Medium Cool is a weekly series related to popular culture, mostly film, TV, and books, with some music and games thrown in. We hope it’s a welcome break from the anger, hate, and idiocy we see almost daily from the other side in the political sphere.
Arguments welcomed, opinions respected, fools un-suffered. We’re here every Sunday at 7 pm.
We had planned for the discussion of The Autobiography of Malcolm X tonight, but Steeplejack pointed out that today is the Super Bowl, so the timing could be better!
So we will have that discussion next week on 2/19 instead.
Tonight, since the Super Bowl may be taking up a lot of oxygen, let’s have a free-for-all on Medium Cool. Talk about anything culture-related. Feel free to share ideas for future posts. If you’ve written a book or you write poetry or you make music, tell us about what you’re up to. Talk about the commercials for the Super Bowl, if you want.
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
I read on the internet that Naked Eyes’ version of “Always Something There to Remind Me” was Burt Bacharach’s favorite version, though the mentions were second-hand so I’m not sure how well sourced they are.
Which got me thinking that a documentary on the development of synthesizers and of synth pop would be interesting and so I googled it and there is one.. it’s called Synth Britannia. Has anyone seen it?
Wile waiting with little patience for the second season of The Bear we watched Bradley Cooper in another chef movie: Burnt. Above average, if a bit predictable. A little afraid of The Menu because of the crappy trailer – someone tell me if it’s any good.
Since I teased it the other day, one of my favorite movie lines ever is Annie’s comeback here to the prissy book-banner saying she “experienced the 60s”. (Skip to 1:40 if it doesn’t go directly.) Honestly, whoever wrote that line deserved an award just for that.
@BretH: What is The Bear? I have never heard of it.
@WaterGirl: OOoooh, if you are at all into restaurant shows you have a treat in store. Chef takes over running a diner owned by his recently deceased brother and tries to take it up more than a few notches. Loved it.
*tap, tap, tap* Anyone home?
Once the game is over and more jackals wander in, I would be interested in hearing from jackals who are or have been in book discussion groups to hear which titles made the best discussions and the worst discussions in your group. I have been in my book group since 1983 and sometimes it’s hard to find a book that is a good read but also invites a good discussion. If anyone would like to share, I would appreciate it.
@BretH: So it’s a series, not a movie?
I enjoyed The Menu a lot. But then actively hating the rich is up my alley.
@WaterGirl: Yes, on Hulu.
@WaterGirl: Yup. Admittedly we’re suckers here for things involving restaurants – we don’t usually watch foreign things with subtitles but we loved the Swedish series The Restaurant – just check out some reviews for The Bear careful not to hit spoilers.
I’ll take this as a SuperBowl anti-thread. I’ve determined that I can no longer watch football without feeling complicit in it. No judgement on others.
Been watching the 3rd season of Street Food on Netflix. It’s quite nice docuseries with a good blend of local culture, local characters, and a bit of history of both. This season is in the US (previous were Asia and Latin America). This is the stuff I like when I travel. I don’t care about your tourist destinations. I want to hang out like your locals do.
Only seen the first two episodes so far. Folks here would probably really like it.
@BretH: Not something I ever thought of as a genre. Interesting!
I am watching Line of Duty season 3 at the moment, so it will be awhile before I get to anything else. It’s good treadmill material, quite gripping.
The partner and I just finished the two series of Slow Horses and are deeply annoyed that we have to wait for more. No one chews up a screen like Gary Oldman, but it was a decent piece of ensemble work too, with a first rate job by Saskia Reeves. I got a strong recommendation at the bar for the books today.
@Scout211: I remember 2 books that had good discussions in my book group. My group was a mystery group so these are mysteries. The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte and The Judas Child by Carol O’Connell.
@BretH: I loved the first half hour or so but bailed when the graphic violence started
James E Powell
Among my favorite restaurant movies that many have not seen are Mostly Martha (free on kanopy, for rent on Prime and elsewhere) and Dinner Rush (free on Hoopla and Vudu, for rent on Prime).
@Layer8Problem: I’ve read all six books in the series, I found them to be entertaining and certainly the characters and the motivations to be completely plausible.
@zhena gogolia: Hey, how’s The Jewel in the Crown been doing for you?
I’ll probably get laughed at but we started season 1 of Emily in Paris and we’re enjoying it. I figured it seems to have pissed off the New York Times so it’s worth checking out
@Layer8Problem: I LOVE IT. Only three episodes left and I might start over again from the beginning
@piratedan: I had been warned going in to the series that there were plot holes, but that the performances were excellent. I’m really good at suspending disbelief when I’m liking something (Sneak into the garage of MI5 in the back of a car and then chase around in it unrestrained? I don’t think so. Etc.).
@zhena gogolia: I managed half an episode of EinP and then rage quit.
Any gamers around? My circle is currently vehemently and angrily divided between those playing the new Hogwarts Legacy and those boycotting it because Rowling is a massive TERF who has said, apparently, that she will donate proceeds to anti-trans causes (though I am not sure that is accurate). And among them are those also boycotting it for her apparent anti-Semitism in the books and the game. I won’t be playing, but man it is vicious (and I understand totally why).
@Omnes Omnibus: I don’t take Paris too seriously. Never been there. Husband takes it seriously but he loves it.
@Bostondreams: the nyt had an article about that
@zhena gogolia: I knew you’d like it! I don’t think there’s a bad performance in the bunch.
@Layer8Problem: true, but the people and their foibles are cut from real life versus the wheel of quirky.
@Bostondreams: Here’s my deep substantive thoughts:
Fuck JKR and fuck HP and people need to grow up and leave that shit in the past.
I often wonder: if her hatred was aimed at gay people and not trans people — if she went MTG and said all gay people are pedophile “groomers” and they shouldn’t be allowed to be teachers or adopt kids, if she was afraid to be around lesbians because she thought they might assault her, if she was all ADAM AND EVE NOT ADAM AND STEVE…would these perpetual children still bleat about “separating the art from the artist”? Some of them probably would, while still disgustingly claiming to care about queer people. But I’d bet some of them would see the problem a little more clearly. It’s just incredibly disappointing that transphobia is something they can sweep under the rug, all because they’re incapable of emotional maturation.
@Layer8Problem: it’s a festival of great acting
It’s really sad that JK Rowling has become a liability to her own literary legacy.
Does the halftime thingy count as culture?
Never cross the threads.
@piratedan: Please don’t take that as substantive criticism. You’re absolutely right, the interplay and the resolutions rang true. When I actively miss the characters after the end, it’s a winner for me.
And I’m looking to Oldman’s Jackson Lamb for my grooming and dress tips going forward.
Been thinking about egg scenes in movies lately. A partial listing (hope 5 links is ok):
Sanka in Cool Runnings;
50 eggs in an hour, Cool Hand Luke;
The rice omelet, Tampopo (one of at least two in that movie);
Boiled eggs with Lucifer, Angel Heart;
Morning after the night before, Big Night.
The Jeep Electric Boogie commercial was cute 🥰
High egg prices will do that to you.
@different-church-lady: Yes, it does.
@Baud: If Super Bowl ads count as culture, so does the performance. I am going to have to write this in my diary. Baud was wrong about something. 2/12/23
First Baud was wrong entry! :-)
@prostratedragon: 7 links are fine. 8 links send you into moderation.
@WaterGirl: Ah. Thanks.
@Alison Rose: JKR’s racism is a whole lot deeper than many people think. The anti-Jewish racism, the carelessness about Native Americans and their diverse rituals, the cluelessness about Cho Chang’s name (it’s on the level of making up gibberish to stand in for the Vietnamese language in Miss Saigon) reveals a deep-set racism that’s ingrained in her world view. And it’s a racism that’s so deep-set that she sees no need to take even the easiest steps to ameliorate any of it.
@Jackie: That was fun, except for the snake. Why do they do that???
People still bleat similar things about Roman Polanski, so I’m afraid you’re right.
Watched Marnow Murders on MHz Choice. Twisty turny good stuff. Trailer, but it does give away important plot points not revealed until late in the season.
Currently finishing up the last episode of Paris Police 1900, also on MHz Choice. Can’t really recommend it wholeheartedly – it’s a pretty brutal experience (the eruption and acceptance of sickening anti-Semitism in the wake of the Dreyfus case is on full and unfiltered display). While realizing some has been fictionalized for dramatic purposes, the bulk of what was going down in France is not exaggerated. Curious enough about one of the main real historical characters, though, to have sought out The President’s Mistress on Tubi for later viewing.
MHz Choice still offers a 7 day free trial. Will again highly recommend Allmen, whose four movie-length episodes are few enough to fit comfortably within that time frame.
@Baud: That is eggzactly why.
@Baud: @different-church-lady: It would be hard to find anything more representative of American culture than Superbowl.
Snoop hosting Animal Planet.
@WaterGirl: It was a boogie woogie Cobra!
I liked how it dragged down for the sloth lol
Just saw a Judge Janet ad during the Super Bowl.
ETA: Now a second one.
The Egg and I.
@Omnes Omnibus: Oh yeah. (And migod, I like ’em pretty soft, but … and not even beaten!)
I’m not a gamer or especially knowledgeable about the Harry Potter universe, but I saw the same kind of split reaction to a recent Wired review of Hogwarts Legacy. The review panned the game, based mainly on the author’s feelings about Rowling. Comments I’ve come across on various social media sites have been a shit show.
I had a good run.
@gwangung: Oh indeed. And a lot of that is also stuff people hand-wave away. The transphobia is front and center because she makes it so every damn day, and with repulsive glee.
@NotMax: That one was funny. Haven’t seen it in years.
@Omnes Omnibus: She is going for it. Not afraid to campaign
edit: were they the same ad? or two different ones?
edit 2: holy shit, super bowl ads are not cheap. At least we know she doesn’t need $$.
@Baud: I laughed out loud.
@Bostondreams: So, discussing that now with daughter (who is currently playing the game).
The antisemitism charge is bullshit, IMO. If the various organization whose job is to call out antisemitism don’t see it in the franchise, then I’m going to defer to them.
The anti-trans charge I get, completely. It’s not a part of the game, there’s a transgender character in the game and the character creator is transgender friendly.
So the only valid criticism (and I think it’s valid) is that it’s a passive endorsement of JK. And, well, it is. But the game itself doesn’t contribute to anything directly.
So, daughter *loves* these kinds of games (anything where she gets to be a student, ride animals, do magic, dress up, decorate a room, open world – it’s really in her wheelhouse), so she gave in and got it. From an objective standpoint, it’s a very solid game. Not groundbreaking but large in scope, lots to do, lot more magic combat than I would have expected, some nice design elements. Take out the revenue flow to JK and it’s a solid 8/10 game.
Daughter is a strong ally aside from this.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Scout211: I’m leading a discussion on The Thursday Murder Club tomorrow. We had a good discussion of The Lincoln Highway. We also all liked West with Giraffes and treatment of animals provided subject for discussion
@WaterGirl: Two different ones. And it was during the local ads segment. But, yeah, she’s going hard.
I knew it. We’re doomed.
Shaolin Soccer has an egg scene, but it involves a raw egg and is gross/funny.
Also too, The Gods Must Be Crazy II.
@Scout211: Some books that I recall generating great discussions in my book group:
@Omnes Omnibus: Two different ads is smart. I hate when they show you the same fucking commercial over and over.
Ah, local ads segment. That makes sense.
edit: were they good ads?
@RSA: The Wired review is kind of bullshit. I have no problem with the 1/10 review. But if you’re going to give a 1/10 review for very specific reasons, just come out of the gate and be clear with those reasons. The review really comes off as Wired tasked the reviewer with covering the game, the reviewer didn’t want any review from Wired, they negotiated down to ‘something’. And we got ‘something’. It could have been a strong piece on JKs position, on when it’s okay to support art from a troubled artist and when it’s not – there are good discussion to be had there. But we instead got ‘something’. Wasted opportunity, IMO.
@RSA: And at the end of the review the game purchase button saying “$XX AT WHEREVER” says instead “Buy at Donate to Trans Lifeline“, a nice touch.
@schrodingers_cat: Monster trucks. Loud, polluting, destructive, utterly pointless.
@WaterGirl: Both ads had humor about her name. Both said she was unabashedly in favor of abortion rights.
Dorothy A. Winsor
I have a book about a girl who’s a glass maker coming out on May 6. Get ready to fly, little book!
@NotMax: Let’s, we have there a decoy play, scrambling, down by contact, a fumble, …
Yet another an-egg-dote, involving 60s TV’s Batman and Robin.
removed because it did not need to be here….
@Dorothy A. Winsor: We read The Thursday Murder Club last year and West with Giraffes is scheduled in a few months (looking forward to it). Most of our members really liked The Thursday Murder Club but it wasn’t a great discussion. We’ve read two Amor Towles’ novels and the discussions were good so I’ll check out The Lincoln Highway.
@Omnes Omnibus: Two thumbs up.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Time for another Authors in Our Midst post.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Scout211: Another book that generated good discussion for us was Fredrick Backman’s Beartown.
I never can guess ahead of time, though. Last year, I chose Circe and they hated it!
@Spanish Moss: Thanks! We have read of those all except for the first one. I will check that out. And yes, those 3 were good discussions.
Dorothy A. Winsor
But I think TaMara’s new book might be out now.
@Scout211: Care to share some of the best ones from your club?
@bmoak: There’s a building consensus that raw eggs are funny. Same in the Rocky scene, and the Tampopo one that I didn’t link.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Thanks! A Man Called Ove was well-liked and produced a good discussion so I’ll check out Beartown.
@Spanish Moss: I read A Gentleman in Moscow based on my partner’s recommendation from Partner’s book club. I enjoyed the book a lot. Partner felt the club should convene a special meeting so the group could talk about it all over again with me.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: I liked but didn’t love The Thursday Murder Club. The character development and drawing is wonderful and there are myriad astute observations about human nature, things British, old age, etc. that made me laugh or go “huh”. I did think the plot and its resolution seemed a bit hurried in the last 50 pages or so.
@Martin: That’s more niche. I haven’t met anyone IRL who liked that stuff.
@Layer8Problem: You can never discuss a good book too many times!
Dorothy A. Winsor
@Sure Lurkalot: That book is a lot better on character and setting than on plot. The writer got himself all tangled up in red herrings and then had to untangle them in short order. I enjoyed it, but when I looked back, I wasn’t sure who killed whom and why
Cheese in a spray can.
@schrodingers_cat: . professional wrestling.
The Up and Up
This week I have to sort out something with the IRS to prove I exist, so I can file, to see what I get when I complete a FAFSA. Anxiety is not helping much with this nor the job search.
I think there should be a Balloon Juice Meet-up sometime, somewhere.
@Layer8Problem: That part made me laugh.
I agree. As a personal essay, fine, but it doesn’t work as a review.
About the reactions… On one side there are gamers doubling down on anti-trans sentiment, with obvious echoes of GamerGate. The other side, with fewer voices, posts spoilers intended to ruin the game for people who haven’t yet played it.
Like Alison Rose, I’m thinking a lot of these people are adults who should grow up.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: Yeah, that was our reaction. Luckily we don’t care too much about the mystery component of mysteries.
Only Ruth Rendell can do it all.
@Scout211: I will forever recommend John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War.
@schrodingers_cat: This article captures every sensation of early 2017 quite well.
We’ve been watching The Staircase on HBOMax and it is superb. It’s the story of the Michael Peterson trial/affair. What a bonkers story! Colin Firth, Toni Collette, Parker Posey, Sophie Turner, are all really good. And the way it tells about the documentary is really cool. It’s a riveting series.
Woohoo, it’s fun with cynicism time. The US sure does suck. Let’s burn it down.
On a music note, if baroque and before is up your alley WQXR is currently doing their weekly Old School program, everything from early music through Bach.
I realize I am a few years late with this critique, but:
Station Eleven the book: Stunning and gripping
Station Eleven the HBO series: awful and nothing like the book.
Here’s the thing.
I’m not stupid, but I really just don’t get football. For 70 years, more or less, any number of men — grade school gym teachers, high school boyfriends, my husband, my dad, my cousin — have tried to explain football to me, and I DO NOT GET IT.
Tonight, Bill — my landlord/current housemate/former colleague — started in explaining football to me so I could follow the Super Bowl.
“Bill,” I said, “quit wasting your time and frustrating both of us. It’s like you’re trying to explain music theory to someone who’s profoundly tone deaf. I recognise the words you are saying; they’re all in English; I just can’t make sense of the actual sentences. They’re gibberish to me.”
“Well, but point turnover third down conversion maintaining possession offsides.”
“What I said.”
as far as Mysteries with a gimmick go, there are some out there that have a supernatural bent to them…
Daniel O’Malley’s Chequey series, starting with Stiletto. Also Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. The former is regarding a secret agency that is comprised of people with supernatural abilities, the latter is regarding the use of magic itself to solve crimes that have a magical/supernatural element to them.
@Spanish Moss: we’ve read 11 books every year since 1983. We’ve read so many good books .
I just looked over the list for the past few years and here are a few that had great discussions:
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Red Notice by Bill Browder
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
And the book with worst discussion that I can remember:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaimen
Hope you brought along enough s’mores fixings for everyone.
@laura: Yes! We read it quite a few years ago and it was a good discussion book.
He commented on an equestrian event and it’s one of the best things ever.
Superbowl is so American that two vile and wealthy immigrants (Murdoch and Musk) are there yuking it up.
@Martin: The antisemitism charges are not bullshit just because certain organizations haven’t smacked her down. Try talking to Jewish readers/viewers/gamers. Many, if not most, of us see that shit crystal clear.
The transphobia is not just about this game, it’s baked into everything to do with this woman.
You, nor your daughter, do not get to decide which criticisms are “valid” especially if they don’t affect you.
And I will just say: Allyship is not an identity one gets to claim, but a process one must be continually dedicated to.
@SiubhanDuinne: Same here. I’ve had periods where I could watch baseball or basketball and sort of understand what’s going on (although not the fine points). But football is utterly opaque.
@The Up and Up: Well none of that sounds like any fun at all.
Except for a possible meetup, sometime, somewhere. :-)
I don’t really care for s’mores. Too sickly sweet. I will, however, perfectly toast golden-brown marshmallows for people who do like them.
@Omnes Omnibus: Do I link to clown videos?
I couldn’t watch, because snakes. But I listened and it was funny. But since I couldn’t watch, I couldn’t tell if it was a commercial or a joke video or if he was really hosting Animal Planet.
@Omnes Omnibus: Yes, please.
@Dorothy A. Winsor: The HBO tv series Beartown was also really great (though very tough to watch due to the nature of the story).
@Scout211: late to the thread, but here are some books I don’t see mentioned above:
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.
I’ve read both several times.
It always seemed to me that I COULD understand football, so many stupid people seem to grasp it, but I’ve never bothered to try because I just don’t care.
@Alison Rose: She is the most openly Transphobic celebrity I can think of (Chapelle 2nd).
@Scout211: Thanks, there are several on that list I haven’t read! 11 books a year for a book club is a lot. Our group is not active in the summer, so we end up doing about 6 a year, which is enough for me. I like discussing books, but my taste in books is a bit more adventurous than most of the members, so I prefer having more time for reading books of my own choice.
@WaterGirl: I think it was a voiceover thing like Randy with the honey badgers a few years ago.
I’m in sympathy with Robert Morley. Who, when asked what the first thing he’d do if made emperor of the world would be, replied (paraphrasing from memory), “Outlaw all balls.”
The perfect omlette in The Hundred Foot Journey.
Well, that’s one way of ending the patriarchy.
I’ll take Option B.
Just knew someone would go there.
I’ve known a few NFL players, one with 2 Superbowl rings.
Everyone one of them has health issues that I rate as way beyond minor and all of those caused by playing at that level. OTOH all of them seemed to have enjoyed the big leagues, injuries and all. I guess to each his own.
And I worked in professional sports, worked events 8-9 months a year for 11 yrs, which means travel Wednesday or Thursday, work, travel back to the office on Monday, at the office Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, start all over again. Almost no time off for 8-9 months a year. Good times.
I will say it was not the NFL. I won’t say what sport it was.
@Lapassionara: Not sure why you went into moderation.
I’ll just skoosh down a bit to make room for you to sit here next to me.
@RSA: Yeah, it would have been much better if Wired gave the reviewer free rein. They can’t be objective about the game, which is fine, so don’t try. The truth of it is that JK is a piece of shit, nobody should steer a penny her way, so let’s just talk about that. That would have been more useful.
Like I said, it’s a solid game. Looks fun, I’d play it otherwise. A little grindy, a bit more combat than I expected but the combat looks pretty satisfying, there’s a lot to explore. Overall the game looks lovely (PS5).
I wouldn’t take the anti-trans voices too seriously on this one. For one, the game isn’t anti-transgender so the game isn’t encouraging that viewpoint. Playing it is a particularly weak expression against the transgender community.
And there’s no real parallel here to gamergate. If there were a targeted harassment campaign against transgender individuals or transgender allies, then yeah, okay. These are just normal assholes reminding us that they are normal assholes. They’re going to shit in every punchbowl hoping for that kind of a campaign, but that’s not this.
@Ruckus: Pro curling?
Formerly disgruntled in Oregon
@SpongeBobtheBuilder: Good to know. Glad I avoided the show. I absolutely love the book.
Are you really well placed to make that call?
@Martin: the issue here is that Rowling gets a cut of the profits and will be donating those to anti-trans causes. And the original lead developer is a massive right wing tool.
The anti-Semitic stuff is there. Hook nosed bankers that control the economy and plan to steal and murder children. Also they want their Shofar back.
@BretH: Wheelhouse! Surprised I haven’t heard more about this movie.
Here’s a decent discussion of the antisemitic tropes in Harry Potter, admittedly perhaps unintentional.
Formerly disgruntled in Oregon
@Martin: How many Trans voices agree that it’s not a big deal? Are there Trans people in your life who are saying this?
This is not an act of allyship. Listen to Trans voices on this one.
“How’s the search going?”
“Shofar, so good.”
Both the Harry Potter series and s’mores are overrated.
There are better boarding school stories by British authors and I have never much liked marshmallows or Hershey’s bars.
I am more of a Cadbury or a Kitkat kind of person.
In 1977 when the first Star Wars movie came out, was disturbed by the depiction of the Jawas (even the name was too close for comfort).
@schrodingers_cat: Toasting the marshmallows does change their character. But, yeah, still too sweet.
Sure, why not….
Anyone for Fruit & Nut?
@Bostondreams: The painful thing to me is that, as a theme-park fan, I was deeply, deeply impressed by the execution of the Harry Potter-themed areas at Universal Orlando, but also felt like on my one visit I barely scratched the surface of the non-HP material there and wanted to go back sometime. Velocicoaster over in the Jurassic Park area gets absolutely unanimous rave reviews from coaster fans. And they’re building a whole new theme park down the road, which looks amazing!
But now I have a couple of major reasons not to go: first, I’m pretty sure that going there gives money to Rowling, regardless of what stuff you consume, and, second, it’s in Florida (and I have not failed to notice that Universal/Comcast seemed to just keep their heads down during the fight between DeSantis and Disney). I am really not inclined to plan any more trips to Florida. Time to go somewhere else.
@NotMax: Watto in The Phantom Menace was way, way further over the top, and his species was only about the third worst alien-as-ethnic-stereotype in the movie.
@Alison Rose: I’ve had that conversation and nobody in my circles (game devs) has taken issue with the goblins, mainly because the portrayal of goblins in this property are very much in line with folklore going back centuries – including Tolkien, the D&D universe, Elder Scrolls, etc. Their argument is that if the expression of goblins were an antisemitic trope, they have transcended that over that time. Nobody is calling out Tolkien or the others for the same visual representation and behavior. In their view, any calling out of Rowlings expression is disingenuous if you aren’t calling out the other, essentially similar expressions. I don’t think authors maybe think about this as much, because they tend to borrow less, but developers do borrow constantly and their work tends to – I don’t want to say more commonly criticized, but maybe less thoughtfully criticized across very active media. Unlike books, game developers actually have to write the mechanics for transgender characters or same sex marriages or other forms of representation to exist in a game. It takes a lot of effort. I have games I play that have been in continuous development for nearly two decades, and sometimes an overlooked bit of representation takes time to reverse engineer into the game. It’s not as simple as just dreaming up a representative character and tossing them in. So developers think about this kind of stuff a lot – because getting it wrong is not easy to fix, and the criticism won’t stop while they work on it.
It’s honestly difficult to find a fantasy game that doesn’t include goblins that look any different, are evil, and don’t either horde gold or kidnap children – we’re talking hundreds of games. So if we are going to condemn depictions of goblins in general as antisemitic (because I can see that potential origin), then okay, I’m not going to argue – but apply that consistently. Now, the house elves as slaves? Lots bigger issues with that. Harming children in games is also generally taboo depending on the genre. Not so on literature, so you have some conflicting norms here.
I’m curious what about the HP universe is transphobic? JK, yeah – no question. But a transphobic person can write a story that says nothing about transgender people. Perhaps that’s the argument – that it says nothing, but that’s also 99% of the other media produced in that same timeframe. Again, consistency.
I’m not suggesting people buy it. As I said, I wouldn’t have. And we’re not shying away from that conversation – like I said, my daughter is quite a strong ally and she’s very conflicted about her decision to get the game. And so yes, I agree with you regarding allyship.
@NotMax: My favorite 😍
You are not even trying.
@prostratedragon: Pink Flamingos, the Mr. Egg Man scene.
Two films about restaurants I highly recommend is:
“Delicious” isn’t much vis a vie plot but the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and well worth the watch.
@Martin: There’s nothing overtly transphobic in the Harry Potter universe, but it is remarkable that in a fictional world full of magical transformation potions and powers, swapping gender never comes up (as far as I can remember). Mind you, that’s understandable from the perspective of the kid’s book market of the 1990s/early 2000s; the books already got frequently banned by religious conservatives for involving the “Satanic” subject of witchcraft and wizardry, which made them something of a liberal cause celebre.
I’ve seen a lot of analyses of gender in the Harry Potter universe suggesting a very biological-essentialist attitude toward motherhood as the proper expression of femininity, but it’s all in the subtext.
@Martin: Goblins as a general fantasy creature are not necessarily antisemitic. But as someone said up-thread, these goblins are hook-nosed greedy bankers who prey on children. I don’t give a shit if a few people you know don’t care about it, especially if those “game devs” aren’t Jewish. There were also Native people who didn’t give a shit about the Washington football team name. But plenty of Jews — myself included — physically recoiled the first time we saw their depiction on screen because we knew exactly what was meant to be represented.
And stop being so damn literal. You sound like a child. The game doesn’t have to be called Hogwarts Trans-Hating Gender-Binary-Powerhouse Legacy for it to be problematic to play a fucking game CREATED BY A TRANSPHOBE WHO USES HER WEALTH TO HARM TRANS PEOPLE. Why the absolute fuck does this need to be spelled out for you? And why are you playing devil’s advocate for this awful trash human? Stop telling people who have been harmed and felt targeted by this woman and her stupid fantasy world that we’re wrong and you’re right because “hey these few people I know said it’s fine, so it is”. Just stop.
The Lupe Velez scene in Hollywood Party (1934).
@prostratedragon: the Egg Man scene from Pink Flamingos
@dmsilev: and Woody Allen.
@Splitting Image: It began quietly, like “Bolero” …
Can’t you just see Ms. Velez with Gary Cooper?
Just saw an AppleTV+ ad that features a boiled egg in eggcup.
@Scout211: It’s a little dense but quite accessible: There’s Nothing for You Here by Fiona Hill. Lots to chew on.
@Omnes Omnibus: Yeah, I think I am – as someone with a lot of experience with the game community and the dynamics within it.
To start, I have seen no anti-transgender expressions in the game. My daughter confirms there are none thus far (she’s nearly done). The game introduces a transgender character early in the game (game takes place in 1890). The character creator doesn’t have the player choose a gender but has binary gender voices and housing.
Now, a token transgender character – okay, fine. Not going to say this is a particularly supportive game of the transgender community by the inclusion of that character. It is literally better than nothing. But that effort does more work to show it is not an outwardly anti-transgender game. More importantly, and the standard test of an RPG is how the game limits your character. Transgender character creators are getting much more common, but are hardly universal yet. Mostly a matter of omission than opposition. This game does not ask you to choose a character gender, but you have full rein of visual presentation – hair makeup clothing etc. There are no gendered restrictions. You can choose any voice. You can choose male or female housing options. Your pronouns throughout the game is they/them. As character creators go, you have about as much latitude is appropriate in this game. Not as much as Cyberpunk where you can customize your genitalia, but then you are a 5th grader, so I think we can live with that omission. The game takes place in a cold environment so it’s all robes and coats – not much skin showing.
My point is, there are more transgender oriented games, where the protagonist is transgender, or exploration of gender is more prominently featured, but that would also feel forced in this particular game. Makes a LOT more sense in a game like Cyberpunk which is about body modification and augmentation, and where the characters are adults, not grade schoolers. For the nature of this game, they did as much as you would reasonably expect. I have read countless criticisms of this game and none of them say the game itself is lacking in this way. They are generally extremely willing to say when a game is lacking in representation in character creator options. After all, the point of an RPG is that you can play as a character that you can identify with.
If you want to make a statement in opposition to the transgender community, there are plenty of games that are much clearer on that point.
Again, I’m not saying that the transgender community are wrong for calling for a ban on the game for the sole reason that JK gets money off of it. I’m 100% fine with that. I’m saying that if you take that element away, as presented it’s a reasonably supportive game to the transgender community.
I take the argument that you can’t buy the game and call yourself an ally. I won’t argue that point. I’m in no position to argue that point. But that’s different than saying that choosing to play the game means you are hostile to the community. I think at best it makes you apathetic to the community because the game doesn’t reinforce the thing about JK that people are upset about. If it did, then yeah, 100% hostile. But it really doesn’t. Publish this game under any other IP and it’d get solid reviews by the transgender community for its inclusion. Not raving, but definitely better than most.
It’s definitely unfortunate that the developers made a good game, that scores decently on the inclusion scale, and there’s literally nothing they can do to overcome the association with JK. They aren’t even an independent studio who could have turned this title down – their studio was bought by Warner. They don’t really get a choice of project, and they started this title 3 years before JK earned the TERF label. It’s this or quit ⅔ of the way through the project. They didn’t ask for this.
@Alison Rose: yeah. as a general fantasy creature, goblins don’t fucking own banks. that’s a tell. i dunno what martin is going on about.
re: Superb Owl
I sat & tried to watch it with my wife (a big Jalen Hurts fan) but I was alternately bored and offended by it. First of all, it makes no fucking sense to me (if there’s no basket involved I don’t give a shit) and I don’t see much athletic skill in it. Just a bunch of large guys whose end goal seems to be giving each other brain injuries while the clock runs continuously meaning you can beat the other team by getting up by a point and screwing around till the clock runs out. I won’t watch it again ever! And, incidentally, the halftime show bored the shit out of me as well… back to basketball and real music for me!
I don’t remember Marvin Gaye needing 50 dancers and a light show to do a concert when I was in his band.
They were a badly-matched couple, though. He liked playing gunslingers, and she was a poor shot.
@Manyakitty: Thank you. That looks really good and I think would generate a good discussion.
The Basket is an unpretentious, if slightly disjointed, little film.
@Bostondreams: I’ve looked extensively for evidence of anyone calling out the goblins as being antisemitic during the period the books were published and the first reference that I can find is 4 years after the last book came out.
Now, I have no problem with a retrospective critique of a work. But in doing so, our role has to also be included. It’s not appropriate to say this title today, in 2023 is antisemitic and deserves a boycott, when nobody pointed it out in the first 14 years after the first book came out, and 4 years after the 7th book did. Is that not a tacit endorsement of the antisemitic goblins by every one of us who read the book and did not call them out, boycott them, etc? If this is a problem, then it was always a problem, and it’s a problem much more broadly than just HP. We did not just recently discover the jewish community or antisemitism, much as media acts as though they just discovered transgenderism.
I would take the accusations of antisemitism in the game much more seriously if it came from people who actually experienced the game. Quite a lot of the criticism I’ve read of the antisemitic tropes aren’t present in the game, but are based on rumors of what was in the game. And if those accusations didn’t appear to be quite selective as a reason to dislike the game. Again, this has been greeting people at Universal Studios for the last 13 years. Did we just now notice? I can find no evidence calling for a boycott of Harry Potter World over the depiction of goblins. There’s questions of boycotting over JKs TERF stance going back to 2020.
Again, nobody can navigate these spaces without a consistent argument. I am not Jewish. How am I supposed to navigate boycotting this game over that depiction, but not the rest of the HP space, or any other property that has comparable depiction of goblins – which is a LOT of properties. It is appropriate for me to play Dwarf Fortress because it has dirty evil goblins that come and kidnap your children?
There’s nothing for me to make sense of there because there’s no consistent argument being made. I am receptive to one.
I believe I know the real answer, but, since you don’t want to mention it, I thought I would have some fun.
@Matt McIrvin: Yeah there was. The polyjuice potion. Hermione takes on Harry’s appearance once. As described it can change gender, appearance of age, etc. But you can’t change into a non-human.
And that’s fair. But you can level that at about 90% of the works published. That the work is not more forward looking is unfortunate but we don’t criticize other works for the same transgression.
Additionally, I think it’s fair to evaluate a text in light of the authors experience. And I’m willing to go even further to say that JK is not interested in the work being more forward looking, so that may have been a deliberate choice on her part. But that too should not be a condemnation when nobody expected more from works at the time. We all have to own that.
Jesus. Gamers aren’t the marginalized community in question here. Holy missing the point, Batman!
I have been saying consistently it is problematic to be playing this game! Point to ONE sentence when I didn’t say that? I’m not going to tell you whether or not to buy this game. I wouldn’t. I said I wouldn’t. I have the game in my possession thanks to my daughter and I still won’t play it for the sole reason that I won’t be a party to this. Can I make that any clearer?
I have not said anywhere that transgender people shouldn’t feel harmed by this game. Please quote where I did.
What I did say, is why is this specific depiction of goblins problematic and all other depictions are not? If the very mythology of goblins is rooted in antisemitism (and I’m not saying it’s not) and goblins in general are problematic, then okay. I’ll accept that. But that need to be applied to all properties with goblins, and not just this one title. Goblins are not antisemitic just because JK is a TERF. That’s not how it works. I get that we want to find fault with the properties because of who wrote them, but they do not need help in that regard.
To be perfectly clear:
+ I think it is problematic to buy the game.
+ I think it is problematic to play the game, even if you don’t buy it – especially if you are now denying the developers their right to be paid for their work.
+ I am fine with goblins being antisemitic, but not only when it is convenient for us. So far, I’ve only seen cherry picking arguments on this. I’m challenging everyone to come up with an argument that is consistent with the broader world. I will listen to that argument.
+ I have yet to see any argument that the game, independent of its relationship to JK, is not supportive of the transgender community. This is important so that we can evaluate how to proceed with future works. Had they developed precisely this game, removed all association with JK and made it about running around doing magic in 1890 with all other elements intact, would it be problematic? We need to be able to critique works independently of their author. That does not constitute an endorsement of the author.
I am not playing devils advocate anywhere here. I am asking for a consistent message regarding goblins as an antisemitic trope. Nobody has even attempted to offer one
I will ask this question in return: Does playing the HP game mean that you are hostile to the transgender community? I’m not asking if means you aren’t an ally (which is my already my view).
Consider the first rule of holes.
@Omnes Omnibus: I didn’t mean it as a marginalized community. I meant it as someone who actually participates quite actively in evaluations of what makes games transgender friendly or not. I’m going to safely assume considerably more experience on that front than anyone else here based on the general lack of acknowledgement of where the gaming community fares well or poorly, both independently and relative to other media forms.
Understand that in gaming, the players relationship to work is generally *very* different than in other media types, because in most other media forms you are an external observer, not a character in the work with agency. As such, the standard for inclusion in video games is very specific. Inclusion of characters and experiences are not just something you can drop in and be done with. Can you build a character that you identify with – visually and experientially? Can you choose who to romance and marry? Can you explore the game world with an agency that you might not have the benefit of in the real world?
@Omnes Omnibus: Fine. I’m out. See everyone in a few weeks.
@Martin: it’s the bank. they run the bank. the rest of the shit aside, they run the fucking bank.
… and yeah. lots of people didn’t read the damn books. but once the films came out… the way the goblins were depicted left no doubt. red-sea pedestrians were repelled. as a member of the tribe it pissed me off. it’s pretty much bog standard ZOG crap recycled for the modern age.
@eddie blake: I saw this game debated on another forum where someone pointed out that not all of the hook-nosed goblin bankers were centered as enemies. It was just some of the hook-nosed goblin bankers. A “not all hook-nosed goblin bankers” defense.
I didn’t reach far enough in the HP series to encounter these goblins. Good so now I don’t have to go back and finish viewing it.
Re: my last comment at #161 last night about the halftime show – I just read that Trump dissed Rihanna today and apparently has a running feud with her. So, if TFG hates her, she must be wonderful! I’m going to start listening to her music and I’m sorry for doubting her talent. Mea Culpa!