Category Archives: Film Commentary
As I was browsing through social media this morning, I stumbled into a series of “Disney-Inspired” mock posters, no doubt designed to make fun of, or criticize, Disney’s casting choice for The Little Mermaid. While in the first Disney film Ariel was drawn as a white, blue-eyed redhead, the casting for the live-action adaptation that we have all been expected since Disney began dabbling in the creation of a “Disney Cinematic Universe” was Halle Bailey, a young R&B singer and one half of the Chloe X Halle duo. She also happens to have black skin.
Predictably, this set the Internet ablaze, with many saying that they would boycott the film and others calling Disney racist while others still praised the company for its forward-thinking casting and sense of inclusiveness. These mock posters I stumbled into were part of this reactionary movement, and while they might *seem* at first as a “funny” jab from the anti-Halle camp towards Disney, these posters actually say a lot more about the mindset of those who created them and how they see media and media representation than they say about Disney. These posters fail to take into consideration everything that makes the characters who and what they are, and everything that makes Ariel who and what she is. In his/her haste to hunt for lulz, the creators of the posters show a deep misunderstanding of identity, character design, storytelling, and narrative development.
Videogames are an interesting medium with a contentious name. Some videogames provide players with open spaces for them to navigate and explore. Other videogames let players create their own rules. Others still are virtual representations of board games or real life games, while a large number of videogames are stories that players navigate through. Some videogames even have little, if any, components that anyone could recognize as a game. Indeed, videogames can sometimes be games and other times they can be gameless stories, but they are always something that the player (another contentious term as sometimes the player is more of a reader) experiences. For the past few years, I have dedicated my time researching the rhetoric and composition of games. I have presented and published on games as rhetorical texts, and my focus has always been, to borrow a trope from literary studies, “the game itself.” Indeed, I have a book coming out later this year on the composition of games – one of a three part series, and what Reviewer 4 said was “a magnificent text that brings closure to the Bogost / Ensslin era of game studies.” So, having done everything I set out to do with regards to what videogames are, I turned my gaze inwards to engage in a bit of much needed introspection and asked myself: how do videogames make me feel? This question can be interpreted in two ways. First, it can be taken as “what are the processes by which videogames make players feel?” I’m not too concerned with that question (yet). Instead, I asked it in its second sense: what are the feelings that videogames elicit from me when I play?
For this weekend’s second post I would like to write briefly about the other anime I finished watching recently: Hi Score Girl. I initially went into the anime because “anime about videogames.” Indeed many of the reviews refer to it as a love letter to 90s arcade culture [1, 2, 3], and I don’t blame them. Many of us who lived through the boom and bust of arcade fighter culture see the struggles of the protagonist trying to earn respect and we see some of our younger selves in him. But I quickly lost interest in the nostalgia trip. Instead, what kept me going through the end of the anime was the way it depicts the heroine of the story and the way that the other characters treat her. You see, dear reader, the heroine of the story, Oono, suffers from some kind of mental health condition… and no one cares. This, I argue, is a good thing.
At the risk of alienating 30% of my 10 readers, this weekend I’d like to write a bit about anime, specifically about Sword Art Online. I just finished watching the latest season, the Alicization arc, and to say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. It was the worst of all arcs so far, to the point where even the much hated Fairy Dance arc seemed more engaging; and there’s a reason. From its first episode, Sword Art Online sets itself up as a high-stakes narrative. The stakes of each arc, however, are different – and it’s those stakes that determine how interesting the narrative of a given arc is. And it’s this change in stakes what makes the latest arc, Alicization, fun but not good. It was fun to watch, but it kept making me wish that it had been developed more; that it focused more on character development and conflicts and questions of ethics in the real world than on the pew pew swoosh swoosh of the spectacle inside the digital world.