The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Animated Shudderings

Now it's time for a Hall of Shame. I'm disqualifying schlock like "Family Guy" because it's for an entirely different audience... and, quite frankly, it means nothing to me at all. My picks might not be technically the worst like "Gilligan's Planet", or  "The Punky Brewster" cartoon. But these are the five that personally make my skin crawl.

5. The Legend of Korra

What happened? This show had everything going for it. An astronomical budget, beautiful animation, and more good will than any series before it. But the most beautiful animation in the world, and well choreographed fight scenes don't mean a thing if I don't care about the people involved or why they're fighting.

The four leads are Korra, Mako, Bolin, and Asami. The latter three fail the Red Letter Media Character test that I mentioned in a previous post. I want to defend Asami and I find myself unable to, even though I kind of like her in spite of that. Bolin's only character trait is that he's stupid; but he's so stupid that I find myself having to suspend an ungodly amount of disbelief anytime he is shown to be capable of walking erect, feeding himself, and human speech. And as for Mako, I have never seen such a creator's pet be such a contemptible character outside of Chloe Bennet's character in "Special Snowflake and The Shit Squad". Take any villain from "Avatar: The Last Airbender" from Azula to Zhao to Fire Lord Ozai to Hama to the captain who murdered Katara's mother and all of them are still better human beings than Mako... and yet the narrative keeps rewarding him.

Okay, I enjoyed most of the first season, although I hated anything having to do with Mako, Bolin, and pro-bending. I enjoyed Amon, Tarlokk and the Equalist story. But I hated how the season ended, and I do not find it the slightest bit believable that the Equalists would disband just because Amon was revealed to be a waterbender... this was an organization that could not have come to exist if non-benders weren't being oppressed (because they were). But hey, their leader is a bender, a non-bender is elected president of the Republic and prejudice is over... just like how racism ended when Barack Obama was elected president. Yay?

The second season murdered the show for me. Flat out murdered it. Even the material I talked myself into liking just did not stand up under scrutiny. The original Iroh is brought back in an awful case of fan service, because the new cast is awful. It was desperate. And Unalaq was one of the worst villains I have ever seen in anything. He was so obviously evil even before the reveal, that this music could have been playing when he was around and it wouldn't have been less subtle. And when he said the words "Dark Avatar", I burst out laughing... it was an angry laugh because I could not believe this thing got past the idea stages, let alone the editing stages. It was like an awful fanfic.

Even the fan favorite "Beginnings", while beautiful to look at had... issues. I hated the reveal of Vaatu and Raava's existence. Hated it. What is the Avatar about? Balance. Not order. Balance. Both of these spirits should have been a part of the Avatar. And with that, I'm going to present what my idea would have been were I on the production team as a Story Editor.

1. Season one can run as is, but Korra doesn't regain her bending via the deus ex machina at the end.

2. Season two hits, Korra is on a spiritual journey to restore her bending when she is offered a shortcut. Maybe Unalaq is behind it, maybe not. But Korra jumps at this short cut, but her own spiritual balance is thrown off. We learn the origin of Wan, the first Avatar. We learn that both Raava and Vaatu exist within the Avatar, and the consequences of Korra making this bad choice cause Vaatu to drown out Raava within Korra, and Korra in essence becomes the Big Bad of the season herself, maybe Vaatu takes full control... the world is suffering from the destruction she is wreaking on civilization. And, it's a very spiritual and very internal battle, but Korra needs to really learn how to be spiritual so she can restore the balance within herself and save the world from herself. Which leads to...

3. Season three, the Red Lotus' plans to destroy the Avatar are a direct consequence of what happened in season two.

You see? The story builds on itself. The things that came before matter. It wouldn't solve all the problems. The biggest problems are still with the characters themselves. Develop their relationships. Make Bolin naive, not a complete asshole moron... I mean, Broadway on "Gargoyles" was illiterate, but he was never this stupid. Sokka was comic relief, and he had a lot of growing up to do, but he wasn't a moron. Develop Asami beyond her relationships with other people. And Mako, I don't know, but just about anything would be better.

It could have been so much better, it should have been so much better. But it was one gigantic pile of waste. I despise wasted potential. Especially when it was the sequel to one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

4. Captain Planet and the Planeteers

I almost feel bad for tossing this one on here, because it's such an obvious choice and while its heart was in the right place, it was handled in such a manipulative, heavy-handed, cretinous way that it deserves every bit of bile it has ever received. What can I say about this show that hasn't been said already?

3. The Goliath Chronicles

You all know about this one, I'll just link to this, because I can't think of anything else I can say that I haven't already.

2. Ultimate Spider-Man

This TV series is a mockery. It's made by untalented individuals under their overlord, Jeph Loeb (sound familiar) who have openly admitted that they are talking down to their audience. Don't believe me?

Man of Action lied. "Spectacular Spider-Man" did very well with the target demographic. The six to eleven crowd latched onto it, and that show was on a weaker network without the corporate support "Ultimate" is currently enjoying.

The Spider-Man they present is one who never learns. With great power comes great responsibility? Fuck that shit, I'll do what I want! It is so offensively stupid, and it has no right to be. But what offends me the most is the dumbing down to spoon feed it to an audience that is more sophisticated than they give it credit for. By not trying to challenge the target audience at all, by willfully spoon-feeding them this schlock, they are committing an atrocity, a crime against humanity...

Thank you, Man of Action. If I believed in Hell, I would be comfortable knowing that there is a special circle in Hell just for people like you. Congratulations on assisting in the downfall of human civilization.

1. King Arthur and the Knights of Justice

This is one of those shows that popped up in the very early 90's, around the time the 80's was fading, but before the great material really arrived. "King Arthur and the Knights of Justice" was about a college football team called the Knights who are brought back in time by Merlin to pose as the the Knights of the Round Table with their quarterback, Arthur King, posing as His Majesty. The real Arthur and his real knights were imprisoned by Morgana and her army of stone warlords led by Lord Viper were running amok in Camelot.

Okay, I know that sounds like standard stupidity, so what was so offensive about it? What places it in the #1 spot? The heroic Arthur King was raping Queen Guinevere. Yes, in the pilot, the queen is abducted by Morgana's minions, and Merlin tempts Arthur and his friends into staying by pretty much offering Guinevere to him on a platter. Guinevere believes this man is her husband, and I will never believe he's not playing the part in the bedroom... at no point does she ever get a clue that this isn't her husband and these aren't the knights. So, I'm going to assume Arthur's best friend, Lance, was playing his part as well. In fact, the pilot ends with Merlin bringing a large group of court ladies into the Round Table chamber and offering them to the knights like sheep are tossed to lions.

Now, if you read the Arthurian Legends, you'd realize this is not at all out of character for Merlin to do. It's basically how King Arthur was conceived in the first place. But to portray it on a TV show without a hint of self-awareness is pretty disgusting. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself...


  1. Captain Planet is the retarded puppy of the cartoon world. It's absolutely terrible, but it's not like it could've been anything else.

    Whereas all these other shows had everything going for them and they shit the bed anyway. Korra suffered the worst because it had such a solid foundation, so much potential that it's a shame none of it was put to better use. The series definitely felt the lack of Aaron Ehasz in the writing department. Someday I'll get bored enough to finish season 3 and start season 4.

  2. Good lord, these shows all have issues.

    With LoK...I can't find it in me to rag on Asami since she's just so...okay. But Bolin is Sokka minus the brain cells and Mako was Wesley Crusher's douchey cousin. Thankfully, the writers got the memo and have treated them more how they deserve (sidelined) in Books 3 and 4.
    I've talked at length at how the Equalists' plot ended in a total disservice to the concept, even though Amon himself was handled well. And Unalaq is destined to go down as the worst villain in the Avatar universe, making it extra insulting that he of all villains got to be the Avatar's dark counterpart. But while your ideas would have worked out very well, I still think you're a bit off the mark about Raava and Vaatu. When tied together, they were balance. It was because they were severed that imbalance was created, and that was why a new keeper of balance had to be created in the Avatar. I think there's more to this than just order vs chaos.

    I like LoK despite it's bad points and kind of like Captain Planet because of it's bad points. The other three, though - inexcusable and painful.

    Your words on Ultimate Spider-Man are 100% and since I do believe in some form of Hell, I hope that, if not Man of Action, then Jeph Loeb ends up there for crap like this.

    I've got no words for the King Arthur thing. It belongs there with the technical worst cartoons such as "Family Guy" or that "Get-Along" thing I dare not speak the name of.

  3. "Man of Action lied. "Spectacular Spider-Man" did very well with the target demographic. The six to eleven crowd latched onto it, and that show was on a weaker network without the corporate support "Ultimate" is currently enjoying."

    Not to mention, that even if serialized storytelling isn't something they care to do, I'd think the many Disney and Pixar movies would already prove that it's not impossible to make something that can be a marketing hit with kids and adults.

    And while it's not everyone's cup of tea, I look at Adventure Time as a better example of how to make a show more episodic, comedic, while still having more intelligent writing. As such, it has a strong adult fanbase, while evidently a success with the younger crowd. Thus Quasada, Loeb and MoA really lack validity in their argument.

    1. Don't forget Steven Universe.

    2. I've enjoy what I've seen of the show myself actually. It's just that I only saw maybe a handful of episodes, thus wasn't sure I could make such claim.

      That said though, is it popular with the younger crowd?

  4. I like Ultimate Spider-Man's imagination sequences, because they feel like a quintessentially Spider-Man touch, and the younger, hipper Aunt May, but The Spectacular Spider-Man did everything else better. Ultimate Spider-Man's Spidey makes rookie mistakes and doesn't learn from experience, and the same is true of his teammates. He never feels like leader material and rarely makes a sympathetic emotional connection to the audience. If I were choosing a leader for that team, I'd go with Power Man, because he seems the most level-headed and bickers the least with everyone else.

    1. The imagination sequences still suck because, like most things in the show, they seem more Deadpool than Spider-Man. As for Aunt May, she's based off of the version of the character from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. And seeing as I didn't like that version of her...

  5. Oh, and I don't like how there's no romance in Ultimate Spider-Man at all. The same is true of Avengers Assemble, and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. (except for A-Bomb/Crystal in one episode, which I felt was overblown), which leads me to believe that the writers of these shows don't know how to do romance well.

  6. What do you think of Star Wars Rebels so far?

  7. I still wonder how that business with a "substitute-King-Arthur" living with Guinevere as if her husband instead of her husband's duplicate made it past Standards *& Practices - or how the production team failed to realize the implications, for that matter.

    One more unfortunate consequence of the idea of having their leads be, not the real King Arthur and his knights, but a group of modern-day substitutes. I've no problems with time travel to the Arthurian era in itself - I've even written a book using such a concept; still trying to find a publisher for it - but I've the suspicion that they only used the idea so that they could have their leads speaking in modern-day slang of the "Let's do it, dude!" variety. (Or possibly they feared that they'd need a few modern characters in a story set in the Middle Ages to keep the audience's interest - but the much better "Legend of Prince Valiant" did an all-medieval cast without any troubles.)

    It got even worse in the second season when they had a "third party" faction of Japanese samurai show up - no explanation of what they were doing in Britain, especially given how notoriously insular Japan was until the 1850's.

  8. I loved Raava. Vaatu is the spirit of Darkness, and thus by his very nature would try to throw the balance off. The Avatar rose because Wan made it so that the only way balance could be maintained was by the spirit and a mortal becoming one.

    Plus what you suggested is kind of.....weird.

    1. If by weird, you mean logical, it makes sense.

      Season two of "Korra" was retarded and you know it.

  9. Oh I'm not saying it was flawless. fuck no. The idea of two spirits being in her body at the same time, and one of them taking just seems bizarre.

    I'll be the first to say season 2 had issues. However there were parts i liked (Korra finally becoming more mature after beginnings, the final battle in Light in the Dark, Korra learning that she's defined by WHO she is not WHAT she is.)

    Again, by his nature vaatu would want to throw the balance off. So obviously the spirit of light would oppose him (that and the avatar is basically something that had to happen after wan inadvertently prevented raava from doing her job).

    I won't argue the others. King arthur in particular was creepy as shit.

    1. Why would darkness by it's very nature want to throw off balance and get rid of light? Explain. Why not light wanting to destroy darkness?

      And the Avatar having two spirits in his or her body makes more sense than "I will become the Dark Avatar!"

      Maybe we shouldn't have had Wan, Vaatu, and Raava at all? Of course, maybe we should never have had "Legend of Korra" at all.

    2. I don't think it ought to be a matter of Vaatu "wanting" to throw off balance as much as it is that he naturally throws off balance just by being an acting force of chaos and darkness all on his own, without order and light literally sticking to him to balance him out. Similarly, Raava is imbalanced by not having a yang to her yin. That's why I think the Avatar Wan story actually worked: Raava needed a new chaotic being to bond with in order to restore balance, and what's more chaotic in nature than a human? So Raava became the Avatar Spirit and the human became the Avatar, rendering the old ways of Raava and Vaatu obsolete.

      Nothing, however, makes Unalaq wanting to become a Dark Avatar make sense. That was just the result of a terribly written character.

  10. I won't argue with that, thing, you put at the top, I feel like there are other cartoons worse than Ultimate Spiderman, but what do I know, all I'm getting on horrid animated abominations is stuff I read about them I lack the morbid curiosity to discover how bad something like that is after that LSD trip I had with End of Evangelion.

  11. If you thought King Arthur was offensive, watch Jean Chalopin's later series, Bots Master. It was about a teen boy geek, who lives in a cave (basement) with his robotic inventions ("friends").

    His ex-girlfriend is a busty villianess. His new girlfriend is a swimsuit model. In one episode, the ex is drugged, kidnapped, and offered as his birthday present. IN FRONT OF HIS SWIMSUIT MODEL GIRLFRIEND.

  12. If this was about the cartoons you objectively considered the worst, what would it consist of?