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Hellboy (PG 13)
81% Rotten Tomatoes
Hellboy is a Dark Horse comics character, introduced in 1993. He’s much beloved, but not terribly popular with the masses. That’s fine. More Hellboy for the nerds. Speaking of nerds, Hellboy was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who directed Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, Blade II, Cronos (also starring Ron Perlman), Mimic, The Hobbit movies, and a berjillion more. And no he is not related to Benicio del Toro. I checked. Guillermo hails from Mexico, and Benicio was born in Puerto Rico. Both beautiful countries, but very much separate places. From what I can find, they’ve never worked on a movie together, which I assume would be like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. That would be bad, but it would be so worth worth it.
Ron Perlman – I’m not sure if I’m madly in love with him or if I want him to be my protective uncle. It’s very confusing. If you don’t know who Ron Perlman is, you probably shouldn’t be listening to our podcast because you wouldn’t like who we are very much. Just in case you need a primer, Ron Perlman has had an impressive career of doing really cool stuff. He was in the original Beauty and the Beast tv show, Sons of Anarchy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, etc. He’s been a voice actor on Adventure Time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Family Guy, Archer; he’s done voices for Call of Duty: Black Ops, some of the Fallouts, some of the Halos; the list goes on and on. He’s one of those actors who’s always working.
A lot of his more popular roles, for some reason, feature him in a lot of heavy prosthetics. I think this has to do with his big hulking frame and his incredible talent. He’s 6’1” and built like a wrestler, but he’s a terrific actor who can play not only humorous and violent, but vulnerable and complicated. This all adds up to him being able to play monsters that have depth, and complex emotional stories. That’s a special niche. This is not to say that Ron Perlman is himself monstrous – he’s got a very affable, pleasant face. At least to me. He has a gravelly deep voice that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, unless you’re on the wrong side of it. And he’s sooo goooood. He disappears into his roles; he’s so engaging and sincere.
Sidenote – So I was looking up pictures of him as a young man, and there was one where he’s got a little girl clinging onto his back, and in one of the comments a person said how this would have made an awesome Bioshock movie and I, in terms of instantaneous mood swings, became elated at the perfection of Ron Perlman as a Big Daddy, and then furious that the timing hadn’t worked out, and then deeply depressed that this movie would never exist. The image is from, I think, a 1995 movie called The City of Lost Children. I mean I guess he still could – the Big Daddies are kind of cyborgs who are mostly metal…
What I find hilarious, laughable, ridiculous, is that all these Nazis, in a desperate move to turn the war back in their favor before they’re defeated, put all their energy and resources into opening a portal to hell in order to unleash an army of demons on the allied forces – but all they manage to conjure up is a baby demon. A baby. A li’l tiny red baby demon. How disappointing that must have been for the Nazis. More importantly – how was that baby in hell if it had a human mother? I’m missing something the comics can probably fill in.
Lucky for us, the Allied forces (Professor Broom to be specific) rescued baby Red from the Nazis and raised him to be a tortured good guy with a love of cigars and cats. Now, as any supernatural kid raised in the human world will tell you, there’s some angst there. He’s not like the other kids. Not just the human kids, but he’s not like the merman kid, either. It’s hard to conceive of the absolute loneliness that comes from being the only one of you, and half EVIL DEMON at that. Especially with the way he looks, there’s no chance people won’t make a snap decision about him.
But we get to skip all that and go straight to adulthood. Hellboy is a crusty, stoic loner who would very much like you to leave him alone to smoke and drink in piece. In del Toro’s hands, his curmudgeonly attitude is charming, but if you’d plopped this character down into a movie like Sin City, he would be moody and dramatic. So I think a lot of credit goes to both Perlman and del Toro for striking a balance of duty and vulnerability, and snark and sincerity. Abe Sapien is pretty much the polar opposite of Big Red, and we need them both.
And it’s important to point out that Hellboy is not at all mean, he’s walled off for sure, but he doesn’t have a narcissistic self-destructive personality where there’s a martyr or victim complex. He’s got some pretty significant issues, but he keeps doggedly doing what needs to be done, even though he gets beat the fuck up in the process. In this way he reminds me a lot of Constantine. Also a grump, and also made extremely lovable because who can hate Keanu? He’s like the best person on the planet. He’s going to be reincarnated as a thousand dogs. He might be a thousand dogs reincarnated, such is his lovableness. And they’re both wise-asses. And they both have lady problems.
Now raise your hand if you thought his fully grown out horns were sexy as hell. Yeah, me too. Why are we so attracted to demonic figures? Trying to find the answers to this question is maddening. There are a number of rabbit holes that skirt around the issue, but none that really stare it in the face. Google thinks the best match is “why are women attracted to bad boys?” and when you click on a couple of those links it gets gross pretty fast. There are a number of sites out there listing the attributes women find attractive, and saying that all we want is money or power, and here’s how to project that confidence and assholery. I assume these are men who get rejected a lot, and so are pitching the blame onto women, instead of developing a decent personality and sense of humor. These are probably the guys who cry about the friend zone, as though women owe them sex and aren’t actual humans you could just be friends with.
The whole “women like bad boys thing” is not new, and honestly it’s not wrong. But… and let me be perfectly clear here, this phenomenon is generally limited to eye lust. Or lust in general. Sure, James Dean looks good in that leather jacket, smoking a cigarette, and being all “fuck tha police”. But we know what happens if we settle down with that guy. You get Marlon Brando from a Streetcar Named Desire. He’s hot, but he’s a dick. Not worth it.
Apparently there’s something called a Dark Triad of personality traits. This collection of traits have their roots in Machiavelli’s The Prince, but show up everywhhhhhhere in literature (now and throughout history) as well as film and tv and real life. Women have these traits as well, but we see them most often in men. Here are the traits: narcissism, which is an extreme self-interest and self-love that goes way beyond healthy self-esteem; Machiavellianism, which is essentially manipulation of other people to get an outcome most beneficial to oneself; and psychopathy, which is a lack of conscience and empathy. Psychopathy is different from sociopathy in that sociopaths do have a conscience and empathy, but they’re shriveled and weak, like atrophied muscles. You would almost be right if you said they were the same, but psychopathy is a more severe form.
BUT SHOULDN’T WE ABHOR THESE TRAITS? Well, sociopaths and psychopaths aren’t necessarily evil people – some of them might just be very socially awkward people. You’re actually more likely to be charmed by a psychopath. They can go full hog into manipulation; lying and telling you what you want to hear to without any emotional baggage. Sociopaths will struggle a little more with this, especially with people they care about. That’s really the hallmark of the triad – manipulation. All of these traits stacked on each other equals a person you absolutely cannot trust, but who designs situations in which you really want to trust them. They’re attractive to us because they’re smooth as melted butter over a well-worn river rock. They’re confident because they love themselves so much, and after a few forays into manipulation with positive results, they exude even more confidence, which is reassuring to others. They’re often ambitious – because of the narcissism they believe they deserve greatness – and so you become quite convinced that they ARE in fact the next big thing. If a man like this has you in his sights, you feel special, even magical, because you know he can have any woman he wants. Aaaaaaaaaaand because of this we tend to overlook their terrible, awful behavior, believing that since we are so special to have been chosen, we are the ones who can change them. Well, some of us. The rest of us see right through these assholes, and try so hard to get our friends to see the light. TO NO AVAIL.
Spratt (the author of the article referenced), says that these men are often very hard to call out on their lies, because their self-deprecating sense of humor protects their ego by essentially giving them plausible deniabilty – “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Oooooobbbbbbbviously I was joooooooking. Of course you haven’t caught me in a liiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeee.”
She goes on to state that nurture may play a greater role in creating a dark triad personality than nature. Childhood difficulties such as absent parents or abuse play a great role; it seems to be a response to not being valued by others, so they over-value themselves, take care of their own interests ahead of all others since that was the model they saw of adulthood.
So that’s the Dark Triad – what I’m going to call the worst case. But the spectrum varies from damaged with a heart of gold to outright psychopath (lacking empathy and a conscience). A better way to look at them (and what they say about us) is their alignment, which marks out good or evil, and chaotic or lawful.
So we have the chaotic good (bad boys): Often considered anti-heroes. These are pretty much all the rebel-rebels in the rebel forces in the Star Wars universe. They are rule breakers, like the bad guys, but they do it in the confidence that the rules they’re breaking are merely a hindrance and not really meaningful. They’re on a mission to do good, and rules be damned if they get in the way. They follow their own set of moral guideposts, not society’s.
Examples: Constantine, Jon Snow, the Punisher, the Crow, all of the Watchmen, Khan (from his perspective, he’s doing good for his people), Wolverine
And then there are the chaotic neutrals (bad at friends): These are truly independent characters with no ties or loyalties to anyone but themselves. They will throw you under the bus; they will work both sides if they’re getting something out of it. They’ll lie, cheat, and steal, but they generally don’t hurt people unless they have a reason. Whether they do good or bad, it’s because they feel like it that day. The next day may be completely different.
Examples: The Winter Soldier (eventually), any pirate, Deadshot, Dexter Morgan, Jax Teller, Snape, Zach Morris, Sherlock Holmes, Eric Northman (even though he holds a position of authority within an established bureaucracy, comments are made constantly about how he goes rogue, so I’m keeping him chaotic), Han Solo, Jack Burton, Marv (Sin City), Mal (Firefly), Wolverine (he’s very mercurial)
Chaotic evil (bad guys): Essentially out for destruction, and extremely self-interested. Seemingly evil just for the sake of being evil, as though it’s as arbitrary a trait as hair color. He rules his small band through fear and force, and is violent and unpredictable. Also, they have the best quips.
Examples: Negan, Kurgan, Joker, Damon Salvatore from season 1, Anton Chigurh, Hannibal (some put him in lawful evil, but he doesn’t dominate or orchestrate a large power structure – he’s an independent agent), Loki
But that’s not really what I’m asking. If we want to get philosophical:
Here’s Christianity in a nutshell, at least biblical Christianity, and most centuries after that: women caused the fall, women are evil, they’re weak, they’re temptresses, their brains are dumb, but we keep them around because we made being gay a sin. Adam is the poor, self-sacrificing hero and I’m the villain in the story.
As a woman, it’s hard not to feel that antagonism, and we’ve all had those accusations hurled at us at some point or another, used in an argument for female inferiority. It sucks.
Here comes satanic imagery. Well… I mean… there’s no question who the villain is here. The big red guy with the horns and tail. (Yeah, I know, it’s a stretch.)
But that’s still not what I’m asking – I want to know why I look at Hellboy, or Satan from Legend, or the gargoyle devil guy from Fantasia and lust.
Let’s go back to the bible. I know, I know. But we won’t respect it very much, okay? The fall of Lucifer, we have been taught, was brought about by his pride. He was God’s right-hand-man, the second-in-command. All the hyphens. And then along came Adam. Lucifer didn’t want to be less valuable to God than humans, and because of this pride, God and Satan waged war on one another, one which Lucifer and his army lost. I should say, it’s suggested that a third of the angels were on his side; that is not insignificant. All these pious, godly angels thought Lucifer’s arguments had merit.
Lucifer and his minions were then cast out of heaven, and Lucifer fell to earth in a blaze of beautiful self-righteousness. I’m embellishing, but you get the point. Now – Let’s flip that perspective a little bit. Lucifer just wanted daddy to love him. He had been with God through a lot, and he felt that he was being cast aside in favor of the new puppy. He just wanted to feel valuable and loved by his father. Can you really blame him for being upset? God is kind of an ass in this story. He basically used Lucifer, then iced him out after he created humans, WHO HE GAVE FREE WILL, then said Lucifer was declaring war by demanding he not be neglected, and THREW HIM OUT OF THE HOUSE.
Lucifer is often painted as petulant and vain, but viewed through the lens of the Christian doctrine, Lucifer’s story can be seen as social control for the masses back in the early days (and… the present). Know your place, defer to those closer to God in the hierarchy, take what you’re given and like it, otherwise YOU’RE JUST LIKE SATAN KING OF ALL THAT IS EVIL AND BAD. So UH OH – now Satan is a brooding, misunderstood figure doing the best he can under impossible circumstances. Classic bad boy material. Good job, organized Christianity. You just turned Satan into a sexy, sympathetic figure.
Let’s talk Satanism. Contrary to popular belief, Satanists don’t worship Satan – they just really like blasphemy. But more than that, they’re for intellectual freedom, and that feels like a direct dig at organized religion (at least Christianity) where you’re beholden to the rules of this sky-man, interpreted by humans and corroded down through translations over history. Often, society paints Satanists as evil-doing sex fiends who follow the cult of Anton LaVey, but really a lot of their organized activities revolve around protesting oppression, which are kind of their missionary quests.
The major difference between the LaVeyan Satanism and The Satanic Temple (TST) is that TST is atheistic, and also more engaged in scientific evolution (accepting that scientific understanding will change over time, and beliefs may need to change with it). Anton LaVey, from what I understand, was a drama queen, much like L. Ron Hubbard. TST has taken all the ridiculous stuff out and kept the more Humanism stuff (they differ from Humanists because Humanism doesn’t place such a major emphasis on individual sovereignty and non-conformism).
So if they’re atheist, why call themselves Satanists? They are named for Satan because, “Satan is symbolic of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer… the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions.” (https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/faq)
Satanism revolves around the following seven tenets (https://thesatanictemple.com/pages/tenets). They’re pretty badass, and essentially you don’t have try too hard if you’re a decent human:
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
- The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
- One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
- The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
- Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
- People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
- Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written of spoken word.
There’s really nothing I disagree with in those tenets. I get to decide what to do with my own body? Hell yes. Scientific understanding of the world should shape our beliefs? Fuck yeah. Make your mistakes right? WHAT A CONCEPT. The thing I love about these tenets that I find is missing in Christianity is the emphasis on individual agency and responsibility. It’s basically my mantra of “don’t be a dick” but with more details, whereas Christianity is more “don’t be a dick because god said so and you might go to hell if you are a dick and also you should make everyone else not be a dick in the exact same way you’re not a dick.” Satanism is like “if you want to come not be a dick with us, that’s cool, otherwise bye.”
Bustle did an article on six women who’ve joined Satanism. One woman joined for the community of non-theistic, like-minded people. One joined because of Satanism’s emphasis on educating yourself. One woman said it’s a refreshing change from her Christian upbringing, which taught her to keep her head down and take the abuse. She says that Satanism’s core beliefs empowered her. “[Satanism] teaches you that you deserve everything the world has to offer…and you should never feel guilt or shame for getting these things.” Another woman joined for the strong social justice support for issues that affect LGBT persons and reproductive rights, while another woman enjoys the support for gender equality. The last woman interviewed said that Satanism offers encouragement and support for finding your way, whereas her Roman Catholic upbringing gave her only restrictions and guilt.
Notice that none of these women joined because they’re drawn to evil or lust after Satan. So maybe this is still not the answer I’m looking for.
Now, comic book stuff that’s not really addressed in the movie: Hellboy is important. His destiny is to bring about the apocalypse. Well. Says Rasputin anyway. And as a distant relative of King Arthur, he’s also technically the ruler of England. Well. Says Morgan Le Fay, anyway. Neither of these are terribly reliable sources, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if the fire and brimstone ever come.
Also in the comics, he’s even more crusty and anti-social, from what I understand, and the demons he fights know what he is (the end of all things), so that comes up a lot more in the comics, but it’s said that the first Hellboy movie was based on some of the actual comics but didn’t stick too closely to them. I haven’t yet read any of the Hellboy comics, but the internet gives me the impression that the comics are kind of like episodic detective stories, with this supernatural-hell element being the focus of their investigations. The comics don’t reveal a whole lot about Hellboy’s personal life or past, so when del Toro adapted it for the screen, he had to fill in a lot of context and motivation for the characters that’s necessary for a unified story told over an hour and a half. And the creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, worked with del Toro, and so the movie still has the look and feel that he wanted, as far as possible. This is why you never hear me bitching about the differences between movies and books, or comics. They have to be different. It’s one thing if a movie based on a book just plain sucks, but if it doesn’t suck, don’t knock it just because it’s not exactly like the book. You wouldn’t want to sit through a twelve hour movie, would you? We have a culture where everyone who has no experience doing a particular thing loves to shit all over it. Stop shitting on things!
SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT THE NEW HELLBOY AND HOW WE’RE SCARED/EXCITED?
It’s coming in 2019. At first I was pissed because Hellboy stands as a perfect movie. But then I saw the cast – Chief Hopper (David Harbour) will play Hellboy. And then I found out that Milla Jovovich and Ian McShane will also be in it and I decided not to be pissed anymore. And then I saw a picture of new Hellboy and it looks amazing, so now I’m excited. Cautiously, but excited. Also it’s supposed to stick closer to the comics, but I don’t know what that means, really. AND I REALLY DON’T WANT CHIEF HOPPER TO HAVE A SMALLER ROLE IN THE NEXT STRANGER THINGS SEASON. So I’m really conflicted.
Favorite quote: “I’m fireproof.” – Hellboy
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