TBP! Revisited: Are We Eternal Children?

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Are We Eternal Children?

Nerds! They’re everywhere! And worst of all, they look like us now! They could be anyone. They could be me… they could be YOU!

For our second official podcast, we decided to touch on an older issue, specifically “nerd culture” as it exists today and Simon Pegg‘s controversial views on it. Due to a reliance on articles and specific statements therein, this became the first podcast where we really struggled to layout what we wanted to talk about in a coherent way. It took us two days to record and it was only with the amazing editing skills possessed by Michal that it came out as well as it did.

As usual, I’m going to try and avoid anything that we might have specifically touched on in the podcast itself, which, I wholeheartedly advise checking out – heck, that’s why I’m doing this. I won’t attempt to talk for the others, whose experiences differ to mine, but I do want to talk more about the concept of “eternal children” as alluded to by Pegg.

In his article, Big Mouth Strikes Again, which is a worthy read, he mentioned, possibly satirically, the idea that culturally and societally, our generation is being treated very differently to those that passed before us. It’s more acceptable for us to still like the things we liked as children. There’s certainly much less of a stigma, and the stereotype of the social outcast reading comic books, collecting action figures and watching anime has changed irrevocably.

In essence, we are much more comfortable with the idea that people can (to paraphrase CS Lewis) “like childish things” and naturally, as has always been the case, Hollywood caters to its audience, with big budget, big spectacle productions. Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), DC, etc, are all household names at this point and attractive to an incredibly large and diverse audience.

revenantAs an aside, what I feel Pegg gets wrong, is the idea that movies carrying more cerebral or artistic merits are no longer seen as significant. The success of The Revenant seemingly flies in the face of that. The simple fact is that Hollywood is – and has always been – a business. There has been no point in its history where it eschewed the pursuit of money in order to promote creations of greater substance. Not that it is inherently against these things either, but it’s always been more concerned with making money.

Back on track, what exactly is the issue with being an “eternal child”? Is the assumption that the population is being dumbed down, infantilised, left to care far greater for the material and far less for the meaningful? Or something else?

For myself, watching the term “nerd” broaden so greatly that it now encompasses the mainstream, has been a very strange experience.

Third_DoctorWhen I grew up, I had a special love for Doctor Who and used to collect the books, the toys, the VHSes (and rented those I couldn’t get my hands on), etc. None of my friends were fans, and indeed, I felt very isolated because of my interests. I knew I would be teased for having them, and because I didn’t like the conventional things that other people my age liked.

Continuing on into later life, my love of Doctor Who remained, and I became a fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, and many other things that again, I had no one to talk to about. For a part, these interests defined me as a person and I felt very protective over them. I hoped that when I was older, I would find a way to give back.

Now that I am an adult, Doctor Who is back on screens. I’ve seen how it’s garnered a huge following. Things have switched. It’s no longer considered weird to be the kid who likes Doctor Who. If anything, it’s much more normal.

The thing is, you might expect that lonely little boy to be elated at this sudden explosion of love for all things geeky, but often my reaction is far more melancholy. The version of the show that this new generation likes so much is one I find difficult to relate to or even enjoy. In essence, it feels like I no longer fit in with the people who now like the things I liked.

Going mainstream necessitated appealing to new audiences, and there’s nothing inherently bad about that. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica is a perfect example. The original series was a fun, space adventure, with a limited view into social interactions, whereas the reimagined series is far darker, with an attempted emphasis on realism. Via the medium of wacky spaceships and evil robots, the series managed to tell some of the most engrossing and human stories I have seen on television.

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doctorwhofezThen, of course, there’s the other side of the spectrum, and I can’t avoid giving you a glimpse into my disdain for what some have termed “New Who”. The overuse of catchphrases, faux philosophy, cheap “tear-jerking” storylines, and all that running around… Ergh.

It’s funny to look back and consider the days when “geek”, “nerd”, etc, were used as insults, when nowadays they are badges of pride. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but for me, a core part of the identity was being an outcast and having to deal with the fact that your interests are unpopular.

Now, with the term referring to a multitude of people, where do people like me fit? In many ways, I suspect I am still an outcast, though self-imposed, as I’ll always carry a greater love for the old show than for the one that’s so massively popular now.

But enough grumping! Where is the evidence that nerd culture is doing something wrong?

Is it bad to see grown ups excited for more traditionally childish things? Does that somehow diminish art or culture as a whole? Is it really in any way a bad thing?

I’m unconvinced. Hollywood has always catered to the masses. Take San Andreas, for example, the very definition of a dumb action movie. It’s completely ridiculous and massively over the top. It was also insanely successful. But what it wasn’t, is a product of nerd culture.

So, to summarise my views on this, I do not believe that Hollywood seeks to infantilise its audiences. I don’t think that’s anyone’s goal. I’m sure they’d love to see even more of their merchandise sold, but that’s not something they can force people to do.

I don’t know where this big cultural shift came from. I’d wager it has something to do with people growing up with these things in households that were more accepting of them.

The bigger question, at least to me, is less, “are we eternal children?”, and more “why does it matter if we are?”.

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TBP! Revisited: Are Trailers Spoiling Movies?

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Are Trailers Spoiling Movies?

For our first official podcast – the previous being more of a test run – we decided to discuss the idea of movies being “spoiled” by their trailers. The topic arose from a discussion between Laura and myself over the way trailers for Marvel films, specifically, seem determined to showcase ever aspect of the movie they are intending to sell, presumably with the goal of finding something, anything, that will lure in an audience, whilst also having the (likely unintentional) negative effect of leaving few surprises left unseen.

Obviously this isn’t a practice held exclusively by Marvel. One much more recent example, which you also won’t find in the podcast, is the trailer for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, specifically the most recent one.

To those who have followed or, like myself, side-glanced, at the development of this movie, it’s difficult to ignore that a lot of plot points have been given away. Some are to be taken as granted – Superman and Batman are going to fight, eventually they’ll stop, and then most likely team up against a big nasty villain.

What wasn’t initially known, was the form this big nasty villain would take. That is, until the trailer revealed it to be (SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!) Doomsday. Yep, he’s there in the trailer and it’s not just some vague image or cryptic line implying his existence in the plot. Nope, he’s there as clear as day.

So, now that we’ve pretty much got the makings of an entire story in our minds, what secrets will the movie hold for us? Unexpected cameos? Unlikely. It’s been fairly hard to avoid the constant barrage of articles detailing that the entire DC Universe is going to be cropping up in this one. But there’ll surely be some big twist that changes everything, right?

Well, that’s something to hope for, certainly, but if they’re taking the approach of Marvel’s Ant-Man or Age of Ultron as a template for selling the film, I’d have my doubts. Both movies, either through their trailers or released clips succeeded in giving away a great deal, and while there were still one or two things left to discover, I had to agree with Laura that when it came to seeing many of the best bits in the actual movie, it felt like we’d already seen them many times before.

Yeah, I know. It’s not really THAT big of a deal. But such is the effect of spoilers that you sometimes have to wonder how much more powerful a moment would have been if you hadn’t already known it was coming.

Take the Vision, for example, spoiled not in a trailer at first, but in a poster. The character’s role was one of the few things left to the imagination, but how much more exciting might it have been to not even know he was going to crop up until the moment when he does?

Of course, that’s all just speculation and it’s all entirely subjective anyway. Not everyone is bothered by spoilers, and the definition of what counts as one varies from person to person. You might be forgiven for not thinking it’s a spoiler that the good guy saves the day, particularly in a superhero film where this is generally to be taken for granted (with a few exceptions), however, even something that innocuous can diminish your ability to suspend disbelief, and thus engage with the movie.

On the other hand, being overly secretive can backfire, particularly when the marketing of a film leads to the complete warping of expectations. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is partly guilty of this, albeit in an innocent way, with its marketing of the chrome-armoured Captain Phasma, (MILD SPOILERS, AHOY!) whose appearance can be seen in everything from action figures to coffee mugs and beyond, implying a pivotal role in the movie. Oh, how very naïve we were!

That bait-and-switch, unintentional though it likely was, left me to feel a similar disappointment to what I felt at the lack of something bigger in Age of Ultron than had already been shown in the trailers. I should add, that slight disappointment aside, I still enjoyed both movies, but I was left with a sense of “what if?”.

Myself, I’m a purist, generally hoping to avoid anything that might reveal more than what the trailer tells me about a movie before I watch it. Knowing all the characters, all the plot details, and realising I’ve seen all the best bits already in the trailer, leaves me significantly less pumped for a movie, and tends to lower my expectations significantly.

I think, personally, I’d rather watch a film I know less about and be disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I hoped, than already know everything of significance about it before I even take my seat in the cinema.

…But maybe that’s just me.

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TBP! Revisited: Are Original Films Dead?

americanultraAs I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently one third of the cast of That Bloody Podcast!, which you can find out more about here

One of the biggest issues of speaking live, without scripted or rehearsed material, is the likelihood of not getting your individual point across as clearly as you might like. Podcasts are better for discussions, after all.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start writing a companion piece to earlier recordings, where I can write out my personal thoughts and opinions on the subjects we covered and try to offer something new. Well, you know what they say about hindsight!

And so, without further ado, today’s offender:

TBP!: 0 – Are Original Films Dead?

The basis for this question came from an article on the Guardian website detailing comments made on Twitter by screenwriter, Max Landis, in reference to the box office failure of his most recent movie, American Ultra. Landis is perhaps best known for writing the screenplay for the 2012 film, Chronicle.

On Twitter, Landis asks “Are original ideas over?“, before going on to further explain his position, being “that American Ultra lost to a sequel, a sequel reboot, a biopic, a sequel and a reboot,“.

In the podcast, we talked in length about a few of the films he was referring to, specifically Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the fifth and most recent instalment in the popular Mission Impossible series. Other films of the time included Hitman: Agent 47 and Sinister 2, the first a video game adaptation and reboot, the second yet another sequel.

I’m not going to discuss these individual films again, partly because two of them I haven’t actually seen and one is dealt with very thoroughly in the podcast itself. I will, however, talk a bit more about the idea of a war between the “original” and the “established”.

It’s very difficult to sell something that doesn’t already have a following. Hollywood, in particular, often appear averse to trying new things, which is why sequels, reboots and adaptations of already popular things are created. This is, I must emphasise, no assurance of success. Many reboots fall flat (see “Fantastic Four“), many adaptations divide the expected audience and many sequels are met with disdain. There’s an expectation that these things might do well, based on the fact an audience for them already exists, but that doesn’t make success a certainty. There is always an element of chance.

Outside of the perceived realm of cynical businessmen, there’s little actual evidence to suggest that original ideas are “over”. In fact, John Cameron’s Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time, is based on an original concept (all arguments about the lacklustre script aside!). It’s not an adaptation, and though there look to be sequels to it on the horizon, it is not itself a sequel to an existing film or a reboot of a previously dead franchise.

Even ignoring that particular film, what about the likes of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler or Duncan Jones’s Moon? Both original concepts, both critically well received. In the case of Nightcrawler, it was the director’s first time behind the camera. Hardly a recipe for expected success. Similarly, it was Duncan Jones’s first big break.

Moving back to Landis himself, the movie, Chronicle, was well received as well, with a high rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes (as of today). That film was also an original concept.

So why exactly did American Ultra do so poorly? Competing for the time and money of moviegoers with a film like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, cannot have helped, and such a big movie is expected to steal limelight from the unestablished little guy, but it’s still no assurance that a film won’t do well.

Take the reviews for example. Rotten Tomatoes has a rating for American Ultra at 44%, indicating, by and large, that critical responses to the movie were mixed or below average. This particular film was not majorly well received.

There are lots of factors that can be attributed to a film’s success or failure. Originality alone, it seems, is not enough of an indicator one way or the other. To summarise more succinctly, established franchises may well be assured an audience, but that does not guarantee them success, and for that matter, neither does an original concept guarantee failure.

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Star Wars at Tesco’s

Star Wars. Tesco. These things don’t immediately sound like they’d go hand in hand, and yet, from the 12th to the 13th of December, that’s exactly what they did.

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A little while back, my girlfriend informed me of an event being held at Tesco’s around the country. I’d been to “Force Friday”, an event held at numerous toy stores to herald the new line of Star Wars goodies, so we joked about me going to this one too.

And then, because I’ve got the Star Wars bug and hey, Tesco’s is pretty easy to get to, I did.

I was actually pretty impressed with the event, simplistic as it was. The store we visited had cardboard cut outs of the new First Order Stormtroopers, a number of related items on sale near the door and a table set up for kids (and adults too, apparently) to sit and make LEGO X-wings from the pieces left available.

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In addition to this, there was a treasure hunt around the store, coupons for free toys and activity sheets for younglings. Obviously this was an event intended for kids, but the staff tending to it were keen to get everyone involved.

Overall, I’d say it was a pretty nice event and though I’ve read about some disappointment about the lack of actual people in costumes (this was supposedly advertised, but fell through at the last moment), there was a pretty positive atmosphere to the whole thing and most importantly, it looked like the event’s intended audience were enjoying themselves immensely.

And yes, I now own a mini LEGO X-Wing.

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Andrew

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Announcing: That Bloody Podcast!

TBP! Slim Banner

Hi everyone!

This is just a quick post about the podcast I’m running along with two of my really good friends, Laura and Michal. It’s called That Bloody Podcast! and on it we discuss topics ranging from games and movies to other topical and perhaps more controversial subjects, such as atheism, feminism and the media.

We’re having a blast making it, and I hope that if you haven’t already checked it out, you will do and that you’ll enjoy it just as much. The current setup is as a video uploaded on YouTube at approximately an hour and a half in length (it varies). We will soon be moving to SoundCloud and iTunes as well.

A little about my friends –

LauraLaura (Laura Does Games) is a lifelong gamer and self-confessed nerd. She loves Star Wars, Marvel and ranting!

Michal

Michal (MichalTCZ) on the other hand is an aspiring director from the Czech Republic with whom I have worked on a few projects.

AndrewAnd then, naturally, there’s me, Andrew (Lightbleeder), the bastard who never updates his blog.

Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’… Heh, well, fingers crossed.

So yeah, check us out on our brand new flashy YouTube channel and be sure to visit our individual channels if you want to find out more about each of us.

Until next time!
Andrew

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Meryl Streep’s “Offensive” T-Shirt

Meryl Streep Suffragette

Yesterday, I came across an article that totally blew my mind. My Facebook newsfeed was advertising posts concerning three-time Academy Award winning actor Meryl Streep, quite possibly one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood, getting called out for the heinous act of… wearing a t-shirt!

Living in the post #shirtgate world, this didn’t actually come as much of a surprise. So many people online are practically lining up to be offended by the smallest things that it’s a wonder there’s any joy in their lives at all.

This, however, is a new low.

The shirt in question, was worn by Meryl Streep alongside a few other cast members of the recently released film Suffragette. As the name suggests, the film deals with the British suffragettes, who sought to gain the right for women to vote. Upon the shirt is a quote from Emmeline Pankhurst, the movement’s leader, played in the film by Meryl Streep. It states: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

And that’s it. That’s all it says.

I guess my mind isn’t quite so corrupted by cynicism that the cause of all this outrage could immediately jump out at me. I actually pondered this for a while, wondering if maybe it was irritation at the commercialising of a quote from so prominent a figure, but seemingly this is not the case.

No, you see, it’s because, in the minds of the mouth-frothing keyboard warriors of the internet, “slave” = black and “rebel” = Confederate.

Now if, like me, your first reaction was uncontrollable laughter, don’t be alarmed. That indicates only that you are still sane. It’s ludicrous. It’s such an incredible stretch. It hurts my brain trying to reach the point where this massive logical leap could ever possibly make sense.

For starters, what is the obvious implication here? That Meryl Streep secretly supports the Confederates? That she’s a closeted racist? Or that to use the word “slave” is to misappropriate black culture? As though no other people in the history of the entire world have ever been enslaved. Seriously, is this the reality that these people think we live in?

Let’s get some context all up in this post. As stated before, Emmeline Pankhurst was a British suffragette. She was not a part of the American Civil War. The quote in question was taken from a speech she gave in 1913, intended to rally to action her fellow suffragettes.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that the suffragettes were without flaws. I’m not enough of an expert on the history of the movement to make a claim like that. The times in which they operated was far removed from the present and its undeniable that values have changed greatly since then.  To pretend otherwise would serve only to do a disservice to all we have achieved.

But the problem is that this outrage over a simple quote goes far deeper than mere comment trolls. To date I have seen articles on many major news websites on this topic, such as the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Guardian and Telegraph, to name but a few. Apparently this is a big deal.

The sheer tonnage of outrage over something as innocuous as a t-shirt baffles me. The word “slave” is not inherently offensive. It is a word, like many others. It doesn’t belong to one group or another. It belongs to everyone.

This t-shirt does not endorse slavery. It doesn’t endorse the hardships endured by black people – and any other ethnicities – sold into lives of enforced labour and it certainly doesn’t endorse or even acknowledge the actions of the Confederates whose role in the affairs of the world hold no bearing whatsoever on the context of the quote. It is merely a t-shirt, referencing a line spoken by a historical figure who – regardless of anything else – played a key role in helping women in the United Kingdom to gain the right to vote.

If you’re reading anything else into it… then I pity you, and the miserable life you must lead where you see only hatred in a message only ever intended to inspire hope and much needed defiance in a time of inequality.

It’s not even that great a shirt.

A few examples of articles on this subject:

Cosmopolitan – http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a47309/ava-duvernays-suffragette-t-shirt/?src=spr_FBPAGE&spr_id=1440_250608208
The Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3261464/Meryl-Streep-lambasted-d-rebel-slave-t-shirts-promoting-film-critics-say-white-washes-women-s-suffrage-movement.html
The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/05/meryl-streep-backlash-suffragette-t-shirt-slogan
The Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/10/05/suffragette-film-whitewash-poc_n_8247510.html
The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11914757/Racism-and-the-suffragettes-the-uncomfortable-truth.html

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The Borealum Emerges: My New PC and Other Updates

Hey everyone… anyone… possibly just me and the tumbleweed.

It’s that magical time again where I apologise to the ether for not updating this blog in seemingly forever. Sorry about that!

In my defence, I’ve had some new things to keep me occupied and the most recent of which is the purchase of a new computer, or more precisely, many expensive computer parts that were put together in record speed by a work colleague of my mum to become my new and very shiny computer. It even has cool lights.

As well as putting my machine together, he took some photos, which he was kind enough to let me use in this post and so, without further ado, I present to you, the Borealum: my new PC dedicated to all things gamey and video-making-y.

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With this newly constructed technological nightmare, I plan to start producing and uploading videos on YouTube which I will subsequently share on here and via my twitter account, which you can follow here!

Not only that, but I’ve been hard at work alongside a couple of friends to produce a podcast, so stay tuned for more news on that front. We’ll be talking about games, films and general geekdom as well as other subjects that interest us. But yeah, more on that soon enough!

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I’ve also been posting fairly regularly on my friend’s blog, Critical Mass. Every now and then I’ll link the articles I post there here and on my twitter. Mostly I’m writing games and movie reviews, the most recent of which was a review of Batman: Arkham Knight (PC) and just before that a review of Marvel’s Ant-Man. Yep, I’m not afraid to blatantly self-advertise.

Speaking of which, I didn’t want to end this post without mentioning

I didn’t want to end this post without giving one final shout out to the guy who built my PC for me. He’s really done a cracking job and I’d highly recommend anyone interested in such things go and check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CustomPCEssex

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