It’s not so much that “once upon a time”-style stories are boring, which is to say simple stories with conventional structures, it’s that the meat on those bones is often uninteresting. The sorts of media I enjoy the most are the plumpest, meatiest, and flavorful imaginable. On those bones of a straightforward story, in a few lines, a skilled writer can convey information to progress the plot, share character or worldbuilding details, or progress society.
OK, maybe that last one is a bit forced.
It’s true, though. Media has the power to control and manipulate pop culture and therefore culture in positive or negative ways. An example that I hear in conversations around trans rights and transphobia is in the movie Ace Venture. I haven’t seen most/all of the movie since I was a kid, and now, I wonder, would I even care to watch it? As I’m going along in my own studies of life and reality, I am much more careful about the media I meander through, whether it’s movies, videogames, or music. A movie that might have raised an eyebrow or been a silly movie with some weird things in it when I was a kid now represents a sort of moral judgment call as an adult.
I can dialectically assess the good and bad in any given meander through media, sure.
But if I have to start with a big caveat, why would I even begin? For music like black metal, there is a subsect of bands that operate with racist ideologies. I’ve decided across the board, there is no reason why I would want to get involved with those sorts of bands, to even decide if I can even tolerate their racism through their music. For me, there is no “death of the author” or “art versus artist.” A racist that makes music with racist undertones cannot be pulled apart in a way to say that the musician is racist but the music is OK so let’s listen to the music and ignore the racism. For me, the most that this “art versus artist” example goes is in relation to the problematic actions that we all do, or, minor offenses in minor situations.
We’ve all been rude to others, but it’s the degrees of the offense and the moralities within.
I am, generally speaking, not offended by drug-related crime. If a person chooses to use drugs, that is their choice. If that person commits crimes while under the influence of those drugs, then that person is guilty of the crimes – the drugs didn’t commit those crimes. If this were a clearer-cut example of morality judgment, there wouldn’t be so many DUI attorneys willing to advertise their services on the radio, possibly being overheard by people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I don’t believe that drugs or alcohol should be criminalized on their own, but because their actions generally lead to crimes, it makes sense to me why some drugs are criminalized and because of the revenue that alcohol companies receive from people and then pump into various companies in exchange for advertising, it makes sense, too, that alcohol would not be as criminal of a chemical as maybe it should given its overall crime provocation for drunk driving and other crimes.
I bring this all up because moralities matter when meandering through media.
Most stories involve romance of some kind. Although I haven’t played or read through EarthBound in many years, I do recall that many characters hint at the idea of the main character Ness and the deuteragonist Paula would get into a relationship because Ness is a boy and Paula is a girl. At least within the game itself or any aspects of the plot, I suppose with some degree of a spoiler warning stated here, to where you can skip on past the rest of this paragraph without getting spoiled an element of the plot, I could say that that doesn’t happen. I like that the game’s focus is not on a trivial romance story, but rather in exploring the world, talking to people and hearing whatever kinda weird things they have to say.
EarthBound is a skeleton with many different flavors of meat on its bones.
Being a kid’s game made in the 90s by Nintendo, who at the time was rigorous in its quality and morality standards, limited the amount of problematic language that might appear in any of the classics of literature or modern literature. I have read many books and sections of books where there are problematic passages, of characters that are rudely handled or obscene in nature – obscene to me, with my moralities – and I have to then make a judgment call about whether that problem is worthwhile. Sometimes, sure, it’s fine. There might be an artistic reason why something was featured or that feature is to prove a particular point – maybe a slur is used to show how slurs can affect people.
Can we really accept some parts of media just because everyone else has?
There are aspects, too, of looking at the work from its own time period. I was invited to read some things that Lovecraft had read without doing this sort of prior investigation, and casually reading through some of his short stories, I found many elements that were racist beyond a sort of casual justification. Here is a writer that many people appreciate. For them, they can see past the racism, or understand it through a perspective of the time. While I disagree with this, I can understand why they do it, because maybe for them, they can pick out the racism and enjoy the rest? Maybe their morality regarding racism is different than mine? I don’t think reading Lovecraft’s writing is something to be criminalized, but for me, I would rather not get any inspiration from his writing, good or bad, because there are so many other writers out there that I wouldn’t need to pick around problematic elements to arrive at good elements.
I do wonder how often this applies without me knowing.
When people “meet their heroes” they are often disappointed. That’s because their heroes were cartoon characters playing a role, like kayfabe in wrestling, except all of their imperfections can be edited out like the typos I backspace to correct. If I left in all of the typos I wrote, in even this paragraph alone, it would be a confusing mess for you. With speaking, I feel similar to that, except, I can usually blow through any of the minor typos of speech with force and some clarification. When I write to people in private messages or speak on private calls, I let more typos in to show that I’m not a stickler for writing clearly, and our speaking can cover more nuanced topics that might not happen in broadcasts to more people.
The editing process is where we can clarify what might otherwise be problematic.
Parasocial relationships that people hold with celebrities, major or minor, are where they haven’t yet met their heroes. The people that hold parasocial relationships to these celebrities have a skewed perception of the celebrity because of these edited performances. So when they meet, they see the sort of “first draft” person that doesn’t have the layers of professional editing applied to them, and often, that is undesirable. The magic for most people was the sort of editing that was applied in make-up studios, or, through societal pressures themselves.
I sometimes wonder if the sexualization of society is because of perpetuating society.
Throughout my entire life, the ratio of successful to failed relationships I’ve been have been so skewed toward failed that I’ve realized that there is no real point, for me, in doing anything related to a relationship. Why would I risk my money, mental/physical health, and emotional stability to get into a relationship with anyone? Whenever I feel close to imagining that I should forego that, because, what happens if I become incredibly disabled and need the help of a partner to get around, I think: I’ve been getting by acceptably even through my current disability. “Who would want to get into a relationship with someone like me?” is a common question that I’ve have to overcome asking myself through my disability, as I’ve already answered a similar question years ago – “why would I want to get into a relationship with anyone?”
Answer: the feeling of belonging with someone on a close level.
I can do so with myriad people without having the sort of relationship that my society forces me into, through guilt of media or through familial pressures, to procreate and produce offspring to continue the human race. Why would I do something like that? Plenty of others can do that fine. I would rather do what I want to do, on my terms, and have the autonomy to not worry about anything else. I approach people when I feel comfortable doing so, and in a relationship, sure there are nice things that can make me feel more comfortable, but whenever I meander through the media that gives this narrative that characters are incomplete and can only be complete through meeting others, or, as often is the case, characters get into a relationship through proximal experiences like “we both experienced this plot together!” then all that does is suggest that relationships are formed because of outside forces.
What if the characters fell in love because they loved each other’s personalities?
That would be a provocative romance story. Most media I’ve meandered through up until now has shown romances that are closer to physical lust rather than the sort of love that means anything at all. Maybe it’s because up until recently, love could sustain itself on these sorts of trivial factors, but now it seems like relationships are so fragile that any gust of wind could topple over the relationship. Was that relationship founded on anything more than the lust of a body that fades with time? The relationship never could work because it was rooted in lies, and not just the lies that editing help cover up where a writer can seem more profound through the use of multiple passes to correct any weird mistakes.
I want stories where there are deeply flavorful aspects to them.
Sometimes, that does include examples of problematic themes, but part of that flavor involves looking through those problems with the sort of lens to explain them away. I don’t want safe stories that are sanitized of anything, but, I also don’t want stories that are illegible, illegal, or commit offenses to my moralities far beyond the stories have the artistic liberty to do, for the sake of making a point. So there is a weird sort of balance that goes on with meandering through media, and oftentimes, I’ll find myself struck by a word or phrase that makes me think perhaps of things the writer[s] didn’t even intend. There’s context, too, and the ideas that ideals shift and change as we grow.
Who’s to say that we need to stick to conventions in the first place?
When I meander through media now, it’s with two paces. The first pace is the fast blast through whatever kinda garbage I need to clear out of my queue. It doesn’t matter to me if I miss some details because those details weren’t important to me, and this pace is also the pace where I don’t get involved with the media much more than that. The second pace is slower, where I might spend a half-hour talking to a few characters, pausing at each line of videogame text, to think about what the sentence says. This character told our team the central premise of what we needed to do to fix this town in EarthBound, but the wording also prompted the question of the biology of these mouthless, perhaps genderless, creatures.
These sorts of thoughts follow a much slower pace, requiring lifetimes of thought.
|Sources: My personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: Played a little EarthBound, did a little thinking.|
|Related: Other Media Meandry essays.|
|Picture: Reducing the size made the pixels look bad. Here’s the original.|
|Written On: 2021 August 03 [9:15pm to 10:10pm]|
|Last Edited: 2021 August 03 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]|