Fallout From Fallout76

I’ve seen a lot of people reacting to the details of the latest Fallout instillment as though it’s literally, and not fictionally, the end of the world. I’ll admit that I don’t follow a lot of video game franchises these days, and I’m not into the current trend of mass-person, teenage killing-fields like PUBG and Fortnite, but I try to keep up to date with the the franchises I enjoyed as a teenager.

Fallout is definitely one of those franchises. A few weeks ago, Bethesda Game Studios teased a new instalment of their post-apocalyptic RPG series with a reveal trailer and a title: Fallout76.

Now, personally, I kept my enthusiasm to a trademark minimum. Bethesda are well known for leaving 5-10 years between installments of their major franchises, and it’s only been three years since Fallout 4. So I was under no impression that this would, at all, be the eternally anticipated Fallout 5.

The name Fallout76 was a dead-giveaway but, judging by the angered reaction from pockets of the internet, clearly wasn’t as obvious as I thought. You see, 76 isn’t the number 5. I’m no maths expert, don’t pretend to be, but I’m almost completely certain that the number 76 isn’t the number 5.

Can anyone from Mensa confirm this?

West-Virginia-Fallout-76
I wonder if anyones actual house is going to end up in the game?

It seems that some people were expecting another single-player RPG spin-off in the style of Fallout: New Vegas. Which really was a fair assumption to make. I’d set myself up for total disappointment and decided that it would be a Fortnite-style, battle-royal game set in the Fallout universe. Where one-hundred people spawn in the wasteland and have to launch mini-nukes at each other’s gizzards until one person is left standing.

The actual reveal on Sunday happened to be somewhere in the middle of a Venn-diagram of these two assumptions. Fallout76 is going to be an online RPG, where cooperation is encouraged in order to conquer the wasteland of West Virginia.

Of course, we all know from years of online gaming that teamwork is somewhat difficult when it comes to strangers on the internet. I remember playing Grand Theft Auto Online for a few days before I got fed up of random teenagers plowing into my shit car with a million-dollar fighter jet.

I hope they were teenagers, god help any grown men doing that for fun.

Because let’s face it, they are men.

I don’t think Fallout76 will be the greatest game ever, but I also don’t think that it’s the worst idea in the world. My enthusiasm was pre-curbed, so I’m looking forward to exploring the wasteland with other people, and seeing what a realistic post-apocalyptic world would be like. Because that’s the hook right there. What would really happen if dozens of people emerged from a vault into a nuclear wasteland? Would they work as a team or blast each other from arsehole to breakfast-time?

We know that each version of the gargantuan map will have “dozens of players”, so people will be few and far between, unless you intentionally seek them out.

megasloth
Imagine if the sloths are only mutated in size, but they’re still as slow and lethargic as actual sloths. That’d be ideal.

I can understand why reaction to an “always online” Fallout game has been split. And I’ve decided to assume the reason why, like a prick.

I think those who’re cautiously optimistic about it are people who have a couple of friends that they can play with on day one. I’m certainly looking forward to working with a few of my friends in order to build a personalised settlement and defend it from anyone and anything. One great aspect of gaming for me, these days, is about hanging out with your mates and achieving goals together.

Then there’s the other camp, the people who’re so livid that this isn’t a single-player RPG, despite no promise that it would be, that they’re planning on boycotting the game. Whatever that means. I’ve decided that these people are reacting with a tsunami of negativity, because they don’t know anyone that they could play with. They don’t have any friends.

Now, this could be an entirely incorrect assumption on my part. But what I do know is that I’d never want to be friends with someone who makes a thirty-minute YouTube video, seething that a game isn’t exactly what they wanted it to be. I just think that the cautiously optimistic (or the happy-to-be-proven-wrong negative camp, I can’t forget about those sweethearts) people are more likely to be better people, and therefore have some pals to goof around with.

“This game sucks! These (homophobic slur) pussy-ass (racial slur) keep teaming up to kill me. I just want to MAGA but these (too offensive to type) (racially charged unique adjective) (transphobic noun) won’t let me teabag them!”

“And you wonder why…”

I do empathise with people who thought that it would be a purely solo RPG. With the exception of Fallout Shelter, every game Bethesda has released for the franchise has been just that. But given the known timeline of releases, I’m glad that we’re seeing something different while we wait. Because that’s what this is, Fallout 5 will still happen, this is just something fun to do with friends until that time comes.

I want to take down giant, mutated monsters as a group. I want to explore the lore of the land and find the perfect spot for our settlement. I want to make trade agreements with other groups of friends, or wage wars when things turn sour. I don’t know, it all sounds like an immersive post-apocalyptic experience to me.

Sure, the narrative will probably be non-existent beyond a handful of exploration quests, but I don’t think Fallout76 is pretending to be a masterclass in storytelling. It’ll hopefully be more about the collective imaginations of the group you assemble, as you tell your own stories in a pre-established world. Like the early Minecraft days, or D&D.

A lot of people are saying that the lack of a story means it’s not an RPG, but isn’t taking a world in any direction you want a true version of an RPG? Especially when it’s with a group of pals. I play games like The Last of Us and Uncharted for the story, I play RPGs for the freedom to do tell my own story, and it sounds like Fallout76 has fewer limits than any prior instillment.

Cautiously optimistic is the state I’ll remain in until release, then I’ll pass some kind of irrelevant judgement. But for now, call me crazy for thinking that hunting a digital moth-man with my friends, sounds like a fun way to pass existence.

Today is Tuesday, June 12th and I see more rage in the YouTube comment sections of video game trailers than I see anywhere else for our current government. Anger is perspective I guess.

Dentist Dentist Surgeon

Last week I had my first ever American dentist appointment. My first visit to an American DDS, which as a young child I thought was an acronym for Dentist Dentist Surgeon. It’s not.

The main difference between a UK and US dentist is that you’re too worried about the bill to even care about a person waggling steel instruments around in one of your bodily openings.

I’ve never been particularly worried about going to the dentist. I can’t remember a time where the phobia of tooth-based procedures has overwhelmed me anymore than any other aspect of modern living. No, it’s the fear of the cost of it all that hangs over you in this country. Although, the NHS back in the UK isn’t exactly doing well at the moment. That’s what happens when it isn’t properly funded.

I have these visions of eventually needing some kind of major surgery, and so I decide to go back to the homeland in order to avoid forking over a five figure sum in exchange for living. Only to arrive on the shores of Blighty to find that forty years of Tory-dismantling has reduced the NHS to a single doctor, operating out of a shed just off the M6.

Anyway, I entered the American dental surgery armed with anxieties regarding the financial burden of my disintegrating dental health, only for them to be washed away in seconds. It turns out if you operate a healthcare service like a business model, in a fairly affluent city, you can make your reception area look like an elegant palace.

Premium-copyrighted, calming music played gently through the speaker-system. None of this muzak, or chart hits of 2007- no. This is pay-to-win healthcare! This is pleasant modern classics from the 70s through the 90s. I could even swear that I heard a Blind Melon track at one point. And the chairs! The chairs were actually comfortable, and the covers weren’t pealing away to reveal a 2mm layer of gym-mattress padding. They were proper chairs, like the sort you’d find in a non-medical place. Or even a home.

Multicoloured humidifiers blasted out moisture into the air, which is normal for Colorado, but it really added to the vibe that I was in some futuristic day-spa and not a dental surgery. I’d already pre-registered and filled out an online form, so I could sit back and relax. I think they do all this to make you forget about the bill at the end, or to at least justify the final cost.

“Did you enjoy your stay at the dentist, sir?”

“Well I’ve only been here forty-five minutes…”

“-But your room was to your liking? And our concierge was pleasant enough?”

“Isn’t he just a receptionist?”

“Please do come stay at the dentist again, sir. Now if we can just settle the matter of the bill…”

My name was called and a technician took me for some X-rays. She made some smalltalk and I confessed my reason for visiting today was twofold. I mean, I didn’t word it to her like that. I didn’t say “Well, my reason for visiting you today is twofold,” because then I’d sound like a dick. Although I think with my accent, in this country, I could probably pull it off, if I had about forty-three percent more charm.

I wanted to get registered at an American dentist in case of a dental emergency, and I’ve also had this lingering toothache for some time. I got to look at my own X-rays as they appeared on the screen and I instantly saw where the problem was. Yeah, I don’t think the roots of teeth are supposed to be sideways.

I felt the enamel bastard twinge in my mouth, as I stared at the greyish image on the monitor. My anxious thought-loop of pain and regret were halted by the tech, who asked me to follow her to one of the examination rooms. This is where everything went a little backwards, in regards to the whole pay-to-live healthcare thing. I was lead into what I can only describe as a cupboard with a couple of chairs in it. There wasn’t even a door, so perhaps comparing it to a cupboard is a little generous. It was more of an alcove.

tooth
Is what he’s holding essentially a loofah? Is it for his body or for the teeth inside of his mouth? Do sentient teeth need two brushes? Dentists raise more questions than answers.

One of the chairs in the alcove was a proper dentists chair. With the recliner, the blinding overhead light and the lingering smells of terrified patients. But the “room” itself was about a quarter of the size of any NHS dental room I’ve ever seen, and about an eighth of the size of anything private back in the UK. This was a bizarre thing to experience, because in nine months of living here it was the first instance of being in a place much smaller than its UK counterpart.

Then it clicked. Pay-to-live healthcare is about the window-dressing. Like any other business in the world, they lure you in with a fancy exterior, only to disappoint you once they have their fingers in your wallet. Sure, the reception area looks like a spa, but now that we’ve made some arrangements for your treatment you can piss off to your cell with the rest of the diseased monkeys.

My dentist was very pleasant though. He had a fashionable beard and commented that the story of how I met my wife made him want to go home and hug his wife. Was he working for tips?

He pulled up my X-rays and didn’t have to examine my gaping face-hole (gross) to know that the sideways root was the source of all my pain. Next, he performed a routine examination of my individual teeth. He went through them numerically and at the end said that he wouldn’t bother checking number thirty-two, which made me chuckle. My chuckle then, unexpectedly, made his assistant giggle. Then, her giggle made my dentist laugh. It was as though we’d just musically canonically performed an un-rehearsed laugh track.

“Well Matthew, looks like we’ll have to take all of your wisdom teeth out.”

“Ha. Guess I’m living up to the stereotype of British people having terrible teeth.”

“Yes. Yes you are.”

So I have a bit of surgery in a week. I’m getting the four useless teeth pulled (good riddance to bad evolution) and the cost isn’t too bad. We’re lucky that my wife works at a place with such great insurance for our little family. I know that others aren’t so lucky, and the current healthcare system doesn’t protect those who’re less fortunate.

Hopefully our generation in America will be the ones to say that enough is enough. That free healthcare for all is possible if we topple the greedy pharmaceutical companies and live a little more modestly in exchange for everyone getting an equal chance at life.
I don’t know if it will happen, but I can hope.

That got a bit preachy, erm…can’t wait to come around from surgery and be like all of those Americans in viral videos from the last decade! I really hope I don’t start ranting about the government, or whip a ball out.

Today is Monday June 11th and I’m all mellowed out on some decent pain-killers.

A Blog Update

Just a quick update to say that I’m taking a week away from my daily articles to focus on long-term projects.

I realised that I’d have to miss a couple of days, and figured I’d kick myself less if I just took the week away from here.

I’ll be back on Monday 11th with some fresh opinion pieces, articles, reviews etc. Thank you to everyone who’s followed this blog so far, and to anyone who’s read anything I’ve written. I can’t wait to get back here!

In the meantime, you can read everything I’ve written so far.

Have a wonderful week, and be good to each other.

5 Things We Need To See From An Uncharted Movie

Over the past few days I’ve watched the Indiana Jones movies. Yep, all three of the Indiana Jones films. I’m so glad Spielberg left it at those three 80s adventure flicks, and never decided to return to the franchise…

The campy action, explosive set-pieces and cartoonish characterisation from the first three films holds up brilliantly well. Which got me thinking about the Uncharted game series and rumoured film. Uncharted, rightfully, borrowed so many tropes from Spielberg throughout each of the five games. As well as peppering in its own brand of quick-witted dialogue, along with Neil Druckmann’s trademark emotional storytelling.

With a Spielberg directed and Ford fronted Indiana 5 set for a 2020 release, and an Uncharted movie stuck in development hell, I can’t help but wonder if Hollywood is backing the wrong franchise. I’m not sure how many movie-goers will be interested in the Jones brand once Ford hangs up his acting hat, and dramatic whip, for the last time.

Whereas a fully backed Uncharted franchise, with a younger established star as hero Nathan Drake, could provide a studio with a future 5-10 tentpole movies over the next couple of decades. Because that’s how things work now, you can’t just think about a stand-alone blockbuster.

So here’s…

5 Things We Need To See From An Uncharted Movie. Number Three Will Make You Want To Punch An Octopus!!!

1. Cartoonish action

cartoonish

One thing that makes Indiana Jones enjoyable to this day, is that at no point do the original films take themselves seriously. The action is can’t-miss, yet there’s an element of silliness to almost every sequence. Early Uncharted games mirror this slight campiness, with slapstick and ridiculous set-pieces being utilised effectively.

The last thing I want to see is a hyper-realistic, “dark” action movie that for some reason considers itself to be the peak of artistic cinema. A lot of DC movies and the recent Tomb Raider film fell into this trap. It needs to closely mirror a lot of the in-game action sequences. They should even look back to the opening train-chase scene of The Last Crusade for how a younger action character would behave when being chased by a threat much larger than himself.

We need brightly-lit, vibrant scenes of overtly-choreographed action that bleed seamlessly into each other, just as it would in a video game.

2. Chloe Frazer

Chloe-Frazer

The rebooted Lara Croft may be different, but her original characterisation was simply tits and an ass. She was meant as a sexy avatar that gamers could view as they played the game. This was before readily available pornography, so pixelated tits did a lot for some people. I’m- erm…told.

Enter Chloe Frazer, a character from the second, third and fifth Uncharted games who’s even more competent and capable than Nathan Drake. She’s framed as having looks, as is Drake, but her emotive backstory and competitive nature make her a well-rounded character when compared to the original Croft. As long as Lara is built on as a brand, we’re going to have backwards-thinking gamers boycott the film, due to her not being a pair of tits stuck to a broom handle. Establish Chloe Fraser, and these same people who don’t think women can be action stars will be tricked into seeing a female-led flick.

So I would build her as the secondary protagonist of the first film, so that she could take centre stage in the second. Uncharted started out as the Nathan Drake story, but over the years has become an ensemble group of adventurers, seeking the world’s most sought-after treasures.

Her inclusion in a prequel movie might ruin some of the cannon of the video games, but if the films are successful, then a separate canonical storyline can be established.

3. A Compelling, Possibly Cursed, Treasure

ark_closing.gif

Each and every one of the Uncharted games pulls you into the historical lore of a certain region. Some of the treasures are based on true events, whereas others are taken from local myth and legend.

The film series would need to start out strong, with a recognisable ancient treasure being at the centre of the chase. Part of worked so well with the first and third Indiana Jones films was the use of Biblical treasures. They used some historical, archeological facts about the location and significance of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, only to apply a realisation of myth and legend in the final act of each film.

It’s the blending of human history and mythology that makes both of these franchises so exciting. The idea that at any moment, something fantastical could happen and it would be believable. I’m not entirely sure which lost city they should focus on in the first film, but I do know that we need mythical creatures, an ancient curse or fantastical powers to be featured in the third act.

Also, that octopus over there just called you a prick. Go on, give it a smack.

4. Greatness From Small Beginnings

The revelations of Nathan’s past that are made in the fourth game are some of the most emotive and inspiring scenes in video game history. They tease this idea that Nathan and his older brother, Sam, are descendants of Sir Francis Drake. Only to find that they aren’t. Instead, as orphaned children, they become driven by this idea that they get to make their own fortune. That they may not actually have Sir Francis as a biological ancestor, but why not take his name and become self-made men in their own time?

Sic Parvis Magna was the motto used by Sir Francis Drake, which is interpreted in the Uncharted games as “Greatness from Small Beginnings”. If the first film is to be a prequel, or at the very least the start of Drake’s story, we need to see that Nathan came from nothing, and that he is out to make his fortune.

It’s from this motto that he can struggle, at first, to work well with others. It can explain his mistrust for large organisations or those who’re seeking a wealth-driven glory. If Nathan’s motto is well established in the first act of the film, followed by a strong action sequence, we’ll learn everything we need to know about him in the first twenty-five minutes.

5. Nathan’s Antithesis

Building from that, we need to see an antagonist that is the polar-opposite of what Nathan stands for. The villain also needs to be an orphan, but one who along the way decided to build his or her fortune on the backs of others. They’re now financially rich, but morally bankrupt, as a result of exploiting the “fortunes” of others. The world was never there for them, so why should they be there for the world.

Nathan seeks personal glory, the treasure for him is uncovering the treasure itself. The villain simply sees the price-tag, but also gets off on the idea of crushing Nathan’s personal dreams, because they didn’t have the strength to live out their own.

On top of this, they could make the lead henchman a direct parallel to Chloe. Hell, make the henchman an evil Lara Croft-type. A spoiled, bratty girl who was dishonorably discharged from the army but found mercenary work. And perhaps she doesn’t wear as much clothing as she probably should. Have Chloe defeat and overcome her own backwards archetype.

villain

At the time of writing, Tom Holland has been attached to the film to play the role of Nathan Drake. While I think this is great casting, it reeks of a studio just making talk, and that they have little intention of actually producing an Uncharted film in the foreseeable future. We’ve certainly seen it with many video game adaptations in the past.

No matter what happens with the project, they absolutely need to take lessons from the Indiana Jones films, and remember what made them fun in the first place.

So that means no aliens please.

Today is Sunday 3rd of June and you should always remember that Temple of Doom is a prequel.

Are you looking forward to a potential Uncharted movie? How would you like to see it play out? Let me know in the comments below!

NXT Report Cards – Part 1

Wrestling fans, myself included, often complain that some of their favourite performers are trapped in WWE’s developmental territory of NXT.

Yet, in recent years, the yellow and black brand has become more than just a show used to give TV experience to talent before they hit the big leagues of Raw and Smackdown. With many of its current and recent roster members being 10+ year veterans of the business.

That being said, the goal for most of the talent is to one day be called up to either Raw or Smackdown, tour globally on a regular basis and make that sweet main roster money.

In this series I’ll be going through the current NXT roster and issuing each of them a report card. You’ve got to get the grades before you graduate, right? Everyone will be judged, by yours truly, across three categories; In-Ring Ability, Promo Skills and Superstar Factor. The grading system will be A-F, with each roster member receiving an overall grade.

Just because someone receives a bad grade now, doesn’t mean they can’t improve and re-take the test next year. And equally, just because someone receives a high rating in one or two categories, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready for the bright lights.

And now, to pass the time on this lazy Saturday, let’s hand out some entirely meaningless and speculative report cards…

alblack

Name: Aleister Black

Time in NXT: 1 Year, 7 Months

In-Ring Ability: B+

Promo Skills: B-

Superstar Factor: A

The current NXT champion has it. The Dutch vampire looks like a million dollars every time he rises from the ground and makes his way to the ring. He has one of those characters that you can instantly see working on Raw or Smackdown.

His in-ring work is often overshadowed at Takeover shows. He’s consistent in the ring, and can pull off some cruiserweight-style athletic moves, but he’s yet to have a “match of the night”. It’s because the bar is now so high for physical wrestling ability, that I’ve opted for the upper-B grade. And while his promos are certainly unique, his reserved delivery can sometimes fail to get me suitably hyped for an upcoming match.

Still, he’s the current face of the brand for a reason, and once his reign is over I expect him to find no problem getting a reaction on Raw or Smackdown.

biancabelair

Name: Bianca Belair

Time in NXT: 1 Year, 8 Months

In-Ring Ability: B

Promo Skills: C-

Superstar Factor: B-

The important thing to remember in any discussion about the self-proclaimed EST of NXT, is that her only pro-wrestling experience is under the WWE umbrella. Unlike many other talents, she hasn’t put years of work in on the independent scene. Her athletic accomplishments are, however, very impressive.

I’d like to see her stay in NXT for another year or so. She still needs to learn how to cut a decent promo, and perhaps polish some of the edges of her character, but it’s scary how talented she is between the ropes, considering her lack of experience. Her matches in the Mae Young classic last year stood out more than others, and the legal hair-whip as a weapon is certainly a unique gimmick.

Keep an eye on Belair, she might not be at the top of the mountain now, but I would expect her to be by next year.

heavymac

Name: Heavy Machinery

Time in NXT: 1 Year, 11 Months (Otis Dozovic, left) 3 Years, 4 months (Tucker Knight, right)

In-Ring Ability: C-

Promo Skills: C

Superstar Factor: D-

A generic big-guy tag-team with a clear ceiling. I can’t deny that Dozovic has amazing facial expressions, and there’s something strangely captivating about his promos, but Knight is a charisma vacuum.

Having not seen them in a match longer than 7 minutes, their entire act screams babyface tag-team jobbers. I just can’t picture them performing, as they currently are, at the highest level of the business. Knight certainly looked out of place at the Greatest Royal Rumble in April.

Six or seven years ago these guys could’ve worked as a sustainable act, but with the business growing and the bar getting higher, I just don’t see these guys successfully moving beyond NXT.

liorush

Name: Lio Rush

Time in NXT: 8 Months

In-Ring Ability: B

Promo Skills: D

Superstar Factor: C

Rush is a young athlete who has already found success across the American independent scene. He joined NXT last year and quickly made his television debut. While he hasn’t had any impactful storylines yet, his in-ring work has been impressive.

We’ve yet to see any promo (or much character) work from Rush in NXT. But his explosive cruiserweight style should mean, at the very least, he gets a place on 205 Live. If WWE’s main-roster cruiserweight division is bolstered with talent like Rush, then it will continue to be legitimised.

It is early days for Lio though. If he’s given more TV time, then we could see a future star that has the ability to rise above the limits of his weight-class.

ec3

Name: EC3

Time in NXT: 3 Months (Current stint)

In-Ring Ability: C+

Promo Skills: A

Superstar Factor: A

After leaving the WWE back in 2013, EC3 went to Impact Wrestling, where for a few years he was considered the face of the company. Now he’s brought that experience back to NXT, in order to climb higher than ever before.

While his in-ring work is typical of a “top guy” style, his ability to cut a promo and the sheer understanding of the character he plays are hard to match. He may wrestle like Cena or Reigns, but his character of a “1%-er” is infinitely more entertaining.

He’s a guy who could’ve bypassed NXT in favour of the main roster, and he would’ve received few complaints. However, if he can get a couple more 4*+ matches under his belt before he’s promoted, he may further earn the respect of the WWE universe.

Today is Saturday, June 2nd and you can read the rest of my NXT report cards in coming weeks.

Do you think these grades are justified? Would you give a higher or lower score?
Let me know, in the comments below!

C**tgate

On Wednesday satirical comedian and Daily Show alumni Samantha Bee, called the first daughter of the United States a cu**. I’ve made the choice to censor the **nt word in this piece, if only for the humour in shifting which individual characters are covered by an asterisk.

Welcome to C***gate!

I’ve seen a lot of people compare this insult, made on Bee’s weekly TBS show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, to the one tweeted out by Roseanne Barr earlier in the week. With many prominent figures, including the president himself, calling for Bee to be fired, just as Barr was.

At the time of writing, Bee has issued an apology, but no further action has been taken. Which, I think, is the right call.

Let’s talk about context, the balance of power and the importance of open criticism of the government. These are all key factors when comparing the two separate, yet seemingly related, incidents.

Bee is host to a comedy show that satirises politics. Everything she said about Ivanka Trump before calling her a “feckless c*n*” was absolutely justified. She highlighted the hypocrisy, and blatant lack of awareness from Ivanka, of posting a picture online of her with her daughter, in the aftermath of a report of the US government “losing” nearly 1,500 migrant children.

Even her comment about Ivanka being able to convince her father to change his immigration policies if she “put on something tight and low-cut” is a justified comedic statement. The man himself has made public pseudo-incestuous comments about Ivanka. There’s no need for satirists to resort to simplistic insults, when they only need to use the material they’re given by the president.

Speaking frankly, comedians don’t go far enough in the US when it comes to openly picking out the flaws and hypocrisies of their government. No matter if the government is Republican or Democrat, the first amendment protects the rights of citizens to freely speak out against their actions. It’s a crucial right that keeps a country free.

One of the areas that the first amendment actually protects freedom of speech without lawful consequence, is when it comes to criticising the incumbent government. Again, the first amendment doesn’t clearly state that you have the right to be racist, but it does specify ones right to petition grievances against ones government.

sambee2.gif

But name calling? That’s another issue.

I can’t defend Bee calling Ivanka a c**t simply because it’s a joke. We’re beyond the point of simply saying “well it’s just a joke, so it’s fine”. I’m not so sure that’s a strong-enough line of defence anymore. It used to be, and it should be, but it’s not.

In recent years we’ve had open acts of racism, homophobia and general pig-headed bigotry thrown around in the public sphere with the defence of “I wasn’t inciting hate-speech, it was just a joke.” Take Count Dankula and his nazi pug as a recent example. People in positions of power and influence often forget that what’s a joke to them, can stir up something else in genuinely hateful people.

So if I can’t defend Bee’s comments as ‘simply a joke’, then why do I find myself rushing to her defence over Barr’s?

Well, for starters, Barr has a history of making grossly bigoted and misinformed comments publicly. Her racially-charged tweet on Monday was just the latest in a pattern of behaviour. We have evidence to suggest that Barr is racist, whereas very little to suggest that Bee is misogynistic. If we’re to treat this as a legitimate grievance and not a case of Whataboutism, when we’re to assume it’s the sexist undertones of the word which have caused offence.

The word (*un*, for those who have forgotten) can be used as a term of endearment between friends in other countries, but I want to focus on the US. A place where it’s still defined as a disparaging or obscene way to refer to a woman. I’ll admit, when a man hurls this word at a woman, with a venomous tone and intent to belittle, it sounds abhorrent.

We live in a patriarchy, one where the scales are beginning to balance, but given recent scandals and revelations, we’re still clearly far from an equal society for all genders. Therefore, a man calling a woman a c*nt is “punching down”, from the perspective of most societies.

Samantha Bee is, as far as I know, a woman. She’s using a word that has historically been used to oppress her own gender. So coming from her, the word has less malicious intent than if, say, John Oliver had called Ivanka a ***t.

otters
It turns out no pictures associated with the word ‘cun*’ are appropriate for this blog. So here’s two otters cuddling.

For me, good satire is when someone “punches up”. Comedy should be used to mock the powers-that-be whenever they make a mistake, or say something stupid, no matter which political party they are affiliated with. If we only look at the insult through the context of gender, then Bee’s insult to Ivanka was simply “punching sideways”.

So, we must look at the positions of power these women have in society.

One of these women has a cable TV show that’s watched by less than a million people each week. The other is the First Daughter of the United States and Special Advisor to the President. Ivanka Trump was placed #19 on ForbesPower Women 2017 list. Samantha Bee doesn’t even have a Forbes profile page.

Ivanka is clearly in a higher position of power and influence, when compared to Bee. So the insult was “punching up”, she (crassly) criticised someone in a position of more power than herself. And silencing such comments would set a dangerous precedent for when it comes to citizens openly condemning the government.

Even if we ignore the fact that a white person firing-off a known racial insult at a black person is infinitely worse than one woman using misogynistic language towards another; Using the same logic as above we can see that Barr is currently in a greater position of power and influence than Valerie Jarrett, who is no longer a member of the US government and is simply a citizen. A citizen who, unlike Barr, does not have nearly a million Twitter followers and (until recently) a TV show watched by ten million a week.

Words can hold a lot of power, but we must always consider the power of the speaker before passing judgement.

Personally, I think if we’re to be the sane, rational counterpoint to the Trump-presidency, then we don’t need to stoop to his level when it comes to name-calling. The backlash to Trump-era politics shouldn’t be more mindless name-calling, it should be the careful picking apart of his actions and policies by using facts and statistics.

Is Ivanka a cu*t? That one can remain up for debate. The conversation should really be focused on the fact that America has lost track of nearly 1,500 children. As we can see from the internet in the last twenty-four hours, name-calling distracts from the real atrocities of our time.

That messed-up family does enough that we can comedically mock, without having to resort to throwing the **** word around.

Yes! I managed to censor all of the letters in the word ‘cunt’ that time!

Damnit.

Today is Friday, June 1st and there’s a lot of politics in TV-land at the moment. It probably has something to do with a TV star being in the white house.

What do you think about c***gate? Was Bee right or wrong? Is this situation as bad as Barr’s? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Differing opinions are welcomed, this is an echo-chamber-free zone!

Review: Arrested Development Season 5

Before I dive into reviewing the latest season, let me make something clear. I’m a huge fan of the early seasons of Arrested Development. It’s one of the American sitcoms that helped me fall in love with the genre to begin with. Some of the episodes in seasons one through three are masterpieces in comedy writing, directing and acting.

I’m even one of the few who enjoyed the disjointed story of Netflix’s season four back in 2013. I liked the challenge of trying to tell a story that contained all of the characters, without being able to have them all in the same location for more than a couple of days at a time, due to schedule conflicts.

Now, with season five, they have the entire cast back together and are entirely free to tell any story they want. Only, for whatever reason, the show-runner, Mitchell Hurwitz, has decided to continue with the same disconnected storytelling for the majority of the season, despite not having the same restrictions.

I only re-watched season four about a year ago and I still found myself completely lost. Netflix included a refresher, catch-up montage at the beginning of the show, and much of episode one featured flashbacks to moments from season four. This still wasn’t enough.

This, ultimately, is my main complaint with the series. I found myself not caring about the hijinks of the Bluth family this time around, because I had to keep pausing the show to remind myself of a very specific detail from the fourth season. I’m usually a fan of non-linear storytelling, but not in this instance. It just- didn’t sit right.

I’ll have to go back and watch earlier seasons, but it felt as though the narrator (Ron Howard) had two or three times as many lines this season. This is never a good sign. Narration is often a short-cut to good storytelling, and while useful, is best in appropriate quantities. Ron Howard’s narration is a welcomed trademark of the show, but it should only be used to sarcastically undercut the Bluth family and to transition from one scene to another. It shouldn’t be used to explain the plot.

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Having said that, let’s talk about the cast. I chronicled my opinions on the much talked-about NY Times interview that the cast gave last week. The disfunction between the actors seems to only be rivalled by the fictional Bluths themselves. It doesn’t mean that they can’t all still perform. Every single cast member brought their trademark style and helped to keep the series watchable.

Michael Cera and Alia Shawkat in particular had some excellent scenes, and had some of the real laugh-out-loud lines. As George-Michael and Maeby were discussing some advice from their ‘Gangie’, Lucile Bluth, they recalled a time where she said:

“They should take all the rapists and all the murderers and put them all together on an island and all the murderers can be raped and all the rapists can be murdered until you’re down to only two rapists or one murderer-rapist, but who cares about him.”

This line, delivered in perfect deadpan by the two youngest cast-members, shows that Hurwitz still has a complete understanding of his own characterisation. This is a line that we can hear Jessica Walter delivering, yet she’s not even featured in the scene.

Walter is someone else who fired on any and all cylinders. You might remember that in season four (2013), the Bluth family behaved the same way the Trump family did in 2016. The Bluths certainly called for the building of a giant border wall long before Trump did. Season five is set in 2015, and so Lucile catches Trump making some televised statements about the wall:

Trump (On TV): I will build a great great wall on our southern border

Lucile: Which was my idea!

Trump: And I will have Mexico pay for that wall

Lucile: Okay, that is a clever twist.

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We also get this classic George-Micael moment, no context needed.

The show started to pick up in quality with the final few episodes, which is a little annoying, because that means I feel obliged to watch the second half of the season when it drops. Which is “soon”.

The marked improvement from episode five onwards is probably because they’ve started to shake off some of the lingering cobwebs from season four. Once the cast start interacting with each other more often, the winning formula came back and I would go as far as to say that I actually thought the last two episodes were great, and felt like classic Arrested Development.

The whole season had me asking one question though; Did we need this? There’s a lot of revival culture going on at the moment and I’m not so sure I’m a fan. The TV series that I’ve enjoyed in recent years have been originally scripted, or at the very least adapted for the small screen for the first time.

There’s a part of me that wonders if we could’ve seen a different Mitchell Hurwitz scripted comedy, in place of the time and money spent on another season of Arrested Development. The same goes for the brilliantly talented cast. Minus Tambor, who honestly made little impact on me this season and should probably just retire at this point.

There’s no doubt I’ll watch the second half of the season later this year. Although the entire time I’ll be secretly hoping that they provide some kind of closure to the Bluth family, maybe they should even “kill-off” one or two of them.

A fifth season is about as much as I can stomach, the idea of a sixth is already making me feel queazy.

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If I were to apply some kind of rating to this review, I’d give it a 5/10. It has as many bad elements as it does good, but the performances save the meandering narrative. My recommendation is that, if you haven’t already, you go back and watch the first three seasons. And if you have already seen them, maybe watch them again and remember the show fondly.

It turns out that a family of rich, lying, thieving, out-of-touch crooks is apt for America right now. But with the Trump-show on 24/7, I think my mind wants something a little more escapist than the Bluths.

Today is Thursday, May 31st and there’s always money in the banana stand.