Tag Archives: HBO

Upheavals At DC Comic: My Concerns And Hopes

Let’s face it. Pretty much every industry not associated with health care, masks, streaming media, and Zoom calls has been hit hard this year. That’s especially true for certain segments of the entertainment industry. Basically, if you’re a movie studio, a movie theater, a comic shop, or a mall, this year has been like 100 punches to the gut, jaw, and genitals by a crack-fueled Ivan Drago.

That’s how bad global pandemics are. They pull no punches and will hit anything that attempts to prosper, both directly and indirectly.

Those blows extended to the comics industry, as well. As a lifelong comic book fan, I certainly felt it. I haven’t forgotten the weeks on end of having no new comics to enjoy for the first time in over a decade. It was not a pleasant experience. As elated as I was to see New Comic Book Day return, I didn’t doubt for a second that there would be some lasting scars.

Well, now it seems some of those scars are starting to fester and the first one to feel the pain is DC Comics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the entire DC Comics operation has been hit with major layoffs and restructuring. It’s still intact, but make no mistake. This is the single biggest purging of personnel from a major comics publisher since the mid-1990s.

THR: DC Comics, DC Universe Hit By Major Layoffs

Monday’s WarnerMedia layoffs have affected a significant number of high-level figures at comic book powerhouse DC, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Among those said to be losing their positions are editor-in-chief Bob Harris, senior VP of publishing strategy and support services Hank Kanalz, VP of marketing and creative services Jonah Weiland, VP global publishing initiatives and digital strategy Bobbie Chase, senior story editor Brian Cunningham, and executive editor Mark Doyle, who oversaw the rollout of the Black Label graphic novels. Jim Lee remains the CCO.

Roughly one third of DC’s editorial ranks are being laid off, according to sources.

Insiders also say the majority of the staff of the streaming service DC Universe has been laid off, a move that had been widely expected as WarnerMedia shifts its focus to new streaming service HBO Max.

I can’t understate how big a deal this is to the larger world of comics, but I don’t want to overstate it, either. This situation is objectively bad. There’s no way around it. It’s also not the definitive end of DC Comics. That’s a narrative I don’t want to fuel.

That hasn’t stopped some of the whiniest, dumbest segments of the comics crowd from claiming otherwise. I won’t name names, but they are affiliated with a certain movement in comics that has only become less credible and more insufferable with time. The box office return of the “Captain Marvel” movie is proof enough of that.

Don’t be fooled by what some asshole voices on social media claim. This restructuring is not because DC Comics had too much diversity. It’s more a byproduct of DC Comics having lost its sense of vision, scale, and identity. This is something that happens from time to time in comics. After a while, the whole line loses its sense of self and needs some revitalization.

I can say, as a longtime comic fan, that DC has become somewhat stale in recent years. Even before the pandemic, I felt as though it had lost momentum outside its mainstays. It has primarily been relying on the strength of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, and Flash. As iconic as those characters are, they just can’t sustain the entire line.

There are many reasons for that. I think DC Comics, as a whole, hasn’t had a consistent vision since the days of DC Rebirth. It just got bogged down too much with competing visions, like DCeased and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It also endured way too many delays with its last big crossover event, Doomsday Clock.

The onset of the pandemic just exacerbated a problem that was starting to grow. As bad as things are now, there’s also an opportunity to set things on a better path. That’s my greatest hope for whatever restructuring DC pursues next. It still has plenty to build on. The success of the Harley Quinn show is proof enough of that. It’s just a matter of what form that will take.

That said, I do have major concerns. Comic lines have gone through upheavals before, but never during a global pandemic. This is uncharted territory for the comics industry, as a whole. This is not the era of newsstands and comic shops where top books could easily sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Paperbacks alone are not going to make this industry succeed.

Comics, in the current system, work best as a garden from which new characters, stories, and ideas can blossom. The fruits of that system can later become the basis for TV shows, movies, merchandise, and so much more. DC Comics already has a major media partner in its owner, AT&T. The structure is there. They just have to carve their niche into it.

I understand that’s easier said than done. Right now, a lot of factors are working against DC and the comics industry, as a whole. When all is said and done, comic shops may become much more diminished and trade paperback sales may dwindle to just a handful of titles. I’m not looking forward to that kind of status quo.

The ultimate setup may one day involve DC Comics just abandoning its publishing system, as a whole, and shift to licensing its characters to other companies, such as IDW. That’s very much a last resort, but one that may be more likely if DC can’t get its comics in order.

I want to be hopeful, but I’m also going to brace for the worst. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that things can always get worse and the things we love are always capable of succumbing to forces beyond our control. It’s a sad, nihilistic mindset, but one that a global pandemic tends to affirm. Only time will tell and I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

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Filed under DC Comics, media issues, superhero comics

“Justice League: The Snyder Cut” Is (Actually) Being Released: My Thoughts, My Hopes, And The Implications

It’s happening.

It’s really happening.

After years of hashtags, billboards, and incessant curiosity, it’s really happening. The fabled “Snyder Cut” of 2017’s “Justice League” is going to be released. Near as I can tell, this is not a joke. It’s not some wild rumor that some renegade trolls concocted. This is real. According to major entertainment news outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, this is going to happen.

Zack Snyder’s original vision for “Justice League” is coming out in 2021 exclusively on HBO Max, the latest entry to the streaming wars, courtesy of Warner Brothers. I doubt those outside devoted fans of comic books and superhero movies understand why this is such a big deal, but as someone within that circle, I can assure you that this is big.

Rather than explain the whole story, I’ll just cite The Hollywood Reporter, which does a commendable job of summing up the issues. If you need more information on the story of this mythical cut of an otherwise forgettable movie, Forbes also did a decent rundown of the timeline.

THR: Zack Snyder’s $20M-Plus ‘Justice League’ Cut Plans Revealed

In the time since its release, something unusual happened: A growing movement of fans, rallied by the hashtag #ReleasetheSnyderCut, had called, agitated, petitioned — even bought a Times Square billboard and chartered a plane to fly a banner over Comic-Con — for Snyder’s version to be released. And on the film’s second anniversary, the hashtag had its biggest day ever — with even the movie’s stars Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck adding their voices on Twitter.

So here, the morning after, was their agent saying that Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures, was acknowledging the movement, and more importantly, was willing to accede. “This is real. People out there want it. Would you guys ever consider doing something?” was what Emmerich was asking, Zack Snyder recalls.

The answer to Emmerich’s question, a whispered-about secret for months, was revealed Wednesday when Zack Snyder confirmed, at the end of an online screening of his 2013 movie, Man of Steel, that his version of Justice League was indeed real. And that it will be coming to HBO Max, the WarnerMedia digital streaming service launching May 27, and is expected to debut in 2021.

Now, I have my share of opinions about “Justice League” and Zack Snyder. I actually saw the theatrical version of “Justice League” when it came out. While I gave it a respectable review, I don’t deny that the movie has its flaws. I’m not an overall movie buff, but even I could tell that the movie was heavily edited. There was definitely a vision and plenty of potential, but a lot of it got lost on the cutting room floor.

In its current form, Justice League” is one of those movies that gets less compelling with age. You can see it once, have an enjoyable experience, and completely forget that experience within weeks. It’s not a movie that you can re-watch and feel engaged. It’s just too bland and sanitized.

Snyder’s cut of the movie promised to be different. He had a much different vision, but couldn’t realize that vision due to a family tragedy that tore him away from the project. Now, we’ll get to see the essence of that vision.

Personally, I’m curious. I’m not curious enough to shell out money for yet another streaming service, but I’m certainly interested in what Snyder had planned for this movie. A big part of that curiosity stems from Snyder’s history as a filmmaker whose vision tends to get lost on the cutting room floor.

This has happened to him multiple times before and for other superhero movies. There were a lot of heavy criticisms levied against “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and some of those criticisms were valid. However, the longer and more complete Ultimate Edition of the movie directly addressed some of those flaws. I honestly think the movie would’ve done better if that edition had come out.

A far more notable example, in my opinion, involves Snyder’s take on “Watchmen.” That movie is somewhat polarizing among fans, although I personally liked it. However, this movie has multiple extended cuts, including a director’s cut that Snyder himself says is most consistent with his vision for the film.

That’s actually the version I own on blu-ray. I think it’s an underrated gem among superhero movies. It’s more complete, concise, and compelling. It better encapsulates the essence of “Watchmen” and the story it tries to tell.

It’s because of these instances that I believe will help Snyder’s cut of Justice League.” History shows that he can tell a great story, so long as the critical details aren’t cut out in the final edit. Granted, editing is a core aspect of finalizing a movie. It’s necessary to get a movie to within a reasonable time-frame for a movie-watching experience. Not everyone wants to sit in a theater for four hours unless it’s something J. R. R. Tolkein wrote.

Snyder’s desire to tell a larger story seems to get away from him. In that sense, it might be a good thing that this isn’t coming out in theaters. Instead, it’s coming out on a streaming platform that people can consume at their own pace. People already consume hours on end of old shows. Consuming a four-hour movie isn’t quite as daunting. Just look at “The Irishman.”

This is where I feel the larger implications of this announcement may come into play. A non-insignificant reason why Snyder’s movies keep getting chopped up into something that doesn’t do well with critics or fans is because they’re so long. His efforts to tell a bold story just don’t fit within that reasonable two to three hour time-frame for a movie. Movies like “Watchmen” reveal that those stories can be compelling.

Beyond the story, the impact of the Snyder Cut could extend beyond Justice League,” superhero movies, and the movie-making process as a whole. This is where I believe there could be larger implications that will likely impact future movies, including those that don’t involve superheroes.

For decades, there has been this idea that movies have to operate within certain restrictions. For the most part, there’s merit to those restrictions. Movies beyond three-and-a-half hours just aren’t feasible for a general audience or their bladder. A trilogy like “Lord of the Rings” was a rare exception, but could never become the norm.

Thanks to streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max, this may no longer be the case. Now, there’s a new method for releasing these movies. The current global pandemic, as well as the recent success with direct-to-streaming releases, will further raise the importance of those platforms.

With these new tools and emerging trends, why should movies be confined to the limits imposed by movie theaters? Why can’t there be a four-hour Justice League” movie? Why can’t there be a five-hour Avengers movie? Why does any movie have to be chopped up and edited to such an extent that it loses important aspects of its plot?

The Snyder Cut could make the case that those restrictions need not hinder a bolder vision. There’s still a place for the kinds of popcorn movies we see in theaters, but why not also invest in a place where a movie like Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” can also exist?

The world of movies, media, and story-telling is changing. Regardless of how the Snyder Cut ends up being in the eyes of fans, its impact could be far greater. Hopefully, it leads to bigger, bolder, and better stories. It may not always warrant the cost of another streaming service, but it opens the door to so many possibilities.

Time will tell. Hopefully, we’ll see if the wait was worth it in 2021.

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Filed under DC Comics, movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, Wonder Woman

The Golden Age Of TV Just Got More Golden: HBO’s “Last Of Us” Announcement

In this age of fake news, baseless rumors, and 4chan leaks, it’s easy to be cynical. Even when you see news or rumors that seem genuinely good, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Sometimes, you feel like you live in a world where no news or rumors could possibly be that good. Therefore, it must be wrong or fake.

Then, every once in a while, something comes along that reminds you that genuine good can still happen in this crazy world. Even if it seems rare, that doesn’t make it any less awesome. That’s how I felt when news broke yesterday that HBO, fresh off the heels of turning “Watchmen” into an incredible TV series, announced that it was making a show based on the video game, “The Last of Us.”

CNN: HBO is turning “The Last of Us” video game into a TV series

To those who haven’t played this game or aren’t familiar with the story, it’s hard to appreciate why this news is so incredible. I’ve written about this game and its two titular characters, Ellie and Joel, before. However, the impact of this game goes beyond that. This is one of those rare games that isn’t just a game. It’s a narrative experience that hits you in ways you don’t expect.

On the surface, the primary experience is that of a post-apocalyptic survival horror game that just happens to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of the past 20 years. What makes it so special is how it evokes so many emotions along the way. I knew when I bought the game that it was heavy on drama. I braced myself, thinking I could handle it, especially after seeing “Logan.” It still wasn’t enough.

I’m not the only one who had that experience either. Many others have shared their experience with this game. It really is an emotional roller coaster in all the right ways. The idea that HBO is going to take that experience and build a show around it is just too amazing for words.

At the moment, there aren’t many details, other than the fact that Craig Mazin, who produced “Chernobyl,” is working with the game’s creator, Neil Druckmann. However, given how hard HBO has been working to fill the void left by “Game of Thrones,” I’m encouraged that they have that much more incentive make this show as incredible as the game.

I’ll definitely be following news about this announcement closely, moving forward. In the meantime, for those who don’t play video games and need proof that this game will make an awesome show, I offer you this.

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A Comment On Bill Maher’s (Dystopian) Rant About Sex Robots

Remember that time someone old, out of touch, and under-informed made an accurate prediction about the impact of emerging technology? That’s not a rhetorical question. Honestly, does anyone remember that ever happening to a meaningful extent?

I ask because it’s been happening for years. People keep seeing an amazing new technology and assume the worst. In some cases, they’re just dead wrong about trends that will or won’t catch on. Some just made dead wrong assumptions about how technology and society would evolve.

At the end of the day, nobody truly knows for sure. It’s fun to speculate, especially when that technology involves sex robots. I know I’ve entertained some colorful possibilities and potential issues, but I never claim I know for certain. I try not to be overly optimistic, but I don’t try to be downright fatalistic, either.

Then, there’s Bill Maher’s latest rant about the future of sex robots. I could try and break down every flaw in his commentary, but I’ll let the clip speak for itself.

Now, I need to disclose that I’m a fan of Bill Maher. I like his show. I think he’s funny. He’s got a great wit and a dry style that I’ve always found entertaining. When it comes to technology, though, he’s more a chronic whiner than a visionary.

He compares social media to cigarettes and complains about how technology has become too complicated. For a man who’s over 60, that’s not surprising. However, for someone smart enough to stay on TV for over three decades, it’s still absurd.

Deconstructing his rant is not that hard. Maher frames the impact of sex robots as an either/or position. To him, people will either completely reject human intimacy for robots or reject robots in favor of human intimacy. However, he never justifies why people would choose only one or the other.

Would people only interact with a sex robot because they can have sex on a level that humans just can’t match? That assumes people are really basic and would all react the same if they somehow had access to a life-like sex robot. However, people are not basic. People are complicated. They have many different wants, needs, and attitudes. Maher himself has noted this when discussing other issues.

Sex robots will change human dynamics significantly. It won’t destroy them. It won’t completely destroy the whole of society. They’re not nuclear weapons. They’ll just change how things are and for older people, especially in Maher’s demographic, that can be scary. It’s easy to assume the worst, but it’s still an assumption and those are notoriously unreliable for predicting the future. The stock market alone is proof of that.

There are many other things I can say about Maher’s rant, but it would all come back to the same point. It’s just flawed and misguided. It assumes there’s not room for both human connection and sex robots in the future. Considering how adaptive and social humans are, I believe we’ll find a way to incorporate them into a new social dynamic that nobody can predict.

It’ll be nothing like Maher can ever imagine.

It’ll be nothing like I can imagine, either.

The future will still come. It’s just a matter of how we’ll adapt, evolve, and grow with it.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, sex in society, sex robots, sexuality, Sexy Future, technology

Theon Greyjoy and Sansa Stark: How “Game of Thrones” Managed to Avoid Double Standards

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The following is an article written and submitted by DC-MarvelGirl 1997, who is a friend of mine and a talented young writer. She has a website and a YouTube channel that I highly recommend. I sincerely thank her for taking the time to write this, as it relates closely to other issues I’ve brought up on this site regarding gender, double standards, and media depictions. Enjoy!


Theon1

In a world of double standards, there comes a point where we should question when something is no longer a joke. With television shows such as “Cobra Kai” and “Married with Children” managing to poke fun at emasculation and male circumcision, after the fact we oftentimes question why we find those jokes funny. If those same jokes were made about women, it would be considered “sexist”. When it comes to men, it is almost as though we are okay with men being brutalized.

It’s pretty hard to avoid double standards in this day and age. However, I would say that there might be an exception to this. Today, I will be discussing the television series “Game of Thrones”, and how they managed to avoid double standards about gender.

Now, I’m not expert on “Game of Thrones”. In fact, I’ve only started reading the first book, and I am halfway through it as I am writing this. When you find a story that genuinely intrigues you and piques your interest, you want to keep reading it. With “Game of Thrones” it is no exception. Additionally, when it comes to issues such as gender, the novels do not hold back. The television series most definitely didn’t hold back when it came to showing brutalization of various characters. The throne room scene where Sophie Turner’s Sansa Stark is being stripped and beaten in front of noblemen forever solidifies for me why she’s such a great actress. In fact, it is my favorite scene to view in general. However, naturally, we as human beings would be uncomfortable seeing women being beaten and brutalized. And I can attest as a woman myself that it is disheartening to watch happen. I think a huge part of it is because we consistently try to protect women and keep them as pure as possible. It consistently shows throughout history, as well, how women are treated in comparison to men.

sansa1

In Sansa’s case, she’s received her taste of brutality on more than one occasion. She’s been forced to suffer and endure so much throughout the course of the television series. You watch the scenes where she is being beaten by Joffrey’s men and the scene where Ramsay Bolton rapes her on their wedding night, you cannot help but feel discomforted viewing it. I don’t think any rational person wouldn’t feel uncomfortable watching scenes like that.

However, what is even more uncomfortable is what occurs with the character of Theon Greyjoy – who throughout the course of the show, and the books, has gone through as much brutalization as Sansa. I would argue that what happens to Theon on the show is worse. When I say that “Game of Thrones” doesn’t hold back with showing brutalization of both men and women, this is where I make my point.

Theon2

With the character of Theon, we are introduced to him as the character who is taken pity upon by Ned Stark, who proceeds to take him in as his ward. Theon starts of similarly to that of Sansa – arrogant and overconfident, and the character that is probably one of the least liked on the show in the first season. Nonetheless, he gets a taste of what it’s like to be broken to nothing after he makes mistake upon mistake, betraying the Stark family. This leads to he being captured by Ramsay Bolton – who at that point is leading Winterfell with an iron fist. This leads to Theon suffering his own torture.

As if Ramsay cutting Theon’s fingers off isn’t bad enough, but Ramsay further emasculates him by cutting his genitalia off. It simply gets worse as Ramsay is next shown eating a long and plump sausage right in front of his captive, making Theon believe that Ramsay is eating his genitals. In addition to emasculating Theon, Ramsay proceeds to rename him “Reek” to further degrade him.

Ramsay

With “Game of Thrones” and the way they portray torture so graphically, there is never a moment where emasculation and brutalization are treated as a joke. Whenever you watch those moments, you can hardly help but feel uncomfortable. With “Game of Thrones”, it’s rare that you will find any double standards regarding the treatment of men and women. In Theon and Sansa’s cases, these would be handled differently if these characters were on a sit-com. Sansa’s situations of rape and being stripped and beaten would be treated seriously on almost any cable network show. Unfortunately, Theon’s case would more than likely be turned into a joke about male circumcision and put on an episode of “Married with Children”.

It comes to show that the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire” and the TV show “Game of Thrones” give a truly eye-opening look at how different genders are treated. It displays an old-fashioned viewpoint of the traditional gender roles, which is a given. Nonetheless, it doesn’t display hypocrisy when displaying torture being thrust upon men and women. Theon and Sansa alike are both treated by various characters with a level of brutality to further humiliate and degrade them. It strips them down to being polar opposites of who they used to be before. Sansa starts off as a bratty and pretentious princess who slowly unravels to a woman who is a lot more hardened, yet she manages to not lose her compassion for others. Theon starts off as an arrogant show-off whom after being emasculated is broken to something else utterly. Nonetheless, you cannot deny that there is something to be said here.

With “Game of Thrones”, both men and women alike suffer and get put through more than we could ever imagine. Both genders are shown to receive the same amount of brutal treatment, and there is no sugarcoating anything at all. If anything, the books and the show alike give us material where you don’t need to talk about double standards, because there are essentially none. However, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth discussing and bringing up.

DC-MarvelGirl 1997

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Filed under Game of Thrones, gender issues, media issues, men's issues, outrage culture, political correctness, psychology, sex in media, sex in society, sexuality, television, women's issues

John Oliver, Sex Dolls, And The (Unwarranted) Shaming Of Lonely Men

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There’s a general rule in comedy with respect to insults. If you’re going to demean, denigrate, or make fun of a particular person or group, you don’t want to punch down. Granted, you can do it. You can even get a few laughs out of it if you do it well and are exceptionally funny. However, in the grand scheme of things, you’re still an asshole.

It’s the main reason why comedians, be they stand-up comics or talk show hosts, generally direct their insults at the rich, powerful, and privileged. There’s a general understanding that if you’re doing well in this chaotic game of life, either through luck or talent, you can afford to take a few insults. At the end of the day, you can still go home and cry into a pile of money, fame, and affluence.

When you insult a group that has none of those things in any abundance, it’s usually not something people respect, even if they laugh. It’s why even great comedians like George Carlin had to be very careful and exceptionally skilled when he joked about rape.

We miss you, George. We miss you SO much.

Unfortunately, not everyone can be as funny or talented as George Carlin. Sometimes, insult comedy hits an undeserving target. It tends to reveal something about the comedian delivering the insult and where society is, in terms of sympathies. It’s often subtle, but the subtext is there and it has larger implications.

That brings me to John Oliver, the nerdy smart-ass British comedian who owes 95 percent of his fame to John Stewart. His show, “Last Week Tonight,” has won multiple Emmy awards and has garnered substantial praise for its colorful approach to tackling major issues, from the abortion debate to annoying robocalls to the flaws in standardized testing.

While I don’t agree with Mr. Oliver’s politics all the time or his approach to tackling certain issues, I consider myself a fan of his show. Compared to other satirical comedy shows, he tends to strike just the right balance between quality comedy and tackling serious issues.

However, he recently took a comedic jab that deviated from his usual style and not in a good way. It occurred during his episode that focused on China’s controversial One Child Policy. It’s an issue that has been subject to plenty of controversy for years and I think Mr. Oliver was right to talk about it.

One of the major consequences of this policy, which Mr. Oliver rightly pointed out, was how it led to a massive gender population imbalance. Due to a historic preference for sons, there are millions more men than women in China. The disparity is so great that it has caused major social upheavals.

While discussing some of those upheavals, the issue of sex dolls came up. In a country where there are so many lonely men, it makes sense that they would seek some form of outlet and it helps that the market of sex dolls is growing. This is where Mr. Oliver did a little punching down and, unlike his jabs at New Zealand, this didn’t have the same impact. See for yourself in this clip.

Take a moment to consider what he’s joking about here. There are millions of men in China who, through no fault of their own, are likely doomed to a life of loneliness. It’s not because they’re bad men. They’re not creepy, cruel, or misogynistic. They’re just at the mercy of math and demographics. There simply aren’t enough women in their country.

For these men, the old saying that there’s plenty of fish in the sea is an outright lie. Their options are limited and Mr. Oliver is making light of that. He essentially claims that men who use sex dolls are somehow even more pathetic and destined for more loneliness. He makes that claim as someone who is married, has a child, and doesn’t have to deal with those prospects.

It’s not just bad comedy. It’s hypocritical. Earlier in that same clip, he showed sympathy and understanding to a Chinese woman who was forced to have an abortion against her will. He’s shown similar sympathy to people in other situations, from women dealing with restrictive abortion laws to prisoners who had been screwed over by an unfair justice system.

Why would he show no sympathy for these lonely men?

Moreover, why would he make a joke about it?

To some extent, it’s not all on him. There is an egregious double standard when it comes to men who use sex toys. A woman can walk into a sex shop, buy a vibrator, and talk about using it without too much stigma. Sure, there will be a few repressive, sex-negative religious zealots who will complain about anything that gives anyone unsanctioned pleasure, but most people don’t take them seriously.

For men, however, there’s a taboo surrounding the use of sex toys in any capacity. Some of that comes from men more than women. There’s this not-so-subtle assumption that a man who needs a sex toy is somehow less manly. Any man who has to resort to one must be somehow deficient. It can’t just be that he’s lonely or wants to use new tools to please his lover. That would make too much sense.

For the men in China, and other areas where there’s a huge gender disparity, the situation is even worse. These are men who are facing both loneliness and sexual frustration. There’s more than a little evidence that this is not healthy for them on any level. That’s not to say that sex dolls or sex toys will help fill that void, but it will give them an outlet, just as a vibrator gives a lonely woman an outlet.

Unlike a lonely woman, though, these men can’t expect much sympathy. As Mr. Oliver demonstrates, they can expect plenty of shame and stigma. It doesn’t matter that they can’t do anything about their situation. They’re victims of circumstance, demographics, and basic math. Adding stigma and taboo to the mix is akin to kicking them in the balls on the worst day of their lives.

I won’t say that Mr. Oliver should apologize for his remark. He’s a comedian. He’s a citizen in a free country. He can say what he wants. However, the fact that he can joke about lonely men and still get a laugh says a lot about the current attitudes towards lonely men, in general.

We know they’re suffering. We know there’s not much they can do about it, especially in places like China. While we’ll give plenty of sympathy to the lonely women who resort to using sex toys, we’ll stick to shaming and stigmatizing the men who dare to do the same. Then, we’ll pretend to be surprised when they get angry and resentful.

Is that fair? No, it isn’t.

Is that funny? No, I argue that it’s not, especially with the way Mr. Oliver went about it.

He’s no George Carlin. He’s no John Stewart, either. In this particular case, he’s just an asshole.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, human nature, men's issues, outrage culture, psychology, sex in society, sex robots, sexuality, women's issues

The Appeal And (Major) Implications Of “Westworld”

westworld

When most people think about the future, they imagine all the ways that technology and progress will solve problems and make our lives better. I’ve certainly imagined that. I’ve even written about it, with respect to how future advances will make us smarter, protect us from disease, and even help us love each other better.

As intriguing as those possibilities may be, it’s also worth taking a moment to contemplate the implications. I’m not talking about the potential existential crisis we may face with advancing technology either. I’m referring more to the practical aspects of a future where disease, suffering, and toil are largely mitigated by technology.

Beyond just living in a world with less suffering and less struggle, how exactly would we entertain ourselves? That may seem like a mundane question, given the more serious implications of advances like genetic engineering and advanced robotics, but it’s one of those issues that effects individuals on a personal level.

If we’re always health, physically strong, and have our basic needs met through some universal basic income, then what exactly are we going to do with all that free time? I’ve expressed concern that this may create an epidemic of boredom that’s every bit as serious as any major pandemic. No matter how strong, healthy, or affluent you are, boredom can have some pretty debilitating effects.

Enter the fanciful world of “Westworld” and all its implications, sexy and otherwise. For those of you who don’t get HBO, it’s a TV show inspired from an old movie produced by Michael Crichton, also known as the guy who wrote “Jurassic Park.” It’s no “Game of Thrones,” but it has a fair amount of gratuitous violence, nudity, and sex, albeit with much less incest.

Graphic content aside, it’s the underlying concept behind “Westworld” that makes it such an intriguing show. That same concept also has even greater implications for what the future may hold in terms of immersive entertainment, managing artificial intelligence, and how we treat sex robots. For once, I’m not going to focus entirely on the sex robots, since I give that subject plenty of attention.

The appeal of “Westworld,” as both a concept and a show, is built around a company called Delos Inc., which offers its high-paying customers a chance to immerse themselves in a unique experience. For a while, they get to leave civilization, modernity, and all its associated infrastructure behind and live in rugged, lawless world of the old west.

It’s not some movie where they just get to see images of scenery. It’s not some virtual reality that just makes them feel like they’re there, either. It’s a fully realized artificial world, complete with intelligent androids that have the look, feel, and presence of real people. Sure, some still act as sex robots, but that appeal goes far beyond that.

This is a world where you can live a different life, experience in a different time, and explore a world that no longer exists. You don’t watch it. You don’t listen to it. You don’t follow along through the eyes of a protagonist. You are the protagonist. You actually get to live out a real fantasy where the participants aren’t just role playing. They’re sophisticated androids that really believe they are what they are.

Now, the operation and function of those androids has been a major source of conflict within the show. As the show has progressed, controlling these androids and seeing them develop a sense of self has made for great drama. I would argue it’s one of the most engaging aspects of the show. It creates powerful moments that reflect real existential issues with respect to artificial intelligence, some of which I’ve contemplated.

While those issues are profound, in and of themselves, I find myself more interested in how “Westworld” may reflect the evolution of entertainment itself. Look past the issue with managing intelligent androids for a moment and think about the business Delos Inc. is employing here.

On paper, it’s not just brilliant in terms of potential profitability. It may very well embody the future of entertainment. Take a moment to contemplate how the entertainment industry has evolved over the past 30 years. We’ve gone from analog to digital, standard definition to high definition, and now high definition to 4k.

I’m still old enough to remember the lousy picture quality of TV shows, the pre-IMAX movie theater experience, and theme parks with less-than-polished exhibits. I still vividly remember going to see “Men in Black” in a theater that was crowded, dirty, and cramped. It was fun, but not that immersive.

Over time, the general trend of entertainment, both with movies and with TV shows, has been to make it more interactive. Movies have done that with the rise of 3D movies. TV shows have done that through things like live-tweeting. Video games, especially, have become much more immersive, both through virtual reality and through online interaction.

This trend reflects the understanding from producers and consumers alike that the most powerful form of entertainment is the kind that offers the most immersion. A game on your smartphone is fun and all, but it’s just data on a screen. It’s not going to engage too many senses.

The same goes for virtual reality, which is basically just putting that same screen over your eyes and bombarding you with sound to make you feel like you’re somewhere you’re not. It also doesn’t change the fact that you don’t have to move your body, exert yourself, or engage in the kind of activity that would lead you to believe that the experience is real. Granted, the brain can be fooled, but only to a point.

What “Westworld” does is logical in terms of crafting an experience that makes people feel like it’s truly real. The customers of Delos Inc. aren’t just observing or following along. They’re actually engaging with this fantasy world. It’s not on a screen. It’s not being projected into their brains. It’s real and they get to be part of it.

That world can literally be anything they Delos Inc. wants it to be. With their resources and their army of life-like androids, they can create all kinds of worlds for customers to explore. These worlds don’t have to be confined by the laws of modern civilization, current social norms, or even notions of reality.

Perhaps they can create an apocalyptic world where participants can kill zombies and live the lives of rag-tag survivors, like those of “The Walking Dead.”

Perhaps they can create a medieval world in the mold of “Game of Thrones” where participants can live the lives of brave knights, lecherous kings, or privileged queens.

Perhaps, if the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to grow, there can be a world where people either get to interact with the Avengers or even get to be the Avengers. As a comic fan, I would definitely pay for that experience. I would be shocked if Disney isn’t working on something like this now, as we speak.

It doesn’t even have to involve an elaborate fantasy world either. Perhaps there’s a world where participants can live the lives of rock stars in 70s and 80s, complete with cocaine, groupies, and massive concerts where they’re the stars.

In theory, there’s no limit to the kinds of worlds a company like Delos Inc. can create. The old wast in “Westworld” is just one of them. The key is making the world perfectly immersive, but still safe to the point where the costumers aren’t ever hurt and face no repercussions for what happens during the experience.

However, it’s in that key safeguard in which the implications of “Westworld” get more distressing. It even plays out a few times in the show. In this immersive world of the old west, participants can carry out acts that would be wrong, immoral, or downright abhorrent in the real world.

The androids in “Westworld” may be more intelligent than the average exhibit at Disney World, but they’re still just robots playing a role. If a participant kills, rapes, or tortures one of them, there’s no repercussion. The android can just be cleaned up, fixed, and reloaded with a new program like it never happened.

It’s that kind of moral void, so to speak, that may make this brand of entertainment questionable. Say there’s someone willing to pay a lot of money to a company like Delos Inc. to create a world where they could go on a killing spree, murdering and raping as much as they want. This person is a law-biding citizen who has never acted on any violent impulses. Would the company be unethical in accommodating that fantasy?

There may be plenty of other distressing requests. Maybe someone wants a world where they can live the life of an 19th century slave-owner because they want to abuse slaves. Maybe someone wants a world where they’re the Nazis and they get to commit any number of unspeakable atrocities.

Remember, what they do in this world isn’t done to real people. They’re just paying for an experience. It’s not like the kind they would get in “Total Recall” where they only get memories of an experience. In a world like that of “Westworld,” they actually interact with that world. They make choices and do things, but no matter what they do, there’s no consequence or repercussion.

It raises many disturbing questions that are impossible to answer now. “Westworld” attempts to answer some of them, but there are plenty more that are simply beyond the scope of the show. It may do a commendable job focusing on what happens when intelligent robots start to get a will of their own, but it doesn’t do much to explore the implications that this form of entertainment inspires.

It’s going to be quite a while before we have the technology that we see in “Westworld,” but even if the human race progresses to a point where people and society are free from most conflict, there will be a need for entertainment. The form that entertainment takes may just reveal more about us than we care to know.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, human nature, sex in society, Sexy Future, Thought Experiment, War on Boredom