Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Article: The Middleman Does Justice

I have a new review of the ABC show The Middleman up at TheAtlasphere.com, a networking site for fans of Ayn Rand:

The Middleman is a unique television pilot which centers around the familiar theme of a below-the-radar agency that takes on the paranormal anomalies that society either chooses to ignore or is unaware of.

Unlike similar fare such as Hellboy or X-Files, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all, instead treating spectacles such as a gorilla with a machine gun and a giant multi-eyed squid as the ridiculous things that they are.

The plot centers on Wendy Watson (no relation to Mary Jane), played by Natalie Morales, and the Middleman, played by Matt Keeslar.

Wendy becomes embroiled in the world of the paranormal when a giant “hentai tentacle monster” (Yes, they actually said “hentai” on cable television, in a very geeky salute to the infamous Japanese cartoon La Blue Girl) destroys the science lab that she was working at as a secretary.

The Middleman comes in to eliminate the tentacle monster, and, after being impressed by Wendy’s apparent calm in the face of an attack by something straight out of a Japanese adult film, tries to seduce Wendy into becoming his sidekick.

The Middleman is an ex-Navy Seal armed with more weapons than the Punisher and Batman combined, and he uses them quite a few times during the pilot.

Don’t let that make you think that he’s a brute, however. The character seems to be a testament to Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, in his conservative mannerisms.

During the show, he addresses all the female characters as “ma’am,” says “Jeepers!” and “Gosh” in place of the familiar epithets and orders a glass of milk in a bar occupied by gangsters, all of whom he proceeds to beat up.

For the comic book geek, this show is a dream come true. Instead of filtering comic book fandom into morsels more fit for a mainstream television audience, The Middleman delivers nuggets of geekdom as corny, ridiculous, and socially adverse as we fanboys often are in real life.

Cult comic book series such as Powers, Astro City, old school X-Men, Mouse Guard, and The Flash are all referenced to.

The comic book references are all appropriate, as the show is based on a series of comic books published by Viper Comics.

The comic book series received critical acclaim and was named by the American Library Association as one of 2007’s “Great Graphic Novels for Teens.” Viper Comics provides free samples of the series on their website (www.vipercomics.com).

The satire hit home for me in a way many libertarians and Ayn Rand readers would relate to.

It’s often noted that libertarians tend to live amongst liberals more than amongst conservatives, and as such have no doubt observed many of the eccentricities of Blue State America, which are satirized recklessly in The Middleman.

Wendy Watson’s boyfriend is a film school student who she beats up after he records himself breaking up with her for an art project, and her roommate is a clueless, blonde animal-rights activist who protests outside of French restaurants.

When Wendy’s boyfriend apologizes for the film project, claiming that it “seemed like a good idea,” Wendy retorts cleverly, “So did the Carter Administration.”

Lambasting of Jimmy Carter is indeed a rare occurrence in the mainstream media, especially in today’s political climate. Is Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the scriptwriter of The Middleman, a libertarian?

The Middleman is being broadcast on ABC Family, which may lead many to cast it aside as a kid’s show. It’s not at all, as many of the jokes I really doubt would get through to youngsters. I would argue that the Sci-Fi Channel would be a much more appropriate home for this show.

Wherever you find it, you’ll no doubt enjoy the light-hearted geekiness of The Middleman.


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