IGN put up their list ranking the 12 Marvel Cinematic Universe films to date, and needless to say, I have to disagree with quite a bit of their list. So, I figured I might as well write up my own ranking and reasoning for your (and my) enjoyment. Continue reading Ranking the Marvel Movies as of Ant-Man
Star Trek has had a profound effect on my life. I grew up watching the original series in reruns and seeing the movies in theaters. As Star Trek: The Next Generation matured into a great show, so did I mature through my teenage years. The ethical debates we had in college classrooms had nothing on heated arguments I had about Captain Janeway’s decisions in Star Trek: Voyager. Even when I finally developed an interest in politics, I was more concerned about the reboot of Star Trek than I was about Obama’s attempt to reboot America.
Such is the world for people who don’t have time to follow the minute by minute machinations of Washington. It’s why politically savvy people my age spend so much time trying to impress upon conservatives just how important it is they engage in the culture. Not only does it inform our politics, it reflects what we value as a nation. In fact, the difference between the original Star Trek and the rebooted version demonstrates how drastically American culture has changed. For the sake of brevity, let’s just focus on the two versions of Captain James T. Kirk.
America of the 60s was racing to the moon. Not just on a whim, but to defeat the evil empire of the Soviet Union. To get there, America needed smart, strong, courageous people willing to risk their lives in the pursuit of knowledge. As such, “Classic” Kirk was the perfect self-actualized geek. He was well educated, physically fit, cool under pressure, good with people, and loyal to a fault.
Described as a “walking stack of books” at the academy, he would often show off his breadth of knowledge and ability to use it under stress in the show. He could quote the Constitution from memory, talk hostile artificial intelligences to death, and construct a rudimentary cannon out of a bunch of basic elements in the middle of a death match.
Classic Kirk also had a penchant for bending the rules and making out with alien babes, which reflected the building free love movement and anti-government sentiment that would mark the period. Of course the pop culture remembers that as Kirk doing whatever he wanted and boinking every woman he met, but Kirk’s romances ended prematurely because he recognized his duty was always to his ship, its crew, and their mission. So while he was willing to violate his orders to do the right thing, he was never reckless with ship or his crew’s lives, and though his need to “make a difference” kept drawing him back to the captain’s chair, he still lamented that it cost him a chance at settling down with a family.
Speaking of lamentations, America of today is headed nowhere fast, just like New Kirk is when we meet him as an adult. He’s a lecherous loser wasting the potential others see in him chasing tail and getting drunk. While his counterpart had a strong sense of duty and a thirst for adventure, New Kirk’s so jaded he has to be taunted into joining Starfleet at all.
Like the youth of today, New Kirk is frequently described as special and told he has a grand destiny, but he never seems to demonstrate excellence of any sort. Classic Kirk sheepishly admitted he “changed the conditions” of the Kobayashi Maru test, but New Kirk is absolutely insufferable as he blatantly cheats on it.
From the richest Wall Street bankers and the most prominent government officials to the lowly idiot that spills coffee on himself, escaping blame and shifting responsibility is par for the course these days, so New Kirk does too. He’s not punished for cheating. When he’s finally busted down from captain later for numerous poor choices, it’s reversed almost immediately, and his decision to heroically sacrifice himself to literally kick his ship until it works again is undone a few minutes afterwards when he’s revived by magic blood. It should be noted that last bit is a role reversal redo of a famed sequence in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and in that movie the resurrection of the dying party takes another full movie and ultimately results in the destruction of the Enterprise, the loss of Classic Kirk’s admiralty, and the death of Kirk’s son.
In an era where success is demonized as merely a product of blind luck, nepotism, or graft, New Kirk doesn’t ascend to the captain’s chair after years of distinguished service like his predecessor. He is leapfrogged from cadet to first officer because he knows Captain Pike, and then he’s promoted to captain by default after he badgers the acting captain into a mental breakdown.
So, if you really want America to return to reaching for the stars and striving for greatness, you may want to look into figuring out how to make the guy I grew up idolizing the standard for our cultural heroes again.
Their goals and their demands vary. Their movement requires almost nothing of its members to join, and so their diversity of both personalities and physical traits is astounding. They’re also the last people one might expect to get into a culture war. “They” are the supporters of #GamerGate, and they have been confounding people for almost a half a year now.
Even after all that time, it’s still a Herculean task to convince people of the significance of #GamerGate, with all “the happenings” as the gamers would call them making it nigh-impossible to wrap it up in a neat little bow for people to understand (though I did take a stab at that.) Those who do take an interest are often stymied by the chaotic nature of a leaderless Internet subculture. David Pakman, for example, spent many of his initial interviews grappling with the notion that a movement with such a low barrier to entry can simultaneously be so certain of the content of its members’ characters.
After all, how can any participant state with authority “it’s not about harassment; it’s about ethics in journalism” when nobody is an authority? The opposition wields that apparent contradiction like a hammer, bashing #GamerGate as incapable of shaking off the stink of its supposed connection to harassment. They argue that anyone truly interested in ethics would undoubtedly abandon that permanently tainted hashtag and move on to something else.
Naturally the self-appointed arbiters of equality and progress neglect to mention that any new endeavor would immediately be considered the fruit of a poisonous tree because they have little interest in either ethics, equality, or progress. In reality, that which currently masquerades as “social justice” and “feminism” is merely just another form of collectivism, the age old desire of human beings to stuff people into arbitrary groups in order to exercise control over everyone. Most of the time that desire is even well intentioned.
Under the banner of helping the previously disenfranchised the social justice army has marched through every aspect of our culture, grinding any meager opposition between manufactured outrage and guilt by association until they simply give up. Even in sports we now have debates over how offensive a team name might be to a particular group that didn’t seem to care much before. Given that, one might expect that a newly popular hobby like video games would be an easy target.
Instead the PC police found a resistance for which they were entirely unprepared. Frustrated by gamers’ unresponsiveness to their normal proselytizing and thinking they had an opportunity to exploit the Zoe Quinn situation, they dropped all pretense to throw a haymaker with their “Gamers are Dead” campaign. Rather than falling to the ground to beg and plead for forgiveness like every other group before them, #GamerGate simply stood there, wiping a trickle of blood from its lips and grinning like some demon within had awakened. Then the gamers had the unmitigated gall to hit back.
It really shouldn’t have come as such as surprise to all of us. Video games are the last bastion for people who seek to rise and fall on the merit of their actions and the content of their character. There’s no Patriarchy to blame for failing to complete a quest, and scoreboards have no concern for gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. The rules of the game don’t change because somebody was offended by the results of a match, and those who break the rules face ridicule and scorn because cheating renders the results meaningless. So it’s no wonder so many members of #GamerGate’s opposition admit they don’t like video games very much, at least not in their current form.
Meanwhile, whether imbued from playing games or having attracted them to the medium, the #GamerGate supporters all have a deep affinity for the individualism video games promote. It’s a nearly extinct philosophy that at best gets paid lip service nowadays, but gamers feel it in their bones. The freedom to pursue their own happiness is integral to their worldview, and they accept that their pursuit may come with unpleasant consequences like criticism, derision, and failure. They seek open and honest debate, and they prefer to let the market dictate the fate of ideas and products.
They also realize none of that can happen without a strong ethical foundation, particularly among the press, which is why the ethical breaches they have witnessed have struck such a chord in their community. Prior to the media turning on them, it could be written off with some grumbling as isolated incidents, but when even the freest parts of the Internet suddenly went censorship happy, it became impossible to ignore.
That part gets left out of the media narrative all the time, by the way. The real catalyst for the gamer revolt was not the sex scandal; it was normally open spaces closing their doors to the kind of unfiltered discussion that’s a hallmark of gamer culture. Had that not occurred, the gamers would’ve stopped grumbling in a matter of hours and #GamerGate would’ve never happened.
Instead the censorship made it quite clear the problem goes beyond merely a few dishonest video game reviews, and the only way to stop this encroachment upon the safe haven gamers built for themselves was for them to go on offense to smash this collectivist nonsense wherever they find it. So now when feminists try to destroy a brilliant scientist because of his choice of apparel, #GamerGate is there to defend him.
And they don’t need a ruling council or a party platform to tell them what to do or what they stand for. After all, it’s actually not that nobody in #GamerGate is an authority; it’s that everyone is. They rest their moral certainty on the notion that the only person for whom they must speak is themselves. Others can choose to follow if they like. Good ideas will rise from the cacophony of voices, bad ones will fall, and anyone can contribute, whether they’re an outspoken female porn star or a male firebrand Breitbart reporter.
So here we are, witnessing an unprecedented and wonderful event. All of the people we expected to prevent tyranny from sneaking up on us in the night have fallen to its lure, and in their place stands a ragtag bunch of nobodies who have spent much of their lives being shunned for enjoying the very virtual worlds which have awakened within them the courage and principles necessary to take up arms and slay the dragon in our midst. It’s almost like the plot of a video game…
The artwork for this post was created by Sarjex. Check out her store!
Many people have noticed the #GamerGate hashtag floating around but still don’t know what it’s all about, so I’m going to try and distill it down to the very basics.
1. What is #GamerGate?
#GamerGate is the hashtag around which video game consumers have rallied to:
- Demand an end to unethical behavior, corruption, and overt politicization in the video game industry, particularly among video game journalists
- Boycott outlets that have attacked gamers with accusations of misogyny and sexism in response to the above demand
- Share research on and evidence of corruption in the industry
- Support websites/causes that support gamers and inclusivity in the industry
- Support each other against accusations of misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc.
While the tag was coined by Adam Baldwin to reflect the Watergate scandal, it has since become synonymous with a gaming consumer revolt, as “supporters” of #GamerGate see themselves as a barrier to the corruption in the industry. It even has an unofficial mascot called Vivian James. Continue reading Here’s #GamerGate In 5 Easy Bites
Well it’s been over a month now since the rise of #GamerGate, and if you’ve still not heard of it, I recommend scrolling back through my previous work to read this post, this post, and this one to get you started. Or for those TL;DR folks, #GamerGate is a consumer revolt by gamers who have gotten fed up with the corruption in the video game industry and the utter lack of journalistic ethics in a gaming media that seems hell bent on pushing a progressive sociopolitical narrative into gaming.
I sat down to write this post in the midst of the natural lull one might expect in an Internet-driven conflict lasting this long. People had begun to wonder if this whole thing were coming to an end, with both sides staking claim to victory. Gamers noted the decline in readership of prominent sites, the rise of alternatives like TechRaptor and 8chan, and the tag itself reaching the milestone of 1 million uses suggested the certain demise of the opposition; journowarriors pointed to the lull and general lack of interest on the part of bigger media sites as evidence the tempest in a teapot would soon peter out. The question on everyone’s mind seemed to be “what’s next?”
A common refrain in response to discussions of #GamerGate goes something like this: “ISIS is overrunning Iraq, Russia has invaded Ukraine, there’s rioting in Ferguson, the economy still sucks, there are scandals all over the place, and you want to talk about a bunch of man-children who are angry that girls are getting to play with their toys? Who cares!?”
A ton of things have happened since my last post on what is now known as Gamer Gate. Some hours after it went live several gaming websites, who won’t be named and won’t be linked because they don’t deserve the traffic, posted articles all containing the same theme: “Gamers” are dead, they don’t have to be our audience, and this controversy is little more than the death rattle of a white male misogynistic culture. One of these articles even went so far as to decry “fun” being the primary criteria by which we determine how good a game is.
A firestorm has erupted in the video game community this past week, and before I get started on talking about that, let me offer this blanket warning that all the links and videos in this post may contain strong language and thus are probably NSFW.
The controversy centers on independent game developer Zoe Quinn, and it began with her submission of her game, Depression Quest, to the Steam Greenlight program that allows the Steam community to select games for distribution on that service. Since Depression Quest is a simple text-based game designed to get players to understand depression, it was widely panned by that community.
I miss the days of the classic action movie, where one or two manly men fought their way through a small army of goofy henchmen and sub bosses to an ultimate showdown with a charismatic villain, all the while dropping one liners dripping with gloriously awful puns. The explosions were real and if somebody so much as bumped the camera, much less shook it, they’d be lucky to keep their job. Yep, those were the days. So when Sylvester Stallone sought to rekindle that spirit with the action hero team-ups we always wanted and never got, you can bet I was on board with this Expendables thing.
This site dedicates itself to remembering those who serve our country in uniform, many of them giving their lives in that service. As a lowly entertainment writer, such noble causes exist far outside my grasp, but today I do have the opportunity to talk about the passing of someone who served in a different capacity.
Yesterday we lost one of the greatest entertainers to walk the Earth, one Robin Williams. Williams could crack us up with a million impressions delivered so quickly that it seemed as though a thousand celebrities inhabited one body. Or, when he wasn’t trying to make us laugh, he could capture our attention on film with a quiet monologue or a thousand yard stare.