Universe of Nonsense

Universe of Nonsense

TRAILER SEASON: With the year coming to an end, it’s all about looking forward for nerdy and geeky entertainment. Lately, it seems a lot of trailers for new movies and television events have been dropping that are getting people talking. This week, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the new trailers for Black Widow, No Time to Die, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Doctor Who: Series 12.

The teaser trailer for Black Widow. Source: Marvel Studios/YouTube
The trailer for No Time to Die. Source: Universal/Paramount/YouTube
Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover trailer. Source: DC/CW/YouTube
Trailer for series 12 of Doctor Who. Source: BBC/YouTube

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Coma Chameleon

Coma Chameleon

HAPPY GEEKSGIVING: Disguising a perfectly good Week in Geek episode, our hosts discuss the recent nerdy things in their lives that, like American Thanksgiving, seem to be all about bringing people together––directly or indirectly. Andrew relates his time with Hideo Kojima’s recent game, Death Stranding while D. Bethel has spent the last half-year taking up the challenge of finding out whether he’s actually a fan of the band Queen or not.

What nerdy and geeky things have brought you through the beginning of this winter holiday season? Let us know!

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Episode 06 – Hear Law, Article 9 (03 July 2014): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the importance of Hideo Kojima’s PS2 masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, has in the continuum of video game history.
  • Episode 18 – All the Way (26 September 2014): Tangentially related to Queen, in this episode Dan and Andrew talk about the Highlander franchise.
  • Episode 28 – A Mighty Oak (05 December 2014): Where D. and Andrew discuss the place the first Metal Gear Solid holds in video game history.
  • Episode 70 – The Big Fiddle (30 October 2015): Where D. Bethel discusses his time with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain after completing it.
  • Episode 75 – A Sad Game About Nuclear Disarmament (11 December 2015): Where Andrew and D. discuss a particularly harrowing and powerful scenario from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
  • I Can Segue (01 November 2019): Where D. and Andrew discuss the most recent level of tragedy around Fallout 76, and spitball ideas for how to make it into a single-player game with light multi-player elements…something that Death Stranding seems to pick up on.

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Tile Pile

Tile Pile

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, our humble hosts are back playing games of all sorts. Andrew heads to the tile-covered table and is reasonably impressed playing yet another Legacy-branded game––Betrayal Legacy by Avalon Hill a multi-session version of the popular semi-cooperative horror game, Betrayal on Haunted Hill. D. Bethel finally had some time to step into the digital realm and got lost in the clockwork expanse of the very interesting and subtle Outer Wilds (no, not The Outer Worlds) by Mobius Digital (WARNING: mild spoilers for Outer Wilds are given in the episode).

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  • Giant Bomb takes a look at Google’s Stadia:

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Constitutional Role-Play

Constitutional Role-Play

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE MANDALORIAN: A brief check-in to the release of Disney+ this week as Andrew reacts to the first episode of their original, Star Wars show, The Mandalorian. He is surprised more at how much it pulls from Westerns than Star Wars.

A LONG TIME AGO, WE USED TO BE FRIENDS: Veronica Mars was always a show that hovered just below wide popularity, but its fans were devoted and supportive. From the original three seasons that aired on UPN/the CW to its Kickstarted movie, to Hulu’s revival with a fourth season, Andrew and D. Bethel did a rewatch of the show and have some thoughts on what it has been, what it is now, and what it could be in the future.

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No One Wants to Go to Boomertown

No One Wants to Go to Boomertown

NEW TV NOT ON TV: Some interesting tv has not only been announced but is starting to get reviewed, but what makes it interesting is that a lot of this tv is not on “regular” tv. With services like Disney+ and Apple TV+ bringing some high profile shows to the scene, other services and broadcast tv is also starting to step up their offerings as well.

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  • D. Bethel is tabling this weekend at the Reno Pop Culture Convention (table C17 in Artist Valley):

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I Can Segue

I Can Segue

THE LAST FIRST: Fallout 76 continues to accidentally grab headlines or, at least, grabs headlines it doesn’t want. After a year of toiling in player complaints, bugs, and marketing schemes gone awry, the game seemed to have found a balance for those still enjoying the experience. Then Bethesda announced (and released) “Fallout First”, a premium subscription for players that would get them a whole host of goodies. In true Fallout 76 fashion, it didn’t take long for this to fall apart in big, bad ways.

Also, November 8-10, D. Bethel will be with his comic, Long John, at the Reno Pop Culture Convention! If you’re in the area, it’s looking to be a great show; so, be sure to stop by and say hi!

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Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us

Spotlight: The Joke’s On Us

Friend of the show, André La Roche, shines a light on the controversy surrounding the release of Warner Bros.’ Joker.

The story surrounding Joker‘s release is often as problematic and disturbing as the movie itself. Image source: Warner Bros.

By now, it’s safe to say that the movie Joker is unlikely to incite self-professed incels to violence—a fear that’s been well documented across the internet. What interests me is the question of why, when so little was known of the movie, was the fear amongst certain individuals so strong and so palpable? And now that the movie has been in theatres for three weeks, and the threat of violence diminished, what value can its skeptics find upon viewing it?

The teaser trailer for Joker. Source: Warner Bros./YouTube

It’s always difficult to enter a discussion on a topic when emotions have run high, hot, and intense. The emotions themselves that people felt leading up to Joker’s release—fear, anger, revulsion—are all obviously real and experienced, especially in light of the potential for politicized real world violence such as the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. There is no arguing with the fact that those emotions were validly felt. However, there is plenty to gain in evaluating why we had those emotional reactions to this particular movie in the first place.

I remember first seeing this narrative of “Joker as inciting violence” when the first trailer dropped. Scenes of Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sitting heavy with defeat in therapy or walking around the squalid streets of Gotham City. This contrasts with his voice-over telling the therapist how his mother thought that his purpose was to bring laughter and joy to the world. Fleck is presented as a man relentlessly abused by society and takes it with a quiet restraint: a victim. A wordless montage set to the crooning vocals of Jimmy Durante’s “Smile” depicts him dancing with his mother, on a date with a young woman, at Arkham State Hospital (or Arkham Asylum for the cool comics readers in the back of the room) before the chaos escalates. “I used to think my life was a tragedy,” he informs the viewer, as the montage cuts between scenes of his own personal deterioration and adoption of the Joker persona, and Gotham City’s wider descent into lawlessness. “But now I realize it’s a comedy,” he concludes, as he strides confidently down a white hallway, fully clad in clown face paint, green hair, and a purple suit, exuding a confidence that we can assume is only gained by fighting back.

The legal act of inciting violence essentially requires a specific call to violent action against specific targets in a specific manner…something that a movie about a fictional character living in an early 1980s fictional city is unlikely to do.

One of my friends wondered via Facebook posting, “Is this the right time for a movie about a loner white male out to get revenge on society?” From there, I only began to see more and more individuals pose the same or similar questions. All from just a trailer and description of a movie.

There were fears about a repeat of the Aurora, Colorado shooting conducted by an individual who was (erroneously) reported as having dressed as the Joker. But there were no concrete threats. At least not until after the narrative had gained traction and taken root in the public consciousness. But for the majority of time leading up to the film’s release. . . nothing. Much ado about that.

“Well,” some might say, “This film could have incited violence.” But again––“could”, devoid of any actionable evidence or credible threats seems like a large leap to make. Moreover, the legal act of inciting violence essentially requires a specific call to violent action against specific targets in a specific manner—such as saying, “I implore my listeners to find local attorney Joe Smith as he’s on his way from home and kick the living tar out of him.” This is something that a movie about a fictional character living in an early 1980s fictional city is unlikely to do.

The film’s focus was untethered to any single ideology, but rather promised an ur-mythology regarding a fall from grace of a favored son set against the backdrop of revolution. A paradise lost, if you will.

So, in the absence of evidence of a credible threat, or of incitement, why so much fear about a movie that was yet to be seen? Why so much fear about the mere artistic treatment of notions of alienation, loneliness, and violent reprisal? I’m honestly unable to provide an answer to that, because I didn’t count myself among those concerned about the film’s influence on society. For one, I simply didn’t see anything in the trailer that inclined me to think this movie was going to have a message that resonated with incel culture. Instead, its focus on personal deterioration, and a vague implication of social upheaval were untethered to any single ideology, but (as is the nature of comic books) rather promised an ur-mythology regarding a fall from grace of a favored son set against the backdrop of revolution. A paradise lost, if you will. These themes can be found in any and all political or religious doctrines. In short, I saw this film as promising to deliver tantalizingly dark cinema. By the time it arrived in theaters, I was not disappointed.

Joker is a movie of juxtapositions applicable to any number of real-world scenarios. Image source: Warner Bros.

So why the initial outrage? Instead of trying to answer the question, I’ll turn it back on those who were the most concerned about Joker’s impact. Why did the mere idea of this movie unsettle you so much? What was it about the vague descriptions and trailers of its themes and contents that caused this movie to register as politicized agitprop that would inspire alt-right and incel mass shooters as opposed to just being about a violent and nihilistic madman?

And dare I make the suggestion that the best, most honest way to answer the above question for yourself is by sitting down and just watching the movie. Now that Joker’s out, you know you won’t merely be consuming political propaganda that you disagree with. Observe how it depicts its fictional reality and characters, observing within yourself the moods that those depictions stir, and how they impact your worldview? And then maybe, just maybe, after walking away from the movie fully informed, reflect upon why you reacted as you originally did. Perhaps the answers and insights that you derive will surprise you.

Otherwise, if the reaction that was directed at Joker is indicative of what future “dangerous movies” can expect, it’d be enough to make an individual wonder whether it was just them, or if it was getting crazier out there.

Math That Works

Math That Works

WEEK IN GEEK: Taking a break from the news, Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the things that have been interesting to them over the last week or so. First, Andrew goes back to finish Unknown Worlds Entertainment’s Subnautica. Then D. Bethel finds much to appreciate––and much to make him uncomfortable––in the recent film, Joker. Then, to round things out, Andrew also gets underwhelmed but intrigued by the possibility found in Lazy Bear Games’ Graveyard Keeper.

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RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 21 – Love the Stank (30 Dec 2016): Where Andrew harvests his experience playing Stardew Valley.
  • Episode 126 – Not Choosable Parts (10 March 2017): Where D. Bethel discusses another challenging comic book movie, Logan.
  • Shortcast 28 – Linguistic Bravado (11 Aug. 2017): Where Andrew and D. talk about Lazy Bear Games’ previous game, Punch Club.
  • It’s Always A Game (08 Feb. 2019): Where Andrew first talked about his time with Subnautica.
  • Tummy Drums (04 Oct. 2019): Where D. Bethel mentions “grotesque” art when discussing Warhammer 40,000 (the show notes also include a link to the Wikipedia explanation of “grotesque” in art and literature).

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Listeners in the Woodwork

Listeners in the Woodwork

TO ME, MY LITIGATORS: Eyebrows raised recently when a Florida man sued Marvel, Fox, Saban Entertainment, and many other production companies saying that the generation-defining theme song of the ’90s X-Men animated show actually plagiarized a strikingly similar theme of a popular Hungarian tv show from the 1980s. Nerd Law man, Andrew, and X-Men fanatic, D. Bethel, put their heads together to see if this case has any legs to stand on. (A big thanks to friend-of-the-show, André La Roche for his consultation on this topic.)

DISNEY PEMDAS: Last week, Disney made waves as it began an irresponsibly long Twitter thread announcing every title that would be available on its upcoming Disney+ service. D. Bethel and Andrew sort through the announcement, talking about how much this will shift the paradigm of entertainment consumption.

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  • “Nerd Law” by D. Bethel
We Are Mostly Ignorant

We Are Mostly Ignorant

A BLIZZARD OF CONTROVERSY: Activision Blizzard––makers of such hit games as World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Hearthstone––have hit a geo-political wall as they take a stance over controversial statements made by the winner of a Hearthstone tournament about the protests in Hong Kong against the People’s Republic of China. Andrew and D. Bethel investigate the complicated relationship between popular American entertainment and China.

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