Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow Are Pissed at This WaPo Critic Over UCSB Shooting Column

| Tue May 27, 2014 1:41 PM EDT

In response to the mass shooting that took place near the University of California, Santa Barbara, on Friday night, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday wrote that the killer's YouTube manifesto was a "sad reflection of the sexist stories we so often see on screen." While pointing to a broader "sexist movie monoculture" that can be "toxic for women and men alike," Hornaday specifically highlights Neighbors—a recently released, critically acclaimed comedy starring Seth Rogen—and Judd Apatow movies:

How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like "Neighbors" and feel, as [the shooter Elliot] Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of "sex and fun and pleasure"? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, "It's not fair"?

Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it. The myths that movies have been selling us become even more palpable at a time when spectators become their own auteurs and stars on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.

Part of what makes cinema so potent is the way even its most outlandish characters and narratives burrow into and fuse with our own stories and identities. When the dominant medium of our age — both as art form and industrial practice — is in the hands of one gender, what may start out as harmless escapist fantasies can, through repetition and amplification, become distortions and dangerous lies.

Hornaday goes on to discuss the important issue of the state of women in Hollywood. But her Apatow and Rogen-related commentary is what caught the very public attention of, well, Apatow and Rogen.

Here's Rogen, responding on Twitter on Monday:

 

 

Apatow weighed in more heavily, and shared his thoughts on how he believes American media outlets profit from mass murder:

 

 

 

 

Hornaday did not immediately respond to Mother Jones' request for comment.

UPDATE, May 27, 2014, 3:04 p.m. EST: Hornaday responded to Rogen, Apatow, and her other critics in the following Washington Post video:

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In "X-Men: Days of Future Past" This Real-Life US President Is (Probably) a Mutant

| Fri May 23, 2014 12:45 PM EDT

This post contains some spoilers.

The X-Men film series, about a class of mutant superheroes and villains, has always been about the persecution of minorities. The first installment, 2000's X-Men, drew soft parallels between the US government hunting for mutants and past Nazi atrocities. The story for 2011's X-Men: First Class, was directly influenced by the civil rights movement and the contrast between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the latest installment, X-Men: Days of Future Past (directed by Bryan Singer, and starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Peter Dinklage, and Ellen Page), this theme continues with a storyline surrounding a fictional program from the early 1970s, approved by President Richard Nixon, that involves sending killer robots after America's closeted mutant population. The film's political backdrop also features a mutant-ized take on the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, where the US agreed to end direct military involvement in the Vietnam War. On top of that, the new X-Men flick deepens the alternate history explored in the franchise by suggesting that this handsome devil was secretly a mutant:

John F. Kennedy
NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Yep. That's John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States.

In the film, Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto, (played by Fassbender) is being held in a secret prison beneath the Pentagon for his alleged involvement in the JFK assassination. After his fellow X-Men break him out of prison, he claims that he was wrongly convicted and that he was actually trying to save the president from Lee Harvey Oswald's bullet. His reason? "He was one of us," Magneto says.

To be fair, this is a brief moment in the movie, and it is never clarified if "one of us" means JFK was a mutant or something along the lines of a friend of the oppressed mutant community. One plausible interpretation of Magneto's claim here is that it pays homage to the aborted "Princess Diana is a zombie mutant superhero!" plot from the X-Statix spin-off.

We can only assume that JFK's secret mutant powers consisted of killing Iraqi liberals and rampant lechery.

Now here's a fake mini-documentary released in November that summarizes Magneto's alleged involvement in the JFK assassination:

A Half-Sentence Review of Adam Sandler's New Movie "Blended"

| Fri May 23, 2014 12:07 PM EDT

 

On an intellectual level I know watching this movie wasn't actually worse than being eaten alive by a herd of rabid beasts but…

 

 

Here's What a Glorious Nintendo Gay Wedding Would Look Like

| Mon May 19, 2014 3:59 PM EDT

On Sunday's episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver celebrated the tenth anniversary of gay marriage in America; on May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriages. In the segment (watch above), Oliver highlights one of the "unusual obstacles" that marriage equality still faces: In the English version of Tomodachi Life, Nintendo new life-simulator video game, players do not have the option of participating in same-sex virtual relationships. After the game's release, Nintendo apologized for "disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships," and seemed to imply that any future installments in the Tomodachi series would include same-sex romance.

Oliver and co. had fun with this, and imagined how the characters of the Nintendo world would react to the news of Nintendo's statement:

1. Mario and Link celebrate and make out:

Nintendo gay marriage
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

 

2. Princess Peach and Princess Zelda engage in some foreplay:

Nintendo gay marriage
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

 

3. Yoshi and Toad get hitched:

Nintendo gay wedding
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

 

4. Bowser weeps at the funeral of his "longtime partner" Donkey Kong:

Nintendo same-sex relationships
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Click here to listen to my recent conversation with Oliver about the wild humor and smart commentary of Last Week Tonight.

How the Iraq War Influenced the "Godzilla" Reboot

| Fri May 16, 2014 4:03 PM EDT

You might have already heard that the images of destruction in the new Godzilla movie (starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and Bryan Cranston) were largely inspired by real-world disasters. "As we were writing the film, the horrible events in Fukushima [where a tsunami caused a nuclear meltdown] happened and we had to make the decision: Do we stay away from that or do we acknowledge that you've opened this Pandora's box of nuclear power, and when it goes wrong, it really does go wrong?" director Gareth Edwards told the Daily News. (The original Godzilla film, Gojira, was cleverly critical of US nuclear testing, and the critically maligned 1998 Godzilla, directed by Roland Emmerich, blamed Godzilla's wrath on nuclear tests in French Polynesia.)

The 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina are also given visual nods in Edwards' version of Godzilla. Furthermore, the director drew on the horrors and devastation of modern warfare. Edwards says that he and his crew revisited images from Iraq, Afghanistan, World War II, and other conflicts.

"You sit down on Day One with all of the different heads of department and you say, 'OK, let's take this seriously, let's do this realistically,'" Edwards tells Mother Jones. "There's never really going to be giant monsters that come out of the ocean and smash a city and cause a tsunami and things like this. But, there are events that smash cities and cause tsunamis within nature and war, and so you don't have to think very hard to recall that imagery. It's so scarred in our minds that as we are creating the movie, we are getting all of those reference images and it's nearly impossible not to be influenced by them."

One of the first things Edwards did when he started this project was he went out and bought photography and history books and then studied them closely with his team. "We literally sat down and had a hundred different books," Edwards says. "A lot of war books, a lot of aftermath, whether it be terrorist or natural disasters; just because people are so familiar with that imagery that…now we have a reference for what it's supposed to look like when a giant monster comes…Science fiction is not really about the future. It's about the time today when it was made and it's reflecting the things of the moment."

Here are a couple shots from the film that have a wartime or natural-disaster vibe:

Godzilla

 

Godzilla 2014
Images courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Department of Defense cooperated with the filmmakers, which gave Edwards and his crew access to aircraft carriers and US soldiers, some of whom appear in the movie as extras.

If you'd like to check out a full transcript of the roundtable discussion a few critics and I had with Edwards, click here. Now, here's the trailer for the latest Godzilla:

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