Connecting Dissimilar Dots: Sarkeesian’s Gamergate

After detecting a pattern of similarities in my social media feed this morning, I felt compelled to sit down and write about it (I have very little time to write these days, so this must be a strong compulsion). It then occurred to me that what I was viewing as a pattern is rather the fundamental nature of mankind. These stories that my mind connected were, in no particular order, about the end of Christianity in the Middle East, the ongoing gamergate, and the typical pitting of “biblical marriage” against same-sex marriage. There are always related subjects that could be added, but these were the three I fixated on. I will, therefore, write three posts, and I will start with gamergate.

I would like to talk about Anita Sarkeesian and her mode of feminist literary analysis that she has extended to the world of gaming. Okay, no I would not like to do only that, to be honest. I would like to give my own literary analysis, as well. If she can do it, so can I. To lay a foundation first, let it be clear that I don’t care what the demographics of games are. I don’t care that nearly fifty percent of the gaming audience is composed of women. The games Sarkeesian analyzes are being targeted at a male audience, and those are the ones she would like to see changed.

That they are targeted at a male audience is frankly obvious from the get-go. How do I know? Men are traditionally the warriors of society. They have been the primary warriors in cultures around the world and throughout history. They are the warriors for obvious reasons: they are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than women are. The core of video games targeted at men are fighting based. They use an arsenal of weaponry, and bad guys must be killed at every level. Personally, I find the violence downright nauseating and unnecessary. As a woman, I don’t understand its attraction. And yet, it seems to be very attractive to the male mind. Sarkeesian would say this is a toxic cultural ideal of men. However, it’s not a cultural ideal; see above. Men are the warriors of society. They have always been. We didn’t make this up in our culture. We didn’t train men to be this way. They are this way.

Not every video game story involves a Princess Peach; in fact, I would venture to suggest that when moving past contemporaries to Mario Bros, the plot lines become increasingly more complex. But we’ll go with the simplistic notion that video games are not only violent, but they involve rescuing a damsel in distress because Sarkeesian’s worldview is a bit simplistic. The “rescuing a damsel in distress” trope is yet another indication of games being created for a male audience. A man might just as easily go on a mission to rescue a brother-in-arms, but rescuing a woman is attractive to men because [most] men are attracted to women. They are attracted to the female form, such that rescuing a woman with an overblown female form will most likely be even more attractive.

What is happening to the male subconscious as he picks off scores of bad guys and tangles with some bad women, too (maybe even some strippers and prostitutes), in order to rescue a damsel in distress? I suppose it could be exactly as Sarkeesian sees it: women are being used as pawns for male stories; they are being objectified as sexual objects by the active male subjects. What if that isn’t it at all, though? What if, through this process, men are actually learning to integrate with the feminine aspect of the universe? Rather than a feminist interpretation, this would be akin to a Jungian interpretation. It goes about like this: bloody violent male must defeat his shadow nature in order to rescue his anima. Blowing away scores of bloody and violent men and dabbling with prostitutes and strippers equates to shadow and a poor relationship to anima (respectively). Somehow, though, if the male hero is successful, he enters the inner core of his psyche and rescues his enchained anima, thereby integrating as a person who can now lay down his arms.

Looking at video games in this way, I can see they are actually beneficial to the male psyche because they force men to go through this integration process repeatedly. Even Sarkeesian recognizes that media affects us. It affects us on a very deep psychological level. According to her — and I actually agree with her — those who most vociferously deny that media influences us are the ones who are the most influenced by it. Can she honestly discount that utilizing the male warrior wiring to rescue a woman and defeat the negative images of femininity (prostitutes, strippers) throughout game play can positively alter the way men deal with the women in their lives? She can and does appear to view games as having precisely the opposite effect. Whether she is honest is another question altogether. She might simply be deluded in her understanding of fundamental reality.*

*My half-baked Jungian analysis is not fundamental reality. However, Jung had a very fundamental understanding of the genders, and using his ideas is at least a step toward understanding fundamental reality. Like it or not, video games marketed at men are going to resonate with the fundamental nature of men. Likewise, I would expect games marketed at women to resonate with the nature of women.

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Medieval Mars: The Anthology

Medieval Mars Anthology ebook cover

I have a story in this anthology, which is based off Travis Perry’s novella, Medieval Mars (also included in this anthology). The stories are a mix of fantasy, high fantasy, and sci fi. The price is a steal at $1.99. It was a fun collaboration; my story is called Liar’s Paradox, and as one reader put it, it’s “provocative and bit disturbing, as I’m coming to expect from you.” Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone.

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Toward a Modern Dictionary Experience

Ambrose Bierce wrote the Devil’s Dictionary. We’ve had lexicographers who have determined themselves to be masters of language; Bierce was one of them. However, the truth is that lexicographers are not creators but compilers who reflect common language usage, and they are generally slow to make changes in their dictionaries. Reflection is one phenomenon of “enlightenment”, running after trends another matter altogether. In these 21st C days, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need another type of dictionary experience. As I’ve already stated, lexicographers are not masters but reflectors; conversely, the same must be true of dictionaries. They are not the masters your English teacher made you think they were. They merely served to demonstrate how out of touch with common usage and reality you happened to be at any given time in your life when you misused a word; or likewise how you desired to illicit a response from your teacher…and, unless your teacher wasn’t hot, it was an entirely discrete experience.

Positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged phonemes.

Positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged phonemes.

To take this a step further, what is needed is a dictionary that is a better reflector. Definitions in these days change very quickly. Not only do they change due to the onslaught of media everywhere you look, but they change based off what the user of language is feeling/thinking from one moment to the next. What are words but stacked phonemes? There is no reason why phonemes should remain static. In fact, according to the atomic model, they clearly aren’t. I would suggest, then, an algorithm that determines the meaning of a given word based off these factors (given in order from least to most important): A. common usage B. the politics of the day C. the group a user belongs to D. the individual feelings/thoughts of a user and E. the statistical likelihood of triggering someone within hearing/reading range of the user.

Although this product is still currently in the development stage, I’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to bring it more swiftly to market than the usual multiple years it would take to pore over and rewrite a dictionary. At the rate at which technology and media change, there is a small window I have to toss this out there. If you would like to donate to my project, go to Humpty-Dumpty Media App, GoFundMe But Don’t Break My Damn Shell.

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The Post-Post-Modern Flat Earth Society

I love the word denialism — don’t you? It’s classic rhetoric and so obviously manipulative that I can’t believe there are people out there who have been trained to use it seriously. But tools will be tools. I mention this only in connection with the Modern Flat Earth Societies, which are either composed of postmoderns attempting irony, or they are composed of science denialists. That was my postmodern attempt at irony, using denialists ironically to prove I’m not a tool when I clearly am because I…oh, never mind. As Flat Earth isn’t much of a relevant controversy, I’m not sure how the term denialism could be used in any way other than irony, but then, there I go again.

What is seriously post-postmodern, in an uber-hip unironic way, is that there is actually a Wiki entry on the term, which begins, “In human behavior, denialism is exhibited by individuals choosing to deny reality as a way to avoid dealing with an uncomfortable truth.[1]” And the article goes on from there, telling us all about the uncomfortable truths of modern times, such as AIDS and the Holocaust and Global Warming — even Evolution! You know, all the uncomfortable truths brought to us by the 20th C, when reality was filtered through a postmodern vision rather than a 21st C post-postmodern reality that completely lacks irony. The section headed with “Prescriptive and Polemic” is especially delightful.

It isn’t even remotely surprising to me that Flat Earth Societies were products of the 20th C, that glorious age of irony. I was originally inspired to write this article as I was perusing an interview, in which the interviewee quite seriously claimed to have spent most of his life invested in logic, reason, and science before coming to the conclusion that science was not providing him with answers — it might have been helpful if we knew what his questions were, but in typical fashion, he didn’t provide them — and that structuring a life off of “knowledge”, which might very well be debunked in a few hundred or a thousand years, was absurd. A “joke” he called it.* Then he went on to give the classic modern, rather than postmodern, joke about how humans used to believe in a Flat Earth.

Except that he wasn’t joking and didn’t seem to have the a sense of irony wagging at his tongue. But what do I know? Humans is a very broad term. I suspect that prior to the 3rd C or thereabouts, humans did exist who believed the Earth was flat. There might have been a scientific consensus of Flat Eartherism philosophy. There might have even been humans living in those days who didn’t care what shape the Earth took, so long as they got paid at the end of the day. How is a man to buy his wine and debauch himself with prostitutes if people with money waste their time staring at the night sky, then at the horizon, and then begin waxing philosophic about the shape of the Earth? Just give me your money, for¬†Aristarchus’s heliocentric heaven’s sake (used unironically), since I spent my day mucking out your stables! The Earth is clearly flat, as I observed in an Aristotelian manner last night when I didn’t slide off the hussy I purchased at the tavern, despite my severely inebriated state…

There is always a necessary rhetoric attached to propaganda in order for it to be effective. We’re living in an age now, in which the post-post modern propaganda seems to lack any sense of irony. Diss on postmodernists all you want, but at least they had a splendid sense of absurdity –¬† of even their own absurdity. They could and did produce the likes of the Modern Flat Earth Societies. They heard the propaganda, that humans, or, er, Europeans of the Medieval Ages, were scientific fools — especially Catholics — who believed they would fall off the edge of the Flat Earth if they sailed over the middle distance, and they responded with the classic ironic and/or absrudist idyll of developing “societies”. Nowadays, it’s not a matter of trying to guess who has a straight face and who is being ironic. It’s a matter of trying to figure out how I and the rest of culture found ourselves down the rabbit hole (or didn’t find ourselves at all, as we didn’t bother to notice the labyrinthine dirt tunnels surrounding us), without the slightest hint of a sneer for such organizations as the Center for the Study of Existential Risk.

It seems we’ve come full circle to a time when we actually do believe we’re going to fall off the edge of the Earth, straight-faced, unironic, no apologies. We’re doomed. And I didn’t even raise the corners of my mouth when I wrote that. We’re doomed! Meanwhile, would anybody like to go for a sail with me?

*For the record, I think this man’s response/awakening is both intelligent and reasonable. His comment about flat earth just sent me spinning off into the irony of choosing that particular “science belief of the past”.

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The man in the high castle

I will probably have to read this book again at some point. This is not a reread for me; this was one of Dick’s books I’d not previously read. Sadly, I chose it at a time when focus was not my best game, which is rather sad, as hyper focus is one of my few skills. I’m certainly no multi-tasker, but perhaps that’s the point. I came at this book when my focus was elsewhere. Because of that, much of this work slipped through my mind until the end. And then I snapped to. Here’s why:

Then what other sense might apprehend mystery? Hearing of no use, evidently. Mr. Tagomi shut his eyes and began fingering every bit of surface on the item. Not touch; his fingers told him nothing. Smell. He put the silver close to his nose and inhaled. Metallic faint odor, but it conveyed no meaning. Taste. Opening his mouth he sneaked the silver triangle within, popped it in like a cracker, but of course refrained from chewing. No meaning, only bitter hard cold thing.

Let me put this passage into context for you. The Man in the High Castle is an alternate history novel, exploring the world of the US as if we had lost World War II to Japan and Germany. American ingenuity of the past is so highly valued that there’s a black market for creating false relics. Innovation, however, has no market. There is a constant reworking of the American glory days through icons such as Mickey Mouse watches and Colt .44 revolvers. These relics are especially popular among the wealthy Japanese elite, who will do nothing without first looking to the I Ching. In fact, the entire country constantly seeks answers in the I Ching; a country without direction, devoid of its original soul, is grasping at straws.

Mr. Tagomi, in a fit of spontaneity, purchases a piece of modern jewelry wrought by a living, breathing artist. I must have had the phrase “grasping at straws” planted in my mind by this book. Backing up to the moment of spontaneity, Mr. Tagomi says,

“I will buy one of those [pieces of jewelry], whichever you select. I have no faith, but I am currently grasping at straws.” He followed Mr. Childan through the store once more, to the glass case. “I do not believe. I will carry it about with me, looking at it at regular intervals. Once every other day, for instance. After two months if I do not see–”

When Mr. Tagomi first examines the jewelry, he’s unable to see its value. It’s interesting, but that is all. But he makes a threshold type of decision by purchasing it. He decides to try to understand. He hopes to understand something new, in this culture that has gone terribly wrong for him (for more context, you will have to read the book). However, he doesn’t know how to understand it. He has no context for it.

So, at first, he waits for it to speak to him as the I Ching would. He expects it to be a kind of fortuneteller, or to be hiding a miniature pop deity in its whirls of metal. Of course, that doesn’t work, and he proceeds to the Aristotelian, or the scientific understanding. But that, too, fails him. He moves on to the Greek scale of priority, and on and on he goes, attempting to understand that which he can’t fathom. It has caught him, snared him on its hook, and he can’t stop searching it for answers. He goes round and round his wheel of philosophy, feeling that he will never be released and set free from the only cycle he knows…

The piece of jewelry is a simple triangle. A triage of lines. A trinity wrought from metal. If this isn’t an exploration of art, then it is an exploration of truth. Read this book if you haven’t already. Just read it.

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