spirit_zone: (anna)
[personal profile] spirit_zone
I've been listening to a lot of Eisel Mazard (a-bas-le-ciel on youtube.) He's an engaging (if rambling) storyteller, has many fantastic ideas and original insights, and is in some sense a kindred spirit re: politics, veganism, and atheism.

And in other senses we couldn't be more different. He's very anti-hedonism and anti-escapism; my impression of him is that he's what you'd call a reality devotee, with a distaste for popular culture (video games in particular) and an aversion to imagination and fantasy for their own sake. A quick look at my interests will tell you that I don't take that view. To me, imagination is not a distraction, or an obstacle to living a meaningful life. On the contrary, I think that imagination is not only meaningful, but that it's at the heart of what meaning means. It's where meaning comes from when we have an experience, and where meaning goes back to when we process and reflect on those experiences. All meanings, all values, are created in the imagination. And that process of meaning-making is inherent to being human.

Pop culture and mass media have a tendency to go up themselves, because it's safe to do so and people have come to expect it. Just today, I saw a poster for an emoji movie. >_> Most entertainment media is nebulous, irrelevant to our lives, and communicates nothing of value. And a lot of "geek culture" just validates the worst of these tendencies. Critics will fall over themselves to praise something with no real merit, other than a certain kind of arch humor and superficial coolness (Guardians Of The Galaxy, I'm looking in your direction.) So yeah, I can understand hating video games, movies, TV, comic books, ect. These mediums are badly abused. But they don't have to be, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Per video games: look at how many indie games subvert the player's expectations of their own agency, and use this as a means of social commentary. e.g., how Undertale punishes the "collect-em-all" mentality in its players, becoming a criticism of a life based on acquisition. Or how The Beginner's Guide abandons conventional game rules entirely, becoming an examination of an abusive relationship through the medium of game playing. We don't even have to go indie: just look at how Metal Slug, through its Mad Magazine aesthetics, takes the piss out of war and jingoism, and subverts the entire run-and-gun genre in doing so. Waves of enemies who each have some kind of individual personality; who have their own hopes, ambitions, and fears; and who die in pathetic and tragic ways. And this is all handled so light-heartedly as to go completely under the radar. It wouldn't work in a non-interactive medium; you have to be the one committing the violence to understand how absurd Metal Slug makes violence look. Of course, Metal Slug also makes violence fun; it's a great stress ball, and one of my go-to games when I'm in an arcade. But the underlying message is there, sweetened by the addictive game design and baked into every player-NPC interaction.

The point I'm getting at is that media isn't inherently a trivial, escapist thing. Even if it's primarily used to escape. There is something that is pure and necessary in works of imagination. If you can communicate the contents of your imagination, you are in a sense telepathic. And we can't live without that kind of intimate connection, or at least it wouldn't be much of a life.

There is not so much imagination in the world that we can afford not to love it. And there's just enough imagination in the world that, if we don't invest our love and goodness into it, we put ourselves in terrible danger.

Date: 2017-06-02 06:02 am (UTC)
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
From: [personal profile] jewelfox
Huh! I had no idea (about Metal Slug). I guess I haven't looked that closely.

"Culture theory" and "politics" seem like good tags for talking about imagination. There's a discussion in We Know The Devil where one character is basically saying "well yeah it's unfair, that's just the way life is" and the other is like "but people CHOSE to make it that way!" Which is a point that a lot of hyper-rationalist, fedora atheist types tend to miss; that faith in an abusive ideology doesn't stop being harmful if you divorce it from "religion." Or that their "science" has never been separate from political ideology, and has often served to enforce and empower it. With notions like eugenics, or hysteria.

Having said all that, I feel like kitsch is under-appreciated. Like, sure, maybe it doesn't have much to say about life or identity on the surface. And the ideologies it promotes under the surface need to be brought out into the light and interrogated (a process known as "bringing politics into my games"). But at the same time, there's a classist component to prejudice against "lowest common denominator" entertainment, whether it's wrestling or Warhammer 40,000. And it asks us to think that the reason other people enjoy those things is because they are worse people than us, instead of seeing the value these stories have to those people.

So I think that kitsch can be good? Which is not to say that nerds haven't been celebrating the same questionable fantasy for generations now, and getting mad at anyone who questions it ...

Anyway, I'm also a fan of escapism sometimes. ^^; C.S. Lewis said that the kind of people you'd expect to hate escapism are jailers, and I think there's something to that. A lot of the people I see complaining about how "kids these days always have their noses in their cellphones" are the same ones who didn't want me being on the computer so much, and who didn't want people who came before me reading so much.

I think they're jealous, of the fact that so much of their world is optional to us.

Finally, about meaning-making being inherent to being human. I don't want to argue the point, so much as point out that defining human-ness is tricky. Because there's pretty much always either a human who doesn't have that quality, or a non-human who does. And given how ablist and speciesist many human societies are, I don't trust them to be especially curious to find out, or to change their definition if they do.

... plus there's the fact that I only partly identify as human, and I hang out with a lot of people who don't consider themselves human at all. So I try to avoid using language which others them.

Anyway, I guess I wrote an essay here. ^^; Thank you for sharing, and I hope this helps some!


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