Do the Oscars prove Hollywood is mis-representing us all?

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I stumbled upon a very interesting video that talks about something called The Bechdel Test. The test goes like this: There has to be two female character in the film (with names) who talk to each other about something other than men. If the film fulfils these requirements it passes. Pretty simple and easy. I mean, most Hollywood films must pass this test with ease right? Wrong. It’s actually quite shocking to see how very little films represent women appropriately.

But this theory doesn’t only apply to women, the same can be said about gay people and other races. In fact the only people Hollywood don’t mis-represent are white men. For example, how many films are there featuring gay people where the film doesn’t just revolve around their sexuality or gender? And  in films where there are people of differing races, they’re often talking about white people. The best example of this racial issue is in The Help. The Help is about two black maids who look after a white family. Even though there are several black people in the cast, it only just passes the test because the characters are almost always talking to or about, a white person. Making the film less about the plight of black people and more about white people “solving” racism.

Now we all like to think that today’s society is far more equal than it used to be and we’re accepting of different genders, races and sexualities and yes, having films incorporating these things are good but it doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Out of nine of the Oscar nominated films talked about the video I mentioned before, only two of them pass The Bechdel Test. Two! Now, tell me if I’m wrong but last time I checked there are just as many women on the planet as there are men. So why is it so hard to have just two female characters who talk to each other about something other than men?

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Now just because a film revolves around men doesn’t make it a bad film. We’re not talking about the quality of films here and sometimes it’s necessary to have an almost all male cast and that’s fine. What the problem is is not portraying women enough in the right light. There are plenty of female-centred films but a lot of them portray women in a stereotypical way; Sucker Punch, Sex in the City and any other chick-flick film you can think of are good examples. There are quite a few LGBT films too but many of them only centre around being gay, again, there’s nothing wrong with that but would it kill to have more gay characters in every-day films? For example, Scott Pilgrim VS the world does a great job of having a gay character and not making a big deal out of it. It’s represented as being normal which is the way it should be shown. And of course the same could be said about representing other races, we need to do it more and make it less about white people patting themselves on the back.

The problem is though, Hollywood is still male dominated as almost every other big industry is. If there wasn’t an award for best actress, would women ever win best actor? Probably not. (That’s another gripe of mine too, I never called female actors actresses, that insinuates it’s a lesser role than actor). Hollywood needs to wake up and realise what audiences they’re catering too these days, they may not care but we need to show we care, otherwise things may never change.

Why I’m glad I never had a teen romance

Ahh young love, puppy love, it’s so cute! Isn’t it? Well no actually, it’s not. You can call me a cynic or heart-less or whatever but in fact I’m neither of those things. I’m a realist. Let’s look at today’s society: teenage pregnancy is only going up, children are giving birth. Now that is wrong. There seems to be no such thing as a childhood any more, everyone is desperate to grow up.

That’s pretty normal, wanting to grow up I mean. You think things will be easy, you’ll have more freedom, etc. As we now know as adults, that’s not true. Being an adult is just as hard, if not harder, than being a kid. But when you are young, there’s pressure to have a boyfriend or girlfriend and there’s often pressure not to be a virgin. Now, when I was in school I did have a boyfriend for about a month but now I wouldn’t call him a boyfriend, we were just friends that awkwardly hung out. The only reason he came round to see me was probably the social pressure of having a girlfriend. He always brought a friend with him when we went out, and we only went out twice and that was simply just going for a walk. We never held hands, kissed or anything like that. So we were never really in a relationship. But what do you expect? I was only about fourteen or so at the time. At around the same time, one of my friends started going out with a boy in the year above her. Of course she thought they loved each other and all that stuff so she lost her virginity to him, soon after he broke up with her. I always knew she was being stupid but my friends argued, “Oh she’s more mature, she knows what she’s doing”. No, she doesn’t. Every kid thinks they’re mature at that age, it’s a natural cockiness that comes with being young.

So in fact, I never had a proper boyfriend until a lot later in my life. I waited until I definitely knew I was in love (and not the fake kind of love I felt before). That may sound corny and old-fashioned but what’s the advantages of having a teen romance?

Let’s see: Possible pregnancy, pressure to lose your virginity, embarrassment, depression…have I missed anything? You don’t have a proper relationship at that age, really.

Aww so cute...*pukes*

Although, there is a counter argument for that. I know people who have had successful, adult relationships which started when they were around fifteen years old. It may not start off mature, but it doesn’t mean it can’t bloom into a more adult relationship. There are downsides to this too though, people change. That’s a fact of life but you’re most likely to change during your teenage years. You may love to be a goth at sixteen but by the time you’re twenty you might be a hipster. You tell kids that and they go “oh no I’m going to like x thing forever”. There’s a large possibility you won’t. It’s part of growing up and people can change dramatically. You can go from the shyest guy in the school to a famous actor, it happens! The majority of relationships starting from this age will not continue in adult life. I don’t think that should necessarily put you off relationships until a certain age but personally I’m glad I never had to go through that.

I remember feeling desperately sad I wasn’t in a relationship during both my school years and college. Why did I want one so bad? Was it the social pressure (one of the many reasons I dislike Valentines)? Did I feel insecure and lonely? Maybe. The main reason, I believe, was that I wanted to feel normal. Even when I was in a sort-of-relationship with someone later on, I still didn’t feel normal. I wanted to be able to do that simplest thing that, at that time, wasn’t possible for complicated reasons I won’t go into. I just wanted to hold his hand while I walked down the street with him. It’s those sorts of feelings which depress teenagers and pressure them. Everyone at that age just wants to be seen as normal, even if they’re trying their hardest not to be normal, everyone just wants to be accepted.

Maybe love is glamorised too much in film, TV, etc. But the problem is it needs to be glamorised, we don’t exactly want to say “yay! One night stands!” All I hope is that teens can realise that just because they don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean it’s not the end of the world. It is hard when you’re young, you feel ugly, you’re bullied, people tell you on a daily basis how unattractive you are. People want reassurance that that’s not true so they think having a partner will help. It doesn’t, you need to be comfortable with yourself first, don’t listen to what other people say, you don’t need people showering you with compliments every which way to be considered attractive. It sounds cheesy but whoever you are, whatever you look like there will be someone out there who’s attracted to you. You just have to wait patiently and find them first.

Catherine – discussing the themes (SPOILERS)

Catherine is a strange Japanese game in which young men start having nightmares, if they die in the dreams they die in real life. The game focuses around Vincent, a young man who cheats on his girlfriend Katherine by accident. It’s a surprisingly deep game and I wanted to explore the themes hinted in it. Maybe I’m just becoming one of those awful English teachers who talks about the meaning behind a poem or whatever, but if you’re interested in my thoughts and don’t mind parts of the game being spoiled for you, read on.

Let’s start off with the two Catherine’s. Katherine (the girlfriend) dresses all in black and has brown hair, Catherine is blonde wearing white clothes. I found this strange, it’s hinting Katherine is evil and Catherine is good, or is it? Catherine acts innocent, naive, she’s represented as an angel, someone to come and “save” Vincent from his relationship that he feels trapped in. Even near the end of the game, where Vincent tries to break up with her, Catherine says: “I’m trying to help you!” She’s leading you to freedom. Katherine is perhaps dressed in black because she is older, more grown up, she’s also quite an aggressive character, dominating of Vincent. This doesn’t represent her in a good light but committed players somehow still see the attraction of being faithful to her. Is she the more sensible choice? Even her glasses suggest she is more intelligent and sensible than her blonde counterpart.

The sheep – sheep not only represent sleeping, they also represent weakness, stupidity and following the crowd. The young men who have the nightmares all feel weak and don’t know what to do. In fact, if Vincent doesn’t encourage them, they die. These trials for these young men (although they’re all around the age of 30) are like a mid-life crisis that make them wake up and realise what they want from life. However, if Vincent, our protagonist, wasn’t there – would all these men just give up and die? It suggests the majority of men are weak and pathetic, unable to control their lives. What makes Vincent so special? It’s a negative portrayal of men but then they’re portrayal of women is just as negative.

The men believe someone has placed a curse on each of the, specifically a woman because the rumour going is: Men who cheat on their girlfriends are the ones having the dreams. Vincent fits into this rumour but he has the dreams before he even meets Catherine, which means it’s some sort of premonition. Not all the men have cheated on their women though – some men have “wronged” women in some way though, like they are being punished for what they’ve done. Ants also feature a lot in the game and later it is explained that ants are supposed to be the messengers of witches, hinting one of the Catherine’s is a witch. This doesn’t turn out to be entirely true but the obsession with gender is interesting. Eagle-eyed players will have spotted there are gender symbols everywhere, for example, the confession booth is covered with male and female gender symbols. The fact Erika secretly used to be a man is there not only for comedy value, but to show the gender lines can maybe be so blurred, that men and women aren’t that different. Boss seems to be a fan of sleeping around with as many women as possible, stating love is more important to women and almost meaningless to men but then he admits he makes the young men dream these nightmares to help women. It’s bizarre. Does he like or dislike women? Does he only care about keeping the population of Japan up? Probably.

One of the customers of the Stray Sheep asks you: “Who do you pity more; men or women?” He goes on to say women have life a lot tougher than men, yet most men, if they were asked what gender they wanted to be reborn as, would say female. He says men have it bad too but that maybe women have to go through a lot more, as they are more emotional than men most of the time. Maybe men wanting to come back as women shows how men really do not understand women much at all. Especially as the men assume a woman has cursed them, even though that is never said by anyone. Perhaps Vincent, and other male players, are going on a journey to understand their female counter-parts better. They worry about commitment too, about babies and getting married. What they need is someone committed to stand by their side so they don’t have to be afraid. Katherine later says in the game, when she thought she was pregnant she was “scared the whole time” because she knew Vincent wasn’t supportive and was cheating on her.

The game is making two main points: Love is important and both men and women have their imperfections. Women are weak for love, men are weak when it comes to commitment – they’re easily lead astray by another women. Although it can be argued she’s a cheat, using magic powers to seduce them. None the less, if men were approached by their ideal women they just might cheat on their girlfriend or wife, even if it felt bad. If you want to be on the good side of the scale in Catherine, you have to answer some questions correctly. Now they are down to personal opinion but there are obvious good and bad answers. However, one question says: “Who would you choose? Your best friend or your lover?” A difficult question. Picking your lover is the “good” answer but of course good in this game just means being faithful and committed. Do the game creator want to imprint their ideals on their audience? Perhaps. According to stats out of the millions of people having sex right now, 1 out of 4 are cheating on their partner. Now this stat is obviously impossible to prove or measure but the point is – it can be argued we are becoming less faithful in relationships. Maybe it’s always been that way, it’s hard to tell but maybe Catherine is trying to persuade us love is king. Or letting us live out our fantasies with having a naughty relationship on the side.

Although there are eight different endings to Catherine, the story building up to the end largely remains the same so a lot of what’s said here could be applied without your own personal decisions affecting these theories. And they are of course just theories. Catherine just strikes me as a game that wants to say something, a game that has a message. I could easily be reading far too much into it but it’s interesting. I hope I didn’t bore you to death and if you got this far, thank you.

Why I will mourn for MGO

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Metal Gear Online’s servers are to be shut down in June, announced Konami. My friends and I are extremely upset by this. ‘Why?’ You may ask. I shall explain to you what MGO means to me and why it is so great.

Metal Gear Online was an online multi-player game that came with MGS4 in 2008. As far as I’m aware, it’s a pretty unique multi-player game. It combined the third person, over the shoulder sneak experience of the MGS games but with the ability to shoot the living hell out of each other. With standard games such as Team Deathmatch, capture the flag (except it was a frog or duck), there were also some unique experiences. One game had a single player paying as Snake, who had to take out the other players and steal their dog tags while the other two teams killed each other and looked out for Snake. There were also Team Sneak matches in which one team was “invisible” whilst undetected, who had to sneak their way to the target (again, a frog or duck). The list of game types could go on, but basically it was classic MGS. 

I haven’t seen that type of game play in any other game before. It forces you to work together (or alone in certain matches) and think tactically. You couldn’t just run in, guns blazing. Well you could but you wouldn’t score very highly. It also had huge character customisation (as you can see above). There were numerous outfits to buy, with new stuff each week – back in the day, when creating the character you could even choose their voice. Everyone was unique on the battlefield. 

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Why does it mean so much to me? Well I made a great group of friend through MGO. Well, not souly through MGO but it bonded us. We created a clan and that was it, the Rocket Minions were born. We still salute and sing the theme tune at meet-ups. Don’t give me that look. Back in the day we used to enter the tournaments that were held on the MGO server every week. We tried our luck against other teams, who were way superior to us, we never did that well and other people were jerks most of the time. So, because we were in it for the fun we played by ourselves in a private room, though we let other friends join in too, the more the merrier! It was our game and now that’s shutting down which makes me sad. It’s the end of an era but it does bring up one question…

Are they shutting it down because not enough people are playing it any more, or because they’re preparing for MGO 2? Either option is possible. Although whenever I went on MGO there were always people playing it, more servers (named after MGS characters) kept getting shut down due to less and less people paying. Also the DLC available for it was the only thing funding MGO, it probably became too expensive to maintain after four years of being online. I hope there will be an MGO 2, it’s a shame something like this isn’t as popular as COD’s online mode. Perhaps because it takes more skill to play MGO? Who knows, but if Kojima does make a MGS 5 in 2014 like Japanese analysts predict, it’s likely it will come with some sort of multi-player because it’s the done thing these days and they included co-op in PeaceWalker. Either way, I salute you MGO and I hope to see you again. *hums theme-tune*