Video games are a growing medium. They have the capacity to be anything from really fun toys to deeply emotional experiences. In my 20 or so years of gaming, I’ve seen graphics go from crude pixel art to fully rendered, photorealistic models. Stories have become more involved and control schemes have become more complex. Of course, there are nostalgic efforts and departures from futurism, but the general level of quality is so much higher. What a time to be alive, indeed. However, while we’re making progress in some areas, we are still lagging behind in others. The content of our games and characters isn’t improving at quite the same pace. We’ve expanded the roles of what women are “allowed” to be in our games, so on the one hand, we are advancing the idea that women aren’t simply trophies in another castle to be rescued or obtained. But on the other, we are still very much pushing the idea that women in games have to be conventionally attractive.
While some people, like myself, spend summer dying from the heat and humidity, other people go off and have those oft-fabled summer romances. In the case of this week’s Fanfiction Fridays, the emphasis is on the “fabled”. Todays’ fanfiction is a collection of things I enjoy immensely: well-done AUs, Tales of Vesperia, and a dash of fairy tales. If any of those things catch your interest, I implore you to read on beyond the cut.
A couple weeks ago, when I found myself in another Batman craze, I decided, what the hell? Let’s give Gotham’s second season a watch. I had heard from other people that Season 2 was better than Season 1, but to be honest, I had no expectations going into it. After all, literally anything could be better than Season 1. Gotham’s first season felt long, drawn out, and boring—it didn’t help that it had no direction whatsoever and relied on offensive tropes with its characterizations. I am thankful to say, though, that Season 2 was much better, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I actually binge-watched the whole thing in two days and now find myself somehow excited for a third season. That said, being enjoyable is far from being good, and Gotham still has a ways to go.
We’re going a little deeper into the archives of science fiction this week, to pull out the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The black-and-white visuals and Cold War imagery give the movie a dated affect, but I’m realizing how distressingly relevant the underlying message still is.
At the top level, the movie is a satire of mutually assured destruction and nuclear war. A rogue American general named Jack D. Ripper, consumed with paranoia, orders an unprovoked nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, and a fleet of bombers take to the air.
When news of the strike reaches President Merkin Muffley, he descends to the underground War Room, joined by the maniacal General Buck Turgidson, the Soviet ambassador Alexei de Sadeski, and the title character, a nuclear scientist from Nazi Germany now serving the United States. De Sadeski reveals the existence of a Soviet Doomsday Device, which will automatically destroy all life on Earth with a cloud of radioactive gas if an atomic strike on the USSR is detected. The Americans and the Russians work together to recall the bombers, but one, piloted by Major T.J. “King” Kong, has been damaged and cannot receive the radio signal, and prepares to deliver its payload.
Earth’s last hope is the failure of Kong’s bomb, spray-painted with the name “Hi There!”–which jams in the bay. But the dedicated pilot climbs on top of it, and jumps up and down on it until it deploys. Kong rides the bomb to the end of the world, gleefully whooping and waving a cowboy hat in the film’s most famous scene.
The Americans pause for a moment of silence, before planning to resume the Cold War after the apocalypse when they emerge from their bunkers. The credits roll with a montage of mushroom clouds set to Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.”
I’m a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. They evoke a sense of wonder, dread, and the allure of forbidden knowledge. As Neil Gaiman has stated1, “Lovecraft built the stage on which most of the last century’s horror fiction was performed.” He draws the reader into a world of arcane mystery and nameless horror, threatening his protagonists’ sanity and indeed their very lives with a sense of addictive fascination that practically flows out of the page. Lovecraft’s method of “describing the indescribable” with florid and evocative language has all but made him a genre unto himself.
However, he was also a racist imperialist whose protagonists share those biases in spades.
While that never stopped me enjoying his stories, it is sometimes off-putting and makes much of his stuff difficult to read. It is tempting to contextualize this to the period he was writing (where such attitudes were expressed openly), but Lovecraft’s social and racial elitism was considered beyond the pale even for his times; though the tone of his arguments on this topic became more general over the years, they did not appear to change with the times. His correspondence (much of which has been collected and published by S. T. Joshi) bears this out.
But as I’ve re-read his stories over the years, something has dawned on me: the often wholesale embrace of “the white man’s burden” is not only a central metaphor in Lovecraft’s work, it often deepens the isolation of his characters and heightens their peril.
TW: Racist and imperialist language and themes, as well as ableist language and themes, after the jump.
The release of the Ghostbusters reboot has proven to be a fascinating experience. Even as someone who tends to be a little hard on hyped-up new releases, I felt that the movie itself was a lot of fun and pretty well put together, but the public response to it has been widely negative. Internet hearsay the day of the release told me I shouldn’t even bother seeing it, and interestingly, the scores for it on user-generated sites like IMDb have been significantly lower than the critic-generated reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, it seems to me that this negative response is more the result of our current social climate than the actual quality of the film. The first point working against it is that it’s a reboot of a hugely popular cult film, which puts it in the position of being compared to the nostalgia-elevated, very-original-for-its-time, pre-CGI original. The second reason it’s getting negative response is that (wait for it, cause I’m gonna say it) all the main characters are women and the only male characters are dumb or need saving or both. Yeah, everybody, I went there, I called the internet sexist. I’m sure this totally unknown and unforeseeable piece of information completely blew your mind.
Spoilers below the cut!
I usually enjoy DC Comics animated movies, because unlike their live-action movies, they’re actually, you know, good. But despite how successful and how influential The Killing Joke is in the Batman universe, I am not excited about this movie, and that all has to do with how this comic affects Barbara Gordon.