IC2S Playlist Update 23/03/2016

Whenever I go on long periods where the blog is only updated with Playlist updates (like it is right now), I feel kind of bad. I’ve been quite busy lately though, juggling an increased workload due to taking on a new position and getting into exam time with an online course for my job. Even my leisure time is squeezing out writing opportunities as I had to paint up a couple dozen models in anticipation for a Warhammer 40,000 tournament, plus find time to play Rainbow Six Siege and Fire Emblem Fates. Blogging has just been a fairly low priority for me at the moment unfortunately, even though I’ve got about a half dozen things I wouldn’t mind writing about.

First of all is someone that I haven’t bothered to write about yet… making me pretty much the only person with a blog who hasn’t. That’d be Donald Trump in case you were still wondering. I never would have predicted that Trump would be a lock-in for the Republican leadership nomination, although I still think that the odds that he will win the presidency are close to impossible. However, I was thinking about Trump the other day and the ways that he has been identifying with his significant voter base. Aside from the obviously prickish white supremacists, sexists and assorted other crazies who simply like Trump’s more unsavory aspects, the bulk of Trump’s support seems to stem from his anti-establishment rhetoric. Basically, if the political system seems broken, then get an outlier to change it – kind of the opposite approach to the “if it ain’t broke” axiom. Unfortunately, this is a pretty enormous gamble by the public, placing the leadership of a world superpower in the hands of an untested and ideologically-unpleasant individual just because they feel that they lack representation in the current system*.

These thoughts have brought me back to the opinion article I penned during the Canadian election, that politics are a game, that the voter is being exploited and therefore we should have voter education for eligibility. Few “democracies” have a game more tried and tested than the American political system, so it’s little wonder that the Republican party has essentially imploded in such a manner as the voters turn on the establishment which has consistently shown contempt for their opinions. That said, considering that people have turn to Trump (whose own statements can legitimately and justly compare him to Hitler’s politics without any of the political bullshit that usually follows that sort of comparison), you have to question the merits of a system like this. I mean on the one hand, sure this is what “the people” seem to want, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s the “right” approach to take, especially in the long term. I’m very hesitant to say that I support a oligarchical system, but every time I look at democracy lately it just pushes me further and further in that direction.

Then again, I have an extremely morbid curiosity to see what a Trump Presidency would look like, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue to pull off his upsets at every turn. At least it’s not my country which will have to deal with it. USA! USA!

On a related topic, this morning I had a rather irritating conversation with my father. He was watching the Stingray Music Channel and a song by “Average White Band” came on, which prompted him to say “oh, you couldn’t name a band that anymore, everything has to be politically correct.” I said “eh, I figure you could get away with that without too much fuss.” He replied “you couldn’t name them ‘Average Black Band’, everything has to be politically correct.” Again, I said “I don’t figure that would cause much fuss,” to which he once again replied “everything these days has to be politically correct”. Attempting to argue with my father can be exasperating at times, but that’s besides the point** – is there anything “politically incorrect” about just mentioning race? As usual around these parts, it’s all about the context of course. If they called themselves “Average Black Band” and then made a bunch of songs about how stupid/awful black people are, then sure they’re definitely deserving of some scorn. However, it seems like these days there are more complaints about political correctness as an idea than there are actual cases of legitimately overzealous political correctness. In fact, from my experience (and that of my friends as well), those harping the anti-political correctness agenda the most just seem to be just assholes who are annoyed that they get called out for being homophobic/racist/etc. This seems to be coming to a head with Trump as well, as I know my father has said that the one thing he likes about Trump is that he’s not politically correct… as if that is something which should qualify someone for the presidency.

Of course, there will always be someone complaining about any sort of opinion – and not just from “those butthurt SJW-types”. If you get a massive group of people telling you to stop being an asshole though, then maybe at least give them a moment’s consideration to see if there might be something to what they’re saying. Think about what as you check out this week’s picks, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda” by Iron Butterfly and “December Flower” by Sleeping Romance.

(EDIT) Oh hey looked, Cracked sums me up perfectly once again!

*That said, I’ll take Trump over Cruz any day.
**In fact, after looking up “Average White Band”, plus “politically correct” and “offensive”, I found absolutely zero hits on the first pages of people complaining about the name.

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The Rebuttal: Context 101

It’s that time again – another round of The Rebuttal! I’ve had lots of content to pick through, but since I don’t want every installment of The Rebuttal to be about me making fun of the same men’s rights activist, we’re going to shake it up just a little bit. In honour of #OscarsSoWhite, I present this little gem:

Hoo boy, I’ve got a few thoughts on this one. First of all, this feels like the sort of thing a white 16-year-old just starting to wrestle with the concepts of privilege and the disadvantaged might put together and then deeply regret in a few years when they start to get a better idea of how the world works. It’s pretty emblematic of the mid-90s-to-late-2000s liberal ideal of “colour blindness”, where us white, middle-class folks decided that racism was finally over and we can start focusing on other things. Naturally, the last few years have demonstrated very visibly that this was simply a wishful fantasy and that racism (and sexism for that matter) is still ingrained deeply within society at an institutional level, and until that is addressed, things won’t get much better.

For my own part, growing up I thought that Nazis and literal racists were a thing of the past*. However, in just the last week I have encountered and sparred with an honest-to-God white supremacist. I have already documented some encounters with a self-described “humanist” with some decidedly toxic views on women, gays, trans-people and minorities. I see all sorts of modern misogyny and racism on We Hunted the Mammoth on a daily basis. Hell, one could make the very realistic argument that a white supremacist is the frontrunner for the Republican party this year. The progressive backlash has gotten louder and more visible in the last few years, and so now more than ever we need to identify it and try to treat this ideological cancer before it can gain any sort of social traction.

The other thing that’s making me think that the person who made this is only around 16-years-old is because their examples are pretty freaking weak. I know they’re attempting to establish a double-standard, but I don’t see either of the given examples as being particularly sexist or racist. Maybe that’s just me, but that just highlights one of the major issues with this image: both a lack of context, and a lack of understanding of context.

First of all, “you boys/girls are stupid” is not a sexist statement in itself, but the context is going to be really important if you want to make the argument that it is. Like, what caused the statement? Is it a blanket statement regarding the person’s sex/race? Was their shitty opinion based on prejudice? Or are they just saying that they think that this particular individual is stupid based on some prior experiences? It’s basically impossible to pass a judgement of sexism/racism on this situation without some real context.

Secondly, the authour has a severe lack of understanding of context. Let’s just assume that the example statements did have a sexist/racist intent. In such a case then it is important to point out the prejudice in the person’s statement because they’re being much more than just a “big ol’ meanie”. If they’re being a racist/sexist prick, then there is some sort of underlying prejudice which is causing them to formulate a negative, dehumanizing picture of people, and one which needs to be identified, addressed and eliminated from society. It’s almost like the authour doesn’t realize that this is the case, as if they think that racism/sexism is just a synonym for being mean which only applies to certain people.

Don’t get me wrong though – being nice to everyone is ideal. I hope that at some point we can actually reach this state. However, the issue is that there are ingrained prejudices which make this obviously-ideal philosophy untenable in practice. Furthermore, much like humanism, egalitarianism, free speech and #GamerGate, this sort of ideal is co-opted by racists, sexists, homophobes and various other unsavoury groups which pollute the term and destroy any sort of attempt at using it as an actual platform for positive social change. It’s a great individual philosophy to internalize and pass on to others, but the authour has to realize that you’re targeting the wrong people – don’t target the people pointing out inequalities, target the assholes in society who make things worse for all of us.

*This in spite of the fact that in one of my earliest years in school, a black kid had joined our class. When my mom asked me what I thought of him, I snarkily and defiantly declared “I don’t like blacks.” I was probably 6 or 7 years old and had never encountered a non-white person before. Suffice to say, the smack that I received from my mother was well-deserved, and it’s easily one of my most shameful memories. However, it has been a source of some pondering for me – what caused me to be such a racist prick of a kid? I think it was down to “he’s different, and I don’t like things that are different”, which makes me kind of concerned for all the people who grew up around me in a town which has been called “the whitest town in all of Ontario”.

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#OscarsSoWhite: Why We Need to Learn to Pick Our Battles

If you’ve read even a couple of my posts on this blog, then you’re probably aware that I’m a staunchly left-leaning “SJW”-type person. However, with that in mind, I am absolutely sick of the “#OscarsSoWhite” controversy which has been dominating the news cycle for the last week. Initially I was fine with it – it is certainly odd that we haven’t had a non-white acting nominee in 2 straight years now, which is a situation which is certainly ripe for discussion. However, my problem is that the prevailing discussion soon turned towards the Academy itself being racist by not choosing any black actors, which is really straining things as far as I’m concerned. Thankfully, Mark Gollom posted this very good article on CBC which covers all of the things I have been pointing out since this story first broke. In light of this, I think it’s finally time for me to throw in my hat as well on this story.

First of all, it has to be said that the real “objective” importance of the Oscars is ridiculously overstated. It is certainly the most visible stage for film appraisal, but not winning or getting nominated is only really important for the financial incentives and exposure it provides. The “best” movies or actors in a given year is an incredibly subjective question, and I’m certain that the average moviegoer’s list would look absolutely nothing like what the Academy comes up with most years. The fact that Mad Max: Fury Road made the shortlist this year is nothing short of a minor miracle, as it doesn’t fit the “Oscar-bait” mold which most nominees must adhere to in order to stand a chance.

Furthermore, many deserving actors get snubbed every year and it always causes some kind of backlash. Will Smith and Michael B Jordan didn’t really have a lot of buzz going their way, especially in comparison to the actors who did make the extremely-limited slate. Furthermore, Idris Elba was never going to get nominated, and that is down to film-making politics – Beasts of No Nation is breaking the “established rules” of film distribution, so like TRON‘s visual effects snub, it was never going to be recognized by the Academy. Compared to last year, these aren’t shocking at all, unlike the lack of major recognition for Selma, which left me absolutely flabbergasted, especially considering that it had some of the most positive buzz going into the awards (not to mention that most of the Oscar-bait from that year totally floundered).

#OscarsSoWhite activists need to start looking at the bigger picture if they want to solve this issue. They can start by directing their criticisms at Hollywood’s movie studios, which is where I would argue this whole Oscars racism issue stems from. Think about it – we have a severe lack of non-white actors because Hollywood studios think that there will be financial repercussions if they cast a minority in any major roles. This isn’t some sort of conspiracy, it’s just an attitude which has created some major inequality throughout the entire industry. At this point, it’s so obvious that it is basically a no-brainer. From not casting black actors in lead roles because “foreign people are racist and it’ll affect our bottom-line”, to the disgustingly frequent practice of white-washing characters because studios refuse to finance a movie without a bankable cast. Furthermore, it is believed that Selma was overlooked, not because of Academy racism and favouritism, but because of a lack of promotion:

Selma’s studio, Paramount, had mailed free DVD screeners to Oscar voters — but not to guild voters. Which raises the possibility that, with Selma having opened so late in the season, maybe not enough voters have seen it yet.”

This is just another look behind the curtain at the subjective nature of the Oscars. How the heck did Paramount not think that Selma was a legitimate Best Picture contender?

The final big issue here is that Will Smith and Michael B Jordan’s “snubbed” performances are in the Best Actor category, which is widely regarded as being one of the most competitive categories in the entire awards ceremony. Due to traditional wisdom in Hollywood favouring male leads, there are basically always going to be tons of Best Actor candidates. Furthermore, with Hollywood preferring white male leads in general, we end up with less bankable non-white actors, meaning that it’s significantly harder for an actor to get to the status of being competitive enough to actually stand a chance of getting a Best Actor nomination. In general, this sort of systemic favouritism of white males not only screws minorities throughout their entire careers, but it also is a prime factor for why women have a harder time making it in Hollywood as well.

In general, I think that #OscarsSoWhite is on the right track – there is certainly some very obvious cases of systemic racism within the film industry. However, by directing their efforts at the Academy, activists are missing out on the real root of the problem. We need to see studios and agents more willing to take risks on non-white actors, more diverse screenplays and casting, and more of a concerted effort to actually tell the stories of other people. Furthermore, we as the public need to continue to support films which do try to take these sorts of risks – Hollywood might finally be starting to understand, but it is going to take a very long time before a strong stable of talent is fostered instead of getting passed over.

Unfortunately, due to the current public discourse, all people are going to remember of this incident was that black people were playing the “race card” again to try to get ahead, even though there were legitimate issues to discuss. This is why I’m always telling us SJW-types to “pick your battles” intelligently, because the causes that we choose to fight for are arguably just as important as the actual messages in terms of public perception. If we want more people to sympathize with our causes, then they need to realize that what we’re saying is correct, rather than give them some dumbed-down talking point that any troglodite can disprove.

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So… What’s the Point?

There’s a recurring argument which seems to occur within my family every couple months. Most recently it was triggered by Rajon Rondo’s anti-gay comments to a gay referee in an NBA game and his two subsequent non-apologies. On one side, the argument was being made that Rondo was being an asshole, but how was this different than player ribbing one another by making comments about their mothers/sisters? There was also the free speech argument being tossed around (even though this is a case where an employee is being punished by his employer because of a positive image that they want to project, not an opinion in the public forum). One particular party was also arguing that people are just too “soft” these days, love to complain about stupid bullshit and need to grow thicker skin (this party, for the record, is only 22 bloody years old). These comments did get me thinking though – when we SJW-types stand up and make a fuss about something, are we just doing so because we’re a bunch of cry babies? Are we doing anything productive? When I write about womens’ representation in pop culture, what am I actually trying to achieve? To put it as simply as possible: what’s the point?

Well let’s make one thing clear – for all of my feminist criticism, I don’t think that any one example of objectification is going to be the tipping point where someone becomes a misogynist. However, I’m not sure if that’s an excuse to go entirely the other way – in one of his videos, TotalBiscuit says that he doesn’t believe that video games cause real-life violence, so it would be hypocritical of him to believe that video games can cause misogyny. In my mind, this is not an equivalent analogy. Violence is something which our society looks down upon, whereas (if you’re a feminist at least) negative attitudes towards women are still quite prevalent – just look at a few of the things I have written here for some examples in “liberal” Hollywood. As a result, it would seem to me that examples of sexism are not the problem, but rather the social perceptions which they help to foster. Actually, Robert Evans put out a very interesting article on the mindsets of mass shooters while I was writing this post which helps illustrate the difference between causation and cultural perception.

Considering that pretty much all of western society has agreed that racism = bad, it’s probably best to demonstrate perception in that area. First of all, getting to the point where we could agree that racism was bad in the first place required a shift in social perception, which we’d all look back on and consider to be a good change, right? People also seem to be fairly familiar with examples of racism within culture: black guys are criminals, love fried chicken and have huge dicks, Asians are all geniuses with tiny dicks (it’s all about the dicks in racism), Muslims are women-hating savages, terrorists and have wild beards, etc. These sorts of things get passed around in our culture, but they are not necessarily true (and even if they are on a person-to-person basis, the fact that they colour our perceptions of a whole race is definitely problematic). I have seen this sort of mindset still persisting on white supremacy forums over this last week. This sort of hateful ideology must be stamped out and the only acceptable way to do so is through proper education and social dialogue.

Perceptions change over time. Islamophobia is not a thing which necessarily “is”, it is based on a perception that has developed based on the narratives put forth by various sources. For a non-SJW example, look at the Ebola panic last year. The American media threw people into a frenzy as they worried about whether this disease would come to America, go airborne and then kill millions of people… even though basically every expert agreed that there was basically no threat of an outbreak in America (not that they gave a shit about helping the 5000-10,000 people who died from the outbreaks in West Africa). Furthermore, before this story hit the news cycle, the public wasn’t worried at all about Ebola or pandemics, at least not since 2009’s Swine Flu “scare” anyway.

So how does all of this relate to blogging about Quiet’s sniper-stripper outfit then, for example? The point is quite simply to change the existing perception. Keeping it in the video game sphere, I have stated numerous times in the past that the status quo for female representation is to objectify, to damsel or to fridge them. By blogging about such representations and drawing attention to them, combined with all of the other feminists who are doing the same, we hope to create a shift in the social perception. The same can be said in other areas where people have been questioning why people even care – from sexual harassment in the military, to Black Lives Matter, to Caitlyn Jenner becoming the face of trans-rights. We are creating a dialogue by questioning the status quo. After all, if we did not speak up about an issue, the issue would never change.

The secondary consideration is that a change in perception will also (hopefully) lead to more diversity. If the status quo is never questioned, then most of our media will never even think to try something different. This is why so many video game protagonists have been white males, especially in the past console generation. Diversity also means that certain “negative” portrayals can also be totally acceptable. For example, in an early post on the blog, I questioned why it was wrong to objectify women, but men were fair game (eg, the Wolfpack in Twilight, Magic Mike, etc). I have come to realize that objectification is not inherently the issue here, but rather that women have been disproportionately objectified for decades. As a result, we need to rein back the objectification and make it more egalitarian. This is also why most SJW-types don’t give a shit about DOAX3 or Pirahna 3D, these are experiences which are really obviously little more than a softcore fantasy with a very limited audience. Conversely, The Phantom Pain‘s Quiet is problematic as she is the sole female character in an otherwise-serious, high-profile release who is dressed very inappropriately for her supposed role.

With all of this in mind, I don’t think my criticisms are going to suddenly turn you into a feminist/progressive Christian/etc either. However, my hope with this blog is that I can help push you in that direction, little by little. After all, that’s how I ended up where I am now in basically every walk of my life. Very few people just radically change in one instance, it took me years to understand why we still needed feminism, that dogmatic evangelicalism was killing my Christian faith and that I should value other people rather than being a self-interested prick. Just remember to keep an open mind and be willing to listen to other peoples’ opinions.

Postscript: I have this article scheduled to post within 2 and a half hours, but even in that time new supplementary material has presented itself which I felt that I must share. The article from To Do Justice on the Patheos network lambastes Christian misogyny, along with our culture’s casual sexism which stems from the perceptions of what is acceptable. Even if you think that binding and gagging women and saying “Peace on Earth” is “just a joke, don’t take it so seriously”, you have to admit that it is both an extremely tired joke and in really poor taste (you bound your freaking little daughters’ mouths as well!?!?!).

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Deliberate Inequality

So I was recently reading this article on Polygon about unequal racial representations in gaming, and it got my mind jogging. Oftentimes, when someone calls out a system or representation for being racist/sexist/homophobic/whatever, people less versed in the subject are quick to come out and ask what the big deal is, that the person is looking too far into things, claim that it’s a part of the “creative vision” or that SJWs are trying to censor art (that they agree with, of course), etc. In any case, I believe that some of these responses stem from a misunderstanding of some of the basics of social justice analysis.

I think that many people believe that racism et al are only actually worthy of being pointed out if examples of them were done deliberately with malicious intent. For example, my father complains about how the media seems to always be complaining about racism in regards to police activity or their representation in Hollywood, and yet would quite likely stand up for someone if somebody was slinging racial slurs at them in public and discriminating against them in an obvious manner. People like him probably find these “smaller issue” social justice concerns to be extremely frivilous, get burnt out from hearing them all the time and definitely do not consider themselves racist. Unfortunately, due to a lack of interest or education on the subject, they are missing the underlying, unconscious issues in society which are contributing to the lingering of racism/sexism/etc. This often means that people concerned with social equality need to be concerned not so much with the less-common and clearly unacceptable examples of deliberate racism, but moreso with the unintentional examples.

Honestly, I find that deliberate examples of inequality are potentially less offensive than the unintentional, ingrained ones where people don’t even realize that they’re being potentially offensive. To link back to the start of the article, think about how big budget video games and movies rarely feature a hero who is a white, a male and a power fantasy of some sort. Think of how Assassin’s Creed: Unity ditched the option to play as a female assassin, claiming that they didn’t have the development time or budget to do it (which was promptly revealed to be a bullshit excuse, they just didn’t prioritize the female audience). Another good example is in Warhammer 40,000. Every couple months, someone comes onto the Dakka Dakka forums and asks where all the non-whites are in 40k. The simple answer is that there ARE other races in the Warhammer universe, and there are a handful of examples of them in 40k art, but it has literally not even occurred to the painters to paint any of their soldiers non-white. Honestly, I fell into the same trap with my 40k armies. When I was growing up, it never even occurred to me to paint any of my Space Wolves anything other than white. When I started an Imperial Guard army years later, I still didn’t think to paint them anything other than white for quite some time, until one of those Dakka Dakka topics pointed out the issue. We all have our own blind spots where we don’t even realize that we’re missing out on a chance at equality, or at least to make a conscious artistic decision one way or the other.

This is why the Bechdel test is so crazy – women rarely speak to one another about something other than a man because of the way that the screenplay is written. When 2 women speak, they have to advance the plot in some way by the very nature of the narrative. However, the fact that most movies fail the Bechdel test really shows how marginalized women are in movies, and that they aren’t generally the ones who the movie really cares for. It shows that women are not prioritized in the scripts, nor are they generally the focus, and generally serve as little more than plot convenience, especially when they speak to one another (because rarely do they bother to have 2 real women characters with any agency). My friend and I were watching the 1998 Godzilla, which isn’t an overtly sexist film by any means. However, we were commenting on it the whole time, when halfway through I was suddenly struck by the realization that the film had bombed the Bechdel test. There were only a couple scenes in the whole movie which featured two women talking to one another, and they spent all of them talking about a guy as the focal point to set up the love story subplot. It really illustrates where the film’s real focus is, and the fact that it’s so common is distressing (and let’s not even mention the 2014 Godzilla, which doesn’t even feature a single scene with more than one woman in it with a speaking role… this is a frighteningly common reality in movies).

What about deliberate examples of inequality though? The Witcher 3 is getting taken to task for apparent sexism in the game (although I’ll admit, Feminist Frequency does not have the best track record of picking good, clear examples). I haven’t played The Witcher 3 unfortunately, so I can’t comment, but one complaint that sounds valid is that the game features a lot of gendered insults when you play as a female character (or when they’re around at least… again, haven’t played it). Moral judgments about it aside, can we at least agree that having such marked differences in the insults directed at male and female characters is sexist? How odd would it be if enemies taunted your male game hero by saying they were weak, had a small dick, couldn’t pleasure their partner, or threatened to sexually assault them if they fail? Unfortunately, this is a strangely common trope for women in video games: quite a long time ago I wrote about Lollipop Chainsaw, a game I actually rather enjoyed, but lamented how the enemies will frequently call the protagonist a “bitch”, “slut” and threaten to violently sexually assault her. This also apparently happens all the time when you play as Catwoman in Batman: Arkham City – there’s a 6 minute video on Youtube of nothing but the instances where enemies hurl gendered insults at her, which is kind of insane. On the more positive end of the scale, I recently replayed the Tomb Raider reboot on PS4 and, despite the island being inhabited by violent, insane, foul-mouthed sailors, I didn’t find the game any less “realistic” for not having them sling gendered insults at Lara all the time. Rather, they simply act as if she was any other badass running around kicking their asses, and shout out her actions (“she’s flanking us!”) rather than taunts.

While gendered insults are undeniably sexist just by definition (male characters get generic taunts, female characters are taunted based on their gender), that isn’t to say that this is something that needs to be eliminated necessarily. I’m wondering if the point that Sarkseesan is trying to make (and the one she tries to make whenever she picks a really questionable example) is simply pointing this out to bring awareness to this potential issue in gaming, rather than saying “This is bad and needs to be eliminated from gaming RIGHT NOW.” If anything, it is more likely stopping devs from taking this sort of thing for granted and trying to get them to be more deliberate when they utilize gendered insults and female characters – is being beaten down and shamed for their gender key to the experience that the devs want to give the player when playing as a female character?

One common mistake that inexperienced writers make is when they try to make their story “mature”, they tend to overcompensate and just saturate it in misery, rape and constant violence. This causes the plot to be completely forgotten or overshadowed, and the acts themselves to feel meaningless. The fix, of course, is for the writer to be more deliberate with the use of mature themes, so that they have the impact that they SHOULD have. Rape, sexism and the like can be used in fiction effectively, but artists should be very deliberate when doing so and do it with the expectation of some potential backlash.

Like, in Season 6 can we finally get to a storyline other than “Who is going to try to rape Sansa this year?”

For example, I hardly want to call myself a great writer, but this deliberate inequality is something I have tried to take into account with my own sci-fi novel I have been working on. It takes place around a thousand years after humanity undergoes a biological revolution and colonizes the galaxy. Racism and sexism aren’t totally dead, but they are significantly diminished because the fearful have turned their attention towards bio-engineered organisms. As a result, women and men (of various races) hold equally prominent positions within the civilian and military structures without people having to comment on it. Homo/trans-phobia is also considered a non-issue in the universe of the story. One major character is bisexual and hated by basically everyone, but no one even thinks to belittle him for his “queerness”. When deliberate inequality is brought up, it is done to show characterization, not just because I decreed that this story featuring six foot spiders and space magic has to be “realistic”. This is not pressuring me to conform to diversity, this is making my story far more interesting and opening up more avenues for creativity than if I stuck to my own narrow “vision”.

People seem to assume that criticism is an attempt at censorship (a misunderstanding which helped kickstart the whole GamerGate movement…). They claim that criticizing media for just fitting with the status quo and featuring “realistic” examples of sexism/racism/etc is an attack on the creative rights of the artist. However, I think that criticism should be seen more as an attempt at artistic improvement. By pointing out examples of inequality, critics are effectively saying “this art would be improved if the female characters weren’t such a flat plot device, consider making them more interesting in the future, because it will enrich the narrative”, or “I would enjoy this more if they weren’t calling the female protagonist a ‘slut’ or ‘whore’ all the time, this is grating for me because I hear these sorts of insults get hurled at my sex all the time”. The artist is free to accept or dismiss that criticism however they wish, but if they dismiss it then they shouldn’t expect not to be criticized for it.

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Quick Fix: Zimmerman Verdict

I’m sure by now everyone’s heard the virdict in the Zimmerman trial – not guilty. To a lot of people, Zimmerman just got away scot-free with murder. Of course, “a lot of people” have only the most cursory knowledge of what transpired and how the trial actually went, so this is mostly based on their political leaning, race, emotional state, etc. To be fair to everyone, I’m in that category myself as I have only really read when the case first hit the news and then forgot about it til a few days ago when the verdict was handed down (and then a few responses to it as well). I myself think that Zimmerman deserves to be tried for murder… but that said, I don’t know the whole story. My opinion (and the opinions of others) on the matter has been influenced by what we have been told, and that’s where the biggest issues in this case lie in my opinion.

First off, I am infuriated by how this trial was politicized as soon as it hit the airwaves. Obviously I’m furious that some people might use it as a defense of moronic “stand your ground” laws, but I’m actually more angry that it was turned into a racial war by liberals. This is irresponsible on the part of the media and served to make the actual details of the case itself irrelevant – all that matters now is that Zimmerman represents white oppression and Martin represents the black margin. Of course, the other effect which probably left the media salivating with anticipation was that the verdict would be inflammatory either way, driving up viewership. People are in an absolute frenzy right now, but if Zimmerman had been charged then there still would have been protests from people whining about how whites are now marginalized by minorities, that minorities can play the “race card” to do whatever they want and people would be attempting to keep “stand your ground” laws in place. I quite liked Disturbed frontman David Draiman’s take on this case’s treatment by the media.

The second major issue with this case was that people are infuriated that Zimmerman was not found guilty by the jury. Of course, this is another side-effect of the politicizing of the trial, but what’s important is the legal procedure itself. Verdicts aren’t passed out by people’s own sense of morality – considering how much moral variance there can be between people, the legal process would be impossible. Instead, they have to pass down a verdict based on the laws of the State and the rules of the court. Based on that criteria alone, Zimmerman was clearly in the right – in the legal sense, he was acting in self-defense and there was “reasonable doubt” that he committed murder. If you’re going to be infuriated at the verdict, place the blame on the legal system, because I’m pretty sure that it’s now obvious that the law isn’t concerned with what you think is right. While it might be odd to cite The Onion in a post about a serious issue, I think that their article about how screwed up the laws are is quite a good take on the injustice of the justice system (in fact, I think satire is a fantastic way to “rage against the machine” so to speak). In fact, as far as the trial went, Zimmerman’s lawyers actually acted more professionally and had a better case.

Bottom-line: while I don’t have all the facts in the case, I think that Zimmerman should probably have been sentenced for 2nd or 3rd degree murder. That said, the first part of that sentence is the important part: I don’t have all the facts. I have no real justifiable reason to be completely outraged by the outcome of this trial. I think what we can learn from it is that the law needs to be changed in order to not obstruct justice in the future though, because if Zimmerman was actually guilty then we can’t have this sort of thing happening again.

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Movie Review: Noobz

So recently I stumbled across this review of a video-game movie called Noobz. Normally this wouldn’t excite me all that much, except this particular review ravaged the film. As a bit of a purveyor of bad cinema and crappy-movie lover, I instantly knew that I had to track down this film and review it for myself. Was it really as bad as Dan Ryckert said? Well, read on and find out…

So what exactly is Noobz? Well it’s supposed to be a comedic road-trip movie about a clan of gamers trying to get to the biggest gaming tournament in the country, celebrating gaming culture along the way. Honestly, that’s a bit of a rote scenario for an independent film (see Fanboys for Star Wars, One Week for supposedly “Canadian” culture, etc), and Noobz really doesn’t distinguish itself from the other similar movies in the genre… well, not in a positive way anyway. Why not? Well for one thing, it does a really, really poor job capturing gamer culture. While I didn’t like Fanboys, its one redeeming feature was that it captured the Star Wars geek culture pretty well. Noobz is closer to One Week in that it shows a really stereotypical view of its subject matter… except, in the case of Noobz, this is a really BAD representation. The director and star, Blake Freeman, was actually a professional gamer… a decade ago. Based on the content of the movie, it seems like this is where all of Freeman’s “research” came from, because it’s a woefully outdated and portrays gaming as the domain of anti-social nerds. This MIGHT have flown back then, but this is 2013: basically everyone games now, and nerds are actually coming in vogue as well. You’d swear this movie was made by CNN or something based on the way it portrays gamers, not someone who is apparently one himself. Furthermore, he just completely fails to capture gaming culture in general. One of the most glaring examples of this is that there’s a Frogger tournament at the same tournament that the main characters are at. However, only 2 people enter it because coin-op gaming isn’t “cool” anymore. Now it doesn’t take a lot of research to know that retro gaming is a huge subculture right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if such a tournament actually had more competition than a modern shooter. Another issue is covered here:

“There’s a passing mention of Frogger, but the only gameplay footage from the fictional Cyberbowl video gaming championship is based exclusively on Gears of War 3. While it’s clearly a form of product placement, it’s a bizarre choice at that: Gears of War 3 isn’t a championship level game by any means (especially with the atrocious host-advantage issues in multiplayer).”

Watching the movie, I actually speculated that this was the case, but it’s nice to see it confirmed. That said, I’m not really all that knowledgeable about tournament-level gaming (I’d imagine that PC gaming, particularly Counter-Strike, would be probably the #1 choice for competitive play…?), but it’s notable that this stuck out as clearly as it did.

In addition, Freeman shows only the worst aspects of gamer culture. You know that douche bag 12-year-old screaming racist and homophobic slurs on your headset every time you boot up a first-person shooter? Basically every character in this movie is that kid, except that they’re like that 24/7 and not when they’ve got the anonymity that a headset provides. Sure, some of them probably are douche bags like that in real life, but Noobz disproportionately presents every gamer as someone with some sort of major personality flaw. The “heroes” are stereotypical dicks living the Jersey Shore lifestyle (with the “dudes” and “bros” thrown around CONSTANTLY throughout to cement this), and every single female character is either a grotesque hag or a sex object. And, of course, everyone is shocked to discover that the girl gamers are actually good at video games… this, unfortunately, is probably a stereotype which actually persists in this culture, but Freeman isn’t exactly putting this part in here to make any sort of statement. I think the worst part about all this though is that Blake Freeman really seems to think that he’s portraying gamers in a positive manner, because you get this sense all the time when the character Andy spouts off his ramblings about how major league gaming should be considered a real sport. While I’m not entirely sure I’d call them “athletes”, pro gaming clearly takes a lot of skill and deserves some respect, but Noobz isn’t doing this culture any favours.

I think it’s also worthwhile to go deeper into each of the characters… because boy do they ever deserve to be torn apart. Each and every one of them is a one-dimensional stereotype: there’s Cody, the slacker with major anger management issues. Next is Andy the optimistic dude-bro who’s in love (read: wants to screw) with Rickie, a girl gamer on the other team (who isn’t really given much characterization beyond “is hot”). After that is Oliver, the massive screw-up who is also an extremely flamboyantly closeted gay (the movie tries to make his sexuality ambiguous, but the scenes where he runs around in lipstick, screams like a girl, constantly tries to suck his friends’ dicks, etc pretty much destroy any possible sense of ambiguity that they could have tried to foster, instead turning him into a hugely offensive stereotype). Finally, there’s Hollywood, a disabled kid who I believe has a severe form of asthma… of course, everything about him revolves around his juvenile sexual fantasies and his breathing apparatus (apparently it’s supposed to be funny when his air supply gets cut off and the kid is freaking dying in front of us). Seriously, even in the end credits he apparently writes a hit hip-hop single called “Let Me Breathe”, because everything in his life apparently revolves around his disability.

As you can probably glean from the descriptions of the main characters, Noobz is offensive as a bus full of dead babies, but you don’t know the half of it. The portrayals of Oliver and Hollywood are really the worst of the bunch (apparently gays aren’t considered “men” in this), but there’s also plenty of casual racism and sexism. Did you see the picture above of the black kid with the comb in his hair? I’m pretty sure you can guess exactly how they portrayed him in this. There’s also a scene where an Indian gas station attendant acts like a ridiculously racist caricature, and tells the cops he’s white so they won’t discriminate against him. It seems like Freeman thinks that he’s being clever and satirical, but it really doesn’t come across that way: I mean, is are we really supposed to believe that he is making fun of racists by being racist and then simultaneously calling out racial profiling at the same time in some sort of inverse-satire cluster-f–k? Short answer: no. Instead, I really get the feeling that Blake Freeman is just a hardcore opponent of political correctness, suggested by the scene where the douchey little black kid gets a free ride on “DeezNuts Airlines” (“thank you for riding DeezNuts!” …I did not make that up) because he claims that he’s being racially profiled by a white attendant. While I hate political correctness as much as the next guy, Freeman isn’t using offensive material to make a statement or to be satirical… he seems to just find offensive things funny for no other reason than it’s offensive. Even in this department, they fail because they recycle the same old offensive jokes over and over and over again.

In fact, for a supposed “comedy”, Noobz is deathly short on laughs. I can honestly say that I did not laugh at any of the jokes in this film, which is pretty pathetic. The only times I did laugh were in sheer disbelief as I literally yelled out “WTF, did they seriously put something that stupid in the movie?!?” This is pretty brutal in the scenes with Greg Lipstein (a play on Billy Mitchell) which might have been funny for the crew but translate really awkwardly to the rest of the audience who are sitting here thinking “what the hell is wrong with this guy?” Furthermore, the comedic set-pieces are really tenuously constructed. Take, for example, the scene I mentioned earlier with the Indian gas station attendant. Cody goes into the gas station to pay for their gas and get some snacks, but comes across this little shit of a girl. Of course, the two begin going at it, insulting each other with dialogue that doesn’t reflect human speech in the slightest (that might be an odd criticism, but the dialogue in this scene is just totally out of tone with the rest of the film). Then the girl’s mother believes that, because Cody is hugging her daughter, that he must be a pedophile and proceeds to taser him without explanation. Then the Indian gas station attendant launches into his ridiculous shtick. This is honestly some of the most contrived comedy I’ve seen in a movie, and it’s just not handled very well (uhh, no pedo).

Anyway, in the end the “heroes” lose to the girl gamers (who were far more deserving of the prize money anyway), but get signed to Mountain Dew… except they don’t, because 2 seconds later in the credits they reveal that the guy was arrested for impersonating a Mountain Dew executive (WTF!? Is that even a crime?!!), but I’m not really sure that I care, because the main characters were such huge douche bags and they didn’t learn or earn anything from the events of the movie… so it makes things completely pointless. Congratulations, you just wasted an hour and forty minutes of your life!

Bottom-line: the only positive thing I can say is that Freeman is a competent enough director, but he severely needs some better material if he ever wants to amount to anything. Noobz is not that material. It has a bland story, non-existent comedy, garishly offensive and doesn’t even portray its own subject matter with any sort of reverence. Unless you’re looking for a really bad movie like I was, stay away!

0.5/10

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James Bond + Race (First post!)

Hey, welcome to my blog. I don’t really have any pretensions about this thing becoming anything more than a place for me to ramble about things that I find interesting (or that are pissing me off), but we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, before you go on any further, I must warn you that there are Skyfall spoilers below, so proceed only if you have seen it or don’t care about having plot details revealed.

So I’ve have an idea mulling about recently regarding everyone’s favourite secret agent, James Bond (which caused me to make this blog consequently). Over the past couple years there has been a growing movement which has been calling for the next actor who plays James Bond to be black. It’s an interesting idea, and one I’m certainly not opposed to (especially since they’re going to have to do something totally different to follow up Daniel Craig), but I’m not entirely sure I want Eon to do this. From a totally intellectual level, it’d be amazing to see a person of a different race headlining the world’s biggest action franchise. Doubly-so if it’s the rumoured Idris Elba, who would probably hit it out of the park.

I had already been thinking over this when I went and saw Skyfall this evening (yes, I haven’t seen it yet, stop judging me). More than any other past Bond flick, this one delves into his past and defines him well as a person. Now, before Skyfall it would have been easy to replace Bond with basically anyone – all that needs to be maintained are the mannerisms, iconic elements, Britain, commercialism, etc and you’ve got yourself another successor to the James Bond mantle. This was especially possible since there had been little to suggest that the different James Bonds were actually the same person. Since James Bond is defined more by what he does than who he is, a black James Bond would fit in very smoothly.

However, by delving into his past and defining him more clearly, the case for a black (or whatever race for that matter) James Bond has been muddled, not to mention my lovely code-name fan theory. The non-white James Bond camp has always had to contend with the anti-PC crowd, and now it seems like they have a better argument against them. The question in this debate has always been “what defines who James Bond is?”, and it seems that “white” is a (more) definite element of his character now too.

Another interesting thing that Skyfall opened up was that James Bond might be bi-sexual. I think this was more meant to be a joke, but it certainly opened up another door, so to speak. Now, call me a homophobe or whatever, but this is something I hope they don’t latch on to in the future… and not only because I don’t want to have to listen to the diatribe my parents and the anti-PC crowd would have haha. James Bond has always been defined by his interactions with women, and suddenly shoehorning in a different sexuality for him doesn’t sound like a particularly great idea.

Unless the Bond franchise re-establishes the code-name theory somehow, I think that a non-white, non-heterosexual James Bond has been pretty much rendered against character. Even if it is though, I would still love to see a different spy film with a black man Idris Elba as the star. And how funny would a James Bond spoof starring a gay/bi-sexual secret agent be? Obviously they won’t have the same high-profile that a movie like James Bond does, but it doesn’t mean we can’t see these sorts of things grace the screen at all.

POST-SCRIPT: Initially I put up the spoiler tag because I meant to say that they could make the next M black, but I forgot to in the initial post. I suppose he could be gay though still, so there’s that.

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