Kindness Is Subversive

Lately I’ve been getting very into kindness. I used to think kindness was something that you deployed on occasion, like an umbrella. Then I thought kindness was something you used like a weapon, a cudgel with which you could smite your enemies, leaving them bloodied with your superiority.

In the past year my thoughts on kindness have changed. I think kindness can be constant and invisible, like radiation coming from a pellet of plutonium (maybe I can come up with a more positive version of that simile at some point). Kindness is something you not only project but that you also apply to yourself. And kindness, I believe, is the most radical and subversive thing in the world today.

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Your Obedient Servant, or, The Sham of Civility

One of the songs in Hamilton that always gets a chuckle out of me is “Your Obedient Servant,” which happens late in Act Two. Hamilton and Burr, once friends and now simmering enemies, exchange a series of increasingly heated letters back and forth that culminate in the two agreeing to a duel. Based on real letters, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song has the two men getting more and more aggressive with each missive but closing out every letter with a return to civility – they sign as “your obedient servant,” and the music switches from a driving beat to chipper and polite strings. The disparity between the anger and the sign-offs gets me every time.

This is civility, and it’s bullshit. The two men, despite all their well-learned politesse, end up in a fatal shoot-out. They adhere to the rules of good taste, and yet one man still bleeds to death when it’s all said and done.

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DEADPOOL 2: Filth, Violence And… Kindness?

This contains full unmarked spoilers for Deadpool 2.

Deadpool 2 is maybe one softball game away from being a perfect X-Men movie. Strip away the fourth wall breaking, the filthy humor and the ultraviolence and you’re left with a story about a group of misfit mutants coming together to be better people than they can be alone, and to save someone from becoming the worst version of themselves. Along the way there’s tragedy, there’s action, there’s death, there’s teen romance, there are timeline shenanigans and there’s heavy-handed anti-mutant sentiment from villains representing Christianity/conservatives. It’s been almost twenty years since the X-Men first appeared on a movie screen and only now, in this weird jokey side franchise, is their spirit being honored appropriately.

But why would you want to strip away the fourth wall breaking, the filthy humor and the ultraviolence? They’re vital parts of what makes this movie work, and the absurdity and silliness are rivaled only by the movie’s weird pairing of intense violence and sweet kindness. And you know what? I think that kindness is also a thing that Deadpool 2 gets right about X-Men stories that few of the previous films in the sprawling and weird franchise bothered with.

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The Cost of Kindness

“If you aren’t a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you aren’t a middle-aged conservative, you have no head.”

This quote is sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill. I don’t know if he said it, but the origins of the quote can actually be traced to France in the 1800s; the true provenance of it is unknown. Regardless of who said it, it’s a quote I’ve thought about a lot.
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