Accidentally on purpose

Back in April, a friend and I gave a presentation about the latest installment of the Devil May Cry series. We noted that the themes of the game and the language of the ads for it were all about confronting power structures and challenging societal norms, but the main characters were pretty stereotypical: a rough-and-ready male hero and a helpless, innocent damsel-in-distress. We presented this as something of a failure on the part of the creators, but one of the audience members said he was quite sure this had been done intentionally as part of the social commentary.

I had not considered this. I started to feel insecure about my own interpretation. Was I just too dumb to get the joke? However, the more I thought about it, the less sure I was that he was right. It seems a little silly to be talking about definitive rights and wrongs when it comes to individual interpretations, but I felt that my friend and I had some pretty logical reasons for thinking DMC’s characters were the products of laziness rather than cleverness. There was no cage match to decide who was right, but it still got me thinking about how to judge the flaws of various media. At what point can you look at such flaws and say, “Well, they’ve done it on purpose to be clever”? That’s not something I feel comfortable assuming.

Of course, there are times it’s obvious. I read Gentlemen Prefer Blondes over the semester, and even I could see that Anita Loos was using misspellings and a rather atypical form of stream of consciousness to create a gently mocking tone. But what about when it’s not obvious? I suppose I could just say we can all have our own ideas so hooray, let’s move on, but that’s not satisfying. Frankly, it doesn’t even come down to whether I like or dislike the book, game, or movie in question; I loved the DMC reboot and Dante as a character, but I still thought the game failed to depart from the norms it was railing against.

I’m not looking for a magic formula, here. Critiquing media should always be nearly as difficult and unique as creating media, I think, so I’m really just interested in reading other people’s experiences with this. What things have you read, watched, or played that used its own flaws as part of its narrative? What about that particular thing (or things) made you think the mistakes were an intentional part of the commentary rather than being just, well, mistakes?


Please (do not) feed the ego

How many other blogs are out there? How many of them are captivating life-journals written by people much more talented, dedicated, and interesting than I? How many of them are useful and helpful and give you something to take into your own life? How many of them can hold your attention for entire minutes because they consist purely of adorable animals? How many of them are better than this blog?

The answers, respectively, are: millions if not billions, whole bunches, probably lots, not enough, and nearly all of them.

These are the questions and answers that came rushing at me like alligators out of a swamp every time I sat down to “do the blog thing.” I’ve thought and talked a lot about doing it, but this new, global perspective technology has given us isn’t all that great if you’re an attention-seeker. I am an attention-seeker, so I don’t much like things that remind me of my relative anonymity. The blogosphere (which is apparently a real word) makes me feel very small and unimportant indeed.

And yet, here I am, writing my first blog post and pointedly ignoring the fact that I am an infinitesimal speck in the scope of the universe.

Now that I’ve no doubt inspired great confidence in my ability to create something meaningful and interesting, I’ll say this will be a lot about writing. It certainly won’t be hard-hitting, brilliant, hilarious writing advice; if you want that, check out Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds and stay there forever. Am I doing a good job of selling myself or what?

I think I’ve gotten most of the disclaimers out of the way, so here’s the reason I finally started a blog: I want to share with you, and I want you to share with me.

I’m not a sharing, caring kind of person. I am shamelessly selfish. But I love to see ideas flying about like confetti or shrapnel (whichever you prefer). I love to see reasonable people discussing stuff. I like finding new things. I love feedback, positive and negative, as long as it’s logical and rational and doesn’t say “OMG I TOTALLY HATE U CUZ I DO.” There’s no place for that here.

So, I’ll be posting bits I want to share. There’ll be some music I love, people I admire, art I wish I created, books and movies that make me feel lots of feelings, and some video games that make me wish I had better hand-eye coordination. All of these things connect to my writing, and I’ll be sharing bits of that too.

It would be marvelous if you—all of you, one of you, whatever—discovered some new things in this collection of shared pieces. However, what I would really love is to learn some new things from you. I would like to see your art and listen to your music and read your books. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea—thankfully—but there might be a few individuals out there who want to share with me.

I’m something of a cynic, so this all sounds a bit high-minded and idealistic to me. I’m still posting it, though, because I’ve been told people can pleasantly surprise you. If this isn’t the blog you were looking for, don’t worry. There are millions if not billions of more interesting, more useful, more adorable blogs out there waiting for you.