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Thread: Does American culture think rage is strength?

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    Does American culture think rage is strength?

    It seems to me that this is so.

    It's contrary to the Greeks, who associated rage with Ares, who always ended up looking like a loser.
    Nobody really admires the guy that throws a temper tantrum to get his way, they just acquiesce because they want him to shut the fuck up.

    Passion seems privileged over perspective.

    Some people make a point of holding on to anger, because it gives them purpose. But it seems like that can be a Sisphyean task. Not being angry can be a cause for anxiety, so a new source must be sought out.

    Being an asshole doesn't stop other people from being an asshole, it just creates more assholes.

    It's like a country being suicide bombed, and then bulldozing villages in response, and then wondering why the suicide bombings didn't stop.

    I always had a greater tendency to lose my cool when I felt weak, not when I felt strong.

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    Pan_Sonic_000
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    Let me bang, bro!


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    Senior Member skip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pan_Sonic_000 View Post
    Let me bang, bro!
    Roid rage + alcohol = tears
    Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that a problem.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    The entire Incredible Hulk franchise seems to directly embody this concept, so I'd say yes, there's something to this.


    I'd also say to think about gender stereotypes. Anger is sort of the one emotion that men are allowed to have, and in fact it seems to be the one emotion that is socially constructed as masculine. We have pejorative terms for women who exhibit rage, suggesting cultural conventions view it as an emotion women aren't really supposed to express.

    Men are supposed to stoically suppress sadness, fear, and pain, but express anger when they feel it. Women are supposed to do the opposite--express sadness, fear, pain, etc but stoically suppress anger when they experience it. Or, in other words--male rage is strength. Female rage is a weakness.

    I sort of wonder if a lot of the spree-killer types are dealing complexes related to this contradiction, and if that's partially why they're so overwhelmingly likely to be male. Being overcome by an emotion like despair or loneliness is not something that's supposed to happen to you if you're male, but if you can transmute it into anger at... well, someone (probably doesn't really matter who), then the impulse to acknowledge and express your emotional state stops being a fault in and of itself. While mainstream culture of course doesn't look well on randomly targeted violence, at least people will sort of relate to a guy who "just can't take" being extremely angry, whereas a guy who "just can't take" being extremely sad or extremely fearful or what have you is just seen as a weak person who should be more in control of himself. Internalize that, and perhaps it starts to seem logical that the appropriate response to your feelings of despair is to take them out on other people in an aggressive way.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
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    Senior Member Makers's Avatar
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    Meae Musae Servus Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico View Post
    The entire Incredible Hulk franchise seems to directly embody this concept, so I'd say yes, there's something to this.
    I disagree. The reason I disagree is that Banner fears becoming the Hulk. He doesn't use the Hulk to make a point. If he voluntarily uses the Hulk at all, it's because the risks of not using the Hulk outweigh the anticipated cost in collateral damage, but the bulk of the stories I've seen and read were predicated on the idea that Banner did not want to be the Hulk.

    Now, in time, this story shifted and went through several iterations of Banner's relationship to the Hulk, and even what the Hulk was. The original Hulk was a dumb rage blind and powerful meathead who was like a natural disaster leaving wreckage in his wake in response to Banner losing his temper. Banner spent much of his time trying to not get angry, but getting caught up in stupid shit that eventually made him angry (or afraid).

    If you look at the TV series, there is an interesting result that even in his mindless rage, he always remembered who he was trying to save, and so his angry outbreaks were always tempered by some measure of compassion. And then, when it was over, Banner left because he was always on the run from emotional triggers.

    In the comic, there was a fantastic storyline where they ramped up the schism. The Grey Hulk, was brilliant, and Hulky, but not a rage addict. He was definitely on the sociopathic end of the spectrum given his ability to rise to prominence in organized crime--is indicates as certain flexibility in morals and ethics. There were some clever tricks employed to keep Banner in the dark, or keep Banner sufficiently traumatized to return to Hulk form-- but they were just a different mode of talking about Banner's struggle to control his emotions.

    The Hulk isn't primarily about rage being strength, but primarily about rage being dangerous and out of control. The modern Hulk where hulk-mode is on all the time, apparently as a result of Banner resolving childhood traumas and making peace with his fractured psyche, well, I can't speak to that much as it's well beyond the time I was actively following the Hulk, and while I've seen and read some of it, it doesn't really feel "Hulky" to me.
    I'm suspicious of people who say they'll die for a flag but won't wear a mask for their neighbor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Mexico View Post

    I sort of wonder if a lot of the spree-killer types are dealing complexes related to this contradiction, and if that's partially why they're so overwhelmingly likely to be male.
    This is something I think about too, which doesn't mean that I excuse it or think of him as a victim. I mean, rage is corrosive, but it's usually associated with power in our society.

    Quote Originally Posted by skip View Post
    Roid rage + alcohol = tears
    I think some concern should also exist for the tears of a clown (when there's no one around).
    Last edited by msg_v2; 05-31-2014 at 11:59 PM.

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    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    The dirty secret is that rage - and more importantly, it's corollaries of destruction, vengeance and finally, redemption - is only for heroes. And Joe Blow doesn't get to be a hero. He has to keep his head down, work hard, not complain, and when things go wrong for him, it's his own damn fault and nobody else's. Wrath pertains to the gods, or the closest thing to it, the government. A leader can drag the country to war against another nation, punish them for whatever affront they represent to the values of freedom and democracy, "lay their vengeance upon them", and here it is justified because the destruction unleashed by that wrath emanates from power. Might makes right, power justifies itself. (With a little help from religious rhetoric, sure.)

    Everybody else? Men and women included, really, this is not about the sexes anymore. This is about the fact that anger is an emotion with serious consequences, the first stage of self-affirmation against an injustice. Anger looks for a culprit, it lashes out. It means someone else is to blame besides yourself. And because of that, it's dangerous, it has to be supressed. Now you can call me crazy, but this type of suppression doesn't work best in all those shitty countries that make the news when they resort to violence against their own citizens. It works best in the United States, where capitalist democracy has developed a much stronger, more stable and more refined network of mechanisms to suppress dissidence; everything from media propaganda, education in schools, the mental health profession, the pharmaceutical industry, the illegal drug industry, corporate cultures, religious fundamentalism, political correctness, censorship in its various forms, and all of the channels through which ideology is transmitted. An ideology of individualism that tells you that regardless of whether you win or lose, you're doing it on your own, and nobody owes you anything. It's an ideology so strong that nobody calls it ideology.

    It simply is not your god-given right to rage.


    Last edited by Madrigal; 06-01-2014 at 03:36 AM.
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    like a fine whine i have improved with rage

  10. #10
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    I disagree. The reason I disagree is that Banner fears becoming the Hulk. He doesn't use the Hulk to make a point. If he voluntarily uses the Hulk at all, it's because the risks of not using the Hulk outweigh the anticipated cost in collateral damage, but the bulk of the stories I've seen and read were predicated on the idea that Banner did not want to be the Hulk.

    Now, in time, this story shifted and went through several iterations of Banner's relationship to the Hulk, and even what the Hulk was. The original Hulk was a dumb rage blind and powerful meathead who was like a natural disaster leaving wreckage in his wake in response to Banner losing his temper. Banner spent much of his time trying to not get angry, but getting caught up in stupid shit that eventually made him angry (or afraid).

    If you look at the TV series, there is an interesting result that even in his mindless rage, he always remembered who he was trying to save, and so his angry outbreaks were always tempered by some measure of compassion. And then, when it was over, Banner left because he was always on the run from emotional triggers.

    In the comic, there was a fantastic storyline where they ramped up the schism. The Grey Hulk, was brilliant, and Hulky, but not a rage addict. He was definitely on the sociopathic end of the spectrum given his ability to rise to prominence in organized crime--is indicates as certain flexibility in morals and ethics. There were some clever tricks employed to keep Banner in the dark, or keep Banner sufficiently traumatized to return to Hulk form-- but they were just a different mode of talking about Banner's struggle to control his emotions.

    The Hulk isn't primarily about rage being strength, but primarily about rage being dangerous and out of control. The modern Hulk where hulk-mode is on all the time, apparently as a result of Banner resolving childhood traumas and making peace with his fractured psyche, well, I can't speak to that much as it's well beyond the time I was actively following the Hulk, and while I've seen and read some of it, it doesn't really feel "Hulky" to me.
    I may be overstating the case referring to the entire franchise, but the basic premise is still that there's this guy who transforms into a figure of superhuman strength when he gets angry.

    It's not a series I've ever read extensively. I do note the element of Banner's internal struggle to control his emotions being a major theme.

    Then again, consider fan reactions to the various films. The widely panned Ang Lee film played Banner's situation for melancholy pathos, stressing how it forced him to alienate himself from the world. I haven't seen the Avengers movie, but I did see the Edward Norton one, which goes over that element of the origin story but almost seems to ultimately fit a Campbellian "hero reluctantly embraces his heroic destiny" archetype. The climax is this big triumphal moment where he's put in a bind and has to resolve it by finally embracing his Hulk side and letting loose. This version did a lot better than the Ang Lee one, which does kind of jibe with what msg is observing here--people wanted the fantasy of just going apeshit with rage and becoming an unstoppable force when you do.

    Comic series of course get the luxury of portraying character arcs in sophisticated, complex ways that movies just can't fit into a decent runtime. Actually, this reminds me of something I was just thinking about after reading a Cracked article (this one)--I was noting that the author had, without saying so, stumbled on the extensive similarity between modern superhero stories and ancient Greek mythological literature.

    Now that thought has become serendipitously relevant to msg's observation about portrayals of Ares. Specifically, the one superhero comic I ever was a serious follower of was X-Men, and I'm enough of a fanboy to be slightly annoyed at how the movies portray Wolverine--they make him the main character, which is unfaithful to the source material because to do that you have to redraw the character as fit for that role. In the comics, he plainly isn't, and his role on the team reflects that.

    Comics-Wolverine is not a guy you want in charge of anything. Yes, he's a fan favorite, but the central characters are Xavier, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Wolverine is there as much to be a pain in their asses as to help them out. Any situation where your best bet involves counting on Wolverine to come through for you is already a clusterfuck by definition. (The second and third movies seem to make a point of sidelining or, in the case of the third one, outright killing Cyclops in the first act so we can be treated to just such a clusterfuck "well, I guess we'll have to rely on Wolverine" situation, but the, er, poorly aspected and chaotic nature of those situations when they occur in the comics is left out.) The guy is a borderline psychopath who only justifies his presence on the team by reliably exhibiting just enough self-control, most of the time, to avoid crossing the thin line between asset and liability. Cyclops is a level-headed, introverted, philosophical type, and the fun of having Wolverine around is how a guy who is pure destructive id tends to constantly monkey-wrench the meticulously constructed strategies and worldview of someone like that.

    So basically if Xavier is Zeus and Cyclops is Apollo, Wolverine is Ares. His role in perplexing situations is to chime in with the helpful advice of "you know, have we considered a more direct approach of just killing the shit out of something?" with the resulting dialectic about why that actually wouldn't be a very good plan occasionally leading to the synthesis of more sophisticated ideas that might not have occurred to anyone absent his shit-stirring. Otherwise he's essentially comic relief, or the one who handles tasks which are regrettably necessary but... unsavory to everyone else--and that's only counting the situations where he's actually useful instead of fucking things up by being a damn psychopath, which is like half the time. You don't actually want to take Wolverine's advice--like, ever, about anything, unless it pertains to treating a hangover or wrestling bears or something like that. He only gets away with taking his own advice because he's fucking immortal.

    But of course by the time somebody decides to make an X-Men movie, we've all grown to accept Wolverine as the team's lovably crazy uncle who just got some wires crossed in his head by some shit he went through in Vietnam. In turn, the filmmakers' desire to pander to this outstrips any weak impulse they ever felt to take on the franchise's deeper philosophical themes in a faithful way, so Cyclops becomes just a dork with a stick up his ass who dies in the first 20 minutes, and the rest of the movie is The Wolverine Show. Except comics-Wolverine also has to be prettied up into Hugh Jackman-Wolverine to make this work, and the implications are a little bit bothersome if you happen to have been a fan of the comics because you actually liked all the complicated philosophical stuff. Showing how Xavier's ideology of qualified pacifism can be severely tested but still prove itself more robust and realistic than Magneto's "let's just kill the shit out of our problems" worldview, and his students' struggles to grow into an understanding of this in the midst of temptations to abandon the path of enlightenment, get shunted to irrelevancy by watching... er, well, watching Wolverine solve every problem by killing the shit out of it.

    Woopsie.

    Kinda missed the point a bit there, guys, but oh well. You made your money, and yes, my inner 13-year-old's heart did jump for joy a bit when I was looking through the X2 DVD's special features section and noticed something titled "Extended Wolverine-Deathstrike fight." (Which I watched compulsively like half a dozen times.)

    Damn you for knowing me so well. Fuck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

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