Ready Player One And The Hyperconsumer

I had considered going in on Ready Player One last year in response to the trailer. Then I figured I’d wait, see if the movie came out. I think part of it was that I figured if the movie wound up being good, it might be seen as a bit meanspirited to take shots at just the trailer. Maybe the movie was smarter than the trailer had painted it as being.

Then it came out and it was in no way interesting, it had all the same problems everyone expected it to have, and the ways it varied from the source material only served to make it into a generic bad movie, rather than a uniquely flawed one. There is a good point, which I want to say MovieBob made, where by presenting these brands in a visual medium, it’s a lot less clunky to draw attention to the nested references. Sonic the Hedgehog riding atop the Delorean as it cruises down Rainbow Road takes a lot to vividly describe in text, but it’s a fraction of a second in a movie.

Still, there’s something that festers in my mind about the world constructed by Ready Player One. It’s not something diegetic or something the story chooses to be about, but it’s more an examination of the basic assumptions of the movie itself. Particularly, Ready Player One positions our hero, Readiest Player Onetts as someone whose status quo sucks (because he’s poor), and that’s used to demonstrate how important it is for him to change it. It then gets contrasted with the collected, corporate group of ‘baddies,’ who are basically the ‘rich team’ with matching uniforms from movies like The Mighty Ducks (remember that movie, Ready Player One?). There’s your contrast; the guy with no support versus the people with all the support.

The way this shows his lack of support is by making him a poor kid who escapes his shitty life in a virtual reality. His drive to escape his life helps explain his interest in science fiction from one tiny window of time, which is why he’s not like everyone else because in this, the distant space future time of Who Gives A Shit, is extremely into the things the author of the book is into.

It’s not just to say he’s a massive dork to capture the needs of a massive dork to recapture some feeling of being underground in a world where 80s and 90s nerd culture is the dominant moving force in mass media. In universe, he actually consumes this stuff, which is to say this dude is a vintage collector of media that has the long-term archival durability of edible underwear. It’s not just that he’s into freely available, public domain culturally available versions of these things, it’s that he’s a literal authority on these canons, widely and expansively. That means he can construct a whole, real, clean and uncorrupted image of all these things, not just their source material in its entirety, but their meaningful context.

But he’s poor.

The story reassures you he’s poor and downtrodden and has it so rough. His home is beaten up, his hardware is unreliable. His world is one of poorness. Which is to say, he has the behaviour of a wealthy hyperconsumer gamer shithead but the all-purpose moral purity of Being A Poor. The story knows enough to recognise that if this shithead was a rich shithead he’d be a shithead too far but if he’s a poor shithead his shitheadery is acceptable shitheadery even if doesn’t actually inform his shitheadedness

Now it makes sense. Rich gamer idiots like to tell themselves they’re not rich because they clearly recognise that richness is connected to assholeness. People who buy multiple guns that cost thousands of dollars or every new game and every new console as soon as they come out thinking they’re part of ‘the gamer’ oppressed class are just telling themselves the same story. They’re not the rich kids, they only have two of the most recent consoles.

Anyway, eat the rich, even if they like nerd shit.

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