The “Culture War” Is Really Humans Vs. Culture

Make America Angry Again! It seems like everyday now, there’s some TV show or public event aimed at upsetting the president, followed by a Trump Tweet that fires everyone else up. Everywhere you look, you see angry racists, angry anti-fascists, angry feminists, angry football players, and angry celebrities screaming, waving their arms, and killing each other with cars over something Trump said or something Trump did.

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Come on people. Look at this guy. Does he really deserve this level of validation?

Now, I realize that the issues that have Americans so enraged these days aren’t entirely the president’s fault. These are old fires being stoked, but we’re not going to douse by throwing tantrums or going out of one’s way to piss people off.

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Yeah, I’m talking to you, interchangeable NFL protesters. Now, I don’t care about the National Anthem or all this disrespecting the flag one way or the other. To me, those as symbols, and I leave symbols to the same people that George Carlin does. The way I see it, you’re just exercising a right that this great country is based on. I’m proud to live in a place where you needn’t worry about getting lynched, stoned, or even fired for your actions. Whether I agree with you or not, however, I still think you could find a better venue to share your viewpoint.

Let’s be honest: Monday Night Football is not the place for you to speak your minds. In fact, you’re not hired to speak at all: you are modern-day gladiators, paid to beat the shit out of each other in an arena for the pacification of the public. That’s all you are, and that’s all anyone cares about. As for me, I don’t care one whit. If you want ruin your careers and damage the reputation of the company you work for, then go right ahead. Maybe it’ll get Americans to stop thinking about football and start thinking about real issues. I just think you’d do better to speak at a college, publish an essay, or even write a letter to the editor, for crying out loud. You’ll have a smaller audience than when you’re on your precious tee-vee, but at least you’ll know that the people you do reach will actually give a shit.

It’s the egotism that bothers me more than anything. What kind of self-absorbed douche gets on a soapbox in the middle of work? If some dude at my office decided to interrupt every workday with a political message, the rest of us would throw our staplers at him. And don’t give me that shit about free speech. The First Amendment only protects you legally. It doesn’t mean that your friends, family, employers, or sponsors will like what you have to say. There are consequences for saying the wrong thing, so suck it up, buttercup.

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Then you’ve got the people who love to say that the president has emboldened racism and hate groups. Once again, I think those people are giving Trump a little too much credit. These organizations have existed, and will continue to exist, for years and years. You can’t blame Trump, a professional narcissist, for these violent rallies that are going on. Have we forgotten that the president works for the citizenry, and not the other way around? We hired him. Trump became president because we voted for him, not because he reached into his bag of racists and Russians and pulled them all out to vote. He is a reflection of us. Cruelty and ignorance are All-American home goodies, baked at three-hundred and fifty degrees for over two-hundred years.

Why do we keep blaming the president for all our problems anyway? He wields no real power. Sure, he puts his name on the bills, but his position only exists for one purpose: to provide “good feelin’s.”

Let’s be honest again: for all his impressive oratory skill, what did Barack Obama really change? I mean, really, as in the quality of our daily lives? Any changes in my life during his presidency were brought on by my own efforts. He certainly didn’t turn the country into some femi-homo-disarmed-Euro-paradise like conservatives feared. All he did was send warm, liberal fuzzies through the television while business, war, and politics went on as usual. In 2017, we just exchanged one talking head for another, one that says what the other side likes to hear. And still, nothing is changing. Do you have more money in your pocket than you did before Trump became president? Do you feel better protected from terrorists and scumbags? Is the nation a warmer, happier place than it was last year? Nah, but at least you have your alpha-male role model shouting down those pussy libtard snowflakes, and that’s all these people need.

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Therein lies the trouble we face: mindless tribalism, or as the magazines are calling it, the “culture war.” People are trading their individuality for groupthink and entering into twisted crusades against each other. You can’t say it’s only happening on one side, either, or else you wouldn’t see the childish clashes we’re getting. Those militant morons out there chanting and whining don’t care about making life better for anyone, they just want to feel morally superior to those they disagree with, by shouting them down and belittling them. When they vote, they don’t consider which candidate will improve the nation, but the one that will run their enemies out on a rail and silence them for good.

Now here’s the truth: if that’s the way you think when you vote, then you’re admitting that you don’t want a president, you want a king. That makes you a defector from democracy, and a supporter of despotism. You are precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned us about, and precisely what the Revolutionary War was fought to tear us from. In a democracy, everyone gets to speak, and in a society as diverse as ours, a tug of war must exist in perpetuity.

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So what’s the answer? I don’t know how to calm these nutballs we see on TV every night, but I do see the difference between them and the regular people that surround me in real life.

The fact is that regular people don’t get so worked up over these things. They’re too busy trying to survive. They have households to manage, families to raise, budgets to balance, jobs to attend to. They stay informed of policy and vote, but they don’t allow their identities to be so wrapped up in gang mentality that they want to kill the opposition. They are decent, reasonable folk who want to live in peace, not to create trouble where it needn’t exist.

It’s time we started taking responsibility for ourselves. We have to stop surrendering to the waves of manufactured consensus, and start owning up to our actions. Terence McKenna once said that “Culture is not your friend.” It aims to control you, to categorize you, to paint you as something you might not want to be. In fuming over the latest stupid tweet Trump made, you are playing straight into culture’s hands. Focus on your life, your reality, your people, your God. Consider how to improve your world practically, and don’t let anyone else, especially some nimrod on television, tell you how you should do it.

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Top Non-Cartoons: Army of Darkness

I must confess: I was kinda leading up to this.

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Let me begin by saying that I don’t like Army of Darkness. In fact, part of me — probably the serious, “artistic” part — hates Army of Darkness. I say this with no small amount of frustration, because I’m the kind of person who should love Army of Darkness. I love cheesy horror. I love irreverent comedy. I love bloody, anarchic, over-the-top violence for its own sake, and I love any movie that goes out of its way to piss people off — especially if those people are the film’s own fans. Why shouldn’t I enjoy Sam Raimi’s beloved cult classic?

Well, it’s probably because the movie is so stupid.

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Here’s the third entry in a series lauded for its original approach to horror, and it gives us some of the clumsiest acting, the dumbest gags, and the most embarrassing stop-motion I’ve ever seen. The first time I caught AoD on cable, I came in at the windmill/mirror scene, and I spent the next ten minutes scratching my head, squinting my eyes, and wondering just how in hell a movie like this could get made. What right-minded studio executive would greenlight such a travesty?

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I mean…look at it. Extreme mugging. Unfunny scenes drawn to their absolute limits. Three Stooges eye pokes with cheap-o skeleton hands. Zombie dolls tossed at actors to simulate fighting. I could forgive the bad effects if the comedy was sharp, but this stuff is so broad I almost feel bad for it. And I don’t buy the whole “it’s shitty on purpose” argument. There’s confidence here, and that makes it all the less pleasant. If I had seen this movie in the theater, I would have walked out of it, even at thirteen years old. It’s awful.

But…it’s growing on me, and oh dear god, it’s growing bigger.

Thanks to the constant references in video games, the continued recommendations of friends, and the recent TV follow-up, I’ve developed a strange fascination with AoD. My revulsion now mingles with a desire to understand, and I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere in that regard. We haven’t yet made friends, but we’re developing a language by which to communicate, and I’m willing to admit that maybe I was just a big old fuddy-duddy about it.

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Army of Darkness is not a horror film. It’s more of a fantasy-action-comedy, and although there is no other movie to fairly compare with it, I can’t help but come back to Spaceballs. The two movies just remind me of each other in certain ways. While Spaceballs had a purpose in sending up Star Wars, however, AoD ricochets about with no real plan at all. If it’s making fun of anything, it’s the expectations of the viewers.

It retains Raimi’s distinctive style, of course, which I actually really love. The first Raimi film I ever saw was Darkman, and even as a twelve-year-old kid, I knew there was something special behind that one. That film moved and screamed and ran like nothing I’d ever seen before, and it’s probably the only instance in which a film’s camerawork actually disturbed me. There’s something Ren & Stimpy-esque about the details Raimi wants to show us, and the unique efforts he makes to do so can be unsettling. AoD, however, is not unsettling. Sure, it has one or two intentionally disquieting moments, but you’d better drink them up good because they don’t last long.

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Each of the film’s acts has its own premise and tone: first we have Ash’s bonkers buffoon-out-of-water story, followed by a quest that reaches for scary but then goes full tilt stupid, and then a lengthy siege that’s neither scary or comical, just kinda dry.

The idea of Ash Williams, an angry wiseass teaching medieval Englanders what for, is actually quite appealing. Were I in Ash’s position, I’d be pretty pissed off too. Many of his quotes deserve their fame, especially the “jack and shit” line. The joke of the film is that our “hero” is an arrogant moron, gifted only with the ability to pull miraculous action stunts at will. Thankfully, this is enough to make a movie character likable, because he comes through when he has to. He chops up or blows up every monster he sees, and he always sees them before anyone else can.

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Not that anyone else in the movie is really worth discussing. The titles read “Bruce Campbell Vs. Army of Darkness” for a reason, folks: this really is the Ash showcase. His journey for the Necronomicon (the Evil Dead McGuffin) is little more than a series of cartoon scenarios in which Ash bumbles about hurting himself. He bumps his head, burns his bum, and battles a bunch of baby Ashes.

After that, he pretty much sinks into the background as a host of stop-motion skeletons takes the stage. From here it’s nothing but a giant sword-fighting jubilee, plus a few explosions. Without Ash’s character at the forefront, the movie loses a lot of personality, though it tries to make up for it with some goofy puppet gags (as a Jim Henson fan, I do enjoy this). The action has a smidgen of that Raimi style to it, but overall it’s not particularly funny or ground-breaking. Even so, I get a unique sense from the siege sequence that this was not some rote exercise. No, Raimi was chasing something: he aimed to recreate the spooky spectacles of the Ray Harryhausen movies he grew up with, simply because he liked them. As a creative person, my motivations are often similar: I just want to make things that look like the stuff I always loved.

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I can’t begrudge Raimi for taking this opportunity. I read Bruce Campbell’s book, If Chins Could Kill, and the story of making Evil Dead was not a happy one. For the Raimi boys, breaking into the biz demanded suffering, stubbornness, and on-the-spot ingenuity. Army of Darkness was the reward for their travails: a chance to finally have some big fun with a character and mythos that they invented. That I don’t get a lot of its humor isn’t a slight on the film, it’s evidence of a unique personal touch. It may be broad, but it’s no manufactured crowd-pleaser. On the contrary, it is something more precious than that: an unsullied bit of fun made by a small group of guys with earned capital — a movie that owes nothing to anyone. This finally came together for me when I heard Raimi’s last lines of commentary on the AoD Director’s Cut, and felt like a total asshole:

Sam-Raimi.jpg“Our goal was really to make an entertaining picture. That’s
all we want to do: an entertaining movie, that hopefully people would laugh at and get some jumps out of, and we hope that you were entertained.”

Well, shit. How can I, or any creative person, grind my heel on this movie, knowing the pure sentiment that birthed it? Entertainment really is the core of it, after all; any storyteller who aims for a higher goal than that has lost his or her way. Raimi didn’t care about prestige or money; he just wanted to indulge his passion. He made a film that is distinctly his own, proudly left his fingerprints all over it, and found an ironclad fan base in spite of withering odds. That’s more than I can say for myself.

I feel like crap now, so I’m going to change the subject and talk about the TV show.

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Ash vs. Evil Dead is a good show. It does just what it needs to do, which is to update and expand the Evil Dead mythology, while keeping Ash exactly the way we remember him. The loony exuberance of the movies is still present, but it’s checked by a self-aware, 21st-century jadedness, as well as some impressive special effects. You won’t see any dopey puppets bobbling about here, but it’s still leagues away from any Walking Dead grimness, and I thank God for that. Since Raimi doesn’t have his hands on it directly, there’s still a je ne sais quoi missing from it, but it works, and I liked it from the first shot without any reservations.

It is, however, falling into a formula that I’m not sure it can maintain. Since the show is just an excuse for more Bruce, there’s not much room for real tension or plot. Most of the episodes play out like Popeye cartoons; the only differences between them are how the writers keep Ash away from his chainsaw, and for how long. Once the spinach can is opened, the audience gets exactly what it expects: deadites taunting, people crashing into walls, blood spraying on faces, and maybe a one-liner or two. I can’t really complain about this, though. With the horror genre as gray and predictable as it is now, Ash vs. Evil Dead is a refreshing reminder that scary can also be fun. Still, it needs more than nostalgia and attitude to be a truly satisfying experience. If it can’t figure out how to build off its novelty, it may have been better served as a feature film/reunion thing.

#DeathToAdvertisers

Speaking of shitty marketing….

A week ago, Slate put up a terrific editorial about the insulting (more so than usual) ad campaign being employed to roll out that new Mortdecai Movie. Read it here.

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Uninformative posters, random hashtags, kooky tweets, it’s the suggestion of some grand event going on somewhere, one that you too can be a part of. That is, if you don’t mind doing a little research.

Wait a minute! Why am I doing the research? The marketers are hoping I’ll become invested in the movie by diving into the “world” of its ad campaign. By the time the movie finally premieres, they expect I’ll be so frenzied with curiosity that I’ll throw myself at the theater to “complete” my Mortdecai experience. Insidious. The Slate writer does a terrific job of delineating his outrage at such manipulation, but I’m a little surprised that this seems to be his first exposure to it. Mortdecai is hardly the first offender.

mindy-kaling-02This goofy shit has been around for a long time. Batman logos, Bubsy the Bobcat, Who is Keyser Soze? I don’t know! You tell me! I’m not giving you my money so I can find the answer to some question you keep buzzing in my ear. Social media has only made it worse. Advertisers are wicked, manipulative people. They know we like to feel smart, busy, and savvy, so they throw us tidbits of silliness that are only marginally related to the product they’re selling, and then shove a hashtag in our faces. If we see it enough, and lord knows we will, one day we’ll be looking on Twitter when that little turd they planted in us will float up to the fronts of our minds. “Huh. What about that #invisiblemindy thing? Search.”

And, they’ve got you.

I have a problem with hashtags in general. They’re specious little things that give people delusions of significance. I imagine they can be helpful for people who need to coordinate, say, a governmental revolution, but less ambitious citizens are throwing them all over the place now. What, exactly, is #marking #every #word #in #your #tweet #with #a #freaking #octothorp supposed to accomplish? Do you really believe there are crowds of people out there searching for the subject #mykids? Why would strangers be interested in your kids?

When the internet first got to its feet and started walking, and became accessible to the average computer user, a lot of people (including myself) went through that delusional phase: “Oh, I can’t wait to see what the world thinks of my website! I hope I don’t offend some guy in Luxembourg with my witty opinions! I’ll put a guestbook up so I can see the signatures that flood in from around the globe!” Then we got fewer than ten hits, most of them from family members, and the truth hit home: the standards of fame may be a little lower on the net — or in the case of YouTube, a HELL of a lot lower — but you still gotta have it before you’ll get any attention.

tothereader (should you exist): I write this blog more for myself than anyone else, as a fun little exercise. It helps me get my frustrations out. I don’t expect that anyone’s looking for it, or actually interested in what I have to say. Whatever tags I put on my entries, they’re usually related to vague subjects so they might show up in searches, if people really do search for blogs at all (I don’t). In other words, I know I’m nobody, and I’m all right with that.

But now we have Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, and a whole new generation of internet virgins is diving into the pond with the expectation that the whole world is watching them, like this is a game of Big Brother or something. So now we get hashtags for every fucking thing.

I know my rant here won’t be heard in the maelstrom of “lols” and “omgs” that clogs the internet these days, but I’ll rant just the same: No one’s watching you, okay? Get over yourself! Unless you’re threatening to kill the president, no one gives a shit!

But the hashtag curse has another evil effect. People with a lot of money can use a hashtag to fool us into thinking their shit is something everybody’s talking about. Alongside tags like #jesuischarlie or #blizzardof2015, which refer to serious events that actually affect our lives, we get things like #OneBoldChoice (promoted by Toyota). What the fuck? Who’s looking for that? Who’s going to tweet with that? This is astroturf bullshit at its most blatant, because the advertiser isn’t even trying to hide! They’re happy to co-opt and corrupt what was once a user-driven set of communities, and then twist it to make people feel like they’re missing out on something.

Gabbo-is-comingI say that consumers should fight back. Let’s use the advertisers’ hashtags against them. The same way that commercials mess with our heads, showing us images unrelated to their products, let’s tweet to plug our own personal projects and slap their phony hashtags on them. The next time someone caves and searches for #OneBoldChoice, I hope they get a gallery of tweet-pics showing people on the crapper. Man, I’d love to see the indignant PR response to something like that. “How dare those little ingrates! Abusing our tags that way!”

Now THAT would be a bold choice.

8Chan Idiots

Day Eight, GamerGate: What’s the hot-button issue of the day? Police racism? The economy? No no no no, what’s wrong with you? It’s chicks in video games, man! Yes, that’s right, to hear some stupid little kids tell it, the defining problem of our generation is women using their womanly woman-ness to co-opt their holy boy’s club.

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So this woman named Zoe Quinn made one of those insufferable “artistic” indie games, and then apparently got sexually involved with some online reviewers with the intent of getting her game some extra attention. The video game world exploded. It was a betrayal of the lowest sort. A girl used her body to get attention! Shame on those journalists! How could they fall for such an obvious ploy?

And as we all know, real men

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would never

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fall for something

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so shameless!

Now, never you mind that major video game publishers have been coercing reviewers to soften their opinions for years, this Zoe Quinn thing was just too much. Anyone who reads comments sections of major game review sites knows that the integrity of video game reviews is sacred. If a reviewer gives a game a lower score than fans like, it’s clearly because the site has some bias against the developer. If a game gets a higher score than is expected, especially if it’s Call of Duty, it’s clearly because the site was paid off. How do gamers know what the scores should be? They go by the hype, the first-look articles, the free advertising that sites do months before the games are released, so, of course, they’ve already decided whether the game is good or not, and can’t allow anyone to disagree with them, even if it’s the site itself. Now that’s integrity!

It was this smug, self-absorbed mentality that caused gamers to inflate their mission and name it “GamerGate,” as though favoritism in fucking video game reviews is anywhere near in importance to presidential abuse of power.

When it comes to games, these people need the opinions of the world to coincide with their own, or else they get upset. No, I mean, really upset. Upset enough to kill. Gamers called Quinn a cunt, a bitch, a whore, and rained a tidal wave of death and rape threats upon her. They found out where she lived and published her address. They found some nude photos of her and spread those around as well. Then someone realized that the real problem wasn’t with the wily powers women have at manipulating journalistic opinion, it was this uppity feminist movement that made women think they could change the system! Every minute, there’s another woman pushing her feminist agenda on video games, screeching for “equality.” How, exactly, would this agenda change anything? Um, no one really knows, but something had to be done if video games were ever to be safe for teenaged boys again!

Their conclusion? Anita Sarkeesian had to die.

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Sarkeesian has some YouTube show called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games,” which is pretty much what it sounds like. When she launched a Kickstarter to keep the show funded, the GamerGate boys recognized her as their sworn enemy, and descended on her like a plague of locusts. An extensive and exhaustive online harassment campaign began, starting with the same shit Quinn had to deal with, and reaching a head with the threat of a massacre at the university where Sarkeesian planned to give a lecture. The story hit the papers, but the general public rolled their eyes. Anyone who might have cared realized that you can’t argue with retards and walked away. Sarkeesian canceled the lecture, but she kept making her videos. Uncertain of whether they won or lost anything, the GamerGate boys kind of dissipated, but the fire in them still burns! The #GamerGate hashtag is still kicking with lively discussion about those horrible women screwing up the review curve, and how blind the rest of the world is to all the damning evidence of wrongdoing. They even made a “blacklist” of users who don’t take their issue seriously (read: most of humanity), and they disseminate it amongst themselves so they can mute those who would contaminate the think tank.

I don’t know what these kids are so paranoid about. I’m a gamer myself, and I know for a fact that our precious hobby has never been in any danger. Anyone who’s concerned about the way females are portrayed in games is fighting a losing battle. There’s too much money in games for them to change now. There’s a reason that your favorite games show big muscly guys on their box art. There’s a reason the CD aisles at Target look like the porno section of a 7-Eleven. There’s a reason that half the movies in the theater are about comic book characters. The teenage male reigns supreme as the big money demographic. If you’re a teenage male, you are the target audience for EVERYTHING.

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The other reason feminism won’t gain any traction is because there are far too many women who are perfectly happy with the way things are. The internet is loaded with women who are glad to show off their goodies if it means getting likes and subscribes. This is doubly true if video games are involved. Women who dress up as sexy video game characters garner huge followings. Female gamers on YouTube invariably show themselves in bikinis. The gaming broadcast service Twitch had to put up a cool-it notice on their site because too many people were live streaming themselves playing games naked. Gamers should know better by now: there is no “agenda” that can stop the floppy, rubbery juggernaut that is the clickbait tit. The war is already over. Feminism in video games is dead, and women themselves have killed it with their cheap pandering for hits. If they really believed they could share the hobby with boys on equal terms, they wouldn’t take pictures like the ones shown above, but as Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj taught us, you can’t get attention by being modest and reserved. We live in the “look at me” society, the Attention Age, and the party isn’t about to stop any time soon. I’m waiting for the day when some girl puts up a YouTube video of herself sticking an NES controller in her vagina. She won’t even be playing a game; it’ll just be her in a chair, naked, fucking an NES controller. It’ll happen, too, you watch. Angry moms will get the video taken down, but the girl will still collect millions of slobbering subscribers, each of them a desperate teenaged boy posting comments like “omg u r so hot.” Then other female YouTubers will get jealous and start posting their own videos of themselves fucking game accessories, and soon we’ll have a whole cottage industry of amateur, video game-related porn, made just the way boys like it.hannahminx

So take a chill pill, gamers. You’re still in charge here. Lie back on your parents’ couch, take a tug on that big bottle of Mountain Dew, and get back to tea bagging each other. The boobies will be there for you tomorrow, and that’s a guarantee.