Ready Player One: All The Geek Gunk That Ever There Was!

Monday , 2, April 2018 19 Comments

Modern American culture is nothing more than a geek media Skinner Box. The vast majority of geek gunk is driven by pure nostalgia. Creativity seems to have been banished, and with all the reboots and remakes all we do is endlessly recycle the identical characters, costumes, and props, endlessly retelling slightly different stories about the same exact characters.

Our reboot culture is Commedia dell’arte with phasers and sonic screwdrivers, though without the viscerality that Punch and Judy could deliver so effectively. Like a child-proofed house, we’ve padded all the dangerous corners and blocked up all the electrical sockets, so our media is safe, repetitive, and hence insipid. We’re paying billions of dollars to ensure yet more episodes of Baby’s First Geek Gunk Commedia dell’arte.

Ready Player One is, admittedly, NOT another episode of Baby’s First Geek Gunk Commedia dell’arte, but that’s because it’s the Laff-A-Lympics Geek Gunk Commedia dell’arte. It doesn’t have one particular brand of Geek Gunk, it has ALL THE GEEK GUNK IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD.

Back to the Future? It’s in there. Gundam? In there. Iron Giant? Totally. Superman, Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman? All there. King Kong, Halo’s Spartans, Christine (the car), Marvin the Martian, Hello Kitty, Beetlejuice, Mechagodzilla, World of Warcraft Orcs, Commander Sheppard, Lara Croft, The Greatest American Hero, Battletoads, Joust, Overwatch’s Tracer, Femshep, Bloodrayne, Deadshot, Sagat, and a chestburster from Alien? Vehicles from The A-Team, Mad Max, Street Fighter, and Speed Racer? A Devo hat? Would I be mentioning them all if they weren’t all in there? Plus dozens of more that I didn’t pay attention to and I don’t care about.

THIS MOVIE IS ALL THE POP CULTURE REFERENCES. (Except Marvel and Disney. Maybe they charged too much or simply refused, just to be jerks?)

I HATE this movie.

The hero is a wimp. The genius scientist is an autistic wimp. The main villain is a greedy wimp.

WHY IS EVERYTHING ALWAYS ABOUT THE WIMPS?

I want something brave. I want something bold. I want something MANLY.

I want something steeped in Western Civilization. Steeped in the Bible. Steeped in honor, masculinity, virility, courage, chivalry.

I want something that MAKES culture, not MIMICS it.

Pointless references and in-jokes are a cheap, shoddy way to feel clever. Hey, it’s the stock-in-trade of Twitter, but a novel or movie used to have higher standards.

If you allude to something, allude to something with MEANING. Allude to culture, not pop-culture.

Allusions to a serpent staff bring back visions of people so bereft of faith, they couldn’t even lift up their eyes to look at the staff, so they died in utter agony as venom stopped their heart. Allusions to a fiery furnace evoke exactly the opposite image: men so faithful, an angel appeared to them and preserved them in the heart of the most intense flames imaginable. A reference to the “famed loyalty of Iago” would evoke tales of a man who is so twisted by hate for his former closest friend, he’s insane with it, and willing to destroy his life to strike back at he whom he loathes.

These are eternal verities, principles so fundamental to human existence they’ve mattered in every culture on every continent for every hour of human existence on the planet. These are what stories are supposed to be ABOUT.

A culture that forgets these truths produces works of art that are, by turns, either insipid or depraved. Ready Player One falls into the former category, and so is slightly better, but only slightly. It isn’t morally depraved, but it is artistically debased.

We deserve better.


Jasyn Jones, better known as Daddy Warpig, is a host on the Geek Gab podcast, a regular on the Superversive SF livestreams, and blogs at Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery. Check him out on Twitter.

19 Comments
  • Emmett Fitz-Hume says:

    After attempting to read both Ready Player One and Armada, I can safely say there is no chance of me watching this movie.

    Ernest Cline’s shtick wears really thin really fast. After two pages, of each book, I was already bored of the ‘Hey look at this 80’s reference!’ style of writing.

  • Wimpy Autistic says:

    You should get off your wimpy ass and create the future that you want to see instead of bitching about others creating the future that you hate.

    It’s funny how people that hate never have motivation to create a fucking thing, they just have motivation to create bitching.

    You say, “Why is it always about the wimps?”

    I say to you, “Why are you haters always little bitches?”

  • Fronzel says:

    “World of Warcraft Orks”

    A C K T U A L L Y in Warcraft, Orc is spelt with a “c”. It’s in Warhammer than it’s spelt with a “k”. Warcraft is a transparent rip-off of Warhammer, anyway.

    I’m sure you’re glad you know this now.

  • Misha Burnett says:

    The phrase that came to mind when I was thinking about why this film rubbed me the wrong was “stolen valor”.

    When the Iron Giant appeared and the audience cheered, Speilberg hadn’t earned that cheer–Brad Bird did. The heroism and pathos of the character belonged to another film, RP1 took it without earning it.

    Ditto the Delorean, King Kong, hell, just about everything in this movie. Other people did the work. Cline and Spielberg just cashed in on it.

    • Tesh says:

      As far as I’m concerned, all this identity politics and “representation” nonsense going around at the moment is stolen valor as well, cashing in on tribal affiliation instead of individual merit. It’s not just the nostalgia wave. You’re right, Misha, and it’s a sad thing for society.

  • Xavier Basora says:

    Misha,

    That’s a very arresting insight. So the solution is to create our own content? And even if we fail, at least, it’s our responsibility.
    Something to ponder as a reader and as a hobbyist writer

    xavier

    • Misha Burnett says:

      Xavier. Yes, exactly. Make up new stories, new worlds, new heroes. Write in your own voice, not an imitation of someone else’s.

      Ready Player One is the ultimate result of Hollywood’s fear of doing anything new. It’s “Everything, Part II”.

      • Xavier Basora says:

        Misha

        Thanks for your reply.
        I guess we don’t Hollywood anymore as we can create our own content.
        If i ever watch Ready player one, it’ll be eithrr free or on a streaming service. I’m curious bout why it’s being panned

        xavier

  • Constantin says:

    This movie is an amalgam of everything I hate about modern movies. Nauseating overuse of CGI, pop-culture references galore, nods to diversity and inclusion, a tinge of irony that plagues every modern action movie, wimpy protagonists etc. And many more.

    Hollywood can’t die fast enough.

  • DmLPresents says:

    If I may say a word in defense.

    This is the first adventure I’ve seen in a long while where the hero, once awoken, shoulders his burden enthusiastically, without hesitation. Wade arcs from fat (in the book) shut-in to caring about himself and something outside his tiny bubble.

    It’s the first cartoon in ages where the hero pursues and kisses the girl unapologetically and lands the final blow.

    The film is clearly asking us to spend more time in the real world. Virtually the first thing the heroes do once they’ve won is shut the game down a couple of days a week.

    The autistic genius’s greatest regret was that he spent his life inside in fear, and it cost him his best friend.

    So, I don’t say this to argue with the main thrust of your comment. But with how wimpy the world IS, this movie is a step in the right direction. Yes it celebrates nostalgia (and I could do with some Shakespeare or Milton nostalgia), but it also celebrates facing reality, sacrifice, camaraderie.

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