One of the more frustrating moments of sharing my thoughts with others online is how often I get a negative response to what I say that does not seem to understand what I was saying, which often does not even understand what the subject at hand is. It makes the discussion feel like it is not really being discussed at all, but that I am carelessly throwing words and paragraphs out like a ball to be caught or hit or kicked in response. If someone agrees with what they think my sentiment is, they catch it. If they find what they think my sentiment is to be displeasing, they kick it.

This “sentiment” they assume exists on a plane of love or hate. Perhaps this is because I am discussing something which deals with fandom, but I get similar responses when giving my opinion on a law or state proposition. The plane is just changed from fan/hater to conservative/liberal. While I have never considered myself to be of any political ideology, I do consider myself a fan of many things.

When trying to break this thinking, I have to restate my meaning. This is annoying, but not a bad thing. From then on, it seems that each step of the way takes a restating. Why? Once I get past the first wall, they return right back to single plane thinking at the next response. Would the response be different if I had some authority? Is it lack of respect or just the general conditioning people have that make saying anything that has no regard for a love/hate sentiment so implausible to others?

I have a feeling that when I do a write up of Other M in the coming weeks that this problem will launch itself upon me again.

Now we venture into the spatial storytelling part of Jenkins’ article. Spatial storytelling is partially world building, that space which is a fictional reality we the audience accept, a moment of our lost time during a read, when a mind slips into the silky sheets of mental-wired architecture, or that image you start to lose separation from on the screen. Gaming must go many steps further and give this world physics, objects and choices for the audience to push, pull, feel.

Let’s take a look at how Super Metroid uses its spatial elements towards building an atmosphere, evoking familiarities, telling a story and embedding narrative. The major setting of the game is a planet, and the majority of the setting takes place below the surface. This is a theme repeated from the original Metroid and its sequel. The weather on the surface features a constant storm which echoes thunder and exhibits cloud layers scrolling in the background. The color palette of the game is made up of orange, green and purple against a black backdrop. Many areas feature a visual theme, or their own color palette theme. Part of the underworld is a pollinated chamber of pink rectangles and killer plants. Another area is made up of multiple bubbles. Areas of lava feature a predominately red palette.

The images of the Metroid series have always evoked the Alien movie series, but the underworld procession of the game evokes hero stories and travels into hell. Gone from the Alien movies are the phallic Gieger aliens, and gone are the other members of the crew. Metroid is an isolationist’s world populated by its own flora, but a flora that never seems farced into the world. The creatures seem a natural part of the world and the truly alien element seems to be that which has landed or crashed here, meaning you, meaning lost frigates and pirate ships. The game creates a package of atmosphere, where sci-fi alien films are evoked but not copied and made instead in the designer‘s image, and you the player are the masked hero on your own, without help.

“Spatial stories are not badly constructed stories; rather, they are stories which respond to alternative aesthetic principles, privileging spatial exploration over plot development. Spatial stories are held together by broadly defined goals and conflicts and pushed forward by the character’s movement across the map. “

Each hostile enemy in Super Metroid presents a conflict. This conflict becomes part of the game’s rules, and these rules teach the player about the world. This creature X will react like Y, so you can do A or B or C, and so on. Not all creatures are hostile, a few creatures follow scripted patterns of escape which act as a tutorial that teaches the player how to escape themselves. While the player learns the planet is dangerous, the player also learns there is some helpful life forms to be found. While this seems minor, it plays a part in the overall story of the game.

Let’s take the use of helpful creatures as a micro-narrative. First, we learn from them, so we as a player gain from their efforts. In the end of the game, do we remember this help? There is an option in the game’s final segment, where the planet is set to self-destruct and you must escape. There is a flashing door hidden away near the final exit that if you open, all those helpful creatures come flowing out and you help them escape. A little bit of narrative that does not deal directly with the greater story, but is there to add to the world and give the player the option of finding story by exploring.

Let’s take the rules to the main story:

“It makes no sense to describe musical numbers or gag sequences or action scenes as disruptions of the film’s plots”.

This is a major flaw most game designers and game fans make. When they speak of the story they seem to think it is all played out in the cinematics or in only certain parts of action. The entirety of the game is the story and those that realize this more fully realize their stories. The action sequences between cinematic break-ins are just as much a part of the story as the cinematic. Maybe you got to see what was at the end of the level, but the story is you fought your way to the end of the level. Super Metroid features an expositional intro and then the game follows, but both these elements are the story. To break down Super Metroid’s story to the introduction and the final sequence would hardly be telling the full story, yet the recent Metroid: Other M plans to feature a Theater Mode which does exactly this. Somewhere along the way the lessons Metroid 3 taught were forgotten.

“Carson suggests that part of the art of game design comes in finding artful ways of embedding narrative information into the environment without destroying its immersiveness and without giving the player a sensation of being drug around by the neck”

With this above quote in mind, lets get into the full story of Super Metroid. The narrative here is that of mother, of bounty hunter/mercenary and of underworld travel. There is an element repeated in the story four times, and a particular character repeated three times. The opening introduction features the baby metroid saved from the previous game, here it is brought to a research station. The opening gameplay segment shows the player the baby metroid being abducted by nemesis alien Ridley. The next metroid that Samus/player encounter are hostile metroids, hostile creatures that establish the rule that metroids are dangerous. Through this segment of the game, the hostile metroid reappear as one of the more problematic enemies in the game, but once the player dives down past the defeated statues of bosses, and into the greater depths of the planet, spelunking further into the dark, we encounter enemies who are static and gray. Gray is a strange color amongst the purple, greens, red and orange featured so far. When the player touches these creatures they fall to dust. Samus has come upon a disturbed area, and soon she runs across a larger metroid, one which attacks her and then stops. It leaves Samus weakened but alive, as opposed to the space pirates that it had just sucked dry. From this battle, we learn that there is something different about this particular metroid. Later, after leaving this area, we return to the hostile types of metroid encountered through most of the game.

So now, Samus knows metroids are hostile but that there is an individual metroid with strange behavior. In the climax of the game, which is as well, the climax of the story, a fight with the Mother Brain is interrupted by a metroid that comes in and shelters Samus the same way it previously drained Samus. At this point the metroid takes the brunt of damage aimed towards Samus, effectively saving her, and then converts the energy back into Samus before dying. At this point, the player becomes aware of the protective behavior, that this metroid is the same baby metroid fully grown. Here the mother is saved by child.

How do we come to understand this? We know the baby metroid is abducted, we see Samus follow the abducter to the planet where she encounters the metroids, and we learn there is one powerful but somehow friendly metroid. We recognize this metroid as different via the rules of enemy/friend established earlier in the game. We learn because we have learned metroids suck energy but only attack you, but this metroid attacked space pirates. As we play, we discover the story in the spatial environment, in the colors(gray in comparison to green), in behaviors, in how deep into the game/story we have dug ourselves. Samus may only emerge, may only conquer Mother Brain and the underworld by the sacrifice of the metroid. These events not only happen to happen, they must happen for the game to reach its true end.

So we have:

“In each of these cases, choices about the design and organization of game spaces have narratological consequences.”

In play.

First, since we’ll be referencing it over and over, I advise anyone to read Henry Jenkins’ work on this subject: Game Design as Narrative Architecture

In this piece, I will be expanding on what I non-concisely touched upon in the previously written essay. Again, I shall draw upon Henry Jenkins, and this time, I will draw upon him like Jason drew upon Phineas by going through most of his “Game Design as Narrative Architecture“.

Well, not really, but starting off with a forced literary reference should get you in the psyche of this discussion. First, lets agree on some points with Henry Jenkins and discuss aspects of them that some current critics have overlooked. Jenkins opens up this essay by showing the divide between ludology and narratology. He then tries to bridge this gap and I believe, as it seems he believes, the ludologists can help the narratologists and the narratology can help the game designers who choose to pursue story telling in their pieces.

1) Not all games tell stories.

This is the first important point made by Jenkins and one that often gets overlooked in the arguments spread across this subject. Just because a game like Ico chooses to tell a boy meets girl story does not mean a game like Tetris must. Story telling is merely an option.

At this point, I am leaving out the story telling of the gamer recounting their game because it is separate from this analysis and would only feel like a dangling participle, that is it would modify what we consider a story to be rather then show how game design can tell a story. The issue of “art” will be omitted as well. As previously mentioned, this only gets into a debate on what art is rather than what merit games bring as a media.

Moving on:

A discussion of the narrative potentials of games need not imply a privileging of storytelling over all the other possible things games can do, even if we might suggest that if game designers are going to tell stories, they should tell them well. In order to do that, game designers, who are most often schooled in computer science or graphic design, need to be retooled in the basic vocabulary of narrative theory.

To be fair to game designers and those interested in stories within games, I feel I should go over some of the issues narrative theory presents. Jenkins mentioned the Russian formalists, but I feel Peter Brook’s musings on Narrative desire(as born from Freud) apply here as well.

First, I’ll go over again what Jenkins said of fabula and szujet, that there is the story as it is told to you and the story as it is understood. In an RPG, the story is told you to fairly straight forward, event by event, and often in order. There are occasional flashbacks, the hero’s flashback being a popular story element in RPGs. Now while you are playing through/watching this flashback, you understand these events are previous events in a chronological sense, so you the player mentally apply them as actions leading up to what you have previously played so far in the game. You do not see them as something happening now but as a recounting of what has happened.

What makes games special is that some have questioned the story recounted as a time element in games being comparable to that same element within a novel. As you read a book, you are conscience that there are events to come and you are hearing the recounting of these events. Still, as a reader, you are drawn into the moment of the book at the same time. While you are in the moment of the page you are reading, and the world that has been described up until now exists in your head, you know there are pages to come in the book and those pages are already filled with words. Even if you stop reading, the story still exists. You read then to see that outcome, you read to reach the end/death of the story. You also trust, since let us say, there are 200 pages left, that the hero of your story will not die in the next page.

Yet, in gaming, the hero can die at any time that the player has a mishap. The hero is often the avatar, and that avatar’s choices are often made by the player. If you do not “turn the page” correctly in the game, not only do you not get to the next page, but the story effectively ends in a Game Over screen. It is though you are reading a book afraid that the last page will suddenly sneak up on you in the fat of pages. In going through a game, death is not an end but a delay, a reset at worst. Miss the jump? You start over. While according to ideas like narrative desire, all delay is to prevent death while actively striving towards it.

Gaming has begun to show an understanding of this very issue. Looking back, The Lost Vikings would have the Norse gods taunt you at the beginning of any level you had repeatedly failed at completing. Your characters still died, but you were reminded of your ability to overcome death. Moving on to a game like Braid, we see that the hero never dies but instead pauses at the point of death, waiting for the player to rewind time back past his mistake. The advancement between these two games is that the story of Braid deals with regret and the rules of the game remind you of regretted mishaps by allowing you to overcome them only through watching them roll past you in backwards time. The point being that the death aspect of the gameplay was relevant to the story instead of only relevant to the rules. This connection of rules to story is important in gaming’s pursuit to tell story through the media, and for me, a part of game design as narrative architecture. Doing these things, tackling issues like death in a story and what that death does in relation to the story, are what is needed in bridging the divide between a purist’s game and a game with the intent to tell you a story.

Here we see the work and way of thinking going into Jenkins point 4 and 5:

The experience of playing games can never be simply reduced to the experience of a story. Many other factors which have little or nothing to do with storytelling per se contribute to the development of a great games and we need to significantly broaden our critical vocabulary for talking about games to deal more fully with those other topics.

If some games tell stories, they are unlikely to tell them in the same ways that other media tell stories.

Now we move on to the real meat of the issue, and I will be examining it by referencing Super Metroid, a game praised for being able to tell a story in a subtle and non-obtrusive way.

“6. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.

On April 19, 2002, U.S. District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Sr. ruled that video games do not convey ideas and thus enjoy no constitutional protection. As evidence, Saint Louis County presented the judge with videotaped excerpts from four games, all within a narrow range of genres, and all the subject of previous controversy. Overturning a similar decision in Indianapolis, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner noted: “Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault are aware.” Posner adds, “To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.” Many early games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved. Many current games are designed to be ethical testing grounds. They allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences. The Sims designer Will Wright argues that games are perhaps the only medium that allows us to experience guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. But in playing a game, we choose what happens to the characters. In the right circumstances, we can be encouraged to examine our own values by seeing how we behave within virtual space.”

This is myth number six on Henry Jenkin’s list of debunked myths about videogames, featured on the PBS website. This article was born of The Video Game Revolution, a show which I know little about. I come across the piece because I have read Jenkin’s other works before and found him to be in on the same crazy interest in games that I indulge myself.

The paragraph quoted raises a few questions in debunking the myth that videogames have no value or meaning beyond that of a toy, and to be honest, this is the initiating conversation to the greater, bigger and angrier debate over videogames as art. It is just that the word “art” makes the discussion one about what is art rather than what value videogames bring to society.

Two points of defense raised are what interest me here:

1. Sheltering from violence is problematic.
2. Games allow people to feel guilt over what happens more so than other mediums.

I could go on about how sheltering from the trauma of violence can also shelter someone from the guilt of violence, but I wonder if games are sheltering the player from guilt due to the traditions of genre. How much guilt do we as players feel over killing zombie #15438 or hundreds of look-alike goombas? It is rare for games to put you in situations where your destruction has a face that matters. Is this due to a populace of enemies who serve as nothing more than targets? Why hasn’t this subject been brought up in a game? Well, because maturity in gaming too often means violence instead of serious. But that is a distraction. Here is the deal: the rules must inflict the guilt.

The guilt cannot just come from better, more realized characters, but the call to hesitate the trigger button of gaming must come from in-game consequences. I have always felt that it was more fun to be evil in a happy, bright game than it is to be good in a dark, M rated game. You could hijack an ambulance and rush to accidents in GTA: Vice City, but somehow that part of the game always felt like a humble, weaker side game. It did not matter in the greater sense of the game. Moving to a recent game from Rockstar, their Red Dead Redemption gives you opportunities in the open world to help people in need, and offers you different ways of accomplishing the tasks. You can ignore the citizen who lost his horse, you can hunt down and shoot the thief or hogtie him up, and you can keep the stolen horse for yourself or return it to the citizen. Each of these options and random events feel far more in line with the overall game than previous attempts at “good” in GTA games. What of the guilt though? If I kill a simple horse thief, I am rewarded with their loot. If I tie him up, I get more reputation. The question is do the longterm rewards out weigh the immediate satisfaction of looting a corpse?

Perhaps it is the wild west setting that removes greater consequence for killing a horse thief, but it may also be one of the difficulties of game programming. There has been attempts to offer multiple paths in games released as of late, but most of these paths either: only impact how characters talk/react to you or lead the outcome of the game towards one of two or three endings. The difficulty of programming cause and reaction, the secondary consequences of events and the dynamic flow of life is… well a pain in the ass. It would take years and years to come up with all the splitting paths needed to account for actions the player takes, so instead all consequences are herded into a short list of outcomes and exchanges.

Overall, while I agree with Wright’s assertion, I do not think it has happened yet. The in-game consequence are not there yet, and I get this idea that game designers fear putting more of it in because harsher consequences for actions might turn off the player. If Batman breaks the rules a bit, he cannot end up in jail for it, and there is certainly a sense of superheroism in big name games. Wright’s games are different in this manner, but you can still scour the web for youtubes of people joyfully putting their poor Sims through hellish situations just for a laugh. If the Sim dies, then start over. No consequence outweighs the reset button in gaming and very little consequences outweigh the power you wield in a game. I think at some point guilt must happen at the interface level in games, where the games’ rules find a way to include guilt in what a player can do within the game. In a certain way, this problem is the same problem as story telling in games: no consequence is permanent is, as well, no death is permanent.

Taking up with me

June 22, 2010

In reflecting on the issue of speaking for others, I came across a pair of conflicting words that exist in me and in those I know. The words being “assumption” and “insight”, the latter of which I pride myself to have and the other that which I feel attacks me when I am not daring to make myself as loud and as visible as can be. What I am meaning to say then is when people describe me without my knowing, without my presence and without my seeing a need to do so is that I look at their descriptions of me and cry out that these are assumptions. Baseless, naive assumptions.

The conflict between the two words is that what I do when I claim insight for myself and what others do that I call assumptions are both acts of explanation of the other. The “other” here being in line with Derek Attridge’s idea of “the other”. The “other” that comes into our static lives and allows the dynamic to happen, but only if we let it. So, your friend can have insight into you as a person, but as well a culture, idea or machine. The same holds so for an assumption, though the word assume can have meanings beyond this. So, then, how do others and I separate our assumptions from insight? Perhaps I am an assumptious ass after all. Both words involve me speaking for others and that act often can be one of the sleightest forms of language as violence.

Of the two words, assumption holds the most interest in its meaning and origin. I, of course, at this point assume this, but I will try to explain why now. Insight speaks for itself, it is sight in, it is sight inwards. Insight looks into its subject. (If you hit up the dictionary, you will find definitions in close proximity to this idea.) Assumption, on the other hand, comes from the same root as consume: sumere, to take up. You can also assume power and as such have an assumption of power. An assumption therefor takes, but what and how does it take? Does it always take up, as in taking up a cause? And then is this the cause of its subject or the cause of the sender of the assumption? Does it take up the power of a subject? Or does assumption take from its subject?

We should narrow down these possible meanings by concentrating on the word as an act of explaining. An assumption of power seeks not to explain power. An assumption of the other does. This is why the distinction is being made, the concern here is the motive for explaining and how that motive affects the explanation.

What I find, when I remember my acts of assumption(which of course there are) and times that I have learned of the assumptions of others about me, of about others, is that the explanation is in a way dismissive. The assumption tends to explain away its subject. It defines it then departs from it.

Let us get fictious here. Say Snoop Dog and I go to the projects, and I do not particularly want to be in the projects. And let us say that Snoop Dog remembers when he was not a rich hollywood figure. The two of us have a question on our minds, if Snoop Dog rose up out of these projects then why do the rest not? So, we debate this between ourselves. I speak first and I blame apathy. These people, I say, just do not care to leave. Snoop turns to me, looks at his sneaks and he shakes his head. No, he says, they care to leave, at least some. They just don’t get out. Well, I say, why the hell not? I was lucky, he reminds me. Or maybe I was special. You were special in talent, I nod. Hell nah Edward, I was special in luck.

Who has the insight and the assumption? I will guess that most think Snoop has the insight because he was IN the situation. He speaks from within and when speaking of the place.looks in towards his past. But, others from such situations look in and may say something different. They may agree with my accusation of apathy. “I cared to leave.” At this point, we give Snoop credit for some insight, but he is still assuming at some level for others. He has penetrated into the way he feels, but he hasn’t penetrated as far into the way the others feel.

Insight succeeds when it accounts for this relational bias. That though a person can provide insight by having been close or a part of the subject, it is still relating the self to the other and its explanations acknowledge this bias. Say Snoop says he was special in luck because he knows he cannot account for the feelings of others. He allows a space for the other to enter, or better yet, he allows more room to explore the other. My statement that they do not care, that I plaster apathy upon them all, allows me to move on from where I do not want to be. They do not care, so why should I? And the assumer moves on. The subject is explained away and not further pursued.

This is how the assumption takes, it takes from the subject the chance to be pursued and the chance to explain for itself, but it also takes up the cause of the assumer: to depart and not deal with the subject. I am outside the projects, assuming for the cause of not caring to know. Assuming because the assumer is pre-occupied with its self. We assume to explain away, never lingering upon the subject.

So, now insight, eh? Insight is special, but not special in luck like our fictious Snoop says. Insight is special in that not everyone is equal in ability or occurance to do insight. I say this, because I have met people who are poor assumers and whose supposed insight is laughable. Could this be because they assume too much? Because they have loose rigour in exploring the other? I can not tell, so I will not assume they just do not care to. I can only observe the differences in how people are able to understand others and their behaviors when they attempt to explain others. To say they are lazy assumes some ability on my part to look into their thoughts. I can only observe the lack of insight and say there is a difference in insight, but I can not say they lack the ability for insight until they admit to me such.

Assumption goes past a borderline; a liminal barrier where exists the space between what we can observe and acknowledge, and what we are guessing at. Insight is always pushing that border back further and further, looking to observe and understand. Assumption barely notices the borderline as it races to explain away the subject.

Right now, where that borderline lies with me in this website.. well I cannot be sure. If you would like to remind me that I am assuming, then I say in advance: I know, but lets see if it ends up as insight.

Why so serious.

June 22, 2010

“I read an article of yours, fire and brimstone, in yesterday’s Yediot. Rico showed it to me, he said, Read this, Dad, and don’t get worked up, just try to grasp where we are living and where all this lunacy is leading us. That’s what he said, more or less. I think he’s even further to the left than you, this repressive state and so on. I’m not so moral a person as either of you, but I don’t like the present situation much either. Mostly I say nothing, from a deep-seated fear that in responding to this or that wrong even I may come out with things that are not exactly right. Anger sends out secondaries. Naturally I have every respect for the brave child who shouts that the emperor is naked when the crowd is cheering Long live the emperor. But the situation today is that the crowd is yelling that the emperor is naked and maybe for that reason the child ought to find something new to shout, or else he should say what he has to say without shouting. As it is, there is so much noise, even here, the whole country is full of screaming, incantations, amulets, trumpets, fifes and drums. Or else the opposite, biting sarcasm: everyone denouncing everyone else. Personally I’m of the opinion that any criticism of public affairs ought to contain shall we say up to twenty percent sarcasm, twenty percent pain, and sixty percent clinical seriousness, or otherwise everyone is mocking and jeering at each other, everyone starts making false noises and everything is filled with malice.”
-Amos Oz’s “The Narrator drops in for a glass of tea and Albert says to him.” in The Same Sea

This quote, in the midst of a story of loneliness and loss and an inability to be understood, made me think of the current theatrics, brainwave and unspoken rules of conduct on the internet. There is this idea of the post-ironic, that we have gone so far past ironic that we now do ironic things with earnest. This is not my generation exactly, I suppose I’m the tail end of generation X, but to be honest, the tail end of Gen-X has been slowly dragging its thagomizer in the dust and found itself amongst the post-ironic; the little sibling who invokes its older sibling’s childhood and claims it for its own due to having a particularly sanitary and thus boring childhood experience.

I can confess to being around the internet since my early teens, a deeply faithful attendee to a nerdy club that suddenly became too popular to discern if my membership card still held the same benefits. I had questions that I did not express: Am I speaking to like-minded people? Are we still all outcasts confessing our loneliness? Or has the real world crept in and assumed our cloaks and secret handshakes? In this sudden closeness of idiocultures, of a people in the cloak of anonymity and the ability to play both audience and performer, sarcasm overtook sensitivity.

Of course, there were reasons for this. Sarcasm is a defensive behavior, irony a defensive behavior. We make fun of ourselves to create a middle ground towards people we suspect might be uneasy with our presence(at least I hear this thought repeated often enough). Since everyone was so close, everyone was on guard and people were free to say things unsaid in polite company. Thus, the reactions lead to reactions, the “Anger sends out secondaries.” In defense to this, more sarcasm and following this, more sarcasm. I myself treated chatrooms like a bar where I just spat off bullshit and expected everyone to know that no harm was meant. Pretty soon, it was faux-paus to be sincere. Sincerity had come under attack.

And the post-ironic, and I did not coin that silly term, came into being as a response to this attack on sincerity. People assumed the harlequin with earnest before they even had experienced the past that had created the need to put on the joker’s mask, fully assuming that passive-aggressive “there is no responsibility on my part if you get upset by what I say” mantra before they had even offended someone and had to deal with the responding anger. To sum it up: the internet created the social space for Glenn Beck to exist. For a man playing the clown so earnest to be believed and loved in spite of seeming to mock those who he represents as a vocal leader. And you can no longer point out that the Emperor has no clothes, because the response is, “of course he doesn’t, what is wrong with that?”

So where does that leave us? Are we all crying wolf? What happens when the need for sincerity is forgotten? Because I believe we do require sincerity. Sincerity is a part of love, even a parent’s love is so sincere it assumes that whatever you are that it can love you. And if it doesn’t have this practice, then we look down upon the parent for not daring to love. Sincerity is a part of trust, of faith, of lending money and borrowing the car. You have to assume that someone must mean a little bit of what they say. And even trapping the issue in the internet world, can you take part in this group behavior, where the audience and its peanut gallery has joined the stage, and the performer, the sage and speaker no longer has a place of authority by not having the ability to cry out in sincerity when the wolf does appear? Instead, we all stand around and stare at each other on stage, waiting for the first person to make a mistake so we can point and laugh. And now the mistake is to be serious, to speak up. So, “Why so serious?” of The Joker for this generation really has become “Don’t be serious.”

Albert, the separated voice of the above quote, has this idea of balance to speaking your mind, because he feels somewhere the balance has been lost. His character is an accountant, so he separates each element into an amount, twenty percent here, sixty percent there. Mostly sincere, mostly serious, but cautious. This can be applied to a Jewish sense of how a Jew must converse(Oz is Jewish and Albert’s character an Israeli discussing perhaps the Zionist’s state actions), but it feels to me to apply so well to the internet’s mindset and how this practice of smug peanut gallery behavior has leaked out into the physical world.

And I agree, it worries me. It’s a lot of false noise and malice, done so to remove all responsibility.


Editorial Notes:

The thagomizer:

“The thagomizer, or tail spikes, is an arrangement of four to ten spikes on the tails of particular dinosaurs, of which Stegosaurus stenops is the most familiar. The tail arrangement is believed to have been a defensive weapon against predators.[1]”

First, its the spiky tail of a stegosaurus, a defensive mechanism of a slow lumbering creature thats bone structure is best for pivoting around, but not great for speed or agility. Essentially, it can turn around and wack its tail defensively. Much like gen x turns around and wacks the younger generation for copying its youth.

“The term “thagomizer” was coined by Gary Larson in a 1982 Far Side comic strip, in which a group of cavemen in a faux-modern lecture hall are taught by their caveman professor that the spikes were named “after the late Thag Simmons”.”

Thus, the name thagomizer is a serious scientific name derived from a comic strip joke. The joke becoming serious. This link to my point is probably obvious.

The Joker/Batman issue:

The Batman of my generation is probably the Tim Burton batman, which features Jack Nicholson playing the Joker. Here we have a serious actor playing a clown, and the clown dies in the film. In the current Batman, the Joker is played by young and serious actor Heath Ledger. In this Batman, the Joker often escapes and it is instead the serious actor who dies in the real world. In retrospect, “Why so serious?” grimly starts to become “Don’t be serious.”


June 21, 2010

This blog is the product of various attempts to incite discussion with people that interests me and seeing many of those attempts become blowfish exploding into puffed cheeks and barbed expressions.