I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Ninja Kill

As I’m sure I’ve told you before, one advantage as well as disadvantage of the ancient tradition of the video store is that you find random weird stuff you weren’t looking for and end up renting it. This is how I became aware of NINJA KILL. Two of the reasons I rented NINJA KILL:

1. It’s called NINJA KILL

2: This is the cover:

Note the tagline: “BREAK NINJA LAW – SUFFER NINJA JUSTICE!” Words to live by, in my opinion.

This is the story of Ninja Master Gregory (Richard Harrison, HIGHWAY TO HELL) and how one day he’s sitting on top of a picnic table wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a friend from the ninja community comes to give him a tip about an impending assassination plot involving ninjas. He has to pay $5,000 for the information (interestingly he seems to be able to pay this with five bills) and then his informant is immediately killed by another member of his yellow-uniformed ninja clan.

Gregory calls his friend David to follow the tip about a guy in Thailand known as “Cuba” who may be planning to kill a senator there. So David (who has a strong Australian accent) goes to gather up his dumb friends and their dumb friends to try to stop the assassination. He drives a tractor onto some property looking for Cuba, gets into a gun fight with his men, encounters a woman being assaulted by a bunch of yahoos and rescues her and brings her back to his place, confronts Cuba’s guys again when they come looking for him, refuses to apologize, wins their respect in a knife duel, etc.

It is not a movie that holds women in high esteem. The bad guys are always trying to rape them. David’s not into that, but when they come across some women being raped in the river his buddy smiles and ogles them. Later he tells everybody about it delightedly, talking about their “big tits.” David is innocent of that, but every time he trusts a woman he ends up getting seduced and then waking up with a gun pointed at his head or something.

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be about ninjas? It seems like Gregory called into a different movie and then just let it take over. Which is pretty much what he did! Every once in a while it cuts to a short bit about the white people ninja clans receiving a challenge from Gregory, or Gregory standing shirtless in a field by himself swinging a sword around and then throwing a throwing star.

The score all seems to be stolen from other things (I even heard Kraftwerk in one part) and whatever they use for the ninja parts is enjoyably bombastic.

I know today we’re more concerned about cultural appropriation and all that, but I don’t know if I will ever stop being fascinated by the Caucasian ninja trend of the ’80s. Middle aged white guys, sometimes with mustaches, who have been trained by or are leaders of ninja clans and involved in secret wars that are going on under our noses. The world you live in is just a sugar-coated topping.

I’m not sure any white guy could ever take credit for stealing this martial art, as people accuse, say, Elvis of doing with black music. I think the cat is pretty out of the bag about what country ninjitsu comes from. It’s right there in the word. But are white guys responsible for adding more flair to the costumes? I’m not sure who started that, but I know in some of the AMERICAN NINJA movies and in this it’s often the whites who represented various rainbow colored factions. Gergory here is the Purple Ninja Warrior (looks pink to me) and he’s fighting against a guy in yellow with blue accessories. My favorite thing about their costumes, though – in fact, my favorite thing about the movie – is their headbands, which say “NIN” and “JA” on them. And then the difference is whether you wear the headband with just a blank space between the “NIN” and the “JA” or the type that has a little picture of a ninja. Or of two ninjas. I’m sure they each have a profound significance.

I’m not trying to make fun of it, either. I wouldn’t necessarily turn down a headband that said “OUT” and “LAW” and had my logo in the middle. In fact, I should look into making that. I wear a belt that says “VERN” on the back, with pictures of bald eagles. I can respect ninjas for their flair.

Unfortunately about 95% of the movie is ninja-less. It’s this interminable shit about David and Cuba in Thailand. I like seeing footage of dudes getting dressed up as ninjas and doing a bunch of ninja shit in a park, and the ending is delightful. Gregory and the Gold Ninja (I think) run to the top of separate hills to yell “NINJA!” before they duel. He defeats the guy (using a pair of cymbals!?), triumphant music plays, he does a back flip and disappears mid-air, and it says THE END. But it wasn’t worth sitting through this other unrelated stuff for that. Even if there’s kind of a funny car chase where they drive two commandeered sports cars in circles in the dirt.

I had no idea who he was until I looked him up, but Harrison is a Mormon from Salt Lake City who moved to L.A. as a teen and later married the daughter of James H. Nicholson of American International Pictures. He was a trained actor but spent much of his career in Italy after going there to star in THE INVINCIBLE GLADIATOR in 1961. He starred in the first Ennio-Morricone-scored western GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS, but turned down the lead in A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Apparently he was the one who recommended Clint! Thank you, Richard Harrison.

Later he was in the Shaw Brothers movies THE FOUR ASSASSINS (as Marco Polo) and BOXER REBELLION, plus TWO BROTHERS IN TRINITY (which he also directed) and the Bruce Le movie CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER, before settling into Z-grade Filipino exploitation that he often wrote quickly under pseudonyms (when they were written at all). Bored of that, he went to Hong Kong to do some ninja films with director Godfrey Ho, who he knew as Chang Cheh’s assistant director on those Shaw Brothers movies. What he – and I – didn’t realize was that the parts he filmed in a few ninja movies would be chopped up and spread out across NINJA THUNDERBOLT, NINJA HOLOCAUST, MAJESTIC THUNDERBOLT, NINJA TERMINATOR, INFERNO THUNDERBOLT, NINJA HUNT, NINJA SQUAD, NINJA CHAMPION, GOLDEN NINJA WARRIOR, NINJA DRAGON, PROJECT NINJA DAREDEVILS, HITMAN THE COBRA, COBRA VS. NINJA, this, NINJA OPERATION: LICENSED TO TERMINATE, NINJA OPERATION 6: CHAMPION ON FIRE, NINJA COMMANDMENTS, NINJA: SILENT ASSASSIN, DIAMOND NINJA FORCE, NINJA OPERATION 7: ROYAL WARRIORS, THE POWER OF NINJITSU, NINJA POWERFORCE, THE NINJA SHOWDOWN, SCORPION THUNDERBOLT and NINJA STRIKEFORCE.

(Those are all real titles. I thought about adding a fake one as a joke, but it would be impossible to spot. Maybe NINJA AGENDA DOLPHIN: MISSION INFINITE.)

I don’t know what the other movie was that they used footage from. I thought it would be something by the other credited director, Joseph Lai, but all of his directorial credits have “Ninja” or “Ninjitsu” in the title too. IMDb credits “AAV Creative Unit” for story, which seems to be the case for most or all of Lai’s productions.

Anyway, buyer beware. This isn’t the pure ninja shit, it’s cut with strychnine. Only the ninja parts are very fun. I don’t know if I can remember all those titles to avoid them, so I’ll have to write them on the back of my hand before going to rent ninja movies.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2018 at 11:57 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

60 Responses to “Ninja Kill”

  1. NIN JA sounds to me like the German Nine Inch Nails fanclub.

  2. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 1st, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Pretty sure I’ve never come across that Dutch video cover in any rental store back in the day or I would’ve rented the shit out of this!

  3. Right from the title, I figured this had Godfrey Ho written all over it. Then it introduced the completely unrelated subplot that takes up the bulk of the movie and I knew it. Then I read about the ending and realized I actually watched this entire movie with the volume off in a metal bar in Brooklyn one time.

    Another weird series that does the whole “Half-assedly integrate some colorful honkey martial arts business into an unrelated film” thing is the CATMAN IN series, which, as far as I know, consists of CATMAN IN LETHAL TRACK and CATMAN IN BOXER’S BLOW. (Neither title holds any meaning.) What we have here seems to be two Thai action films from the 80s, with all the dudes ins sweatpants running around the jungle pretending to be gangsters that that implies, which every now and again cut to scenes (which were obviously shot several years later on completely different film stock) of some big blond clearly Australian but pretending to be American dufus secret agent who puts on a black eyemask in like two parts. Unlike your upper tier ninjasploitation garbage like NINJA KILL, these films don’t even attempt to fake a connection between the two plots. They are just simply two separate stories, one that is very boring and the other that is extremely stupid, that are intercut for no reason.

    Why did I watch both of them, you ask? Look, man, I don’t have to explain myself to you.

  4. Legend has it the Swedish director/producer Mats Helge Olsson used some scenes he filmed with David Carradine in 9 movies. So Harrison is in good company.

  5. I’ve been living within walking distance of a Blockbuster for the last 7 plus months. In Australia, no less. I know, I was shocked too!

  6. Speaking of ninjas, have any of you read the Uma Thurman story?

    Opinion | This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry

    The actress is finally ready to talk about Harvey Weinstein.

    I don’t really know what to say about any of this story about the Tarantino thing. I think we can all agree that Weinstein sucks but I grew up reading about stories of directors putting their actors and actress through crazy stuff and nobody ever said anything. I feel like if the Weinstein thing wasn’t part of this equation then the Kill Bill story wouldn’t be much of a story. Am I wrong?

  7. I’m just surprised that this is Vern’s first encounter with Godfrey Ho and/or Richard Harrison. I thought there’d be at least one review in the archives of Ho’s cut-rate ninja collages or Harrison’s Filipino hut-exploders, if only by sheer law of averages.

    Anyway, Godfrey Ho also did UNDEFEATABLE which is a must-see.

  8. That really sucks that Tarantino was not more safety conscience and caused Uma to be injured and ruin their friendship. But Christ, what a horribly written article that attempts to draw subliminal connections between unrelated events through manipulative structuring. The car story and the Weinstein story have nothing to do with each other but their placement in the piece and lack of transitions between them create a false progression of ideas where none exist. It cuts right from Tarantino being outraged at Weinstein’s abuse to the car story, not even trying to be subtle about implying that QT somehow TRIED TO MURDER THE LEAD ACTRESS OF HIS MAMMOTH TWO-PART EPIC to protect Harvey. The “hey, I’ll just leave this here” supposed smoking gun moment that, oh my god, LADY CHARACTERS DIED IN CARS IN DEATH PROOF just like no one died in the completely dissimilar Uma/KILL BILL incident (and one of them was ROSE MACGOWAN READ BETWEEN THE LINES SHEEPLE) is particularly egregious in its smug, tabloid gotcha-ness. Ms. Thurman’s experiences are both horrifying and disappointing without this amateurish manipulation. Her story has been done a great disservice by the blatant and clumsy insinuation from this awful writer, who is either purposely intellectually dishonest or just really bad at her job.

  9. In re: NINJA MOVIES WITH VERY LITTLE NINJA CONTENT: my belief is that all of these were constructed solely to give super stoned people something to sort-of-watch at 4am when they don’t want to go to bed yet but don’t want to watch an “actual” movie. Or at least, that’s how I’ve always watched them.

    In re: TARANTINO BEING LINKED WITH WEINSTEIN BY INSINUATION: Knock that shit off. It’s bad enough that QT almost got Uma Oprah killed. But if you’ve ever watched Tarantino excitedly talk about movies for 30 seconds, you’d realize that this guy needs a strong-arm producer riding over him 24/7 to keep him from blowing up the craft services table because he wants to pay homage to that one scene in THE BIG DOLL HOUSE. So we’re lucky that each of his movies doesn’t have an OSHA disclaimer at the end. To QT I say: Chill down, dude. It’s just a movie. We only have ONE Uma Oprah. Maybe go into claymation or something less stressful.

  10. Well, it was his first movie with any stunts at all. He no doubt got gassed on all the stories he heard about how they did it in the old days and figured that’s the way it’s done. Hopefully he learned from that experience that the same guerilla shit you did when you were making movies about tough guys having conversations and occasionally shooting each aren’t gonna work when you step up to real action filmmaking where life and limb is on the line. And from what I’ve heard, he’s been much more stringent about having a zero-injuries policy since then. He made a mistake and while he can really make that up to Uma, he can at least never make that mistake again. But the structuring of that article puts his seemingly honest mistake in the same arena as the malevolent abuse of Weinstein while not saying anything outright that the publication might have to back up with facts. It’s wspecially unconscionable given how tenuous the public’s trust of the media is at this point in history. Some obvious fudging of details and eliding of connective material to suit a preconceived narrative (clearly this writer came for dirt on Tarantino, the white whale of the MeToo movement [which I support wholeheartedly despite its occasional missteps]) will only give those already inclined to dismiss these issues more fuel for their biases. It’s sloppy writing and muddy thinking and it helps no one.

  11. *can’t really make that up to Uma

  12. I didn’t read the article that way. I don’t think it was arguing an equivalence, but a parallel between these two relationships where in retrospect Thurman thinks she was dehumanized, and by doing so it makes us face the uncomfortable question of whether some accepted behaviors by men that are not sex-related also need to be re-examined. However, maybe I’m wrong because I’ve already seen a widely circulated tweet that mentions Tarantino spitting on her and choking her, without explaining that it was in the movie or considering that normally a director might do that in hopes of making the actors more comfortable with a difficult scene. Either the writer or Thurman felt it was ironic in retrospect, but this person read in that he did it as a punishment to her or something.

    This is all weird and sad and I hope that Tarantino has both learned from it and will continue to try to make amends with Thurman, who was such a great collaborator with him. Personally I think DEATH PROOF makes him come off better, not worse. As Ethan Hawke apparently told him, it was unfair for him to expect this great actress to be a stunt woman. So for the next movie he had a stunt woman as the lead.

    Also I hope it doesn’t get around that Asia Argento’s dad is a director who always uses his hands as the murderer’s hands in his movies and also that modern day Tarantino physically resembles him.

  13. I just wonder if Diane Krüger has now some second thought about letting Tarantino choke her for BASTIRDZZZ. Never saw that movie, but heard her tell the story on a late night show, how Tarantino asked her if it was okay if she gets choked in one scene for real and if she would trust him to do it, because he wanted to make sure it looks exactly like in his head. Obviously she didn’t die and apparently it wasn’t a traumatic experience, otherwise she wouldn’t tell this like an amusing anecdote on TV, but I can imagine her hearing about the Uma car crash and thinking: “Verdammt!”

  14. Dario Argento has a lot more to answer for than using his hands as the murderer’s hands. He is actually one creepy motherfucker, especially any time he directs his daughter.

  15. Guys, guys, guys. Directing your own daughter in nude scenes in every movie she appears in is PERFECTLY NORMAL in Europe. Things are different over there.

  16. If the #metoo campaign is going to make some lasting changes, we must find a way to secure it in the law. Ladies men like Bill Maher and James Woods are already calling it McCarthyism, and if that sticks then the backlash will be huge. “Guilty until proven innocent” is not a very good way to go about it.

  17. Ah yes, noted level-headed centrists Bill Maher and James Woods.

  18. I don’t think we will see any big changes but long term maybe. It’s just the news cycle goes so fast that we blow by things.

  19. #metoo has already made sure three high profile politicians have had to resign here in Norway, so it is working. But if men from both sides of the political spectre start to call it a witch hunt a lot of people will listen and the movement will die out.

  20. I just think of the Aziz Ansari video and I think people have already forgotten about it and are onto Tarantino.

    Speaking of, reading people talk about Tarantino is weird because it’s clear this is the first time they have read one of his interviews.

  21. For what it’s worth, on Uma’s Instagram she says that there was no “malicious intent” on Tarantino’s part and that she is “proud of him” for “doing the right thing” and giving her the footage. She names Lawrence Bender, Harvey Weinstein and somebody else I wasn’t familiar with for what she feels was a coverup of the accident. This fits with Tarantino’s claims in his interview with Michael Fleming that he is still friends with her and discussed the article with her beforehand and supported it.

    And Mr. Majestyk if you don’t want to get mad do not read the article about Tarantino on The Daily Beast. Lots of people taking the opportunity to jump onto dumbass moralistic crusades against movies they don’t like. I have no concerns that this will lead to censorship but it will definitely lead to alot of useless arguments between passionate movie lovers and people who just like to be self righteous about shit. And if there’s too much of that it can only be a detriment to the fight for actual justice in real life, in my opinion.

  22. “…it will definitely lead to alot of useless arguments between passionate movie lovers and people who just like to be self righteous about shit.”

    You mean like 70-80% of the current AVClub commentators it seems? I’m so sick of ‘I never liked his movies anyway so I want to see him PERSONALLY fall’ and ‘I’ve always said that watching was the sign of a degenerate soul!’

    I long since learned that Tarintino isn’t the best human-being and I would never ever want to hang out with him and I’m perfectly alright with just loving his art. If absolutely adherent stuff come out about him, I’ll still like his movies. I’m a big fan of Kirk Douglas’ and Steve McQueen’s movies and they were not very good people…. horrible in fact (I mean I already knew that but whenever I mention how much I love one of their movies I’m told that I’m a terrible person because they were terrible people and thus their movies are immoral trash and I’m supporting the patriarchy or some-shit).

    I just hope these guys who are leading their ‘dumbass moralistic crusades’ know they are giving a ton of ammunition to the opposition who call them SJWs and the like.

  23. The problem with the current state of #MeToo is that while it might be not a witch hunt (since there are no witches, and there definitely ARE sexual predators) it’s definitely still a “hunt” — it’s very much focused on finding specific individuals and accusing them publicly of wrongdoing, specifically in the hopes of harming them personally and professionally and consequently both punishing bad behavior and setting an example for other people who will hopefully think twice before behaving badly. It’s a great strategy to bring some measure of justice to the most extreme cases –Cosby, Weinstein, Spacy– but the problem is, hunts need prey, and that necessitates a constant source of new red meat. There’s obviously no shortage of bad behavior out there, and it’s a profoundly important thing that it’s being dragged out into the open for people –and especially men– to be forced to confront and seriously think about.

    But I’m not convinced a movement which is entirely based around this model –identify an enemy, publicly denounce them, let the media fallout play out for a few days or weeks, move on to the next enemy– is going to be very healthy in the long term. The internet has increasingly given both license and material convenience to large-scale movements of puritanical lynch mobs of every political stripe. Lynch mobs are deeply psychologically appealing, offering a very easy sense of de-individuation combined with a no-cost moral empowerment. They’re easy to join, they feel good, they make us feel righteous. But I can’t imagine they’re good for us, or they’re good for solving complex problems, even when their targets really are in the wrong on one issue or another, and sometimes even egregiously so.

    I think we needed #MeToo desperately, and I didn’t even know how badly we did when it first began. I consider myself a strong feminist and an alert and thoughtful person, and was still absolutely floored by how widespread and pervasive these problems were. If you’d asked me before #MeToo started, I would have guessed maybe 20%, 30% of the women I personally knew had been the victim of some kind of assault or harassment. Instead it was all of them. 100%, no exceptions. I thought I took this problem seriously, but I didn’t have a clue how serious it was. Now I do, or at least I have more of a clue than I did before. That’s vital. And vastly more vital is the enormous sense of empowerment and, hopefully, optimism it has given women around the world that there is something they can do to address these shameful situations. That needed to happen, and I think this is probably the only way it could happen.

    But at some point — maybe not right now, but probably fairly soon– I think the movement probably needs to pivot a little and convert this momentum into something more positive, by which I mean actively constructive. I can’t bring myself to think that this kind of “two minutes of hate” model is a good mode to persistently exist in, even if the object of the hate is deemed sufficiently deserving. Shaming bad behavior is important, but cultivating good behavior and better understanding is so much more important, and I’m increasingly worried it’s getting lost in the frenzy of understandable but possibly not entirely productive outpouring of anger. We needed –and still need– a wrecking ball, but at some point we also need a construction crew. And probably a whole range of different, more subtle kinds of work in-between. If that gets lost, the good that the movement does is ultimately going to be regrettably limited.

  24. This is probably extremely cynical of me but people, especially white males, can never be truly “woke.” Being 100% woke means going against your own self interests and I don’t think most people are willing to do that in the long run.

  25. Mr. Subtlety – All good words but the problem is, we’re not going to get a construction crew, we’re only going to get a wrecking ball.

    Americans don’t know when to quit and always take things too far, #MeToo is quickly turning into a hysteria and moral panic as these things always do, what it reminds me of is the “Satanic panic” of the 80s, when Americans became convinced that there were Satanists on every street corner sacrificing people and molesting kids as part of a Satanic ritual, remember the McMartin preschool case?

    Well with Tarantino people have taken it and ran with it and now they’ve dug up a 2003 quote from him on Howard Stern’s show defending Polanski (as have many in Hollywood including Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep and Guillermo del Toro) and now the knives are out and people are saying they’ll never watch one of his movies again, that they want to see his career finished and so on.

    Stuff like that doesn’t help anything, it’s outrage for the sake of outrage so people can get on the moral high horse and stroke their own egos, people like that can fuck off.

  26. Griff, I agree with some of the stuff you said, but comparing it to the Satanic Panic is ridiculous and, to use your word, hysterical. People really are molesting and harassing and raping. It is not a far-fetched conspiracy theory like the satanic cult bullshit. I agree that it can’t keep going this way without having some unintended consequences, but you’re really jumping the gun there. Tarantino is suffering from bad takes. He’s not being put on trial for child molestation. You seem awfully anxious to cancel the two leaps forward in case it also means one step back.

  27. I mentioned it before but I think the biggest problem is that this whole thing is #MeToo: Celebrity Edition and is having no affect on non-famous people.

  28. Ok I’m going to sound like a total dbag but somebody pointed out 96% of the writer / directors are white. Twitter is really starting to piss me off. Why do people have to shit on a whole universe that is pretty fucking inclusive? I’m at the point where I wish all movies were directed and written by POC and women, staring women and POC so Twitter can shut the fuck up finally.

    If being woke includes being annoying and stupid on Twitter then count me out.

  29. Non-famous people, and non-rich people, are being arrested for rape every day. This time it’s the bosses, the politicians, the rich and the famous. We can’t afford to stop now.

  30. In any movement like this there’s always a backlash that tries to paint the movement as hysterical through cherry-picking and straw-manning. Just saying.

  31. It’s not the movement that’s the problem, as its already been a success. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund has already raised 20 million dollars, which is an incredible positive, and along with taking down some bigwigs who deserve it #metoo has shown a lot of women that they aren’t alone, and forced a lot of men (myself included) to reevaluate their behavior. This is all a net good.

    The problem is all of the bad faith actors who latch on, the hot takers in the media and lazy activists on twitter who use this as a way to get clicks or attention for themselves and don’t really give a shit about the potential victims or the effects it could have on someone’s career. The AVClub and the former Gawker sites are great examples of shitty outrage machines, both in their articles and in their comment sections.

    I think the backlash comes mostly for those assholes, but it gets conflated to being against the core movement.

  32. Vern — if Griff’s defense, one of the main reasons I always identified as a Liberal (and still do) is that I believe Liberalism reflects appropriate compassion in a complicated, untidy world. We, the left, asked the world to have compassion for criminals, because society itself is partly to blame. We demanded that no matter how guilty OJ Simpson looked, he needed to have a fair trail, and if it became clear that evidence was fabricated against him, we needed to accept a verdict that seemed wrong. We said it’s wrong to hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of a few, and pointed out that rampant suspicion and paranoia would drive us apart. We said that even if there really are some Communist agents in America, McCarthyism was a travesty of justice and is not the appropriate way of protecting the citizens of America.

    I still feel that way about all those things, so it feels weird hearing Liberals get so comfortable with the idea that sure, #MeToo is eventually going to go too far and unjustly some ruin lives, but hey, you gotta break some eggs to make an omelette. We all want to see predators punished and we want to see victims get justice and feel like they’ll be taken seriously if they expose their victimizers. I think even the most toxic MRA net lurker would have to at least grudgingly concede that. And we also want to change the culture — to drag some of these toxic ideas and unquestioned assumptions out into the light and change not just one person, but a whole system, to be more compassionate, more thoughtful, more healthy for everyone.

    But to do that, we’ve increasingly gotten stuck on call-out culture and brittle identity-based outrage cycles. Those things are necessary tools to point out systemic problems and help people understand how they do specific harm, and they’re part of the solution. But they have also enabled a frighteningly vindictive mob mentality, accompanied by a troublingly self-serving cycle of clickbait-dangling hangers-on, both of which often seem to get a free pass from well-meaning people who rightly see that these problems need to be addressed in a serious public way (exactly what Kemosahbee is describing, above).

    Not only does that mean that sometimes innocent people –or at least flawed people whose crimes are not worthy of the dire retribution they inspire– get caught up in the need for a new target, it also dangerously contributes to the us-vs-them zero-sum atmosphere which is choking the life out of this country. I’m 100% for #MeToo and its goals, and I think Griff is too, but I get worried that people are too polite to point out how dangerous an atmosphere this is creating. I’ve heard well-intentioned liberals solemnly assure me, basically, that “the innocent have nothing to fear,” apparently completely unaware of how terrifying and Orwellian that is. And frankly, I think half of them are only saying that because they, themselves are afraid of the tsunami of attacks they’ll get from their ostensible comrades if they say something which is deemed ideologically impure. When people are afraid to publicly raise concerns about their own movement, something is rotten. Not the motives, and not the end goals, but possibly the method, and certainly a lot of the cultural detritus which has attached itself to the motives and end goals. And I got to be a liberal because I’m deeply uncomfortable with the idea that the means justify the end.

    Not that this is really #MeToo’s fault, nor is it the sole or even the worst offender, not by a long shot; it’s just a good example of a larger trend (and yes, the irony of singling out one strand of a larger trend to call out is not lost on me, but remember, I already said this was a worthwhile tool!). Mostly, it’s representative of a worrisome recurrent suggestion I’ve heard more and more over the last few years: Liberals saying things to the effect of, “we need a Liberal Tea Party.” It’s an understandable reaction to the frustration of dealing with a whole third of the population who seem utterly uninterested in arguing or governing in good faith, but if we have to become them to beat them, this will all be for nothing.

    So I feel forced to say: witch hunts would be bad even if there were real witches. They are bad for us, and they produce bad results, even if the thing we’re hunting really does need to be rooted out. There really were Communists who wanted to undermine the US. There really are terrorists living amongst us who wish to to do us harm. There really are sexual predators harming our fellow countrymen every day, and far more men (and some women) who may not be predators per se but who have seriously toxic and inaccurate assumptions about sex which harm the people they’re around. All these dangers need to be identified and rooted out, and of all them expertly use(d) our systems –which are designed to protect the innocent– to try and protect themselves. But, frustrating as it can be, we can’t just abandon our commitment to those systems when they become inconvenient. We’ve done it enough times that I can safely say we’re never glad we did.

    (sorry for the rant, just feel like it needs to be said, and here’s as good as place as any, since it’s not like we’re ruining some nuanced discussion of the subtle social dynamics of NINJA KILL)

  33. We’re at a crossroads, and this is the craziest moment in Western history in my lifetime (especially with what’s happening on the right, but the left needs to be careful about adopting their tactics). We talk about how polarized everyone is, and it’s true. So I think people are eager to take a side, and all the reactionary BS that comes with it.

    I wish we had more rational voices, and more nuance was allowed into these conversations, but I’m mostly optimistic that it’s a growing pain and we’ll break through the Orwellian stage into a more progressive future. (I know it didn’t happen when the hippie-era led to Nixon, but it will happen to us, I hope.)

    But we could go about things differently. It’s better to inspire people than to condemn them.

  34. (also having said all that, whoof, that Tarantino interview about Roman Polaski is just torture. I know a lot of people were inexplicably ready to forgive Polanski back then, and basically everyone in Hollywood gave him a standing ovation at the Oscars that year, which now looks about as understandable as having a medieval barber cure the flu by draining five pints of blood. But still, jesus christ Tarantino, that’s some ignorant ass shit. Even Howard Stern is aghast.)

  35. I’m in a culture where I would be eaten alive for showing the slightest bit of support FOR #metoo, not for criticizing it! And I’ve talked to a lot of people in this culture who assume that it’s an indiscriminate witch hunt, but haven’t seen or talked to many liberals who are thinking about the issue indiscriminately. With acknowledgement that clickbait does exist.

    I’m not saying Mr. S is wrong, just that I’ve had a vastly different experience with the way the movement has manifested.

  36. renfield – I’m curious, which culture do you mean? They would be mad at you if you said it was good that rapists are getting in trouble? I feel naive here, I did not know this was a thing outside of fringe groups.

  37. Our goal must be equal rights for men and women. A 50/50 mix in every workplace. All studies show that where there are more women around men behave better.

  38. I’m hesitant to get too specific because it’s the culture of the place I rely upon for employment, but I really don’t think it’s a fringe mentality. I stopped bringing up this shit at work at the Weinstein/Spacey stage. The general mentality at that point was “it comes with the territory” and “these women knew/should have known what they were getting into” and “boys will be boys” and so on. “When a similar situation happened to me, I just walked out of the room, so why didn’t they?”

    So yeah I think they would say “rapists should be punished” and also roll their eyes at me for claiming that these situations constituted rape.

    I don’t know what to say, I’m feeling particularly bleak about this shit right now, but I don’t think I’m mis-characterizing or exaggerating.

  39. renfield — wow, yikes. As has been abundantly clear for some time, I’m in way over my head inside the liberal bubble, so it’s good to have a reminder that out there in the Real America, things can be radically different.

  40. Anybody else have the sort of experience where your peers and colleagues are just tripping over each other to distance themselves from labels like “feminist” and “politically correct”? Giving a shit is just the most passe thing in the world or something. Eye-rolls at #BLM, eye-rolls at the post-election protesters (“he won, get OVER it!”)… It was like this in school and it’s like this in the workplace. I think I need to get the fuck out of Orange County.

    I apologize for contributing to the de-NINJAment of this thread.

  41. I definitely have friends whose whole deal is that they’re the only ones smart enough to see that both sides are not perfect. They project this image of seeing through the lies of the puppet masters but really it’s just an excuse not to give a shit about anything. Yeah, great job, you guys. You’re so fuckin’ smart that you’re doing exactly what the assholes want.

  42. renfield: I’m right there with you buddy. I’m Southern and I work for a VERY conservative company, all that you describe to go through I get the fun of going through on daily basis. Sample exchange from right before Christmas:
    —–
    Let it be known how much I have to hold my tongue at work:

    Mr. “think of the less fortunate” is defending the tax law (chairman who is a millionair).
    “If I pay more I should get more back!”
    He just said Obama only got away with stuff cause he was black.

    “‘THEY’ are so self-serving”

    Now they are bitching about the Russian investigation and how it’s bullshit.
    I bet they wanted BOTH Clintons arressted for less though.

    Now they are giving Trump credit for the stock market.

    “He is an INCREDIBLE president.”

    “I don’t think we’ve ever had a smarter president!”

    “Best president since Roosevelt”

  43. Renfield — obviously I haven’t had much experience with that (except online, of course) but, without saying too much about your specific situation, do you have any sense of why that is? Are these people just swimming full-time in the conservative media bubble, or are they getting the wrong messages from liberals, or what? Do you think there’s any way to reach them? Is the message bad, or is there some better way to approach them on these subjects?

    Geoffreyjar — BEST PRESIDENT SINCE ROOSEVELT ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME DEAR GOD MAN HOW DO YOU MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAY

  44. There is really not much I could add to Subtlety’s analysis and musings here. I said some tangentially related things in the GREEN INFERNO thread from a couple of years back and in a couple of other threads I can’t even remember, but it pre-dates the specifics of the #metoo movement. As I see it, this is all part of that broader millenial-and-younger entitlement meets social justice/political correctness/identity politics outrage culture that has really caught fire in the social media era. There are good things emerging from it, and there are bad things emerging from it, and I hope and believe that as the cultural conversation evolves and oscillates it will stabilize into something that is healthy and a net positive.

  45. In response to your questions, Mr. S, I’m pretty baffled by how to speak to somebody who doesn’t share certain basic principles of my ideology nowadays so maybe I don’t have answers so much as share your curiosity. But a few scattered thoughts:

    Truth and fact have become hugely politicized, and trust in them strategically eroded. I frequently hear “well you can find stuff on google to support ANY position” and, you know, it’s true. If you don’t have the skills to sniff out credible sources, then what facts and positions you accept becomes purely a matter of taking sides. This will, catastrophically, turn off open-minded moderate people from engaging in the conversation at all! Politics have become so combative and divisive, of COURSE people don’t want to participate and resent those who force them into it. I think there’s a lot of that happening in my environment.

    As far as the “skills” needed to tell what is a credible source on the internet… it’s not something you just have, it’s something you need to learn through some sort of education, and we lack equal access to it. So, in an era where our top leaders are purposefully undermining the credibility of fact and evidence, people who lack the privilege of education become more susceptible to the bullshit.

    Another thought: my grampa is an immigrant who tends to support harsher, more right wing immigration laws, his one lifelong disagreement with the Democratic party that he’s consistently voted on since coming to the country in the 50’s. I talked to him about this at length and I understand two components to this outlook of his. One is that he did everything 100% by the books in his mind. This is kinda bullshit, because he’ll also tell you about the people who were willing to bend the rules for him and push his paperwork through and stuff like that. I mean, he’s a charmer guy and it was a different era, and he doesn’t give other immigrants the benefit of the doubt for whatever reason.

    The other element is the perception that there is a zero-sum game. It’s challenging to immigrate to the country, and they can only let so many people through right? And it’s challenging to be a woman in many workplace environments. If you are one of the people who *made it*, maybe you are apt to look less charitably at others who are trying to get in on the goods as well. I would say a sense of competition and fear of rocking the boat probably contributes to the unwillingness to identify with the progressive agenda.

  46. Bari Weiss on real time last night: “The hard left is basically saying it’s okay if a few innocent men go down with the ship if that’s what it takes to bring down the patriarchy.”

    Are you guys seriously telling me that this isn’t bullshit strawmanning? What innocents have we burned at the stake over this? It reminds me of when David Cross said, “Now I’m not one of these crazy liberals who wants to bust into your home and forcibly take your guns away from you, because those people…DON’T EXIST.”

  47. The people who call him the best President ever are dumb as shit.

  48. renfield — Well, I agree that a huge part of the problem is that we tend to let the most extreme voices dominate cultural conversations as though they were representative of the larger movement’s goals and methods. But David Cross is wrong, those people definitely do exist; here’s one you probably know of, just today:

    FILM CRIT HULK on Twitter

    “They fear we're going to take their guns. For the last 19 years we've shrugged and debated. But once the GOP decided dead kids were fine, that was it.

    So yes, that's what I want to do. I want to take all the guns. Exactly that.”

    Of course, most people have a more nuanced view than that, I hope. But the more each side of an issue starts speaking in Sith-like absolutes, the more we cease to be able to have nuanced conversations on these topics and start turning into angry mobs. I guess that’s my real fear, and what I see happening more and more on the left (and obviously it’s almost completely ubiquitous amongst the right, and has been for years).

  49. Fair enough Mr. S, but it still rankles. Is “taking away the guns” really part of the progressive agenda in any sort of substantive way? Would you have been able to find an article from a well known blogger arguing that position before, say, the LV massacre? I think it is fair to call it a misrepresentation.

    I have had people tell me that it’s wrong that Aziz Ansari should be sent to jail. I made an effort to google and find any article or comment where it was suggested that Ansari should be imprisoned and came up empty handed. I just don’t see the indiscriminate witch hunt others are portraying the movement to be.

  50. With the #metoo thing, what is disconcerting to me is the following: People are now litigating the distant and in some cases more recent past in light of a fictional, idealized sexual ethic of almost Orwellian consent-seeking and non-relational professionalism that very few people outside of college campus consent educators practice or even know. I think for me, the Ansari thing is a tipping point on that. I think about it like an economist or psychologist as far as punishing/dis-incentivizing certain behaviors and incentivizing/rewarding other behaviors. There are trade-offs. The positive trade-off is that, for the minority of truly and unambiguously predatory men (the Weinsteins or Spaceys), they are on notice that, if you get credibly outted, your career will be ruined and maybe worse. So, there is maybe somewhat more of a deterrent effect as a result of all of this. The downside is that the culture as a whole shifts to one where love, romance, and sexuality are formally re-normed and re-framed as a process of dispassionate, explicit, fully verbally negotiated exchanges and escalations. May I put my arm around you? May I kiss you? Until more recently, the escalation of *healthy* Western romance (in pop culture) has involved a delicate, skillful, and creative interplay of verbal and non-verbal exchanges, wherein one should of course always be able to call an explicit verbal time-out if the other partner is getting their non-verbal signals wrong. With the Ansari thing, the message seems to be that any…um, romantic, notions of romance–that is to say, spontaneous, creative, smooth, and involving subtle non-verbally and verbally reciprocated escalatory exchanges (viz, old-school terms like “first base,” “second base,” “petting”) must be jettisoned in favor of a sexual ethic that mirrors a mandatory human resources training intended to minimize legal liability. It is pivoting from the intrinsically emotional (“hot,” “passionate”) and biologically primal notion of sex to a vision of sex that is a series of carefully verbally negotiated business transactions. Certainly, we do not want either unbridled caveman/Weinstein sexuality, but I do not want a sexuality where every non-verbally mediated escalation in romantic engagement needs to be punctuated by an explicit verbal micro-consent. That is about as sexy as car-shopping.

  51. I personally find it extremely sexy when a woman gives verbal consent. Like, what are you picturing in your head that is not sexy?

  52. But Skani, can you consider the possibility that, more than that, it’s about an evolution in what’s considered acceptable so that it’s more equitable between the genders? To use your Ansari example, I agree that it’s a grey area, and would add that I hope they don’t cancel his show because of it and that it was a poor piece of journalism that started the whole thing. But also, can’t we all agree that it’s shitty to just try and try and try and try and try and try and try to get down somebody’s pants until they eventually half-heartedly give in? I don’t see that Pepe Le Pew shit he was reportedly pulling there being all romantic and sexy either, and clearly the woman didn’t.

  53. renfield, I do not find the act of giving verbal consent inherently sexy, no. Then again, I don’t find S&M or gay porn sexy, either. To each his/her own. That does not mean I am against the principle of consent, but I am not obligated to find the act of consent-seeking and giving itself “sexy,” and your leveraging the fact that it is PC to imply that the enlightened or healthy among us will of course find it sexy is a rhetorical trick. Nope.

    What I am particularly reacting against is some of the more absurd variant of this, where literally each escalation in a romantic encounter requires a micro-consent, presumably from kissing through other things up through penetration. The notion of a series of explicit “may I?” exchanges.

    Yes, Vern, I can absolutely agree that it is shitty to try and try and try to get down someone’s pants like that. I would like to think we can also agree that it’s shitty that any sexual encounter that goes like the Ansari one might then be litigated via a particular subset of the social and pop culture media with a presumption of guilt and where. I would like to think we can also agree that it is shitty the way this woman in the Ansari story takes absolutely zero ownership for her own personal and sexual agency.

    I embrace the evolution of sexual norms and the healthy conversations that are happening. I reject the cartoon version of this where every step of sexual escalation requires incremental explicit verbal consent, and I reject the sexist, cartoon version where one part’s failure to verbally articulate discomfort is automatically the other partner’s fault. I embrace a vision of sex where two people can strike an organic and mutually agreeable balance of verbal and non-verbal cueing, where each take’s ownership of their voice, particularly when they feel that the other partner may be mis-reading signals, and where each person has enough maturity, self-awareness, assertiveness, and general decency to not adjudicate a sexual encounter in the media in a matter that demonizes the other partner and refuses to see the person’s own contributions to the interaction. This goes particularly for the Ansari example and others that may fall even lower on the creepiness scale/higher on the ambiguity scale. Obviously, I’m not going to be a Weinstein or Spacey apologist, because their behaviors is disgusting, evil, and criminal.

  54. Is there an example of someone who is arguing for the “absurd variant where literally each escalation in a romantic encounter requires a micro-consent”?

    I agree that the public shaming of Ansari is icky, but then again I think there is a lesson that should be learned from it. You can say the woman in the piece should’ve left, but she didn’t. People don’t always do the best thing for themselves and blaming them is the easy way out. Ansari just met her and she’s much younger than him and he’s famous and she’s not. Of course he should be making sure they’re on the same page, and in fact they are not. The results of the situation (her feeling like she was mistreated) prove that communication is important and that men are not always considering or understanding the women’s feelings and perhaps should take stock of themselves so as not to be an Aziz.

    [note: I edited this post because it was confusingly/incorrectly worded before and because I am all powerful and can edit]

  55. Vern — I think Skani is probably thinking of the semi-infamous Antioch College sexual code (an article is linked below) which got quite a bit of criticism, and also some applause, for its policy that (to quote the article):

    ‘Verbal consent is required before proceeding to any new level of intimacy. “Do not take silence as consent; it isn’t,” the policy states, illustrating it with the hypothetical response, “Yes, I want to kiss you also.” Consent must be continually renewed each time things escalate to “each new level of sexual activity.” Having had a certain level of intimacy with someone in the past does not constitute consent. “You must still ask each and every time,” the policy states.’

    As usual for these things, this is something of an outlier example which got huge press and consequently has defined the conversation as though it’s the norm, or its representative of the discussion writ large (which is what Renfield is rightly bristling at). Like Skani, I have some reservations about how practical that specific policy is –it seems to me to imply an almost adversarial relationship between sex partners which I can’t believe is entirely healthy, and even if that weren’t so, I’m not sure if it really solves the problem its trying to address. But if that specific solution is a bit of a kludge, I think most of us would agree that the intent is the right one, and that we clearly need to try and imagine a new set of cultural and communicative norms. It’s obvious that a lot of adults have disastrously different perspectives on how to engage each other sexually; the evidence is in on that one, and we desperately need to close that gap. The problem with all these conversations is that we tend to get hung up on two things which derail serious consideration of that fundamental and pretty easily demonstrable truth: we focus extreme outlier cases and allow them to define the conversation, and we focus obsessively on anecdotes and hugely personalize them.

    To wit: Unless you’re a current student there, the Antioch College student code isn’t the point; the point is that we need better standards of sexual communication. Unless you’re dating him, Aziz Ansari isn’t the point; the point is we can learn a lot from the serious mismatch of assumptions and expectations which that story illustrates. But instead of discussing the real point, we have right wingers making sleazy jokes about the specific wording of an obscure college student code from 1993, and left wingers screaming that Ansari is a criminal and must be punished.* The whole conversation is set up to miss the point and instead allow culture warriors on both sides to turn issues into identity turf wars. For all the people out there claiming we need to “start a conversation,” I’m very worried we’ve completely lost the social ability to have one.

    *(renfield — while it hasn’t been drafted into the Democratic platform or anything, yes, these people exist. Obviously they don’t represent the vast majority of people, but they make for great clickbait and consequently tend to get over-represented in the hellhole of partisan media which is where a disturbing amount of people of all political stripes spend their time).

    'Ask First' at Antioch

    The comedy routines almost write themselves. A recent "Saturday Night Live" segment featured a game show called "Is It Date Rape?" Confronted with hypothetical situations, a male and female contestant had to say whether each constituted date rape. Predictably, the woman (a prim, bespectacled Shannen Doherty) always said yes, and the driveling fraternity slob said no. Much of the script was lifted almost verbatim from the sexual offense policy of Antioch College. Antioch's policy is easy to parody. That's too bad, because it's a serious, if touchingly earnest, attempt to deal with a real problem. Date rape is no joke, but in trying to stop it, Antioch, along with scores of other colleges across the country, sets out to codify the sexual behavior of adolescents. That's not a bad goal, but it's awfully tricky, and inherently almost impossible to implement.

    A Campus Dilemma: Sure, 'No' Means 'No,' But Exactly What Means 'Yes'?

    There are about as many definitions of consent as there are colleges — a problem for schools grappling with how to handle sexual assault. Turns out the easy part is covering what's not consensual.

  56. Apologies for all my typos above…pre-coffee. Vern, I am fine conceding that Ansari was being a lecherous creep in this situation and made this woman feel gross. Maybe he needs to be the poster boy / whipping boy / human object lesson / human media sacrifice for this broader conversation to take place. The thing is that, I know from my own marriage, that there are two sides to a story and different perceptions of the same experience–and I’m not only talking about sexual encounters but just the whole gamut of interpretations of things. It can be very RASHOMON. Any time one person gets to narrate a highly emotionally charged event, they are not going to be a fully reliable or complete narrator if for no other reason than that we are selective in what we encoded into memory, both of our own actions and others, the sequencing, etc. We are talking about this woman’s first-person recall of the nonverbal cues she sent. And even getting this woman’s side of the story, what we see is that Aziz Ansari was being sexually aggressive or forward and pushy, but we also see her willingly participating in a series of escalations, including her voluntarily going down on him despite her mounting discomfort about this situation. The Aziz Ansari of this narrative is certainly aggressive and even predatory in a sense, but the woman in this case is also a free agent who willingly participated in a series of escalations and had many opportunities to assert herself and leave. The point is not to blame her for his behavior but to avoid the false implication that his aggression or behavior rob her of her ability and responsibility for making her own choices. Otherwise, her narrative reinforces the very sexist notion that women are weak, docile, pliable creatures who cannot make clear-headed decisions when under the sway of charismatic or verbally pushy men. How would we react to this story if it was about Sarah Silverman and some 20-something guy?

  57. Also, if you look at a lot of the discussion around consent, it is very sexist, particularly when it goes into territory that involves verbal or psychological persuasion, nagging, or coercion, as opposed to classic rape. The implication is that men are the only ones who can or do engage in psychological or verbal coercion or nagging of this form and that women are incapable of engaging in the same behavior or in offering verbal pushback when on the receiving end of such behavior. I am not convinced that men or initiators shoulder all of a one-sided burden of proof of active verbal consent. I believe both partners have a shared responsibility to monitor and seek cues of consent (e.g., reciprocal engagement) and to offer and accept verbal or non-verbal course corrections, and if it comes to saying an outright “no,” then either partner should be prepared to do that, and the other partner had damned well better listen.

  58. How did we go from Ninja Kill to gun control and rape culture? I guess this is the new Potpourri thread?

    Anyway, you Americans are fucking insane. It’s not a crazy liberal idea to take the guns away from you fucking nutcases. That’s a normal moral reaction to seeing dozens of teenagers murdered repeatedly. How the fuck can anybody oppose taking guns away from people when that happens once let alone over and over and over. As the Onion keeps repeatedly posting – “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”. You people need to stand up to the small minority of psychopaths in your country and say that this is not fucking acceptable. None of you morons need to have guns!

    I have not seen Ninja Kill but I watched Miami Connection last week and I’m pretty sure it is the greatest goddamned movie ever made. I am looking forward to watching Ninja Terminator next week when my mother in law is gone.

  59. Hallsy, people have an amazing way of rallying around an idea when they feel that it touches on their core values. It’s not about rational analysis of argument or evidence, it’s about things that are symbolic of one’s identity, ingroup, way-of-life. I think a lot of that is supported by choices to self-segregate: even in the big modern world, you can choose a church, social circle, facebook / Goggle filter bubble, and partisan cable news channel to feed you a fully curated, identity-reinforcing circle jerk of an ideational experience. It’s very easy to insulate and fall prey to delusional self-aggrandizing bullshit if you lack a strong natural curiosity about the world and a fearless tolerance of ambiguity and a desire to understand the truth of an issue from the bottom up, even if it means constantly subjecting your values and cherished truths to scrutiny. This vs. just searching for anecdotes and talking points to reassure you and the buddies you are high-fiving that you’re right, moral, noble under siege, keepers of the flame. It’s emotionally and cognitively hard work to be honest and engaged, and for any number of reasons, a lot of people aren’t willing and/or able to do it. Indeed, even I do a fair amount of heuristic shortcutting at this stage (vs. being a wonk), but at least I did go down a number of those rabbit holes and deep dives and wrestling to come to where I am today. Some people never take them time to challenge their beliefs, b/c they don’t have the interest, time, ability, or stomach for it.

    …is my sense of it, at least.

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