27 December, 2017

Forward, Backward, Still?

In the last couple of weeks, I've watched two movies that have swept through popular culture with massively polarising effects. I'm not going to post specific spoilers about them, but what I write generally with regard to themes and concepts in them could be considered spoilers.

The two movies were...

The Last Jedi



In both cases, a subset of people I'm linked to have voiced specific dislike of the property. The two groups voicing their dislike have different reasons in each case, and mostly the groups are exclusive of one another. But in both cases, the movie is a bit different to things that have come before, and that seems to scare certain types of people or just annoy them.

A certain subset of fans didn't like the previous Star Wars movie "The Force Awakens", claiming that it was basically a rehash of everything we've seen before. They wanted something new... yet when "The Last Jedi" gave it to them, they didn't want that either. I knew there were controversies and complaints before I went in, but had tried to avoid details in order to avoid specific spoilers. Once inside the cinema, I pointed out to my wife certain points when the bridge crew of a Resistance ship seemed to be entirely female, I'm pretty sure the movie even passed the Bechdel test. There were lots of political allusions in the film, including people making money from war (we've seen the concept of interstellar corporations selling weapons to both Empire and Rebellion since the days of the original Star Wars RPG... I'm sure I remember reading about the X-wings being destined for the Empire, but they did't fit the hangars on star-destroyers...or something similar). There's also a fan theory going around where the Resistance is a matriarchy representing feminism, and the First Order is a patriarchy representing conservative society...such a theory offers the idea that the same trolls behind Gamergate have a hatred for The Last Jedi because they can't handle women as heroes ad men as villains. Credence is added to this theory when I see that the same kinds of people complaining about The Last Jedi are the ones who are rabidly against "Social Justice Warriors" and anyone who wants to disrupt the status quo.

Star Wars has always been political allegory, religious too. When the real world has forced people to confront their deeper ideologies, and they find those ideologies cast in a negative light, it's hardly surprising to see them lash out. It is a good time to see a message about breaking down the establishment, especially when the establishment currently seems focused on breaking down everyone around it.      

Bright on the other hand feels like it's getting a backlash from the other end of the political spectrum. It places Elves at the top end of society, where the real world sees the 1%ers, and places the Orcs below the Black and Hispanic communities. It allows discussion about the topics that are currently controversial dialogues in the US, by thinly veiled allegory. I'm not sure if some people are lashing out at the message, but other have been quite vocal that they didn't like the messengers (David Ayer and Max Landis, as the producers), or have been highly critical that the movie didn't address gender concerns. There are all sorts of conflicting complaints about it, but in every case where I could see one person satisfied with a specific change, I could similarly see that change making two other people more upset with it.

The strangest complaint I've seen is that it isn't Shadowrun... but it never claimed to be. If it was given the subtitle "A shadowrun movie", then I could see why people are complaining that there isn't any cyberware in the film. Bright is modern day allegory, urban fantasy. I never expected a cyberpunk/fantasy hybrid... hell we're only starting to get decent superhero movies now, the mainstream isn't ready for a Shadowrun movie yet... it would bomb.

I'm happy with the small steps taken.

For both of these movies, there is a element of laying the groundwork for something a bit different in the future. Pushing the envelope, even just a little is good...actually, I think an incremental push is better because it's easier to bring the mainstream along with it. People rebel when the change is too big, people complain when there's no obvious change at all. Minor changes allow discussion and thought to occur.

If we want to push things further, we can always watch the movie, then use that as a basis for a few RPG sessions to explore deeper concepts on our own.

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