Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Could You Repeat the Message?

So, over the past few months, I've heard about Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the real time strategy videogame based on the book/movie franchise based on the creepy-ass bit of theology. Now, the game, taken objectively, is nothing too offensive: the forces of good and evil fighting a war of arms and minds at the end of the world.

That's the thing, however: the game cannot be taken objectively. The minds behind this game, the people who first dreamed this up, seriously believe that we are approaching the End Times, and that radical action, at times violent action, is required to stir change. It's like the big shots at Blizzard Entertainment honestly believing that the human race is being threatened by demonically-controlled orcs.

Most forms of media, no matter how inconsequential, have some sort of message attached to them. It can be simple, it can be complex, it can be good, it can be bad-- all that matters is, it is there, and it is getting across.

Amanda at Pandagon has been getting a bit of shit over her dissection of Miller Lite's fairly creepy "You poke it, you own it" ad. Amanda points out how many of the arguments in favor of-- well, maybe not in favor of the ad itself, but in favor of downplaying the ad's meaning, point out that there is "real shit" for people to worry about, and the ad is of no importance by comparison.

Now, I'm not arguing that there are matters of more importance in the world than one fucking obnoxious beer ad. But, as Amanda says, having the crap kicked out of you once a week is not invalidated by someone else having the crap kicked out of them daily. While perusing Amanda's links on the dustup, I found this post, which brought up a mention of Pimp: the Backhanding, a card game put out by White Wolf Game Studios about... well, you can imagine what it's about.

Now, I like White Wolf. They do some damn fine RPGs. But I still think that Pimp: the Backhanding was one of the most stupid, offensive ideas that has ever emerged from their brainpans. And the condescending, "there's worse shit happening in Africa" crap that the people behind the game tossed back at their critics didn't help at all. Of course there's worse shit happening in Africa. There's always worse shit happening somewhere. That doesn't give you an excuse to promote a product that embraces the same theme, if on a smaller scale.

See, everything-- everything-- starts somewhere. No system of ideas and prejudices emerges from whole cloth. The Left Behind videogame did not pop out of thin air; it popped out of a religious movement that has been developing for the past few decades that views anything not directly related to its goals as the enemy. The kind of rampant misogyny that allows someone to treat a woman like a sex toy does not just pop into someone's mind, but starts in ideas that a woman can be controlled in some aspects and that the things treasured by a man are inferior to the things treasured by a woman (speaking of that ridiculous Burger King ad again). As Jeff Whitty says in his letter, the dehumanization of gay people usually starts in depicting gay people not as three-dimensional people with individuals ideas, beliefs, and behaviors, but rather as a two-dimensional grouping of stereotypes.

Most things have a message these days. Especially the ones that make people go out of their way to argue that they don't.

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