in their threat to every aspect of the American Republic and its people (and, by extension, all the peoples of the globe).

I’ve been thinking of how to portray this character in the context of the great villains of fiction and lore.

I’ve compared certain past politicians to everyone from Lord Farquahr in the original Shrek to a one-shot Get Smart! villain, Simon the Likeable.

This past summer, I began to call the then GOP presidential nominee “He Who Cannot Be Named” (from Harry Potter). But that became cumbersome.

So I went in search of the perfect pre-existing fictionalization for this man-child, a figure with an insatiable lust for attention and a craving to cause suffering just to maniacally laugh at his victims.

A villain this insanely sure of his own omnipotence would never show panic, so that leaves out the Master from Doctor Who.

The pantheon of Disney villains (even if you only count the studio’s “core universe” of animated features and shorts) is vast. But even these characters usually have a relatable core motivation for their various crimes (greed, power, vanity, revenge, even fashion). They largely don’t encompass the pure “evil just for the sake of ego” that I’m talking about here.

With one recent exception.

It’s a character described in a fan-written “wiki” as: “Insane, twisted, crass, mischievous, deceptive, manipulative, sly, vague, witty, lively, whimsical, hammy, confident, spiteful, temperamental, choleric, evil, chaotic, greedy, sadomasochistic.”

The character’s “likes,” as described on the same web page, include: “Chaos, the suffering of others, destroying things, partying, manipulation.”

bill cipher

I’m talking about Bill Cipher.

He’s the main antagonist on Gravity Falls, a Disney Channel cartoon show that ended last February, after airing 41 half-hours over three and a half years (the last two as a one-hour finale).

The show’s set in Central Oregon, in one of those fictional towns where assorted weird things show up every day. In various episodes, the show’s brother-and-sister heroes encounter such anomalies as gnomes, unicorns, ghosts, zombies, dinosaurs, a crashed UFO, and video-game characters come to life.

And, like several other sagas of its type (Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Lost, et al.), there’s a “meta-mystery” on Gravity Falls.

It involves Bill, who’s initially introduced as a “dream demon” from another dimension. He sees all, knows all, and can invade people’s minds, especially as they sleep.

Bill can take any visual form, but his default appearance is as a triangle with a single eye near its center. But even though he resembles the “eye in the pyramid” on the $1 bill, Bill’s motive is not material wealth.

Rather, he wants to “cross over” from the “nightmare realm” and become a physical presence in our world—not to merely rule it but to destroy it, just for kicks.

Bill Cipher’s depicted as both a homicidal maniac and as a brilliant schemer; a good of chaos and and a master manipulator.

In the series’ climactic story arc, Bill successfully cons two characters and obtains the materials to make a “dimensional rift” between his world and ours. He summons a hooligan gang of monsters to ransack the town, turn people into statues, and otherwise spread “weirdness” (pure destructive chaos).

From there, he aims to expand the “weirdness” across the Earth: “Anything will be possible! I’ll remake a fun world, a better world! A party that never ends with a host that never dies. No more restrictions, no more laws!” As he says this, the screen shows images of a giant-sized Bill in a potential future, etching a “smiley face” on the North American continent (destroying whole cities in the process), then taking a bite out of the Earth as if it were an apple.

I believe this sadistic madness, not any mere material avarice, is the type of villainy that fits our age.

You can hear Bill Cipher’s sneering laugh among goons who laugh too hard at their own racist/sexist “jokes.”

You can see his smug taunting among the online “trolls” who belittle and insult everyone deemed different from them.

You can hear Bill’s line about how “there’s no room for heroes in MY world” echoed in the voices of conservatives who want the rest of us to shut up and fall into line.

You can sense Bill’s lust for destruction among certain “religious right” figures who not only oppose all efforts to save the environment, but who sometimes vocally wish for the “End Times” of Fundamentalist prophecy.

To prevent Bill from spreading his “weirdness” to the rest of the Earth, the surviving townspeople have to hold hands in a rite that will send Bill away. They include characters that had been mortal enemies in previous episodes, but who now must work together against a common foe.

It doesn’t work at first, because two of them refuse to cooperate with one another. In the final episode (titled “Take Back the Falls”), those two have to finally cooperate (and one of them risks losing his mind) to trap and remove Bill, revive the frozen townspeople, and bring the town back to a semblance of “normal.”

Similarly, to stop the threats to America’s civil society, we’ve got to forge alliances across lines of race, gender, region, religion, and social class.

(As an aside, someone put up a “Bill Cipher for President” Facebook page late last summer. One smarky commenter wrote: “You’re seriously making me choose between a horrible demon bent on destroying everything he touches, and Bill Cipher?”)

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/26/17: HE SELLS SANCTUARY
Jan 25th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Mayor Murray (and Sheriff Urquhart) proclaim they, and we, will not be bowed by the DC dictatorship’s anti-immigrant scare tactics. In lighter topics, we comment upon the latest fashion in space suits; how dense Seattle’s really gotten; a perky protest song name-dropping scientists and free thinkers; and the end of the deli-mart with the plastic cow on its roof (the cow’s staying).

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/18/17: THE LAST LEGGINGS
Jan 17th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

As American Apparel shuts down here and elsewhere, we look fashion-forward to discuss more attempts by GOP legislators to make the laws for (or rather, against) Seattle; a dispute among anti-inauguration marchers; diversifying Bellevue and its challenges; and a beloved local bar closes two years after it first said it would.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/13/17: A SONG OF ICE
Jan 12th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Besides our big book announcement (see below), we’ve got word about the Snoqualmie River “ice circle”; local pols defending health care; an opioid near-death seen up close; the death of a transit advocate; and lots of MLK Weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/9/17: JAYAPAL’S FIRST STAND
Jan 8th, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

Pramila Jayapal did her best to derail the Electoral College vote’s certification after it was already too late, alas. But it’s never too late to join the Resistance. Or to read today’s e-missive about the next stages in police reform; how and why white liberals should learn to “talk about race;” some “dangerously pure” street drugs; and treating depression with a video game.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 1/3/17: GOP-ACOLYPSE NOW?
Jan 2nd, 2017 by Clark Humphrey

As a safety-net-hostile, ethics-hostile Congress prepares to convene, we continue to focus on local stuff, including another dead orca; state Sen. Baumgartner’s latest power-grab attempt; Amazon bashed for, well, just about everything; and fire trucks crashing into each other.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 12/14/16: UP ALL NIGHT?
Dec 13th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Some business interests want to turn downtown Seattle into “a 24-hour city.” People walking and shopping and being entertained and high-fiving one another in the streets when the only people who should normally be awake (aside from insomniacs like me) are hungry newborns and their parents. Can this be accomplished; and if so, would we even like it? We also ponder Bill Gates’s strange comparison between the next president and JFK; a temporary win for homeowners who don’t like back-yard cottages; Boeing management proving as indifferent to St. Louis as it is to Seattle; and why Sounders fans don’t watch a parade, they march in it.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/9/16: SNOWTACULAR!
Dec 8th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Finally! Snow in the city, spectacular and beautiful (and rare and very temporary). Non-meteorological topics this day include gift books for the budding political activist in your family; a new, almost-1,200-unit residential complex; another local alt-media source needing support; a woman who videoed her own racial hate crime; and the usual umpteen weekend things-2-do.

MISCmedia MAIL for 12/7/16: INFAMY REVISITED
Dec 7th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Seventy-five years since Pearl Harbor, and not only are some dorks thinking of the Japanese American internment as a model for future endeavors, but also a serious totalitarian threat faces us not from without but from within. In relatively lighter topics, we’ve found one person who doesn’t like the new spiffy Wallingford transfer station; a local troll-avenger just might become the subject of a scripted TV series; a hotel project’s potential threat to the Chinatown-International District; and Seattle’s now home to America’s No. 5 airline.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/9/16: THE MORNING AFTER
Nov 8th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

You all know the big story of the day, and how it will have a “half-life” for days and years to come. But we’ve also got more upbeat stuff, like stuff about keeping sewage out of the Sound; a jury’s defiant statement against racist policing; and how “mislabeled” seafood might be better for the planet than the real stuff.

MISCmedia MAIL for 8/26/16: THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART
Aug 25th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our big, big LOSER book reissue may “go live” any day now. Not yet, but soon. Real soon. Other people are waiting for a gallery with native American art by a real native American artist to open; to learn whether or not the GOP candidate’s coming to Washington; and to see whether the proposed new anti-“sweeps” legislation comes about. We’ve also got the usual plethora of weekend events.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/25/16
Feb 24th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Warm and dry weather’s expected to end today, but MISCmedia MAIL keeps going with lobbyists who want to keep your “biometric” data; the big Alaskan Way midrise project’s off again; another unlikely industry for a female chief executive; Amazon’s going “fashion forward;” and remembering when right-wing kitsch was considered funny.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/10/16
Feb 9th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Lent, but don’t give up your daily MISCmedia MAIL. Why, today alone we’ve got a plan to stop the Legislature’s pathetic-ness; differing views on the state “affordable” housing tax credit scheme; SPU students challenge white privilege; Amazon’s (alleged) big-big-big cargo plans; and an artwork honoring a Northwest legend.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/22/16
Jan 21st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Tim Eyman’s convoluted screw-the-state initiative is just as unconstitutional (and sleazy) as we all knew it was. Also in your weekend digest: A planned office tower’s big middle finger to the streetscape; another scheme to tilt the Electoral College rightward; plans for the world’s biggest ethanol refinery; the 747’s slow demise; the usual scads of weekend stuff-to-do.

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© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).