Archive | Genre Writing RSS feed for this section

A Cannibalistic Dissection Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

28 Oct Rocky Horror Picture Show

rockyhorror0

A week before the writing of this, FOX aired a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, subtitled Let’s Do The Time Warp Again. I’m not averse to the idea of seeing it, but I’m not going to go out of my way either. Not for any particular reason politically, just simply because the original is so clearly and deeply rooted to a particular time period it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to update it. I’ll have more on that in a moment.

The main (and only) thing I need to know about the remake is that it showcased front and center a black trans woman, on the same channel FOX News is broadcast from, during a time when the right wing has dedicated themselves to a war against trans bodies. Regardless of any other merits or flaws in the project, I still find that deliciously subversive in a way the original never dared.

If you were hoping for more talk about the remake, I do apologize. There are plenty of other people talking about it, I swear. I’m not writing yet another thinkpiece about how problematic or transphobic or whatever the movie is. Plenty of other folks covering that ground. I’m not interested in RHPS creator Richard O’Brien’s bizarre and absurd notion that he can decide how much of a woman he is but nobody else can. Just yet another tired old has-been queen desperate for attention and latching onto trendy notions of “edginess” and “anti-political-correctness” as far as I’m concerned. The fact that he hates the remake makes me want to enjoy it out of spite tho.

What will I be talking about then?

Well lets start by talking about the Hays Code (and later rating systems) and the role of pulp sci-fi on queerness. Stories of alternate sexualities and gender explorations were all over the place in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but due to publisher restrictions had to be formatted in a certain way. It was honestly surprising how far they were capable of going, as long as they didn’t directly show intimacy and all queer characters were punished at the end for their transgression from conservative mores. Here’s a sex-change sci-fi story from a 1953 comic book that covers the bases pretty well, with an exception I will elaborate on in a moment.

Rocky Horror Picture show even opens with the song “Science Fiction/Double Feature” which waxes nostalgic about shiny underwear and phallic Triffids, name-checking classic titles and names from films that would have been staples of a sci-fi obsessed 1975 audience’s childhood. Self-aware nods to these tropes echo throughout the film.

Lets line them up and see how the beats play out, shall we? We have aw shucks traditional protagonist(s), an audience insert for voyeuristic heterosexuals or questioning/curious queer folk:

rockyhorror3

The protagonists find themselves stranded from the values and culture they took for granted, in a lawless anything goes environment:

rockyhorror4

This leads to an awakening where deep, transgressive desires are brought to light and actualized… but at what cost?

rockyhorror5

And at the end all transgressions are punished and the moral is driven home that some doors should never be opened:

rockyhorror6

The spectre of conservative Americana glares disapprovingly at the dissolution of traditional values throughout the film. Not just figuratively, but directly and literally symbolized by multiple repeated vignettes evoking the sullen stoic gaze of the iconic Grant Wood painting American Gothic (a now campy and frequently satirized artwork that history forgets incited Rural Iowans to send the painter threats of violence).

rockyhorror2

However, you will note that there is something missing from this one-to-one comparison between the sex-change comic book and Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is because in sex-change stories, the antagonist is the clothes or the transformation itself. This is as true in Glen Or Glenda in the 1950s as it was in The Danish Girl in 2015. This story has an antagonist with a distinctly more visceral presence, a hyperqueered fantasy to Brokeback their mountains and tempt them away from their traditional lives.

Enter Frank.

Frank is a transgressive nightmare, a culmination of everything feared about the sexual awakenings of the late 1960s/early 1970s. It goes well beyond the crossdressing and sexualization; Frank was meticulously designed to provoke. He literally hunts down, murders and later cannibalistically devours Eddie, a symbol of naive notions of 1950s “safe rebellion”. Eddie’s entrance, to the song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul“, reflects an entirely different sort of nostalgia filled with sock hops instead of gruesome horror movies. Frank nonchalantly eulogizes Eddies murder by his hand as “a mercy killing! He had a certain naive charm, but no… muscle.”

Indeed.

When Frank displayed a pink triangle on his labcoat, the symbol was still viscerally shocking and radical. The book The Men With The Pink Triangle, documenting homosexual men’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, had only come out a couple years before. The infamous Paragraph 175 of German Law under which those men had been imprisoned was still on the books.

rockyhorror1

Frank also dons a Lewis Leathers Aviakit Plainsman biker jacket adorned with badges from the Hell’s Angels and other recognizable biker gangs (including patches with the distinct Nazi Deaths Head and Eagle iconography of the Angels). This wasn’t the “making toy runs for sick kids” Hell’s Angels, this was the “locked Hunter S Thompson in the trunk of a car for several days” Hells Angels. This also presents contrast to Eddie’s sanitized pompadour-and-motorcycle schtick as the corny posturing it was.

rockyhorror7

Frank’s fawning over his Frankenstein Atlas, Rocky, was another uncomfortable tribute/unmasking to the underlying homoeroticism in body-building culture, a subtext simultaneously acknowledged yet dismissed within said subculture. With Rocky as the dense and sweetly naive foil to Frank’s sexual innuendo, it’s presented as yet another affront to the values of yesteryear.

rockyhorror8

Enabled through Frank’s brazen transgressions, the protagonists find themselves freed from convention to explore their own desires. This is illustrated in the floor show scene where the players vocalize their inner conflicts onstage. Columbia is full of regret and heartbreak, Rocky and Brad have newfound sexual urges that neither can quite figure out, and Janet feels empowered by the whole experience. Shortly afterwards, Riff-Raff and Magenta stage a mutiny to topple Frank as leader. Riff-Raff’s accusation says it all:

Frank-N-Furter, it’s all over
your mission is a failure
your lifestyle’s too extreme

Ironically, after forty years of cultural advance, a film that sought to deconstruct stifling tropes and liberate expectations has for the most part been relegated to yet another formulaic exploitation. It has a historical place, as a love-letter to the queer-coded villains of Hollywood’s golden age, but at this point Frank has joined them. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a fun ritual for voyeuristic straights, closeted drama club queers and assorted connoisseurs of camp and kitsch and likely will be for at long as movie theaters continue to exist. However, the cultural critique is a bit toothless and obvious now, the references collecting dust, and subtext lost under performative rote.

And maybe the ritual is the point now, a sort of mystery cult initiation for average folks looking for an excuse to buy a corset. But I believe an occasional reminder of what it all means couldn’t hurt either.

Advertisements

6 Oddly Specific Types Of Inappropriately Sexualized Vintage Computer Ads #retrogaming

27 Jun

sexycomputer2

Sex is the McGuffin of advertising. It’s delivered without justification, hell in some cases it’s expected to be its own justification. It’s there to catch the eye, engage the reptile brain, fill any plot holes, and logic be damned. It’s commonly accepted as just another trick of the trade.

sexycomputer

The computer and video game industry, primarily targeting young men, is no stranger to sexualization. In it’s early days, however, they apparently had no idea how to advertise their products and instead just smeared a greasy, sticky, sexy film on top of everything.

sexycomputer1I’ve barely started this article and I need a shower.

We’ve reviewed dozens of these images from the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s (for, um, research of course). It occurs to us that many of these can be broken down into highly specific (and completely batshit) categories.

1) Computer As Marital Aid

sexycomputer3Sharing a keyboard wasn’t a thing in 1983, and it isn’t now.

Here in the 21st century the idea of bringing a computer into bed isn’t quite as absurd as it was in the days of 8-bit computing. And yet several of these images involve folks with clunky console computers and CRT monitors in all sorts of ridiculously intimate situations. This was decades before RedTube; the folks in these pics are playing (dubiously) sexy text adventure games. Because nothing gets you in the mood like squinting at mononochrome not-graphics and typing in commands to keep the action going.

sexycomputer4Am I the only one that noticed the monitor text is faked?

sexycomputer5
Well that just looks… unsafe.

sexycomputer6
And this, this just looks… sad.

2) Sexy Ladies Are Waiting… At The Arcade!

sexycomputer8WHAT. DOES. THAT. EVEN. MEAN.

There’s a lot of these images from the 80s. Women in implausible Leg Avenue outfits in the general ambivalent proximity of an arcade machine. Not actually playing the games, mind you, but just sort of draped over them awkwardly to the accompaniment of increasingly incomprehensible “sexy” captions.

sexycomputer9“Oh hey, not like I’m playing a reflex-dependant arcade machine”

sexycomputer10

“Yeah boys, just picture this joystick, that I have a suffocating death grip on, as your… ugh never mind can I sit down? This is obviously an incredibly uncomfortable way to stand.”

sexycomputer11“Yes, this is a plausible scenario.”

sexycomputer12

“Why yes this anti-aircraft gun would likely give multiple 2nd degree burns to my unprotected legs. Are… you into that?

sexycomputer13
WHAT. DOES. THAT. EVEN. MEAN.

3) Sexy Ladies Are Waiting… On Everquest?

Honestly, I haven’t found many examples of this one. However, the idea of marketing old online service subscriptions like Prodigy, and especially early MMORPGs like Everquest, like one would a phone sex line is too bizarre not to mention.

sexycomputer22

4) Computer Users Sexily Doing Things You Should Never Do With Computers:

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Poses of women and computers, but also doing the opposite of demonstrating the computer and almost definitely endangering it. Because nothing speaks to the effectiveness of highly expensive, delicate electronic equipment like…

sexycomputer7…posing nervously with it next to a massive body of water…

sexycomputer0
…standing on it, with a gogo boot, in the woods for some reason…

sexycomputer14
…and whatever the hell is going on here.

5) Computer Literacy Makes You A Sex God.

This is, like the ultimate nerd revenge fantasy. All the years spent pecking away at machine language and studying error codes and… I dunno whatever. This knowledge makes them damn near godlike or something. All of that pays off when they discover the legions of sexy ladies craving that tech prowess.

This is extra depressing when you consider that computer programming was largely a realm of women throughout the early 20th century, and was turned into an interest for antisocial male nerds through calculated effort in the late-1960s. The fantasy of these ads is rooted in women craving the knowledge that had been theirs for decades before it was denied them and they were forced out of their own dominant field.

sexycomputer16sexycomputer23sexycomputer18sexycomputer17

Honestly, I look at these ads and root for one or all of those ladies to stab one of those smug bastards in the face Game Of Thrones-style.

6) Computers Themselves Are Sexy, Maybe Even Sexier Than Sex Itself.

And this… just turns the whole thing on it’s head. The ladies are still there, are still sexualized, but they’re a distraction. Because the machines and games themselves are the real object of desire.

sexycomputer20Like, seriously, he’s fucking that Game Gear isn’t he?

sexycomputer21This seems like the opposite of multitasking; doing both things badly.

sexycomputer19
“So distracting you’ll forget you’re a serial killer.”
Seriously someone just needs to call 911 here.

These are ads that someone had to pitch and that magazines eventually ran. Dozens of people looked at these images along the way of their design and were like “Yes, this seems like a sensible way to represent our product”. Like even the one where it’s like “screw it, just fuck your Game Gear what do I care you hopeless chronic masturbator… that I hope will buy our product”.

I don’t even try to understand anymore.

LET’S PLAY (And Overthink): Bubblegum Crash For The PC-Engine.

4 Mar

A couple weekends ago I finally beat Bubblegum Crash for the PC Engine, and that was kind of a big deal for a few reasons. The game was part of my massive vintage game collection (that I sold to pay for my move to Portland), and not only had I never beaten it but I never got particularly far on it either. You know, because it’s a “digital comic” text adventure entirely in Japanese.

bubblegumcrash2It was also the only reason I hung onto my “Purple Barney” converter so long

Thankfully, about a year ago a fan-translation ROM of the game surfaced. Playing through the whole thing, the translation is fantastic, with very little ambiguity or awkwardness. Which is good because the game includes plenty of that for itself. The game opens up with mysterious armored battle suits breaking into a bank. You start out playing Nene Romanova, one of the vigilante Knight Sabers, who finds out about the robbery because her day job is boring. It’s worth noting that the entire Bubblegum Crisis franchise does a pretty tenuous sexual politics balancing act between showcasing four relatively self-actualized woman protagonists (a business owner, a rock star, an actress and… a traffic cop) that are kickass robo-suited vigilantes behind the scenes but also making them ditzy, irrational, and surprisingly helpless on occasion.

bubblegumcrash3Then again, for 1980s Japan, this *was* progressive.

So anyway you go inside to talk to Leon McNichol and Daley Wong and let’s just stop there for a second because Daley Wong. Seriously, even for anime, having such an unapologetically gay male character in the mid-1980s that wasn’t, like, dying of AIDS or otherwise weighted with hubris was really badass. Even though it doesn’t come up at all in the game, they even made sure that looking at him, you just know.

bubblegumcrash4You’d be sassy too if you had a 10-inch… neck.

Like other digital comic adventures, you have a series of commands you can use on the right side of the screen. One of the things that is endlessly frustrating if you don’t have a walk-through handy is that there are separate commands for “Talk” and “Listen” (bottom left and middle left) and many interactions require you to alternate between them in a non-intuitive (read: seemingly random) manner to keep the conversation going. Anyway, you find yourself investigating the bank and immediately the fourth wall between yourself as player and Nene finds itself broken. After a brief glance in their direction, Nene resolves that the nearby garbage bins aren’t worth searching and are gross anyway. Well, turns out you can *force* her to investigate them anyway. Doing so doesn’t even find anything, except a vague sense of horror at a player/character contract the game allowed you to violate.

bubblegumcrash5The fuck kind of game is this?

 Most of the game involves investigating broken pieces left behind by the unfamiliar robo-armor of the criminals that performed the robbery. This requires going back and forth to various computer vendors, sleazy hackers, and military factory workers for bits of information. Eventually Nene just says “fuck it” and HACKS INTO ONE OF NATO’S DATABASES… WITH A POLICE HQ OFFICE COMPUTER… THAT SHE LOGGED INTO WITH HER POLICE BADGE. You know, as one does.

bubblegumcrash6Sure, ok, fuck it why not.

Shit, why not just tell rando homeless street hackers about your plans, as a police officer, to bypass NATO security? Nah that would be so impossibly reckless oh wait she does that too…

bubblegumcrash7

While Nene is busy breaking international treaties, the bank robbers strike again, acquiring a total of 5 billion yen. Further investigation reveals they are also raiding the safety deposit boxes for the pieces of a top-secret super AI. At this point, Nene finally decides hey maybe this should actually be an actual Knight Sabers game…

bubblegumcrash9

Oh wait nevermind, this just means you hang out in Linna Yamazaki‘s apartment while she takes a shower. At this point of the game, in another strange fourth-wall breaking moment, you can peek in on Linna in the shower if you are persistent enough. Not you as in Nene, you as in the player. The game talks directly to you the whole time.

bubblegumcrash10Yeah, like Gamergate would be concerned about a woman’s privacy.

After some story exposition, you find yourself playing as Linna. During this interlude you head to the stock market to hear buzz about Zone Co, the company that manufactures the stolen Super AI. Then you get sexually harassed in an alley be the same guy that harassed Nene earlier in the game. And then you call Nene. And that’s pretty much it.

bubblegumcrash11

Nene then uses the police computer she already committed international espionage on to stalk and harass an old man into telling her more about the Super AI. Because apparently Internal Affairs isn’t a thing for the AD Police. And then this happens-

bubblegumcrash12Oh, Leon. You suck so hard.

Priss (who suddenly becomes a thing in this game) then pursues the escaping battle armor with her motorcycle, which moves about as smoothly as trying to play shuffleboard with a Christmas ham. I cannot emphasize how awful the controls are or how infuriating this motorcycle stage that just appears out of nowhere is.

bubblegumcrash13At least it looks cool when you die. Which you will. A lot.

Once you manage that (takes surviving through three to seven stretches of road) this ridiculous bullshit happens. It’s a 3/4 view grid board game where you chase the mobile suit and manipulate the board to trap it. Seriously tho, apparently somebody thought this was a good idea, and worth adding/keeping in the game. They took the time to program a top-view movement engine, and created these cartoony RPG sprites in a style that appears nowhere else in the game. For this. I’m half-convinced parts of this game were just bullshit unused shovelware hobby projects they had lying around that they inserted the BGC characters into and shoehorned in. Look at this and try to convince me otherwise.

bubblegumcrash14

Then, after investing so much energy into keeping her motorcycle intact through the chase, Priss just shoves it right up Armor Suit Guy’s ass.

bubblegumcrash15

Then we go back to following Nene around, showing some of the pieces of what was left of the armor suit to various folks until she gets a note from Sylia Stingray, which she immediately misinterprets.

bubblegumcrash16Oh God shut up, Nene.

At this point, finally, after what is likely around two to three hours of gameplay, the four Knight Sabers get together in the same place and this thing turns into something that actually kind of looks like an actual Bubblegum Crisis/Crash game. Sort of.

bubblegumcrash17

The remaining part of the game is in Stephen Lab, and if you die you have to play the whole thing over. The gameplay here is like a standard first-person RPG maze game. It’s a three floor maze where you have to trip three levers to get the main service elevator (which takes you to the final battle) to work. While wandering through the maze you will be attacked by the traditional boomers from the series as well as more men in armored battle suits. With each battle all chars HP starts at full, so you don’t have to worry about that, but other than that the fight themselves is like a bare-bones RPG. You’ll wanna switch out characters to keep them from dying. Also, Nene has a “Scanner” tool that will increase your defense while weakening the enemy’s attack, so you wanna use that each battle. Other than that, all four characters have the ability to use physical combat or shoot, which you will also alternate for effectiveness.

bubblegumcrash18

After sludging through the generic “dungeon” of Stephen Lab you fight the leader of the battle armored criminal gang, and it is actually kind of boring as shit. To be honest, after wanting to beat this game for like 20 years, I feel a bit ripped off by how corny the ending is.

bubblegumcrash19seriously that’s it

Like, I think there were elements here that could have made a much more solid game. Literally everything taken care of in the digital comic scenes could have been accomplished as a standard RPG if they’d just developed that aspect. As they were, the RPG elements did offer a challenge and a change of pace, but one that wears off quickly because the elements were so rudimentary and lead to dreary repetition.

That said, it’s an interesting eclectic conceptual grab bag. The graphics are mostly rendered gorgeously and it stays true to the source material. However, the gameplay is clumsy and non-intuitive. Depending on how much of a fan you are of the source material, the latter may be forgivable to an extent. I just happen to be one of said fans, so your mileage may vary.

COGIATI Is The Worst Classic Text Adventure Game #Retrogaming #90snostalgia

19 Jul

cogiati1

So I know it’s been ages since I’ve done a video game review on here, despite promising I would be more proactive in that regard. So today’s game is a classic from the mid 1990s.  It appears to be some sort of text adventure created by the same designer that made the classic Apogee game BOPPIN.

cogiati2

The game is called COGIATI (which is probably one of those nonsense magic words like XYZZY or PLUGH). It promises the acquisition of a “transsexual gender inventory” which honestly doesn’t sound very epic, but I’m not too good to grind for unusual and rare items.

cogiati3

The game opens up with an admonition to “answer truthfully” to some questions that will follow, which I thought was cool because it reminds me of that fortune teller from the Avatar trilogy of Ultima games.

cogiati5

It’s kinda dated, but I do get a kick out of the non-traditional methods of character generation. Some of the questions seemed to lead to certain classes, even though they were kinda sexist:

cogiati4.jpg

And others that seemed to be pointing towards special super powers your eventual character may possess-

cogiati6cogiati7cogiati8

The thing is tho, the questions never seem to stop coming. No recognizable character development or progress is shown, and some questions seem irrelevant or morbid-

cogiati9

So then I finally get to the end of the questions, and instead of presenting a well-rounded character and a world to explore, I was presented with an ending screen:

cogiati24

What a ripoff, right? I go through all that and I get is a psych recommendation. I mean, it’s better than the endings of River City Ransom or Ultima Exodus on the NES, but still. It’s almost as disappointing than the ending of NARC where it tells you to become a cop-

cogiati25

So seriously, even if you’re somewhat of a completist when it comes to classic text-adventure games, you may want to pass this one up. There’s no plot to be seen, just endless grilling about your identity forever. Real life provides way more than that to spare.

Image

Go Home Harry Potter Name Generator, You Are Drunk.

27 May

harrypotternamegenerator

From HERE.

Rayon Is A Punk Rocker: Arcade Fire’s New Video Fucking Sucks.

19 May

weexist2

Arcade Fire is one of those bands that everyone used to try to get me into for years and I was like “naaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”. Probably for the best, because it probably would have bothered me more to have a band I actually like churn out yet another piece of what Kat Blaque totally nails as “trans pity porn“. As I have admitted more than once, I’m kind of a guilty-pleasure sucker for the genre. But this campy paint-by-numbers bullshit just hit all the wrong buttons in the wrong order for me. I’m already willing to say this is the second worst music video I’ve seen all year.

So like first of all, as a trans woman born and raised in Texas, I am sick to fucking death already of the whole “gender-non-conforming person in redneck hell” trope. Like there isn’t homophobic and transphobic assholes all over “enlightened” big cities, but no we gotta keep that self-righteous white liberal boner going because you know what those dumb hicks are like. And it’s like, I’ve lived this and women in my community have died this way, so it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see yet again a watered-down version of what some jackass imagines life is like for someone like me in the south. Just, ew.

But hold on a second, lemme tell you a thing or two about what I actually like about this video. Andrew Garfield manages to make little pouty faces at some interesting points that kind of hit home… invoking sad mirror feels while trying on clothes you have no practice wearing-

weexist3

-those awkward first times out in public where you have to unlearn male social posture defense mechanisms to fight off your own uneasiness and sense of vulnerability, convinced everyone is looking at you disapprovingly-

weexist4

-and just invoking this sort of wordless sorrow and desire to fit in somehow to a world where it feels impossible to do so-

weexist5

But like, when it comes down to it, this video is ultimately more an exploration of gender performativity/expression than identity. None of the characters, including the protagonist, is given exposition past the flimsiest of stereotypes. Even this fucked up Thai love song manages to give some (kinda creepy and busted) backstory to it’s trans character, but then it’s also like three times as long.

Basically what happens in the video is that the protagonist makes a bunch of sad faces into the mirror while deciding what to wear until she decides to go with what appears to be a Leg Avenue costume of Jessica Simpson in Dukes Of Hazard-

weexist7

She walks to the nearest bar, where she pouts a bit and then she’s (probably) beaten to death.

weexist8

Seriously, that’s her entire story. She’s sad and she’s dead. Also, jazz hands.

weexist9

Then, everything gets stupid. She finds herself alone in the bar, doing an interpretive Flashdance, because why not. And then this bullshit happens:

weexist11ARE

weexist12
YOU

weexist13
FUCKING

weexist14
KIDDING ME

So like I have to imagine that the thought process that went behind the scenes of this video went like this:

VIDEO DIRECTOR: “Transgender stuff is trendy right? Let’s make a sensitive portrayal of their lifestyle to look like hip LGBT allies!”

*awkward homerotic dance number intensifies*

VIDEO DIRECTOR: “NAILED IT”

So like then the gay cowboys lead the protagonist THROUGH AN ACTUAL RAINBOW DOORWAY OH MY FUCK.

weexist15

Where she comes out at an Arcade Fire concert lo0king like a pallette swapped Twiggy Ramirez and oh christ I’m so fucking bored and done with this.

weexist1

Life Only Allows So Much Time For Biblical Abominations; Make Them Count.

15 May

abomination2

This, my friends, is a bacon-wrapped prawn. A Biblical abomination wrapped in another Biblical abomination. (1-Leviticus 11:7-12). And sitting here, in clothes designed for folks of the opposite sex of which I was assigned at birth (2-Deuteronomy 22:5), there’s a whole other layer of abomination as I shovel these greasy bastards into my mouth. (3-Leviticus 7:21)

I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself for pulling this off. (4-Proverbs 16:5) Not to mention, I feel more than a little naughty for putting so much effort into it. (5-Proverbs 6:18) I’d spend more time justifying my decision (6-Proverbs 17:5), but fuck it and fuck you. (7-Proverbs 3:32)

Just kidding, I didn’t mean to insult you.  (8-Proverbs 6:17)

Only eight? Well, we could talk about butt sex (9-Leviticus 18:22) or my credit card bills. (10-Ezekiel 18:8)