“The Spin Zone” – 12 lazy, petty, vindictive, lying pop culture media members with a motive

There’s a reason the media rarely is portrayed in popular culture. Where the government, the military, the police and criminals can all be portrayed as proactive forces, the media is very reactive. As such, they can be portrayed as easily manipulable, lazy, elitist, pretentions or just plain bothersome to those who actually have good honest work to do. This leads to the media taking a lot of flack in popular culture but, interestingly, most negative portrayals of the media end up saying far more about the creators and editors than the reporters they skewer.

1. Battlestar Galactica – “Final Cut”

“Battlestar Galactica” was a great show with a mess of storytelling problems, namely some of its more fascist tendencies. The show never had much tolerance for the pacifistic, meddling media but nowhere is this clearer than in the second season’s “Final Cut.” There, the Galactica excepts a well known journalist to make a newscast about the men and women who keep the battleship running. Of course, the reporter, Diana, turns out to be a Cylon, solely interested in collecting intel about the surviving humans. Its barely a twist and its a cruel one if you want to consider it that.

2. “Spider-Man”

J. Jonah Jameson doesn’t speak too much of anything but necessity. There was a desperate need for Peter Parker to have a villain that was able to hold a candle to the villains that Spider-Man routinely faced and the biased editor of The Daily Bugle served just that role. Jameson’s campaign against Spider-Man put Peter in a quandary and provided a solid enemy that was both untouchable and necessary.

3. NewsRadio – “The Real Deal”

NewsRadio had a lot too say about the vain, narcissistic, self-mythologizing and just plain mean men and women that made the news but it was always in service of humor. In one memorable episode, on-air columnist Bill McNeal, played by the late great Phil Hartman, has to nab a great interview to keep his show on the air. Naturally, his narcissism and inability to, y’know, talk to people, gets in the way of his interview with Jerry Seinfeld, so he gets creative in delivering his story.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – “Earshot”

By season three, Joss Whedon had ironed most of the problems out of his supernatural teen soap opera but the flaws are apparent in “Earshot.” Delayed because of the Columbine Massacre, Buffy becomes aware of someone planning a killing spree at Sunnydale High. The episode’s great red herring is the slightly goth school newspaper editor, a guy who’s writen nothing but negative, extremely pessimistic about the people and institutions of the school. Even when its revealed that he’s not behind the plot, there’s still an bitter taste left in the mouth.

5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Adam Jensen’s been dealing with the very worst of global corporations and espionage by the time he heads to Montreal to find some answers. There, he’s attacked by mercenaries and left to try to find newscaster Eliza Cassan who’s been manipulating satellites to hide several people Jensen thought dead.  In the world of “Deus Ex,” its not that the media is innately evil, more that they can be bought and sold by anyone with the credits or enough strength to take what they want.

6. Mr. Show with Bob and David – Scams and Flams

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross had done their fair share of parodies of the emptiness and shallow reporting that characterized the daily news. One of their best was the “Scams and Flams” sketch, focusing on a gullible local features reporter sent to investigate businesses that might be scams. He’s, however, bought off by a man running a wishing well/ice cream parlor. Mixing a parody of local news with one of gotcha journalism, its a dark and witty satire.

7. Blitz

Jason Statham vehicle, “Blitz” has a lot of incoherent things to say about police brutality, serial killers and stardom but its main message is one focused on serial killers wanting the fame that accompanies their killings. Its a popular belief, one that many conservatives have bought into as a way to assign a motive to shooters and the film makes the media complicit in the killer’s crimes, feeding his actions.

8.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

J.K. Rowling’s consistent portrayal of the Daily Prophet as a near faceless antagonist is one of the most troublesome aspects of her series. Where she turns writers such as Rita Skeeter into reporters more interested in an entertaining piece than a truthful one, she focuses most of his ire on the paper to their view on Voldemort. By “Order of the Phoenix,” the Prophet has been reduced to a mouthpiece for the Ministry of Magic. The only possible explanation for her choice was laziness. With an inability to clearly show the government’s denial of the dark lord’s return, she blamed much of the propaganda on the Prophet, even reducing them to cartoonish villains willing to run a smear campaign.

9. That Mitchell and Webb Look – What do you reckon?

As newspapers and network news gasp against user created media and online news, they’ve attempted to integrate community feedback, often to insane levels. A fantastic sketch from across the pond, Robert Mitchell and David Webb set up a news team that wants to hear whatever the viewer “reckons” about nearly anything and they’ll read it on the air just because they feel like they have to. As the sketch escalates, their boredom makes everything funnier, showing the ridiculousness of losing the professional line of separation.

10. Parks and Recreation – “The Reporter”

In the underrated first season of “Parks,” Leslie’s enthusiastic attempts to do something with the pit is thrown up against a never ending line of red tape. In “The Reporter” she faces the media as well as problems within her own team as Mark tells a reporter after sex that the pit will never be fixed. The episode affixes plenty of blame on the reporter for her unscrupulous reporting techniques and the Parks’ departments mistrust of the newspaper continues well past the episode. I mean, they still really hate the library, but they’re not in love with The Pawnee Sun.

11. Dr. Who – “The Long Game”

The problem with “The Long Game” is that the targeting of the media doesn’t quite go far enough. After Rose and the Ninth Doctor jump far into the future, they come across a media outlet that’s broadcasting programming for Earth in an attempt to keep the people of the planet complacent. Its kind of a weak plot, with a monster that isn’t intimidating enough or make enough sense making it another not quite cooked relic of the Eccleston era.

12. 24 – “9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.”

After the first season of FOX’s groundbreaking action series, viewers were left to deal with the international drama inherent in Palmer becoming president. The writers show their view of snooty, truth seeking reporters early when, after failing to bribe him, President Palmer imprisons correspondent Ron Wieland in a government facility. In the world of “24,” you either let the brave, strong, patriotic men do their work or you’re going to jail.

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“A rope stretched between bat and Batman” – 11 uncharacteristically adult episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series”

“Batman: The Animated Series” may be one of the most technically accomplished, innovative and well written animated series of all time, able to appeal to both adults and children alike. The show would occasionally handle this balance masterfully with classics such as “Heart of Ice,” “The Man Who Killed Batman,” “Trial” and “POV” but other times, they didn’t quite hit the mark. That, however, is when we really get into the head of the dark knight, exposing children to the mind-set of an aging billionaire who dresses up in leather to punch out psychopaths. For whatever reason, whether it be the aforementioned psychological content, sexual themes, long spanning Bat-style or plain old uber-violence, these are the episodes that should have gotten a second look before plopping the kids in front of the TV and might just have been more entertaining and well-rounded for their parents.

1. “Dreams in Darkness”

Clearly inspired by Grant Morrison’s “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth,” this episode finds Batman being checked into Arkham and having to confront the futility of his quest for justice as well as his own psychosis. Although there’s the copout of having Scarecrow being behind his enemy’s incarceration, the dream sequence in which Batman watches an amorphous blob morph into his enemies in disgusting ways is a standout sequence in the entire series.

2. “Mad Love”

“Mad Love” is a bit of an adult episode for an entirely different reason. While it does succinctly explain the origin of Harley Quinn and her obsession with the Joker, it is most remembered for a sequence in which Harley petitions the clown for sex, asking him if he’d like to “rev up his Harley” and then making the above shown motorcycle motion. There’s a difference between the innuendos that the show trafficked in early in the run and this one that makes the character’s relationship a bit too explicit.

3. “Two Face Part 1”

In what might be my favorite episode of the animated series and in my opinion, one of the most important moments in DC’s TV future, “Two Face Part 1” shows Dini’s genius by fundamentally changing Harvey Dent to make him an even more tragically flawed character. Here, Dent has been fighting a losing battle with schizophrenia, trying to hold back an angry and violent alter-ego. Dini is able to balance the idea that Dent may have always been damned to become a villain with the fact that he’s another character, much like Batman and the Joker, who just had a single terrible day.

4. “Sideshow”

Batman’s goal is to stop crime and his sole tools have always been fear and brute force. “Sideshow” is the first episode of the series to posit the idea that a villain could voluntarily leave crime behind. After a train escape, Killer Croc is on the run and he teams up with a rogue group of sideshow freaks. The entire episode focuses on his turmoil over whether he’ll be able to find a new life in a community that accepts him or if he craves anarchy.

5. “Harley’s Holiday”

Dini always adored writing Harley Quinn and it was rarely done as well as it was here. When Harley tries to go straight after being discharged from Arkham, she struggles to change the way she reacts to people, leaving beside her psychotic violence and cruel treatment of other people. The episode concludes with an incredible action sequence that sees all of Gotham turning against Harley but that’s nothing to the way Batman associates with and feels sorry for a girl who he sees much of himself in.

6. “Perchance to Dream”

One of the theories that fans love to debate is whether Batman is the alter ego of Bruce Wayne or the other way around. “Perchance to Dream” doesn’t try to answer the question definitively but it does show the way that Bruce Wayne needs to be Batman. The dark knight is Bruce’s purpose and as the episode advances, audiences see the lengths he’ll go to wear the cowl once again.

7. “Second Chance”

The relationship between Harvey and Bruce is one of the friendships that define the early episodes of the show and makes Harvey’s fate even more tragic. “Second Chance” takes another look at their relationship with Batman having to challenge the dichotomy between Two Face and Harvey and it leads to one of the most tense and heart-rending finales of  the series.

8. “House and Garden”

Its a shame that the animated series was so rarely able to really take advantage of everything that makes Poison Ivy such an effective character. Rather than use her femme fatale charms, here, she’s claiming to go legit, be a mother and totally give up all the killing and robbing. Instead, Ivy reveals how twisted her vision of the domestic life and the actual psychosis of the men and women who terrorize Gotham.

9. “Babydoll”

I’m always amazed when presumably children’s shows do episodes about the ennui of fame and the hollowness of public admiration. “Babydoll” pulls it off admirably, focusing less on the ways in which Babydoll’s life is empty and more on the tragedy of finding out how figuratively small you are. “Babydoll” ends up being one of the best combinations of literal and symbolic storytelling that the show could pull off. Rather than have a character who became a villain because of a tragedy, here, we’re exposed to a villain who is and will always be a tragedy.

10. “Deep Freeze”

“Heart of Ice” is the better and more memorable episode but “Deep Freeze” is a considerably more adult tale, with viewers not only having to deal with Mr. Freeze’s lost loves but also the loneliness he faces as an immortal that will never be able to feel. Freeze’s work with a blatant Walt Disney parody who wishes to be made immortal is cruelly ironic and the final image of him sinking into the sea, gazing at the frozen Nora is haunting.

11. “Legends of the Dark Knight”

One of the pleasures of being a long time reader of any comic series is seeing the ways that a book or a character changes in big and small ways. “Legends of the Dark Knight” shows a pair of vastly different versions of Batman, one based off of the art of 1940’s penciller Dick Sprang, with the other being a direct homage to “The Dark Knight Returns.” Its a fun episode and by the end, there’s an approachable look at the way that all the visions of Batman make for a character that people enjoy for a variety of reasons.

Summer Classes: Firefly

The last thing you want to do over the summer is catchup on things you’ve put off but sometimes, you need a couple of extra hours. So this summer, we’re debuting a new feature “Summer Classes,” where I explore my massive pop culture blind spots and write about my trip experiencing them. Here, we take on the first 6 episodes of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly.

For a long time, I didn’t really care to get into Joss Whedon. Of course, I knew people who really into it, who swore by “Buffy,” could quote “Angel” chapter and verse, and had opinions about a sci-fi show that I had never even heard of. I know some of my unearned distaste for Whedon was in the way he was presented by these people. No one ever talked about the worlds he created, the characters that were developed or the complex mythologies that were developed. Instead, people just mindlessly quoted the characters, making themselves out to be annoying Monty Python fans rather than people who had valid opinions about things.

A year ago, as the summer began, I started watching the first season of “Buffy,” the notoriously dull and hokey season of Whedon’s first work. I was unimpressed to say the least and abandoned it quickly. I was given no reason to keep going into the second season.

After “Cabin in the Woods,” I was given a reason to explore all of Whedon’s oeuvre. His 80’s horror homage was such a potent mix of genre defying  plot, the bitter and world weary sense of humor and the Lovecraftian conclusion showed me that the guy might deserve a second look. I started on a project (which will receive at least one additional post later) called the Summer of Whedon, and luckily, this class is helping me out.

Of all of Whedon’s cult shows, “Firefly” is the cultiest. The quickly abused and cancelled sci-fi show was treated beyond poorly by FOX and a ravenous group of fans have demanded more for the show for years. As a person who loves sci-fi, and as watched plenty of his favorite shows be trashed by FOX, I had a pretty decent chance to enjoy this one.

Ideally, yeah, I would love it but a lot of the problems that I’ve always thought Whedon has had initially held me back from getting into it. For one, he writes worlds and stories much better than he handles characters. Now, I’m not saying that he can’t do a great job defining the voice of certain characters or the way that they interact with one another but he definitely has trouble writing the initial character.

“Firefly” is a fairly obvious fusion of the western and the space opera, with a group of former rebels completing crimes for unsavory clients on the edges of civilization. The ship, the Serenity, is filled with archetypes: the cold quiet protagonist, the tough as nails deputy with morals, the sure-of-himself pilot, the shoot first-ask questions later killer, the whiz-kid, the priest with a dark past, the hooker with a heart of gold, the humanistic doctor and the survivor of atrocities.

The thing that bothers me the most about the use of these fairly obvious archetypes is the fact that Whedon doesn’t twist them at all. Granted, I’ve watched the first 6 episodes and so far, the characters remain little more than cliche. If Whedon’s purpose was to show how easily the old western cliches could be ported over to the space opera, then he’s succeeded but if he was trying to make those characters compelling in and of themselves, its a failure. I don’t care about River as a character because she’s flat, instead I’m forced to depend on the plot to make me care.

Luckily, the individual plots of the episode have been great. Where Whedon often played a very long game with episodes of “Buffy,” he’s working much better in making stand alone episodes that are loaded with world building. Watching the crew infiltrate a high class gathering looking for jobs might not feed into the long running plot of the show, but it manages to show that there is a richly developed world beyond what Whedon is showing us every episode.

That being said, the characters really grow on you. By the time I hit “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” the rhythm was working a lot better, with the characters bouncing off of each other in expected but enjoyable ways. We know that Zoe is going to bring the whole crew down to laugh at Mal’s fate, we know that Jayne is going to have a semi-romantic relationship with his favorite gun and we know that Wash isn’t going to cheat on his beloved wife with Saffron. The pleasure is watching them do just that in their own unique way.

Really, that’s kind of how I view all of Whedon’s work but I’m willing to keep going. The charm of “Firefly” is in seeing those classic plot archetypes being updated, although there might not be anything particularly new or original there. You know what you’re going to be getting in Whedon’s sci-fi show but, for the most part, that kind of works in this homage filled space opera.

Next Class: We’ve got another 6 episodes of “Firefly” before we finish the show and watch “Serenity” in two weeks.

Super villainy is hard, let’s go shopping!: 9 questionable representations of women in “geek culture”

One thing the internet has done that is great is bringing fans of niche programming together. In years past, we’d all have to meet up at conventions, send letters or read specialty magazines for the information that is now available in seconds. The not so great thing this has led to is what I call “geek elitism.” As fans of science fiction, comics, videogames, anime and all sorts of nerdy content, we’ve now thought that we can band together in lording over anyone who can’t quote chapter and verse in nerdery.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in slut shaming and judging of women. Just because Joss Whedon put a whole bunch of powerful women in his shows, his acolytes view said content as intrinsically superior to any show that has, say, a sexual woman who appears in a clothing that flaunts her body. One of my favorite blogs, recently did an entire post based on the picture posted above and the phenomenon of geek culture celebrating itself which sums up the issue much better than I can but it got me thinking about the ways in which pop culture hasn’t always given us the greatest of role models, even in content that has been targeted at for lack of a better word, geeks. So, let’s do the exceedingly lazy list thing.

1. Seven of Nine – “Star Trek Voyager”

Voyager has a lot of problems. There’s no doubt about that. That being said, so many of those problems begin and end with Seven of Nine, a freed Borg that aids the crew in their many dealings with the Queen and her minions. The unfortunate thing about her wasn’t so much what the brought to the crew or the storytelling problems but more about he way she was viewed on screen. She was always in a skin tight jump suit, even after she wore a Starfleet uniform and was often shot to accentuate her body. Even worse, many characters on the ship seemed to value her more for her looks than anything else. I don’t blame Jeri Ryan or the character really, it’s more in how the writers portrayed her as little more than a sex object and not a particularly willing one at that.

2. Yeoman Rand – “Star Trek”

That being said, the original series had many more problems with women but none stand out as much or as significantly as the ship’s most prominent yeoman and Kirk’s implied love interest Rand. Rand was another case of being more of an object than character, often targeted by enemies interested in sexually assaulting her. When she was given lines, most of them were focused on how scared she was or how she needed protection. Blame it on the writers, blame it on the time period, whatever.

3. Molotov Cocktease – “The Venture Bros.”

Yes, Molotov is supposed to be an over the top parody of James Bond-esque female spies with a dash of Black Widow thrown in and the show goes to elaborate and hysterical lengths to make her more than a sex object. That being said, you maybe wouldn’t want to buy her action figure for your daughter.

4. Harley Quinn – “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman” and “Suicide Squad”

Like pretty much everyone, I adore Harley as a character. She’s gleefully evil, unbelievably focused on creating chaos and sowing discontent and is a great partner in crime with the Joker and Poison Ivy. That being said, she’s pretty much been defined by her relationship with the Joker, often to her own detriment. In the episode “Mad Love,” Quinn is routinely beaten and abused by her lover yet goes back like a kicked dog. Her inclusion in the New 52’s Suicide Squad seemed like it could be a neat place for her before the book’s release but her costume redesign wasn’t meant to showcase her character.

5-6. Silk Spectre I and Silk Spectre II – “Watchmen” and “Before Watchmen”

When Alan Moore gets up in the morning, cracks his knuckles, sits down in front of his typewriter as he eats breakfast, fires off a couple of quick letters to movie studios calling everyone a bastard and finally starts writing comics, the first thing on his mind is how he can write more rape and sexual assault into his stories. Look, I like Moore’s work but it is hard to find a female character he’s written that isn’t defined by sexual assault. Their motivations, their powers and even their strength is tied directly to the trauma they’ve suffered. In “Watchmen,” Silk Spectre is raped by The Comedian, causing her to become a paranoid and controlling mother to Silk Spectre II, who is further defined by the knowledge of her father and the evil that men do. Not helping matters, it looks like the trend is continuing in “Before Watchmen,” where the original Silk Spectre is still a wreck although her daughter is given great definition. We’ll have to wait and see if her character is defined better by mini-series end.

7. Kara Thrace – “Battlestar Galactica”

Its a shame to put Starbuck on this list. For the first two seasons of the show, she’s the epitome of a well written character. She’s personally strong, does what she wants, has a powerful moral compass and she’s an inspiration to the rest of the Galactica. That all turns around in the last two seasons of the show, where she becomes a messianic figure who used to have mommy and daddy issues. That is, only when she’s not drinking herself to death, fucking everyone she comes across for no real reason. The failing of Starbuck was simply a writer problem but its one of the most unfortunate ones of the show.

8. Wonder Woman – David E. Kelley’s “Wonder Woman”

When a Wonder Woman TV show was announced last year, I was legitimately pretty excited. Diana is my favorite character of the DC universe and I figured everything could have worked out. Then we found out it was a David E. Kelley who was turning one of the most powerful super heroines and an icon of womanhood into a corporate attorney by day while fighting crime and just looking for the perfect guy. It was such a hackneyed take on the character and the leaked script of the pilot didn’t make her into much of a character. Even after the rewrite, it still seemed like Kelley was more interested in making a superpowered “Ally McBeal” rather than writing a character that was worth of Wonder Woman’s legacy.

9. Starfire – “Teen Titans” and “Red Hood and the Outlaws”

Like Kara Thrace, having Starfire on the list is a shame. Pre-New 52, she was a sexually liberated very well developed character with motivations, love interests and a deep rich backstory that made her a fan favorite. All of that changed when she teamed up with Jason Todd in the New 52’s “Red Hood and the Outlaws.” Suddenly, she was requisitioning everyone she came across for sex and not in a way that made her a character wanting intimacy. She was strictly an object of wish fulfillment. This rightfully caused a stir amongst critics, many putting their focus on schlocky writer Scott Lobdell. Some were gentle, others were really not so much. Comics Alliance focused on how the character was little more than a surrogate girlfriend for horny nerds, Andy Hunsaker said that the character had been reduced to little more than a “highly advanced Real Doll” and Matthew Peterson said the character’s sexual appetites reduced her to a walking punch-line, hurting a book that had such a small cast. The only thing I can say is that there’s a difference between a well written character who is interested in sex and a poorly written one who is little more than a willing wish fulfillment vessel.

Before he was the man who knocks…

Showing up on the interwebs this morning, youtube user Jake Swinney has smashed together every major plot development from one of my favorite shows, Breaking Bad. From the first batch of meth, the first murder, Tuco taking a bullet, the “I fucked Ted,” all the way through to the unbelievable season 4 finale. Its all just another reason to get hyped up for the best show of the summer.

I have mixed feelings about you, dad!: 35 fathers to think twice about celebrating

I get sick of seeing the lists that come out every year about “great TV” dads or “WORST TV DADS” (the capital letters say that this is both funny and original). I’m a man who likes moral ambiguity, who enjoys the fact that no one lives in absolutes. I also abhor really dull lists. Hopefully, this isn’t one of them.

1. John Marston – “Red Dead Redemption”

Rockstar finally created their best game and one of the best games of this console generation with Red Dead Redemption and wrote their most well developed character with father, rancher and bounty hunter John Marston. The former outlaw turned government blackmailed killer is a complex man looking for redemption but the amount of blood on his hands is ultimately what damns him to his fate. John’s not a good man, just one trying to do his best.

2. Walter White – “Breaking Bad”

The great debate that will rage years after Breaking Bad goes off the air will be what Walt’s motive was by the time the show entered its third and fourth season. Was Walt motivated by continually protecting his family and providing for his daughter or was his moral corruption all in the name of giving himself even more control and power in a life where he once thought he had none?

3. Wayne Malloy – “The Riches”

Eddie Izzard’s fast talking, sarcastic ass kicker was the driving force of the somewhat hit-and-miss FX comedy-drama “The Riches” and his motivation to have his own life constantly puts his own goals before the best of his family. He steals, fights, lies and gambles, solely to escape the fate he thinks has been decreed for him yet the feelings he has for his children and wife are the only bit of earnestness and truth he ever shows.

4. Reed Richards – Fantastic Four and FF

Reed and Sue Richards may be some of the most respected scientists and heroes of the Marvel Universe but great parents they are not. Whether its accidentally letting a witch babysit their Omega-level son, abandoning Franklin to deal with Norman Osbourne and Venom during Dark Reign or just sort of letting The Thing deal with their kid rather than parent him, Reed Richards might be a great scientist but he may be the epitome of the absentee parent.

5. Admiral James T. Kirk – “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

Speaking of absentee fathers, Kirk isn’t exactly the worst. It appears that he didn’t exactly know about his son but in the race to hold onto genesis and fight off his archenemy, Kirk finds out that he still has value both as a man, a soldier, a friend and a father.

6. Captain Walker – The Who’s “Tommy”

The father of the album’s eponymous messianic figure, the Captain returns home only to murder his wife’s lover and cause his son’s deafness, dumbness and blindness. Making matters worse, he leaves his son to be bullied by his cousin and molested by his uncle. The captain disappears from the record after “Tommy, Can You Hear Me” so the best we can really say about him is that he’s not quite as awful as Uncle Ernie.

7-12. The dads of the Pride – Runaways

Whether they’re homicidal mob bosses, turn of the century time travelers turned gang leaders, alien traitors, black magicians, child abusing inventors or telepathic mind-meddling mutants, the fathers of the children who would become the Runaways were willing to kill billions in order to save their children. The twist that concludes Brian Vaughn’s first run of Runaways finally gives the Pride the characterization that deeply enriches the characters and makes the villains just as sympathetic as their heroic children.

13. The protagonist – Cursive’s “The Ugly Organ”

Admittedly, the way that Cursive presents the protagonist from their landmark album “The Ugly Organ” marks him as a man who is a victim of the infidelities and minor tragedies that people inflict on him. That being said, there’s a sense of self pity, a sense that he knows that somewhere in the past, he knows he may be serving pittance for his crimes. On “Sierra,” he faces the life that another man has in his place, taking care of a daughter that doesn’t even know who her father is. Things might be looking up by the end, where he does step away from the edge rather than end it all.

14. Darth Vader – Star Wars

He’s a dark lord of the Sith who has tried off and on to kill or corrupt his son and ignore his daughter. He does have his moment of redemption a second too late to save his own life and succumbs to his injuries in his sons arms but ultimately, he’s another absentee dad who killed probably a few too many younglings.

15. Cancer Man – “The X-Files”

Let’s run down some of Cancer Man’s crimes real quick: killing JFK, killing MLK, fixing the NBA finals, ordering the kill on the first EBE the world comes in contact with, ordering the hit on Mulder’s father, ordering the hit on X, ordering the hit on Deep Throat, using the alien rebels to kill off the rest of the Syndicate,  attempting to kill both of his sons on multiple occasions, attempting to kill Krycek on about 45 different occasions, blackmailing Scully, blackmailing Skinner, controlling AD Kersh, surrendering the planet to the Aliens and writing really bad novels. That being said, he thinks he’s helping to save the human race, helps save Scully’s life and gives the best speech about boxes of chocolates ever. Cancer Man is an appallingly bad father but as a man, he’s wonderfully focused on the greater good and he’s so broken and personally ruined that its hard not to sympathize with him.

16-35. Every Disney Father

Everyone of these guys are near incompetent single fathers who are alternatively unable to control their children or offer them any usable advice. Its not so much that they’re irresponsible, its just that they’re barely functional as people, much less ones who should be raising others, yet they’re heaped with praise and unearned affection by their children.

“We’re Going to Have to Operate:” 10 Great Pop Culture Surgeries

Putting a character under the knife is a guaranteed way to raise the tension in your movie. “Alien” features one of the great moments in accidental/impromptu chest surgery in the classic bursting scene and in a salute to the original film, “Prometheus,” which opened Friday, features a wonderfully gory, tense and vile surgery. Walking out of the theater, my mind went back to that scene and others that explored how disgusting, gory and downright strange our own bodies can be.

1. Rape, Pills, Mormons and Power Tools – “Heavy Rain”

In the most harrowing scene in a thoroughly harrowing game, the photojournalist Madison chases down a lead to a drug dealing ex-doctor. Depending on player choice, she can end up chained up in the basement, where the doctor plans on sexually assaulting her, as well as performing a variety of experimental surgeries on her. Its a stressful scene and one that forced me to put the game down for almost a week after finishing it.

2. It was a baby! – “The Fly”

As Geena Davis continues to fret over her relationship with Jeff Goldblum’s increasingly mutated self, she has a panicked dream about giving birth to a mutated, fleshy, wormlike child. Its a disgusting moment and one that makes the ultimate horror of Goldblum’s wish for a family into a true threat.

3. He’s just getting started – “Crank 2”

“Crank 2” is probably one of the most kinetic, fast paced and intense action movies ever and the opening sets up exactly what you’re in for. As Jason Statham is revived by an Asian cartel, the doctors attempt to remove his penis. Comatose Statham isn’t having that and he lays out an epic amount of ass kicking in the first four minutes of the film.

5. “He died of old age.” – Fringe: “The Same Old Story” 

In the second episode of Fox’s sci-fi procedural, a man has sex with a hooker in the cold open, only for her to begin to rapidly expand. He drops her off in front of a hospital, where she gives birth to a child who ages 80 years in a matter of minutes. Its a tense cold open, moving very quickly and ratcheting up the tension with louder background noise and the panic of doctors. Its a great opening for the show’s first great episode.

6. Cancer for the cure… – The X-Files: “Leonard Betts”

The big surgery episode of “The X-Files” is also one of the show’s worst. Instead, we’re going with the homemade surgery of the classic episode “Leonard Betts.” Its not only one of the best episodes of the show but also one of the episodes that secured the show’s place as a stone cold hit. In one particularly memorable moment, the eponymous character submerges himself in iodine in order to regenerate his cancer dominated body. It is disgusting, memorable and wonderfully symbolic of the rebirth he goes through and the changes he’s about to bring to Agent Scully’s life.

7.  A very bad bluff – “Inglorious Basterds”

After all the shit goes down, the Bastereds are left with one turncoat German and a room full of dead Nazis and Brits. As Brad Pitt struggles to come up with a plan, he goads the captured German actress into helping while they remove the bullets from her legs. Its a rough scene and Tarantino manages to milk the scene for as much drama and pain as possible as they pick the shrapnel out.

8. “I want the other doctor.” – Arrested Development: “Sword of Destiny”

Hurray, I finally got an “Arrested Development” reference in here. As Michael’s order for houses is cut back, he struggles to not cause a panic. Unfortunately, the stress gets to him and he ends up in the hospital, where his respect for authority sticks him with an incompetent doctor who’s either losing scissors inside of him or performing experimental surgeries. This is also the episode that introduced us to “dong tea.” I’d say its pretty great.

9. “Take off your ghost clothes!” – Children’s Hospital: “No One Can Replace Her”

The pleasure of “Children’s Hospital” has always been the way the show subverts the expectations of the audience, even an audience that’s in on the parody. They’ll build to a climactic moment only to tear it down in a dramatically ridiculous fashion. Nowhere is this done as memorably as when Cat prepares to give birth.

10. “I lost my lunch box and I’m having a baby” – Mad Men: “The Fog”

In the dreamy, ephemeral “The Fog,” everyone in Sterling, Cooper, Pryce is on edge while courting London Fog but Betty is struggling with giving birth as well as struggling with her father’s death and Don’s infidelities. Put on pain killers as she gives birth, she alternatively imagines herself as something of an earth mother and a child, lost in the decade. Its a little heavy handed but also one of the most well shot and well done sequences of the show’s third season. That being said, I’m sure Bert would have something to say about the whole thing.