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The bodies on the gears of the culture industry

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.

9 Comments

  1. Sean Dillon
    June 14, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

    I think what hurt the reading of God of War as “this is a fucking monster you’re meant to understand and not sympathize” for many people (myself included) was the existence of the sex mini game (which got easier and easier to find in later games (save, oddly, for the most recent one (which was played primarily out of nostalgia, though it wasn’t all that satisfying), which cuts out the game entirely)) and the whole “he lives in the end and is rewarded for being a fucking monster” thing (which can work, see A Clockwork Orange (the second film based off that book with Malcolm McDowell) and The Last of Us (though I can see where people can read otherwise with that game), but I might be reading it as doesn’t because I played God of War and its direct sequel relatively back to back).

    Honestly, “Teenage angsting Spider-Man who every hates because he’s special/a nerd” is probably the least interesting (and most used) take on the character, which is especially appalling when you realize that the character has almost as many varied and interesting takes as Doctor Who (please don’t get me started on those parallels) including, but not limited to, “No, they hate you because you’re a fucking asshole”, “Female presenting gender fluid magician”, “An Emissary from HELL”, and, my personal favorite for Peter Parker, “bisexual magician coping with the collapse of his polyamorous relationship”. As is, the game seems fun enough (this is Insomniac Games, the people behind Ratchet and Clank (of which I have fond memories of) and Sly Cooper (of which I respect more than I have actually played), though I heard it was going to be made by Sucker Punch productions, which would have been… interesting), though not enough to buy a PS4. Though the claim that this is the start of a Spider-Man video game universe is one of those things that makes things a bit interesting considering the whole failed cinematic universe they had going for them (an entirely sympathetic move given that its whole existence was primarily to spite Disney by keeping a character away from them, though one that was doomed to failure considering most people read the move as keeping it from Marvel to make more money (which was probably the reason they did it instead of the sympathetic subtext provided by The Mickey Mouse Protection Act) among other, even more unsympathetic, factors).

    I probably should end this on a more video gamey note… uhm… look, most of the games talked about seemed uninteresting towards my taste in video games (though, Horizon does look like it has potential, the Lego Star Wars game hit my nostalgia, and Death Stranding is something I should pay attention to but not something I want to play), and sort of blurred together into an unmemorable haze. I spent most of the conference looking at my phone or reading Jim Sterling’s twitter. I think I’m slowly growing detached towards video games, while at the same time keeping a foot in because there’s some games that I like to play. In the end though, I think I’ve mostly moved on from the genre of gaming and towards other types.

    Wait, Telltale Games are releasing a new season of The Walking Dead?! Well-

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  2. Froborr
    June 14, 2016 @ 5:18 pm

    Ellen Page In: 3yond: Two Souls, Starring Ellen Page: Ellen Page In A New David Cage Game Starring Ellen Page

    Brilliant.

    Reply

  3. Eve Schmitt
    June 14, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

    The thing about the God of War franchise is that murdering all the Greek Gods is plausible. They’re incredible jerks in the source material (except for Hephaestus, good old Hephaestus), and there are a number of people in Greek mythology who absolutely deserve to go on a rampage through Olympus for what the gods have done to them. Chief among them Medusa, who Athena made a monster because the poor woman was raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple. And all the women raped by Zeus who subsequently received the brunt of Hera’s wrath.

    But the Norse gods? Nothing like that happens in the Norse tales. Gods protect humankind, mostly far away from them, fighting giants and wolves and whatnot. Odin wanders Midgard, but not as a malevolent force. The only member of the Aesir who is a threat to humanity is Loki, and he didn’t even start out that way.

    This new God of War game is an attempt to map the norms of Greek mythology onto Norse mythology, and it doesn’t work.

    Reply

    • Tim B
      June 14, 2016 @ 8:58 pm

      Yep, kill off all the Norse gods prematurely and there goes vast chunks of the point of Ragnarök…

      Reply

  4. Conscience
    June 14, 2016 @ 8:34 pm

    “They’re incredible jerks in the source material (except for Hephaestus, good old Hephaestus)”

    In the story of Erichthonius, Hephaestus tries to rape Athena.

    Reply

    • Sean Dillon
      June 14, 2016 @ 10:03 pm

      It’s funny how it’s always rape that future writers try to sweep under the rug for the happy go lucky characters (be they victim (Spider-Man) or perpetrator (Kirk)). No wait, not funny, a word noting the bemused cruelty that cements the state of things.

      Reply

    • Eve Schmitt
      June 15, 2016 @ 6:20 am

      Didn’t know about that one.

      Reply

    • Jane
      June 15, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

      I am firmly of the belief that the myths have been rewritten over and over again, the better to reflect the society at the time. So when it comes to the rape stories in ancient mythology (which ultimately normalize rape) I like to retell them differently. Persephone, for example, a Goddess in her own right, doesn’t get raped by Hades, she chooses to step into her own queendom because it’s time to step out of the shadow of her mother.

      Reply

  5. Eve Schmitt
    June 17, 2016 @ 12:38 am

    The face Kratos is making is…awfully familiar.

    There’s two different versions of a photo comic called “how to brush like a man,”, wherein a bearded man proceeds to get toothpaste all over his beard. (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/11/c7/cf/11c7cf89c24a7f2e46cafa5a8a31739f.jpg) Kratos is making the “Brush like a man” shouty face.

    Granted, any bald man with a scruffy beard making that face would look the same. But it is not merely the resemblance — it is also the fact that Kratos’ expression has already been parodied twice. Many people on the Internet have much fun with the idea that there is something goofy about the ultra-manliness that Kratos represents. The very source of his appeal lends itself to easy parodies.

    Kratos even LOOKS like a parody. Or a satire. Probably a satire. His character is based on amplification, after all — he takes everything manly about video game heroes and makes them SUPER ULTRA MEGA MANLY to the point of making them look ridiculous. KILL EVERYONE WITH A GIANT SWORD! SHOUT AT THE HEAVENS! HAVE SEX ON THE SIDE AND THEN BACK TO THE SLAUGHTER! RAAAAAAAAAH!

    But in this game the satire ends when Kratos gives that damn hunting advice. The writers had him tell his kid that the best way to hunt was to treat the target like a thing instead of an animal. That’s…cold. Kratos isn’t cold. Kratos is the embodiment of white-hot rage. An sociopathic style of hunting is the exact opposite of what Kratos is supposed to do. Why the hell would he give that kind of advice?

    It doesn’t even make sense from a hunting perspective! Treating a hunted animal like it’s a target and not an animal is the stupidest way to hunt I’ve ever heard. Animals survive because they are very clever when they want to escape death. You have to outsmart your prey if you want to kill it. You have to know what it will think, and counter accordingly. You have to understand that it has thoughts and feelings, though they be unformed for lack of spoken language. You have to make a mental connection. You must have empathy to hunt successfully. You must have empathy to fish. You must have empathy to trap. You must have empathy to catch any animal more often than luck will allow.

    Which means that Kratos is giving that kind of advice because his writers said “what’s the most badass thing Kratos could say to his child?” And not “what advice would a hunter actually give?”

    Or even “What advice would Kratos give?” Kratos would probably say something like “Drive your prey before you and do not relent. Stand over its warm corpse and reach into its guts and pull out its gizzards, and feast upon them. Smile, for you have triumphed over another foe.” That’s still bad advice for hunting, but it’s in-character for Kratos.

    Wait, no it isn’t. It’s too quiet. “PULL HIS HEART OUT AND HOLD YOUR TROPHY TO THE SKY! LET THE GODS TREMBLE AT THE SIGHT, FOR THEY KNOW THEY ARE NEXT!” That’s better.

    Kratos is, after all, a berserker, which is the one thing about him that makes him appropriate for the setting. He runs around with no armor, slaughtering everything in his path.

    Were the writers too busy to care about writing proper dialogue for Kratos? Did an editor mar their perfect vision? Something in the production of that hunting advice went terribly wrong. Something in the production of this game went awry. You’ve got a Greek hero in Northern European Winter Land trying to treat the Pagan gods like they’re Greek, and telling his child something Kratos would never say.

    I begin to worry about the quality of the gameplay itself. Did the producers take care to make a game that’s playable? Or did they just say “slap a God of War Game together and, uh…set it in Northern Europe, that’s where all the cool fantasy games are set these days.”

    If producers don’t care about the basic elements of the main characters of a franchise, that’s a sign that they don’t care about the rest of the production. Think about what’s happened with all the recent movies where a white guy plays a role meant for a different ethnicity. Look at how many of these movies have flopped. Dragon Ball Z, The Last Airbender, Exodus, Gods of Egypt…if the producers don’t care about something basic like making their main character fit the setting or the source material, then they’re probably making it for the quick cash-grab without considering quality, and hiring people who also don’t care about the story, or any other part of the execution. (Any studio that would hire M. Night Shyamalan for a movie clearly does not care about the quality of the story.)

    I fully expect this game to arrive on Steam with a hundred different hilarious bugs. Kratos will jump into a snowbank and get stuck. He will fall through the floor of his cabin. His hand will clip through the face of his child and his arm will swing around to hit him.

    I have something to look forward to for this game. How about that?

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