Jeffery Harrell wrote: DorkmanScott wrote:
Jeffrey: how many video games have you played?
Um. Fewer than you have, I'd venture. As I confessed elsewhere, I used to play World of Warcraft a bit. SimCity has eaten a lot of my spare time, as have the Civilization games. A friend got me into Call of Duty for a while last year. Oh, and the Infocom games were a big part of my childhood, if those count. But I'm far from an expert.
Right. This is as if my experience with movies began and ended with SyFy's Movie-of-the-Week and I went on to say that movies cannot be art.
Whereas your position on movies is:
I'd guess — totally pulling this out my ear — that a movie is more likely to be a work of art than not.
I challenge you to formulate a clear, non-tautological definition of "art" which applies to movies and not video games.
Many modern video games are more akin to participatory movies than they are to Sim City. They tell stories, they have characters with arcs and histories, they're thematically and emotionally powerful.
Not to nitpick, but that's not what I was saying. I made a distinction based on intent. Is something mainly intended to be fun, or is it mainly intended to be beautiful? That's where I drew the line.
Okay, then I reject the notion that there's inherently a line to be drawn between fun/beauty, fun/function, or beauty/function.
Eddie came up with the example of martial arts on Twitter. I believe that martial arts can, indeed, be a work of art in the same way that ballet or other physical expression can be art. It's beautiful to look at and it's fun to do, but the intention is neither. The intention first and foremost is to be functional.
Granted, there are certain offshoots of martial arts -- like wushu -- which are developed more toward beauty than function, but something which is functional can still be beautiful, and fun, and if it's not art then I don't know how you define it.
And again, I freely admit it's an arbitrary distinction. But if we're going to talk about this at all, we have to have some notion of what both "art" and "video game" mean. Otherwise we're just smearing words on each other.
Let's back off to a more comfortable point of debate for a minute. Can architecture be art? I say no. I'm not saying I don't think architecture is worthy or whatever; I'm not making a value judgment. It's just that architecture is primarily functional. More than anything, a building must work in order to be successful. It has to keep the rain off and the jaguars out. If it's also beautiful, that's awesome. But it can't merely be beautiful, or else it's not good architecture.
And I reject your definition of art if this is what it is. The notion that something must be useless in order to qualify as art is absurd, and I'd like to know how you can define movies as art under this paradigm, and video games as not-art.
Trowa quoted Penny Arcade, who said something … well, kinda stupid, I think. Saying that something's art because it was made by people whose job title is "artist" is a textbook example of begging the question. Whether something's art is determined by the intent of its creator or creators, not by what's on somebody's business card.
That's an assumption on your part, that they are only considered "artists" because they call themselves "artists." Whereas I think Penny Arcade would say they can be safely called "artists" because they create "art."
As for Ebert … okay, maybe "genius" was a bit over-the-top. But the guy is one hell of a writer. He's smart and thoughtful and calling him a windbag is — if you'll pardon my borrowing of your thesis — an opinion you'd better be able to defend.
You got it.
Smart - I can go with this. He's smarter-than-average, but not nearly as smart as he seems to think he is.
To give a not-happening-right-now example, a while back Ebert made a post on his blog that made him sound like a Young Earth Creationist -- the earth was made in 6 literal days, 6000 years ago, things were created with apparent age, a worldwide flood created the geological formations we see in a day and not millions of years, etc.
People were shocked, and told him so. And the next day he responded, "Guys, I don't really believe that. It's satire, like Jonathan Swift. Are people so uncultured they don't even appreciate satire anymore? Gosh!"
What Ebert failed to understand, apparently, is that the point of satire is to take an argument to its logical, absurd, extreme conclusion. To a point where no one would possibly agree with it, and from there they can take a step back and see the absurdity of their own less-extreme but related belief.
All Ebert did was parrot things that people actually believe and acted as though the absurdity should be immediately apparent to all -- which it isn't to the people who actually believe it. If Jonathan Swift had written A Modest Proposal in a time where politicians were actually advocating for a legistlative policy of the rich eating the babies of the poor, it would not have qualified as satire.
What he should have done, and would have if he understood satire, was take the extreme position of beliefs that should trickle-down from a belief in a young earth and no evolution. Saying, for example, that "Modern medicine, which is based on evolution, has not reduced mortality rates by 85% in developed countries since the development of antibiotics." But of course, sneaky sneaky, he's actually saying the obvious opposite of what is true (I don't know if it's 85%, I made that up, but if I were writing the article for real I'd research and get the exact numbers). But saying something that is obviously the opposite of reality, but follows as the logical extreme of what creationists believe, would make it clear that the creationist beliefs themselves are absurd and antithetical to reality.
That's not what Ebert did. But that's what a smart hell-of-a-writer would do. Jonathan Swift was a hell-of-a-writer.
Which brings us to thoughtful.
Ebert doesn't think. Ebert reacts, and whatever Ebert's knee-jerk reaction is becomes Ebert's reality. If Ebert were thoughtful, he would consider dissenting opinions, respond to them thoughtfully, and possibly even be persuaded by logic and reason.
Ebert doesn't do this. Ebert says "If you think I'm wrong, you're wrong, and also stupid, and probably ugly."
His response (one of them, anyway) to the video game brouhaha: "I'm not too old to 'get' video games, but I may be too well-read."
Translation: if you like video games, it's because you're most likely borderline illiterate.
If that's a thoughtful response, here's mine: Fuck you, Ebert, you condescending asshole.
Or how about his response to people objecting to his "Kick-Ass" review: "Them: I was too old to get it. Me: My problem was that I got it."
Ah, the "I'm rubber, you're glue" defense. We'll need a Master's degree in rhetoric to even consider a counter to this one.
Add to that, a thoughtful man would bother to investigate the things he says. I remember being shocked when he said this in his District 9 review:
Much of the plot involves the obsession of the private security firm in learning the secret of the alien weapons, which humans cannot operate. Curiously, none of these weapons seem superior to those of the humans and aren’t used to much effect by the aliens in their own defense. Never mind.
In WHAT fucking universe are "none of the weapons...superior to those of the humans"? The only explanation I can conceive of for Ebert making this comment is that he didn't bother to watch the third act of the film. But hey, why let that stop him from giving his opinion as if he watched and/or paid attention?
Then there's the recent Kick-Ass review, which focused exclusively on the fact that an 11 year old girl has been trained as a remorseless killing machine and thinks nothing of murdering a roomful of men and then going for ice cream. He's shocked and appalled that the movie depicts such gleeful violence as being glamorous and exciting and never once asks any questions about the moral implications of desensitizing children to violence.
Never mind that the movie clearly does not approve of the brainwashing that Big Daddy has done to Hit Girl, that a character refers to it as such, that Kick-Ass is horrified the first time he meets Hit Girl and that the entire point of the subplot is to ask questions about the moral implications of desensitizing children to violence.
No no, Ebert says. The little girl says "cunt," so the film must necessarily have no merit.
And then of course there's the impetus for this discussion. "Video games can never be art. No I've never played one. No I'm not going to. You're stupid if you do. I'm right. Because."
Ebert isn't thoughtful. Ebert is thoughtless, and proudly ignorant of many of the things he espouses on; and if you're informed about them, then you're stupid for informing yourself about something he thinks is stupid, and he'll hear nothing in its defense.
What he is, is articulate, and he has made an entire career out of fooling people into mistaking one for the other.
So now windbag. Well, I've already described how he's essentially full of hot air and proudly so. How routinely he arrogantly dismisses the possibility that he might ever be wrong with a multisyllabic "NO U." It just needs a little more egotism to push him over the top...
Oh look. He runs a film festival called Ebertfest.
Even Harry Knowles, the biggest, most desperate attention whore I have ever seen, has the self respect not to call the film festival he runs "Knowlesfest," or his site "Ain't It Cool Knowles."
If you and I are just "the guys with the laptops," he's just "the guy with a laptop, a thesaurus, and a platform." Let me know if he ever justifies his positions with better than "Because I said so and I'm Ebert goddammit!" and I might consider changing mine. Because I'm, you know. Thoughtful.