Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Luke Plunkett on Duke Nukem Forever: Double Standard

Having reformatted my computer I lost all my Photoshop settings. This has made the creation of Not-Icarus: Episode 2 quite a bitch. So, I’m going to take a break from fighting with Photoshop to rant about this.

In his review of Duke Nukem Forever, Luke Plunkett bemoans the crass and vulgar aspects of the game, faulting its developers with charges of stupidity and sexism. His thesis seems to be: “Duke Nukem Forever is an offensive video game. And not in a good way.” I contend that his thesis is retardedly nonsensical and maintains an idiotic, unjustifiable double standard for which no argument is offered.

The thrust of his argument is that DNF is offensive in a bad way:

The game jokes about things like rape. And abortion. It thinks tampons are funny. And it does so without any hint of parody, or satire, or political or social statement, the only things that can, if not excuse such distasteful subject matter, then at least provide reasonable grounds for a gag.

For Plunky, there are tasteful, high-minded approaches to rape, abortion, and tampons. One could satirize rape, or parody abortion, and so articulate something artistic that conveys a message to the player. He cites South Park as an example of something vile yet meaningful, and then links to a youtube video which jokes about Nazis.

The “argument” seems to be that since DNF lacks a punchline, or a moral lesson, the chauvinist themes and overt sexism are offensive rather than entertaining, or toilet humor rather than insightful satire.

The unfortunate dilemma for his article is that his entire argument is stupid. It rests upon a distinction between good offensive and bad offensive, the difference between a tasteful rape joke one could tell in church and a vulgar rape joke one must whisper in the shadows. Unfortunately, this distinction is shitheaded. He fails to grasp the fact that offensive is offensive, vulgar is vulgar. One could couch vulgarity or offense within the context of humor, but that does not make it not-offensive or not-vulgar. Rather, it is offense or vulgarity tinged with a dash of humor. In the same sense, the crass vulgarity of South Park is still crass vulgarity despite however many moral lessons they can shoehorn in at the end.

Since Plunky fails to realize that his distinction is moronic, he writes shit like this:
Take-Two of all companies should be aware of this, what with their constant defence [sic] of the excesses of the Grand Theft Auto series, which it also publishes (and which, unlike this game, with its caricatures and satire and quality writing is defensible).

That’s right, folks: GTA is justifiably vulgar. This is why when Plunky posts about GTA V including a Child Molester, he need not critique or fault the gaming series. Because a child molester, a pedophile, a person who has sex with children against their will in GTA is a caricature, an instrument of satire, whose purpose is to articulate a message that behooves the player and brings depth to our cultural dialog. Child Molesters in GTA are excusable, but alien rape in DNF is a terrible blight on the gaming industry.

This is what academics call a “double standard”, or what forum trolls call “fucktardedly dumb” because the distinction makes no fucking sense.

Here’s what would make sense: If we want to maintain a distinction between good offensive and bad offensive, we cannot do so with respect to particular instances of vulgarity. Rape is rape. It does not make sense to maintain that an instance of rape in DNF is qualitatively different from an instance of rape in GTA, since both are instances of rape.

What we can do, and what makes some ounce of sense, is to discern the end for which the instance of rape was included in the game. One could, I assume, utilize rape as a plot point to steer a narrative in a new direction, or manifest some sort of emotional reaction. If, for example, Sephiroth had raped Aeris’ dead body (spoiler: Aeris dies) this would have sparked a firm dislike of Sephiroth in the player.

But the utilization of rape as a storytelling device does not change the fundamental vulgarity, evil, and wrongness of the act of rape, itself.

That’s the point missed by Punky: he wraps the violent, offensive, sexist, vulgar acts into the larger narrative. So a vile instance in a South Park episode is said to be different from a vile instance in DNF, due to the larger narrative, or lack thereof, in each work. Since a South Park episode has a moral lesson, any vulgarity within that episode is discerned with respect to the moral lesson at the end. Since DNF has no moral lesson or punch line, its vulgarity is simply crass, unjustifiable, garbage.

But that standard, the one Plunky actually uses, has no concern for particular instances of vulgarity; its rubric rests on an assessment of the entire work and not the particular components of that work. So, really, he has no system by which he can fault DNF for its instances of rape or abortion. What he can critique is the larger narrative, since the larger narrative is what matters. If a South Park character says “shit” and Duke Nukem says “shit”, those linguistic utterances are meaningless independent of an assessment of the larger work. Only when we reach the end of the episode, the end of the game, can we discern whether the “shit” is artful or offensive. But what is assessed is not the word "shit"; the assessment is of the end of the work.

All Plunky can do, if he sticks to his argument, is state that DNF has no punchline or moral lesson at the end. He has no basis for critiquing its vulgarity, because vulgarity is not his concern. His concern is for the end, the larger narrative.

But since he fails to realize his own argument, he just comes across as a double standard maintaining dipshit who fails to realize a simple truth:



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