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Passive vs Active: The Language of Victimization, Victim-Blaming, and the Intent vs Effect of Communication

Recently some friends on Facebook posted this spiel about the use of passive voice in talking about gendered crime and statistics. Read it for yourself below.

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I immediately felt uncomfortable with the whole thing. I have several reasons why. Keep reading if you’re interested in why.

Passive Voice and Crime Reporting

The quote above by Katz is focused on gender related victimization; however, we use the passive voice when speaking about crime in general. Reporters will often write or say “Last night a man was mugged while walking to his car” or “Many people’s identities were stolen last week” or “A teenager was hit by a car yesterday”. So right off the bat, I question the validity of linking the use of passive voice with gendered crime exclusively. “Was murdered”, “was attacked”, “was car-jacked”, “was mugged”, “was abused” are all terms used in the reporting of crime and do not specify gender. I argue that rape isn’t even a gendered crime, so I cannot help but feel that Katz is limiting the use of passive voice to gendered crime is a limit of the mind and excludes victims.

Counting Crimes

Another issue with this argument is that the number of victims and the number of perpetrators is disproportionate. We can easily count those who have been victimized. We cannot count perpetrators until they have been convicted. The teen pregnancy is the best example of where in reporting the number of instances, the pregnancy count is more accurate than the number of males involved in those pregnancies. First of all, the chances of a male getting more than one teenager pregnant is pretty good (which is horrible, I agree), but we have no way of tracking that. We can, however, track the teen pregnancy amounts. If the guy got pregnant or had some sort of messed up score card emblazoned on his forehead, we would count that instead.

Focus on the Pain = Focus on the Victim

I don’t believe we should take the narrative of the event away from the victim. In doing so, we remove the focus on the pain they have suffered. We can argue that active voice about a perpetrator can express outrage; however, outrage should not be the focus. Empathy for the victim should be the focus. We do this by presenting the narrative of the event from the perspective of the victim. We keep the victim as the subject of the sentences. When the media reports on victimed crimes, they are required (generally) to do so impassively. They cannot present outrage in their tone, especially with written reports vs verbal ones. As such the narrative with the perpetrator as the subject of the sentences can create a dissonance because we are used to narratives wherein we are meant to believe and empathize with the subject of the sentences. We all have years and years of training to think this way. Imagine the story of Brock Turner and his victim as presented by him vs the letter she wrote to the judge. Or compare the dispassionate reporting of the events from his perspective vs from hers. If the press gave his story first, most people would be predisposed to disbelieve her story coming second. The act is not made illegal based on the inner thinking of the perpetrator but for the damage it causes the victim. While I see the dangers of passive voice in fictional narratives, I see it as a necessity in the reporting of victimed crimes to focus the empathy on the victim.

Passive Voice and Victimization

Katz presents the idea that by focusing on the victim, we are also holding them responsible for their victimization. However, besides leaving the victim as the subject of the sentences and thus the focus of empathy, passive voice perfectly matches the reality for victims. Being a victim is a passive act. Victims did not do anything to bring on their victimization. Of course, passive voice should be used when describing victims. They were not active in their victimization. It is the very opposite of victim-blaming to use passive voice. Victims themselves are allowed to use whichever form they please (I was mugged vs Someone mugged me) because as the authors of the sentences about the event, they are already forcing the audience to acknowledge them. But if a reporter were to use active voice with the victim as the subject, that sentence would have to be very carefully structured to avoid victim-blaming. I foresee sentences like that being unwieldy and unclear.

Violence Against Object Phrasing

While I get what Katz is saying that men aren’t involved in the structure of the phrase “violence against women”, the argument ignores the fact that most organizations that fight against violence structure it that way: Violence Against Children and Violence Against Animals are both used in organizations lending assistance to those groups. Most Violence Against groups are victim focused first. They try to help the victim out of bad situation. Secondary to rescue actions are education actions. It makes sense then that the title should focus on the victim of the act, not the perpetrator as the organizations usually have no direct contact with those people and legislative lobbying is not as big a focus.

If a person searches for “violence against” in an online search engine, most results will be about women. Half of those will be organizations with Domestic Violence in the organization name. I believe that Domestic Violence is a better term. While many believe that the term Domestic is problematic because it can imply Privacy, I relate it to Domecile, which implies co-habitation. Domestic Violence is specific to two people in a relationship living together, one of whom has become abusive of the other. This is non-gendered, which to me is highly important. So often, people say that domestic abuse is not about who is physically stronger, but who is more powerful and controlling. This is not a gendered issue, also because people of non-cis-sexualities are capable of domestic abuse. Believing that a man simply by being physically stronger can never be a victim of domestic abuse feeds into toxic masculinity and just compounds the gender divide. That is why Domestic Violence is a more inclusive way of describing the problems. Women can and do abuse men, emotionally, verbally, and yes, physically. However, abuse can still happen if the two aren’t living together, so even that term is not enough. Inter-relationship Violence is most encompassing of the terms I can come up with because while we have a word for a guardian abusing a child (Child Abuse), we don’t have a word for child to child abuse or a child abusing a parent, both of which do happen. Our terms unfortunately are based on archaic ideas of relationships and family, namely the nuclear family. The nuclear family was rarely a reality and even rarer now than it was when it was considered the norm. So I agree with Katz in saying that the term Violence Against Women is problematic, but not for the same reasons.

Intent > Communication > Effect

When I pointed out to someone that I felt that Katz argument was flawed, I mentioned intent and was parried with the statement that intent did not matter. I’ve been reading up a lot lately on how to speak to someone who has distorted thinking in order to properly communicate intent to the right effect, all of it written by psychologists and psychiatrists. So I’m going to break down what I’ve learned.

  • Intent: Person A’s desired effect fed or countered by bias, emotion, thoughts, memories, and situation – example: to report on a recent crime in an objective manner to make Persons B knowledgeable of the crime
  • Communication: the words by which Person A will attempt to match effect to intent
  • Effect: Persons Bs’ mental and emotional reaction to the communication, influenced by their pre-communication memories, thoughts, and feelings

Of course, in a perfect world, intent and effect would always match. We don’t live in a perfect world, so they don’t always match, because Person A’s conscious intent can be greatly effected by their unconscious intent. Person B can also be suffering from distorted thinking. Distorted thinking is a symptom of depression, anxiety, PTSD, several personality disorders, and other mental health issues. Disorted thinking can warp communication to mean something it doesn’t mean, such as seeing hostility where there is none. When the issue is Person A’s bias or unconscious intent, they can have this gently pointed out them and re-evaluate how they communicate their conscious intent. When the issue is Person B’s distorted thinking, they should be made aware of this, probably with a professional, and use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help them change their reactions to the communication.

Triggers

CBT is used to help people have more rational reactions to triggers. Now, I’ve been hearing a lot about trigger-warnings and safe spaces. About people trying to prevent people who suffer from bad reactions to certain things from experiencing those certain things. Especially victims. Now, victims of crimes are not the only people who experience triggering events, as explained above. Those with anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and depression who may never have been victims of crimes experience triggering events as well.

Every psychologist I’ve spoken to and every book on the subject I’ve read by psychologists and psychiatrists has stated that it is best if patients limit their contact with triggering events, but that they also learn to change their reactions to those events through therapy methods such as CBT or DBT. The goal is not to walk around in a bubble, silencing everyone around them to prevent them from ever feeling pain. Friends and family are meant to help by not exasperating the bad feelings by triggering them; however, strangers are not meant to change their behavior. Therapy does not expect this. In fact, it explains that a patient can expect to be triggered through non-personal interactions on occasion. Just because the patient is triggered, does not mean that their reaction is appropriate or requires change from others. Again, therapy expects the patient to eventually change their reaction. The basis is always that a person can control only themself, not others. We can only control ourselves and our own reactions. This is actually very helpful to hear when dealing with other people who have distorted thinking.

Does this mean that people get to be insensitive? No, of course not. There needs to be a balance between communication that matches the intent, which shouldn’t be to harm, and the reaction, which should be free of distorted thinking. Both sides require empathy; it is the only way for understanding to happen.

But there is one group of people who get to be purposefully insensitive: comedians. Why? This again takes understanding. First of all, it is a long standing tradition, as in centuries old, for comedians to be able to say what no one else is daring enough to say and to use that daring to satirize issues in our society. This includes sensitive, triggering subjects. The understanding from people listening to or reading comedians that is required is that comedians will do this and that is their job to do so. Acting surprised and hurt that a comedian said something shocking about a sensitive subject is frankly silly. Comedy is meant to make us laugh about sensitive subjects and relieve some of our tension and pain on those subjects. It’s also supposed to make us think about them differently. That’s a good thing. I’ve had bad reactions to jokes before. Yes, some of them were in poor taste and/or not funny in my opinion, but that just means I don’t have listen to that joke again. I can say I don’t think it’s funny or that it’s not for me. I can turn off the special and decide not to watch that comedian again. Again, I can only control my reaction and actions. I let my feet doing the talking when it comes to my opinion on comedy. I don’t expect the comedian to change. But if enough people agree with me and decide not to watch that comedian, well, that comedian will get the message that they aren’t all that funny. But then again, maybe other people think they are funny and that’s fine. Even if they are offensive. It’s called freedom of speech.

Conclusion

Language is a tricky thing. It is also one of my favorite subjects to think about and discuss. It’s a subject that requires a lot of critical thinking. I don’t believe I have all the answers because language is constantly changing because society is constantly changing. Some things are always the same. Comedians make jokes. People get hurt. People say hurtful things, both on purpose and by accident. People learn to get past being hurt. Or at least, they should try to. I react to things in overly negative ways too. I say things that get distorted. I say things that are hurtful. We all do these things. This is life. It requires us all to think about what we say, what we mean, and what others mean. There are no easy answers, and we can’t just look at one way and expect everybody agree with us. I don’t expect all of you reading this to agree with everything I’ve written here or even any of it. That’s discourse. If you still agree with Katz’ point of view after reading this, that’s fine. I’m not upset. It’s not necessary that you agree with me. You’re your own person, so you’re allowed to have your own point of view. That’s also life.

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Couple Fights: Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald vs Leonard and Virginia Woolf (and Jim and Aurora from Passengers a bit)

Amazon Prime has a new show called Z which follows the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, starting from around the time she met her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I watched the pilot during the pilot season more than a year ago and was immediately hooked. It doesn’t hurt that Christina Ricci is an amazing actress and the Modernist time period is one of extreme interest. A few months ago, I read an article on the women behind the men whose names we all know, while the women, who actually did the work, are hardly known to most of us. Zelda was one of these women, and in the brief history of her life that was given, my whole world and my trust in all the American Literature courses I took in both high school and college was completely destroyed. Suddenly, I understood the social justice warriors’ need to force our schools to shape up. Because the truth behind the juggernaut that is F. Scott Fitzgerald destroys any enjoyment I ever had of his work. But this isn’t just about how horror music should play in Amazon’s show when Zelda meets Fitzgerald. It’s about how two real life couples, in the same time period, in the same creative business, with very similar personal hardships and backgrounds, resulted in two completely different outcomes, both tragic, but one absolutely outraging.

Outrage

So many people hated Jim from Passengers and they hate the movie for forcing Aurora for forgiving him and they hate her for doing so. I love this movie and I love Jim and Aurora, and it’s not just because it’s interesting sci-fi or that Jim and Aurora are played by two of the hottest and funniest and, it turns out, most talented actors of our age, though that helps a lot. We all know that Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actor. She kills all her parts. I was not expecting Chris Pratt to deliver the same level of skill in that movie. Now, I remember the trailers presenting the film as a sci-fi romance, and to some extent it is, but it is more of a satirical examination on romance and what some people consider romantic. Many people would say that that statement is a little too deep for such a film, especially because it just makes them so uncomfortable. But uncomfortableness from fiction is usually a sign of a theme that no one likes to think about. People often display outrage at satire that is totally justified but they aim at the creators of the piece and not at the idea they are showcasing as messed up.

We see this a lot on Swift’s A Modest Proposal. It happened when he wrote it, and it still happens today in our college classrooms. I don’t remember realizing that Swift wasn’t serious about eating Irish children. I just know that I knew that. Too often teachers have to explain to students that Swift is trying to create outrage in the English people against the mistreatment of the Irish by bringing that mistreatment to a ridiculous level. This happened in the last century again on the stage production of Caberet, which has a song wherein a man dances with a gorilla, saying how much he loves her and how everyone treats him like a pariah for his love. At the end of the song, he drops the bomb that she’s Jewish. There was a protest over this by a Jewish organization because they didn’t get the idea that the song was pointing out that that is how the Nazis thought about miscegenators, not how the minds behind the song felt, and wasn’t that just a messed up way of thinking about Jewish people and those who loved them. Sigh. I hate having to explain satire. It hurts to do so.

But I will explain how Passengers actually is satire here because I am tired of all the hate it gets. Most romance movies are under fire right now for showing stalking, harassment, and sexual assault as “chasing” or “courting” and thereby, acceptable. Passengers dives right into that debate with more vehemence than any journalist or debater is capable of. The trailers somewhat misled people into thinking that Passengers would be like any other romance movie: sweet, light-hearted, and sexy in it’s presentation of their relationship with a bit of disaster thriller thrown in there for conflict. The truth of the movie far more interesting. Jim, who wakes up alone ninety years early, tries his best to make the best of the worst possible situation. He has no way of fixing his situation and he holds out against his two only choices for as long as he can. Those two choices: kill himself or consign another person to his same fate. Being alone is only a choice in stasis. As long as he is alive, he is constantly going to be battling those two choices. He nearly kills himself. Then he becomes obsessed with Aurora, in a way of self-medicating his loneliness, much like any stalker does. But unlike a real stalker, Jim has no misunderstandings that waking up Aurora is wrong. Stalkers believe the other person loves them and they believe they have a relationship. Jim knows they don’t and knows he has no right to wake her up. There are several scenes wherein Jim debates doing it, shows extreme self-hatred for even considering it, and begs himself not to do it. But I argue that the movie showed Jim going through every possible other option of living in his situation for as long as he could before this was the only thing he could do to survive. I also argue that by showing Jim as a normal guy at the beginning, nervous and excited to meet the other passengers and even smiling at the second word he uttered upon waking up (“Friends”), that not only were they trying to show that anyone in his situation would choose to wake someone up but that Jim fought the urge as long as he could which was torture for him considering the fact that he is an extrovert. We would all do what Jim did. Only an actual hermit wouldn’t wake up someone else. We are all Jim, and we are all capable of this horror.

Does that make it okay? Of course not, and the movie says so. When Aurora finds out that Jim woke her up, the cinematography and music shift dramatically from low-key romance to thriller and horror styles. The point of view of the shots also focus on her instead of him, in contrast to the previous scenes of the film. The movie makes no bones about whose side you should be on: hers. As such, the film does a brilliant job of showing how typical film romance tropes are in real life dangerous and sometimes violating. You are meant to be outraged, revolted, and uncomfortable. And frankly, you should feel that way when you watch a bunch of other romance movies. If the man lies, stalks, harasses, or manhandles (something Jim never does) the woman, you should feel that way. Regardless of the tone the film presents. Passengers sets the romantic tone before she finds out to juxtapose it with the reality which is horrifying, and when that tone flips with her new knowledge of his lies and stalking, near murder and some would argue rape through misleading circumstances, it is drastic and we all feel it viscerally. It is in the movie. The shot does that Hitchcock move that throws the layout off kilter, her face is a silent scream, and the music warps from smooth, caressing notes into discordant and painful sounds. The following scenes show her fear and her anger. When he tries to explain himself over the PA and she screams that she doesn’t care, we all get it, and so does Jim who stops trying to explain himself. When she attacks Jim, we all get it, and so does Jim who doesn’t even defend himself. She is now the center of the movie and his violation of her is the focus. The only reason we and Aurora don’t want him dead is because he doesn’t defend himself from her. He acquests in that moment that what he did was worthy of death and she has every right to do it to him. He already hates himself for what he did, and he is completely prepared to die in reprepration. Some may argue that because he did date her and have sex with her that he only hated himself after he was caught. I counter that the dating period allowed him to forget on a conscious level what he did, but because he was doing everything he could to be the most movie perfect romantic boyfriend ever wasn’t just a way of the film again playing off romantic tropes but also from a character standpoint, born out his extreme guilt. As if he could offset what he did by being absolutely perfect in every possible way for her.

Jim again proves that he is ready to die to make up for what he did at the climax of the movie. Why does Aurora try so hard to save him? She says she can’t live without him. I believe when she realized that he was possibly going to die, that she also realized that if he did, she would have to live the rest of her life alone, the prospect of which was more terrifying than living with him. This fear also made her further realize that that was what Jim faced and what he did was completely understandable, not justifiable, but also irresistible. Why does she forgive him? That’s easy. He found a way to fix what he did. Jim found that he could put Aurora back to sleep, and then he told her about it. He let her choose whether or not she would do it. It wasn’t that he saved the ship or was willing to die to save the ship. It was that he was willing to go back to being alone, meaning he would let her go, and die (probably within a year because he would commit suicide) without her all based on her choice alone. That’s why Passengers is a real romance. It’s not perfect. It is in fact painful and hurtful at times. But it is truthful, and Jim learns that it is about letting Aurora make her own decisions. This makes Passengers better than most romances.

On a side note, I found the final point of decision to be contrived and flawed. The idea that there is only one Autodoc for 5500 people is insane. There was a way to create this same point of decision without that flaw: someone had to be outside the Autodoc to activate it. Voila! Problem solved and impact intact.

But why is Passengers so important to how I feel about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Leonard and Virginia Woolf? It’s because it showcases a troubled relationship in a perfect balance and in a way, Leonard and Virginia Woolf are similar to Jim and Aurora, only often the roles were reversed. While the Woolfs make me think of how similar the Fitzgeralds’ situation was and how perverted their relationship was. The Fitzgeralds’ relationship is the way most people see Passengers. Only, in my opinion, even worse than people see Passengers. So I guess we should get to it.

Premarital Life

Virginia Woolf née Stephen born in 1882 suffered many nervous breakdowns since she was a young teenager and was even institutionalized. Her mental health issues, which were often manifested as depressive episodes, were thought to be caused by sexual abuse at the hands of her half-brothers and brought to the forefront by the loss of family members, such as her mother, a brother, her father, etc. It is believed that Woolf suffered from bipolar disorder as opposed to major depressive disorder. But before her marriage to Leonard Woolf was not entirely a time of unhappiness for Woolf. She, in fact, took part in a hoax, along with Leonard Woolf. Leonard also happened to be a writer, though he would never reach the notoriety that Virginia would. I have heard, however, that before they married no one told him that Virginia had suffered multiple breakdowns, preventing her unstable mental health from scaring him off. If true, it is a serious lie, but given the times, also understandable. To read Woolf’s journal entries pertaining to him though, one clearly understands how much she loved him.

Zelda Fitzgerald née Sayre was born on the other side of the Atlantic, eighteen years after Woolf. Zelda was always a very outgoing person. She liked parties and often lead the charge of her social groups in the changing ways of her times. She very much liked being the center of attention, shown in her long-running relationship with the ballet. She also liked to flout social conventions and started rumors about herself skinny-dipping. Her life very much encapsulated carpe diem. All this along with what would become of her later, however, has led many people both in her personal and professional life and those looking back on her biographically to believe that she was mentally disturbed in someway. This actually seems unlikely to me. Many people who are simply different or just don’t like the way society wishes them to act are erroneously considered mentally ill. Though I do believe that the circumstances of Zelda’s life led to mental instability, though so did F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.

Married Life

The Woolfs married, and I wish I could say, they lived happily ever after, but that was not to be. Virginia and Leonard started a publishing company together that often did not do well financially. Then they met a popular writer of the time, Vita Sackville-West, who loved Virginia and helped boost her self-confidence, pushed her to write more, and starting publishing with the Woolfs’ company as a way of helping support them financially. Not only was she there for them in those ways, but Virginia and her started a romantic liaison of sorts. Leonard knew about this and didn’t take issue with it. In fact, the couple set their relationship as an open one. To many people, this would appear to mean troubled waters in a relationship, but Virginia and Leonard never expressed any bitterness or resentment over their extramarital relationships. This is obvious in Virginia’s diary and her suicide note to Leonard, expressing nothing but love for him and guilt over her illness and how it affected him. Some may argue that the guilt was a sign that he blamed Virginia for her illness, but depressed people often feel like they are dragging down their loved ones and that their death would free them. It doesn’t seem to matter how much their loved ones express the falsehood of this belief. As such, I don’t believe that Leonard ever truly pushed Virginia to believe her illness or herself were an albatross in his life. I don’t believe her expressions of love for him could be so heartfelt if that were true.

The Fitzgeralds married once he got his first novel published (a common occurrence for couples to wait for financial success of the man at the time) and moved to New York. The two blazed through the party scene, surprising everyone with their antics. The two drank to excess and only slightly slowed down once she became pregnant. Even then though, the two didn’t let parenthood stop the party. During this time Zelda no longer performed in any ballet and really only wrote sporadically, though she continued to write in her diary regularly, as many women and writers, such as Virginia Woolf, did at the time. This diary became a point of contention between the Fitzgeralds, not for anything that Zelda wrote, but because F. Scott would steal entries from the diary to include in his novels. Parts of The Great Gatsby are taken straight from her own writing about her life. Zelda was even once asked to write a review of her husband’s latest novel, upon which she discovered the bits of her diary in the novel and stated that Fitzgerald believed that plagiarism began in the home. While written in a flippant tone, one could understand the underlying resentment that would begin to fester. Once the two moved to France, F. Scott met Ernest Hemingway, who did not get along with Zelda, and spent less time with her. In this period, Zelda grew close with another man and asked for a divorce. F. Scott’s reaction was nothing less than abusive and mentally unstable: he locked Zelda in their house until she gave up. Let me restate that: he imprisoned his wife who was asking for a divorce until her will was worn down. The two of them, at this point, really couldn’t stand each other. I’m not sure why F. Scott resented her so much, when she was the one with all the cause for feelings of resentment, except to say that he didn’t like that he couldn’t control her, which her wildness is what attracted him to her in the first place. At one point, the two went back to the States because Zelda’s father was dying. F. Scott did not stick around for his passing, instead, going off to Hollywood to begin writing scripts. After her father passed, Zelda was in and out of mental hospitals with F. Scott barely around. During one of these hospital stays, Zelda was inspired to begin writing seriously. Upon getting out, she wrote a novel: it was highly autobiographical and included her attempts to get back into the ballet and her father’s death. She even got a publishing deal; however, F. Scott was furious and demanded that she change many parts of the novel, removing whole sections of it, which he wanted to include in a novel he’d been working on. The result is a very broken novel that has never garnered much attention from the public. F. Scott even berated Zelda’s writing and her will to do so. Zelda’s fragile self-confidence was even further shaken. This whole time F. Scott was drinking more and more and his own self-worth was damaged by a lack of further success, but he had also started a long-term affair with another woman.

Through the Years

At one point a lit-crit writer published a book about how Leonard Woolf never supported Virginia emotionally in her endeavors and actively worked against her until she killed herself. This writer is an idiot. A lot of people also disagreed with her. I say if she wanted to write about a creative woman who was driven into an early grave by a horrible mistake of a marriage, she should have written about Zelda Fitzgerald, who sadly died in a fire when the asylum she was checked into burned down. We have work by Woolf, lots of work, enough to fill a grad level course all on its own. We have one novel by Zelda, we have no ballet performances by her, we have barely anything by her. Obviously, she was the one of the two women who was actively and successfully silenced by her spouse and the world around her. And still some people look upon Zelda’s wild lifestyle as the reason behind or a symptom of her mental illness and downfall, even though F. Scott was just as crazy. Without knowing which sections of Fitzgerald’s novels are word for word from her diary, we should be printing them as novels “by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald”. So far this is the only instance wherein I feel like “correcting” history, but as a writer, I can’t help but think that if people were to quote from my blog or my private journal and pass it off as their “fiction”, I would want my freaking credit!

We have so much outrage over the satirical depiction of romance in Passengers, but way less people know about the horrible reality that was Zelda’s life. We have a TV show depicting her life now for a wide audience, and my hope is that it shows F. Scott for the theif and controlling jerk that he was. If they try to show his kidnapping  of her as somehow romantic, hopefully the Passengers outrage will carry over. But if they try to do it satirically, I’m okay with that, and then hopefully, the outrage will be focused on F. Scott Fitzgerald as it should be.

What do you think? Should Zelda be recognized in the lit classrooms of our colleges and in the English classrooms of our high schools? We don’t teach Woolf much here in the US, but we do teach The Great Gatsby all across the country in high schools. Shouldn’t our teachers be telling the students that pieces of this work are straight from her mind? Shouldn’t it be obvious by the print on the cover of the book?

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Gender Relations, Social Issues

 

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Doctor Strange: A Comparative Review

Spoilers below for Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War,

I just recently watched Doctor Strange for the first time. Afterwards, I immediately went to two of my three favorite reviewers to see what they had to say about the movie. Screen Junkies and Hishe both compared the movie heavily to Iron Man, saying that it is basically the same movie. Instinctively, this felt wrong to me, mainly because I was thinking of the main characters and how different they were, despite everyone seeming to think they are the same. So I went back and watched Iron Man again, because let’s face it, it’s been a while, and luckily it was on Prime (btw, Iron Man is distributed by a different company than later MCU movies, along with Thor and the first Captain America movie, so it is doubtful that you will see all of the MCU movies on the same streaming service or in a box set). Having watched it again, so quickly after having watched Doctor Strange, I can tell you without a doubt that the only two things these have in common are that they are both hero’s journey stories (which is one of like five stories you can tell) and both superhero origin stories (which is needed when you introduce a new superhero. Duh.). Otherwise, I found these movies very different.

“But Aren’t They Both Just Arrogant Jackasses?”

Arrogance is a trait both Tony Stark and Stephen Strange carry; however, in truth, Strange only seems arrogant. Many people have previously called Stark a narcissist. In point of fact, by psychological definitions, he is not. Strange, on the other hand, very much has narcissistic personality disorder. Stark is full of himself, but he grew up in money and prestige and genius with a demanding and distant father. As such, Stark doesn’t care about much except having a good time when we are first introduced to him in Iron Man. He is child without adult supervision. He has fun whenever he can, however he can. He doesn’t care if the company is truly successful or how, just that it keeps him in money (i.e. fun). He has no real goals. It’s just party, party, party all the time.

He plays craps when he should be getting a prestigious award and gives that award away to a stranger on a whim, because awards from society or friends don’t matter.

He races his bodyguard/driver to get to his private jet, where he left his more serious friend to wait hours.

His flight attendants bring him drinks and double as strippers. It’s all fun. And it is all pointless. His lack of care is what almost got him killed. If he had been more on his guard, more involved with his company, he would have figured out that Stane was selling their weapons to terrorists and kicked him out long ago. But he didn’t care. He was having fun. What did Yensin say to him? “Don’t let your life be a waste.” Most everyone puts Tony Stark as either an ENTP or J. You can look up their profiles here and here.

Now compare that to the Doctor Strange we are introduced to at the beginning of the film. He prides himself on knowing useless information so that he can stump his coworkers, a way to one up them. He also prides himself on beating his coworkers down when they make a mistake. He’ll do this in front of everyone and make sure everyone knows that the gravity of his coworker’s mistake and that he’s the one to fix it. He wants to break new ground medically and wants procedures he creates named after him, even though he has to be reminded that he alone did not create those procedures. He loves going to award ceremonies for himself.

He has only the best home, only the best clothes, only the best accessories, and only the best cars.

Only the best.

All his past awards are displayed in a rather large and showy case, so that anyone who comes to his home knows just how awesome his is. He has to pass all other drivers to show that he is the best driver. He refuses to take cases that others can solve and refuses to take cases with a low probability of success. For him, everything is about status. Showing to the world around him that he is the best. That no one is as good as him at anything and that he is perfect and never fails. What does the Ancient One say to him? “You did it because of your fear of failure.” I would put Doctor Strange as an INTJ because he is a jack of trades when it comes to knowledge, has a great memory, doesn’t see the point in much social interaction, is a self learner, and rules that don’t make sense are ignored, but once they make sense from new information, they are followed. Others have agreed with this, while others disagree. But personality types are hard to lay out on a character in the first place, but the two in question are obviously not the same type.

Inciting Incidents

These two men are faced with very different psychological problems. There isn’t really a disorder for what Tony has (maybe there should be: HPD, hedonistic personality disorder?), but it is clear that Strange has NPD. Tony Stark is shown to have no fear of failure, and he shouldn’t because he is an inventor. They fail all the time. It’s a constant working through set backs and failed versions. We get three different Iron Man suits in the first movie. We get multiple tests that go haywire too. None of that seems to set Tony back at all. He just keeps going, working out the kinks. In fact, we laugh with him as he works them out. While his lack of care got him into trouble, that trouble got him out of his apathy. When Yensin dies, he suddenly has a reason to care. He realizes that by ignoring his company, innocent people were getting hurt and that was his fault. So he was going to do something about it. Failures be dammed.

Strange’s own psychological problems led to his own downfall as well, but Tony obviously recovered much quicker and better than Strange did. He could still work no problem. The car crash, caused by Strange’s desire to be the best at everything, resulted in the loss of his abilities as a doctor. This destroyed everything Strange had been working for all his life. He couldn’t work anymore. There would be no more awards, no more breakthroughs, no more adulation. He wasn’t just a failure; he couldn’t even try. Unlike Tony Stark, who became a better person for his inciting incident, all the worst traits of an NPD were maximized in Strange upon his accident. NPDs are hard enough to be around when they are successful, as they tend to rub everyone’s nose in their success, but they are far, far worse when they have failed. They lash out at the people around them in cruel and hurtful ways and may even become violent for it. So failure only worsens their condition, which is why Strange avoided it all his life and career. Strange becomes obsessed with fixing the cause of his failure as he sees it: his hands. The reality is that his failure came from his fear of it because he had to be the fastest driver. It is almost cruel of a writer to do what happens to Strange, not because he was such a nice guy, but because he was functioning somewhat well even if he couldn’t have healthy personal relationships.

The Journey

Tony Stark’s journey is pretty straight forward: shut down the weapons manufacturing, create a better suit to help the people his weapons have hurt. He gets a little side-tracked on the second part because it is more fun, thereby making it harder to do the first part. He’s still a little too focused on the fun. But it’s not much of a sidetrack really. Iron Man, by and large, is a very simple, plot-based movie, so it’s hard to give the hero’s journey too much attention. Tony actually keeps choosing the more fun options throughout most of the movies. Fun for Tony is also about what is most interesting from a scientific standpoint. That’s why he made Ultron. It’s not until after Ultron that Tony finally realizes that scientifically interesting may also mean dangerous. That takes quite a while.

Strange’s journey is more focused and interesting. He has to learn “that it’s not about [him]”. The Ancient One keeps recognizing exactly what’s wrong with Strange and saying it to him point blank. This is where things take an interesting turn from a psychological and social standpoint. NPDs never seek professional help, because they don’t think anything is wrong with them. After all, they are perfect, the best of the best. Everyone else has a problem. But when Strange loses the use of his hands and Western medicine cannot help him at all, he becomes so desperate that he is willing to look for answers in places that don’t have the kind of controls that modern medicine has. He has looked everywhere else for the answer, so now it’s time too look in the shadier corners. When he comes to the Ancient One, he believes that she is still a scientist, but that she is doing something illegal. When it turns out that she is more of a mystic than a scientist, he scoffs at her ideas. Until she blows his mind. Now we don’t have the ability to blow the mind of an NPD the way the Ancient One did, but if we did, I imagine it would have a profound psychological impact on them. After he asks her to teach him and she refuses, we see just how low Strange has been brought. He is there for hours, begging to be let back in. The last thing he says before they open the door is “I’ve got nowhere else to go.” Strange truly has been destroyed at this point. He is a complete and utter nothing. But when they open the door, amazingly, the first thing out of his mouth is a feeble “Thank you.” It gets a laugh, but it also shows something interesting. I do not believe that had he fallen through a door before he had been brought this low that he would have said “thank you.” Instead I believe he would have berated the person for opening the door while he was leaning against it. He has been changed. Finally.

But he is still arrogant and still afraid of failure. Well, a cure for a personality disorder doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. Now, some psychologists and laymen don’t believe that personality disorders can be cured, especially not NPD. It’s just who they are, right? Why else would they call it a personality disorder if it wasn’t a personality? Well, they’ve found that with certain treatments some people can lose symptoms of a personality disorder, thus sliding out of the DSM requirements to be diagnosed with that disorder. The one that seems to have some of the best results is borderline personality disorder, which with certain medications, one-on-one counseling, and group DBT therapy can cause actual recovery. The problem is that too many psychologists don’t try to get their patients to recovery, just through the day to day, and too many sufferers of personality disorders consider themselves unworthy of treatment, incapable of recovery, or, in the case of almost every NPD, perfectly fine the way they are. Now there is not a lot of research into if NPDs can recover because of the very fact that they don’t think anything is wrong with them. Doctors can’t research patients that don’t go to the doctor. But recovery from any ingrained psychological condition, especially one that took someone as far as it took Doctor Strange, is time consuming and not at all quick. So yes, Strange is still kind of a dick. But why is the Ancient One’s method’s working at all?

Many Western philosophies deal in the idea of the individual and the importance of each individual. Things such as subjectivity vs objectivity, perception, sensation, aesthetics, and signicance tend to run through most of these philosophies. Many Eastern philosophies, on the other hand, deal greatly with the unimportance of self, the destruction of the individual, sacrifice of self, all to achieve a greater unity with the world. NPD, which most laymen will understand is about narsicsim, is all about the self. The self is most important. Especially, the perception of others of that self. So perceptively, the Ancient One doesn’t buy the bull that Strange keeps trying to sell her. She repeatly calls him Mister and corrects him when he tries to correct her. Every time he tries to tell her who he is or what his motivations are, she calls him a liar. And he confirms what she says too. He has been brought low by his accident, then shown how insignificant he was when she showed him the multiverse, and she will not let him lie about who he is. He is experiencing a distruction of self. Whether he likes it or not. It’s interesting to note at this point that most psychological disorders do not cross cultures. The WHO is trying to come up with an international way of looking at psychology, but it seems that culture ties too tightly into what is considered disordered and how disorders form. As such, I’ve never heard of NPD in China and the like. An ingrained cultural sense that the self is unimportant may in fact prevent NPD altogether. So perhaps the correct treatment of NPD is the destruction of self.

Because what happens at the end? Doctor Strange is destroyed, and again, and again, and again, and again. And again, and again, and again. In fact, as he puts it he’s losing over and over again. Finally, Strange understands that failure is not to be feared. In fact, at times, it is the only way to succeed. It is also interesting to note that Dormammu was played by Cumberbatch as well, adding into the internal struggle metaphor of Doctor Strange. Not only did he set it up so that he would fail over and over again, but is also being destroyed by himself every time.

Now some would counter that Strange doesn’t really have NPD because he loves Christine and NPDs and some other personality disorders preclude the capability of love but I just believe it often precludes healthy expression or experience of love. No where in the DSM definitions of personality disorders does it list a symptom as “incapable of love”. It may say “poor interpersonal relationship skills” or something to that effect. So please stop saying these people are incapable of love. Strange displays the required number of symptoms to be diagnosed as a NPD, and by the end of the movie he has lost enough symptoms to be considered cured. He is humble and self-sacrificing. A complete 180.


Vs Iron Man

We just don’t get the kind of in depth character ark or metaphorical play in Iron Man that we got in Doctor Strange. It was the first attempt. They didn’t have much of a script. And they didn’t really know what they were doing. We’re now in phase three. The characters are starting to become better out the gate and the older ones, like Tony Stark, are becoming more complex real people as well. It’s not really until Iron Man 3 that we see that Tony can be vulnerable, it’s not until The Avengers: Age of Ultron that he allows fear to get the better of him, and it is not until Captain America: Civil War that we see him try truly to make up for the mistakes he made as Iron Man. Iron Man’s journey is actually the journey of the MCU. It’s all fun; whoa, things just got scary, better step it up a notch; crap, I went too far. In fact, in Iron Man it’s all fun even when killing people, which Tony has no compunctions about. Which makes sense given the fact that he grew up on the money of weapons manufacturing. Doctor Strange, on the other hand, is introduced in the “crap, I went too far” stage, so he kills one guy and is immediately upset by it. After all, he is a doctor. The Ancient One kind of calls BS on him again, but I don’t believe Strange is really lying when he says he’s upset for killing that man. He was fighting for his life and he gets that, but he’s not okay with how far he had to go. He didn’t want to be part of a mystic war. In fact, he said just that right before the fight started. Tony has no issues killing what he probably thinks of as “enemy combatants”. There is no moment of “Oh, my god. I killed someone” for Tony in the first movie. Probably because he knows as a weapons manufacturer he has blood on his hands and to him making and selling the weapons is no different than firing them. It is actually an admirable stance for Tony to take for it makes it clear that to him he is responsible and that is his fight in the first movie. But it is barely touched on. The whole movie is party and doesn’t go too deep into the ideas of responsibility or hedonism.

Finally the Facial Hair

Interestingly, Stan Lee has stated that Tony Stark was based on Howard Hughes and Doctor Strange was based on Vincent Price. Now, Stark was based on Hughes’ personality wise, the high-flying, the girls, the parties, etc. Strange was based on Price’s look. He’s often voiced in a Price kind of way too. Luckily, we didn’t get that in the movie from Cumberbatch who just played him straight. So the beards seem kind of like a coincidence to me. I’ve never quite gotten Stark’s facial hair to be honest. It’s just a very strange look, that they even did in the movie. It tends to go back along his jaw but not all the way along his jaw and up around his mouth but not to meet his mustache. That’s weird. They did eventually change it in the movies to just a bushy, dark van dyke so that it wasn’t so weird. Strange’s on the other hand is a pretty straight forward thin van dyke. I can dig that. It’s been done before. Stark’s not so much. Who the hell takes the time to do that to their face? Stark apparently. I guess he is rich. Probably has a barber come in and do it for him on a regular basis. They’ve also pretty much updated it in the comics too. For which, I’m glad.

Conclusion

Way better than Iron Man. Like a thousand times. And Iron Man is enjoyable. It’s just not got the depth and social implications and work that Doctor Strange has. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Doctor Strange as much as I did, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Ant-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy as much as I did either. My favorite Marvel characters are Spider-Man, Wolverine, Psylocke, Deadpool, and Black Widow, and so far Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Doctor Strange have been my favorite movies. It’s hard to please me when four out of five of my favorite characters are not readily available to MCU. Now Spider-Man is and I’ve been disappointed by what they’ve done with him so far. It’s hard to top Spider-Man 2 for story and character development. And I am not a fan of Iron Man knowing his identity as no one is supposed to know who he is. Overall, I think the greatness of Ant-Man, Guardians, and Strange come from the actors and/or great story and character development. Doctor Strange was directed by a (creative) fan of the character, which I believe we can all agree can be very important to the success of an adaptation. See below.


Here’s a singular idea: don’t direct it if you weren’t a fan. It means you didn’t understand or care about the central themes. That’s important to creating a new story with that IP. More than the world creation or plots. Scott Derrickson got that and that’s why he did such a good job with Doctor Strange: themes, not plots, matter.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

P.S.

I will be going to a double feature for Guardians fo the Galaxy tomorrow before it premiers on Friday, so look for my first thoughts this weekend. I usually like to watch a movie several times and think about it a while before I write my full review but I’ll try to give a recommendation at the very least. Happy watching and reading!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Craft of Writing

 

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A Lack of Respect: The Path to a Trump Presidency

A lot of people are upset with how things are going right now politically. Most people were angry throughout the entirety of the election. In fact, most people were angry before the election. But the dissatisfaction of the American people is at an all time high. But people on the left keep questioning how Trump, a man that was unrepentantly offensive, unintelligent, and selfish in their minds that there was no way he could win, is now president. There are answers to this. They reach back several decades and they involve both sides and others degrading the foundations of our democracy, insulating the fourth estate from unbiased thought, and the ignorance of history.

The Presidential Debate Commission

Before the Presidential Debate Commission control the Presidential debates, it was controlled by the League of Women Voters. The Leauge voted in complete agreement to pull their sponsorship of the debates in 1988. This is said to be due to demands made by the Democrat and Republican parties that in the League’s opinion would degrade the quality of the debates. In fact, the president of the League at that time stated that to meet their demands would be to “perpetrate a fraud on the American votes” and would be “hoodwinking the American public.” What demands were these? Well, after the League pulled out the CPD was formed. One of the biggest changes? Now the third parties needed 15% in specific polls to be allowed to debate. Since third parties don’t have major primaries to choose their candidate, the candidate does not have as much recognition as the two major party candidates. Before the best way for a third party candidate to get recognition were the debates. So by making this change, the CPD basically cut the American public off from their third options. Other changes include allowing candidates to see the questions beforehand. I don’t have too much of an issue with this, because I think it is pretty nice to be prepared. I can also understand that letting the candidates be surprised can be insightful.

What I have noticed, however, is that the debates have had a lower quality each election year. By lower quality, I mean, that candidates have displayed a lessening amount of decorum over the years. On both sides. They constantly undermine their opponent with eye rolling, head shaking, and other non-verbal methods. What’s next? Making the jack-off motion? Then there are the verbal methods: talking over each other, ad hominems, straw men, appeals to the crowd, and on and on. I’ve seen more decorum from high school debates. Hell, I’ve seen more decorum from elementary school debates. How is it that children who are still learning social rules can give a better quality debate than adults who claim to be professionals? I’d rather watch Rory Gilmore and Paris Geller eviscerate their opponents using sound logic and data to back it up, and THEY AREN’T EVEN REAL! This has been going on for decades. A lot of major party affiliated people have defended it to me by stating that the other side is doing it and their candidate would have no chance of winning if they also didn’t stoop low. Two wrongs don’t make a right and have some freaking integrity. Is it really any wonder that Trump flourished when the press, the CPD, and the major parties created an atmosphere that promoted fallacies, claims without backup, and disrespect? The press loves debates that are disrespectful because that’s interesting. The CPD wanted them to be a little crazy so ratings would go up for their sponsors. The major parties didn’t see how rapidly they were letting them get out of hand and weren’t willing to step up for their responsibility in making it worse, thereby deciding not to stoop low. They made a home for Trump. They made it clear to the American people that being the most disrespectful is what made you the better candidate because that’s how you won the debates, because apparently disrespect and strength are the same thing. I was sickened by the atmosphere all the way back to W in the debates, so when Trump came along all I could think is “He’s going to win.”

The Exclusion of Independents in Primaries

There were a lot of protests during the primaries from Independents and unaffiliated citizens who were mad that the primaries weren’t including them. I was upset by this as well. Not just because I personally wasn’t being heard, but because it is an extreme mark of stupidity from the major parties. It says: “Even though your vote counts in the major election, we aren’t interested in who you’d vote for. We know your vote could swing the election either way, but we don’t care who you’d rather have from us.” God forbid the major parties look after their own interests by seeing who the large chunk of Independent and unaffiliated voters would rather have. God forbid they act as if they care about those citizens. Making it insular like it currently is, is illogical. It means the parties are not putting forth their candidate with the best chance to win. Instead, they put forth the candidate that their party, and their party only, wants. Well, members of your party are not the only people voting. It is also a sure way to turn Independents and unaffiliated voters away in the main vote. The thought is “Well, you didn’t care about my opinion then, what makes you think I’ll believe you when you say you care about my vote now or what I want for the future later?” Way to go, you shot yourself in the foot. I believe the election would have had completely different candidates had others been allowed to vote in the primaries. I think we would have been looking at Bernie Sanders, D; Ted Cruz, R; Gary Johnson, L; and Jill Stein, G. I would have been happy with either of the major party candidates in that scenario. Instead, about half of the voting public didn’t vote at all in the 2016 election, which suggests extreme apathy over the two main candidates. The thought probably was “What’s the point? Neither of them represents what I want.” Apathy was probably one of the predominate feelings of this election, and I believe it came from the choices themselves. As everyone always says, third parties never win, so no point in voting for them, but if Clinton and Trump were both antithetical to your needs, no point in voting for them either. I feel the voter turn out would have been dramatically different had the primaries been more open to citizens. Because to those who had been excluded, the battle had already been lost.

The Media’s Private Circle

Everyone was so surprised. “I was surprised. Were you surprised? I was so surprised.” How could he have possibly won, they asked themselves. When the press kept telling them that Clinton was a shoe-in, how could he have won? The press lied, to themselves and to the American people. They wanted to believe that there was no way he could win. No way. He was a joke. They depicted him as a joke. A bad one. How could a joke win the highest political office? He can’t, right? No way. Well, wishes aren’t horses. Just because you believe it, just because you tell yourself it, just because everyone you know says it, doesn’t make it true. And that’s the biggest issue. Most of the media is owned by a handful of companies. One of them is right leaning, the rest lean to the left. Those that lean left are mostly made up of reporters who unabashedly say they are Democrats, and most of the people in major parties don’t spend any time with anyone from the other side or even in the middle. So in their personal lives, these journalists are surrounded by other Democrats. And their Democrat friends, coworkers, and family were all going to vote for Clinton. But it isn’t just a personal or professional bubble they are living in. It’s also regional. With the advancement of digital communication, most of the country knows the same twenty journalists, five news stations, five papers, and five magazines. They may not get all of the information, and they certainly don’t get it all from the original source material. Typically it comes from the websites of these stations, papers, and magazines. And their stories are run down the line to the local level. Recently I saw a joke on some show where they showed a compilation of news broadcasts around the whole country all using the exact same phrase on the same story. And they weren’t the same station only local. It was cross-station. It was funny at first, then horrifying to see just how far we’ve fallen that every single station not only runs the same national stories, with the same bias, but with the same phrases. I thought the video was about to end and then it went on longer and that’s when I just started screaming out loud. All of America is getting the news from New York and LA, whether or not we agree with how they view the state of things, whether or not their view is even applicable to the region, state, county, city, or community we live in. National events are covered by the same people with the same thoughts and they don’t search too far for their data. Well, what about polls from around the country that showed how she was leading? See below. The media thrived on wish fulfillment while reporting on the election. They wanted the first female president. They thought it was only logical that people would vote for her over him. They didn’t want to think that their personal opinions were wrong. They didn’t want to think that logic might lead to a different result overall. They didn’t want to believe they were a minority. They didn’t want to admit that the anger behind Trump supporters couldn’t just be brushed off. They didn’t want to admit that they had a hand in electing Trump by giving him the most airtime because they were using him for ratings and the time to laugh at him. “Shucks, what’s he gonna do next?” Win.

Identity-Politics and Rejection

It seems like politics has gotten more vitriolic recently. Some may argue that this is just perception bias, but I don’t think this is true. I think over the past few decades that adversarial tactics have been used more and more in politics. It has come down to shaming the other side. Finger-wagging seems to be the first response in any disagreement. While most of the worst of this shaming comes from the average jerk on the internet, our politicians are where we got it from. It’s why I can’t stand to see political news. The representatives of our country are constantly shaking their heads at the other side or the American people. Psychologically this is the poorest tactic for getting someone on your side. It only makes people feel unheard and rejected. Because trying evoke shame in a person means you are judging them and not listening to them. Now some people may say that we don’t have to listen to certain people because of what they are saying. That’s crazy. You know why? Because someone else will come along and listen to them and feed into the frustration they have felt from not being heard and being put down and take advantage of them. Does that sound like anyone you’ve heard of?

The hardest part is when there is a large group of people in the middle who are told by both sides that they should be ashamed. These aren’t the extremists. These are people who just don’t fall into easy black and white categories. And each side rejects them by assuming they are of the other side. What’s most ridiculous about this is the fact that political ideology is not even just a one dimensional sliding scale. It actually has a y axis too. I suggest everyone find out where they are on that graph and retake the test every four years. I myself am literally a centrist on that graph, smack dab in the middle, so being called a libtard or a fascist is incredibly shocking. Based on one issue, a person will decide what you are, died in the wool, and no amount of stating your opinions on the myriad of other issues will ever change how they feel. Things are far more complex than that. There are always more than two choices. The world is not simple, no matter how much we wish it were. So please, stop using an us versus them mentality to “discuss” politics, because let’s face it, it’s not a discussion if name calling and shaming tactics are used. Those are ad hominems and don’t help anyone. This is also why a large amount of people didn’t even want to say who they voted for or previously, who they were planning to vote for, because everyone was so angry and mean for the answer given. Repeatedly telling the people in the middle that they are the other side or that they are stupid for not choosing your side are both horrible tactics for getting them to vote for your side or to even get an honest answer out of them in polling and conversation. Losing the middle, who always sway the vote because they eventually pick one of two sides if they are willing to give up their dreams of a middle candidate, is the surest way to lose the election. While most of this came at its most extreme from everyday people, a milder version came from major party players in the Democrat party; thereby, ensuring a major loss. This just didn’t work. Obviously.

Tired of the Same Old People: Republican or Democrat

People have been upset with the two choices they’ve been given for decades. In my speech class during my undergrad, I gave a speech about Independent voters and how the numbers were actually much higher than the two parties would have you know because a little less than half of voting Americans don’t vote for a candidate or party but against the other side. That’s a lot of dissatisfied people, and that was about a decade ago. My guess is the numbers only went up past the half-way mark. The conclusion of my speech was that people should vote for third party candidates that more represented them and that the statement that this is a wasted vote is circular logic. It perpetuates itself. If everyone in the next election had never heard that statement before and just voted for who they wanted, then no Republican or Democrat would stand a chance because people are sick of them. Hillary Clinton was just more of the same. Not as in she’s just Bill 2.0, but that she’s just like any other candidate they’d seen before, only now this one comes in double XX flavor as if that might spice her up a bit. It didn’t. She was just as selfish and into the special interests as any other major party candidate has been for the last few decades. So a big chunk of America decided to skip the middle man and go straight for the special interest himself. He was like nothing before seen in that he was obviously lying, in it for himself and his buddies, and arrogant, instead of being all those things and hiding it well. (Jaded, you say? I raise you with Frustrated.)

The Republican party didn’t really want Trump as their candidate. Some of them did, but a lot of them turned to third party candidates as the election went on. Not that it helped them turn the tide to a more believable Republican candidate, and a large amount of the party stood behind their candidate, no matter how crazy and unintelligent he seemed because the people seemed to like him. He wasn’t like any of the more legitimate candidates they put forth. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is just like all the other candidates before except for one thing. This one thing was not enough to distinguish her from the previous candidates and suggests that those people who were disillusioned with all the previous candidates didn’t put much emphasis on that one difference because, to be honest, her sex has very little to do with her political leanings and practices which like many previous candidates have been in flux over the course of her career. For example in leanings, voting for the Iraqi invasion or not supporting homosexual rights. For example in practice, using a private email server without a cleared and established IT security team. Whether or not that is illegal or deliberate obfuscation, it is at the very least poor IT safety and shows a lack of forethought and a high level of incompetence. Some people find those attributes more dangerous than deliberate treason. Most people are tired of incompetence and unethical actions in our politicians, especially when they get away with it. Right-leaning press were given ample ammunition against her in a cultural climate that had had enough. Did they blow it out of proportion? Probably. But this was a barn full of hay and all the press did was fan the flames.

Hillary Clinton and the DNC vs Bernie Sanders

A large amount of Democrat and third party citizens wanted Bernie Sanders as their candidate. He was well spoken, he didn’t pull any punches when it came to what the people needed and who was standing in their way, and he has been pretty steadfast in his political leanings since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. It says a lot of a person who sticks to his guns for that many decades. I’ve never questioned whose side Sanders is on, and by sides, I mean special interests versus the people. Sanders, while I don’t agree with all the ways he wants to do things, has always wanted to help the people. Sanders should have been the Democrat candidate. He had a much larger support group in the people than Hillary Clinton, including a large group of Independents and non-affiliated voters. For some reason that I just can’t really fathom, the Democrat party wanted Hillary Clinton over him. They and she did everything they could to put him down and promote her. Some of it was underhanded and unethical. That alone put off a large amount of voters because it made them feel unheard and that the whole thing was dirty. The press was also part of this and often didn’t report on Sanders. She really messed up and put a lot of people off when she was going on about how she had fought for health care for all and didn’t know where Sanders was during all that, when he had been right freaking behind her at many of the rallies and that could be seen on video as she gave her health care speeches. Talk about a gaff. It was a low-handed jab that couldn’t even land. It looked like bullying. The whole primary the media and the Democrat party pushed him down and pushed her to the forefront, trying to sell her. America didn’t buy it. The delegates did, but the citizens wanted him.

The History of Post Two-Term Presidency

Hillary Clinton had been told from early adulthood that she was probably going to be the first female president. That might have been true, but it also seems to have gone to her head, because it is the only thing I can think of to explain the absolutely poor timing of her bid. Not only were the citizens tired of the same old people, but there is a history associated with post two-term presidencies like Obama’s. After two terms of one party holding the presidency, the citizens almost always choose the other party candidate. The likelihood of a Democrat president after Obama’s second term were close to nil. No matter who was running, and since Hillary Clinton was just like previous Democrat candidates, she brought nothing to the ring to differentiate herself which is why early polling only showed her beating Trump and no other Republican. Bernie Sanders did have a lot to differentiate himself which is why that same early polling showed him beating all the Republicans. I’m not sure why she felt that this was her only chance. I’m sure that had she waited for a riper environment she could have won. But after this election and how she and the party handled it, I’m not sure she will ever be considered a viable candidate again.

The Danger of Arrogance and Moral Superiority in Progressives

I’ve heard a lot of people put off by the vehemence of Progressives. The you’re-with-us-or-against-us mentality and the downright outrage the most vocal of them show off is a lot like the emotions at a Trump rally. Or from Hitler’s supporters, I imagine. What makes it worse though, more dangerous in my opinion, is the idea that history is on their side. It’s like they think they have a crystal ball or Cassandra in their corner. They are so sure they are right, because how could minority rights or entitlement rights be wrong? Bring up more complex sides of these topics or ideologies that are at odds with how these are implemented, like less federal control, and be ready to be shouted down into oblivion or at the very least spoken to with contempt and disdain for your intelligence and personal leanings that can only come from a sense of moral superiority and the arrogance of knowing the future. Everything is always more complex that two choices. Always. I have never heard of a situation that is truly black and white, unless I’m literally looking at a Yin Yang, and even that is more complex because of those two inner circles. So the attitude of “But I have concerns over x” is a completely reasonable one to have when it comes to politics. In fact, you should always have concerns because politics, federal and state legislation and policy, economic reaction to such, and social result is a highly complex system and can never be seen in crystal clarity. So no, you can’t know the future. Is wanting everyone to have access to affordable, good healthcare right? Yes, absolutely. But it is not so easy to just make it happen. Forcing everyone to have insurance is probably not the best way to go about it. Insurance at all is not the best way to go about it. But socialized medicine has its own problems. A young woman in Canada was going to have to wait several years to get a hip replacement, but gained the system by being a volunteer at the hospital, but she still had to wait more than a year. Socialized medicine can be extremely slow and doesn’t allow for much medical research. But insurance also doesn’t allow for much medical research and often means people go without proper medical care. Neither is perfect. And like with most things, I suggest a more central approach. And this is just one of many dozens of issues that politics tries to address. So this or that is not going to solve any of them, and as such this adversarial attitude won’t work. It and belligerence don’t get people to vote for a candidate either. Do I think all Progressives are like this? No, obviously not. And of course some Traditionalists are also like this. I don’t believe any group is homogeneous. But aggressive Progressiveness is dangerous because it believes that history will say it was right, which means a barrelling forward without looking to unintended consequences or the pain it will cause others. Certainty is by far one of the most dangerous feelings. It promotes arrogance and stubbornness and an inability to see what went wrong. And I think the more vitriolically verbal members of Progressiveness put a lot of people off. Those same people knew that the similar Traditionalists were trying to roll back the clock, and that just seems like trying to push back a waterfall. There was arrogance visible in other ways, such as a lack of emphasis on the importance of internet campaigning or campaigning in Michigan (that’s a sure bet, right? No need to focus on that state too much). These kinds of things built on each other until a lot of the voting public was sick of it.

Pride Goeth, Right?

The day they announced the winner was an odd one for me. I opened Facebook, big mistake, after already knowing who had won, and someone in my feed posted this: “Fuck Gary Johnson!” Most of the posts from my leftist friends were like this, and of course, my right-sided friends were all happy. Me and and other centrists and libertarians felt like we came close, with Johnson at 3%, when we were all hoping for 5%. I can’t help but think that some people didn’t learn anything, because thinking that third parties were the biggest factor in the Democrat loss ignores so many other factors. Did the Russians have a had in it? Probably in the same way the US had a hand in swaying elections in other countries during the Cold War (or as it seems the DNC did in the RNC primaries), only we’re way more outraged by their influence even though they probably won’t be able to influence us into military coups like the US did to those countries that the Socialist parties were more successful. Isn’t history fun? But getting back to the point, I don’t believe that the Russians could have swayed the vote without all the other factors involved. I was actually pleased when Trump won, not because I wanted a Trump presidency or looked forward to the changes he would (try to) implement.

But because I hoped this election would be wake up call. The old way of doing things doesn’t work. You can’t promote negativity and sensationalism and expect the person best at those things to lose. You can’t piss on everyone else’s opinions as being outright wrong and get enough people on your side to win. You can’t ignore the internet, because the TV isn’t enough anymore. You can’t brush off incompetence. You can’t ignore what the people obviously want just because you think you know better than them or you just want it your way. The US is not a giant Burger King, the voting public are not the employees, and the political parties are not the customers. The parties are here to serve the public. They should allow as many people as possible, even those not in their party, to vote in primaries. That is the only way to guarantee the best possible candidates that appeal to the most people. Then the main election can be close like it was in 2016, only it will be between two people that the public actually wants.

I feel like this election has severely damaged both parties, the Democrat party more so. I’m pleased by that, because when I think “Drain the swamp”, I think of new parties, not just new politicians. I do not believe that either party represents a large portion of the population. Even if they were to stick around, I would at least appreciate if a third option were more viable. About 42% of eligible voters didn’t turn out. If democracy is about representing the people, then we are failing. I certainly feel as though my government as failed me. Not because my party lost, but because I don’t feel like my government cares about my or like-minded people’s opinions. Our votes don’t count, because under the current system, we aren’t even represented. Should we dump some tea into the harbor? Would that get your attention? While I don’t feel represented, I still vote, but I don’t vote for one of the two. I can always hope for that 5% for a libertarian or another third party closer to representing who I am. But the Democrat and Republican parties have prevailed in beating the hope out of so many people, so they don’t vote or they don’t vote for who they really want. With this election though, it feels like it might be changing. The two parties seem desperate to prevent a sea change, much like the oil companies, but once change starts taking over society, much like the growing consensus that gas has got to go, it’s downright impossible to stop. It’s not as if political parties in the US haven’t died before. I say let ’em fall. The walls that divide us have become bloated and unstable. The anger and violence are the signs of the instability. We can only do what we think is right. We can only stand firm in the wake the desperation and calmly say “No. We want something different. We deserve better.”

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Star Wars: Why I Don’t Like It

Whoa! Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, understand that I don’t like Star Wars, but not because I’m a bad person or because I don’t like sci-fi. I love sci-fi, but Star Wars is not on my list of must haves for sci-fi. I love 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: First Contact, Terminator, Fifth Element, and Interstellar. Now, yes, I like Star Trek better than Star Wars, but I don’t compare the two and think one is better than the other. Instead, I don’t like Star Wars, and I like Star Trek. They aren’t all that comparable, and I’m not going to in this post. Much. Instead, I’m going to go over all the reasons that make Stars Wars not as good as it could be. Now first off, I haven’t read any of the books or comic books nor watched any of the shows. Like CinemaSins, to me, the books don’t matter. The movies are all the average person gives a crap about and they are the original versions of the story. So let’s dive in. Beware, spoilers below.

The Prequels

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Clear cut fans of Star Wars would have me ignore these entirely, but fanboys think these movies are good, and their suckage should be explained. And they suck for several reasons, not all of them exclusive to being prequels. Comparatively though, they are far worse than the original series.

The Acting

Now, I’m in complete agreement with CinemaSins when they state that every sin in acting in the prequels is actually a sin for George Lucas. The actors of the prequels had nearly no say in any of their performances, from intensity of tone to the circumstances of their lines and body language. Much of this can be seen in Hayden Christianson’s performance, especially in Attack of the Clones. He is sooooo whiny. But as ScreenJunkies pointed out, so was Luke in A New Hope, so most likely this was a decision made by Lucas, not Christianson. Lucas can’t think of teenage boys in any other way than whiny. Admittably, they usually are, as are teenage girls, but that’s not necessarily something an audience wants to see. Unfortunately, for audiences of Attack of the Clones, Lucas decided to showcase Anakin’s whininess far more than Luke’s was in A New Hope, making him nearly unbearable.

Besides that, one way that the acting fell extremely short is the woodenness of the performances from such amazing and award winning actors as Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman. Portman, let’s not forget, was nominated for an Oscar when she was a little girl and would go on to win one after the dreadful prequels for Black Swan. But Portman, like all good actors, needs good direction. Her performance in V for Vendetta, while amazing, fell short in a few spots. And she’s quite dull in the MCU Thor movies which is possibly why she’s not returning. The problem with the acting in the prequels wasn’t just that the actors may have not been giving it their all but also that the director wasn’t more demanding of their performances. He seemed perfectly satisfied with very mundane takes. I’m sure on the editing floor that all the takes were poorly performed and that had they chosen the worst takes that the performances could not have been much worse. But besides the poor direction, what made their acting quite so god awful?

Acting is reacting. This is a very old acting saying. It is also very true. And sadly during the prequels, the actors had very little to react to. Not just from their costars that were in the room with them, but also from those costars that weren’t on set with them. How about the fact that in Attack of the Clones Portman takes a bite of a pear slice that isn’t even there? Or all the reaction shots to amazing sights that also weren’t there? CGI benefits audiences by being exactly what the director envisioned and it benefits the studio for now being cheaper than using actual sets. It does not benefit the actors in their performances. It’s hard to react to something that isn’t actually there. It turns actors into mimes and children playing pretend. This isn’t such a bad thing with a little bit of CGI here and there, but the prequels were mainly CGI. It made the performances of the actors seem somewhat silly on top of being wooden at times.

The Writing

Direction and acting are not the only issues with these movies, of course. The starting point, the story and dialogue with which some of the story is conveyed, is also awful. As Mr. Plinket explained in his Red Letter Media reviews of Star Wars, the plot was far too complicated, with multiple climaxes happening at once, and the characters were undeveloped. It is important for stories to be complex, but it is especially important for a movie to come to a single boiling point where everything is wrapped up, not only at the same time but also within the same climatic action. What does that mean exactly? It means subplots and the main plot all need to be resolved within the same scene. Watch the first prequel. In it we have the Queen running an insurgent attack, Anakin in a fighter in the space battle, the two jedi fighting Darth Maul, and Jar Jar Binks taking part in the droid battle. The movie jumps between the four scenes, all of them with completely different tones. None of our main characters are working together. Now watch Marvel’s The Avengers. At the end of this movie, we have our heroes spread out over several blocks of New York, but all battling the same army, all with the same major goal. The same is true in Galaxy Quest. The crew split up, but they are all on the ship together, fighting to save it, then they all come together on the bridge for the actual final battle against Saris. Showing us four different fights, with four different goals, with some of those fights being huge, means that our characters’ actions don’t affect the other characters’ situations right now. Jar Jar Binks’ hijinks on the battlefield have no affect on the jedi fight. So why even show us what Jar Jar is up to?

We don’t care what Jar Jar does, because we don’t care about this character. We also don’t really care about Anakin. We frankly have a hard time caring about any of the characters in these movies because there is really nothing but costume and position to them (as again Mr. Plinket pointed out). Think about Daredevil season one, not only do we root for Matt, but we also root for Wilson Fisk, even if they are at odds. We feel sympathy for both characters. When watching the prequel films, we don’t feel sympathy for any of them. What do any of them actually want? Why do they want it? How are their goals at odds? What will they do if they don’t get what they want? These are important questions that the writers of the prequels never really addressed, so it’s hard for the actors to convey what no one knows, and it’s even harder for an audience to suss it all out and then feel something about that when the focus is on fancy, shiny fights and boring, talky plot points.

The Money-Making Aspects

A lot from the prequels is about making money. The flashy costumes, the different aliens, the pods and spaceships, the light sabers (you thought Anakin kept losing his light saber for story? That doesn’t hold water when Luke is supposed to have his dad’s light saber), and the fact that they were made at all. Did we need more Star Wars? Did we ask for more Star Wars? Most of us did not. We didn’t ask for all those crappy re-edits and remasterings of the originals either. Most of us were content to let it go. But Lucas and co wanted money. This is why there are so many characters, so many costumes, so many different aliens (pretty much none of which were in the original series). So instead of trying to make a good new Star Wars movie (guess what? Not everything needs to be a freaking trilogy) with a good story and in depth characters with interesting motivations, we instead got overly marketed crap that looked like Lucas ate a box of crayons and a tube of glitter glue then vomited into a camera. That’s why, more than any other reason, these movies weren’t good.

The Most Recent Prequel: Spoilers and Spoiled on Rogue One

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I just watched this. It was hard to get through the first half. It had a lot of the prequels’ issue of too much talking and not enough character development. But I will say this and it means a lot: it is the best prequel of any series that I have ever seen. Why? Because the ending was completely unexpected to me. Now, that sounds like a really stupid or impossible statement for a prequel, but it is possible due to the fact that the story of Rogue One is vague from A New Hope. What do we know? Leia ends up with the Death Star plans and a lot of people died for those plans. That’s it. And considering how much Disney wants to make money off of this IP, it was a bold move to go for the ending they did. Some people, however, complained that the tone of A New Hope’s scenes about the actions of Rogue One is completely at odds with what happened in Rogue One: mentions of spies and a diplomatic meeting, the idea that the Empire doesn’t know for certain that the plans to the Death Star have been stolen or that the Death Star has been sabotaged. There was nothing spy-like about Rogue One and saying that Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO’s infiltration was spying is quite a stretch to my mind. The closest character to being a spy in the movie is Jyn’s father, but he’s not even that because the Rebels think he’s on the side of the Empire.

My Biggest Problem with the Movie

Character Development. First of all: our main two characters are played by the two relatively inexperienced actors: Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. They can’t do the work this script required. They very rarely bring enough depth in the stilted scenes of the first half of the movie that is required since they are given so little to work with. Poor character development is really the fault of writers and directors, but a good actor usually can make an audience get an idea of a character without many lines. Unfortunately, neither of them were really pulling it off. I felt bad for Jones for having so many moments wherein I imagine the script said Look conflicted/sad/angry, instead of giving her an action or line to work with. At one silent point, I thought maybe she was about to vomit. I was wrong. Luna’s character was also a confused mess, the script seemed not to understand the difference between complex and complicated. In his first scene, he kills an ally, for the good of the alliance I suppose, but then doesn’t shoot her father in a later scene. I have no idea what changed his mind about being a stone cold killer for the alliance or why he doesn’t believe her when she tells him her father is innocent or why he then changes his mind and believes her. Again, we don’t know what either of these people really want. When Jyn suddenly decides to care, I couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind the change in motivation. Possibly, because I couldn’t understand her motivation beforehand, though I knew she didn’t seem to care about the fight before. Nor was I sure why she didn’t care. I saw one review in which they said she believed her father was a traitor to the Empire until she saw the message. I didn’t get that sense at all. I got the sense that she believed that her father was kidnapped by the Empire and possibly dead, like her mom. Though, there isn’t much to go on in the beginning of the movie for character development, so any interpretation of her inner thoughts and feelings is valid, which is a major problem.

And they aren’t the only people suffering from a lack of motivation. The others included Zatoichi and his more Dakka buddy. It was understandable why they got on Cassian’s ship. What isn’t clear is why they stuck with him and Jyn throughout the whole movie. Just saying that Zatoichi was following the guiding Force, and his more Dakka buddy was along for the ride, seems like a cop out writing-wise. The Force being the answer whenever the writers can’t come up with a motivation is a little lame. And then there was wheezy and heavy handed Whitaker (again, I don’t really blame him too much for his performance; it’s obvious someone asked him to perform that way), whose motivations were all just “he’s lost his mind”. Even crazys have some kind of internal logic usually based on magical thinking and his didn’t seem to follow any path of reasoning. Even a loopy path. Speaking of would-be crazys, I kept expecting the pilot to do something insane that nearly screwed everything up based on what Whitaker said would happen to the pilot after having that creature probe his mind. I guess, losing one’s mind is just a very, very temporary thing in that case. And as always, there wasn’t enough Alan Tudyk. Just like Transformers 3, 28 Days, and A Knight’s Tale, there is never enough Alan Tudyk. At times, when Cassian would tell him to wait on the ship, I hoped, I prayed, that we would also stay on the ship, so I could see Alan Tudyk shine more. Some might accuse him of simply reprising his role from I, Robot, but the truth is that Sonny was never as acerbic as K-2SO. Nor was K-2SO a carbon copy of C3PO, though his name is very similar for obvious marketing reasons.

All this lack of character development and motivation meant that the last half of the movie, wherein all the greatest moments of character, what with their points of decision, fell somewhat flat because we weren’t sure what we were expecting in the first place. And the final moments of each character was less interesting and impactful than they could have been.

The Worst Moments

When Jyn is trying to “escape” her “rescuers”. I feel like we’ve been here before in other movies. I’m sure this was about showing how “tough” she was, but there was no real reason given for this. I can suss out that maybe Jyn was afraid that these rescuers were after something more sinister since no one is all that friendly in this universe, but that’s not shown in the movie. That’s not work a viewer should do; it’s work the movie should do for the viewer.

Twenty-five minutes into the film, we get a flashback to scenes we watched twenty minutes ago. Thank you for your concern, movie, that I may have suffered a blow to the head in those twenty minutes, but I can assure you I was fine. I not only did not forget what happened at the beginning of the movie but also figured out that the adult woman played by Jones was the little girl from the beginning of the movie just all grown up.

When Whitaker and Jones are stiltedly arguing about how they parted, I couldn’t help but wish that the flashbacks from the point above had been replaced with flashbacks of their parting instead. Show, don’t tell.

When Jyn just had to save that little girl. It’s “character development” but I can name tons of movies that have already done it. The first that comes to mind is Spider-Man. Cliche: kid in the middle of chaos just stands there with no adult supervision just waiting for the chaos to take their life. Enter the main hero to usurp evoloution’s right to take out the person with the least amount of survival instincts. Non-cliche: kid does that and the hero shouts at the kid “Run! You’ve got legs, you idiot!” It may not be nice but at least it isn’t pat. Oh, yeah. That kid died like a couple of hours later along with everyone else in that city, so I’m so glad we had to watch Jyn do that.

Cassian having to stop to watch Jyn be a “badass” in the middle of a fight because the only character development we get is “she’s good at fighting.” But this is another cliche moment. Man watches woman kick ass because she doesn’t need his help.

Zatoichi standing up to fight all of the storm troopers. I double-face-palmed at that moment. ZATOICHI! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the original Zatoichi, but I’m really tired of seeing him pop up in other IPs. Not that I mind Ip Man actor, Donnie Yen. I’m just tired of Zatoichi being in everything (Looking at you Daredevil!).

Every time K-2SO left the screen. Come back, Alan!

When everyone was all split up around the platform that Galen Erso and Olson Krennic were having their confrontation on. What was Jyn trying to do? Why did Zatoichi and his more Dakka buddy leave the ship? Why didn’t Cassian take the shot? I would have much rather have a really tense scene between Erso and Krennic uninterrupted by these questions.

Stardust, stardust, stardust. Remember that word. It’s important. To help you remember, the movie will continuely say it just to be sure. You know, the head injury we suffered earlier makes remembering hard.

Darth Vader’s first scene which was somewhat pathetic in trying to be cool and failing.

The war room scene wherein for seemly no reason Jyn wants to give a rousing speech to the people who have been in charge of the rebellion for years but now just want to give up.

“We’ll find them. We’ll find a way to find them.” The second sentence does not inspire confidence in this mission.

The many, many, many complications of the ending. Let’s go through the list: they don’t know which file is the Death Star plans, they have to work a giant claw to get the file, they have to get a message through the force field to the rebel fleet because they don’t know they’re sending them the file, they need to flip a master switch to get that message out, they also need to hook something up to their communicator to get that message out, oh and the cord isn’t long enough and they’re being shot at, the claw shut down and now they have to jump across a chasm to grab the file, they have to climb the massive filing cabinet to get to the satellite at the top of the building risking falling to a very Star Warsy death, they’ve got to jump through a giant sphincter to get to the satellite (this is very much a Galaxy Quest problem: “What’s the point of a bunch of choppy crushy things in the middle of a hallway?”), the fleet has to destroy the shield being guarded by two destroyers, the satellite is out of alignment, the control panel for the alignment is out on the end of a walkway that risks an even more Stars Warsy death, the sky battle took out the walkway and made it harder to get back to the other panel that will allow the file to be transferred, and the bad guy is standing there with a gun. How about we just boil it down to there are troopers and bad guys in the way instead of these several video game objective-like complications? We didn’t need that many problems. It was already hard. Did they want to pad the time? They could have done that with character development.

How in the world did Cassian get up there? He could barely move. Is the movie trying to convince me he acrobated his way through the slicing sphincter with a lame arm? Doubtful.

Having to watch the individual deaths of Zatoichi, his more Dakka buddy, and the pilot when the whole place exploded literally minutes later.

The Best Moments

Alan Tudyk. I’m not sure how much I’m going to address this point, but I figured I’d bring it up at least one more time.

When K-2SO grabs the grenade out of the air and casually tosses it at the approaching troopers.

The lack of a bunch of new aliens taking center stage. Thank. You. We didn’t need more of that.

K-2SO trying to pretend that he’s taking Cassian and Jyn as his prisoners to a prison because they are his prisoners.

When they put the bag over Zatoichi’s head and he lost it, reminding them he was blind.

Cassian confronting Jyn about how long he’s been in the war and how she needs to get over herself since the war isn’t about her specifically and other people have suffered too and that meant making hard decisions that weren’t pretty. Hey, this movie just got serious.

How everyone died. I wasn’t expecting it. I knew people would die, but I wasn’t expecting that everyone involved in getting the plans, excepting Leia who just got them handed off to her like a bloody relay race, would die. It was somewhat impressive that Disney didn’t try to milk the characters for another two movies. It was bold which is somewhat sad that not turning something into is trilogy is now a bold move.

Darth Vader’s final scene in which he became the walking nightmare of the rebels. Their screams for help were so intense and real, and while I know before the scene that the plans make it out of that hallway, it was so terrifying that I actually was afraid that all would be lost. That was the moment he became cool. Also, good job showing him outclass all of those rebel soldiers without making them look like goobers as they did with the other Jedis in the prequels.

That Cassian and Jyn didn’t kiss. This wasn’t a romance and I was afraid they may try to make it one. I mean, they only knew each other for a couple of days.

In Conclusion

The first half of the movie was mostly painful, but it had its moments. The climax was overly complicated but tied the movie up well. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I just wish the characters had been better developed so that the ending was more impactful.

The Original Films

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The Basics

We can all remember these movies fondly, especially when we compare them to the prequels. But every time I rewatch them, I can’t help but have things pop into my head that question just how good these movies really are (like when I rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark recently). We know that for the most part the stories were cribbed from much older work, which can be okay. It’s a hero’s journey meets some old samurai flicks. I don’t have much of a problem with that because there is a lot in the Star Wars universe that wasn’t taken from somewhere else. The specifics, the tech, the aliens, the look. That’s all very original. Or the sources are very well hidden. Leia and Han’s relationship is very much It Happened One Night, but I loved that movie and Star Wars gave it a good homage. Luke was a little whiny, but he grew throughout the three movies and really progressed as a person in his hero’s journey. But the movies have some glaring inconsistencies that refute the idea that Lucas had all of it planned out perfectly before they were moving forward.

Luke and Leia’s kiss is the biggest one. Most writers and directors run like mad from the idea of incest unless that is the whole point of the story they are trying to tell. I, like many others, don’t believe that they had a plan given that scene and the intensity of the kiss to make Luke and Leia siblings. With that point in mind, we’re left to wonder how Luke contacted Leia when he had nearly fallen to his death. Fans often state that it is because they knew she would be a force user as Yoda stated that there was “another”, but I don’t believe they knew who that was going to be. Maybe Lucas did know that Leia was supposed to be Luke’s sister but Empire director, Kershner, or writers, Brackett and Kasdan, didn’t know that and didn’t know who he wanted the other to be. Leia being the other force user on the light side came as a let down anyway. First of all, hindsight said it had to be her or Han because it was doubtful it was going to be someone we hadn’t yet seen or that it would be sound board and muscle man, Chewy. It was a let down though to find out it was Leia because nothing really came of it. She didn’t do anything with this potential. We find out in The Force Awakens that she didn’t do anything with it in all those years either. Like finding out you’re a magical paladin isn’t exciting? I’m not sure why they even teased us with the potential of another Jedi, and a female one, if they weren’t going to do anything with it. It almost feels archaic that nothing came of it.

The other big inconsistency that HISHE has brought up is the idea that Darth Vader is only finding about his children decades after they were born and doesn’t react at all. Not only does he have kids he didn’t know about, but they are fighting on the other side. No, no reaction. No excitement. No regret. No shock. Nothing. This is not how anyone reacts to finding out they have kids they didn’t know about, especially a person who is supposed to be steeped in emotion. We know that they kept Vader’s identity secret from the actors to ensure that it wasn’t leaked but the utter lack of reaction from Vader more likely suggests that there was no plan to make him Luke’s father until the second movie was in the works. It’s called subtext and Vader lacks it completely in the first movie. It also seems that at the end Vader forgot that he tortured Leia; otherwise, he may have expressed some regret for that one thing in particular.

These are minor compared to issues the other movies had. The original three are still pretty good movies with just some fridge logic problems that can be ignored. But those aren’t the only problems these movies suffer from. See below.

The Endless Re-editing

HAN SOLO SHOT FIRST!

I’m sure I don’t have to say much more than that . . . but I will. This has gotten so annoying. I’m never sure which version I will be talking about in a conversation because I haven’t seen every version of these movies. What I know for certain is that no one who knows gun laws would consider Han’s actions in the original version to be out of line. He had a gun on Han and was planning basically to kidnap him. No one thinks Han is in the wrong for shooting first because the situation was already life threatening. No need to wait for the bounty hunter to shoot first. None. Just like there is no need to constantly re-edit these movies in the first place. Oh, CGI didn’t exist in the ’70s and ’80s? Who cares? It existed in the ’90s, and try watching a movie with CGI from that decade without laughing at how bad the CGI is. It’s just as bad and frankly out of place in the original Star Wars trilogy. We didn’t ask for it. We don’t need it. Not in those movies.

Episode VII: Mary Sue Much?


Someone gave me free tickets to go see this movie, so I didn’t even pay to see The Force Awakens, but I still feel cheated. I don’t buy hype for one thing. The more a movie, game, or book is hyped, the more suspious I am. I was very much prepared going into the theatre to be disappointed. And the movie didn’t let me down by letting me down. The opening shot was very much original Star Wars, dynamic and interesting, but the plot and characters were so bad that everything went downhill once people came on screen.

First off, The Force Awakens is just a remake of A New Hope. Another person trying to escape with important information but is captured but manages to send a droid off with that information. Another desert planet where our young hero is stuck and trying to get by but finds the droid with the important information. Due to this, hero gets whisked away on an adventure where they will have to learn about the force and grow, but first they have to call the Milenium Falcon a piece of junk. The bad guy wears a mask and dresses all in black and is “scary”. Hero makes friends along the way that they don’t get along with completely but come to love. They’ve got to get that important information to the rebels. The “I’ve got a bigger penis than the first guy” new Death Star blows up more planets. The old man who’s supposed to be guiding the hero dies. They blow up the “bigger penis” Death Star and there’s a big celebration. Hooray. I was so glad to be forced to watch A New Hope again. Maybe that is the awakening force, forcing audience members who may have again developed amnesia to watch this forty year old movie again. I’m not sure, but the plot was so old at this point that I don’t think any of us needed to see it again.

There seems to be a trend these days in movies of making “bad-ass” female characters. I wouldn’t have a problem with that if it weren’t also a trend that these women are cardboard cutouts with no real inner life (i.e. motivation) and if they weren’t just Mary Sues. Rey is so much of a Mary Sue that it is frankly painful to watch her. Due to the fact that this is just a remake of A New Hope, it brings up comparisons of pacing to the original, so I end up comparing Rey to Luke at first. Then Han Solo. Then Luke again. She is a better pilot than Luke with basically no flying experience. Luke at least knew how to fly a ship. We have no indication that Rey has experience. She’s also better at flying the Milenium Falcon than Han Solo without a good copiolot. She’s also better at mechanics than Han Solo even on the Milenium Falcon which is his ship. Then in one movie, she manages, without a Jedi master helping her, to handedly fight a Sith Lord with master training in a light saber fight, practice telekinesis, and mind control. Compare that to Luke’s pace: one master in the first movie and sucks at light saber fights, second master in the second movie and he learns telekinesis and still isn’t that good at light saber fights, and then in a third movie his second master dies and he knows mind control and is much better at light saber fights. The only possible answer I would accept for why she outpaced Luke so much and without any reasonable setup in the The Force Awakens is if she was literally the Force itself.

But if that is not the answer, then she is way too OP on just the Force use. And even if that is the answer, she’s still OP with the Force and the mechanical and flight abilities. If you’ve ever played a Star Wars RPG, you’ll know that you can’t make Rey as a starting character because it’s broken to make a character have that many different kinds of expertise at the level that she did. By making her this powerful and capable without a reasonable background, as a woman, I felt like Disney was trying to pander to my genitals. Those organs are incapable of thought though, so I feel like they very much missed the mark in creating a powerful and interesting female lead. Jyn was better and she had almost no characterization at all. My brain kept cringing at each new reveal of Rey’s so-called awesomeness. All of it was just unrealistic. It reminds me of something I heard from the writers of Stranger Things. In their first imagining, they introduced Eleven by having her burst a door open with her powers. Then they rethought that. They realized they had eight hours to bring the audience up to that level, so instead we got intrigue and heightened awareness of Eleven, the intensity growing and growing until we were surprised by how serious things got. The other big example is Person of Interest. It started out as an idea of a weekly case but by the end we were facing the end of the world as we know it. Now I know that The Force Awakens didn’t have eight hours or five seasons to bring us to climax, but the original trilogy managed to do it in three movies that were really very good depictions of Luke’s growth as both a person and as a Jedi, so if they were going to copy that movie, why not copy the pace too, which was a far sight better than the pace we got?

There’s also the issue that making a female badass with nearly zero flaws and an impossible plethora of expert skills, especially, with zero training causes a major split in the audience. You have the more story versed half which is pissed off beyond recovery and those who are so overworked and feel so put down by life that they’ll take any schlock that makes them feel good. And then the two start fighting. This is the critics versus the average movie goer. This movie got bad ratings for a reason but with so many people so desperate for a hero that represents them, they’ll even take a bad one. I’d rather have River Tam any day. At least she has problems and flaws.

Both this movie and Rogue One seem to have Disney’s Marketing department shouting at the casting director to make the cast diverse. I have no issue with diversity, but this again felt like pandering. I don’t think Disney wanted to make strong female characters or strong characters of color; I think they just wanted to line their pockets with the money of the vast majority of America. It seems forced. “We need a woman lead! We need a Hispanic man! We need an African-American man! We need a Chinese man! We need a man that no one can easily identify as any one ethnicity!” It’s like they are ticking off boxes. That kind of diversity is a little disgusting to me. I compare it to something like Firefly and see immediately how far short it falls. There are a lot of women in Firefly and two black characters. Disney seems to avoid the African-American woman entirely. Some may argue that Firefly has too many white males but they only make up slightly less than half of the show’s cast and the male to female ratio is also pretty good (4:5). But it doesn’t feel like any of this is forced. Unlike Disney’s recent obsession with diversity. It’s also not even as relaxed as Star Trek: The Next Generation which has again two to three African-Americans, depending on whether or not you count Whoopie Goldberg, and a not as good ratio of male to female characters (6:2), but is better if you count Whoopie Goldberg and Tasha Yar.  So the question becomes for Disney, what is with the one female character? Are women rare in the Star Wars universe? We really only had Leia in the first trilogy. We really only had Padme in the prequels. And now in Rogue One and The Force Awakens we have one per movie. Women make up a large part of the population that I know of since evolutionarily you can have one male to a large number of women and it still work out. One woman to a large number of men is a problem. So where are all the women in Star Wars? If you didn’t notice in my Disney Marketing department shouting sequence above, I only mentioned one woman and mentioned four men. That’s not just a joke. That literally is the casting of Rogue One and The Force Awakens. Any other women in these movies are minor, and that’s typical of Star Wars, so I’m soooo glad that Disney is continuing that tradition. Ethnic women have been complaining more visibly lately of the white washing of women’s issues and look at Disney just proving them right. If Disney really wanted to get with the times, then they should have more female roles, not just a flat lead, and they should provide more variety based on something other than marketing. Danny Glover was not hired for Lethal Weapon because he was black; he was hired because he was the best man for the job. Donner, in fact, hadn’t written that part specifically for a black man, but Glover added so many layers to that character and wasn’t a stereotype that those movies wouldn’t be the same with anyone else. Those movies went in directions we weren’t expecting just because of Danny Glover and Donner’s decision to cast him. That’s the kind of diversity we want in our movies and that was the freaking ’80s. Disney also has a history of avoiding the very delicate subject of sexual orientation, unless it makes no sense, like Beauty and the Beast, which supposedly takes place in a time when being openly gay would problably result is ostrizaton or death. I’m not saying that they need to dive into that diversity like they did with racial diversity as they sucked at that and so far no story has really left room for that kind of character development. Star Wars also is archaic enough of an IP to try to avoid it too, even though even older IPs have dived into that subject with grace and aplomb, so it’s not like it isn’t possible. Disney is just too inept to do it well. So we end up with strange diversity that doesn’t actually mean anything.

Back to the actual movie and not the behind the scenes decisions that disgust me, let’s look at the Big Bad Wolf of the movie. Blech. Kylo Ren is quite possibly the worse super villain ever. I won’t say that he is yet, because I still haven’t been able to sit through Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad. First off, he is, as a lot of people call him, Darth Emo, who throws hissy fits like a teenager. For example, why wear the mask if you aren’t disfigured or need it to breathe? Because you want to look imitating and with that face, how could you? When he first took off the mask, I was thrown completely out of the movie when I saw his hair because I couldn’t help but wonder how he got all that hair under the helmet without slicking it back. He didn’t have helmet hair at all. It was like time pauses as he takes off the helmet and a professional hair stylist invisibly cleans, dries, and quaffs his hair. Oh, wait . . . One of his first moments in the movie, he does something “badass” because the people behind the movie thought it looked cool. Not as cool as Han shooting at Vader and Vader just deflecting the shots with only his hand and snatching his pistol out of his hand with the force. So how is Kylo so much more powerful than Vader, the one who was meant to bring balance to the force? No answer? Because it looks cool is not an answer.

The main threat of the movie. The new Death Star, or as I like to call it My-Dick-Is-Bigger-Than-George-Lucas’-Death-Star, is twenty times bigger than the original Death Star. This kind of sequel I’ve-Got-a-Bigger-Dick-Than-the-First-Guy device seems pretty common these days. The first time I saw it was that awful Predators movie, which could have been good, but had to have bigger, badder predators than all the previous movies. Then came The Force Awakens and it’s bigger, badder Death Star. Then just six months later, I was given a free ticket to see Independence Day: Resurgence and a-freaking-gain it had to have a bigger, badder mothership. It had a half hour sequence of the thing showing up and I’m just sitting there bored out of my mind as this thing “lands”. I’m thinking to myself as the ship rips apart huge swaths of land, killing millions of people, how this is just like The Force Awakens, and how the dick measuring needs to freaking stop if we are going to have good sequels. This is not original. It’s not interesting. It’s not impressive. It’s like someone said: “You know how the original had all that great imagery? Let’s use those images again, but make them bigger.” And someone with jello for brains said “Brilliant! Brilliant, I tell you!” Those images in ID were pretty much taken from the original V mini-series anyway. The problem is, though, that while A New Hope and Independence Day were entertaining and interesting on a first view, a rehash of those movies is boring. No matter how much bigger your dick happens to be. Eventually, we just can’t take any bigger. It just becomes painful.

All in All

I’m not a Star Wars fan for so many reasons. From the originals to the latest attempts by Abrams and Disney, the IP has changed dramatically. That’s expected over the forty years that it has been in existence. Those changes haven’t always been for the better. The first bites of this IP were still better than the sugar they’ve been shoving down our throats in recent years and I have to say that I long for forty years ago fresh-faced Lucas and his ideas from then. I don’t feel sorry for him for critic and fan reactions to the prequels, but I do feel sorry for him for what Disney has done to his original concepts.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Customer Service: The Make or Break of a Company

We deal with companies every day. We have to. Often we have to speak to customer service, or even just a representative of the company. Typically, the reason why we are talking to them is that the company has failed us in some way.How they handle our questions, feedback, and complaints is very important. Customer service doesn’t have a direct monetary value to a company. It has a non-direct value that is hard to track with hard data. A customer who parts ways with a company because of poor customer service may not ever state that’s why they left, though if you look at Yelp, you’ll find that the majority of negative reviews are based on poor service and not poor products. This is why it is so important for representatives of a company to give good customer service and why it is even more important that a company values good customer service. Let’s take a look at the few ways in which poor service can drive a customer away or lead to poor reviews.

One Way Communication

In today’s internet world, it’s crazy to not be open to communication from customers. Customers like to voice their concerns and feedback. They like having the opportunity to talk to a rep of the company that they may or may not give money too. Spotify does not give a phone number or have a live chat on their website. This is a big no-no for a company that holds on to credit card information. If you peruse the support forum, you will find many people who have had their card charged when they shouldn’t have been, such as a free trail of premium (which to my mind, any company that asks for payment information for a free trail is trying to trick you out of money by autocharging you once your free trail is over) or people who have been doubly charged. If Spotify had a call center or a live chat, these problems wouldn’t be posted as often as they are to the support forum. They have a contact ticket form. I had tested this form out nearly a year ago, putting in several tickets, and I never once got a response (yes, I checked my Spam/Junk folder). Finally, after doing a Google search, I found an email for Spotify Support. These actually got responses. A customer should never have to do a web search to find contact information. “Contact Us” should be on every webpage of the site and should have multiple forms of contact. But the main point is, any company that actually takes your money should have a way to contact them immediately.

Not Listening

Some companies make it really easy to contact them, and they respond too. But their responses are useless because they didn’t actually read or listen to everything the customer said. This one happens a lot and a lot of companies do this. For example, I recently contacted StarzPlay to tell them that while I knew that they didn’t currently offer StarzPlay for individual pay, if they were to offer it separate from a cable/satellite bill, that I would pay for it (when you want something from a company, it’s a good idea to ask for it). The reply I got was a pat “we don’t offer it except through cable providers”. Since I didn’t ask if they did or not and in fact, stated that I knew that they didn’t this was an infuriating response. There is almost nothing more frustrating than feeling like a company didn’t read everything you wrote. This happens a lot on Microsoft support forums. The most common one boils down to “Dark Grey for MS 2013 is not dark enough” with a moderator stating “To change the theme, go to Options, select Dark Grey.” They are missing the point. This happened to me once when I couldn’t log in to my Live account. I kept trying to get help on this. The problem was that the login page in a browser would say that I signed in too many times with the wrong password, so I had to fill out a CAPTCHA. I’ve told part of this story before. The CAPTCHA was always read as wrong, no matter what. I told this to the account help team. Their reply? “Enter the CAPTCHA correctly and you’ll be able to log in.” I lost it a little bit and replied in all caps that the CAPTCHA was broken. They had no actual help for me, and randomly, my login stopped asking me to fill out the CAPTCHA. The point is that trying to get help or give feedback to a company and then getting a response that means they obviously didn’t read or fully hear what you said is the height of stupidity. At that point, the company may as well not have a way of contacting them because their support and CSRs are trained so poorly or have so little care as to not be there. Microsoft is trying to improve their reception of feedback. In my recent post about Windows 10, I said how annoying it was that there wasn’t a universal dark theme and how tasks didn’t even show up in the Calendar app. In a recent update, the Mail and Calendar apps now have a dark theme, and while you still can’t add tasks from the Calendar app, you can at least view tasks, even those seen from Wunderlist. It’s great that the Feedback app actually got comments to Microsoft and that they actually acted on those comments. They need to keep this up, but direct Windows support still needs work. I think, at least, they are moving in the right direction. Listening to your customers and actually making an effort to comprehend and act on what they are saying is very important to making a customer feel as though they matter to the company.

No Follow Through

The unfortunate thing about a call center, be it in America or not, is that a customer almost never talks to the same person twice. This often leads to promises made then broken, because one CSR makes a promise, and another one won’t follow through on the promise. Once I needed Cox to come out to check my internet, I made the CSR (CSR A) assure me that it wouldn’t cost me anything. After the tech came out, a fee was added to our bill. The second CSR (CSR B) and supervisor we talked to wouldn’t remove the fee despite what CSR A had promised. After calling a second time about getting the fee removed, I got a third CSR, who removed the fee immediately. I really don’t understand how this happens. If a CSR makes a promise to a customer, they are representing the company’s word. I take a company at their word, and I will force them to follow what their representatives promise me; otherwise, I have no faith in that company. When the second CSR wants to refuse to fulfill the promise and they state that the first CSR was wrong or made a mistake, with the logic that I shouldn’t hold them to that mistake, my blood boils. It’s not my fault as the customer that the company’s CSR was wrong. I shouldn’t have to pay for their mistake. The company should take responsibility for the CSR’s mistake and meet what expectations the customer was led to believe would be met, despite the incorrect statements. This is just ethical. Especially when the customer is trying to confirm prices before committing to anything. I brought this up in my Health Care post. Some people disagree with this idea because it damages the company. In response to that, I say it damages the individual customer more and if a company is in trouble and repeated mistakes are made, then they don’t deserve to stick around. Repeated failure with or without good customer service will cause a company to fail, but especially without good customer service. With good customer service response to a mistake, the company has a chance to improve their financial standing.

On a side but still related note, when I set up internet at my current residence, we wanted the internet set up the day before we moved. When we moved in, it wasn’t working. The call center CSR said it was turned on by a tech and that to have a tech come out we would be charged a fee since it was a “customer error” based problem. I don’t know how they can determine such a thing over the phone, but the tech came out again four days after the internet was supposed to be turned on (meaning three days later than we needed it) to discover that the internet had been turned on at the wrong location. So. Not customer error. Tech error. They still tried to charge us for having the tech come out, even though they were giving us a credit on our next bill because of their screw-up. When I had Cox in a different state, the service was great and the quality of internet I received was ten times better than AT&T. Understand that in different locations, the customer service you receive will be different. Different states practically equals a different company because of regional and local management.

Apathetic Attitude

One of the worst experiences in customer service is when a customer is at a restaurant or store and can’t get help from anyone. You’re sitting at the table waiting forever for the waiter to take your order or you’re walking through a store looking for something and there are no employees around, or they ignore you, or they make the minimal effort to help you. This is very annoying. Two big instances come to mind for me. The first happened at a cafe/bar/restaurant (yeah, trying to do everything). We had gone there to try their coffee. We waited at the front counter that had no line and no employee. Someone finally came out of the restaurant/bar area to take our order after five minutes. When we got our coffee, we sat down in the dining area and decided we wanted to order food. When we flagged down the one waiter, we got menus, then he never came back. In fact, it didn’t even look like he was in the building, so we left without ordering and never came back. The place wasn’t set up all too well and was understaffed. It was dead when we went in there, but we still couldn’t get any real service, even though there were three employees, two of which just disappeared. No service means no customers.

The other time I remember well was in a Total Wine. It was a Friday at six in the evening. The place was packed, but they had stopped doing the tastings (yes, because people aren’t just getting out to stores on a weeknight at six–oh, wait, that’s exactly what happens). Worse than that, there were absolutely no carts available for customers. None in the parking lot, none in the cart area, in fact, almost none with actual customers. Where were they? Littered around the store filled with stock that no employee was actually putting on shelves. They were prepped to exchange stock after they closed but had all the carts in use for it during a peak customer time. That’s poor management. We were planning to buy a lot but saw that there were also only two cashiers open with lines stretching into the aisles. We weren’t going to stand there forever holding a lot of very breakable products. Tons of employees seemed to be walking up and down the aisles and studiously ignoring the customers, including one person who looked like a manager. When we finally asked an employee about getting a cart, he looked around and said, “It looks like none are available.” Then explained they were prepped for stock shuffle, but then offered us no more help. We left. We also called Total Wine corporate customer service to report our dissatisfaction. The CSR was very understanding of how inappropriate the situation really was. The management had set a precedent that night that customers didn’t matter, which is funny and horrible since that’s the only thing that sustains a business, so the employees didn’t notice the problems, let alone try to help customers by solving them. We haven’t been back to that location. I’m sure most people have a Walmart story like this, which is why most people avoid Walmart whenever possible.

Not making an effort to help the customer because well, you just don’t care, makes you a bad employee, and frankly an unempathetic person. Because service industries are based on–gasp!–service, employees and managers should act and manage in way that a company that they would want to do business with would act and manage. That’s empathy. I’m sure most of these people would be upset if they were the customer and had experienced the same situation. I understand that not all companies and managers value empathetic service, which is why many employees are apathetic. They’ve learned that empathetic service is not rewarded and that they can get away with apathy or that they shouldn’t bother trying. This can come from a corporate level, like with Walmart, from a more local level, such as regional management, or even from just one manager, causing one store or certain shifts in a store to be worse than others. This is a behavior that employees learn from their supervisors, and it’s hard to change without changing out all the employees and supervisors that are part of it. It’s also the number one reason customers avoid a store or chain and write a bad review.

Arguing with the Customer

I hate having to argue with a CSR. Obviously, I had to do that with Cox a few times. It’s not that contradicting a customer is wrong. It’s how the CSR does it. If they are dismissive, talk over the customer, interrupt the customer, or are generally combative, then they are arguing. This is when they enter inappropriate behavior for customer service. If I’m just voicing feedback, I don’t want the CSR to tell me that my feedback is basically stupid and they aren’t going to make a note of it. That just makes me not want to deal with them or give their company my money (it is, afterall, hard earned). This is especially bad when making a suggestion. For example, that UPS shouldn’t ever leave a package at a person’s door in an apartment complex unless instructions state otherwise. I literally had a UPS employee arguing with me over this suggestion, and he was combative and used the word “stupid”. Here’s a good tip: Don’t ever call your customer stupid, even if they are being stupid. Seems like it doesn’t need to be stated, but there you go. In the same vein, an employee shouldn’t ever hang up on a customer. This has happened to me. I was already upset when I made the call, and I wasn’t angry. I was just upset. I ended up calling the main office of the company and explained what happened with the phone call. They were really embarrassed and upset that I went through that phone call and did everything to fix the problem I was having, which is the correct response. If a company cares, then they should remember that how their employees treat, or in these cases, mistreat, a customer is very important. When they hear that an employee is being combative, instead of just contradictory, then they need to respond by correcting that employee’s behavior. There is nothing wrong with being firm or trying to represent the policy of a company. There is a problem with being rude.

No Choice

I’ve mentioned in my Health Care post how a customer not having a choice lowers an industry’s standards. But it isn’t just true in the Health Insurance world. It can get worse in the private utilities world. Why don’t I switch from Cox internet to something else? Because I can’t. I used to have a different provider and our internet never went out, so I never had to call. Their customer service could have sucked way worse, but if you never need them except to turn it on and turn it off then you really have no way of knowing. Cox has given me problems from the jump, but I’m stuck with them until I move. But internet isn’t considered a utility. Power is. I’ve had the same power company for the last two years, and I hate them. I don’t have a choice in the matter because my city has power districts that are run by a few power companies. In my current residence, my power has gone out at least twice. According to their CSRs, it is company policy that they don’t give credits for when the power goes out accidentally. As if because it was a mistake, they shouldn’t be held accountable for the outage to their customers. They said that we pay for usage, but after looking at their net profits, I figure they aren’t just charging me for my actual usage, but that included in their pricing formula is a profit amount. So I know they can afford to give me a break on my next bill because of incompetence. But I can’t threaten them with going with a competitor because they don’t have any real competitors. When I tell McDonald’s that I’m going to Burger King next time, that’s an action I can realistically take, but I can’t tell my power company that I’m going to switch to a different power company. They say these are not monopolies because there are other power companies in the area, but that’s BS when a customer can’t choose their power company separate from their home or business. Because of this, a company that’s gotcha won’t even try to provide good customer service because there is no need to. This needs to stop. I understand that it is easier for certain grids to be managed by a specific company, but it would be better if the grid was managed by one company (maybe the local government) and that different and separate companies handled their customer service, essentially outsourcing customer service and billing to more than one company. This would at least give the customers a kind of choice. Either way, the current system is stacked against the customer and good customer service. Minimonopolies are still monopolies. They still shouldn’t be tolerated by the government, the industry, or the customers.

In the End

All that matters is that both customers and companies value good relationships. I try never to be rude to a CSR because I know they are a person and that they didn’t necessarily have anything to do with why I’m angry or upset. I also understand that most of the above customer service issues are based on company culture or management. This won’t stop customers from getting frustrated though. All companies should understand that good customer service is good for their profit margin, even when they are refunding some money. Some of the companies I frequent have awesome refund policies, like refund and replacement on products, and they continue get my business because I feel like they understand that it’s not easy for a customer to part ways with their money and that the product or service they receive should be worth that money. When this isn’t the case, the company and it’s employees should do everything they reasonably can to get the customer to return. They should make it easy for the customer to spend their money, which is where poor service or apathetic attitudes get in the way. The number one reason I don’t go back to a store or avoid a company is because not only were their products and service not up to snuff, but that the straw that broke the camel’s back was their response to my issues. When I have a choice, I don’t give money to a company that I can’t stand working with. When I don’t have a choice, I will call repeatedly with my complaints, including that the last person I talked to was rude or unhelpful. That’s what a customer should do. A company should hear their customer and potential customer complaints and suggestions and work to improve themselves, even and especially in harder economies.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Consumer Rights

 

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A Gamer’s Complaints: Mechanics and Trends I Wish Would Change in Today’s Video Games

I play a lot of video games. I’m not very good at them though and am a very big fan of getting to 100% completion on a game (including all the grindy stuff). On most games, I hit a snag and stop playing, but I tend to play the same one for months. I play for months because I really only play on about three days out of any given week. I have other stuff to do. None of this means I don’t have an opinion on game mechanics and trends. Of course, I do, and I’m going to express them here. I’m not going to talk about poor quality craftsmanship in gaming but am going to discuss some social mores and features that bother me. I know what you’re thinking, oh, she’s going to go all Gamer Gate on us. I’m not, but I am going to get that sticky topic out of the way first.

Gamer Gate: Bioshock Infinite

I find Gamer Gate distasteful. For the most part, the “problems” they see are imaginary or are not a sexist issue. For example, the idea that images of women in games are almost always unreasonably represented. This is true in a lot of games, but guess what? The images of men in games are also almost always unreasonably represented. Women are overly sexualized, what with their armor that is more about showing off their bodies then protecting them in combat, and men are overly masculinized, what with the giant, overly muscled meatheads that wear bandannas, smoke cigars, swear like they have a quota to fill, and spit every where they go. So I ask, how is this sexist? Maybe it is, but it isn’t misogynistic. Games that do this, and it’s not all of them, are misrepresenting both sexes. They objectify and show unreasonable images of both sexes. So I don’t see this as a female crusade, so much as stupid fantasy. It is a stupid trend, but it also is an understandable one from a business standpoint since gaming is a form of wish fulfillment since gamers are literally putting themselves in the point of view of an avatar with a better body than them, better sexual prospects, and a much more fun life. I don’t see why it is wrong for some of the games on the market to meet this wish fulfillment. Saying that these games pervert male understanding of relationships is a leap to me since most peoples’ understanding of relationships come from their parents and how those parents react and teach on media. The same principal applies to violence in games. Media really only reinforces what a person has learned in their childhood from their family; otherwise, people wouldn’t develop a dislike for certain types of media. If violence and possible sexism in video games really did result in life copying art as much as people say, things would be a lot worse since millions of people (male and female) play video games. It’s not a billion dollar industry on a few weirdos.

A lot of people are hopping on the Gamer Gate trend, including humor website, Cracked. Lately, Cracked has replaced their Saturday Photoplasties with rehashes from their articles with images created by AutieMeme. And while I’m not going to get into why that is a problem within itself in this post, I will bring up one they did related to this subject: 19 Surprisingly Sexist Messages in Modern Pop Culture. Not all of them are on gaming, and not all of them are off the mark. Lara Croft’s reboot is pretty spot on, and Yahtzee already mentions this problem when he reviews the 2012 Tomb Raider and the newer Metroid main character. But immediately following the good examination of Lara Croft, we get a major reach in the description of Ellie in The Last of Us.

Now, I know that I would collapse in tears upon seeing the first non-zombie person after the start of an apocalypse, no matter what my age. In fact, it is believable that any one of any sex or age would do this, but especially a child. Children cry a lot when things aren’t apocalyptic. I’m actually freaked out by children who don’t cry when something terrible happens to them. Isn’t that one of the first forms of expression we have as humans? It’s one we go to when happy, sad, angry, or relieved. Of course, she’s crying! There is nothing unreasonable or sexist about this.

Then there was the crapstorm of number one on the list: Elisabeth from Bioshock Infinite. The idea that Elisabeth was ever sitting and waiting to be rescued is a laughable misrepresentation of the game. Elisabeth learned to pick locks in her many attempts to escape. She could tear portals in time, yes, but her prison was weakening her powers, making them useless in escape attempts. This is one of my favorite games. The story is amazing, the characters are well developed and believable, the mechanics are fun, and the mind-bending plotline is just great. Trust me on this, if Elisabeth had not been a strong and capable character I wouldn’t like the game half as much as I do. She is a very powerful figure in the story, stronger than Dewitt, not just in terms of raw power but also as a person, showing much more strength of character, much more integrity. She is both McGuffin and a powerful lead affecting the arc of the story and even resolving it. The interpretation from the picture is distasteful in its misleading bent and omission of other information. It is highly frustrating to read as someone who has actually played the game and connected to the characters. Both of the interpretations on Ellie and Elisabeth show someone searching for something to complain about. They lack in depth examination and an understanding of reality. Women can be both strong and vulnerable in video games, as can men. Men are much less likely to show vulnerability in video games than women are to show strength. But reality demands a balance between the two in both sexes which is why I can’t support Gamer Gate. It calls for women in games to be sexless and invulnerable, while neither of those things is real.

Most of the time, I don’t hear backup to the claim that video games are sexist. Instead, I hear that claim repeated ad nauseam. When I do hear some backup, it’s typically a major reach, such as the two examples from Cracked. I find this very insulting. I enjoy video games and the majority those play don’t feel like they are attacking me as a woman. Women actually play more roles in video games than one would first think. In fact, they tend to take up all the same roles as men. Games that go for realism don’t often have female cops or soldiers, because the rate on the first is low, and the rate on the second is even lower (remember the US doesn’t have women in combat roles). So for the most part, I don’t see what they are talking about.

Real Sexism: Marvel Heroes

I play a lot of MMOs. I enjoy most of them. I’m also a very big Marvel fan. As such, when Marvel Heroes went to open beta, I was all over that. I had a lot of fun too. Now, there are a lot of problems with Marvel Heroes. Some have been addressed. For example, at first a player couldn’t playtest a hero before buying them, which was crappy because no matter how much you like a hero doesn’t mean they won’t suck to play. Now all heroes are playable to level 10, which is great. Try before you buy. However, every time I get back on Marvel Heroes, I have to reallocate my points because they keep messing with the play of the heroes. That is so annoying. I want to play not spend ten minutes assigning points any time I log on. But all this is besides the main point of this section. Still had to get those out there. The real problem is the gender swap enhanced costumes. Okay, if you’ve never played this game (which you totally can as it is free to play), you pick one starting hero and level them and can unlock other heroes with Gs (which you have to pay for) or Eternity Splinters (which you can find while playing). So one way is paid and another is free. You get the standard costume when you unlock a hero, whichever one that may be. Costumes cannot be unlocked with Eternity Splinters. So if I want to play female Hawkeye, Ghost Rider, Black Panther, God of Thunder, Deadpool, Loki, Punisher, Spider-man or male Warbird, I have to pay. The base playable characters includes 38 male characters and 12 female characters. There are not a lot of female superheroes in Marvel Comics. Why would you make 8 of them only unlockable with real money? This is crazy unbalanced. They are adding ShadowCat, which will bring the total to 13, but I bet anything they will add American Dream as a costume.

What is this problem exactly? The problem is games that have gender options that are partially locked. Older Diablo versions and Path of Exile had static genders for characters, and a lot of non-MMOs or top-downs have gender locks because you are a specific character in a very specific story, such as a lot of FPS games. That’s fine for FPS games. But why would you ever make a gender option and then not actually give it to your players? Do you know how frustrating it is to have that dangled in our face? Marvel Heroes needs to stop this gender swap enhanced costume BS and let the players choose their sex when they get the hero; and let us choose it for heroes that we received when we didn’t have a choice. I’ll pay for an enhanced costume that gives a different dialogue or voiced by an actor from the movie, but I’m not going to pay for what should be a different freaking hero.

Flirting Mechanics: SWTOR

Flirting mechanics can be interesting, especially when the designers of the game put in negative responses. But I hate the fact that there isn’t a flirt response option for every character I speak to. They decide that I wouldn’t flirt with certain people. That’s stupid. I could, in theory, attempt to flirt with everyone I meet in the real world–doesn’t mean I should, but I totally could. In fact, I could attempt to flirt with a rock. Not that it would get me anywhere. So why do games with flirt mechanics tell me who I’m willing to flirt with? You don’t know me! Maybe I want to flirt with the big lizard companion. You know, just to see how he’d react. Flirting isn’t always used as a sexual ploy. Sometimes it is used as a method of teasing. I think that would be pretty interesting in a game. Also, why stop at flirting? There should be an option to insult everyone. Hell, there should be an option to punch everyone! I’m not saying that you should actually do these things in real life or even in a game, but as games keep trying to add more “reality”, they just keep showing us how not-real they are. An artificially limited flirt option just shows a player that they are playing a game and takes them out of the immersion. So go whole hog with social interactions in games! I know that’s hard to do, but work to it. (Also, Sims woefully underestimates the player’s desire to make their Sim punch other Sims, especially when they come into our homes uninvited.)

Morality Scales: SWTOR Again

Morality scales are a lot like flirting mechanics, as in incomplete. But also just weird as hell. Not every decision made has an effect on the scale, which everything should. But also, they often don’t make sense when you combine them. On Alderaan there are two such missions with morality choices that are just messed up when both are considered. These are pretty early on for a Republic player. You meet a reporter whose partner has run off and joined the rebels (they really are scum this time) and she wants you to get back their footage. You also run into an older couple whose son is believed dead, but mom has her doubts and wants to check if the rebels have him. You run into the other reporter and the son in the rebel stronghold pretty much one right after the other. The son says the rebels kidnapped him, forced him to take drugs, then used him as a soldier. They apparently have been doing this to other teenagers as well. Your moral choice is to let him leave the planet, telling his parents some lie, or to tell him to go home to mommy and daddy. The first is light side points and the second is dark side points. Now, I will discuss why that’s a problem in the next paragraph, but first on to the reporter. Upon meeting him, he says that if you give the footage to the other reporter, she will cut it to make the rebels look bad and that their plight is actually very dire and they need supporters. So he gives you the choice to let him keep the footage (light side points) or take it from him (dark side points). Now, first of all, I don’t believe that he’s going to give an unbiased cut of the footage to people either. But I can’t see him as anything but freaking insane for taking the rebels’ side after hearing the kid’s story. The lineup of light side and dark side in these two missions don’t make any sense when compared to each other. I don’t feel any sympathy for the scum that is an African warlord who kidnaps children and forces them to fight for him either, and I’m certainly not going to feel any sympathy for the reporter who tells me he’s not a bad guy. That’s insane.

The other problem besides morality not matching up among separate choices is the lack of a grey area. It’s neither bad nor good to help or force the son to go home. It’s kind of just a personal choice based on your upbringing. It’s also not good to help either reporter because neither of them is unbiased. So why have such black and white choices? Yahtzee’s biggest cripe against morality scales is that you have to be all good or all bad to see anything good come out of it. I agree that that makes the choices a little superfluous, because you could just choose an alignment at the beginning of the game instead. They are just making you choose it again and again throughout the game. Because of this, games with morality scales should include middle options that also give a player some benefit. Otherwise, it’s just too childish.

Forced Multiplayer: LOTRO

I hate playing with other people. I am a loner. I like to play by myself with no one else in the room. I like MMOs though. I don’t join groups, I don’t join guilds, I rarely trade with others, and I don’t chat. Why play an MMO then? Well, I like the character creation and build that comes with MMOs. There aren’t a lot of single player games with those features, namely Oblivion, Skyrim, and a few non-Elder Scrolls games. So I play a lot of MMOs, I beta-tested LOTRO, Marvel Heroes, and The Elder Scrolls online. I played City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online, WOW, and a few others I can’t remember. I play LOTRO, Marvel Heroes, SWTOR, and DC Universe Online. All these games try to make you play with other people. I get the fact that they want to utilize that millions of people are playing, but they shouldn’t make it impossible to play solo (Han Solo). SWTOR only gives F2P players one crafting ability, when you need two to make something useful. That’s more about them trying to make F2P into Pay to Win players, but F2P players could conceivably trade with others for the stuff they need. LOTRO gives everyone all three of their crafting abilities, but they are set up that you need stuff from a fourth crafting skill to complete some items. I’m crazy, so I created four other characters on each of my servers to make them all craft the stuff I need (now I have to do some shuffling because of the server shutdowns) and just mail it to my other characters. I hate to have to do this, but I really don’t want to be forced to play with other characters. It’s worse when it is about quests. Ugh. I just level up on side quests until I can do a group quest on my own. I know, I’m antisocial, but don’t act like I’m the only MMO player out there that would rather play alone. I assure you I’m not.

MMO Stalkers

Yes, I’m antisocial, but let’s face it, pretty much every MMO player doesn’t like to be stalked. It happens to people more when they play female characters I bet, but that doesn’t always seem to matter to the stalkers. A player that stalks others sees a player they don’t know running around, completing missions and starts to follow them. Maybe they don’t say anything or send invites. Maybe they just want to steal your kills. This happens to me a lot on Marvel Heroes. They don’t want to play with me, they just want help not getting mobbed or want to take the quest kill from me after I’ve killed all the baddies between us and the big baddie (happens way too often in SWTOR and LOTRO). That isn’t much of a problem in DC Universe Online (or as it is called in my home “DahCooniverse”) because that game is set up that if you land one blow in the fight (not the first one, like other games) you also get credit for the kill and get loot too. That sounds like forced multiplayer but it’s more sharing than forced. It makes gameplay a little less frustrating when you get a stalker. My problem with the silent stalker is that I feel crowded out of an area. It’s more obvious in a top-down game like Marvel Heroes where you can see that other player following your every turn. I quit playing when that happens.

The other kind of stalker doesn’t last as long but can be more annoying. This is the person who sends you multiple invites in a row. When the area is crowded, I can understand how they may have accidentally sent me a second request. But sometimes no one else is around and they send three to five. Or once in SWTOR a person sent me 15 requests. One can only guess that person had to be five, because only five year olds ask the same question that many times in a row. So I hightailed it out of that area and the range of their social ineptitude. No means no, even in MMOs, people.

The Dominance of the Sandbox and FPS

I’m not sure if it’s obvious to most readers at this point, but I don’t play a lot of FPS or sandbox games. First of all, I’m not a console player. I’m a PC gamer. FPS games seem to work better with a controller. I’m not very good at these games. I tend to die very quickly. Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite weren’t too hard for me (especially when I realized that I could just use the wrench to beat down the squirrely doctor in Bioshock), but Oblivion (which has some broken leveling) and Skyrim lost some of their fun being in first person (yes, I know you can do third person, but the feel of those games and the mechanics are made for FPS styles). Then I tried Speck Ops: The Line. It’s brutal and the story is great, but I still suck at it.

I’m also not all that into sandbox gaming. “You can do anything you want!” But what should I do? “Anything you want!” Okay. My point is that sandbox gaming tends to lack focus and it’s hard to tell what you’re supposed to interact with. Complete sandbox is also a turnoff for me. Mostly I don’t like sandbox gaming because those games seem to have the same kind of story and that story will usually just pause while you are futzing around, completely losing all urgency. While Fable 3 was somewhat sandboxy, once you knew about the dark monster coming for you, the story was on a clock (this is one of the only games I beat, note that it was 3rd person) and that lent more realism to it. Some games keep the story going even though they are also sandboxes, but they don’t warn you that the story will keep going (i.e. Oblivion). This is a low down dirty trick. “You can do anything you want! (but the problems you’re supposed to fix will still happen)” What was that? “Anything you want!” Yahtzee talked a lot about these kinds of problems in some of his videos, so why don’t you go watch those too?

I don’t think FPS and sandbox gaming is just a problem because I don’t like or am not good at them. The problem is that there are so freaking many of them. Thank you so much GTA! I’m not saying don’t make them, but how about you make other kinds of games too, triple A game companies? This is why I tend to be excited by indie games. They have more variety.

The Fall of the (Turn-based) RPG: The Lord of the Rings: Third Age

My favorite kind of game is the turn-based RPG. I do not like JRPG, so don’t suggest any to me, though I loved Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. That game was fun. A million freaking disks and tiny little characters and an interesting story. I beat that game too. The second one was harder. I like turn-based gaming because I’m a fan of strategy and building a character. I’ll play RTS games, but they’re not my favorite. My favorite game of all time is The Lord of the Rings: Third Age. Turn-based, six characters, the entirety of the story all from the movies, its own side story, and pretty good graphics for the PS2 engine. Now, I’m a little OCD. Each character had two power sets you could level up by doing a move each time in battle. I had each character completely leveled up by the end because I would park my butt in Helm’s Deep and go into battle for hours, prolonging the fights to get in as many moves for each character as possible. My spouse thought I was crazy since I wasn’t advancing the story at all. Then he realized I was also smart because in some of the later battles all of your characters have to fight two different battles at the same time and if you didn’t level up your second stringers, they were just going to die. The only thing I didn’t level up completely was the crafting ring. It took too long. I got 100% complete on that game, twice. That’s right twice. Each saved game had about 99 hours of playtime on it, which means I spent a total of 198 hours playing that game. The only reason I’m not playing it now is that I don’t have a PS2 anymore. But I miss that game. It’s the last really great turn-based game I can remember, especially one with modern (for its time) graphics. Now, it seems only the Japanese companies and indie developers are making turn-based games because all the other companies are so busy making their FPSes and sandbox games. Ugh. So when you hear about a turn-based game, please drop me a line. I’m always interested.

The Point of It All

Maybe it’s a good thing that I have so many issues with video games: it stops them from becoming an obsession that takes up all my time. These aren’t all my problems with video games (ex. crappy controls, poor story, freaking autosave!, lack of instructions, WASD explanations–really? you’re going to explain that but not how your battle simulator works?), but they are the ones that bother me most. I know that companies don’t have to satisfy just me, but I also know I’m not the only one who is put off by the issues on this list. The biggest issue seems to be the lack of variety coming out of big video game companies. It seems sometimes that more money and time are spent on graphics rendering than on gaming concept and story. Sometimes testing even goes out the window, looking at you, Arkham Knight for your PC version. Maybe this time it won’t suck quite so much, or at least not crash computers.

Got any trends or mechanics that bug you? Tell me about them in the comments. We’ll talk shop.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Consumer Rights, Social Issues

 

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