Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy and My Hypocritical Stance on Commercialization

I like comics that ask the big questions like "Who dares to defy me??"

I like comics that ask the big questions like “Who dares to defy me??”


In my younger days, few things were more important than being able to say “I told you so.” This need burned particularly bright when it came to movies. Nowadays, we dismiss this as hipster bullshit—“Oh yeah, I saw that before it was cool—but back in the videostore era, boasting after finding that sweet nugget of gold was your reward for panning through so much shit. Remember that for every cult movie that thrives, some Lewis and Clark motherfuckers had to watch hundreds of hours of bullshit.

The internet cut out a lot of that bullshit, crowdsourcing the process and increasing the chances that one might catch the next Evil Dead (I’m referring to its cult status, not the actual next movie in the series) on it’s theatrical run. Sure, we’ve all been burned, but the hits make up for the misses (on my deathbed I will say “It’s been a hard life, but at least I saw Orphan in the theater”).

Positive internet buzz along with my taste for Troma films (and my surprising non-hatred of the Dawn of the Dead remake) put my ass in a theater seat for James Gunn’s Slither back in 2006. It’s one of my favorite horror/comedies, which is a nice way of saying it died at the box office. I wrote an impassioned plea on my MySpace blog urging everyone to see it in theaters so they didn’t have to pretend they did later (I’d include it here, but MySpace apparently told everyone’s old blog posts to fuck off), but somehow I failed to shift the cultural landscape by reaching out to my 300 MySpace friends.

Slither never became a cult sensation (though I believe it did well in DVD sales), so I never got my “I told you so” moment. That’s fine. Artistically, box office and home video sales don’t matter; neither one of those things make a movie any better or worse. But these days there’s a lot of investment in box office numbers. Maybe it’s because these numbers are at our finger tips now. Maybe people want to know what’s coming next, as a box office success will breed imitators. Or maybe it’s just validation. Box office success is quantifiable evidence that you are not alone in loving the thing you love. And so many people love that thing so much that it now towers above all the other, lesser loved things. It’s like your team winning the Super Bowl, but you directly contributed to the victory with your $12.50. And then you get to say “I told you so,” which is worth it’s weight in $12.50s.

I can’t remember if I was able to see Slither in theaters a second time. I believe that by the second week, it had surrendered too many screens to be showing at a time I could make it to the movies. However, it’s comforting to know I won’t have that problem with James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Studios has made me look like an asshole enough times that I’ve stopped doubting their ability to make things happen. Pre-2008, you couldn’t make an Iron Man reference without alienating half the room. Now he’s on diapers and bicycles. And a fucking Avengers movie? Get the fuck out of here with that. There’s no way that would ever work (and I’m sure that somewhere through my social media trail, I’m on record as saying that).

Avengers not only worked, but it made a shitload of money too, which I never would have predicted back when I still bagged and boarded comics. Not because I didn’t love the characters, but because back then we had the Albert Pyun Captain America. I didn’t think there was any way to come back from that. Turns out I was wrong.

Though I still like the Pyun origin better.

I had little doubt that letting James Gunn loose in the Marvel cosmos would make for a good movie, but I’ll fully admit that I didn’t expect it to sell. I kept my mouth shut this time though. I wish I hadn’t, because then I could say ”I told you so.”

Judging by the amount of Groot avatars I’ve seen over the weekend, we could be looking at an actual cultural phenomenon, which means we’re going to see a lot of pixels pushed about this movie. So I don’t want to talk at length about the part where the movie makes you think that the prisoners are taunting Gamora because she’s a woman, but it turns out it’s because she’s a killer. I also will not talk about how James Gunn proves himself to be a master of the needle drop by filling the movie with AM radio classics (though the end credits of Slither have my favorite drop ever). And I definitely don’t want to talk about how a teary eyed raccoon made me a little teary eyed too. The movie is as good as everyone says it is. You should know that by now.

This song killed over the end credits of Slither

However, my main Guardians-related problem right now is super frustrating, because it shouldn’t be a problem at all.

I hate commercials, in part because they work so well. Marketers today know exactly what buttons to press to make you feel like less of a person for not owning a sedan. They use cheap, fluffy jokes and cute characters to infiltrate your defenses and then plant a virus in your brain. They are sales pitches garnished with entertainment. I’ve known people to tear up at commercials, but for what? What commercial has been as affecting as Bambi’s mother dying or The Terminator being lowered into that steel? Commercials are just emotional pornography, too good to descend into good ol’ fashioned hucksterism and all the worse for it.

That being said, I don’t mind the commercialization of things that work. The aforementioned Iron Man is a merchandising juggernaut, but he also makes kids feel better about wearing hearing aids. The cynic in me would like to dismiss that piece as PR fluff, but I remember being that age and I remember what comic books meant to me at that point. Kids don’t identify with Iron Man because he’s on cans of Dr. Pepper, he’s on cans of Dr. Pepper because kids love him. If you want to tell me a story—a really good story—filled with characters I’ve come to love not just because they showed up for thirty seconds between cooking shows, but because there’s actually something there for me, you can easily sucker me for some kind of mug or molded plastic that reminds me of that character. It’s a personal weakness and deeply hypocritical, but what are we as a species if not hypocritical?

That being said, the corporate overlords at Disney have woefully underestimated the amount I would pay for a dancing Groot. I want one know and am willing to take out a loan to get it.

Related: If you don’t have Marvel Unlimited, it’s the best dollar to entertainment value ratio I’ve ever had. And if you only know Howard the Duck from that terrible movie, the original Steve Gerber stories are worth a read.

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