Archive for September, 2019

“When There’s No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Shop the Earth”

September 30, 2019

The “Philosophy in Popular Culture” series returns after a hiatus of about five months. I’ve been busy for a while, but the big reason for the delay was “Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy”. I’ve skipped a number of essays in it because the book focuses on a lot of postmodern and existentialist philosophizing that I’m not familiar with and not interested in, and also a lot of them tend to be aimed at advancing a particular point rather than tying it interestingly into the source material. The latest essay there was a prime example of that, doing a rather convoluted examination of colonization and tying it into race relations in odd ways. Still, potentially there was a lot to say about that since I thought a lot of it was wrong, but at first it was delayed because I did want to say quite a lot about it, and then later it was delayed because as time went on I became less and less interested in discussing any of those issues, until finally I decided to just not bother and move on.

So, that brings me back to “Vampires, Zombies and Philosophy”, and the next essay in that work is the rather lengthly titled “When There’s No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Shop the Earth: Romero and Aristotle on Zombies, Happiness and Consumption” by Matthew Walker. The main thesis here is comparing George A. Romero’s commentary on capitalism in “Dawn of the Dead” to Aristotle’s consideration and ultimate rejection of the idea that that which will make people is simple material gain. Now, of course, there’s still a lot of room between the two here because Aristotle didn’t reject consumption or material things even to the extent of the Stoics (who, especially among the Roman Stoics, treat those things as things that you can take or leave) but simply felt that they couldn’t bring true satisfaction even as their lack will stop someone from achieving true satisfaction with their lives. That’s the closest parallel between the two, as Walker points out that in Romero’s work the survivors enter a mall and indulge in rampant consumerism that eventually leads them to become bored with all of it. However, the comparison to zombies doesn’t quite work for Aristotle, since he wouldn’t consider those who choose to pursue material gains as being mindless. Which can lead to an interesting new comparison for the zombies themselves.

For any virtue theory that doesn’t make the pursuit of material goods the highest virtue, the error that people make in pursuing them as opposed to what is really a virtue is often in deciding that things that only have instrumental value actually have intrinsic value, meaning that they consider them to have value in and of themselves rather than only having value for how they help in getting something that actually has intrinsic value. This is how Aristotle views material goods: you need to have them to achieve the virtues, but that’s the only real value they have. The Stoics reject that based on their idea that a big part of virtue is making do with what you can achieve, and so even if you lack them you should be able to modify your mindset to maintain your focus on the virtues. So the main point here is that people go wrong wrt material goods when they start to value them for their own sake rather than for that they can use them to get.

The zombies can be seen as falling way too deeply into that trap. They have made feeding or consuming their highest virtue, and subsume everything else under that virtue. As such, they’ve forgotten that feeding is supposed to achieve a purpose, and arguably have forgotten that actions are supposed to achieve a purpose. Walker points out that they keep falling for the distractions of tapping on windows, and at first this seems like an example of their mindlessness. However, while animals can be conditioned out of those sorts of responses, it seems that the zombies can’t. They’ve associated the sounds with food, and if they don’t get food following it animals would eventually stop responding to the stimulus. If the zombies don’t, then this might suggest an alternative explanation: they’ve associated the sound with feeding and keep pursuing because they know that it might, in fact, lead to feeding, and that’s their highest goal. No matter how often that fails them, as long as there’s a chance it will lead them to food they will follow it as long as it’s the stimulus that has the highest probability of getting them food. Why? Because they literally have nothing better to do! Humans will get bored or decide to try something else, but as long as it has a chance of leading them to food and is the most promising of the various stimuli the zombies will pursue it anyway.

This only gets worse when valuing one’s own life is subordinated to this instrumental value. We can indeed subordinate our lives to that which has real intrinsic value — the Stoics strongly advocate for that — but here surely the thing that has the most instrumental value is always going to have to be one’s life. But the zombies, arguably, don’t even do that, staggering on against people armed and killing those around them without thinking to preserve their own lives. Their own lives don’t matter when placed against the desire to feed, and so they feel no fear of actual death — as opposed to the undeath they currently have — and so have no survival instinct. Arguably, Walker’s example of Stephen is an example of this as well, as he is willing to fight and die over the things that they’ve obtained but that don’t even really satisfy them anymore. We can risk our lives for material gain based on a reasonable cost/benefit analysis, but when we consider material gain to have more value than it should we end up giving up our lives for a material gain that we can’t enjoy and wouldn’t have been worth it if we had succeeded.

So it all comes down to value, and valuing things to the appropriate degree. Zombies — and overly consumerist humans — value material things too much. And that is what leads to their downfall.

Some Fridge Brilliance in “Remington Steele”

September 27, 2019

So, I’ve just finished watching the first season of “Remington Steele”, and while I’m disappointed in it in one episode — “Steele Trapped” — they do the thing that I thought they should do, as Steele and Laura go to a deserted island after a prospective client commits suicide after receiving an invitation there, posing as the doctor and his nurse. Of course, people start dying. Of course, Steele notes that this is very similar to the movie “And Then There Were None”, based on the Agatha Christie novel. What’s interesting — other than the fact that this allows them to use the movie as a real reference — is just how much of the movie itself was referenced.

1) While not using a nursery rhyme, the killer tries to kill the victims in an ironic way, but seems willing to forgo that if required … which the show lampshades with the lawyer being killed by a blow to the head and Steele commenting that that wasn’t very ironic.

2) From reading on TV Tropes, Hollywood versions and the play version often have Lombard replaced by an impostor after Lombard commits suicide. Steele is doing the same thing. And at the time Steele was believed to be a mostly mercenary con artist and thief, so it even fits there.

3) The same sources often have Vera be innocent of her crime and romantically interested in Lombard or his replacement. Laura fits that role as she was innocent of the crime and there’s a lot of sexual tension between her and Steele (who actually jumped at the chance to go there in an attempt to romance her).

4) The grudge the murderer has against the doctor was that he botched their plastic surgery. In the source material, the doctor character’s crime was botching an operation while drunk.

5) The sixth person killed was faking their death and was the actual killer in both cases.

6) Steele and Laura attempt the “fake their own death to be able to investigate unnoticed” ploy that Wargrave and Armstrong, the doctor, attempted. Laura points out the flaw in that the killer will know that they didn’t kill the person, and so Steele arranges for an accident that looks like a murder, so that the innocent will think it was something the killer arranged while the killer will think that it was a fortunate — or unfortunate — accident.

7) They explain how the murderer was able to fake their death so convincingly, using digitalis to slow their heart rate. Steele not being a doctor — and so there not being one — would make it easier for them to get away with it, and the killer did know that Steele was an impostor, although the killer made up a story to explain not calling him out on it immediately (the claim was that he was a last minute replacement for the real doctor).

8) They maintain a dark and spooky atmosphere the same way the other sources did: the generator is out so they need to use candles.

And there are probably others that I can’t recall at the moment. While I’ve been disappointed with the show so far, they put a lot of effort into this one and really did utilize the premise to its fullest.

Thoughts on “Haunted Hospital” (Heilstatten)

September 26, 2019

When I came across this one, I wondered if I had seen it before. Specifically, I wondered if it was “Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum”, as the two movies have an almost identical premise: a group of people who are known for online reality TV decide to go to a haunted hospital or asylum to film the ghosts and, well, bad things happen to them. While Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum followed the standard Asian practice of confusing people in an attempt to confuse them, Haunted Hospital is just confusing, mostly because I’m not sure it knows what it wants to be itself.

The first thing I should talk about, though, is that the movie is originally German, and the default setting is for German voices with English subtitles. I have an issue with subtitles, since I have a strong tendency to read everything all the time, and so I spend most of my time with subtitled movies reading the subtitles and not watching what’s happening on-screen, which can hurt my appreciation of movies. I found out later — while looking to see how long the movie was, about half-way through — that I could have set it to have English voices, but I don’t think that the subtitles impacted my enjoyment of the movie. And if I was checking the DVD case half-way through the movie, that’s probably a pretty good indication of how much I was actually enjoying the movie.

The main problem with the movie, as outlined above, is that it builds up a lot of possible threads but doesn’t commit to any of them. While I tend to complain about developing the doomed characters since we don’t really need to take the time to do that to make us feel bad for them if they get tortured and killed horribly, this movie really needed to focus more on the characters and their relationships. The first reason is that the movie doesn’t actually build itself around hurting or even scaring them that much. Two characters die before the endgame of the movie, one of which seems to be due to an accident. The second, and biggest reason, is that the ending itself is built around the relationships between the characters. At the end, one character is revealed as having set all of this up to get revenge on the popular vloggers for sacrificing their principles to get views. And one of those characters is someone that he had had a channel with who left to go to the other one to get more hits, doing, well, utter crappy pranks that don’t say anything but, well, get views. At the same time, the other big vlogger is having a secret relationship with the guy who was the murderer’s partner despite them acting as huge rivals, which is what was the main draw for this competition. The other main character of interest is a woman who has a rather small channel dedicated to facing fears, who used to date the murderer, and goes along to try to reconnect, but he thinks that she’s just trying to get views for her own channel. Oh, and she and her sister and the murderer came to the hospital once before and her sister was injured, and so we can presume that she was the woman in the wheelchair we see at the beginning of the movie. Confused? Well, you still will be after watching this episode of “Soap” movie, because none of that actually really matters much to the movie itself. The murderer brings it up in his reveal and makes some references to it in his rants, but we never see the three vloggers killed, and the minor vlogger doesn’t escape because of that relationship or anything that happened the first time around, but just because she climbs out of a hole that the murderer didn’t think anyone could climb out of (Why? No one mentioned in the movie was in a position to try) and tricks him with his own trap to escape. He ends up killing himself at the end at the instigation of his girlfriend that we may or may not have seen earlier in the movie.

However, this all, of course, suggests a mundane explanation for everything, which is fine. They, however, hint very strongly at the supernatural elements, but that wouldn’t be a problem if that simply built up that red herring so that we can have the rug pulled out from under us later. But it focuses a lot on the details of the supernatural story — like trying to figure out what it means to help her — that never pay off later, even in the mundane plot. That wouldn’t be terrible, but then the movie after pulling the supernatural rug out from under us … puts it back right at the very end. See, his girlfriend, as she’s editing the last of the movie that the murderer was making together, gets the supernatural eyes of the purported woman who was killed horribly there and eats a moth that was a common motif of the supernatural events. So, that spirit or whatever ultimately was responsible for his actions. That actually makes a lot of sense, actually … except that the movie never reveals what her motive was. Why was she doing this? Why did she let the one woman go? What did helping her mean? None of these questions are answered, but the ending makes them the important part of the movie because the supernatural element at the end trumps the mundane one that we had some answers for. This overturns a lot of what happened before and still leaves a lot of threads around that are never pulled.

All of this, ultimately, leads to a movie that wasn’t very entertaining. The character and supernatural elements drag at times and are never paid off to make it all worthwhile. Even those elements tend to be somewhat scattershot, with small references to them without any indication of their actual significance. If they were focused more on, we’d pay more attention to them, but as small references they are easy to ignore. There are some scares in the movie, but it ultimately isn’t even that scary. The documentary elements are dull, the character relationships underdeveloped, the supernatural elements underdeveloped, the ending is disappointing, and the scares are mediocre. This is not a movie that I could imagine watching again.

Accomplishments Update …

September 25, 2019

Well, again, it’s been about two months since the last update, and so it’s a good time to talk about how that’s all been going. It’s also a good time to talk about it because I was going to have some vacation time coming up next week but now due to changed circumstances that’s not going to happen. This means that the things that I was putting on hold for when I went on vacation won’t be done then, and so I need to build them into a regular schedule. It’s also the case that my work schedule is less “insanely busy” and more “I kinda have to be around to do stuff and so can’t spare two weeks”, so there’s more time to fit things into my schedule.

So, let’s start with the part that always goes well, DVDs and TV shows/movies. There hasn’t been much happening on the horror movie front, but I’ve gotten back into that very recently, with one last week and another to talk about this week. In terms of TV shows, I’ve cleared off all of my half-hour new shows to watch and am working on the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh as a repeat, and in terms of hourly shows I’ve cleared off Enterprise, Discovery and Doom Patrol and am working on Remington Steele (I’m just about the start the second season of that as well). However, what’s worked out best for DVDs has really been rewatching Charmed. I’m about to finish the second season and have been really enjoying it. It takes some time away from my large stack of new hourly shows, but it’s also working out to be much more enjoyable than those were. Of course, the push to start that was to be able to finish it on the vacation that I’m not going to have, so it’s a little odd. Still, I’m on track to finish it on my next actual vacation in December. I’m still a bit uncertain about this new schedule, but have to admit that it seems to be working for me and is more enjoyable than the alternatives were.

Books are still struggling a bit. While I took some time out to read some graphic novels, at least, I’m right now at about page 1000 in “War and Peace”, which is only 600 pages more than I had read the last time. It’s hard to find time to just sit and read it, and the weight of it is such that it’s hard to do while watching other things, especially TV shows and DVDs. And since I’m not watching sports as much anymore, I don’t even have those time blocks to get some reading in. So, really, I haven’t made much progress here. I don’t really know what I’ll do next once I finish it, as I had wanted to keep reading the classic works but if they all take that long I might have to take a break and read something else.

For video games … I’ve done nothing. Well, I’ve built a list of all of the classic console games I want to play, but have done nothing otherwise. To be fair, I didn’t have this on my schedule for when I went on vacation and so was simply planning on picking something up after that, so all this means is that I need to do that a little bit earlier than planned. TOR and Elsinore are the big ones for the blog and for my general discussions, but things like Steins;Gate are probably more interesting right now.

And for projects … very, very little. Here I was planning to focus on them when I went on vacation which, again, is simply not happening, so I have to get it into my schedule again. Considering that all I’ve done here is some playing around with Twine, there’s a lot to do and the time to do it is fleeting.

So, that’s where I am right now. It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, happens between now and December, which is the next big breakpoint in my schedule.

Thoughts on the SF Debris Reviews of “Star Trek: Discovery”

September 24, 2019

As I’ve said before, unlike for Voyager or Enterprise it wasn’t Chuck’s reviews of Discovery that got me to watch it. While his reviews didn’t make it sound worth watching, they also didn’t make it sound so terrible that I simply had to see if it was really that bad. No, it was a friend’s comments that it reminded him of Mass Effect that made me sit down and watch it when I had the opportunity. But it’s still worth looking at his reviews to see if we align or don’t align in our impressions of the show.

For the most part, we align. We both seem to agree that the biggest problem with Discovery is that it focuses on one main character, Michael, and that that character isn’t particularly interesting. Neither of us really hate her, but neither of us care about her either, which is what’s required if you’re going to have one main character that the story revolves around.

When it comes to the minor characters, we both seem to like Tilly, but we differ on the other character that we like. I like Saru, while he likes Lorca. And even there, I think I like Lorca more than he likes Saru, since he seems to spend most of the time he spends talking about Saru disparaging him, but not with the venom that you’d get for a, say, Neelix or, well, any character from Enterprise. So he doesn’t seem to hate him, but doesn’t seem to like the character either. Whereas for me, I don’t really mind Lorca but don’t see him as being as good a character as Chuck does, mostly because I don’t quite see the nuance in the character and that sort of character isn’t one that generally interests me anyway.

Chuck is just starting season 2, and it’ll be interesting to see what his reactions to that season is, as that’s the season that ultimately killed any interest I had in the show. Since I do follow his show, obviously, I’ll be watching to see if he hated it as much as I did or if he found any redeeming qualities in it.

Classic Console Games …

September 23, 2019

So, I went through all of those set consoles that I had picked up and decided which games, at least, I felt it was worth exploring more. I created a page for them. Out of 315 games, I decided that it was worth looking at or playing 163 of them, for a percentage of 52%. The highest number of games from one console was for the Atari 2600 … but it had a whopping 120 games and I only wanted to play 49 of them, giving it the lowest percentage at 41%. The highest percentage was, unsurprisingly, the Legends console, at 78%. The lowest number of games was from the C64, but it’s percentage was the second highest at 56%. This means that the two consoles with the least games had the highest percentage of interesting ones. That’s probably not a coincidence.

Most of the games are simple shoot-em-ups or platform games. Some are a bit deeper, either dungeon-crawling type games or even some minor RPGs. There were, of course, a number of sports or racing games, but I ended up skipping most of them because, well, I had better games than them to play and there was nothing special about them. The exception was the Street Sports games, which at least had some personality that made them interesting. There were also a small number of games that I put a ? beside, which means that they were okay but had some issue that made me uncertain that I’d play them, either gameplay or that I had a better game like them or whatever.

Still, that’s quite a few games to play. Of course, I have way too many games to play of all sorts, so when I’ll play them is uncertain. But at least I have the list and can play them when I get the time or the urge.

Why is Dragon Age more Tempting to Me Than Mass Effect?

September 20, 2019

So, while waiting for compiles, I’ve been browsing on TV Tropes again. This is, of course, probably a bad idea. But while browsing the Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II pages, something struck me: despite my liking both series, I’m in general much more tempted to play the Dragon Age games than the Mass Effect games. This is borne out by the fact that I’ve played Dragon Age Origins four times: City Elf, Dalish Elf, Dwarf Noble and Mage and Dragon Age II twice, but only played Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 once each. Of course, I’ve only played Dragon Age Inquisition and Mass Effect 3 once each, but then both of those games disappointed me roughly equally. Still, it’s mostly the length and having to face the Dragon Age Keep again that really stop me from replaying the former, while the gameplay change in ME 3 is the big push for my not replaying it, along with not having as much interest in playing it.

So why do I, I suppose, like Dragon Age so much more than Mass Effect?

Well, I think the starting point is how Dragon Age Origins is more personalized and personalizable than Mass Effect is. You have a number of different Origins in DAO, all of which have different hooks into the story and the rest of the world and so have an impact on the character. And then you do seem to get a lot more choices in how the world will turn out that you get in Mass Effect. This means that the game is different and so triggers my alt-o-holism: I can replay the game as a different character and get a different story, beyond my interpretations of their personality. Which is also abundantly present in DAO and less so in ME because of the Paragon/Renegade divide. DAO lets me build a world more my own than ME does.

There’s also an issue with the gameplay mechanisms going into DAII and ME2. For the most part, the gameplay changes in DAII are ones that work for me. I loved bouncing around as a rogue in my second playthrough, and while I didn’t care for having to constantly basic attack it worked relatively well. I did, however, loathe the teleporting enemies that ended up showing up behind you from already cleared areas so that positioning didn’t much matter. And limiting the action to Kirkwall and having quests appear in areas that you can go to individually really, really worked for me, as as I’ve commented before it allowed me to get into a very addictive playstyle for me: go on the dayside, clear all quests except for the story quest, hop to the nightside, do the same, hop to the outskirts, rinse, repeat. Meanwhile, ME2 made the resource gathering sidequests incredibly annoying, ditched the Mako, and ditched the cooldown mechanism which I really enjoyed in ME. So the gameplay changes in DAII were most often positive ones for me, while the ones in ME2 were mostly negative.

Following on from the first game, I think that while the characters in ME2 were far superior to the ones in DA2 for the most part — although Varric is cool — I think the story was better in DAII. I’ve commented before — too lazy to find a link — that I didn’t mind the story as much in ME2 as others did (like Shamus Young) because I saw it as nothing more than an excuse to go around recruiting interesting characters, but because of that DAII’s story is better because it actually has one. And as I commented in myanalysis run of DAII, on replaying it the story does come across better than it did originally, once I paid attention to it. There’s more of an attempt to build on what DAO did and more attempts to set up for DAI. It’s not perfect, sure, but it’s better than what we got in ME2.

And, finally, add to all that that I’m not a huge fan of cover shooters and so the gameplay of Dragon Age is going to appeal to me more and it’s a slam dunk. Which is a shame, because I’ve played a lot of fantasy based RPGs and Mass Effect is one of the few science fiction based ones that I can play. Although, the fact that I like Knights of the Old Republic and The Old Republic better might hurt Mass Effect as well.

On that note, I am indeed again tempted to play at least the first two Dragon Age games again. However, I have no time to actually do so, and the desire will probably reside by the time I do.

Thoughts on “The Leprechaun Returns”

September 19, 2019

“The Leprechaun Returns” is a SyFy Channel made movie continuing the, uh, probably classic horror series of “The Leprechaun”. Which is a series that I’ve never seen and, in fact, don’t actually own any of. So as this movie is a continuation I come into this a bit behind the 8-ball, as I don’t know anything about any of the previous events and so will miss a number of the references in it. However, the flaws in this movie have nothing to do with that, as I was able to follow the plot, such as it was, pretty well and the movie didn’t seem to stop that often for exposition explaining the background, or at least not in a way that I found boring. No, the flaws in this movie come entirely from what it does or, rather, doesn’t do with its premise.

A horror movie where the main protagonist is a short, wise-cracking, Irish-accented leprechaun is not going to be able to pull off simple physical gore/slashing. The leprechaun just isn’t going to seem like a physical threat even if it actually is one (the leprechaun is indeed surprisingly strong and so often immune to physical assault). In a sense, leprechauns work the same way as genies do: while you probably could, if you tried hard enough, make them purely a physical threat at a minimum most people will be disappointed if you aren’t doing something like perverting wishes. For leprechauns, what you’d be after are tricks and traps, not simple slasher deaths.

To its credit, the movie seems to somewhat try for this. However, this all gets trumped by its main focus, which is on horror through excessive gore. So any kind of cleverness of the traps is subordinated to making the scenes as gory as possible. The problem is that while the scenes are indeed over-the-top gory, they aren’t so over-the-top gory as to shock just with that, and in their execution come across less as “Ugh, that gore!” and more like “You’re trying too hard!”. And since the traps and tricks aren’t that creative — the best one is probably when the leprechaun gets one of the victims to betray her friends with a promise to “Not lay a hand on her” which he then subverts in the obvious way — what we get are medicore tricks and traps that seem intended more to produce gore than to seem clever or darkly humourous.

The movie also tries to play the sex angle a bit, with one of the girls in a very skimpy outfit and at least two sex scenes in a sub-plot that exists for no other reason than to produce those scenes. But it’s also too rare to make the movie be an exploitation type movie, so it again seems tacked on.

The sad thing is that the movie is at its best when it’s trying to subvert the horror genre tropes. The main character is appealing and works best when she mostly inadvertently tries to act according to at least the heroic forms of the tropes when in reality it makes no sense. There are two big scenes of this, and they’re the best moments in the movie. First, she talks about taking down the leprechaun and starts to walk away heroically, only to be called back by her friends because she hasn’t actually told them the plan (and she lampshades that it seemed appropriately dramatic but doesn’t really make sense) and at the end her and the last survivor are met by the cop watching the house burn and try to limp away from the car when her friend says that medical attention is required and so walking away isn’t a good idea, which she concedes. The actress is really good at that sort of thing and can pull that off without simply looking like an idiot, and so those scenes really work.

If the movie had made itself into a parody/subversion of the horror genre, it could have worked really well. As it stands, however, its a mediocre at best movie with some good scenes. I can’t imagine watching this one again, not because its terrible, but because there’s really nothing interesting about it, good or bad, to drive a rewatch.

Legends …

September 18, 2019

I’ve recently picked up a number of the retro consoles that you can get, that hook up to a TV and contain a number of preloaded classic games. I own the Atari 2600 one, the Commodore 64 one, and recently picked up the Sega one — mostly for Altered Beast and some other games — and the Legends one, which is a collection of mostly arcade games that are considered classics. Well, with all of these consoles lying around that all have a number of games that I’ve never played, I thought it would be a good idea to sit down and go through all of the games and record which ones I liked and wanted to play so that whenever I manage to get some time to play I don’t have to keep looking through them trying to figure out which ones are good, or else only sticking to the ones I know and possibly missing out on some. So I started with the Legends console that had 50 games.

I’ve probably written down about 40 or so of them that I want to play at some point.

Some of the games are, of course, classic arcade games that I really did like or recognize. The big one here is the BurgerTime/Super BurgerTime games, which is pretty much the main reason I bought that one, as I was very disappointed with the graphics on the Atari 2600 version. There’s also a Street Fighter II game there, although since the controller doesn’t have a joystick that might be a bit hard to play. But some of them were games that I hadn’t played, including two caveman adventure games that seem interesting. One seems to be a standard sidescroller, while the other seems similar to Bubble Bobble. And of the others there were a number of sidescrollers and Galaga-style top scrollers with spaceships that seemed at least moderately entertaining.

The only games I ditched were one adventurer-style game that was too easy for the most part but then changed its gameplay and so was quite a bit more difficult, which essentially made it simply confusing in terms of game mechanics, and all the sports games. The reason for the sports games is that while those were the games that I was most interested in, most of them followed the standard arcade game sports model of only allowing you to play for a short time — either a set number of rounds or having to win to continue — before ending it. That’s not that interesting to me, especially when I already own sports games with better graphics and gameplay.

I don’t expect to have the same percentage of games with the other consoles, as there are more games there that I’m not that interested in. However, it is worth my going through every game on them and seeing which ones I like out of the ones that I’ve never heard of. I just wish that there were more games on them that I remembered and thought were classics, as even on the one that focuses on arcade games most of the arcade games that I liked and played aren’t there.

Thoughts on “Doom Patrol”

September 17, 2019

A friend of mine recommended “Doom Patrol” to me, which is what prompted me to try it when I found it on my streaming service. However, this is the same friend who recommended “Star Trek: Discovery” to me, and we all know how that turned out. So after suffering through “Enterprise” and “Discovery”, I was really, really hoping that the show would, at least, be good. Just good. Or, at least, not bad. And while I didn’t really mind the first season of Discovery and so there’s still room for Doom Patrol to greatly disappoint me, I did like the show. And I think that Doom Patrol has a better chance to not horribly disappoint me in the second season because it doesn’t have the crippling flaws that Discovery had, even in its first season.

What I really liked about the show was that, at the start, it was a fairly unique entry, at least for superhero TV shows: it was a show that takes a group of utter loser superheroes and puts them into an exceptionally wacky story narrated by Mr. Morden … or, Mr. Nobody, who also keeps throwing very strange things at them like the ability to enter another world through a donkey. While they all had deep-seated mental problems that we knew they’d have to address at some point, for the most part the show, early on, was more fun than dark and so was mostly ridiculous and light-hearted. That was refreshing.

However, I think the show made a mistake in tying their dysfunctions so tightly into the main plot. That meant that about half-way through the show started focusing more on the main plot, leaving the goofy villain’s narration out, and then ramping up the angst the heroes felt over their traumas as it built towards resolving them. This pretty much killed the fun in the show and made it much more similar to the darker superhero shows that are more common these days. When Mr. Morden — I have to call him that because of the Babylon 5 link — comments in the final episode that the show was finally turning into the superhero show that everyone wanted, I mused that that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted the goofy superhero show back. And while the climax has an utterly ridiculous scene in it, I found that I couldn’t laugh at it because it was more comic relief than representative of the show as a whole. The show was no longer a goofy superhero show but was more of a standard dramatic show with some goofy moments, which to me squandered its potential.

I like the characters, though, although there are some flaws in how they are handled. My favourite is probably Rita, but her characterization is a bit inconsistent. Yes, she’s self-centered and self-interested, but she is often shown to be as empathetic if not more so than everyone else in the group, and yet depending on the episode — and maybe the writer — then seems to abandon all of that to act in a self-absorbed manner that isn’t consistent with what she’d done before, with no real set-up. Because of this, when she does act to help others it seems to be less of a surprise than the show seems to expect it to be for us.

This also hurts Jane’s character, who is a character that I’m not fond of. For me, Jane comes off too much as the character that we’re all supposed to think is cool and edgy and so like, when she’s abrasive at precisely the wrong times and with no real reason, especially when she gets angry at Cliff for trying to help her (even refusing to speak to him after he goes into her mind to help her out of a catatonic state because he found out stuff about her). The character is set up to be someone who needed to learn to trust people because her history made that impossible, but that was never really developed properly around her being cool with the multiple personalities. And her more abrasive personality with its emphasis on her being on her own and doing her own thing was pretty similar to Rita’s, except Rita was more sympathetic than Jane was. So Jane was annoying, at least to the group, in the same way that Rita was but didn’t balance that with being more sympathetic most of the time, and so mostly annoyed me … especially since she was on-screen and annoying people more often than most of the other characters.

The worst character, though, is Cyborg, which seems to be a misstep from the beginning. In the comics Doom Patrol, that spot was taken up by Changeling/Beast Boy, who was an actual, full-on orphan who adopted them or at least needed them to be a family for him (the Teen Titans cartoon definitely made it so that he felt that Steve and Rita were like parents to him). None of that exists for Cyborg, as he has a father whom he clashes with but who clearly does care for him. Second, Cyborg is roughly established as a hero, and thus we wonder why he’s willing to hang out with these losers at all. Third, he uses that status to be made leader but the actor cannot pull off the leadership role here, which might be intentional but is still a bit grating. Fourth, Cyborg doesn’t really look like Cyborg, as Cyborg in all media is large and imposing but here he looks like Pete from Smallville, and not imposing at all. He has no interesting link to the characters, no interesting link to the plot, no interesting character arc, and no interesting link to the source material. He seems to be there only to get Cyborg — who is a character that DC has started pushing over the past few years, appearing in games and the like — into the show and maybe to keep a link to the Titans. The character, then, is totally wasted in this show.

The best overall performance has to be Timothy Dalton’s, as he does a great job as the secretive mentor trying to help them but having secrets in his past. However, the secrets aren’t particularly interesting and are a bit confusing, although I did kinda like the revelation of his daughter, even if the story building to that wasn’t that great.

I suppose I might have to comment on whether the show is Social-Justice Oriented or not. If not for one character, I probably wouldn’t have to do this. Sure, Mr. Negative is gay and that’s likely only there to check that box off, but while that is focused on in the show it’s generally done so in a way that works for the plot and character, as when the character was young the stigma caused a number of bad decisions and the like. But the character that requires this is Danny the Street, a gender-queer street that’s protecting a number of outcast people, with the focus, again, being on those who are gender-queer. The issue here is two-fold. First, the idea of a gender-queer street is utterly ridiculous and never explained. What would it mean for a street, even a sentient one, to have a gender, let alone be gender-queer. Second, the main point of the story is about outcasts and not about people who are gender-queer in any way, and so there was no need to make the street gender-queer nor to focus so strongly on that. So it smacks of trying to get that popular interest group represented.

However, keeping that in mind, they actually did use that well and for something that advances the plot and characters, so it doesn’t feel intrusive and is actually interesting. It gives Mr. Negative a place to feel more comfortable with his issues and develop his character a bit in a way specific to his past and attributes, which is good. However, the focus on gender-queer does leave Cyborg a bit out in the cold, as there’s no reason to think that he has those issues and so it comes across a bit odd when the street asks him to join the party. It would have worked better, I think, if the street wasn’t gender-queer, but simply liked “diversity” and wanted to protect those that aren’t considered normal from the forces, literally, of normalcy. Then there could be a temptation for Cyborg to join the party that he could have rejected on the basis that for them their abnormalities were them, but he doesn’t feel like his cybernetic parts are part of him, but instead just something he has to put on, like a cast or even clothes. This would drive home the message they were trying to get across while still making it clear that not everyone is going to have some kind of abnormality that they need to maintain or identify with.

Ultimately, the season was good. I might rewatch it at some point and am likely to watch the second season once it’s finished. The show was better before it got darker, but was still all right even after that.