Posts Tagged ‘community’

Warning: Contains Language,

 

I’ve been watching people, thinking of Orlando, of the recent shootings. It reminds me of a whole host of other national tragedies. People are always looking for someone to blame in the aftermath.

I’m part of many ‘communities’. Some in the meatspace and some here on the interwebs. I don’t always feel that I belong in some of them. Sometimes these communities appear to be at odds with one another. When that feels true and you don’t want to believe that community speaks for you. You forget that it goes both ways, that you’re a part of the community, one made up for individuals, and you speak for them too.

I play video games. I play a lot less than I used to, but I grew up playing games and when I was young many of my friends and I were definitely part of the gaming community. These days, most of the time I play I’m playing online with other humans, humans I don’t know and there’s no shortage of hate speech in that of the internet.

Here are a few things people have actually said in game to me (apologies, hate speech ahead).

Homophobic language is by far the most common:
“that’s such a gay ass move! Buncha faggots”

And I distinctly remember this charming request:
“can you fucking jews stop taking all my gold”

The worst of the stuff I see is a little less common, but it’s hardly an isolated incident. This is an actual transcript of a conversation I had with a teammate:

Player 1: God I hate you fucking niggers
Me: Dude, W T Fuck?!?!?! not ok!
P1: too bad its true, nigger.
Me /all: Report P1 hate speech, calling teammates “n**gers”.
P1 /all: ur all lazy and don’t do shit to help. Makes you niggers.
M3 /all: Muted reported

When this happens, there’s only so much I can do about it. It’s so common I’ve got a rote response to this kind of talk. I say it’s not appropriate. Sometimes I explain why (I say sometimes, because it’s often obvious or the person is beyond my help).  Sometimes I mute them and sometimes, if the person is on my team, I stop playing altogether “because I refuse to help bigots win at anything” I say. There are things that trump beating strangers on the internet at a game.

Sadly enough, doing this is more likely to result in my account being penalized for going AFK than anything else. At the end of the match I can report the incident and on the very rare occasion it does result in any action (the game notifies you if someone you reported is penalized) I get the small dopamine rush from foolishly thinking I did something to help. Most of the time I just have to shake it off and tell myself it’s just some asshole on the internet, pay no heed, don’t feed the trolls, but the thing is, ‘some assholes on the internet’ are a huge part of the problem.

At some point in our online lives, most of us learn to tune out certain groups of people. The Klan, The WBC, the Family Research Council, and other “fringe” groups, but it’s the everyday cruelties that’ll wear a person down.

No – it wasn’t that ONE guy saying faggot that made all those teenager kill themselves; not that one times someone all caps screamed racial slurs that got Dylan Roof to attack that church. It was that those were one of a thousand times they heard it, each one a brick dropped into a rowboat till it finally sinks. It takes a thousand of them or more and when they’re tossed in faster than you throw them out, when they keep hitting you faster than you can shake them off, that’s when people die. It’s not that one word, it’s the thousand that came before it and the thousand that will come after it.

And OUR community is a part of the problem. WE have to fix it. This is a community that is brought together by something that is supposed to be fun, games. It’s our job to make it a safe place for all people. Because every one of those words that happen on our games, on our screens, in our chat logs, those words are on us.

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Well I better get this one up while it’s still relevant

Something has been kickin around in my head for a while now. With the movie being out and all the hubbub surrounding it, suddenly I have a reason to write about it again, so I’m gonna go ahead and jump on the having an opinion about Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon before it completely stops being topical.

With all the noise surrounding the film/book, what I want to focus on is what is its value. How Fifty Shades of Grey has had a positive or negative impact on ‘us’ and why. To do this I want to place it in comparison to Twilight.

Normally, I don’t go in for drawing dichotomies between pieces of art (yeah, I’m calling it art). It is rarely productive.

I am making an exception for a couple reasons. First, Fifty Shades of Grey (herin referred to as 50SoG) originated as a piece of fanfiction based on the Twilight series. The direct relationship between the two means 50Sog cannot be completely separated from Twilight and the comparison is fair game.

Second, as a point of contrast. While I could have picked from probably hundreds of examples of pop culture ranging from TV to movies to magazines to GIFs being passed around on Tumbler,  the similarities between these two make Twilight a useful tool for discussion.

Before we get started, I should mention I have not read either 50Sog or Twilight nor have I seen the movies.

I don’t need to because shut up and click on this link so I can excuse myself from explaining.

I have read bits of 50Sog with the help of Pervocracy’s cliff notes, which you should read if you want to know more about 50Sog without having to do the work yourself.

I want to separate this post from their literary merit*, aside from the subjective nature of evaluating art, what people are mostly upset about is 50Sog is the influence it has or maybe at least what it is indicative of as it relates to who we are as a culture.

[*side note: There are good books and bad books. There are books that sell well and disappear from conversation and total flops that become an intrinsic part of our curriculum. I for one am not concerned with the state of literature. Great works will persevere and the bullshit will all be washed away by time.]

Let’s look at some of the criticisms laid against that poor, maligned bestselling 50Sog.

One point people won’t let go of is that it portrays BDSM in a negative light (particularly in regards to the ending).

And it does, fair enough. It gets two major things wrong. First, Kink is seen as a sickness that comes from a history of abuse and worse, something that can and should be cured (kinda like some other things for which people are sent to reparative therapy). This isn’t true and if you want to read more about it, google.

Second, what the characters are doing in this book is not BDSM which refers to a variety of activities which require the participation of freely consenting adults. What happens in 50Sog is not consensual. It is abuse. It is not BDSM (Again, plenty about this has already been written) and that much should be acknowledged. So there.

However, 50Sog is far from the first or only work to contain a “bad” portrayal of kink and it shouldn’t be held to some standard that less successful art is not. It is a work of fantasy, it’s erotica, people fantasize about inappropriate shit all the time. Teacher/student, boss/secretary (I believe there was also a popular film about something like that), rape, incest, the list goes on. Just jump on a tube site or google Kristen archives and see if there’s anything portraying an inappropriate scenario. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

You really wanna go through every bodice ripper, porn scene, and stray thoughts containing kinky fuckery and evaluate it to make sure all the fictional characters are being safe, sane, and consensual?

What seems to really bother people about 50Sog is not that it is a bad portrayal of kink, but that it seems to claim within the work that this is what BDSM is. Grey doesn’t just abuse Anastasia, he does it by justifying it with jargon many self-proclaimed kinksters use in their daily lives and explains it to her as if what he’s saying is the obvious truth.

But this is like any mainstream film which attempts to simplify or alter a subculture in order to facilitate the plot. The best response to this I’ve heard was adult film actress, Nina Hartley, who made an apt analogy, saying 50Sog is to kink what James Bond is to Covert Intelligence. No one expects spies to use Sean Connery and Daniel Craig as mentors & I don’t see the CIA or MI6 or FSB protesting the latest Bond flick.

So those are its flaws.

OK

But what I want to look at are the effects of the work.

It has dragged kink into the main stream. Which has allowed some people to be more open about their sexuality and those that are feel less demonized or weird or fearful.

All points in favor of sex-positivity.

As a result, there has been an uptick in people going to educational events or sex positive stores, or becoming part of the kink/sex-positive community where they can learn & explore in a safer environment, than say, trolling craigslist.

I’m not saying there won’t be anyone who reads/sees 50Sog & does something stupid, but how many kids saw Jackass and ended up in the hospital trying to replicate stunts or read Fight Club and started unregulated sparring under the bleachers or in bathrooms at school? (Also I should point out, that one of those was ‘real’ and one was complete fiction, the ‘credibility’ of the work had no bearing on whether people mimicked them)

However, in all likelihood you’re not going to end up the sex slave of a child billionaire.

So what about the source material, Twilight? All the abuse people cited in 50Sog, still right there. I’d say it’s even worse. Anything wrong with Grey that you might try to excuse as complex flaws, he’s young, he’s ignorant, he’s psychologically damaged, is compounded in Twilight by the fact that the love interest there is three hundred fuckin years old! He should know better by now! No excuses. And talk about an inappropriate age gap. He’s ten times the predator Grey is. Of all the women though all the decades, he thinks, hey you know who I should hook up with? An immature, vulnerable, impressionable, teenager! That’s the kind of gal for me!

The other key difference is that in Twilight, the kind of jealous, controlling, manipulative, shit the vampire pulls is portrayed as what love should look like & most importantly is marketed to children.

Which, for me, is what this comparison all comes down to.

They may call it “YA”, but let’s get real, they mean children. I don’t know what a Young Adult is supposed to be, but the youngest adults are seventeen at most, while these books are actually aimed at middle schoolers, people who, in all likelihood, have little to no experience with romantic relationships (Actual young adults are just that, adults and they’ve already started reading “adult” books.).

Kids see this & it becomes their model for conduct. The stories are absorbed into their archetypes for loving relationships. Also, despite, being heavily sexual in theme throughout the series, Twilight is overshadowed by the sex-negative Mormon worldview of the author. In the book, sex will literally kill you. Twilight takes advantage of kids many of whom can’t then go to a responsible community member and ask for help.

And now it seems I’m in a weird position of defending fan fiction. 50Sog is aimed at grown-ups. That’s why the public started jokingly referred to it as ‘mommy porn’, erotica for bored Midwestern housewives. People who see 50Sog and get all hot ‘n bothered, know it’s fantasy. If it really gets them going, they seek out help, they explore, and they learn. And with all the media hype and writing and discussion that has taken place as a result of its commercial success, it makes it all that much more likely people will become more educated and safe as a result of this film/book.

TL;DR

Twilight has had a negative and pernicious effect overall. While, All in all, 50Sog is a net positive,

Then again, no Twilight no 50Sog…

Oh well.

Shuffle says “I know His Blood Can Make Me Whole”  Blind Willie Johnson The Complete Blind Willie Johnson

Last week I finished watching the third season of Deadwood and was recently ruminating on one of the last images from the final episode.  I cannot recall what was taking place in the thoroughfare, but as usual Al Swearington, the violent crime boss – who at the outset of season one ruled the camp of Deadwood unquestionably with and iron fist and a steel knife -, was watching from his usual perch, the balcony outside his office at the Gem Saloon/brothel, taking in all that transpires.  Across the street stands George Hearst (the mining/media mogul and founder of the Hearst empire) , on the awning of the hotel – which he bought with force from Swearington’s lackey – in front of the hole he made in wall so he could stand outside on the upper level.  There’s a great shot where the two of them are looking over the chaos of the streets.  In the background, out of focus,  is the makeshift market constructed of mostly thin pines and canvass, pieces of ‘Chink Alley’ spilling over; a picture of Deadwood’s origins.  In the foreground is the newly built schoolhouse and the recently opened theatre, occupying the space that was once a brothel.  Swearington’s body is turned forward, but he looks to the side, his eyes briefly grazing over what is behind him.  Directly opposite him, Hurst looks toward the theatre with disgust.

It is a truly beautiful and couldn’t better capture everything it’s creator, David Milch, has tried to say over the past three seasons.  It is the story of social progress, from a very Hobbesian perspective and anyone with the intelligence to follow the show could not possibly miss out on that, especially with images like the one just described. Though Milch never strikes you over the head too hard with it.  The shot is so fucking brief, the story so complex, the characters so rich, and the dialogue so beautiful – you’d forget words ‘cunt’ and ‘cocksucker’ were anything short of the poetry of Poe or Byron – that the message just sits there unassuming.  It is about how we were born out of chaos and violence, dominated by the strong; the meek desperately seeking the order of society, but while the constraints of society may give us the order we seek, it is even more corrupt than the chaos and the violence is only formalized (which of course appeals to the anarchist in me).

The point is no one ever says anything remotely similar to the previous paragraph.  They never discuss philosophy on any level.  Mostly because every character is only interested in surviving or making money (sometimes getting laid).   I kept thinking on those two characters, their duality, how both of them where real living, breathing people some century and a half ago and all that each represented about the birth of America as we know it, as well as the longer journey of social order.  I started comparing to them to the other great pairs of the stage, the page, and the screen and it struck me that this sort of hidden depth is very much on the way out.

I looked and that image and thought “wow that shot has some fuckin subtext”, and the first thing that actually came to mind was a moment from Community. Jeff is trying to decide between two women who both claim to love him and he tries to hash it out saying “Slater makes me feel like the guy I want to be…and Brita makes me feel like the guy I really am”. If I had written something like this in college as a short story, my professor (a bald old South African man who looks a bit like a 5’5” white version of Yoda) would have smacked me upside the head and told me my characters need to stop speaking their subtext and show it with their actions.  But I won’t chastise Dan Harmon for this.  It is the nature of Community, as personified by the character Ahbed, to be all post-modern/metatastic and sitcoms are often to busy trying to get as many laughs to fit into twenty-two minutes and keep up ratings to even attempt to land a ‘deeper message’ . I just feel this is the direction our media is taking.

Complete lack of subtlety is becoming a comedic art form (see the famous line from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog time stamp 3:50).  Dave Eggers mockingly flaunts the use of use of symbols or metaphors in the first few pages his novel A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, where he explicitly lists potential devices [if you want to read them that way] (something to that effect).  I never lived in other times, so I don’t know how they actually spoke, but it does seem to me, more and more, people are speaking their subtext too, or at least, ironically, what they think their subtext is.

I honestly don’t know what point I might be trying to make. This has just been in my head lately(along with the latest single from Flogging Molly and Lady Gaga; “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down” and “Judas” respectively).

I’m sure some people reading this will object and will start making cases for contemporary movies and books that they feel do this and I’m sure they could make at least a decent argument. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist anymore. The example of Deadwood was from 2006 and what I’m talking about is on a grander scale than just a single example and what’s more, these sorts of things really can’t be backed up.