South Park and Choosing to Care

I was a late comer to the South Park train. While a lot of kids were watching it all the way back in ’97,  I was aware of the show, but never seemed to see it. Comedy was a big part of my life growing up, though. I remember watching things like Mystery Science Theater on Comedy Central late at night and Comic View on BET when I happened to be over at my sister’s late enough.

I had a healthy appetite for comedy.

South Park was edited and aired in syndication around the time I was in high school, I think. By then I was old enough to get a lot of the jokes and the movie had come to cable, which I had seen a few times. I had a South Park shirt and considered myself a fan of the show. I thought the guys writing it ‘got me’–that they were the kind of guys I wanted to be like. I didn’t just want to not care on a personal, emotional level. Not caring needed to be the default reaction when faced with almost anything.

When you’re fifteen or sixteen it’s easy to see how this world view applies to you. It’s hard to find somewhere to fit in and when you’re already attending a school where graduating classes numbered under fifty students there was a good chance that you might not have the friend group that even outcasts had at bigger schools. Not caring seemed like a good way to deal with the pressure. What you don’t care about can’t hurt you.

South Park takes that to a deeper level. It poked fun at everyone, a thing I once greatly respected. It reinforced my notions about the world, or it reinforced the notions that I figured I should have: gays are weird and okay, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, but you’re not doing any disservice by calling people faggots as an insult. The younger generation is past racism completely, so all that’s left is to let all of the older people die off (there’s no way that racism is still really affecting us!). The choice between Presidential candidates means nothing, they’re both horrible.

From about ages fourteen to twenty I probably held some version of these beliefs and others that lined right up with the show. I didn’t mind when they took aim at targets that I cared about or liked or believed in. It was okay because they were making fun of EVERYONE, right?

As long as you’re indiscriminate in your fun poking, what’s the harm?

Fast forward to I’m thirty and I still love comedy. I still can’t get enough crude humor as evidence by me loving Doug Stanhope, watching Daniel Tosh, and being able to quote Hannibal Burress’s albums like scripture. Until a few months ago I thought South Park had been canceled. No one had mentioned the show in years around me (probably a testament to having friends that are ‘keepers’).

The internet was set on fire by this past years South Park seasonal target. PC culture, the new boogeyman of the Alt-Right, Brocialists, and just your garden variety bigot. This isn’t to say that there isn’t problems with hard-left liberalism, but to hear some people talk about it liberals are to blame for terrorism, the break down of the American family, and pretty much everything else under the sun.

To see South Park make season long antagonists out of PC culture seems less like the brave thing that people always claim that the show is and more like the expected thing for an audience that grew up watching the show. A lot of them became the adamant Bernie Sanders supporters that refer to Hillary Clinton as ‘a cunt’ every chance they get and don’t understand why it’s sexist (and unwarranted). They are the ones who refuse to look at race, sexual orientation, or gender even when it’s undeniably a factor (Elliot Rodger shooting, for instance).

I was a lot more moderate the right leaning when I started watching the show and I would say that I was more easily offended back then.  Me now still has a bit of that don’t care attitude. But I care when it counts. I care when you’re selling me a value system that’s flat out wrong and trying to reinforce views that don’t really work.

Yeah, it’s just a show. South Park isn’t the news or some politically commentary, except that it’s being used that way this past season and people have cited it before in the past to refer to their views. There are still some moments from the show that I can relate to, everyone expecting me to just like Family Guy because of my sense of humor (spoiler alert, I’ve hated Family Guy for almost the entirety of it’s run), but I think that I outgrew South Park years ago. I’m kind of glad that I did.

Some things are important to me and I don’t see that as a fault. Equal representation of all races and genders (at least in the sense of how they’re portrayed, because not all situations would have all types of people there) is important to me. Caring about politics is important to me, being well informed, and who gets elected is all important to me. PC culture isn’t such a dangerous thing that you need to go on about it for thirteen episodes or how ever long their seasons are.

And yeah, maybe the nearly one thousand words I spent on this was too much care, but I think it extends to more than South Park. And more importantly, it’s something that is relevant, because we live in a world where people actually don’t care enough.

Why Media Matters (but it’s really very little to do with media)

The typical nerd pursuits have seen their universes shaken up a lot over the last few years. It’s not all been bad, but there’s a lot of push back against the changes. The Hugo Awards drama has driven a world between the writing world. Video games have seen a virtual war between a more progressive side and a kind of old guard. Comic books have suffered numerous issues with the inclusion of minorities and women and the hiccups that these changes cause. Media in general has been shaken up when it comes to race, sexual orientation and gender.

Exhibit A: Captain America fucking up the day of some criminals while flying

These aren’t the most important subjects in the world.

Baltimore is has been the stage for riots for the last few days. There’s an election coming over the horizon. The Middle East is still on fire.

And yet I can’t stop coming back to these things because they’re in my life everyday. I’ve grown to appreciate comic books and I grew up with video games and fantasy fiction. They’re a part of who I am, but not who I am. For so many people these things are an integral part of their person and that’s why passionate fights come out of the changes.

This has been written about extensively from both sides of all issues. If your mind is already made up one way or another I’m not going to be able to change it, but I land firmly on the side of the progressive in every case. Companies have realized that appealing to a wider audience can get them the big bucks and doesn’t have to be hokey or pandering. What’s wrong with that?

I’ve been black my whole life. It’s not the kind of thing you can wake up one day and realize or suddenly become, but I haven’t always understood why women had issues with being seen in a sexual light or why gays deserved any rights. When you come from a state like Texas it’s easy to get inundated with the culture. It’s really in all American culture. You don’t understand why the poor don’t just “get a job and work harder” and maybe you think “sexual harassment is something cooked up by women to give them an excuse to get special treatment”.

These things are baked into the clay we’re molded from and it’s hard to chip away at that mindset. A kind of cognitive dissonance is at play too. Being black and thinking that I deserve to be afforded the same rights as anyone else while not thinking the same about women or gays requires a little bit of mental gymnastics. We think of ourselves ahead of others. We consider our own problems first.

We get mad at women because we feel like they owe us their bodies and their time simply because we exist and we’re asking for it. We feel like gays are different or without God and therefore should be looked at as subhuman.

It’s hard to remember when the switch clicked in my head. I remember the steps to get there: reading testimonials by women who had been looked at like juicy steaks their whole lives and felt up by men they trusted. Or getting so angry at a friend who I claimed to be in love with when she didn’t return my affection that I cut her out of my life. Or finding out how many women I cared about and knew for years had stories of sexual assault. Or getting to know gays as people and finding out people I knew were gay and there was nothing wrong with them. It didn’t make me feel any different about or around them.

I’d say it’s maturity and growing up, but then there are those twice my age with the mindset I had at sixteen. And it’s easy to slip back into the old habit of thinking badly about someone solely because they’re different than you.

The culture around us is built on a foundation of cultures from all over the world and attitudes and mores that are centuries old shape the world we live in. Even when you’ve realized the truth, you’re immersed in the lie and it’s hard to keep believing.

That’s where the comic books, video games and other media come in. Media is often our first interactions with some things. We see Asians on television and we figure they must all be like that; it’s easy to think that people are like the races in Lord of the Ring. Well, it’s easy to think that about people who aren’t like you. All blacks are athletic, love watermelon and crime. Asians are bad with women, but good at math and science. Hispanics are somehow both hard working and lazy. Liberals are degenerates who hate America. Conservatives are sexist bigots who love war. Gays are fashionable, nosey and annoying. Women are bad at math and emotional. Feminists are man hating lesbians.

I can go on like this all day.

For a long time we’ve seen these things played out in media. We’ve had them hammered into our heads in print and seen them run their course on the screen. The country has only started to come around from a lot of the older ones in the last one hundred years or so and it’s been a slow battle. The progressive attitude toward characterization of the “other” in media has got to grow up, because it’s where a lot of the kids being born now will get their first taste of the world out there and where a lot of us reinforce our worst fears and best realizations about people.

These groups aren’t homogenized. I know a woman who is a math genius. I know a Conservative guy who let me borrow gas money when I needed and has a teen daughter that he dotes on and used to bring to play Dungeons and Dragons with us. I know a really hood black guy that loves his comics and treats women with the utmost respect. I have a gay cousin that loves him some Jesus and I have women who are among my best friends…the whole point to this rant is that we don’t need to take what people are as who they are or all they are.

Bad people exist in every group, but there’s a lot of good out there and if we just stopped being so quick to judge we’d probably see more of it.

Now, I promise I haven’t smoked anything and I’m not drunk. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of making the mistake of pointing to a whole group as bad as anyone else. And to me this whole battle over media culture is bigger than the characters and fandoms housed inside of that culture. We need to all work for that.

I don’t think I’ll change any minds, but I hope I do.

The Weight of the Issue

I’ve been noticing more and more that people have a strong hatred of the overweight. We’re not even talking about people who are big enough to be featured on a TLC reality show—I just mean people who happen to be twenty or thirty pounds overweight. This idea that you can just lose it, or that the weight comes off of everyone just as easily is something I don’t really understand.

You’ll see people claiming they’ve done all this study about weight loss and the like, but then they’ll never acknowledge that maybe it’s a little bit harder for some people (or the fact that it’s been proven that belittling someone makes them less likely to lose the weight). There is kind of this internet culture that is made that people out there dare to be bigger than they should be. People who are disgusted by the prospect of something that doesn’t really affect them.

I mean, sure, they’ll tell you it makes their insurance prices higher because they’re having to share the burden of treating people, but a lot of things like smoking and drinking do that too and no one really gets all that mad about those things.

Not sure when it happened, but around the time I started seeing more and more people talk about accepting their weight and body the way it is this other thing started to pop up that was upset about that. That’s what is really going on with a lot of issues: people are upset with personal choices made by others that don’t concern or affect them. Most of these people are the same ones that preach about libertarianism, free speech and the right to do what they want.

Go figure.

Reddit Update

A smallish update. Not even worthy of being called a rant. Not really long enough to register as anything other than a statement.

While I like to browse Reddit for the funny and often times strange things I learn, the more time I spend on the site the more depressing I find the way its user base seems to homogenized to one set of ideas. You can basically go anywhere and find examples of them blasting fat people for being disgusting and irresponsible and all of these other things. I’ve seen countless discussions about black culture carried out in disrespectful ways (blacks are ugly, black people with strange names deserve not to get jobs because their parents dared to name them that, a topless black woman is somehow “National Geographic” where as a topless woman who is white is fine), and there are a load of other opinions which seem to be all too prevalent on a site that claims to be so open minded and all about higher thought.

I don’t think that the solution is to leave the site, but it is important not to drink the Kool-Aid. On most of the examples I’ve given that’s easy, but there’s a lot of hivemind bullshit on the site and it’s best not to buy into any of it.

SJW

The first time that I heard the phrase was about seven or eight months ago. I can’t remember if it was on Reddit or some other forum site, but since then I’ve heard it thrown around by people all over the internet as if there’s some sort of Illuminati like council of women, minorities cuckolded white men who oversee which evil social cause they want to take up next.

And all that I can think is this is all very troubling. I’m not old enough to remember the big rights movements of the past, but it seems like there’s a disdain for the idea that maybe we shouldn’t treat one group of people like the default and the others like side characters.

I’ve lost some internet friends to this whole mess too. Not that officially had some moment where we just had a large falling out, but I’ve seen them now so filled with hatred and bitter over something—I don’t exactly get what—and they don’t have a way to discuss things on a normal level anymore. An old friend of mine writes me a private message on a forum complaining about the behavior of “these stuck up white cunts” right before he tells me a story of how it’s alright because the mod is “one of us”. Just who the fuck does he think “we” are? Is there a mouse in his pocket?

And I don’t know if it’s right to say there’s one source that’s to blame for the massive swell of this stuff popping up. What about this time and these people caused us to reach this point. The one thing that I will say is that if you’re seeing this kind of behavior from people around you, especially if you’re a minority or a woman how long is it going to be before you’re not “one of the good ones” and you’re on the receiving end of the hatred? You’re going to have to decide for yourself if you want to stick around to find out.

I used to think of the people I knew as mostly okay and the kind that mostly believed the same thing. Never really imagined I would read something from them where they try to say all blacks are the racist ones with their crying out that things are racist or that I would have to explain to them it’s not okay that women get paid less to do the same work (what kind of Neanderthal believes that).

What’s worse is it doesn’t seem to have a single country that it’s happening in. Online people from all over the world meet up and mix opinions with one another. These people share these thoughts and they’re coming from all corners of the globe.

I hope something gives soon. I hope there’s something to kind of turn the tide. It seems like I keep seeing something and thinking this will be the thing, but the even passes and the masses don’t bat an eye. I hope the pattern breaks.

Gamer Culture

They were discussing how many trophies they had earned in the new Super Smash Bros. game for the 3DS. Four hundred and eight, one said. Another chimed in with the rather robust number of six hundred and nineteen. Not sure how many I have over here…I don’t really remember where to go to find out, but I know it’s probably in the double digits. It’s not like these people have had it longer than me, I got it the first day it came out.

I really haven’t looked at my trophy count in the game and it seems like I go days at a time without playing. Don’t get me wrong, the game is perfect other than being on a very hard to hold and control system. I love it, really.

But I just don’t play games like I used to. I don’t feel like sitting down with the game for hours on end and even when I do it’s because there’s a story there and I have gotten really invested in it. My play through of Bioshock: Infinite kind of brought that out in me as did Last of Us. But these games are different than the kind of thing where you’re just in direct competition or you’re just running around on senseless missions.

I don’t think I’ve self identified as a gamer in years. I play games, sure. But I don’t really hang onto the whole medium the way others that I know do. When we started to see what is largely seen as gamer subculture arise with it’s own clothing, music and food I stayed away from that stuff. I’ve never been that enamored with Mountain Dew and besides mc chris nerdcore kind of wore on me. I just…never wanted to be seen as that person because I didn’t really identify with the other people that I saw in that group. Hell, I’ve never been one to identify with most groups.

And if you’re in the group that’s okay. I feel like at one point I was in there too…it’s just that I don’t fit anymore and what all of this means has changed.

Destiny

destiny_by_ecodigital-d5vuqdxI guess this was the inevitable place for gaming to end up. We should have seen the signs, starting all the way back with Halo.

Multiplayer seems to have become all that matters. We saw people raving over Titanfall earlier this year and now we have Destiny. The spiritual successor to the “Game of the Moment” award that was once held by Titanfall.

These online only games for console seem to be the kind of thing we railed against when the X-Box One tried to make their whole system online only. What happened to multiplayer being a feature and not the whole fucking game.

I don’t know about others, but I play games for story. I play games so that I can get wrapped up in something and not be forced to interact with the jackasses that I know some other gamers are. I don’t understand when it became a point of complaint when a game doesn’t shoehorn a multiplayer in (like people did with Bioshock Infinite, using that as a complaint in a game that had a wonderfully crafted story).

Now, I have only watched the game being played. But it seems like every other first person shooter that takes place in a distance future that I’ve seen. The opening story seems like it might be interesting, but I read the rest of it and it seems to go completely to shit. It’s really hard to imagine a story where you could feel like your character was important when you’re one of thousands taking part in it. Either it’s cutting the other players out or it’s making you another brick in the wall that’s holding back the tide.

I don’t know when gamers will stop falling for the E3 eye candy. When I said that Watchdogs looked like a GTA clone, people claimed it wasn’t. Then it totally was. Titanfall pretty much showed how much Microsoft shit the bed because it still didn’t net them the sales they wanted and it was predictable because the game basically had nothing resembling a point besides online. Now we have this game that’s doing a very similar thing and people are lining up to shell out money, and I get there’s not much else out, but they’re also acting like what they’re playing is the most amazing thing ever.