Maddox: A Simple Solution to Sexism in the Video Game Industry

Oh, yes. I’m bringing out the big guns already…

So while I’m not going to explicitly discuss the content of the video (believe me: sexism in the industry is a topic I am excited to address at another point in time), I am going to analyze the rhetorical methods involved in its delivery, as outlined by James Porter (if you are interested, you can access his paper “Recovering Delivery for Digital Rhetoric” here). Is this going to be dry? Probably. Am I going to try and make it interesting? Take it from Heisenberg:

Credit to Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad (via AMC)

I do want to say this, however: Maddox is awesome. He really knows just how to make you feel like a humongous asshole for believing you are a good person. If you can think of a contemporary social justice issue, he’s probably debunked it by now and told you why you’re wrong for defending it. If you’re in the mood for a laugh, check out his website The Best Page In The Universe.

Let’s start with the presentation of the incorrigible bastard himself, Maddox. This guy just reeks plain awesome. Wearing a manly shirt and standing in front of a super-imposed image of himself, he aggressively faces the audience and voices his contribution to the “sexism in the video game industry” debate. He intercuts his discourse with footage from popular games, which do display women in either a more submissive light, or women who are overly-sexualized. The most important thing he does, however, is he doesn’t bullshit the audience. Games are primarily made for men because the people making them are, for the most part, men. They’re selling to their audience. That’s the thing with Maddox: he pushes you off your high-horse and gives you the middle finger. And I love it.

The video is posted to the highly-viewed platform of YouTube, where it gets a lot of traffic. It is also posted to his own website, where the article in question has already received over 300,000 views since its upload last year. The greatest part about all of this, however? Maddox doesn’t promote his website. Its traffic is spread purely through word-of-mouth. It goes to show how influential this one man’s words can be (or how much traffic haters can bring).

Because the video can be found on YouTube, the ability to access and interact with it is highly simplified. You can easily find it with a quick search on the YouTube search bar and post a comment, expressing your unbridled rage towards a guy who is most likely laughing at you for getting so offended. Seriously, it’s one man’s opinion. If you don’t agree with it, close the page. No one is forcing you to watch it (I hope). But I’m getting off-topic here.

Maddox is a one-man team. He produces the content for his website purely by himself. In the case of this video, he wrote the script, found the footage, researched the information, and edited the footage completely on his own. He isn’t using the video to produce an income (but I’m sure he’s still receiving one, thanks to YouTube’s revenue-sharing program). The reason he made this video is to make a point, and that point is simple: you’re wrong. He’s doing it purely to voice his opinion. On his website’s FAQ, he states the reason he first made the website:

At first, I put up a small site with only a few pages on it just to spite my close friends.

It’s purely comedy and satire, with an impactful message behind it that can be discerned if you’re willing to listen to an opinion that’s different from yours for a minute.

Much like developers, Maddox is writing for his audience, which is primarily composed of young-adult males. There are women who are fans of Maddox; I’ve met plenty of them. However, he isn’t writing to convince social justice warriors about how they’re wrong, or attempting to change anyone’s fundamental beliefs. He’s writing because people are entertained by his opinions, and often times, his complaints are valid.

Pacific Rim and Why My Five Year-Old Mind is Happy

I can write nice things about topics important to me, too, you know? For starters, I thoroughly enjoyed Pacific Rim, the latest film by evil mastermind (and George R.R. Martin lookalike) Guillermo del Toro. It was everything my five year-old self dreamed of and more; giant robots and monsters duking it out over near-futuristic cityscapes. It was something out of Power Rangers and Godzilla, and yet it had something more: an okay story.

Action movies rarely have strong stories nowadays. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a film like Transformers than one like Die Hard. Though intense action scenes and well-choreographed violence can work to a film’s advantage (especially in my age demographic), an equally strong story is needed to glue the various scenes together, in order to create both context and emotional investment. That’s exactly what Pacific Rim gets right, albeit a little cliched at times.

Raleigh Becket is your typical good-looking hero carrying the emotional baggage of a class-5 kaiju. What lends a bit more credence to his emotional turmoil is that he is constantly reliving the final memories of his brother, Yancey, who died while operating a jaeger alongside Raleigh; a necessary mental bond of shared memories and emotions allows the two pilots to control the mechs without damaging their cognitive and physical states. Raleigh’s new partner, Mako Mori, eventually enters this bond with the protagonist, and the two (implied by the film) fall in love. It’s presented a lot more as a platonic or companionship bond, which is a nice change, but the implication is there nonetheless. The standard archetypes of the hero (Raleigh), the egotistical hotshot (Chuck Hansen), the by-the-books leader who eventually has to ease up and do the right thing (Pentecost), and the crazy scientists (Newton and Gottlieb) are all present, but the actors bring their own flavor to the roles, alongside the scriptwork of Travis Beachem and del Toro, who, thankfully, do not treat the audience like idiots. The typical tropes of sacrificing oneself, going against orders for the pragmatic good, and saving the day at great cost are all there, but don’t detract from the experience because, as stated earlier, the writers treat us with respect and realize that a cohesive story that works is necessary, regardless of genre.

Obviously, the best part of the film was the special effects. del Toro’s visual style of monsters and aesthetics run rampant in the designs of the kaiju and their world, giving everything that old-world Godzilla feel but with a new twist of Cthuloid-esque details. The jaegers themselves all look awesome, from the older and battle-hardened Cherno Alpha, the three-armed Crimson Typhoon, the newer yet experienced Striker Eureka, and the heroes’ own Gipsy Danger. Each separate and recognizable alongside one another, the action scenes were quite intelligible and straightforward to follow. Even the monsters, sharing the same black, leathery skin with blue detailing, were unique and identifiable among the carnage and explosions. It can be argued that some of the armor details and weapons among the jaegers were there for no purpose other than to look awesome, but what’s wrong with looking awesome in an action blockbuster?

In my previous post on Monsters University, I argued that because the film was too formulaic and involved too few original ideas, it was ultimately a flop. The reason that Pacific Rim stands out and is ultimately a better film (apart from it being essentially a non-stop adrenaline rush) is because the cliches and tropes aren’t the meat of the film but merely an aspect that help tie this action film together. It may not be the greatest movie ever made, but it’s entertaining, which makes it is a paragon among this recent generation of action movies.

Monsters University and the Problem with Prequels

I will be the first to admit: I’m not a great writer. I may have the occasional good idea but the annals of history won’t be filled with my works. I’ve been told that my writing is too flowery and structured, not leaving much to the reader’s imagination. This is something I hope to work on; I have the time and opportunity to improve. Pixar, on the other hand, has no excuse to be as formulaic and stock as they’ve shown themselves to be in their latest film, Monsters University.

As a writer, I ultimately strive to create new experiences. This is why I try to avoid writing prequels. The inherent problem with a prequel is that the audience knows where the protagonist will end up by the film’s conclusion; there is already a lessened emotional investment in the story. But we watch these types of movies anyways because the characters are enjoyable…right? This may be the case when the characters are done right. In the case of Monsters University, everything was too much like a stencil for my tastes: it’s the same type of movie we’ve already seen.

To the film’s credit, there are a couple concepts which Pixar uses throughout the film that give a glimmer of originality and make the film more fun, but these moments are few and far between. The climax of the film was fairly original and the conflict of the film is less about a protagonist versus an antagonist, but more about the protagonist overcoming himself. Not to mention, the animation is up to Pixar’s usual standards of beauty. Every character fit an archetype: the up-and-comer wanting to prove himself (Mike), the hot-shot who needs to learn that he isn’t as great as he’s told he is (Sully), the evil dean wanting to be correct (Hardscrabble), the snobby and popular fraternity (Roar Omega Roar), and the fraternity of losers who eventually rise to the top (Oozma Kappa). Fitting into an archetype is fine; the problem is never deviating from that archetype. It never really feels as if these archetypes, in the film, aim to change and be something new and original. Everything remains far too static, while the occasional arcs and changes can sometimes feel a little forced and shoe-horned in to help progress the story to the original film.

The short animation played just before the movie, entitled The Blue Umbrella, is a perfect parallel to the experience of Monsters University: well-animated but we’ve already seen other things like it in the past that were executed a lot better.