If you use critical thinking, you’ll see why Harambe the gorilla needed to be shot dead.

Critical thinking 101: Unless you’re an expert in primatology, zoology, and child behavior, your opinions on the killing of Harambe are likely just an emotional overreaction. Chances are, you’re an “animal fanatic” – someone who’s incapable of having any empathy for your fellow humans. As a result, you transfer all of these emotions onto animals, and then take pride in this fact. So now another animal has been killed as the result of an unfortunate interaction with a human and you’ve gone into emotional hyperdrive. Let’s take a step back and apply some critical thinking to this situation.

Before You Type #JusticeForHarambe…

Remember that you’re not an expert in primatology. You might not even know what the word “primatology” means. By now, there have been hundreds of thousands of people who’ve said, tweeted, posted, and commented that “the gorilla wasn’t trying to hurt the boy, he was dragging him to keep him safe from the screaming tourists.” When I read/hear people saying this, a few questions come to mind, including:

  • Are you an expert in primatology?
  • Have you studied great apes in their habitant for years like Jane Goodall?
  • Do you even have a degree in zoology or animal behavior?
  • Are you a mind reader?
  • If you can’t answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you simply have NO idea what Harambe was thinking when he ragdolled that boy through the water with great force. There is no possible way you can interpret Harambe’s actions in any way as to make a definitive statement about the nature of the gorilla’s mindset. It really is that simple. We humans mistake the intentions of our fellow humans all the time, so how could we pretend to “know” the heart and mind of a wild animal?

    Before You Scream for the Mother’s Head…

    Please keep in mind that you’re also not a child behavioral specialist. You also weren’t at the zoo when this went down. Yet despite these facts, so many people are so certain that this is a slam-dunk case of parental neglect. “Well, that mother must’ve done something wrong for that to happen,” they say. This is an example of a cognitive bias known as the just-world fallacy.

    Many of you also have gone so far as to say that you would never let this happen with your children, blah, blah, blah, blah. Apparently, many people conveniently have forgotten how difficult caring for a child can be… and how easy it is for a young child to slip past his/her parents.

    I should know because my Autistic son got loose from a family member and nearly was killed.

    Nobody was necessarily being a “bad” or “negligent” parent that day. My son is very strong and very fast, and being Autistic, we don’t quite understand why he does this, we only know that he does. And while we take every precaution to safeguard his well-being, he still manages to do things that place him in danger, as most children are wont to do. Simply put, these things just happen and when they do, the situation is not always an indictment of anyone’s parenting skills.

    What if Harambe Dragged YOUR Child?

    If your child fell into a gorilla habitat, what would you do? If Harambe dragged your child through the water as forcefully as he did the child in Cincinnati, you would be screaming for zookeepers to “do something.” And if that “something” means shooting that “poor gorilla” dead, you would kiss the zookeeper’s feet and thank him for his good aim. Because let’s be honest, even if the gorilla WAS trying to “protect” the boy, I’m not sure that little kid’s body could withstand the force of what Harambe was doing.

    Critical Thinking for Harambe the Gorilla

    To wrap up our critical thinking exercise with Harambe the gorilla, let’s take a look at the facts. There’s no way you can “know” what Harambe the gorilla was thinking when he dragged that child. You have absolutely no clue whether this child’s mother is a negligent parent or not. But most of all, you can never say that this would never happen to you. Not if you’re being honest with yourself. Before you emotionally overreact, try using a little critical thinking.

    Do it for Harambe!

Enemy-2013-Movie-Poster Have you seen Enemy (film) and wondered what all the spiders symbolize? The spiders in Enemy (2013) are explained in this film analysis. Learn more!

When he made Enemy, director Denis Villeneuve did not want his cast discussing the meaning of spiders in the film. In fact, he made the cast sign a confidentiality agreement that prohibited them from discussing this with the media. When I read this, I knew I had to tackle this subject.

Enemy is a film directed that might best be described as “David Lynch meetsFranz Kafka.” While Enemy’s plot is described as a man finding someone who looks exactly like him, Enemy is not a unique take on the doppelganger theme. Instead, it’s a very abstract and bizarre mind-trip of a movie whose themes and motifs center around the toxic relationship between infidelity and marital insecurities.

Enemy (film) has a Recurring Spider Motif

The constant references to spiders is not the theme of Enemy, per se. Instead, it’s a motif, which is defined as an “image, sound, action or other figures that has a symbolic significance and contributes toward the development of theme.” This is why there are so many references of spiders, both direct indirect, throughout Enemy. But what do they mean? (It seems this is something everyone wants to know!)

Let’s look at spiders and what they symbolize in the broader sense. Female spiders are one of the few animals that kill and devour their male partners soon after mating. The idea of the female destroying and eating her mate is horrific to humans, whose society is built upon the concept of a man and a woman mating and remaining together as partners to co-raise their children. Why do you think women who murder their husbands/boyfriends/lovers are often called “Black Widow” killers in the media? This calls upon the connotation of destructive female energy, particularly where men are concerned.

It is this interpretation of the spider that Denis Villeneuve sought to invoke with his use of the spider motif in Enemy.

Enemy’s Spiders Symbolize Women

Throughout the film, the most direct appearances of spiders are always in reference to women. In particular, spiders are used to symbolize Anthony’s wife and his mother, as well as Adam’s girlfriend. is spider motif is used in reference and relation to Adam’s girlfriend as well as Anthony’s mother. Other, smaller references to spiders are made throughout the film, but I believe these are used to reinforce Anthony’s fears of women. Example: The wires above the city merge together to appear similar to a spider web, the spider-web like cracking of the car’s windshield during the accident scene, etc.

Let’s break down the major appearances of spiders and how they relate to the women in the film:

The first time we see a spider is in the very beginning of the film. Anthony is at a sex club and a tall, blond who looks a lot like Adam’s girlfriend, Mary (Melanie Laurent). The blond model sets a platter with a rather large, furry spider down upon the stage. She looms wearing only high-heeled shoes. As the spiders crawls off the platter and onto the stage, the model’s foot looms over it and begins to descend, as if to crush the spider.

Meaning: This scene of a blond model crushing a spider at a sex club symbolizes Anthony’s fantasies of revenge that he harbors toward women. Although it’s not revealed yet chronologically, Anthony projects all his animosity he has for his wife, Helen (Sarah Gadon) into the spider, as Helen has “trapped” Anthony in her web of marriage and pregnancy. The affair Anthony has with Mary, symbolized by the blond model, is his chosen instrument of revenge against Helen, personified by the spider. (Yes, I said that Mary is Anthony’s girlfriend as well as Adam’s. I’ll explain that in a bit.)

The next time we see a spider, it is a huge monstrosity that looms over the city. Anthony sees it while looking out the window of his mother’s house, not long after his mother chastises him about his failed acting career.

Meaning: Anthony’s dysfunctional relationship with his narcissistic and controlling mother – brilliantly hinted at in this scene – is the cause of his dark feelings about women. It makes sense that the spider he sees here is the largest one of the four arachnids in the film. Like most men, Anthony’s mother serves as the most significant female role model in his life. As such, his relationship with her helps shape his views about women and how he interacts with the ones in his life. This symbolism is rather ominous within this context.

The next significant spider motif is featured in the dream sequence of Anthony. In his dream, he is back at the sex club and he sees the same model from the film’s first scene. This time, however, she’s walking on the ceiling and her face is no longer her own. Instead, atop her shoulders is the hideous, fanged face of a spider. This dream occurs after we see Anthony’s car accident with “Adam’s” girlfriend following their argument in a hotel room.

Meaning: This scene happens near the film’s end, and it’s no coincidence that he has this dream following the argument and car crash scenes that proceeded it. Remember I mentioned that the model looks like Mary? Well, in this dream sequence, the model’s face is now a grotesque spider face. This symbolizes Anthony’s anger toward Mary for leaving him. That’s what their fight was about, and Anthony did everything he could to get Mary to stay, to no avail. The narcissistic and out-of-touch Anthony doesn’t see his own neediness and grasping for Mary. Instead, he projects these flaws into Mary, transmogrifying her into a spider, i.e., another evil woman who trapped him in her web and has since devoured him and moved on.

Enemy (2013) Ending Explained

The ending of Enemy is the most confusing part of the film for many people. It makes sense if you understand the spider motif. Anthony finds the key to the sex club in his coat and is once again tempted by his secret life of infidelity. (The sex club symbolizes his desires for sex outside his marriage.) Helen gets out of the shower and walks into their bedroom. Anthony mentions that he wants to “go out” that evening but Helen doesn’t reply. (Keep in mind, Helen KNOWS about Anthony’s past indiscretions and is concerned about him having another affair.) Getting no answer from Helen, Anthony goes to check on her… only to find that she has become a huge tarantula. The massive spider, which practically fills their bedroom, becomes so frightened of him that she backs into the wall and cowers there.

Meaning: This moment symbolizes a change in the power dynamic of Anthony/Helen’s relationship, at least from Anthony’s perspective. She’s still the web-weaving, evil female spider who wants to trap and devour him – in his mind – but now, she’s also trapped in a sense and dependent upon him. (She is six months pregnant in the film.) Her fear that he might cheat again gives him a certain amount of power in the relationship, at least in the present moment. Anthony realizes this, too. Watch his face during the last, fleeting moment of his closeup: He nearly breaks out into a wicked grin before the screen goes black.

Enemy: The Relationship Power Dynamic

From my perspective, the relationship between infidelity and the power dynamic of relationships seems to be the theme of this film. Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

There’s an old saying that states, “Affairs aren’t just about sex.” This is VERY true. Oftentimes, people have affairs as subconscious revenge and the false belief that they’re taking back the control they believe they’ve lost in their relationship. This is the theme of Enemy. Adam and Anthony are the same person. They represent Anthony’s battle within himself… a battle that takes place inside his mind as he struggles to reconcile his love for Helen with his irrational fears that she trapped him into marriage/fatherhood.

This theme is illustrated in several places within the film, including:

  • The movie poster basically states that it’s all in Anthony’s head.
  • Adam’s preoccupations with tyranny and the recurring battle within his mind. He all but tells us what the film’s theme is when he addresses his class: “Control, it’s all about control. Every dictatorship has one obsession and that’s it… and it’s important to remember this, that this is a pattern, that repeats itself throughout history.”
  • Did you notice Anthony’s role in the film “When There is a Will, There is a Way?” The scene from this “film” is played on Adam’s laptop shows a gorgeous woman walking down the promenade of an expensive hotel. There, holding her bags, is Anthony, playing the part of a bellhop. I believe this dream sequence/alleged film symbolizes Anthony’s fears of playing a subservient role to the women in his life, as exemplified by his bellhop role.
  • Allegedly, Adam the schoolteacher has a girlfriend while Anthony is married, yet Anthony’s mother says to him, “You already have enough trouble sticking with one woman, don’t you?”
  • Adam and Anthony meet each other in a motel room. This scene is important because it symbolizes Anthony coming face-to-face with the fact that he cheats on his wife. Note that one of them rents the room and enters it, shutting the door behind him. The other seems to have a key that allows him to unlock the door and enter. They didn’t arrive together nor did they check in together, so why does the double who didn’t check in miraculously have a key?
  • Another note on the hotel room: Did you notice that Anthony takes “Adam’s” girlfriend to that exact same hotel room? It’s that night that Anthony is allegedly pretending to be “Adam.” Again, this reinforces the notion that, within that hotel room, Anthony comes face to face with this other side of himself.
  • This film is based off the novel “The Double,” by Portuguese writer Jose Saramago. I believe its renaming is a reference to the commonly-used phrase, “I am my own worst enemy,” which pretty much sums up Anthony’s struggles.

You Like Enemy with Jake Gyllenhaal?

Enemy is an interesting film that’s very symbolic and thus, open to interpretation. IF you saw this amazing film, let me know what you think about its overall theme and meanings.

About J.P. Ribner

J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

Streets_of_fireThere’s much more to Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire than meets the eye. Too bad most people didn’t get it back in 1984.

Streets of Fire utilizes a plot that’s been stolen by nearly every 80s arcade game: An evil gang kidnaps a beautiful girl and it’s up to her tough (ex) boyfriend to rescue her and defeat the bad guys. Described as a “rock n’ roll fable,” the film is set in a strange world that incorporates elements of the 1950s and the 1980s.

Streets of Fire Directed by Walter Hill

Walter Hill made a name for himself with hits The Warriors (1979), The Long Riders (1980), and Southern Comfort (1981). This proved him a worthy successor to his idol, Sam Peckinpah. Like Peckinpah, Hill’s films featured tough guys who let their fists – and bats, bullets, and other weapons – do the talking. Streets of Fire was no exception, but its high-concept setting and Wagnerian rock-opera meets rockabilly soundtrack proved to be too high concept for the era.

Walter Hill’s Characteristic Subtext

On its surface, Streets of Fire is action-packed battle of good vs. evil. But nothing about Streets of Fire – or any Walter Hill film – can be considered basic. Streets of Fire tells a deeper, more complex story of a man’s battle with his own inner demons. More to the point, it’s the story of the protagonist’s battle with his “shadow self,” which is personified and brought to life by the film’s antagonist.

Psychoanalyst Carl Jung identified the concept of “the shadow” or “shadow aspect.”In layman’s terms, Jung’s shadow represents all the negative qualities and traits about ourselves that we do not like, such as greed, cowardice, anger, fear, etc. Most people cannot admit to having this traits. Jung’s theory states that the more we ignore or deny our shadows, the darker, denser, and stronger they become.

So, to sum up my theory about Streets of Fire, the film’s hero and villain are actually the same person. And the battle between these two forces is merely symbolic of the battle that the hero is having with himself over whether to stay with the woman he loves or let her go.

Hero and Villain are One in the Same

The hero and villain in Streets of Fire are Tom Cody (Michael Pare) and Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe), respectively. Hill provides enough clues throughout the film to suggest that Raven symbolizes Tom’s shadow self. Some of the more obvious though well-hidden hints include:

  • The villain’s last name is “Shaddock,” which is very close to the word “shadow.” His first name, Raven, is a black bird that’s associated with darkness and death in many cultures.
  • Raven Shaddock and his gang kidnap Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) at a rock concert. Tom Cody and his gang rescue Ellen at a bar where a rock n’ roll band is playing. Note: This is one of many examples of “mirroring” between the two characters.
  • Raven Shaddock is seen wearing a patent-leather abattoir suit, aka his “leather waders.” These look very similar to Tom Cody’s pants-and-suspenders.
  • Raven keeps Ellen tied to a bed. Tom cuts the ropes that bind her. Later, Ellen asks him why he left her and he says he didn’t want to keep her from her music career. In other words, Tom doesn’t want to “tie her down.” (Another good example of conflicting desires within the same person.)

Music Conveys “Shadow” Motif

During the rescue scene, 80s rockabilly pioneers The Blasters play two songs that spell out what’s really going on in Streets of Fire. The first is “One Bad Stud,” which describes a tough, dangerous man moving into the singer’s neighborhood and stealing his woman. If you think about it, this applies as equally to Raven as it does to Tom, making each man the “stud” and the jilted former lover.

If “One Bad Stud” weren’t enough, The Blasters have another song during the big rescue scene. This one is called “Blue Shadows.” This is Walter Hill’s rather direct way of calling attention to the film’s powerful, psychological subtext.

The Final Battle Personifies Tom’s Inner Battle

The film’s final battle between Tom Cody and Raven Shaddock is a cinematic masterpiece. Both men fight each other using chrome-plated railroad spike-drivers, making each one equal as they head into the fight. To emphasize the shadow vs. light motif, Raven is dressed in a black leather pants and shirt combo while Tom wears a white Henley. Tom eventually defeats Raven, stopping short of delivering a final blow that would have likely killed the man. Tom can’t kill himself, after all!

Note: The concept of two men fighting each other on euqal terms to symbolize man’s inner struggle with himself is a Walter Hill trademark. Consider these other Hill-directed films as examples:

  • The Warriors: Many of the gang members strongly resemble each other. Further, in the scene where Swan fights the Baseball Furies, he clutches his fists together and strikes his enemy, which symbolizes swinging a baseball bat, the chosen weapon of his foe.
  • The Long Riders: Cole Younger (David Carradine) and Sam Starr (James Remar) fight each other in a bizarre knife duel in which both men stay connected via a long sash they hold in their teeth.
  • Bullet to the Head: In an homage to Streets of Fire, the hero and the villain – both professional hitmen – fight each other with matching fireman’s axes. Much like the duel in The Long Riders, this battle symbolizes a wise, older warrior (Sylvester Stallone) doing battle with his younger, impetuous self (Jason Momoa).

To Sum Up Streets of Fire…

On the surface, it’s a classic tale of good vs. evil in a highly-stylized world. Symbolically, it’s one man’s battle with his shadow self over whether he should stay with the woman he loves or let her go. And the stylized world where this battle takes place is actually his mind.

It’s a Shame More People Didn’t “Get It”

Hill envisioned Streets of Fire as the first part of a trilogy. The sequels were tentatively to be called The Far City and Cody’s Return. As a huge fan of Streets of Fire, I can’t help but wonder what could have been had Hill been able to finish this trilogy. Would Raven seek revenge? Would Tom and Ellen reunite for good? We’ll never know. Instead, Streets of Fire is a cinematic gem that remains a misunderstood cult classic to those who remember it fondly.

About J.P. Ribner

J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

freshFresh Horses (1988) is a hauntingly good movie that could have been great. That said, it’s still one of my favorite teen movies of the 1980s.

Cincinnati college student Matt Larkin (Andrew McCarthy) seems bored but content with his perfect college life and wealthy fiancée. Larkin’s lifelong friend Tipton (Ben Stiller) convinces Larkin to go to a “non-stop house party” over the bridge in rural Kentucky. There, Larkin meets Jewel (Molly Ringwald), a backwoods country girl in need of saving. Things get complicated after Larkin breaks off his engagement to pursue Jewel… sort of. His friends try to convince him to break it off, but Jewel’s young age and her dangerous husband aren’t enough to change Matt’s mind.

“Fresh Horses” Must Have Looked Like a Winner

The film was based off Larry Ketron’s stage play, which was burning up Broadway in 1986. The film gave Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald a chance to reprise their rich-boy-falls-for-poor-girl routine, a la “Pretty in Pink.” The rest of the cast was made of people whose names and greatest performances were yet to come, particularly Viggo Mortensen and Ben Stiller. When it hit theaters in 1988, however, “Fresh Horses” failed to impress. Fortunately, it seems to have a very small cult following these days, and I’m proud to consider myself a member of said cult.

The Best Thing About “Fresh Horses” Went Largely Unnoticed

“Fresh Horses” is a good study of two people who set out to use one another yet try to convince themselves that they’re in love. It was a departure from other 80s teen flicks, which centered upon the “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” zeitgeist that defined the decade. “Fresh Horses” represents a turn from the quest to score to lives rooted in morning-after regrets. This puts it in a similar category as “Less Than Zero” – also starring Andrew McCarthy – and other somber 80s teen gems.

“Fresh Horses” a Study in Narcissism

Let’s take a look at how “Fresh Horses” illustrates the heartache and pain of entering into a relationship only to deceive from each protagonist’s point of view, staring with Matt Larkin:

From the very beginning, we see that Matt Larkin is a smug, commitment-phobic jerk. The film starts with Matt and Tip (Ben Stiller) riding Matt’s boat up and down the Ohio River. After this 10-minute montage, we discover that Matt deliberately showed late to his own engagement party. Throughout the movie, he continues to show his passive-aggressive propensity for abandoning women at the precise point in which they seem to need/want him the most. Most notably:

  • He strikes up a relationship with Jewel so he can break off his engagement with his fiancée.
  • He fails to go with Jewel to confront Green about signing the divorce papers, even though her facial expressions and tone make it obvious that this is what she wants him to do. He lets her go alone, instead.
  • Even though Ellen (Molly Hagan) makes it clear that she’s up for a one-night stand, Matt basically ignores her offer and insists they go to the abandoned railroad house. (Likely because he knows Jewel will see him there.)

Here is another of Matt Larkin’s other, obvious flaws:

  • He becomes physically abusive with his friends whenever they suggest that he just break it off with Jewel. He doesn’t do this because he loves her, he does this because his friends’ suggestion that he’s just using the girl cuts a little too close to the truth for him.

Matt repeatedly shows contempt for Jewel throughout the film.

  • When they meet and he asks for a drink of her soda. (Narcissistic boundary issues.)
  • When Matt and Tip are talking to a lawyer about Jewel’s marriage to Green, Matt does all the talking while Jewel is left to wait outside the room. (Jewel doesn’t matter even when it comes to her own life.)
  • Throughout the film, Matt talks down to Jewel in an annoying, condescending manner. (Correcting her English, chiding her about her name, etc.)
  • Matt tries to keep Jewel from meeting his parents. (He’s embarrassed to be with her.)

While Matt is a jerk, Jewel isn’t much better. Her greatest flaw is that she’s a near-pathological liar who’s also not honest with herself. She claims to resent Matt for treating her as though she’s stupid and helpless, yet she purposefully presents herself as dumb and helpless in order to convince people to help her. Then, she resents Matt for behaving in a way she more or less manipulated him into behaving. (My guess is that she does this as a justification for using people the way that she does.)

Some additional examples of Jewel’s duplicity include:

  • She sees in Matt the chance of escaping from her low-class, white trash rural existence.
  • She casually concocts stories of being abused by older men – typically older men/father figures – in order to elicit sympathy from other men.
  • She married Green for the same reason she hooked up with Matt – to hopefully improve her position in life.
  • She hints at what she wants from Matt but never comes out and says it. (Sorry! Pet peeve of mine.)
  • The lies she tells are dangerous in that they could cause men to fight and kill each other to protect her “honor.” (I think she secretly yearns for this as a means of proving her “worth.”)

Other Things That Worked in “Fresh Horses”

The film features some beautiful cinematography. The scenes shot in rural Kentucky – Jean’s house, Jewel’s house, the abandoned railroad building – have a misty and mysterious back-country beauty complete with cold metal fences, frosted grass, and dead trees that seem to reach through the fog to guide the star-crossed lovers upon their fated path.

The film also touches upon differences that separate people yet ironically make them appealing to each other in a grass-is-always-greener way: man/woman, city/country, college/high school dropout, rich/poor, etc.

What Didn’t Work in “Fresh Horses”

It’s not that Fresh Horses was filled with all things bad. It’s more of the case of wasted potential, which is even worse. It robs this amazing of film of the chance to have made a deeper impact upon pop culture.

Some of the film’s shortcomings include:

  • Molly Ringwald’s wardrobe. With her characteristic prairie skirt and high boots, she looked like she walked onto the set straight from “The Breakfast Club.” I know this was her trademark look but the character of Jewel is a backwoods country girl of meager means. She likely wouldn’t have dressed in the latest 80s teen fashions.
  • Viggo Mortensen was underused. Throughout the film, Matt Larkin is warned about Jewel’s husband, a supposedly dangerous character named “Green.” Unfortunately, he only appears in two scenes. The first is a brief appearance in a diner where Larkin sees him but doesn’t know who he is. The second is near the end, where Green delivers a highly philosophical and much-needed reality check to Larkin.
  • Note: If I had written this film, the character of Green would have appeared in at least three significant scenes. For example, I would have had Green beat up Larkin at Jean’s house rather than some random hillbilly played by playwright Larry Ketron. This would have been a better use of an interesting character AND a very talented actor! (No one knew Viggo’s potential back then, though.)
  • Ketron needed to explore Larkin’s relationship with his parents. The character of Matt Larkin was not the best of people: he cheats on his fiancée, knowingly sleeps with a married woman, and pushes his friends around, among other things. Something had to make him this way. My guess is a dysfunctional family upbringing. It would have been nice to see more than a passing hint of this.

“Fresh Horses” Haunted me for 30+ Years

I felt compelled to see “Fresh Horses” again. I last saw it in 1989 with my then-girlfriend. At that time, I thought that Matt Larkin was the unwitting and innocent victim of Jewel’s manipulative games. I remember calling her a “scheming bitch” during the final scene where Matt Larkin tearfully walked away from the ice skating rink.

After I saw it again, 27 years later, I see this movie – and the message it subtly implies – much differently.

My 40s have been a time of brutal self-examination. Some painfully honest personal inventories of all my negative qualities have taught me a lot. I now see that I was able to bury, ignore, or project these traits onto others in my 20s and 30s. Long story short, I was Matt Larkin, I just didn’t see it in 1989. My subconscious recognized the similarities and used its tricks to keep me from realizing it.

Your Favorite 80s Teen Movie…

A lot of great movies came out in the 80s. I won’t be able to revisit them all, but that won’t stop me from trying. In the meantime, feel free to shared your memories of great 80s movies such as “Fresh Horses” or any of the rest. I’d like to hear about the films that kept you awake in the dark during that amazing decade.

About J.P. Ribner

J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

Anyone who thinks they’re a domestic violence expert needs to spend two years with my ex.

The point I’m driving at is that the dynamics of domestic violence aren’t always as cut and dry as bad man in sleeveless T-shirt beats poor, defenseless woman. Yes, that happens; but so do instances where the woman is the initial aggressor.Before we delve into this, take a few minutes to watch this video:

Here’s what usually happens when the physical abuse/domestic violence is female-on-male: An argument ensues and the man gets attacked when he tries to walk away. (“Don’t you turn your back on me!”) Or the beating goes on and on until the man, often at wit’s end, grabs, pushes, or shoves the woman in order to prevent further beating.

Want to guess which one will face domestic violence charges if the police are called? Hint: If you have any doubts, consider the name of the current Federal law – The “Violence Against Women Act” or VAWA.

The social experiment conducted above is NOT the first of its kind. You can find a few other videos where this experiment has taken place and the results are nearly identical: Many men and women rush in to help the woman who’s being thrashed. When the man is being abused, few to no people bother to intervene.

In a previous experiment similar to this, passersby later were interviewed. The reporter asked why they did not do anything to help the man being beaten. The men and woman interviewed offered these generic responses:

1. She’s just a woman, she can’t really hurt him like a man could.
2. I didn’t want to get involved.
3. He should be able to handle it.
4. A woman wouldn’t hit a man unless he did something to deserve it.
5. He must have had it coming.

Ultimately, my point about this is rather direct: What you THINK you know about domestic violence is largely the creation of the feminist/women’s rights group. It is THEY who control the narrative on the topic. They’ve created the framework used to author VAWA, and they continue to push the narrative that “in the United States, 22%–35% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms do so because of domestic violence.” (Note: a TIME Magazine article boldly refutes this claim.)

This feminist domestic violence zeitgeist has found an unlikely ally in the police/prosecutors all across the country. These folks profit form the skyrocketing number of domestic violence arrests under the unquestionable holy of holies known as VAWA. The law practically demands men be arrested at the mere accusation of domestic violence. This keeps state and Federal tax dollars rolling in for women’s shelters, anger management programs and other various and sundry court-mandated shenanigans.

The truth is, women are nearly as likely to commit domestic violence against their partner as men. (Again, according to another TIME Magazine article on the subject.) Problem is, we as a society are largely unaware or unwilling to believe that the “fairer sex” is capable of such nastiness. Most of those willing to at least admit that women hit men take a rather blaze view towards the subject. (“He can’t take a little woman hitting him? What kind of man is he?) Meanwhile, the domestic violence arm of the criminal justice industry keeps pulling men into its clutches.

Which brings me back to women such as my ex…

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

white privilegeWhat is it with people who demand white people be “educated” about this white privilege myth?

Newsflash: I’m not in need of any agenda-based education.You never asked me if I want it. In fact, you never offer or suggest I receive education. Instead, you demand that I “learn” what you’re teaching based, I suppose, upon some high-minded principles and presumed moral superiority. Such is the case of thems doin’ the edge-u-ma-catin’.

Here are some reasons why you in the you-need-to-be-educated-in-the-interests-of-humanity crowd never ask anyone if they want the benefit of your vaunted knowledge:

1. You have already have determined that you are right.

2. You have already have determined that I am wrong.

3. You assume a position of moral superiority with your certainty that my being educated (according to your agenda) is in the “best interests of humanity.”

4. You are perfectly comfortable in your hypocrisy, because of reasons 1,2, and 3.

5. You don’t see it as hypocrisy because of reasons 1,2, and 3.

6. Your mentality has taken over pop culture, modern thought, and the educational system; thus, you use the don’t-be-on-the-wrong-side-of-history argument, which is tantamount to saying, “Everyone else is doing it.”

7. You vehemently avoids debate, critical thought, and any questioning of your perceived moral authority.

8. You have little to no idea as to the origin of your high-minded moral philosophies. Most of you simply repeat it because your friends said it, and they likely heard it from someone else.

9. You refuse to see your belief system for what it is – a divisive philosophy that operates upon belief. In other words, it’s a religion and your limited understanding of its precepts is that of a fanatic.

10. You label anyone who disagrees with you as one or more type of “ist” or “phobe” – racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobe, Islamophobe, etc.

The Reason I’ve Posted This…
It’s bad enough when people I know have this mentality. It’s worse when the person with these opinions is someone you once respected. Such was the case this week. Someone on my social media friends list shared a story that “all white people MUST read.” From the headline and lead sentences, I could already see that it was the usual check-your-privilege tripe that we’ve all heard a thousand times. Rather than waste my time trying to argue any point, I simply blocked it from my feed and moved forward.

Thanks but no Thanks
For the record, no, I don’t want to be re-educated according to your agenda of white privilege. I don’t care to read your white privilege statistics. I don’t want an example of white privilege. I don’t plan to read any books on white privilege. And I will not attend any white privilege conference. I don’t have a “white privilege knapsack,” so there’s no need to invite me to unpack the invisible knapsack.

In short, I don’t adhere to any of this bullshit political theory.

White Privilege Pimps and Systemic White Racism Hustlers Unmasked
Most people who share these memes do so in some misguided notion of propping up their already-inflated egos. They become the banner men (and women) of imaginary causes to loudly trumpet upon their social media outlets to a resounding chorus of like-minded individuals all chiming in to validate the original poster as well as to provide themselves with some much-needed self-soothing.

Their political identities are rooted in some highly-distorted grievance filtered through the fractured lens of racial identity. Their entire shtick, as it were, is convincing groups of people that they are victims of some mythical conspiracy theory. This allows these hucksters to then ride in on their high horse as the great liberator of some poor, disadvantaged group that cannot help themselves.

It’s the height of narcissism, people. Don’t fall for it!

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

With the recent death of Scott Weiland, Generation X has lost yet another spokesperson. This deserves a eulogy… for my generation and the decade we called our own.

Of course this is sad news for Gen Xers. Scott Weiland was one of the cool guys of the 1990s. He belonged to an elite group grunge vocalists who sang the soundtrack of our lives. Despite the impact he made upon my age group, Weiland’s death comes as no surprise. It is yet another bitter reminder that Generation X is getting older and more mortal by the day.

The 1990s Were a Decade of Darkness for Generation X
Stone Temple Pilots as being among “The Big Five” of 1990s rock music. (The other four are Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.) These bands had a HUGE impact on the 90s sound as well as its overall musical direction. To fellow Gen Xers who came of age during that halcyon decade, the music was a journey into the causes and effects of childhood trauma.

Songs about rape, child abuse, and murder dominated the airwaves, CD players, and MTV rotations. At the time, I wondered how this morbidity could be so popular. Now I understand. As a generation, we were collectively working through the issues associated with being raised by our parents. Bands such as Stone Temple Pilots – and the rest of the Big Five – acted as the moderators for this decade-long group therapy session.

Most Me Generation parents weren’t the Brady Bunch. They were a bunch of pot-smoking, wife-swapping, cocaine-sniffing, child abusing assholes. And after their myriad fuckups, their greatest advice to us was “Just say ‘No.’” Needless to say, we saw through the bullshit, and our greatest act of rebellion was spending our disposable income on the pre-packaged subculture served up by people just like our dipshit parents.

I Fucked up and Missed Out on the 90s
Despite its trauma and false pretenses, the 90s were one hell of a party! Too bad I was too busy wallowing in resentment. I didn’t need Woodstock 94. I came of age in Flint, Michigan’s nascent punk rock scene of the 1990s.When my band wasn’t playing the stage at the Capital Theater, I was hanging out with my friends, seeing some great bands and slamming in the circle pit up front.

Then one day everything changed. Sometime in mid-September, 1991, I heard Kurt Cobain stroke the first chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I didn’t feel elated that the music that was so much part of my life was now recognized by the mainstream. Instead, I felt betrayed. To me, it was a blatant commercialization of the 80s punk that defined my teens and early 20s.

Of course I feel differently now. The concept of “selling out” is bullshit. No artist should be forced to toil away in obscurity just because some small group of fans want to selfishly lord over that artist’s popularity. More importantly, the 90s were just so fucking cool, creative, and free. I wish I would’ve done more to appreciate that unique time in history. But there are no decade do-overs.

Sorry to Hear of Your Passing, Scott
So this brings me back to Scott. I can’t wax poetic about how much you meant to me during my turbulent and tumultuous twenties. I don’t have any memories of seeing you live and in your prime with Stone Temple Pilots. The truth is, I never knew you.

But you still were the voice of my generation. One of them, anyway. You had everything a young, aspiring singer such as me wanted; but in the end, you died as you lived: a faded rock star past his prime. All I can say is that that wherever you are, I hope you’ve been able to heal your wounds and put down those demons that haunted you for so long.

Say hello to Kurt and Layne for me…

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

Katie   I want to kill Katie Brown!

I want to tape her mouth shut, just like she did to that poor dog. Then I want to tie her to the back of my car and drag her down the street until she’s dead, dead, dead! I will stand over her torn and mangled corpse then say, “This is what happens when you hurt animals. POINT MADE!”

Did I Mention I Enjoy a Good Parody?
I really don’t want to kill Katie Brown. In fact, I don’t have any strong feelings toward her in any way. I don’t support what she did, either, but I don’t think it’s a killing/beating offense. Too bad nearly half of America does! And so do many of my Facebook friends.

Let the Madness Begin!
Nearly half of my friends list are screaming for Katie Brown’s blood! A scroll through my news feed reads like a serial killer’s manifesto. Otherwise normal people have turned into raving lunatics possessed with a bloodlust. The venom, hatred, and animosity got so disturbing that I was inspired to post this on Facebook and Twitter:

I have empathy for every one of God’s creatures and I’ll murder, burn, and hide the bodies of any humans who would hurt an animal just to prove how compassionate I truly am!

Needless to say, some friends got it. They know I get more enjoyment from a subtle, nearly coded dig than an obvious rant. Others didn’t get it. In fact, some even made the offer to help me in my “attack” on Brown. I hope I let them down gently.

What Bothers Me Most About Militant Animal Lovers
Cases such as this illustrate a problem in society. Too many seemingly-normal people turn into violent psychopaths the moment an animal is hurt. In my experience, these people cannot muster a shred of empathy for other humans. Call me crazy, but nothing about a frothing maniac says “compassionate person.”

Here’s a good example of a militant animal lover: Last week, a Facebook friend waxed poetic about what a nice, good-hearted person they are. I know this person quite well and he or she is far from nice. This same individual is threatening to beat, maim, and/or kill Katie Brown. Is it possible to talk murder and mayhem while telling the world what a great person you are? That seems to be the case with aggressive people and militant animal lovers. They constantly issue verbal press releases about what a great person they are. It’s almost like they’re trying to convince themselves.

What I Hope Happens in the Katie Brown Case
This is a matter for the police to investigate and the courts to decide. Plain and simple. It’s not something that should be solved by vigilante justice carried out by a bunch of psychopaths who consider themselves good people. Because if we open the door to that, then we have vigilante beatings and killings going on over even the slightest insults. Do you really want that? I mean, maybe you pissed off someone a long, long time ago and they want to kill you for it. But you wouldn’t do anything like that, right? You’re a good person.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

blackfridaySince it’s Black Friday, I’m seeing a lot of Black Friday posts, memes, and videos on Facebook. Most criticize the greed and rapaciousness so typical of this consumer holiday. I, too, feel disgust when people devolve to an animal-like level in pursuit of material things.

I also know why they do this, and it’s not as simple as just greed or materialism.

Introducing the “Zero-Sum Game”
Zero-sum game” is the name for ugly, Black Friday behavior. A basic definition is: “a situation, especially a competitive one, which there is no net gain among the participants.” Quite simply, it is the belief that if one participant acquires something, others have lost.

I believe the zero-sum game mentality goes back to our prehistoric ancestors. It was a time when food and resources were scarce and hard to come by. (It took a tribe to bring down one mastodon.) Thus, any resource gained by one tribe was seen as a loss by other, competing tribes. This made a “zero-sum game mentality” a survival instinct. It’s locked into our genetic memory and drives us on a primal level.

Why a Zero-Sum Game Mentality Looks Ugly on Black Friday
In first-world nations, there is no shortage of goods. This is why a brawl over the last coffeemaker seems ignorant and savage to many. Manufacturers produce near-infinite amounts of coffeemakers. Anyone can buy them at a store or online. Thus, there is no need for caveman-like behaviors typically seen Black Friday.

What Type of People Engage in Black Friday Behavior
In his book You are Not so Smart, author David McRaney shares a valid observation: “Poor people compete with resources. The middle class competes with selection. The wealthy competes with possessions.” This applies to the zero-sum game mentality observed on Black Friday.

So I guess I blame poor people for the madness that is Black Friday sales. Only people with very limited resources – i.e., money – would fight in the aisles with others in similar situations. They perceive the Black Friday deals as the best way to make the most of their limited resources.

So why wouldn’t the middle class get into a Black Friday brawl? Like McRaney said, they compete by selection, aka taste. Most middle class people wouldn’t be caught dead at a Black Friday sale. They are more like to spend money on a Keurig and brag about what amazing coffee it makes. (And how it’s not “too mainstream.”)

Would wealthy people go to a Black Friday sale at a big-box retailer? Not on your life! They are most likely to buy a restaurant-grade cappuccino machine and hire a barista to serve them. That’s how you compete with possessions – only the most lavish and expensive possessions are worth talking about at the country club.

The Ugliest Example of a Zero-Sum Game Mentality
If a cage-fight in the housewares aisle is ugly, keep in mind that it only happens once a year. People who play a zero-sum game for intangible things are horrible human beings all year long! These are people who consider things that can’t be measured – status, popularity, etc. – as a limited resource. If these people see someone gaining these “resources,” they will criticize, slander, and belittle that person to gain their “share.”

Random example: Picture a bunch of guys are hanging out, playing basketball. One of them starts cutting up, telling jokes, and making the other guys laugh. This angers the one guy with a zero-sum game mentality. He ruthlessly criticizes and embarrasses the person… and he makes sure that he does so in front of all the other guys. In this person’s very small mind, he’s taken the resource – popularity, status, attention – from the guy who had it moments ago.

There’s a huge problem with this approach. Apart from being an asshole – and not a true friend – the guy with the zero-sum game mentality cheats himself. Things such as status and popularity are intangible – they cannot be measured, calculated, or weighed. They are ideas and as such, they are limitless. The asshole on the basketball court could’ve achieved the same status without having to humiliate the other person. Sadly, people like this will never get it.

Zero-Sum Game is Here to Stay… Unfortunately
This mentality  isn’t going away any time soon. Sadly, this mad scramble for (perceived) limited resources continues to be successful for so many. Thus, it is hard for us to rid ourselves of a behavior that continues to provide rewards. Because acting like this is so hideous, we rational, modern-day humans must fight to overcome this mentality.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.


Some people believe that they are the highest law in the land. They do not recognize any authority above themselves. This societal problem is contributing to many alleged cases of police brutality.

Before I go any further, you need to see an example of what I’m talking about. Check out this video. It provides a unique glimpse of two individuals who believe that they are bigger than the law. Enjoy:

That Lady was an Idiot to Challenge the Judge
Anyone with a shred of common sense understands the power wielded by a judge. What’s more, they respect it. That’s because they understand that no good can come from challenging a judge’s authority.

We entrust judges and police to administer the laws that govern us. These laws exist to help discourage us from acting upon our base desires. This helps maintain a civil society. Those who choose to violate these laws must answer for their crimes before those who enforce it.

Fairly simple, right?

Not to people who live by another set of rules called “street law.” Based upon outward appearances, it operates quite different than  traditional law. Street law is law in any place where generational poverty is the norm. This means the hills and hollers of Appalachia to the city streets of urban America. Prison culture is the most extreme example, and it’s seen in schoolyards, too.

What “Street Law” Looks Like
You don’t have to look too hard to find video evidence of people who believe in “street law.” It’s abundant in many alleged cases of police brutality caught on tape. You also can find it on WorldStarHipHop.com and several similar video-sharing sites. View enough of these videos and you’ll likely pick out the following traits:

1. A grandiose sense of self that comes complete with a list of things no one can say or do to them. (“No one calls me a bitch, cunt, pussy, racial slur, etc.”)

2. The absolute refusal to recognize any authority above them, including police, prosecutors, judges, etc.

3. Using violence as the only resort against perceived threats to their grandiose self image. (“Motherfucker was lookin’ at me,” etc.)

4. A stubborn refusal to allow someone else to have the last word in discussion/arguments.

5. A deep distrust of police and courts to the point where they refuse to cooperate with them at all costs. (“No snitching,” “snitches get stitches,” etc.)

6. The unrealistic belief that “street law” is the only law they must answer to.

7. The inability to comprehend that their behavior leads to legal problems and/or injuries.

8. Blaming other people for the above behavior, particularly their decision to engage in violence. (“People makin’ me act the fool;” “People make me act out of character;” “Why did he/she have to make me go there?” “I told that fool I would go off,” etc.)

9. Transitioning from aggressor to “victim” when their actions meet someone using superior force.

“Street Law” has no Place in a Court of Law
Let’s circle back to the couple in the above video. They refused to recognize the judge’s authority. They also refused to accept the authority of the bailiff. They also attempted to settle this dispute with shouting and physical resistance. This approach might work where they’re from, but it was a recipe for disaster outside that bubble. (Yes, even “the streets” can be a bubble.)

Which Reminds me of Something I’ve Said
While you might think the above video inspired this post, it did not. Regular readers of Trauma Central know I get material from Facebook. Most discussions of “police brutality” on Facebook ignore the points I’ve made. It’s inspired me to post this:

“Excellent news, people! I’ve just been informed that no matter what you do, cops can’t arrest you if you don’t want them to. Just a few punches and/or shoves from you and they’re legally bound to back off and let you go on your way. They can’t take you into custody if your friends are shouting, “This is bullshit!” and “Fuck the police!” You can trust this. It’s from my Facebook legal team.”

My facetiousness is intentional. It underscores the foolishness of applying street law where it doesn’t belong. To the contrary, there are those who think that legal  laws will protect them no matter where they are. (That’s the subject of another blog.) Anyone who can switch between the two as situations dictate are the most deadly people alive.

People Who Live by Street Law Should Love the Police
Yes, you read that right. And I’m not being sarcastic, either. Think about it this way: Each year, many average Americans are beaten, stabbed, robbed, raped, and/or killed by those answering only to street law. Stray bullets also claim plenty of innocent lives.

What keeps everyday Americans from attacking criminals? The fear of legal retribution from police, prosecutors, and judges. Laws protect criminals from vigilante justice. Without the legal system, this country would become The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy.

Expect More Posts about Street Law in the Future
As long as people continue thinking they can shout down and out-fight the police, I’m going to blog about it. Consider this the first of many such entries. As always, feel free to share your thoughts and observations in the comment section.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.