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Opinion: What Are You Talking About? That Didn't Happen

This past weekend, a few of the editors watched Gravity (and we weren’t alone, apparently). After thinking about the film for a few days, I was eager to talk about it with my co-workers. We all picked at different nits, but we all eventually agreed that it was a good movie and that we were glad that we watched it. We weren’t all at the same screenings, but our viewing experiences were similar. We all watched it in 3D at IMAX theaters. The film lasted about 90 minutes, and (I assume) we sat mostly still and silent as we watched the story unfold. 

A few hours after our movie discussion, people started passing along a link from Salon. The writer had some fairly provocative things to say about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – not surprising, considering the headline “The Legend of Zelda is Classist, Sexist and Racist.”

I have to admit, it’s been a while since I last played Ocarina, but one particular portion in the essay stood out to me:

“…[In] the game, domestication is portrayed as a mutually beneficial, voluntary arrangement. The anthropomorphized cows of Hyrule speak to Link, literally saying, ‘Have some of my refreshing and nutritious milk!’ Of course depicting a relationship as anything like symbiotic when one party kills and eats the other, as well as the latter’s children, would be laughable if it weren’t so appalling.”

This part stuck out not because of the creepiness of a talking cow enjoying this questionable relationship (if you take that argument), but because I don’t remember the cows in Ocarina ever talking. I don’t doubt that they do, but I don’t know that they did in my game. And that’s probably because I never tried talking to a cow when I played.

I won’t spoil anything about Gravity (you should see it), but a few people have complained about the way that physics are bent to accommodate the story. Fair enough. I can understand that argument, and I can see how a person can choose a side. If a person told me they didn’t like the movie because the scene that took place on the surface of the sun is a bit silly, however, I would have been confused since no such scene appears. I know that, with few exceptions, movies are what they are. While you can debate meaning and argue your interpretation of what was shown, film is linear. Even if I didn’t see Gravity in a nice theater, the content of the film would be the same. When you watch a movie, you’re going to talk to every cow. You might interpret her words one way or another, but that conversation is going to happen.

As we all know, games are an entirely different beast. You can agree with the Salon essay or not, but there’s a possibility that you didn’t even know about some of the things that the author is taking issue with – simply because you didn’t talk to certain characters or interact with specific objects.

I encountered something similar when the first wave of Grand Theft Auto V reviews hit. The UK’s International Business Times gave the game a 7, citing, among other things, a general lowbrow tone. I can’t argue with that interpretation, but once again, the specific example was confusing. The author, Edward Smith, says a mission begins with Michael meeting up with Trevor. Trevor is, in the inimitable English way of phrasing it, “doing a poo,” and Smith complains that it’s not mentioned again. Another writer, Tom Chick, mentions the same scene in his excellent essay on the game’s take on torture. The thing is, that didn’t happen when I played that mission. I don’t doubt that the scene was as gross as Rockstar had intended, but I just walked in the front door as another character, bypassing the sequence entirely.

My Trevor is an unrepentant scoundrel, a hair-triggered psychopath, and a potential cannibal. But an alleyway defecator? Not in my game. Not my Trevor.

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