Before I begin, I must define what I mean when I say babification. Depending on several factors, I use words like babify, baby-fy, or babificate to describe a certain kind of media. This media commits the grave sin of assuming its entire audience is made up of children, addressing them accordingly. Or in the most egregious examples, addressing its audience as if it wishes them to adopt the emotional and thought responses of a child.
Barney And Friends is probably the worst example by far, with children ranging in age from three to seventeen acting as if they thought like three year olds. The one thing that saves it from being criminal, in my opinion, is that today’s children are still smart enough to know that three year olds and seventeen year olds respond to the same stimuli in very different ways.
That said, let us get on with five examples of babification that rankle the everything out of me.
- Lethal Weapon sequels
The first film titled Lethal Weapon was released to theatres in America in 1987 and was a big hit with audiences thirsty for action. Basing itself on the dynamic between two detectives working the sort of case found in hardboiled noirs, Lethal Weapon only made slightly more than four times its estimated budget at the box office, but film studios do not argue with a near to thirty million dollars in home video rentals. Sequels were inevitable.
I will be brief about the third and fourth films in the series. They are terrible. The comedy is worse than an episode of Fast Forward and the action far too mild.
Which brings us to Lethal Weapon 2. Lethal Weapon 2 revolves around the detectives’ battles with a ring of South African drug smugglers. It also revolves around director Richard Donner’s struggle between telling his story and making the points therein in the manner an adult would, or being so ham-fisted that even twelve year old boys start asking him to ease up a bit.
Huge plot spoiler: the latter wins.
The fact that the drug smuggler operation is run by a diplomat from South Africa and his staff is bad enough. All the Americans would really need to do is complain to the South African government hard and persistently enough for the South African government to declare this diplomat “persona non grata”, which basically means they will not intervene if American authorities arrest him.
But we cannot have that, because Donner wants to make his ham-fisted point about how bad Apartheid is. Yes, Apartheid was still in effect in 1989. Sobering thought.
(Yes, Apartheid was bad. However, two points need to be made here about it. One, other people pointed out how bad it was much more effectively. The Goodies, for example, had an awesome satire of Apartheid in an episode titled South Africa. The second point, I will get to in a moment.)
There is one sequence in which this ham-fisted battering of the audience with Apartheid’s evilness works, and works well. In one sequence, Joe Pesci and Danny Glover visit the South African consulate. Joe tells one envoy that he needs help talking his friend out of emigrating to South Africa. Said friend is of course Danny’s character incognito. This results in the following classic exchange:
Envoy: Listen to your friend here, he knows what he’s talking about. I don’t think you want to go to South Africa.
Murtaugh: Why not?
Envoy: Because you’re black.
*Murtaugh turns to look at Getz*
Getz: [to Murtaugh] You are. *he turns to the envoy* [to envoy] He is.
Leo Getz, the character played by Joe Pesci, always straddled a very uncomfortable line between funny, endearing, and utterly intolerable. But the way Danny Glover and Joe Pesci play this short exchange is utterly brilliant.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film recognises no shades of grey whatsoever. It might surprise a lot of people to know that the enlightened and peaceful new South Africa that was promised when Nelson Mandela was elected never happened. Instead, everything that the kinds of people depicted in this film as the bad guys feared happened.
There is a song entitled, roughly, Kill The White Farmer. And if you thought South Africa was a democratic country, it might surprise you to learn that every successor of Nelson Mandela thus far has been appointed to the job. There is not even a Republican versus Democrat dynamic in South Africa. There is the ANC (African National Council), and that is it.
(By the way, that second point I was talking about? That was it. But this LiveJournal by Frank Van Wensveen makes the point a lot better than any film critique can. Scroll down to October 24 of last year and realise that that is a mild example of South African ANC drones acting like spoiled thugs.)
This does not change the fact that the white South Africans shown in Lethal Weapon 2 are thugs who deserve every bit of kicking in the arse that Mel Gibson’s and Danny Glover’s characters offer them. But nuances make for much more compelling viewing, and Lethal Weapon 2 has been basically two characters parading amongst a bunch of cardboard cut-outs.
But this is a mild example.
- Police Academy sequels
Look, nobody is going to kid anybody that the Police Academy films are brilliant or awesome pieces of social commentary. MAD Magazine has even joked that the people who wrote the Police Academy films were invalid screenwriters who, having lost all of their faculties, were placed in a retirement home and given writing tools to keep themselves occupied. The Police Academy scripts being the result.
The late Roger Ebert was even less kind to the original Police Academy, stating that it not only forgot to deliver the punchlines, it even forgot to put in any jokes. Its sight gags were good for a throwaway laugh, but the whole thing was a perfect example of Hollywood comedy on the cheap.
Numerous cast members left the franchise after Police Academy 4. Probably the two most fatal losses to the franchise would be Steve Guttenberg and Bobcat Goldthwait. Not because their characters did much of anything for the stories, but because of the myriad actors in the franchise, they were the only ones with a real sense of comedic timing.
I cannot begin to describe how blatantly awful and childish the Police Academy films numbered 5 through 7 really are. But since I want to get to the point as quickly as possible, I will confine this to Police Academy 5. Early on in the film, one of the villains, passing the “heroes” with a window between them, remarks that it looks like “a moron convention”.
Look, I realise that there are things you can and cannot do in a film with a PG rating. But this video
is like a colossal cluster-fukk of a crew presuming that the home video version of their film will only have an audience in nappies. About one minute and thirty-three seconds in, it is literally that bad.
- The Cosby Show, period
Quick quiz. What is the easiest way to piss the pre-adulthood Dean McIntosh off? Is it talking to him as if he does not know the sun will come up tomorrow? Or… actually, there is no or.
Bill Cosby gets called all sorts of things by the black community. Usually combinations of a racial epithet that I like to use only when it helps my point and the word house. Because that is more or less exactly what he is. But long before I thought of him as a traitor to his own kind, I thought of him as a sell-out who helps promote child abuse. If you read my previous post, you know damned well that I believe we live in a culture that not only tolerates but encourages the abuse of children.
Bill Cosby talks down at his on-screen children as if they were lower than shit. Every Cosby script follows the same routine. People over 35 (automatically) right, people under 35 (automatically) wrong. Look, I get it, I know it. When one is seventeen, one makes mistakes that one might not when they are twice that age. But if you think being above the age of 35 (or even 55) absolves you of the capacity to be wrong (in some cases to the point where it costs others their lives), you are wrong.
Rather than attempt to describe any one scene that highlights how uncomfortable this show made me throughout the early stages of my life, I will quote a piece of trivia from the IMDB.
Malcolm Jamal-Warner failed his initial audition for the show. When reading a scene with Bill Cosby, Cosby felt that that Warner was speaking in a disrespectful nature. When Cosby asked Warner if he spoke to his own father that way, Warner replied “No”, earning him a second chance to audition.
Mister Cosby, I feel a need to tell you a few things. I do not speak to my asshole idiot male parent anymore. At all. And if I did deign to speak to him, I would be telling him things that I think you should be made to hear from me, too. The way you speak to me does have a lasting and injurious effect, and your ignorance thereof is no excuse. That is for starters.
I used to call this effect where characters spoke to other characters in a societally-ordained position of inferiority as if they were shit the Please Go Away effect, after a certain Australian soap opera. But it is more appropriately called the Cosby Effect.
And if my mother is reading this, no, they did not just put shit on each other in Married… With Children. They demonstrated that parental units could be just as guilty, if not more so, of irresponsible behaviour than their children. Something I wish now that I could have learned on first viewing. Wonder why.
- Harry Potty and the who gives a fukk
Why is my baby sister the only person in the world (or so it would seem) who acts surprised when I say “I outgrew this when I was a foetus”?
- Star Wars. And Star Trek. Assholes.
Star Wars and Star Trek have interesting dynamics, to put it mildly. If you asked a Star Trek fan to define all of the specifications of one of the space vessels in their beloved series, they would be doing well to tell you what “warp factor” it can travel at. This is funny, because there are numerous physical laws of the universe, including how heavily nauseous a person becomes, that prevent people travelling at the speed of light, leave alone multiples thereof.
There is also the uncomfortable fact that even travelling at ten times the speed of light, the journey from Earth to the nearest solar system that might contain planets that can sustain Human-like lifeforms will take slightly more than five and a half months.
If you are confused as to which series I am berating with that information, well, fear not. That is partly the point. Problems of such a grown-up nature are never addressed in either. But if Star Wars did have one advantage over Star Trek in terms of the adult nature of its story, it is that it realistically depicted how Humans would behave if they were spread over a whole galaxy, as opposed to confined to one planet. War over choice of government seems to be the one contribution the CIA has made to history.
But I am digressing. Between Star Wars’ civil war to depose a Sith theocracy and Star Trek’s monotheistic idealism, there is not a whole lot of distinction.
Star Trek rebooted, aka the shaky-cam lens-flare version, is like a child run amok with a science fiction canon kit. Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and H.G. Wells have all added eccentricity to Earth’s orbit every time J.J. “Stick The Camera Up Your Arse And Roll Around” Abrams has ever said he is going near a space-oriented film.
But for sheer childishness, everyone must bow at the altar of George Lucas. The guy does not even seem to have the slightest idea that the people around him who smile and nod approval when he tells them he wants to repeat an event from prior stories because it is like poetry they rhyme are deeply uncomfortable. They want to tell him “you are throwing your own credibility away, please think it over, George”. But they know they will get fired the second they do.
So what we end up with is quasi-racist stereotypes that step in “dog” shit or scream out words like “poodoo” in frustration.
(Look, I know that The Phantom Menace was a clusterfukk of epic proportions where storytelling is concerned. You need not tell me that. But what I am going to say as a writer is that with varying levels of surgery (that is, ranging from extreme to delete and start over), there is no reason why the “prequels” could not have been masterpieces. It is just that Lucas is such a demented child that he thinks his first draft is “good enough”. I wonder if he would still be thinking that if he had the same “clout” he had in 1975.)
- Robot cop for babies (aka the 2014 chunk of shit that they tried to pass off as RoboCop)
I can see myself in a different take on the awesome dialogue sequence in Total Recall between Ronny Cox and Michael “I am so fukking mean-faced I look like I am chewing bullets when I am happy” Ironside. Both characters in this exchange are me:
Me 1: Do you know why I am such an angry person, me?
Me 2: No, sir. Unless you refer to the dozens of other reasons you have already told me.
Me 1: No, this is a new one. I am such an angry person because when I was a boy, scumbucket normies would try to tell me I said or meant something other than what I had just said.
Robot cop for babies is an incredibly insulting example of this. But let us build the foundation first. Released in 1987, RoboCop was a shining example of storytelling as an art form. I will tolerate no argument about this. It was and always will be the greatest film ever made. When the aliens come to dig up what remains of our world a few hundred or thousand years from now, they are going to see RoboCop and know that that was the moment when the more intelligent of our kind knew we were doomed.
Essentially, RoboCop is a cautionary tale. It warns of a time when corporations will be in cahoots with violent criminals, the police will enact the will of corporations rather than protect the people, and corporate masters will absolutely fail to give a fukk if their products work or not.
Orion Pictures had funnelled a considerable sum of money into making this film. So much so, relative to the studio and time, that according to writer Ed Neumeier, executives were constantly saying things like “stop the bleeding”. When the film was finally completed and released to theatres however, it was an enormous hit, making back over a hundred million in theatrical sales and video rentals.
Unfortunately, the people in the studio failed to “get” why it was such a big hit. It tapped into what people felt about the corporate overlords after just seven years of Reagan’s insane pro-corporate economics. The people in the studio thought it was about the titular character saying the lines and shooting the right people. The results were predictable (CHUD.com has this review that goes over the results at some length).
Which brings us to robot cop for babies. Why do I call it that? Well, fukk you if you expect me to call it RoboCop. And for another thing, when you see a picture on Fudgebook of children who do not even look old enough to be able to see over the ticket counter in what is clearly a cinema with their mother saying that they are going in to see “robocop”, that is the final straw.
Let me point you to my review of the real RoboCop on a DVD/BD website I used to write for. These reviews focus more properly on the technical quality of a disc, but here is the relevant portion of the review:
I first saw RoboCop on VHS in 1988. Prior to seeing it, I had read a myriad of reviews in TV guides, newspapers, and other such publications, but the end of one really stuck in my mind. “As incessantly as they plead, please do not let your children see this movie. It is one of the most violent I have ever seen.” That would have been early in 1988. Around the middle of the year 1988, I managed to get so sick, persistently, that I lost a good half to three quarters of my bodyweight and swung from being thirsty enough to empty out a fridge in one sitting to falling-down tired. When they finally properly diagnosed the problem (diabetes), I got to spend weeks out of school watching films on VHS with my father, who chose to ignore the advice that the previously-mentioned reviewer gave. That turned out to be the Winter that, even though I did not know it at the time, I learned what I want to do with the rest of my life (specifically, to tell stories in any given medium available to me). The fact that my pet fantasy of being able to use machinery to replace less-than-optimal components of one’s physical body figured into the plot was just a bonus.
If you can guess from that review segment that I have a major, major love of this film called RoboCop, then you win the proverbial cookie.
So when you recall my quote above of my conversation with myself, think about this. Robot cop for babies is the equivalent of an obsessively authoriative parental unit rushing in and saying “no, you mean X” when the boy says Y. Robot cop for babies says “no, you mean goo goo gah gah”. RoboCop pulls out a gun big enough to cut a man in half from a mile away and says “I mean fukk off and die, babyfier”, and squeezes the trigger.
If you call robot cop for babies RoboCop, you are a cunt. A bigger one than Harry Potty’s shovers and Bill Cosby put together.
In fact, the villain of the real RoboCop says and does to the real RoboCop what I would like to say and do to you (it is at 3:53):