Friday, September 23, 2016

Hancock: Noted Stanford Professor and Bank Robber...

After the big three, very few characters in this movie even get multiple scenes. Aaron is the lovable moppet who always likes Hancock despite his gruff exterior. And there's the villain, who is relatively minor but pretty interesting for all that.

Most of what we know is heard over the radio.

Prison authorities confirmed that the prisoner uprising was led by Kenneth Parker Jr, also the leader of last week’s Spring Creek bank robbery. At least 8 prisoners not accounted for… for information on the prison riot at Norwalk... Construction workers at the prison were attacked and knocked unconscious the prisoners stole the workers clothes and it’s feared that at least some of them have escaped. Parker is considered a criminal master mind. He is very effective in using psychological persuasion to organize criminals from different backgrounds. He’s a former Psychology professor at Stanford University. While there he organized a notorious criminal network comprised of graduate students from diverse fields… 

(But a reader should always prioritize imagery in a film over exposition.) What we see is him as a bank robber who relies on others to do his work for him, him using therapy language ("he took your power") to convince the victims of Hancock's "joke" to join him, his outrage at being handicapped, and his participation in the Asshole Routine.

I think we can tell from this that the movie does not have a very high view of college professors and their methods. He is probably the film's most upper-class character, and he uses a disguise of empathy and linguistic cues to appear liberal, but has no problems degrading someone for their assholish behavior. Or knocking over a bank.

It is of course, fairly absurd to imagine a Stanford professor robbing a bank and holding hostages with C4. What is he even going to do with the money, fund grants anonymously? Much like it's absurd how much violence in this world needs a superhero to stop it. (The reason cops in the real world didn't pull over OJ's famous white Bronco wasn't because they couldn't bring enough force, but because they didn't want to cause harm to anyone while the cameras were rolling.)

On one level, this is the superhero fable's childish reduction of all problems to ones of violence, where a bad guy with a gun is solved by a good guy with a bigger gun.

On another level though, violence is the language superhero films use to express greater conflicts. We have a problem with upper class professors exploiting society, and calling people assholes to keep them down, and we wish some hero would come in and solve it. The imaginary field of their combat will be a bank robbery.

It's a mixed bag, but Hancock the movie seems to understand this better than most. For, as said earlier, this villain is pretty trivial. He's not there from the beginning, he's not responsible for Hancock's origin story, and he is by no means the main conflict of the story. In fact, the conflicts of the story are resolved by his existence. Hancock and Ray are counting on his bank robbery as an excuse to get Hancock out of jail. His murderous attack at the end is the traumatic rupture that lets Hancock let go of Mary. We despise this piece of trash Stanford professor, but we also need him to move beyond society's systemic faults.

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