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The Haunting of Blue Lick Road.

We once spent three years looking for a new house, so have seen our fair share of bizarre renovations. Not this bizarre, though…

Also something something gamification of the mundane something something virtual reality something.

2020-11-16T07:26:54+11:0017th November, 2020|Tags: pop culture|

The disappointing future.

I’m obviously very fond of science fiction and fantasy, even if these fake nerd boys keep trying to ruin it for everyone. These are, again, complex works open to varying interpretations, including disturbing and reactionary ones. But at the end of the day, stories are about things, not merely receptacles for things. Looking at [Peter] Thiel’s best beloved Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, we see a shared plot element in both narratives. The heroes are trying to destroy the most dangerous object in their respective universes: the Ring of Power and the Death Star. What these objects represent metaphorically is complicated (as [Ursula] Le Guin says, if it could be summed up easily there would be no need for the stories.) But, in oversimplified form, the Ring stands in for the seduction of absolute power and authoritarian control; the Death Star is a similar ultimate weapon of empire. You can, of course, buy a replica One Ring off the internet, or a Lego Death Star (the first Death Star or the second, and even Starkiller Base from the rehashed new films) but there is no getting around the fact that within these narratives, these powerful objects end, and they are supposed to end, and their ending causes or dovetails with the destruction of a cruel authoritarian regime. This is not a minor plot point like Han Solo’s debt to Jabba. It’s not the cool ornamentation of less important objects like shiny blue swords. This is the entire thrust of these stories. But the fake nerd boys of Silicon Valley don’t want the objects to end. They want it all to continue forever. And so the future will always be, for them, terribly disappointing.

Lyta Gold on fake nerd boys.

2020-10-16T09:06:33+11:0018th October, 2020|Tags: culture, pop culture, tech|

A lifetime of violence.

I keep wondering, though, whether this is applicable to being steeped in violent media throughout an American lifetime. It’s much harder for me to believe that when almost every Marvel hero wins through violence, when Star Wars makes politics a boring interstitial to the fight scenes, when our fantasy books are about using magic in exciting combat sequences… doesn’t that teach us on a subconscious level that violence is an appropriate or preferable solution to problems? That peaceful resolution is boring and impotent and you need a (usually white male) hero to kill someone to make a “real” difference?

MJ Paxton on violent media.

I love violent media as much as the next nerd, and I don’t believe that violent media causes violent actions, but…

But.

I am increasingly of the opinion that it’s not the violence per se that’s the problem, so much as it is the overarching eschatological/Manichean outlook. Like, problems in pop culture are always existential, life-or-death, with ridiculously overblown, world-ending stakes. Stakes high enough, in other words, to “justify” whatever violence the “heroes” perpetrate. I will never forgive films like The Avengers, for example, for endorsing nuclear genocide against an alien species as the “heroic” action,1 and yes, I think those messages do matter. I don’t think they make people violent, I don’t think it’s as simple as that, but I do think they make people… cold. Uncompromising. I think they tacitly teach people that trying to understand and empathize with “the enemy”, whomever or whatever that happens to be, is not just futile but a morally wrong action.

And I do think it’s a problem, yeah.

  1. Spoiler alert, Americans: Hiroshima and Nagasaki were absolutely unpardonable, unnecessary, and unconscionable war crimes—ones that will be forever a stain on your national consciousness—no matter how often you try and re-litigate the issue in pop culture. See also: the legacy of civilian casualties in your current Forever War. []
2020-10-08T08:24:05+11:0014th October, 2020|Tags: culture, pop culture|

Tumblr wisdom.

So I find it kind of wild to come across, in the wild, a post about Lord of the Flies that seems totally oblivious to the story’s origins as a satire and criticism of English boarding school culture.

See, kids! Tumblr is good for some larnin’ after all!

2020-05-12T08:38:47+10:0019th July, 2020|Tags: pop culture|

Transhorror.

A really fascinating look at the way horror films co-opt the narratives of trans men.

It specifically deals with Hereditary, a film I quite liked and that now honestly reads as kind of subversively positive—I mean, still a horror story, but in the kind of Ginger Snaps vein—if you reframe it as the story of a dude’s transition…

2020-05-12T07:03:51+10:0017th July, 2020|Tags: culture, pop culture|
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