All posts filed under: Entertainment

Gamers are the Easy—But Wrong—Target After Mass Violence

The recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have resurrected old panic over violence in video games. President Trump, among others, used language linking games to mass shootings and other violence. Such links have long ago been disproven and, fortunately, most people kept their heads and pushed back against these nonsensical claims. But despite this, a more subtle narrative has developed. Is gamer culture itself toxic, catering to misogynists, racists and angry, mostly white, males? As the moral panic over violent content ebbs, I’ve witnessed a wave of comments either disparaging gamers as a group, or insinuating that while certain types of games might not directly cause violent individuals, they do cultivate negative attitudes, such as sexism, militarism or white supremacy. From an empirical standpoint, such claims tend to be long on anecdote and speculation and short on hard data. The latest such argument comes from Brianna Wu in the Washington Post, where she argues that gamer culture is inherently angry, racist and sexist, and “encourages hate.” Video games don’t cause mass shootings, …

Once Upon a Time…Film Critics Became Joyless—A Review

*This article contains spoilers. Once upon a time, somewhere far from Hollywood, critics decided that movies for grownups should not be fun, and that the filmmakers who make them should be punished. For publications like The Guardian, the latest unacceptable pusher of a good time is Quentin Tarantino, with his long-anticipated Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. “Whatever the merits of his new film, Tarantino’s films have revelled in extreme violence against female characters,” says the piece, entitled “End of the affair: why it’s time to cancel Quentin Tarantino.” Time Magazine went so far as to count “every line in every Quentin Tarantino film to see how often women talk,” tallying the results in data charts. This nakedly ideological ire against not just the movie, but Tarantino himself, extends even to The New Yorker—the same New Yorker where Pauline Kael, a decidedly non-ideological film critic, presided for a generation. “Tarantino’s love letter to a lost cinematic age is one that, seemingly without awareness, celebrates white-male stardom (and behind-the scenes command) at the expense of everyone else,” …

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of….What Exactly?

On June 28, the morning after her eyebrow-raising theatrics at the second Democratic debate, New Age high priestess-cum-presidential aspirant Marianne Williamson retweeted this: The power of your mind is greater than the power of nuclear radiation. Visualize angels dispersing it into nothingness. — Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) March 29, 2011 While Williamson’s candidacy is itself certain to disperse into nothingness, legible between the lines of the guru’s flakiness is a profound insight about the most misunderstood and misguided totem in American life: the idea that positive and/or happy thoughts foster positive and/or happy outcomes. The same belief in “mind power” that elicits groans and derision when rendered in 280 characters is woven through the fabric of American life. American culture has evolved a unique view of the mind’s relationship to the external world; not in the sense of an esoteric disquisition on the nature of consciousness, but rather in the sense of spoon-bending—a view of life wherein positive thinking enables us to bend life to our respective desires. Ergo: The attitude is the action. The belief …

From Academia to Hollywood: An Interview with Tony Tost

Tony Tost is a television writer and producer. He was the creator of Damnation, which Tost describes as a “Clint Eastwood western set in the world of John Steinbeck.” The show (streaming on Netflix) fictionalizes the labor wars of rural America in the 1930s. Before creating Damnation, Tost spent five seasons writing for Longmire (also on Netflix). He just wrapped working as a writer and producer for The Terror: Infamy, which will air August 12 on AMC. Before breaking into screenwriting, Tost was a poet and academic. Below is an interview I recently conducted with Tony about his personal background and his experience in both Hollywood and academia. *     *     * Quillette Magazine: You are now a successful Hollywood screenwriter but that is not the world you come from. In fact, as you know, we grew up not far from each other in Southwest Missouri. Would you discuss your background a bit and how it has influenced your work? Tony Tost: I prefer “working” to “successful” as a screenwriter modifier, but sure: I started …

How Prophetic Was Gattaca?

Dystopian science fiction films often have the veneer of plausibility. For example, the premise of an overpopulated world (Soylent Green), or a deep freeze earth (The Day After Tomorrow), or an infertility epidemic (Children of Men), generate voyeuristic horror but rarely possess the credibility to elicit anxiety of a real world, highly probable outcome. The 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, is an exception. Technology has now caught up with Niccol’s dystopian vision of a society where every member is categorized and determined by their genetic origin. Last year a Chinese bioengineer announced the germline editing and live birth of twin girls using CRISPR technology. In the world of Gattaca, preimplantation screening and genetic engineering have generated a culture of discrimination based on genomic scores. The story’s hero, Vincent (Ethan Hawke), has the bad luck of being conceived the old-fashioned way, his genome left to the crapshoot of meiosis. His genome is read to his parents at birth: neurological condition: 60 percent; probability of manic depression: 42 percent; probability of heart disease: …

Tolkien—A Review

Alas, poor Tolkien the movie. The adjective “tepid” most accurately describes the critical response to this biopic, reverently directed by Dome Karukoski, which explores the early years of the author of The Hobbit (1937), the Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954–1955), and countless other works of medievalist fantasy. The idea behind Tolkien is that nearly every key theme in these novels had its origins in some episode of the young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s life, first at the prestigious King Edward’s boys’ school in Birmingham (where, as the gifted son of a cultivated but impoverished widow, he had a scholarship), then at Oxford University (another scholarship), and above all, in the trenches of the Somme, where he was posted as a second lieutenant in 1916 and had ample opportunity to experience all the horrors of World War I before succumbing to trench fever carried by the lice that infested the cramped and filthy bunkers. Thus, Tolkien, presented as a series of flashbacks playing inside the brain of the fever-stricken junior officer, trades heavily in one-on-one …

The Folly of Disappearing Art and Culture

Following the harrowing recent documentary Leaving Neverland, which detailed sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, executive producers of The Simpsons, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Al Jean, have decided to remove an episode from the canon in which Jackson’s voice makes an appearance. It is not the content of the episode, “Stark Raving Dad,” which aired in 1991, that is now in question, but Jackson’s very participation in the episode. .@TheSimpsons Farewell to SRD https://t.co/LOmIEzMFm5 — Al Jean (@AlJean) March 9, 2019 It is absurd that creators who have themselves been accused of causing offense are now excising content from season 2 of their seminal 30 season series of animated Americana. But the real affront is to fans and consumers, who will no longer have access to this content, and need to decide whether they want to be protected from material that was previously available across all platforms. Back when The Simpsons premiered, first on The Tracy Ullman Show, and then as a standalone half hour on Fox in 1989, it was one of more …

Dear White People, Black People—And All People

When Netflix’s Dear White People made its debut in April, 2017, the show immediately impressed viewers with the complex emotional multitudes it contained—showing its characters to be what author Cheryl Strayed once described as “flawed, and capable of redemption.” The plot focuses closely on the inner lives of black students at Winchester University, a fictional, predominately white Ivy League school that originally was brought to life in a 2014 film of the same name. Creator Justin Simien, who also wrote and directed the film, demonstrates that there is always more to people than what meets the eye. Coleandrea “Coco” Conners is a young woman who adds weave to her hair and shortens her name in order to become accepted into a Black sorority. Is this an affirmation of black pride or the upholding of European beauty standards? Or both—or neither? When confronted by another student about showing up to a party where white attendees wore blackface, Coco says, “This might come as a shock to you, but these people don’t give a fuck about no …

Attention, Star Trek Culture Warriors: Stand Down from Battle Stations

What you read on Quillette two weeks ago is true. As Barrett Wilson argued in his essay, “What Is This Thing You Call Social Justice?,” Star Trek: Discovery did indeed prove to be a polarizing new front in the culture war—at least for a few months. But that’s mainly because the conservative forces in that conflict have grown to be as sensitive and performative as their leftist counterparts. Discovery, like so much else these days, has become fodder for wearying debates over identity and virtue. The CBS show, the sixth live-action television Star Trek series, just launched its second season this year. The new season is a form of “soft reboot” (in the words of one reviewer) after a tortured first season, which was marred by long production delays and changes of top-level creative talent. Though it’s too soon to say whether the second season will address some of the real failings of the first, even after only a few episodes, it’s become evident that the tone has changed. Discovery season two is lighter, funnier, …

What Is This Thing You Call ‘Social Justice’?

Star Trek: Discovery begins its second season this week, with its producers no doubt hoping for a smoother start after a first season marred by considerable behind-the-scenes difficulties and uneven reception from hardcore fans. After major delays and a series of sudden creative staff changes, many plotlines were introduced and quickly abandoned, fans were frustrated with the show’s inability to adhere to the Star Trek canon—the whole first season was chaos. But hey, at least the succession of showrunners were able to signal their progressive bona fides to the woke social media legions. Indeed, they started well in advance. Before Discovery had even premiered, former showrunner Aaron Harberts was on a press tour boasting of the fact that Discovery was going to take on the Trump presidency through its storytelling: “The allegory is that we really started working on the show in earnest around the time the election was happening,” said showrunner Aaron Harberts. “The Klingons are going to help us really look at certain sides of ourselves and our country. Isolationism is a big …