When last I updated this blog Donald Trump was still the President of the United States, and it would still be a little over half a year before COVID-19 significantly made its presence known in North America. Since then life has undergone drastic, almost unimaginable changes, and as I make my entirely unexpected return to Culture War Reporters I thought it would be fitting to provide updates on the half dozen posts I wrote back in 2019 to underscore the ways in which time has moved inexorably onwards.
Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu – January 11, 2019
It’s laughable to look back on a post that explores J. K. Rowling’s take on representing the LGBTQ+ community given that the author has positioned herself as a bastion against what she views as the dangers of transgender men. How could I have known that at the tail end of the year she would tweet support for Maya Forstater, a British woman who was fired for her comments about that particular group of people? Since then Rowling has doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and so on, down on her stance, in many ways becoming a figurehead for the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) movement. This has caused a rift in the Harry Potter fandom between those who would demonize the author and paint her entire body of work as being “bad” or “problematic” and others who would defend her writing to the point of adopting beliefs and stances that they might not otherwise.
Michael Chu, on the other hand, is no longer the head writer on Overwatch, and in fact no longer works for Blizzard Entertainment at all. He now acts as Narrative Director at 31st Union, a “San Fransisco Bay Area studio formed with a common purpose of crafting highly engaging entertainment and a commitment to putting fans first.” As far as his former employer, we’ll be digging into that oversized can of worms a little further down.
#Justice4Revian: The State of Asian Contestants on The Bachelor – January 14th, 2019
Since watching the 23rd season of The Bachelor, on which Revian featured, I have also seen all of Peter Weber’s and Matt James’ seasons, the 24th and 25th respectively. I also watched the four seasons of The Bachelorette that have aired in the past three years, starring Hannah Brown, Clare Crawley & Tayshia Adams (long story), Katie Thurston, and the most recent star Michelle Young (as well as the most recent Bachelor in Paradise but whatever). While it is notable that both James, Adams, and Young were all Black leads, marking a noticeable development in the ABC reality franchise, when it comes to representation the most seismic shift came in a shocking changing of the guard.
In February 2021 Chris Harrison, who had been hosting and producing both shows, went to bat for Rachael Kirkconnell during an interview on Extra, defending the contestant for photos that had been discovered of the young woman attending an “Old South” ball with her sorority. My personal highlight from said exchange was Harrison claiming that “50 million people” attended such events in 2018. Rachel Lindsay, the first ever Black star of either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette handily tore apart his response in a podcast in the days following, prompting Harrison to announce that he was temporarily “stepping aside” from the franchise a short time later. In June 2021 he made his exit permanent with a gag order and sizeable golden parachute to boot.
A Comprehensive Timeline of Overwatch and Playable Black Female Characters (And Why It Matters) – February 25th, 2019
In April 2019 Overwatch would release Storm Rising, the last of its unique campaign missions. Although players would be able to choose from four existing characters, lore enthusiasts were most excited about Sojourn, the woman giving the orders offscreen. She’s the white-haired, blue-eyed Black woman whose image appears near the top of the original blog post, and is revealed to be a pivotal member of the organization.
Due to the raging pandemic, 2019 was also the last year that Blizzard Entertainment would be able to hold Blizzcon, their annual gaming convention, in-person. It was during that November 1st weekend that our first look at Overwatch 2 would finally be revealed, which unveiled the very briefest glimpse at Sojourn as she would appear as a playable character in-game (time-stamped below).
That’s the last we would see of Sojourn until Blizzconline, which was held virtually February 19-20, 2021. Further glimpses would be seen during “Behind the Scenes of Overwatch 2”, which offered additional details to a game that had yet to receive a release date. Although confirmed to be playable we currently have no concrete timeline as to when that might be.
In April Jeff Kaplan, the lead designer of Overwatch, would leave Blizzard after almost twenty years. In the months to follow the publisher would be rocked by bad press as the California Department of Fair Employment and housing would file a lawsuit for gender-based discrimination and housing within the studio. A stream of stories regarding abuse at Blizzard would become a torrent, and time and time again Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick would be spotlit as the man who knew about the problems and did absolutely nothing. Just two weeks ago Overwatch producer Tracy Kennedy hinted that responsibility for the Overwatch 2‘s delays could also be laid at his feet.
While news of Microsoft moving to acquire Blizzard has dominated recent headlines (which has in turn been superseded by Sony looking to likewise acquire Bungie), much more important is the unionization of Raven Software, a division of quality assurance testers. At present Activision Blizzard refuses to recognize the newly formed Game Workers Alliance. Supporting unionization efforts is the ABK Worker’s Alliance, comprised of employees at Activision Blizzard King who are calling for change both within their employer and in the games industry as a whole. As of December 2021 the ABK Worker’s Alliance has initiated a strike and created a GoFundMe to provide for those who so badly need it.
This College-Admissions Scandal Could Have Been Avoided If Everyone Had Just Watched the Live-Action Direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo Prequel Daphne & Velma – March 18th, 2019
To be perfectly honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this. If there’s anything that the past couple of years have shown it’s that the rich stay rich and can get away with everything shy of (and including) murder. The fact that Lori Loughlin was fined and sentenced to two months in prison in August 2021 (with her husband receiving five months) is truly more the exception than it is the rule.
Looking for Love as an ABC on ABC: Revian Chang’s Bachelor Experience – April 1st, 2019
I can’t say I’ve really been able to glean too much at all from Revian’s Instagram. We’ve already covered the highlights for The Bachelor, so it’s on to the next and final post of 2019-
Why You Shouldn’t Watch Hobbs and Shaw – August 1st, 2019 (spoilers to follow for Hobbs and Shaw and F9)
I stuck to my guns and, taking my own advice, never saw Hobbs and Shaw. I’ve also yet to see Fast & Furious 9, in which it’s revealed that Han Lue is still alive. And you know what, I don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased as punch that Sung Kang is continuing to get work, but as far as I can tell the franchise has done nothing significant to address Dominic Toretto and Co.’s willingness to pal around with the guy (Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw) who murdered their friend. Murdered their family, I should say.
Over at Collider Rafael Motamayor, who did watch the film, notes the exact same thing I did in the appropriately titled “How ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ Fails to Provide Justice for Han.” After listing off the character’s many sins, he notes:
No matter, you’d think, Dom and his crew would still never accept him. Except you would be wrong. In a complete change of personality Shaw, who previously had no problem killing Han and sending a bomb to kill Brian and his infant son, now risks his life to save Dom’s baby. This in turn earns Shaw an invitation to the classic Fast & Furious family BBQ at the end of the film, with not a single mention of Han.
He also cites an LA Times article in which write-producer Chris Morgan admits that he’s well-aware of the #JusticeForHan outcry, saying:
To the Han horde, he promised closure: “You’re right to feel it. It’s part of the story that we’re working to. It’s such a big, giant part of his character, we wanted to be able to handle it gracefully and really give it the due that it needs — which we are moving towards.”
If there is a plan, why not do a better job seeding in that closure? In F9 Han mentions Deckard Shaw’s attempted murder as a much-needed cover to go off the grid, but he at no point makes any mention of Dom’s familia and their willingness to ally with the “former” villain. The only inkling that there might be any potential bad blood is in a mid-credits scene.
If there’s any blog post I wrote in 2019 that inadvertently shone a spotlight on the current times we live in, it’s the conversation surrounding J.K. Rowling, specifically in how it pertains to the divisions in our contemporary culture. So many people having inextricably tied their identity into the creative output of one person means that an author’s resolute stance creates conflict (to put it lightly). In our ever-connected era it’s all too easy to become a diehard fan of musicians, politicians, entrepreneurs, miscellaneous influencers, and even corporations. For someone to not like, let alone be against, someone that you’re for makes you immediate rivals.
Outside of that ever present strife, however, are glimmers of hope. There are voices among us like Rachel Lindsay who aren’t content to sit back and listen to someone defend racist actions, and entire organizations are forming which are calling for transparency and accountability in their employers. In an age that feels characterized by endless discouragement I think we need reminders that while change has beaten us down in these “unprecedented times”, and the wealthy continue to skate by with just a slap on the wrist, it’s also possible for things to shift for the better. At least that’s the energy I want to bring in to 2022.