One of the important turning points in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns comes as a citywide power outage — and the attendant escape from prison of scores of members of the violent “Mutants” gang — threatens to plunge Gotham into anarchy. The new police commissioner, Ellen Yindel, sees Batman and Robin ride on horseback into the middle of a crowd of Mutants.
Yindel has, up to this point, been a foe of Batman’s, a by-the-book cop infuriated by Jim Gordon’s willingness to turn a blind eye to vigilantism, whose first act as commissioner is to issue a warrant for Batman’s arrest. Gordon has tried to prepare her to understand the necessity of Batman by relating a story about evidence FDR had advance warning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but let took no action to stop it, in order to motivate the US to fight a necessary war. The idea is monstrous — but so was the Axis, and US involvement was key to the outcome of WWII. Gordon concludes, “It bounced back and forth in my head until I realized I couldn’t judge it. It was too big.”
So, then, into the middle of the crowd of Mutants escaping from the jail, Batman rides triumphantly on a giant horse, and commands all their attention with the sheer power of his will. Commissioner Yindel watches the scene with several cops by her side, and one asks whether they should arrest Batman. “No,” Yindel stammers: “he’s…too big.”
I started writing this post right after Steve Jobs died, and reactions mainly fell into two camps. Many mourned Jobs as a fallen hero, a world-changing visionary, an incalculable loss; on the other hand, many castigated the first group, decrying Jobs’s perceived megalomania and his history of not giving publicly to charities, Apple’s tight controls on its product ecosystem, and especially the terrible conditions under which Apple products (as well as many other companies’) are manufactured, at Foxconn and other Chinese suppliers.
If you think I’m leading up to comparing Steve Jobs to Batman, you’re not quite right, but you’re not quite wrong, either.
[Cross-posted at Shakesville.]
I had really expected that nearly two years ago would be the last time I’d write about Duke Nukem. I’d happily put the character, the franchise, and its gleeful participation in the worst traits of gamer culture, out of my mind. Until Gearbox Software announced they had acquired the rights and that the vapor-for-fourteen-years Duke Nukem Forever would be seeing release after all. So, thanks for that, guys. That’s just swell.
Since that miserable announcement, almost like clockwork, predictably awful globs of congealed misogyny have been flung forth from Gearbox HQ, splattering all over the gaming press. They held a press event at a strip club; they flagrantly violated PAX’s longstanding “no booth babe” policy (a policy which, it seems, contrary to how it was presented, was basically voluntary all along); and most recently they announced that the multiplayer capture-the-flag mode (a de rigueur component, of course, of any multiplayer shooter) would be entitled “Capture the Babe,” and that when a player had “captured the babe,” slinging the presumably-otherwise-passive female character over his shoulder, she would occasionally “freak out,” and need to be slapped (on the ass, Gearbox hastened to clarify, not the face! So that’s OK then) to “calm her down.”
…yeah. The aim of the game mode is to 1) abduct sexually objectified “babes” who have no agency of their own, but 2) who hysterically “freak out” at being bodily lifted up and hauled around, 3) who you then physically abuse to ensure their compliance, and 4) collect them as trophies.
I was going to write at more length about this, but Gunthera1′s excellent post at The Border House pretty much covers it, so I recommend reading her if you need more background or detail.
I’ll add a couple of other notes, however. As a bit of background, Randy Pitchford from Gearbox was on the “Irrational Interviews” podcast produced by Boston-based Bioshock developers Irrational, back in February, and when asked about the challenges of marketing games, he (I’m afraid I’m paraphrasing from memory, but I don’t believe I’m misrepresenting him) explained that seeing marketing materials for a game is like “when you meet a girl (sic), and you decide in 5 seconds ‘would I do her, or not?’” It’s obviously a total shock that a fellow like that might be insensitive to concerns about sexist content in the game he’s making.
And finally, Penny Arcade — having, perhaps, after the Dickwolves debacle, decided to prove everyone wrong who ever praised them for attempting to take a thoughtful approach to game-related controversies — have joined in.* In an echo of their earlier misrepresentation of criticism of the “Sixth Slave” comic, here they misconstrue the DNF criticisms as being solely about the slap rather than about using women as trophies — literally objects — ignoring that at least within the conceptual framework of the game enemy soldiers in the Call of Duty games have agency and contend directly with the player, and slandering hundreds of thousands of soldiers as “murderers” into the bargain.
It seems like for every lovely moment like David Gaider’s eloquent rebuttal to an aggrieved “Straight Male Gamer” there’s still a half-dozen episodes which (to borrow Mr. Walker’s phrase) make my spine hurt. This is why we can’t have nice things, game industry.
Addendum: Denis Farr pointed out to me on Twitter something I’d missed: evidently the game also includes cigarette vending machines labeled “fags”. So, uh, yeah.
*For those who may not want to click through, the comic shows Tycho, in an exaggerated “moral scold” posture, wagging his finger at Gabe and declaiming, “Did you know there’s a mode in Duke Nukem where you slap a woman’s bottom?” In the second panel, Gabe, looking bored, responds, “Did you know there’s a mode in Call of Duty where you murder, like, a million people?” as Tycho appears taken aback. In the third panel, Gabe continues, “It’s called Call of Duty.”
I assume that y’all are more or less familiar with the TSA’s new “security” measures — you get the choice of submitting to a full-body imaging scan which produces detailed images of your naked body, which images are then supposed to be but not necessarily actually destroyed, or of submitting to an “enhanced pat-down” (and if you think that sounds a lot like “enhanced interrogation technique,” well, that’s maybe not such a coincidence) in which a TSA employee of the same gender (as long as you’re cis and your gender presentation fits the conventional binary) gropes your entire body, chest and groin included. If you’re inside security and try to refuse both procedures, you will neither be allowed on the plane nor allowed to leave the airport without being threatened with arrest and hefty fines. I’m dashing this post off quickly, so I won’t include links to sources — I’m confident that Google will back me up.
A few points about this situation, though they’re probably not going to be new ideas to anyone.
- There is no reason whatsoever to believe this will in any way make air travel safer. People who want to sneak things onto planes will still find ways to do so, because people who want to sneak things onto planes are not stupid, and will be able to figure out, just as I have figured out, and just as you have probably figured out, that neither the grope-down nor the naked scanner will reveal any objects hidden inside a person’s body. People who, for example, want to blow up a plane while they’re on it are probably not going to be deterred by the idea of sneaking the explosives on by swallowing them or inserting them rectally — after all, drug smugglers have been doing so for ages.
- What makes air travel safer is good investigative and intelligence work, so that plots against air travel can be stopped in the planning stage, before anyone gets on a plane.
- Approximately one in six American women has been the victim of rape or sexual assault in her lifetime. That means about 8% (at least) of the flying public are now legally required to relive their sexual assaults. (The remaining 92% are “merely” required to submit to an initial sexual assault.)
- A common refrain from defenders of the new measures is “I’d rather be groped than blown up.” It’s crucially important to try to get through to people who argue that, that being groped in no way reduces their already-minuscule chances of being blown up.
- Another common claim is “we have to do anything we can to prevent another 9/11.” But, aside from the aforementioned intelligence work, which we aren’t doing as much of as we should because we’re distracted by nonsense security theater like this — and aside from the bill being sponsored by Rep. Markey which would require screening of 100% of air cargo, an entirely sensible measure — we have already done all we can to prevent “another 9/11.” Namely: we locked the cockpit doors. It will never again be possible for hijackers to gain control of an airplane and fly it into a building, killing thousands; and unless you’re just invoking the September 11th, 2001 attacks for cheap political gain you have to accept that nothing short of that would be “another 9/11.” (The September 11th hijackers themselves also had a hand in ensuring that another such attack could never happen: they let all air passengers know, from now on, that it is not safe to assume hijackers are just after ransom and intend to the hostages unscathed once their demands are met.)
- We have to assume that the people in charge of devising and promulgating these policies — the TSA, DHS, and up the chain to the President — are themselves also not stupid, and know just as well as some guy with a blog that there’s no plausible way the new screening methods will improve security in any meaningful sense. We have to conclude, then, that improving security is not their purpose.
- Finally, even supposing that there were some way in which these measures would reduce the already-minuscule chances of dying in a terrorist attack, it wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter because these searches are clearly in violation of the 4th Amendment: they are neither reasonable, nor spurred by immediate probable cause, nor backed by warrants issued on evidence of probable cause and describing the specific things to be searched for and seized. This would be plainly true even if these techniques were effective, and the fact is that they aren’t. (In DC v. Heller, for example, the Supreme Court made it clear that even a law which is demonstrably effective at reducing crime does not supersede [their interpretations of] the Constitution.)
Update: Of course, another thing to keep in mind here, and it’s something I’m as guilty of as anybody, is that arbitrary harassment and abuse by authorities who can’t be effectively held accountable for it have just been the status quo for many marginalized populations in the US, especially people of color, GLBTQI people, people with disabilities, poor people, etc. It’s only now that affluent white men — John Tyner, a software engineer; Penn Jillette, a millionaire comedian — are being subjected to this kind of treatment that there appears to be some serious outrage growing. Only now that white men aren’t treated differently from those other people. There are all kinds of ways in which that doesn’t say anything good about our society.
…that dumping Lou Dobbs indicated CNN was starting to take their middle initial seriously. As it turns out: Nope! They were just looking for someone even more objectionable. (One wonders why they didn’t just keep Glenn Beck, really.)
I don’t really see what further comment I could add. Erickson is vile. He’s certainly as vile as Limbaugh or Beck. He makes much of the rest of the conservative blagoweb look measured and reasonable, and that’s no mean feat.
Yet, somehow, the fact that people say “fuck” on Daily Kos is constantly held up as evidence that liberal bloggers are hateful and meanspirited and unserious — and I have no doubt that we’ll also continue to see right-wing bloggers and Fox News blasting CNN for being an exemplar of the “liberal media.”
Yesterday on my way to work I was listening, as is often the case, to the BBC World Service NewsHour program on my local NPR station, and one segment in particular caught my ear. They were discussing the aftermath of the Chile earthquake, including President Bachelet sending thousands of troops into Concepción to “restore order.” Starting at minute 39, presenter Robin Lustig talks with Frank Furedi, a professor of sociology, about “the morality of looting.”
What struck me about this was Lustig’s dogged insistence on established narrative — people who take food and supplies from stores in the aftermath of a disaster are “looters,” selfish criminals out for their own benefit who don’t care about anyone else; post-disaster urban areas (especially those populated by non-white people) devolve into Hobbesian nightmares; it’s correct for governments’ primary response to be “restoring order” by sending in police or troops — in the face of Furedi’s patient explanation that the evidence doesn’t support that narrative. People act more altruistically after a disaster, crime rates are lower, and those who “loot” food and supplies tend to then distribute them among the population. But Lustig would be damned if he’d let silly little things like facts interfere with the preferred story.
(Update: apparently I forgot to linkify things that were supposed to be links! I was sure I had done. That’s what I get for posting on only one cup of coffee. Fixed now.)
As most people probably know by now, on Friday President Obama accepted an invitation to speak to and answer questions from the Republican caucus at their annual retreat — on the condition that the news media be allowed and the speech and Q&A session be broadcast live.
And as most people probably know by now, the Republicans are almost certainly thinking to themselves, “how could we have been so stupid?” (The answer, I think, is that they got so used to the lies they use to keep the rubes voting for them that they kind of forgot they were lies, and they honestly believed their sad little talking-points recital would leave Obama transfixed and tongue-tied, and he’d eventually have to break down and admit they were right about everything.)
If you haven’t seen the video, you should try to find time to do so — it’s a bit over an hour, but it’s pretty remarkable. Each time someone asks a question, it’s clear they think they’re scoring a major point, and that there’s just no way the President can refute their argument. And each time, he calmly, reasonably, cuts their head off. You can see the whole thing at Shakesville (with links to more discussion), and TNC provides the soundtrack, but I’ve provided some highlights below the fold.