Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Who Needs an Afterlife, Anyway?

scary cemetery picture

image via The Examiner

This weekend marks lots of spooky celebration in the Western world. Pagans and Wiccans celebrate the Gaelic festival Samhain, marking the harvest and start of the darker half of the year. Hispanic cultures celebrate Día de los Muertos, a three day festival with roots in ancient Aztec religious beliefs. Christians celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day, honoring saints and remembering loved ones. Even secular Americans love to celebrate Halloween. It’s the time of year when lots of people are remembering the dead and pondering mortality. This got me thinking about the way the afterlife appears in our geeky media. Saika and I have already written posts about Heaven and Hell, respectively. Both of us note that each realm is usually twisted in some way (either corrupted or comically), or kind of boring. So do we really need to give our characters an afterlife?

Continue reading

Masculinity in Games: Actualization through Violence

Sean Connery once said that “there is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in a man.” Of course this is just as true for women as it is for men, but the statement contains a certain subtext about masculinity. Failure to thrive under pressure is the trait of a boy, not a man. There are these calls to action that are supposed to define us as men. Defeating a challenge is one; capability for violence is another. Men are generally well aware of the cultural pressures on us to be violent. Even though most of us are not violent people, we still sometimes feel the need to respond to the pressure by asserting that we would be very dangerous if we wanted to. The two ideas are at odds: societal norms that say men are violent while violence actually has nothing to do with masculinity. It can certainly be argued that a male’s inclination toward violence coupled with the ability to back it up has served both males and the human species as a whole quite well in the past. However, what was a virtue in the past is not necessarily a virtue today. And even if violence were hardwired into men, we’re still much more than just blood-thirsty beasts. And the reason we play violent games is more than our own bloodlust. So why, then, do so many games portray violence and masculinity as being so closely intertwined? Let’s take a look at some of these games. In particular, we’ll look at: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion; and a lot of God of War. Just a warning, this whole article is going to be chock-full of spoilers, so read cautiously. What these games all have in common is that they make a statement about the connection between masculinity and violence. They deal with issues like “is violence rewarding,” “can violence defeat evil,” and “is violence just how men deal with their emotions?” What lies beneath all of those statements are these facts: men are not very free from cultural norms, men are not empowered or nurtured properly as men, and society seems to have no idea of what masculinity is at all.

Continue reading

Trailer Tuesdays: Oblivion

The world has ended! Or has it? Let’s watch!

Who thinks Tom Cruise still has it in him to be an action star?

Not me! He’s never had that vibe about him to start with, and now it just seems like he’s trying too hard. He’s always struck me as a guy who should be doing rom coms and not action. I put Tom Cruise in the same category as Pierce Brosnan (if you aren’t up on your actor names, he was the previous James Bond). Granted, Brosnan’s singing was terrible in the Mamma Mia! movie, but it seemed like a better role for him acting-wise.

Also, is it me or does Morgan Freeman look really steampunk? I’m not sure he can rock that look, and there are very few things Morgan Freeman can’t rock. Round sunglasses just don’t look nice on his face; I think they confused Freeman with Laurence Fishburne.

I don’t think the plot looks too interesting either. It’s like a cross between The Matrix and Prometheus without the female characters. I got the vibe that we aren’t going to have strong female characters, which makes me sad. The two featured look like talking mouth-pieces.

Anyway, that seemed like a very stream-of-consciousness post. Who wants to go see this without me?