Yes, it looks like the internet, that bastion of anonymity and baseless, emotional attacks based on nothing more than screen names and misspelled postings is embracing the concept of responsibility for one’s comments. Starting later this month, Blizzard will make posters use their real names in its forums. You can have the option of putting your character name beside it so people can know who you are.
Did I miss something? Granted, I’m a tabletop player, but isn’t half the fun of these online communities the ability to disappear and become a new person?
I was there at the dawn of the internet generation, in the Long, Long Ago Time…
I remember when chat rooms were still fairly new. I remember when computers made that sound like electricity itself was choking on its own vomit while a modem dialed and hooked up to the internet. The ability to meet and interact with new people was so new, so exciting, especially considering the ability to meet people with nothing more than a name and a brief, perhaps fake description.
Years passed and now the ability to sign up for an online service, game, or just talk with people who know you as Aleena, elven priestess of the Dark Sisters, instead of, say, Earl, has become common-place.
And is that a good thing?
I’m really torn on this whole issue. On the one hand, I want the ability to explore, comment, and otherwise go about my business without giving people too much information about myself. On the other hand, I understand why these measures may be necessary. Think back to the last forum you went to. Even better, check out Youtube comments. The amount of idiocy, bigotry, and downright nastiness is enough to make anyone long for Orwellian control sometimes, but only for a moment.
Holding people accountable of their actions on the internet, or anywhere really, is a noble endeavor, but do we loose something in the process?
It’s tricky. I want people held accountable for their actions, but I don’t want people giving out information that could be used to find them in real life at some point. Having moderators on these boards is just a temporary solution and prone to favoritism.
I guess like any technology, it’s going to take a while to find a way to really live with this kind of thing.
And now on to the links!
South Korea has developed a robot sentry armed to the nines. Now all we have to do is develop some really good Artificial Intelligence and we’ve got us a Robot Apocalypse, folks!
Speaking of the olden days… they’re bringing back Beavis and Butthead? Apparently, MTV wants to air more music videos and thinks bringing back this think-tank will give them that opportunity. But, uhm… isn’t this MUSIC Television?! Isn’t it supposed to be their job already?! It’s like a cop trying to find a good excuse to carry a gun.
My hatred of all things Twilight is well-known among regular readers, but the rumor that Taylor Lautner may play a young Wolverine in a future film fills me with a range unknown to me since the final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.
I finally saw Avatar… and I’m going to do my best to suppress the fan-boy giggles that have apparently become my only form of verbal communication. But this isn’t a review of the movie. This is about something slightly more serious.
Apparently, the movie’s made people want to kill themselves.
That’s right. Apparently the vistas of the alien world, Pandora, are so realistic and beautiful and the Na’vi are such peace-loving, wonderful creatures to live with, that many people the world over are now utterly depressed and some consider ending their lives. The overall symptoms include a love and longing for Pandora’s jungles and disgust with the world we have right now. People seem to get relief after playing the Avatar video game, talking with others, or searching for more information on James Cameron’s universe.
I hate to sound insensitive, but if you didn’t know the world was a harsh, industrialized place before seeing this movie, you obviously never stepped outside. Yes, it’s tragic what we’re doing to our planet and all the people who claim humanity has no role in affecting the environment. Yes, we’ve done damage to the Earth that will take decades or centuries to fix. We’ve wiped out species and even members of our own species in the name of wars, progress, and religion.
But if you’re an adult, a sane, rational adult, and you watch Avatar and come to all these realizations at once, well no wonder your brain got fried. Hey, did you know slavery was once legal in the United States? I know this because a movie telled me so.
In Dogma, Alan Rickman’s character voiced his disgust with humanity in that if something didn’t appear in a movie, people didn’t know about it. I’m fairly sure things like the colonials killing off and relocating Native Americans is part of middle-school history courses. You generally hear about the rape and pillage of the Earth from… well, everywhere! There’s a big “going green” movement right now. It’s gotten so that I feel like I’m spitting at Gaia herself whenever I drive my non-hybrid car.
If ANY of this comes as a shock to you, I’m sorry, but you need to put WoW away for a few days, go outside, and actually touch a tree. The internet won’t go away. Besides, have you ever actually felt a tree? They’re rough, cold, and some have goo on them.
Immersion has long been the goal of movies. It used to be all you really needed were some good actors, snappy dialogue, and a story to get the group’s attention. Visuals helped, of course, especially once we got past that whole radio thing. Early on, when we decided to create fantastic landscapes and creatures, we used miniatures, make-up, forced perspective, all the cool old-school tricks that set off early fantasy and science fiction from the slick features of today. People had to use a little imagination, but it worked. The evolution of special effects is a book in on itself, but what I’m trying to get at is that we’ve had stories set in alien worlds for decades. We’ve been telling each other these stories for a long time.
Even CGI isn’t that new anymore. Babylon 5 used it years ago. Jurassic Park made it famous and showed us how realistic it could look. It’s been a steady evolution to create the alien, wonderful, and fantastic, and we’ve bought it until now. Heck, I adore B5, but I admit it looks cheap compared to even the stuff on TV these days.
Why was there such a wave of emo because of Avatar? It’s very visually realistic, yes, but does the story hit harder than, say, Ferngully? What about Captain Planet? It has various themes on war, environmentalism, and consumerism, but did it break new ground in that respect? No, that’s not it. We see leveled rainforests all the time. We hear about the polar cap melting. We know all this, or at least most of us do.
Did James Cameron craft a story so compelling that it created a void in the hearts of its viewers? Was this an epiphany? Well, the plot was good, but it wasn’t something revolutionary and awe-inspiring.
Did the photorealism of the characters and setting trigger empathy in us? According to interviews with the director, they had to humanize the Na’vi to make them less alien. In fact, I wonder if they could have gotten away with the treatment of the Na’vi had they been human? I ask this from a ratings stand-point. Without going into detail if you haven’t seen the movie, would the treatment and attacks on the indigenous population have been as tolerable from an entertainment viewpoint if they were human?
Or, just maybe… these are the same people I reference in an earlier article when I talked about fans who become obsessed with franchises. This is really just another example. The only other explanation is that these viewers had never heard of things like deforestation and colonialism.
People need to just learn the difference between fiction and reality. If you get depressed because you’ll never visit Pandora or interact with the Na’vi, then you should just drink some toilet bowl cleaner, because you’re never going to be an astronaut, a dragon-slayer, and, if this kind of reaction is any indication, a productive member of society.
And yes, you won’t even get to work the drive-through. It’s a movie. Watch it, enjoy it, and move on.
Please turn brains off before responding to censorship.
January 24, 2010
The movie Avatar (which I’ve yet to see and I will gut your worthless soul if you so much as give three seconds away) has garnered considerable praise for its technical innovations and the ability to open a whole new realm of filmmaking. This morning, however, I heard a criticism I hadn’t heard. It wasn’t that the plot reminded people of the story of Pocahontas or that the Na’vi looked like the feral offspring of the Smurfs and the Thundercats.
Apparently, Sigourney Weaver’s character in the movie smokes.
An adult in a science fiction movie doing something that is legal and socially accepted in 20th century Earth?! Next thing you know, they’ll have phone cords in space!
Let me give you juice bits if you don’t want to read it, although it IS a very short article. David Edelstein says that we should give films that feature smoking an automatic R-rating. His exact words:
A kneejerk “R” for cigarettes would be a threat to artistic freedom, a restraint on capitalism. It would be Puritanism! Censorship!
Right? Well, no. I think it’s a good idea.
Now, let’s be clear from the get-go. There should be one culture for all ages, and one for grown-ups. In an R-rated movie, I don’t care if people do things too vile to say on TV. I don’t care if they eat cigarettes. With kids, it’s a different ballgame.
He then goes on to say that no one’s talking about banning alcohol in movies, just making it harder for kids to see smoking.
Okay, kids, take out your Number 2 pencil and a piece of paper. Today we’re going to learn about the Kansas City Shuffle, otherwise known as a con. You make the mark look one way, then you run in the opposite direction.
Davie here is actually saying two things while apparently saying one. By not denying his previous hyperbole that automatic R-ratings are not censorship, he agrees it is censorship, and then goes on to say it should be done. Censorship is the omission of information that may be considered harmful in some way, whether for religious, political, or social reasons. Would this tactic be censorship? Yes. Would it be good? Yes, according to Davie here.
I’ve already talked about cursing, violence, and some of our culture’s weirder standards on entertainment in a previous article, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. I’d just like to know if this same standard would apply to alcohol. He does say that this rating policy should have some wiggle room. Classic movies can keep their smoking, but new movies need to button up and think of the children. Won’t someone think of the children!?
Who, may I ask, are these children that apparently don’t have any guidance on what to do and what not to do? I think there must be caches of feral orphans wandering the streets. Eventually, they wander into a movie theater and are exposed to something that makes the bestial lives worse. And who in their right mind, in 2010, does not know smoking is unhealthy? Every time I hear someone complain about this and alcohol in movies, it’s always for these children who apparently have never heard of cancer, drunk driving accidents, and the fact that inhaling smoke is bad for you. When I have a beer, I know full well my reflexes are going to get slower and that if I have enough, I should probably not drive and should find the shortest route to pay homage to the Porcelain God should the need arise. I know this. People who smoke two packs a day know what they’re doing, too.
No one forces you to smoke. You smoke because you make a choice. You KEEP smoking because you’ve exposed yourself to harmful and addictive compounds. A piece of art with smoking may make you think about it, and there are several studies that show that children who are exposed to smoking in the movies are more susceptive to smoke later in life and become regular smokers, but that misses the point. It’s still the initial choice of lighting that first cigarette. People drag race all the time here in South Texas. Some people get killed. I don’t recall seeing anyone calling on a ban on cars.
This idea of increasing film ratings for showing someone smoking is ridiculous for other reasons, not the least of which is this supposed “no retroactive rating” thing Davie mentions towards the end. Films based on historical people can have smoking since it was apparently necessary for the plot. We can’t take Bogart’s cigs way either. Davie then, most likely for a final joke, says he wishes the movies actually told you things like what age these actors died from cancer caused by smoking, just to let the audience know the facts.
It makes sense. It’s kind of how I want to hear how many kilowatt hours James Cameron burned while rendering Avatar or the dozens of CGI films released in the last few years. Or how many gallons of gasoline got burned and how much greenhouse gas was created while filming everything from Apocalypse Now to Independence Day.
The other part of the argument that misses the mark is this belief, apparently prevalent in our society, that entertainment must target either everyone or just adults. We have this idea that there is a magical point between “child” and “adult.” I was under the impression that there was in fact a spectrum and the middle point was called “adolescence.” I’m not even condoning this with the idea that teenagers already know about smoking and drinking from the movies. This would be a circular argument. Unless these kids grow up in a world WITHOUT smoking, cursing, and violence, they’re going to come into contact with it at some point. If you watch a movie and you wonder why one of the characters has a piece of rolled up, smoldering paper sticking out of his or her mouth… get out of the cult, throw away the robes and manifesto, and come back to society.
Why do older movies get a pass, too? Could it that there is some artistic merit to showing these things? Davie doesn’t seem to have a problem with showing blood, guts, and glory as much as he does with smoking. I’m assuming this is because violence serves the story. If a writer has a character smoke or drink, it’s probably for a reason. If he or she doesn’t, it’s a choice.
And this is the key word. Choice.
Writers do things for very specific reasons. At least good writers do. If the main character has a tattoo on her face in the shape of a robin, that means something. If the villain is clean-cut and speaks with a Wisconsin accent, there’s a reason for that. If Sigourney Weaver’s character asked for a cigarette as soon as she woke up, that tells us something about her character. It tells us something about her state of mind and the kinds of things she does. It’s a tool.
I’m all for people knowing the dangers of tobacco, but don’t turn the movies into soapboxes unless you’re making a movie about the dangers of smoking. Even then, it’s going to have a very predictable ending. The most backwards part of this article is the belief that real people can smoke in movies, but fictional characters can’t.
Why the exception? I guess it’s the same kind of logic that states that educational programming can show a woman’s bare breasts if she’s part of a tribe or culture that doesn’t think anything of it, but if a woman on NBC took her top off, the network would get fined so fast that Johnny Carson would have to pay.
There really is a difference between child and adult programming, but we have to be conscious of the fact that adolescents are neither children nor adults. Communicating to this demographic, we have to remember that teens know a lot more than we think they know. The internet already gives them a window into the world they would not have known a generation ago. The distinction that art needs to conform to the ideal of “adult-only” and “everyone else” is narrow-minded. There are more areas than these two extremes.
We all have a choice. The choice is informed by background and influenced by those around us, but art cannot make us do anything we don’t want to do. It shows us things about ourselves and the world. It changes the way we see things. If someone smokes because they saw it in a movie, then they made their choice based on a movie.