Earlier this week, a Mortal Kombat short debuted from director Kevin Tancharoen (Fame) as an interest reel, hoping to win himself a job as the director of the next Mortal Kombat movie. I was snobby and dismissive of the trailer right off the bat; there are two terrible Mortal Kombat movies already (one more terrible than the other) -- Why would anyone in 2010 get excited over the prospect of another Mortal Kombat flick?
Peer pressure is strong, though. I'm not so bull-headed that I wouldn't give something truly incredible a chance, and that's what I kept hearing about the clip. Awesome. Spectacular. Amazing. I may not be a Mortal Kombat fan (though I played the heck out of Mortal Kombat II, the peak of the series, way back when), but I am a fan of awesome, spectacular, and amazing things. I decided to go ahead and give it a shot.
It was barely a couple of minutes in before I couldn't watch another second.
About a year ago, I was looking for UFO conspiracy videos on YouTube. I can't remember why; it's not really an interest of mine, but sometimes you get on YouTube and you just start going down odd rabbit holes. I came across a video that claimed to be actual footage of an alien baby. It was graphic, disturbing, and obviously very real, but was it an alien? Most of the commenters at the time seemed to think so, all of them swapping conspiracy theories about our reptilian overlords. There was a single voice of reason in the comments section -- it wasn't an alien; it was a human baby with harlequin syndrome.
Harlequin syndrome is the kind of thing that will either rattle your faith in a loving God or completely reinforce your atheism. Also known as harlequin-type ichthyosis, the disease is characterized by skin so hard that it cracks apart where it would normally bend, creating large, scaly, diamond-shaped fissures all over the body. Often the eyes and nose are missing entirely, and the lips are pulled back in a constant, open-mouthed grimace, due to the hardened skin. Can you imagine being born into the world, blind and bleeding, where room temperature can give you hyperthermia and every minor wiggle causes your skin to split open? Can you imagine that existence for your baby?
Can you imagine a picture of your suffering child being used as a Mortal Kombat monster?
It's clever of Tancharoen to use the disease as a way to give a real-world explanation to a stupid character like Reptile, the ninja alligator. I don't take offense to the syndrome being used as a story device at all. It's still completely unrealistic, as most harlequin sufferers don't make it into their teens, and none of them would be capable of fast-paced martial arts, but it's fair game if you're trying to tell me why a regular guy might look scaly.
Where Tancharoen makes my stomach turn is in the use of actual harlequin syndrome photos for shock value to help sell the character of Reptile. A quick Google image search for "harlequin babies" shows that Tancharoen nabbed the images from the web, without any regard to what the original purpose of those photos might be. Those are human beings in those images; not scary Mortal Kombat creatures. Those are people's children.
I don't get on a high horse about a lot of things, and I don't think of myself as one who's easily offended. Tancharoen's Mortal Kombat trailer made me sick. It's a vile, profoundly insensitive way to drum up interest in a potential video game movie, taking something that might've restored a franchise and planting it alongside queasy, tasteless garbage from the bottom of the internet barrel. No amount of cool fight scenes will ever get me to finish the clip.
Once I knew that the alien baby in the YouTube video wasn't an alien at all, I cried. I'm still not sure what cosmic lesson harlequin syndrome is supposed to teach a pair of loving parents, or what part of God's design includes babies being born with life-threatening painful deformities. The disease is almost unfathomably troubling, so far beyond the realm of anything life has ever dealt me, that just thinking about it makes me feel instantly helpless and angry. How anyone can see those images and commandeer them into a Mortal Kombat movie, of all things, is downright revolting.