Lessons From…Scandal: “A Door Marked Exit”

Somehow I have not written about one of my new television obsessions, Scandal. Frankly, it is a near sin that I have yet to discuss this amazing program. There are several episodes and scenes I could choose from, but the one I really want to focus on is Season 3’s 10th episode, “A Door Marked Exit.” Specifically the scene between Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and Rowan Pope (Joe Morton). As usual SPOILERS ahead.

This, in my honest opinion, is one of the best scenes in television because it follows one of the golden rules of a visual medium: show don’t tell. We get the history of these two men and their relationship/connection by the words they speak, but we get their true, core character by the way they speak and sit and move and stare one another down.

Fitz (it’s the standard shortening for the show and will be easier for this post) uses Olivia, Rowan’s daughter, to try to get a rise out of Rowan because it would work on him. Throughout the entire series Olivia has been Fitz’s weakness. Anytime she is involved, his capacity for rational, intelligent thought drops immeasurably. He becomes like a whining child searching for his favorite toy or blanket. Olivia is his safety net which is why she is his weakness because he relies on her to find himself. The problem is that she is Fitz’s weakness, not Rowan’s; at least, not in the same way. Our weaknesses are personal, not universal. Just because something affects you, does not mean it will have any effect on someone else. Understanding ourselves is a strong advantage but to win a battle understanding our opponents is key.

scandal pope vs fitz 2

That smug look is going to be completely wiped off his face in a few moments.

Rowan knows people and organizations and understands power. He would have to considering that he runs the most powerful black ops organization in this world. Rowan knows why he is shackled to a chair. He knows why the president is berating and interrogating him. He knows what his situation is and he does not care. Because more importantly he knows the man before him, Fitzgerald Grant. Unlike Fitz, Rowan knows true conflict. He has fought and scraped for what he has. His struggle has changed him and influenced his character. Rowan started off low and had to rise to his position. Besides killing, which he did much of, the only way to rise in any organization, outside of power being handed to you, is to understand the people within it. Rowan could read Fitz from the moment he saw him because that is what Rowan has been doing his entire life. It is the way he survived and flourished amid the turbulence and uncertainty of his enemies. Knowing ourselves brings enlightenment; knowing others brings power. Nothing is more powerful or advantageous than knowing how our opponents, and at times allies, think, feel, knowing their desires and pains and worries.

This is the face of a man who don't have time for your shit.

This is the face of a man who don’t have time for your shit.

Of course, this confrontation is eventually resolved but not by either of these men. It is solved by Olivia because she knows both these men. She has her father’s skills and tenacity and understands how they operate. More importantly, she knows how to manipulate them because of her understanding.  It is not just enough to have the skills, but you must be willing to do what is necessary, even set aside pride, to get the mission/job/work completed. Unlike Rowan, Olivia is willing to work outside of prestige and power and humble herself to get at the core or heart of the matter. It is the key element that makes her different, and superior, to her father.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

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Lessons From…Ozymandias

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog (and why wouldn’t you, honestly), you’ve probably noticed a trend of discussing legacy, immortality, and achieving some sense of greatness/grandeur that surpasses one’s lifetime. It is still a thought and desire that haunts, but I wanted to examine another perspective this time around. What are the results of such a dogged pursuit of immortality and infamy? Amazingly, I think the best possible answer comes from the past classics of all places; the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

  “I MET a Traveler from an antique land,
Who said, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings.”
Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!
No thing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

While the poem is pretty spectacular, there is something to be said for hearing it out loud by the right voice, so:

Although we foolish men try to create empires and totems and anything that will leave a mark on this Earth, everything we create will eventually crumble and turn to dust and ash and be retaken by the ground beneath us. Even though this knowledge should be deflating, I actually find it kind of inspiring. If everything we make is ultimately lost and forgotten by the ravages of time and nature, then the only thing that really matters is the act of creation.

After all, it is through the process that the transfer of knowledge, the evolution of art, and the growth of self actually occurs. And as much as my ego would love to be remembered long past my eventual demise, I also want to be worthy of that possibility, and that is not currently truth.

Besides, none of the past greats were trying to gain immortality; they were simply pursuing their art and passion. Acclaim was a happy accident. Maybe it will be one I am lucky to find as well. In the meantime, I will keep creating and pursuing perfection and be content in the process and where I finally land.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…Gotham (SE3 “The Last Laugh”)

Admittedly, season one of the Gotham series was a bit lackluster for me. It just didn’t seem to really know what it wanted to be and was basically all over the place. Frankly, I wasn’t sure that I was going to keep up with the show, but I am a Batman fan, so slap that bat logo on something and I will watch. Season two seems to be more concise and sure of itself. It is still far too early to tell if it is actually a good show, but so far it appears to be better than its previous season. Part of this improvement, in my humble opinion, has to do with upping the insanity and quality of the villains. There were several prominent villainous figures up to the third episode of the current season, “The Last Laugh,” and the emerging villains and few heroes all share one common element which is the focus of this post. As always SPOILERS ahead.

The episode centered on the next phase of Theo Galavan’s, the newest big bad of Gotham, master plan for controlling the city of Gotham. After breaking free six demented psychopaths from Arkham Asylum and allowing them free reign and destruction to their black hearts’ content. He has already lost a few of his make shift crew, but the plan keeps chugging along with the de facto leader of the self prescribed and named MANIAX, Jerome Valeska (Gotham‘s proto-Joker) taking center stage of a hostage situation. All the key players of Gotham end up involved: Jim Gordon, Jerome, Bruce Wayne, and Theo Galvan. The ultimate result is expected and, honestly, not entirely necessary because the real meaning is what happens after the hostage situation is resolved and what these four central figures have in common; legacy.

Basic Oedipus rule: You want to achieve greatness, kill your dad.

Basic Oedipus rule: You want to achieve greatness, kill your dad.

Jerome wants to be famous. He wants Gotham, and the world, to know his name and to fear him. He will do anything and everything to achieve this singular goal. Jerome breaks into Gotham Police’s Headquarters and kills the commissioner along with several officers. He murders his own father in cold blood to further Galvan’s agenda. And he has no issue with killing an innocent child, Bruce Wayne, simply because of boredom and orders. Jerome is insane, but he basically wants to leave a legacy behind him. He wants to be remembered beyond his years so that generations say his name. And according to the episode’s end, his wish may actually be granted. He is not the only one who is concerned with how history will remember him.

Theo Galvan believes that the city and citizens of Gotham have done him and his family a great disservice and insult. His family, according to him, built Gotham, yet they have no recognition for their efforts. Galvan feels that his family should stand alongside the great families of Gotham like the Waynes and Keans. Like Jerome, Theo has no qualms about getting his hands dirty to achieve his family’s redemption and secure his own legacy as savior, protector, and creator of Gotham. Hell, he broke out crazy murderers and is responsible for the capture, detainment, and murder of several prominent political and social leaders. Galvan’s want his name to be in the minds and memories of Gotham’s citizens forever. He wants to etch his name into its skyline alongside Wayne. Really, he wants to eradicate every other prominent family and rise above them. It is the only thing that matters to him. The world can crumble as long as he gets to stand on the ashes, or at the very least his name is whispered and revered by the survivors.

Yup that's the face of comic book villain. I can just here him monologuing...

Yup that’s the face of comic book villain. I can just here him monologuing…

James “Jim” Gordon is the only police respondent to the hostage situation orchestrated by Theo and Jerome. He is also, at this point, the only positive force in the Gotham Police. Gordon is a former soldier who just wants to do a good job and have a positive impact on his city. He (in this continuity) was born and raised in Gotham and believes that it can be a great and safe city again. This is his driving mission. He will risk his life, love, safety, and sanity to make his vision of a safe and thriving Gotham a reality.

These three individuals all have different, and at times conflicting, but interconnected goals. Most of all, they are simply concerned with their individual legacies. One wants infamy, one wants power, and one wants salvation, but all want nothing more than to leave something behind that masses will remember.  However, the world and path they walk is not a secure one and will most likely end in death, so like all great individuals they need to create a legacy that will survive them. It is the most any of us can hope for, but we also need to ensure that our legacies are worth remembering. In this respect, James is the only one that can truly succeed because his vision is concerned with people while Galvan’s and Jerome’s are concerned with buildings and fear. People will always live on and through them it will be how we continue on and perhaps achieve a sense of immortality and legacy.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

 

Lessons From…Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird On the Internet (Almost)

So, if you are reading this, there is 99.99% chance you know who Felicia Day is. If not, here. Now that that is taken care of, I recently finished her stellar book You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). There isn’t any specific section that can be removed and examined more closely since it is all necessary to understanding the narrative and intended message of the text.

Accordingly, I will recommend that you read the entire book and gleam what you can and must. I will however leave this small excerpt in hopes of enticing you further:

feliciadaybookexcerpt

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Lessons From…Batman: The Animated Series

A few years ago, my friends gifted me seasons 1 & 2 of Batman: The Animated Series for my birthday. They know me very well because this television show is, in my honest opinion, quite frankly one of the best programs ever to have been put on television.

Yeah, it was the 90’s, so maybe the animation isn’t up to your modern standards, but trust me when I emphasize the amazing awesomeness of this show. It was a great Batman iteration with legitimately well crafted, fully realized characters and interesting, complex narratives. You must see this program before you die, and after re-watching a few episodes this weekend felt like writing on it. As always SPOILERS ahead.

Almost wish I could do this to myself to rewatch the incredible Batman: Animated Series again with no info.

Almost wish I could do this to myself to rewatch the incredible Batman: Animated Series again with no info.

So modern pop culture has been inundated of late with various variations of Batman, most notable the blockbuster Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. But most of the interpretations tend to be hyperbolic and utterly without nuance focusing on the violence, toys, or seeming insanity of the character. For some reason, the animated series have always done a better job of truly exploring the Batman and his world than the films or live action franchises.

Not a lot of nuance in Christian *gravely voice "Swear to Me"* Bale.

Not a lot of nuance in Christian *gravely voice “Swear to Me”* Bale.

The best part of any superhero is the rogue’s gallery, aka the villains that are truly considered the greatest enemies that the hero faces. For Superman his rogue’s gallery consists of Darkseid, Lex Luthor, etc. For Wonder Woman, Morgana, Ares, etc. would make up her arch nemeses. For Batman, the obvious choices are the Joker, Bane, Two-Face, Catwoman, etc. However, what really makes worthy villains and enemies is when they go beyond simple caricatures and inform the audience and public about the true nature of the hero. This is never more apparent than when examining the villains and rogues of the Batman: Animated Series universe.

They look dorky, but they are really bad ass.

They look dorky, but they are really bad ass.

Batman is not supposed to be a near invincible brute who can pummel any foe into submission or acquire a new toy for when the occasion calls for it; he is supposed to be a force of hope and salvation for the down trodden and weak, a victim of unfortunate circumstances who wants nothing more than to ensure his tragedy is no one else’s. His charity and goodwill does not stop at the people of Gotham as he extends himself unto his enemies as well. Pretty much every episode involves one of Batman’s nemesis at the forefront with the narrative revolving around them. However, it is not some foolish story about money or simple vengeance. Instead, we, through Batman, are encouraged to empathize with and understand the villain’s motivations and true nature. There are never excuses for their actions, but there are reasons for them. In essence, villains and enemies, basically anyone, are fully realized individuals worthy of empathy, understanding, and dignity. Honestly, look at virtually any episode and you will see this; from Mr. Freeze to Catwoman to Penguin to Harley Quinn to even Joker, they all have intrigue and humanity.

Seriously, watch Heart of Ice and try to not shed a tear. It's only possible if you're a monster!

Seriously, watch Heart of Ice and try to not shed a tear. It’s only possible if you’re a monster!

Beyond the villains, Batman himself is treated like an actual person and not some poor excuse for a plot device. He legitimately struggles with the notion of living a dual life and trying to genuinely find a balance between the two. As well, he actually uses his money for charitable and scientific endeavors that would in theory benefit the people of Gotham instead of, you know, blowing up the major railway system and never fixing it *cough* Fuck you, Batman Begins *cough*. Early in the series, there is an episode where Bruce Wayne, under the influence of fear gas by Scarecrow, worries over the legacy of the Wayne name and whether his family would approve of the trajectory of his life. It is a great episode because we see more than just the mask but the man beneath it who at times suffers at the cost of wearing it. Superheroes are both the hero and the human underneath the costume; ignore one and you lose half a character along with intrigue and possibility. Most of us are more than one thing and we risk our happiness and sanity; ironically, much like Batman.

Truthfully, I could go on and on about this amazing show, but frankly you should explore its awesomeness on your own because it really is the best presentation of Batman, his enemies, and the true core psychology and heart of the Batman mythos and universe I have ever seen.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

P.S. For one last taste:

 

Lessons From…American Ultra

Alright, so this post is going to be a little different from the standard Monday/’Lessons” post. Normally, I mention seeing, reading, or playing something and then analyze a few possible takeaway morals or ideas from the overall work. This time around, the “lessons” won’t be concerning the narrative but more the actual film and how it worked, or more accurately how it didn’t. However, as always there will still be SPOILERS ahead.

Should I get a new image?

Should I get a new image?

So before we really dive into the issues I had with American Ultra, I think you will need to see the trailer at the very least for any of this to make sense.

Doesn’t that pretty much scream stoner action comedy? It did to me, so when I went to see the movie that was pretty much what I was expecting. Unfortunately, that is not what I got in the theater. Now, that is not to say that a film cannot subvert expectations for entertainment or social commentary. Many great films (both big budget and indie) have in the past to great results. Some random examples, and quality movies you should see, of such a thing are Tucker & Dale vs Evil, Cabin in the Woods, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Dot the I, and many more. Had this film attempted some form of subversion, I think I could have forgiven a few more aspects and enjoyed it more, but it didn’t even try that. Instead, what I was treated to was a jumbled mess of intriguing possibilities but ultimately unfinished and underdeveloped ideas and tangents.

So much damn potential...

So much damn potential…

Okay, before I get accused of trashing this film without cause, let’s get down to the finer points. First off, let this film be a lesson to all future productions in marketing. By that, I mean studios/distributors need to learn how to market the product they have and not the one they wish they could deliver. This film, based on the trailer, posters, and many of the interviews, was marketed as a stoner action comedy a la Pineapple Express for a younger generation. The problem is the film was never really any of those things. Yes, the two lead characters smoked pot, but were hardly stoners/potheads and weed had little impact on their overall lives. There were a few action sequences throughout the film, but they were all relatively short except for the final one near the end of the movie. And finally the comedic bits were few and far between within the film.

In all honesty, the movie was more of a romantic drama/coming of age story between the two main protagonists, Mike and Phoebe (Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart). Had the promos and marketing strategy revolved around that aspect, it would have been better done and possibly better received. Yeah, it might not have been seen as the stoner comedy of the summer, but isn’t it better to be more honest with your audience than to deliver a flop. Though, to be fair, the romantic subplot had its own major issues that will be discussed later. Overall, when your stoner action comedy has little action with a few comedic bits thrown in while one dude occasionally smokes weed, you have some issues with your film.

This promo banner has more smoke than the movie.

This promo banner has more smoke than the movie.

Beyond the marketing, which directors, actors, or writers rarely get a vote on, the actual narrative of the film was full of inconsistencies, incomplete tangents, and underdeveloped ideas. Seriously, I saw this movie about two weeks ago and still have questions/concerns about it.

Basic synopsis is Mike Howell is a burnt/forgotten/former CIA asset who lives in bumpkin town in Virginia with his girlfriend Phoebe and no memory of his past as the sole survivor/”success” of the ULTRA project. For some unknown (no seriously, the film never really bothers to explain why) reason, a new CIA sub-director decides that he needs to be killed, so he sends assassins, top secret (recently trained) TOUGHGUY  (again, not joking that is the code designation) assets, and essentially an army battalion against this one guy in a “covert” mission to end Mike’s life. Along the way, Mike is “activated” by his handler but still manages to be an ignorant nuisance while also being a fighting badass. We also learn that Mike’s entire life as he knows it has been a lie and that his girlfriend is actually also a former CIA asset. Eventually (rather quickly actually), Mike gets over this betrayal and takes down all the CIA assets that were sent against him. He then becomes a top secret Bond/Bourne style agent at the end.

Also, maybe Jesse Eisenberg is not the best action star material...

Also, maybe Jesse Eisenberg is not the best action star material…

Seems like a pretty good movie, or at least interesting, movie from that pitch right? Well, movies are longer than two minutes and that is where a lot of the problems come into play. The story just doesn’t make a lot of sense. To begin, the movie states that certain aspects of Mike’s brain were altered to ensure his safety, e.g. his crippling panic attacks whenever he tries to leave the town and all knowledge of his former life. Sure that makes sense to a degree, but did the CIA also deprive him of desire, passion, and basic common sense? Just because someone smokes pot doesn’t mean they want nothing out of life, but that is essentially the best way to describe Mike’s character. Lazy, impotent slacker who smokes pot and is mildly obsessed with his girlfriend. There was never a singly point in the film when I empathized or really cared about Mike’s story or progression/evolution (though there really wasn’t any on that front either). You can have stoner characters. You can write slacker characters. You can create pure evil or even ambivalent nuisances, but you must still make the audience care about them in some way or for some reason. If you don’t, you failed at your job.

Moving on to the character of Phoebe. Unlike Mike, she is fully aware of both her and Mike’s CIA past. She knows that he cannot physically leave the town without dire consequences beyond his panic attacks. Still she has, on multiple occasions, attempted to do so and then has the gall to be angry that he is unable to do so. If she loved him, wouldn’t she try to dissuade him from leaving since there would probably be a CIA death squad waiting for them at whatever their final destination happened to be? Secondly, the audience is supposed to believe that Phoebe was so in love with Mike that she literally gave up her life to be with him, but there is no evidence to suggest this. The movie begins with her being angry and disappointed with him about their inability to go to Hawaii (even though she knows they can’t go) and criticizing his slacker actions and ambitions. At no given point in the film, do we get the notion that they share a bond worth the sacrifices she made. In fact, half the time I wasn’t even sure she liked him so much as tolerated his actions.

This was about two to five minutes in and is the only time I thought they were a loving couple.

This was about two to five minutes in and is the only time I thought they were a loving couple.

Then the CIA comes into play. The lead antagonist, Adrian (played by Topher Grace), is characterized as a cowardly, narcissistic, brown-noser who got his high position on a technicality and through kissassery. Fine, I can see that. I have known several people like that throughout my life. Here’s the thing. Those type of people are not risk takers. They are not proactive go-getters. They are at best opportunistic scavengers. They would wait for the perfect easy win to impress their superiors. What they wouldn’t do is send their brand new assets to cause a lot of destruction and attention. They also would never act without their superior’s knowledge for fear of repercussion. More importantly, once failure kicked in, they would most certainly never double down on their bet as they would flee immediately and find the nearest scapegoat to pin it on. Basically, hardly any of the actions taken by the character of Adrian align with the type of character the film has developed. Also, it was never really clear why he wanted Phoebe taken in alive since she was, at that point, a major liability. I thought the movie was alluding to some sort of romantic triangle between Mike, Phoebe, and Adrian as the unrequited/scorned ex or something but if it was, again it was way underdeveloped.

Add to this a bunch of underwhelming secondary characters and unclear moral lessons and notions and you get a messy, incomplete story which is the major issue I had with the film. The tagline pitch sounded amazing. Stoner action comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg as a pothead who learns he is actually a CIA super killing machine. But here’s the issue, what’s the rest of the film? A two minute elevator pitch is great but a solid 90+ minute story is infinitely better.

It probably seems like I bagged on the writing a bit before, right? The reason it might seem that way is because I tend to focus on the writing (given my background) and because the screenwriter is what prompted me to consider this film. So, the screenwriter of American Ultra is Max Landis. Let me be perfectly clear: I don’t know the guy. I have never met him before. I don’t follow him on any social media site. And any opinion I have of him is completely informed and based upon interviews and social media retweeted/tumbled/etc. by someone else. If you want to get a glimpse of that, Google him yourself.

This guy.

This guy.

Now, I really liked his last major screenwriting project (that was actually made because, with my limited understanding of Hollywood, a few of his scripts have probably never seen the light of day much less actually created) Chronicle. Again, another solid elevator pitch. Three friends find this thing in the woods and develop super powers. Yeah, sounds cool. I’d go see that. However, that is just the weird add on because the core of the film is really the story of three friends from very different backgrounds/situations growing up and figuring out who they are and what they want out of life. Might not be the best elevator pitch, but it is a relateable, universal story. The whole superpower thing just makes it more interesting and gives it an edge. In comparison, the underlying story of American Ultra, slacker trying to get the guts to marry his girlfriend, is not quite as good because the end goal is too easy with the resolution being kind of unearned. Why? Well, simply because the slacker in question is not really trying to be or do anything other than the girl and has no real moment of change. Yeah, he finally goes and saves her from the CIA at the end, but 1. it felt too easy, 2. already had the skills built into him so no real development of abilities, and 3. for Mike saving the girl was the endgame. He would have seemingly been content to go back to working at the corner store and smoking pot for the rest of his life.

Anyhow, the reason I was focused on this film in particular is because of Landis’s criticism during the opening weekend of the film. Once more, you can Google it yourself, but essentially he was lamenting about the American movie going audience concerning their tastes. He could not understand how an original [emphasis mine] movie with two high caliber stars could do so poorly in theaters. His guess was that the current public is only interested in superhero movies or sequels. Now, I agree that there is definitely a deluge of superhero films, sequels, and movies with built in franchises and a severe lack of original IP. However, you don’t get brownie points for just being original. You actually need to deliver a wanted, quality product.

During the week leading up to the release of the film, a few people who had seen an early release or screening were hyping up the film as usually happens. Looking back, on the other hand, I noticed that almost all the positive praise was concerning the fact that the film was an original movie. Honestly, that was almost all that was positively said on social media (maybe I follow the wrong people).  Not much was said about the story, acting, cinematography, style, humor, characters, etc. It was about how they were glad there was an original film competing against the sequels. Which, once more, is great that original films can still get made, but if it does not do well (and if you have only had one prior ‘success’) maybe the audience is not the issue.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

(As an aside for the sake of discussion, maybe I am in the wrong here (though box office numbers and criticisms do not suggest it) and this will end up being a sleeper hit or cult movie. What do you think? Tell me below.)

Lessons From…The Admiral: Roaring Currents

I am a big fan of Asian cinema and movies. Loved the over the top Chinese kung fu (still think Drunken Master is the epitome of Jackie Chan’s work) and martial art films and the suspense thrillers that South Korea (Old Boy, anyone?) has been making recently. While the films from before 2000 were usually low budget and more campy/kitschy, recent movies from the East have been well done and more concerned and attentive to story, effects, characterization, and utilizing the medium to greater narrative potential. (Similar to the evolution of film in the West because our early films were not exactly high art either).

Honestly, this is probably why I have no issue paying for Netflix or Hulu because there are always random foreign movies and television shows to watch and enjoy. (Seriously, Korean dramas are infinitely better than 90% of American ones) During the weekend, a recommendation kept popping up and I finally gave in. I saw The Admiral: Roaring Currents on Saturday and was pleasantly delighted by the film.

Right? Don’t you want to go see this now? Anyhow, the film got me thinking and as usual I felt the urge to write a post on some thoughts. As always SPOILERS ahead.

Spoilers...

Spoilers…

The film, as seen in the trailer, tells the story of the Battle of Myeongnyang, a famous naval battle in 1597 between the Korean Joseon kingdom’s navy led by Admiral Yi Sun-sin against the invading Japanese navy in the Myeongnyang Strait. However, the actual battle does not really happen till near the end of the movie as most of the film is about Yi Sun-sin strategizing how to overcome the greater Japanese force and deal with his dwindling, frightened soldiers. In fact, this is one of the core themes of the film; fear and how to utilize it. Not coincidentally, it also happens to be the first lesson. Fear is simply an emotion and state of mind that can be used, controlled, and wielded like any other tool at your disposal.

All of Yi Sun-sin’s men have heard about the vast number of ships that the Japanese navy has. On top of that, they are aware of the losses suffered by another general at the hands of Japanese ships and the massive army that is on route to the capital. They are a small band of warriors, only 12 ships, against the full might of a superior force. Every single soldier is basically shitting themselves and spreading their fear and doubt to their fellow fighters and the peasants of the small village they are currently at. Yi Sun-sin sees this and understands that his men have lost heart. He knows that the odds are stacked against them and that they are probably doomed; however, he also is aware that the loss of hope is the worst possibly outcome. For his country and people to survive whatever outcome awaits, Sun-sin knows that they cannot succumb to the uncertainty and horror of their fear.

To be fair, I would probably be terrified if I had to face this with only 12 boats and a handful of men.

To be fair, I would probably be terrified if I had to face this with only 12 boats and a handful of men.

While I definitely love big action movies with idiotic fight sequences, what I really love and prefer about these types of films is that the protagonist has to implore some actual strategy to win. Frankly, the best generals, fighters, and battles were not the ones that were just tough and hearty. The ones that stand the tests of time and are remembered throughout history are the ones that involved a bit of intelligence, cleverness, and strategy. The Battle of Thermopylae (aka 300 Spartans thing) only happened because Leonidas was not an idiot and realized he could use the area to his advantage against the superior numbers of the Persian army. Same for most other well known military individuals, honestly. Strategy and intelligence trump sheer will, power, or strength 9 out of 10 times.

Yi Sun-sin knows how perilous and dire his circumstances are. However, he is no ordinary soldier. He is an admiral of the Joseon kingdom. The Japanese navy know this man. Its generals and admirals have lost battles and ships and men to this Admiral Yi Sun-sin. They know what he is capable of and a few among the Japanese ranks fear what he can do. Yi Sun-sin knows this and decides to use fear as a weapon and source of inspiration. He faces the immense Japanese forces alone, ordering his forces to stay behind, because of their fear. During the initial battle, he uses his knowledge of the waters and weather to trick his opponents and over power them. Granted its only the vanguard of the full force but that small victory inspires his men to finally move and great fear in the Japanese forces.

Yeah, I wouldn't want to be in a fight against this dude. Even 1 on 1.

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be in a fight against this dude. Even 1 on 1.

Eventually, Yi Sun-sin’s actions are enough to show the Japanese navy what they can expect if they continue to act against Joseon. The Japanese navy knows the costs of victory and turn away instead. That is the final lesson. Sometimes the only win we can achieve is simply making the other player leave. It’s not total. It’s not glorious. There will probably not be ballads and stories told about how you kept them at bay or from completely winning, but it keeps you alive and able to go on. And that is something worthwhile.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.