Will iconic images recorded in the grooves of an ancient vase unite the Holy Land or rip it further apart?

THE VASE

A novel by Mark M. DeRobertis

Muhsin Muhabi is a Palestinian potter, descended from a long line of potters. His business is run from the same shop owned by his ancestors since the day his forebears moved to Nazareth. The region's conflict saw the death of his oldest son, and rogue terrorists are in the process of recruiting his youngest in their plot to assassinate the Pope and Israeli prime minister.

Professor Hiram Weiss is an art historian at Nazareth’s Bethel University. He is also a Shin Bet operative on special assignment. With the help of fellow agent, Captain Benny Mathias, he plans to destroy the gang responsible for the death of his wife and only child. He puts a bomb in the ancient vase he takes on loan from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.

Mary Levin, the charming assistant to the director of Shin Bet, has lost a husband and most of her extended family to recurring wars and never-ending terrorism. She dedicates her life to the preservation of Israel, but to whom will she dedicate her heart - the brilliant professor from Bethel University - or the gallant captain who now leads Kidon?

Harvey Holmes, the Sherlock of Haunted Houses, is a Hollywood TV host whose reality show just flopped. When a Lebanese restaurant owner requests his ghost-hunting services, he believes the opportunity will resurrect his career. All he has to do is exorcise the ghosts that are haunting the restaurant. It happens to be located right across the street from Muhsin’s Pottery Shop.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Villains as Protagonists?

After watching and enjoying Cable TV shows like Game of Thrones and Spartacus, I've been trying to catch up on some others that I didn't watch. I just completed the full five season run of Breaking Bad, and I'm just about finished with the second season of House of Cards. And with those latter two, I find myself confused. Why? Because it seems that the new trend is to make villains the protagonists. And here I was thinking that heroes were supposed to be the protagonists. Silly me.

When I say hero, I mean that the protagonist is supposed to be a good guy. A person with whom the audience can empathize. You know, someone who is basically a good person, someone who may not be perfect, but someone you're rooting for because you believe that he or she is doing something you can believe in, and has a goal that is something you hope that he or she can achieve.

But what is happening now? Well, in Breaking Bad, the protagonist is a manufacturer of illicit drugs. And it's one of the worst drugs out there--crystal meth. I've never tried that drug myself, but I've known people who did, and their lives were ruined as a result. It's a horrible drug. And not only that, this "hero" becomes a murderer, and is responsible for the deaths of several more people, and indirectly is responsible for the deaths of hundreds.

And still, he's the protagonist, the hero, the main character who the audience is supposed to be rooting for, empathize with, and hope he achieves his goal, which is nothing much more that to make a lot of money. And he admits in the end that he made crystal meth because he enjoyed it, made him feel alive, and he was good at it. Yeah, he was a drug dealer, basically. And a murderer. One of the worst elements of human society, and we're supposed to be rooting for this guy?

Now that I'm watching House of Cards, I'm finding out that it gets even worse! The protagonist is a conniving politician who lies, cheats, undermines his allies, and yes, even murders people. Innocent people. On top of that, he is a closet homosexual, which isn't an evil thing unto itself, but he's a married man, (to a woman, who also has extramarital affairs,) he's the vice president of the United States, and he engages in threesomes with his wife and another man? Come on. I'm supposed to be rooting for this guy? I don't want to pull for people like that. He's crooked, he's vile, he's a murderer, like I said, and he's the protagonist!

Sheesh. What happened to the real heroes? Heroes who were flawed, but basically, they were still good people who you wanted to succeed. Russell Crowe's character Maximus in Gladiator was a hero like that. Even Michael Corleone in Godfather was someone like that. Spartacus in Spartacus was a hero like that. And maybe Spartacus is a perfect example of a great hero. He was a good person, a leader with a great cause, and someone who you could look up to.

Yeah, those are the heroes that I'm used to seeing. Those were heroes I was used to rooting for. Not vile murderers, cheaters, liars, perverts, and destroyers of other peoples' lives. What is Hollywood throwing at us? I'm not sure. It's weird to say the least. The new heroes seem to be the villains. Villains as the heroes. To me, it's backward. Villains are the antagonists, not the protagonists.

I know there's the antihero. The Hulk, Wolverine, even Michael Corleone could qualify as as antihero. Antiheroes are flawed heroes who are good on the inside, but are outcasts, or act outside of the law, but not because they're evil. In fact, they are not evil. They are just different. Flawed, certainly, but they have good hearts. Good souls. Not like these new "heroes" in Breaking Bad and the protagonist in House of Cards!

Well, Breaking Bad's protagonist, it could be argued, didn't have a bad heart, but it could also be argued that his heart wasn't so good. For example, he stands by and watches an innocent girl drown to death in her own vomit when all he had to do was turn her onto her side. He also orders the murder of an innocent man to save his own skin. How good is your heart when you do things like that?

So I'm just wondering why villains are becoming the protagonists. They should be the antagonists. Give me a hero I can root for. Leave the vile characters as the antagonists where they belong.


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