Tag Archives: The Last Airbender

Shame Day: Negativity

As some of you may know, I played a lot of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm last week. Having played the campaign from Tuesday to Friday, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was many, many times better than its predecessor, Wings of Liberty, and I only had good things to say about it.

Now, I am a person who thoroughly believes that a discerning eye is needed when approaching anything. Millions upon millions of people ate Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises up with a spoon, and shower it in praise. I haven’t personally taken the time to write this all of this out, but I’ve discussed it with friends for hours, and can leave it up to Christopher Sebela of Comics Alliance and “first black comics editor” Christopher Priest to speak on my behalf. Suffice to say, I was not terribly impressed.

You read that right. I did not like The Dark Knight Rises.

And, since The Dark Knight Rises was a film I thoroughly disliked, I should mention that I am very willing to find flaws in the things I love. The Avengers was a film that I really, really liked, but I’ll be one of the first people to tell you that Hawkeye really got the short end of the stick, and that [SPOILERS] the Chitauri just flopping over like a bunch of Trade Federation droids probably deserved some sort of explanation.

To get to the reason I decided to write this post. When StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty came out StarCraft Legacy writer Gradius put together a very extensive review of the single-player campaign, and he was not very gracious. I remember reading it three years ago and agreeing with him on almost every point, the story needed quite a bit of work.

Then maybe four or so hours ago I read his review of Heart of the Swarm, and he ripped it a new one. While I will admit that he peppers his review with positivity he ultimately ends up damning its entirety with faint praise. It leaves no stone unturned, and takes time to dub the game’s creators as being “juvenile” and utilizing “fridge logic.” I finished it and felt sick to my stomach.

I wish I could edit this to have Kerrigan shedding a single tear.

Why was I so upset? I have argued extensively about why I think a widely beloved film is objectively bad, does this make me a hypocrite? Have I taken something that other people hold dearly and spat on it, making them feel as I have?

No, I don’t think so, and it all has to do with how you say what you’re saying.

There exists a very popular series of YouTube videos reviewing the Star Wars prequels done by Red Letter Media. My housemates in college adored them, and I distinctly remember them watching the Phantom Menace review and having a really great time doing so. I didn’t really share in their enthusiasm.

The honest truth is that the reviewer acknowledges where the prequel films went wrong, and makes some incredibly insightful comments about simple storytelling structure within film; there’s some great stuff there. The problem for me was that his videos are dripping with sarcasm, disrespect, a smattering of immaturity, I could go on. It’s a fantastically written analysis packaged in a format that I found really unappealing.

When my friends and I saw X-Men: The Last Stand back in high school we walked out and broke down how it could have been improved. Highlight the relationship between Bobby [Iceman], Kitty [Shadowcat], and Rogue [does anyone call her by her real name?], make the mutant cure more of a topic of discussion among the X-Men, creating divisiveness within the team, etc. We did a lot of the same things that the reviewer did for The Phantom Menace, but we did so by focusing on how it could be better instead of why it was so awful.

We did.

I am a huge proponent of people thinking hard on what sort of media they consume, and processing whether or not it was actually good. On top of that, I also strongly value the ability to find the good in everything [The Last Airbender had good . . . costume design . . . there, I found something]. My mother told me for years that “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.” I slightly disagree. If you have nothing good to say, say it in a way that isn’t dripping with snark. Say it in a way that will convince people to see that no, it wasn’t good, and this is exactly why, and this is how it could be.

There are some things I downright disagree with in regards to Gradius’ review of Heart of the Swarm, but at it’s core I see a huge fan of the franchise who has ultimately been disappointed by Blizzard’s first two installments in over a decade. That being said, he doesn’t so much throw the baby out with the bathwater as he just chucks the whole tub out the window.

I love reading reviews. I love reading what other people have to say about films I’ve watched or comic books I’ve read. What I hate is when negativity seeps in, and when it actively seeks to prevent me from legitimately enjoying something that I once did. I appreciate your opinion, and I generally want to hear about it, but I also want you to give it to me straight, free of your spite and vitriol.

Advertisements

Fame Day: Racebending.com

This Thursday I want to call attention to a website that’s been in this blog’s links-sidebar basically since its inception. I came across Racebending.com around the time it began, and their stance on equality casting and representation in the media is one of the many reasons I decided it was time to start writing more about what I thought mattered.

As their name might suggest, the site came about as a response to M. Night Shyamalan’s film adaptation of the Nickelodeon show Avatar: The Last Airbender. The entirety of the series was set in a distinctly Asian-inspired universe, and the casting decision was made to have the majority of the protagonists be played by Caucasian actors. The change is starkly apparent in the image below:

And for those of you who don’t think Zuko is a villain, click on the link for a thorough explanation.

The organization did a great amount in revealing the decisions that went into the making of the film. Most importantly was their breakdown of the casting calls that read “Caucasian or any other ethnicity,” and how the language affects those who apply for the roles as well as hinting at what they are looking for. They also exposed the blatant racism used by casting director Deedee Rickets, who was quoted as answering the question “Are you at a disadvantage if you didn’t wear a costume?” with the following:

Absolutely not! It doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage if you didn’t come in a big African thing. But guys, even if you came with a scarf today, put it over your head so you’ll look like a Ukrainian villager or whatever.

Although the movement was not enough to sway the studio, producers, or director of the film, the site stays up, continuing to work towards educating the internet on when and where whitewashing is taking place, and what people can do to stop it. They also take care to call attention to those who are advancing the role of minorities in the media, giving credit where it’s due.

Most recently the blog has been concentrating on the upcoming film Cloud Atlas, which stands out due to its use of “yellowface” by various actors. While the directing Wachowski siblings and others have cited the theme of reincarnation and  the fact that actors of colour will also be playing White roles, media liaison Mike Le lays out the stark difference between the two. In an interview with  the radio station Vocalo 89.5 he explains the tradition of yellowface in cinema as a means of controlling the perceptions of a race, and the damage it has done and can still do.

All in all, Racebending.com is run by people who are doing good things, and who care about representation whether it be based on race, gender, or orientation. They strive to see the media reflect the immense amount of diversity in our world, and that alone should be worth checking them out.