Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


The Need for Controversy

Posted on June 11, 2009 at 12:12 PM

Now I don't want to get on a rant here, but it seems that every month or so there's something new that crops up that is suddenly deemed "evil." No, not a person or an attack on some Consulate in foreign lands killing dozens of people. Rather our society likes to find "evil" things in the vein of books, music, movies and, more recently, videogames. Take, for example, the recent ABC News piece about a violent war videogame depicting the battle of Fallujah (which is posted at the end of this article). The piece does a good job showing both argument and making both understandable. On one side you have the families of Iraqi War soldiers killed and claiming it will undermine and trivialize their sons and daughters, others say it's a game that's meant to show realism and even has US military veterans from the very battle of Fallujah involved. Unfortunately, because of the voices against, even though there's only a few, the publisher of the game dropped out and it will likely never get released due to the controversy around it.

However, this isn't about that. This is about the desire and need to focus on something "controversial." Books like 1984, music like Eminiem or Black Sabbath, Movies like Last Tango in Paris and videogames like Grand Theft Auto (which has sold around 100 million copies) are excuses for people to get noticed and drive their agendas and own beliefs.Now, I could go on about how we have dozens of games depicting real war, real battles and real people from the Civil War to Vietnam (not to mention many "fake" wars in unnamed Middle Eastern countries) and that passage of time should be irrelevant on whether or not something should be depicted. The fact is, people like to use these things as scapegoats for their own ideologies or their own insecurities without taking into account other people's own perspectives. It's an agenda, yet at the same time it's also a need for people to feel as though they're more important than they really are.

The cycle works as this: groups and protesters will focus on something for a month or so, then move on to something else that is, in their views, worse or needs more attention, thus leaving that old thing they were so adamant on voicing against available to all. Marlyn Manson still puts out albums, but do you hear about the massive waves of religious-right protesters today like you heard, say, ten years ago? No. It's something else now, and it will be something else next month.

It's not so much the pointless arguments they instill only to abandon it and obviously don't care enough to see something all the way through, that much is obvious, it's more the need and desire to "control." Control is something mankind has always had a fascination with as every culture in history has had a body in power, whether it be religious or political, that feels the need to determine what is best for its masses, even if you aren't part of that mass.

Today we might have checks and balances in terms of our political structure, and we live in a country where "banning" something really doesn't happen anymore at least on a large national level. Usually it's an individual place, group or person such a public library or school, but we also have microphones and cameras which is the new platform for those with their control complexes. Whether its politicians like Jack Thompson (now disbarred) and Tipper Gore, radio pundits like Rush Limbaugh or evangelical Christians on television and doing interviews, the desire to say "this is what you can't do" is alive and well. It could be big as being excommunicated by the Church, as The Last Temptation of Christ author Nikos Kazantzakis (or any book that's dubbed "magical," which I guess would mean the Bible if they want to really look hard at it), or simply shooting Elvis on television form the waist up to avoid his possessed hips.

They feed their agendas with misinformation and fear as it's always been (thankfully, now, not ending up as genocide, but that's another topic). More often than not, most that are against whatever is at the firey pyre have never read the book, listened to the music, seen the movie or played the game they are so persistently against. It's modern-day McCarthyism at its finest. It's like the children's game where you sit in a circle, one person whispers to the next a phrase, as does the next and so forth, it makes the rounds, then when it gets back to that person it's completely different than what they said. For example:

If a girl says to her friend: "Billy is cute."

It will end up as: "Billy is a satanic rapist that wants to use the Necronomicon to summon the demons of hell to possess Congress and pass laws allowing gay marriage."

The pundits use this information in combination with fear, usually something that will threaten your children. That's an easy thing to say to get people to notice your agenda, at least until you move on to the next one, as I mentioned they so often like to do, and abandon whatever point they were attempting to make. While it's easy to just say "Constitutional Rights, Bill of Rights...parents need to get involved" and so on, those have now become the fall-back, catch-all argument for the defense. They don't have any weight any more.

Thus, that is why I say this: let people live. Let them do what they want to do, read what they want, listen to or see what they want, because if they want to, they will and you're wasting your damn breath in trying to say otherwise. If you're going to move on anyways in a month to something else, you probably are wasting your time. Sure, through fear and misinformation you'll get people on your side, maybe get as far as organizing protests outside arenas or getting petitions if you have that capability, but more often than not it's just "look at me,  look what I say, don't do this" and then you get sidetracked by the shiny object that is something more evil in your eyes and just as pointless to argue against. The truth is, it's more the "hidden" things in our society you should be worried about, the ones you don't see or aren't a part of. Instead of worrying about shooting hookers in a videogame, perhaps you should worry about the real hookers downtown that are getting shot and start an agenda to clean up the streets. Or instead of banning a Harry Potter book for "magic" you should just decide not to read it and let others be entertained by obvious fiction and enjoyment and understand you're too dense to grasp that concept.

Yet, the cycle has to go on because people "need" controversy. They need a platform and to speak on things even if it makes little sense. I now laugh it off, understand that humans just have to do that (in a way, I'm doing it right now by writing this) and carry on. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Church of Satan meeting tonight and have to get my robe dry-cleaned.

Signing Off


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