I’m a media studies graduate and with that comes a raftload of tools that I’m repeatedly told aren’t actually useful for anything, to which I counter that I like using them and enjoy the experience of applying those tools to all the media around me I partake in and therefore my life is enriched and overflowing with wonderful experiences of interconnectivity. By this point the other person has usually wandered off. Anyway, this is the category for anything that I think of as being connected to ‘media’, whether it’s a type (like TV, music, movies or so on), a brand (like Disney! Hi Disney!). This category also covers my weekly critical engagement column-type-thing currently called Story Pile.
This is one of those movies that serves as a kind of Fight Club test for me.
The movie doesn’t set off red flags, not in the same way as Fight Club. That movie is one where if someone espouses how much they love it, you have to hold your breath and find out whether they’re one of the fans who recognise how cool the movie makes Tyler Durden (who ultimately wins), or if they’re one of the fans who recognise how that’s a really bad thing.
With The Big Short, the movie is interesting, about a topic I find interesting, and presents it in interesting ways, as it restructures a complicated narrative of many moving parts into a simple, understandable, easily followed movie. What I wonder about, when someone says they love this movie, is what about it they love.
The fact that you know what that subject refers to is a sign that you have brain worms, and so do I, and if you didn’t recognise the source, but did recognise what it means, then you’re part of the spread of those worms.
There are a truly stunning number of quotes in our common discourse that can be attributed to the digital pen of the Twitter user dril, aka wint, aka no I’m not going to go provide the known information about this person’s real identity after Homestuck doxed him and boy isn’t that a sentence to even joke about, good god, what the living hell. dril (stylistically, lower case d), is a twitter user who’s responsible for a number of really widespread tweets, but also specific phrases that themselves now feel like they predate his 2008 account creation.
Have you heard someone say ‘I’m not owned, I’m not owned?’ How about ‘corncobbing?’ ever been told to ‘spend less on candles?’ Does something ‘smack of gender?’ Do you know anyone who’s ‘faced god and walked backwards into hell?’ Do you know how important it is that Wario is a libertarian? Is jail isn’t real? Do you demand that someone show themselves, coward, for you will never log off? What about your fears of the Skeleton War? Are none of you free of sin? Do you know how heavy your heart is when you announce the celebs are at it again? Drink precisely one beer? Zero difference between good things and bad things, you fucking moron? Is your problem that you’re perfect and everyone’s jealous of you? Turning a dial marked racism? Sorry, sorry, I’m trying to delete it?
Do you know how unlikely it is that you’ll ever get to fuck the flag?
This isn’t even a comprehensive rundown of common memes that trace back to dril. This is a glance at his wikiquote page from 2008 to 2014. This is Shakespearean.
dril is a prolific comic writer and sort of despair poet, whose medium is twitter, which involves not just reflecting on the culture of twitter but also the way that twitter users behave when presented with a platform to finally vent their thoughts. It’s also super fucking postmodern, where the fact that tweets are created by a person who is relating their own life introduces the fundamentally unreliable narrator, which dril then milks for comedy, and absurdity, and uh, through that, more comedy.
I reflect on dril sometimes, because there’s a way that the jokes the creator makes have spread well wide from their source. Dril has now told jokes that are seen as kind of fundamental to twitter – not just made about and of twitter, but now the kind of joke that people who use twitter recognise, even the ones who are several steps removed. Sometimes his quotes are taken entirely out of their context and used by people who don’t even realise they’re referencing him.
This is where things get really weird.
We have an example in history, though, of this kind of thing. In a medium, someone who starts as a parody that mocks a familiar form, something we all recognise. dril mocks the idea of the self-important, politically engaged dumbass, the metaphors made by the so-called intellectuals that populate twitter, or just the extremely petty people who document their own largely unremarkable lives with extensive crisscrossing feelings of resentment, old grudges and attempts to restructure their personal narratives such that make them. That mockery, however, has been so effective that now, dril and his jokes are told by those people, people who recognise their own ridiculousness (ha ha, unless?) and then becomes part of the shape of that ridiculousness.
What I’m saying is that dril is Homer Simpson.
EDIT, UPDATE: Okay, sigh, so
So it seems that CNN is now referring to the Trump leavings as ‘Adult Sons,’ which is, as is being pointed out, evocative of My Large Adult Sons.
i have trained my two fat identical sons to sit outside of my office and protect my brain from mindfreaks by meditating intensely
For those not aware, there are two songs that are commonly seen as being the same songs – Nena’s 99 Luftballons and the English version, 99 Red Ballons. Now it is just literally an assumption that I made that the songs are basically the same. This is as many assumptions, pretty weird and misguided, especially when I already know about Simple & Clean and its predecessor unrelated song Hikari.
The basic narrative; the singer and a non-specific you buy some balloons, inflate them, and let them go, and then the world ends.
You know, a pop song.
In the German version, which Nena have expressed a preference for, the sequence of events is that the released balloons look like a UFO. One force comes to inspect them, then, rather than admit they were fooled by balloons, fire off some rockets to look impressive. The other side sees the display of strength, and, balloons forgotten, they retaliate with a similar show of force. And then it escalates and nuclear war ensues. The singer walks through the wreckage of the lost world, finds a balloon, and lets it go into the sky. It’s very sad and wistful and also extremely 1980s German, to hear tell of the spirit of the age.
The English language version introduces an interesting wrinkle: It’s specifically instigated by bugs in the software that respond to the threat and escalate things. Oh, sure, both sides escalate the same way (there’s a verse in German in the English version), but the thing that kicks it off isn’t a pilot feeling embarrassed at being asked to inspect balloons, but rather complications in an automated system starting hostilities without a human interface.
Now, Nena, like I said (or implied I guess), don’t like the English version, they feel it takes a different take they don’t want to go in. Fair. I personally really like the English version now, because I don’t live in Cold War Germany. I live in Australia, where it’s entirely possible a badly made piece of software will result in immense harm, because of a glitch, and our solution to that is to go ‘uh, whoopsy?’ The fear of us abdicating serious and important decisions to computers is kinda on my mind.
Okay, but why do I care about this? It isn’t like I’m a big 1980s German Pop Hits fan. I’m not aware of this stuff, maybe I know a Queen song or two, or one or two Bowie songs that wound up in videogames. I was introduced to the song thanks to Goldfinger, who have recently re-ceovered their cover, because uhhh, you know, all the stuff.
Now I’m a big fan of ska bands from the 90s and early 00s that kept their heads and grew up a bit. Perhaps obviously, I’m a big fan of this song, and I like this version best.
And this year is when I finally went ‘hang on a second’ and looked up the German lyrics and learned about the two versions of this song. One of them is very clearly, in my mind, a Nena song, and the other, a Goldfinger song.
What motivated this?
Me wondering: Hang on, was super scurry in the German version?
Look, Bullet journals are great. I deeply love my Bullet Journal. I have a nice little paper book that I carry with me in almost all the bags I have and I use it for, well, notepaper stuff. I make a monthly planner, which means I’m noticing when the seasons turn, I’m noticing the things in my life that a lot of systems automate. I’m tracking which week of the semester it is, I’m thinking about the next month.
This year I’ve done a lot of tracking of the year on the blog using the planning chart I linked at the start of the year, which I do think I’ll keep doing because it’s good for taking an overview on how the whole year looks and can have comments and notes. That’s super useful.
It’s one of those rare things that I can treat as a sort of ‘gift well.’ If my family want to get me something nice, some stickers for putting in my bullet journal, stamps for things like weekly schedules, or just decorative pens. As someone who doesn’t tend to be ‘giftable’ in a lot of ways (I mean, I have lots of videogames, and family members aren’t necessarily going to want to be experts on board games or videogames to try and get me something I ‘want’), the bullet journal is super handy. It’s nice, too, it means I think of my family as I take notes.
My Bullet Journal is something I use when I’m not at my computer to make things.
So, this year: No development on the Bullet Journal, no new mods, no new layouts, no new habits. I did get some nice stuff, I have a lovely book, which is… hopefully going to be my 2021 book?
Of course, Bullet Journals are meant to be flexible. This is one of the things about the system that’s a point of recommendation, especially for neurodivergent folks. They don’t care if you mess up, or miss a few days, or miss a month. The system is designed to not structure your life to the book, but the book to your life. It’s okay. I’m going to be okay.
Why am I doing this here? Well, this is normally something I’d write about in my bullet journal.
This month I’m going to take some time to read to you my ””’favourite””’ Lovecraft stories, then talk to you a little bit about them afterwards. Because this is Lovecraft, each of these stories deserves a content warning for general horror, but in this one specifically, uh
This month and some of last, I played Ai: The Somnium Files. I played it, and I liked it, and I liked it so much I thought about going and buying some merch for it.
There is no official merch for it.
Normally, I’d wait until con season and keep an eye out for Ai: The Somnium Files fanmerch, maybe a print or if I’m really lucky, a keychain of a character like, oh, Aiba’s little teddy bear form would make a great keychain design. I want one of those.
Oh wait, it’s 2020. No con season.
Fuck it, I’ll do it myself.
Here’s the design. It’s an eye, with Aiba, which is part of the general symbolism hammerblowing that is Ai: The Somnium Files. Here, it is, on a shirt, you can use to conceal your body:
But, but, but, what if you don’t want a shirt, but just want a sticker of Aiba to stick on things that matter to you, to mark them as your territory? Well, I made this:
You know, if you look at the media I talk about on this blog, especially as it pertains to horror, you might not realise that I have spent quite a lot of time watching horror movies and series that are, generally, just all bad.
It’s not that I’m averse to watching classics, I just haven’t largely gotten around to them, and so I want you to imagine my reaction to finally having a point of contrast with a range of boring, tedious and exceptionally shithouse movies by watching at least one movie that is in fact, good.
This month I’m going to take some time to read to you my ””’favourite””’ Lovecraft works, then talk to you a little bit about them afterwards. Because this is Lovecraft, each of these stories deserves a content warning for general horror. In this one, because it’s a poem, it’s surprisingly, slur free!
Gosh yesterday was full of opinions, wasn’t it? I said some mean things about a website! And maybe even someone who liked that website might have thought: He doesn’t like that thing! But I like that thing! and had a whole moment to reconcile with themselves. Who knows.
But I do say that there’s writing I like on the SCP wiki, so now I’ve had my fun pointing out how entire categories of media on the wiki are tedious as hell or needlessly interested in hurting women, I am now obligated by the Centrist Bullshit Rules Of Not Being Mean To Websites On The Internet to point out things on that website that I like, for fear that me having a preference will be seen as ‘problematic’ or ‘he didn’t really get it’ or ‘I don’t think you’re giving it a fair chance.’
The SCP wiki is a big communal creative project. Lots of people have written for it. I have very pointedly gone out of my way to avoid knowing who made these ideas I’m talking about because I want to talk about the product that the SCP wiki exalts communally. I may talk about the intentions of a piece, but please understand they’re not drawn from actual stated words from the creators (except when they are) but rather from a critical reading of what these narratives are trying to be about.
And with that, on to the sacred cows.
Content warning! I’m going to talk about stuff on the SCP wiki that’s pretty bad, and that means in addition to warnings about horror, we’re also going to have to talk about sexual violence and child sexual assault.
The first modern horror novel, the place we start drawing the line from, is Frankenstein, a book churned out in defiance against two of the most priviliged humans alive as a wrench to throw into their full-time fart sniffing conversation. Mary Shelley, grappling with the feelings of loss and distress from her own recent miscarriage and, we can kinda extrapolate the general pressure of interacting with her husband and George Gordon ‘Lord’ Byron, wrote a book about an overly self-invested self-satisfied so-smart softboy whose unbearable burden of genius resulted in him running roughshod on everyone around him and becoming, eventually, the victim of his own creation, something he could have averted had he spoken to someone about it for five fuckin seconds, but did not.
This month I’m going to take some time to read to you my ””’favourite””’ Lovecraft stories, then talk to you a little bit about them afterwards. Because this is Lovecraft, each of these stories deserves a content warning for general horror, but in this one specifically features cosmic horror, ego death, loss of children, loss of parents, general sanism, some things that I think are going to be kinda trypophobia-inducing like people ‘crumbling’ and a lot of animal endangerment. There is also some mild racism, like, no slurs, and there’s a bunch of just casual sneering at poor people.
Hey, you know that Cthluhu dude? That guy’s meant to make the ocean super scary, especially for white people. There could be anything down there in the ocean, like an existential threat to all of humanity that’s just waiting for a byproduct of human activity to render all life on earth permanently unsustainable, in the name of the worship of something profane and unnatural!
Lovecraft was a cop!
Thing is, he was scared of the ocean and didn’t have a clue what was actually in the ocean. Want to know why? Because if he did know about it, he’d have written about the much scarier things that are really there!
Here are five reasons the ocean is fucking terrifying!
Content warnings: Body horror, deep water, real big things! No pictures, because there’s a lot of AAAAA here.
The actual review of this movie is very short: It isn’t very good. The story doesn’t do anything to hold itself together very well. There are numerous points where the assumed truths of the story are changed, and you have to invent motivations to explain why characters behave the way they do. Kit Harington is in it. There’s a pretty cool spider made of mannequin bits. The 3d is absolutely unnecessary, now. I do not recommend this movie.
I kinda have a special hatred for a genre of Youtube content that’s meant to be about ‘real stories of the supernatural.’ At its finest you have well-regarded, personality-driven fun stories like Buzzfeed Unsolved, which gave rise to the eventual Watcher Network, or the absolute sprawling morass of creepypasta, spooky story, and
‘real supernatural investigation’ nonsense. There’s a lot of this stuff around, and if you just check out a few channels, your youtube recommendations will become full of comparable stupidity; some of it will be from horror stories, written by people who are largely trying to entertain and see themselves as fiction writers, and those people are largely fine, if incredibly boring, and then there are the other ones.
If you’re at all familiar with me and my life you might be unsurprised to know that I don’t have a lot of respect for religion, just period. I think it runs straight through atheism (no belief in god) into an antitheism (that the idea of believing in a god is beneath human dignity) and maybe even veering hard into misotheism (the idea that god as ever expressed in the faith systems known to me is our moral inferior and if it were real, it would be our moral duty to find a way to kill it). I feel this most strongly about the faiths I know, mostly notably American Evangelical Christianity, but it folds outwards into all the Jesus-based faiths and cults, where I believe them to be quite wholly grown from poison root, gnarled in tree and branch. Courtesy of my Christian upbringing, I learned a lot about how all those other varieties of Christianity are evil, and even spent some time dedicated to the relative newcomers to the space of Big Name Christian Sects – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, and of course, the Most American Of Christians, the Mormons.
I don’t generally air these complaints in public. How people keep their beliefs lining up in their own head is generally a private matter, and while I may make fun of institutions with literal golden thrones that preach piety and charity, I know there are also people who follow me who are of these faiths who like what I produce, and have reconciled my preferences with my content. Basically, I think that Christian folk can handle me disliking their club, what with all the immense social safety and privilege and whatnot that their organisations with international power afford them.
I bring this up because there were definitely times in my upbringing, where managing these competing ideological thoughts and contradictory ideas (like if the Mormons were new and our church was freshly founded, what were we?) where, the strange thing is, one of the best pieces of advice I got from navigating out of orthodoxy was a quote from a Mormon.
And he wasn’t even talking to me.
I mean kinda.
Sandy Peterson is probably one of the most important people in (White, English Speaking, 90s-to-Now, Existing-Power-Structure Centric) gaming. A tail-end boomer, Peterson has been working in gaming since 1974, when he was 19 years old and he’s pretty much never stopped, just moving laterally into new, interesting spaces to work. He’s worked for Chaosium, producing Call of Cthulhu material and Runequest material, and if you don’t know what that is, ask the older bearded guy at your gaming circle who periodically mentions ‘fumble tables.’ He moved into videogames, where he worked on Sid Meier’s Pirates! and the absolutely terribly underappreciated Hyperspeed and Darklands, games that are of the vintage where Civilisation 1 advertises them in its closing screen. Then he moved into working for id Software, where he worked on Doom and Quake then he helped out Raven Software with level design on Hexen and hey that’s enough vital influence of an entire media form, let’s move across to work on Age of Empires stuff with Ensemble Studios, and while we’re in the neighbourhood, why not make stuff for Halo Wars with all that experience you had stored up? Then he moved laterally into board games, where he kickstarted, successfully, the absolute titan in a box of a game that is Cthulhu Wars, the rare kind of game that wants to step up to the challenge Twilight Imperium leaves and actually fights it.
In summary, Sandy Peterson has been responsible for three of the biggest success stories in three different fields; the longstanding Call of Cthulhu tabletop game, the world-shaking Doom, and the record-setting Cthulhu Wars. That’s just three big impacts in three fields, and the thing is, if you took all three of those away his second tier success stories are still titanic impacts. His work shows up in media where he needs to do a lot of direct work rather than just tell people what to do (Kojima).
This isn’t the whole of his work (he made a movie? Kinda?) but it’s certainly the bulk of it. And I haven’t combed the man’s twitter or nothing, but, amazingly, as far as I can find, he hasn’t said anything to fucking embarrass me for thinking well of him.
Like I said, I haven’t combed his twitter.
And far be it from me to say that a Mormon man born in the 1950s might be Wholesome Content Bean Uwuguu, but he did say something, a long time ago, that helped me handle a complicated problem that had been put in my head. The issue was that I was at the time in my childhood, grappling with the ways that media that depicted terrible things might be affecting me; that the nightmares I had and obssessions I got over videogames with dark elements in them were a sign of some dreadful sin inside me. One day, while reading a proto-website known as a ‘magazine,’ I found a quote from Sandy, in an article describing the DOOM team, and how he reconciled his faith (which was much less conservative than mine at the time) and his involvement in the creation of DOOM:
“They’re the bad guys.”
Yes, this is obvious. Yes, this is ridiculous. Yes, this should only really be enlightening to a ten year old.
But in my defense, I was ten.
DOOM creates a universe where demons and hell and lovecraftian unknowable, undecipherable, deliberately inexplicable evil are real. And it is a universe where you can meaningfully destroy it with a shotgun to the face.
Doom is great and part of why it’s great is a Mormon Lovecraft fan.
This month I’m going to take some time to read to you my ””’favourite””’ Lovecraft stories, then talk to you a little bit about them afterwards. Because this is Lovecraft, each of these stories deserves a content warning for general horror, but in this one specifically, content warning for suicide, self-immolation, beastiality, racism, racism, racism, racism, racism and racism. I bleep the slur ‘g*psy’ in my reading, and am occasionally unable to contain my exasperated amusement at just how stunningly racist this is.
In the notes on the reading, I mention Atun-Shei Films, and a statement he made in this video.
Conventional visions of horror are about taking the familiar, and adding the unfamiliar. There’s a reason so many horror settings since the 1970s have been focused on the suburban and the conventional being transformed into something dreadful and horrible – and the reason the slashers and monsters in movies so often represent things that we already contend with all the time now anyway. In The Stuff, the horror is the invisible consumption of food culture, in Friday the 13th, it’s the failure of the suburban space to make us safe, and in Camp Crystal Lake Chronicles: Zombie Boy Versus The Sex Havers, the horror is about being punished by adults for arbitary idiocy that has nothing to do with you and them making their emotional damage your problem.
The root, therefore, of modern horror movies, is about things we find relatable, and as the genre has progressed, it’s only a matter of time before you come across a horror movie where the thing it’s infiltrating is another, different type of movie.
In a very literal sense, Ghost Hunting media, where you have people with cameras and recording equipment to some location where ghosts ‘are’ and then get ‘proof’ of them, is a scary business, because it’s a business. There is an economic engine that can monetise the way that these people can spend time and money searching for people and locations to bother and record in the hopes of finding something spooky on camera.
That is, there is an entire business that, as with many other such businesses, wants to make money out of the fact you can be afraid of things, and which encourages you to confront your fear by attributing to it not the scary possibility that your brain is unreliable and can throw out phantom information, but rather that there’s an entire supernatural reality overlaid on ours and it mostly functions through manipulating videocameras and crap radios.
A moment, if you will, of direct empathy with Ghost Hunters. Not all of these people are actively manipulative, film-editing, blatantly exploitative awful shitweasels who are trying to launder their own ability to be mildly convincing into making money off people’s grief and fear. A number of these people are, themselves, credulous and hopeful and want to try and divine something about the world they’re in and often want to explain their feelings and their fear because understanding people is very hard and understanding yourself is extremely hard. The Ryan Bergaras of the space: Sincere believers who are actually scared of ghosts and are doing their best to confront these fears in safe and non-exploitative ways. To those ghost hunters, I must say, well, fine.
They’re a minority.
And almost always, they need to be surrounded by the assholes.
One of the things that hurts your ability to maintain beliefs in this kind of supernatural nonsense is an actual reliable record being kept of what you’re dealing with. If you think you heard a noise that was like a voice, but you can listen to that noise again and again, or recording the audio of an area, it suddenly becomes a lot harder to think ‘that was a voice’ when ‘that sounds like all the other sound in the area.’ We are coincidence seeking machines, and the ‘evidence’ that converts some people is extremely flimsy, often only made into ‘evidence’ by the confirmation of collaborative people, people who are in some cases, incentivised to make sure that you think, yes, that thing you heard is real.
What is real is that brains exist, as best we can prove, and brains do weird things. Brains seek patterns. Brains misrecord. Brains forget things.
And that’s what’s scary.
An entire industry built around keeping you looking for ghosts, so you don’t look inside yourself
Two young fish are swimming along. An older fish swims past them and says ‘hey, kids. the water’s nice today.’ and swims on.
a few minutes later, one of the younger fish looks to the other and says: ‘what’s water?’
Normally there’s a fairly healthy turnaround time on Story Pile posts. I tend to like taking my time on them, and there’s also a sort of queue effect, where a movie or book or tv series will get watched while I do other things, then when I reach the end I’ll spend some time ruminating on my opinion on it before I ever write about it.
While listening to Power Metal tracks on Youtube, which is definitely a thing a sensible human would do (because ad blockers work on Youtube and not on Spotify), I got treated to this fantastic bit of stompy Power Metal. Most of the bands I like in that genre are either ESL (like Korpiklaani or Sabaton), so there’s always a little bit of odd or weird phrasing, which meant that the actual boast of the song is a little… weird. Right? Diggy Diggy Hole.
Anyway, I liked the song and moved on with my life.
But then I got kinda bothered by the way that phrase sat in the head. Some other lyrics too – lines like suckled on a teat of stone, which isn’t a very natural ‘badass’ phrase you’d see in an English song. Being a context seeker, I figured well, Wind Rose might be an ESL group and this might be one of many Swedish power metal bands playing with dwarf fantasy stereotypes, because power metal bands love personae. And then I found that yes, Wind Rose are ESL – but not because they’re finnoscandian rock-busters.
Because they’re Italian.
Okay then so that seemed weird, ‘dwarf’ and ‘Italian’ don’t leap to mind together the same way, so I went looking further for the origin of this phrase diggy diggy hole.
Which led to a Minecraft Youtube video.
Back in 2011, a Minecraft Youtube channel called Yogscast (I am simplifying and do not care) had someone jokingly chirp the song “I am a dwarf and I’m digging a hole, diggy diggy hole.” It was a bit. It was a throwaway joke.
This being the internet, and a channel with several million internet subscribers, on the famously prolific and fan-productive Youtube, this song was then replicated by dozens of people, and then fans animated it, and then that song was now a song, and eventually, eventually, this found its way to my life.
Because I listen to Power Metal on Youtube.
What’s more, the song is pretty great! It’s got bombast, it’s got some guts behind it, and it sounds like dwarves should sound to me. But also, in this song there’s this one little snippet, one phrase that stands out to me.
We do not fear what lies beneath We can never dig too deep
Probably the single most iconic phrase of literature that relates to dwarves at all, in any media, is going to be Ian McKellan whispering, The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep.
And this song says fuck you, Tolkein.
I don’t like Dwarves much. But I do like this song, and I like these dwarves.
A few years ago, in June, Rami Ismail brought up, and gently made fun of, the idea of the Tetris of movies. This was a joke, because typically, the conversation that compares movies to games goes the other way around. The cliche is The Citizen Kane of Games, and that comparison is deeply annoying for a host of reasons (for example, film started in 1895, and Citizen Kane came along in 1941, suggesting that the first home videogames still have another twenty years to get around to theirs). Rami pressed B on this question, and flipped the narrative around to look at it from the other side.
What movie did what Tetris did?
Now, I think this question is really interesting, not because I have the right answer to it, but because it does something actually interesting about the comparison between the two possible forms of media. When we talk about The Citizen Kane of Games, it often really means something like the game we’ll all eventually see as important, and that’s so stupid, because it doesn’t even really meaningfully identify what Citizen Kane is. It’s a shibboleth, a reference to the idea of ‘the important one.’
This is a form of intertextual examination. It’s not that it’s bad or even silly to do so – we often use media as tools for examining other media all the time, indeed we even invite it when we reference media within media. Think about how many times you’ve heard Shakespeare’s cliches quoted, or references made to the Bible. There’s nothing wrong about using media you know as a reference point to examine other media you know, and it makes everything easier (Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, and I can do that now because I’ve finally seen that show!).
I think, if I was going to describe ‘the tetris of movies,’ it reminds me of a few things. Tetris was Soviet-developed; it was revolutionary in its development of gameplay technology, and every game that came after it was, usually, influenced by someone who had played it, or learned techniques from it. That, then, put me in mind of Battleship Potemkin, which was a soviet-made movie that pioneered what we would wind up referring to as montage.
That, however, is just one comparison – a simple one, even. Point of origin and impact on the medium. You might look at it in terms of the influence of the polynimo – is there something so widespread in media of other forms? What about duration? Is there a movie that’s nearly endless in the same way?
It’s a simple little question, and it’s fun because we can talk about movies the way we talk about games.
The only reason we can’t is because we assign idiotic levels of prestige to movies, and our attempts to emulate that prestige is embarrassing.
If you go check out the ‘Tide Pod Controversy’ page on Wikipedia, you’ll find a report that’s long on reports on the meme, full of people talking about the meme, referencing videos that reference the meme, and surprisingly scant on incidents where people, referencing or creating content about the meme actually did the thing the meme is about.
In 2018, there was a fuss. Teenagers, the fuss went, were making videos about the ‘tide pod challenge.’ If you didn’t actually hang out with teenagers, you probably saw tide pods coming up in the context of political cartoons, which used them as a go-to hack’s form of identifying the folly of youth. The idea was that youths were daring one another to eat tide pods, and then, doing so, and we assume, getting hurt and hospitalised.
This demonstrates the kind of object permanence that you can usually rely on media targeted at boomers to do. Because it turns out that if someone makes a video of them putting a tide pod in their mouth, or making soup out of them, that they aren’t necessarily eating that thing after the next cut. The other thing is, we keep statistics about poisonings, so you could just look those things up.
In the United States, an under 20 every single day was hospitalised by tide pods, which made up about a third of all hospitalisations from their ingestion. Of course, that statistic sounds pretty damning about stupid teenagers until you check the data and find that ‘under 20’ could be brought down to under 5s, and that data was from 2012 to 2014. And then if you’re paying attention you go ‘hang on, a third?’ and find out that for every child that eats soap and gets sick, about two elderly people do too.
Tide Pods were already dangerous when they were first introduced. They were dangerous particularly to infants and the undercared for elderly. They still are. There’s a really worthwhile conversation to be had about how the marketing techniques to make Tide Pods generally appealing do make them look like a foodstuff – that we merchandise these things with chemical construction and colour choices to tap into the parts of our brain that like things, and we tend to like things that we can have sex with or eat (sorry, asexuals, but it is a trend in aesthetics). This is really a thing worth addressing in general.
Pathetic, then, that the conversation only surfaced when people wanted to frame it as teenagers, people who we give the tiniest bit of agency and unsupervised time, doing something stupid that, broadly, they didn’t do.
Oh, one final thing.
That statistic up there about how elderly people and children are the primary people who consume Tide Pods? Yes, a child is hospitalised every day under that.
There were six deaths to this kind of poisoning in 2018.