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?

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Featured artist: Daniel Kamarudin

Daniel Kamarudin’s art is epic. With its dark fantasy and sci-fi themes, spectacular detail, and grand scale, I can’t really think of a better word to describe it. Daniel, who is from Malaysia and usually goes by his username theDURRRRIAN (count those r’s and tell me when your eyes cross) on the web, got some attention on BuzzFeed and other sites for his depiction of The Avengers. I don’t even like Captain America as a character, but I’ve shared Daniel’s version because I think it’s fantastic and a hundred times cooler than the usual rendition. However, my absolute favorite piece of his is “The Witch.” The eyes, the colors, the body language; how can I not love it? I want to write her a story, and that’s the feeling all of his work communicates. I can find a story in almost every single piece.

On top of letting me share his art with you, Daniel took the time for a little Q and A with me. Enjoy!

TCC: I had to look up what a durian was. What do they taste like?

DK: You get mixed answers to this question, so it’s more of an acquired taste really. Although [they have] a pretty pungent smell, I find the insides pretty nice!

TCC: Your deviantART gallery is so varied; one doesn’t often find the crew of The Big Bang Theory and the four horsemen of the apocalypse done in the same style. What’s your inspiration?

DK: TV, movies, games, basically pop culture stuff in general. I’m into that sort of stuff so I tend to draw what I like. My sketchbooks are full of miscellaneous fan art things similar to the Big Bang Theory stuff I did.

TCC: Your work has so much gorgeous detail. How long does one piece usually take you, start to finish?

DK: Depends really. The detail-heavy ones take 8ish hours but the character concepts take around 1-3 hours. These are just estimations though; I usually work on them on and off between class assignments.

TCC: Do you have any favorite books, movies, games, or music you want to share?

DK: I’m a HUGE fan of Guild Wars (my art style is heavily inspired by it). I’ve recently started playing (by that I mean 3-4 months in) and the game is simply inspiring. Other than that, the thing that got me into this whole fantasy genre was World of Warcraft and Dragon Age. Without them, I don’t think I would be pursuing a career in art.

TCC: Are you looking to do art for video games as a career? Or do you have another art field in mind?

DK: I definitely want to do something art/entertainment based; movies, TCG [trading card games], comics (I WISH) but video games preferred though. I guess I’ll go wherever I’m welcome.

TCC: How long have you been drawing/painting?

DK: Almost 3 years [author’s note: I was stricken with jealousy and disbelief when I read this]. I got into this about a year before I graduated high school and now I’m nearing my third year of college. I still have a lot to learn though.

TCC: Have you ever had a really serious creative block when it was difficult to come up with new things? If so, how did you get through it?

DK: Definitely. I had one recently, and I’m still in a bit of a rut at the moment, but it’s definitely getting better. I guess everyone has their own way of getting over the slump. I figured since mine was caused by fatigue in general I would step away from painting for a while and do something else. In my case, I played Guild Wars 2 for about a week, then got back on the tablet. Yeah, Guild Wars helps get over creative slumps.

TCC: Is there anything you find particularly difficult to draw? For instance, the lovely people who do Assassin’s Creed make some fantastic humans but their horses need some work. Anything like that?

DK: Haha! I have so many things I wish I could draw better I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’m pretty okay with characters [author’s note: understatement] but I wish I could draw cool sci-fi stuff. Moreover, I really don’t know how to draw animals. I use references to try to understand how they work but it never turns out how I want it to. Hopefully I can improve in the future.

For more of Daniel’s work, check out his deviantART and Tumblr! If you would like him to make something for you, send him an email at theDURRRRIAN@live.com (if you haven’t successfully counted the r’s, there are four of them). I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s featured artist, and a big thank you to Daniel for sharing!