Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sheer ridiculousness

It has come to Pretty Lady's attention that Interfering Persons wish, interferingly, to BAN, that is, to make ILLEGAL, a certain video game that, to Pretty Lady's highly inexperienced eye, looks like a great deal of good clean fun.

Like Holden Caulfield, Jimmy Hopkins, the game's blank-faced teenage antihero, is a mess of internal impulses. He's a bad kid. Your job, unexpectedly, is to help him do good. In a typical early mission, for instance, Algernon, one of the neediest nerds at school, has been set upon by a gaggle of bullies. Rotund, whiny and afflicted with an overactive bladder, Algernon is the archetypal outcast. You've got to escort Algie to the bathroom before he wets himself, fending off all the bullies who want to harm him along the way. If you get the fat kid safely to the john, you'll gain some respect among the nerds and your standing in school will climb.

Does this sound like a task one might find in a game that critics have taken to calling a "Columbine simulator"? "Bully" was released to the public on Oct. 17, but it's been the subject of raging debate for more than a year now. The debate illustrates the precarious political and cultural position that the video game industry finds itself in. A bipartisan gang of politicians (from Hillary Clinton on the left to Sam Brownback on the right), school officials, child-rearing experts, and family-values types blame games for inducing all manner of delinquent, antisocial and dangerous behavior in children. It's an old claim, and there remains scant scientific proof for it -- but that seems to matter little in the fight over "Bully."

Pretty Lady is disgusted.

She can attest, from personal experience, that the thing MOST likely to cause disaffected, alienated, nerdy high-school students to suddenly Snap and pull a Columbine on their unsuspecting peers, would be to take away their last shred of deeply satisfying escapist fantasy. Have these self-righteous, interfering, Mommy-knows-best Senators never read 'Harriet the Spy'? Do they not recall the precise moment when Harriet, beleaguered, ostracized, beset with betrayal and abandonment on every side, crosses the line and becomes Mean? When she trips Pinky Whitehead, chops off Laura's hair, throws a pencil at Beth Ellen and tells Rachel her father doesn't love her? When she, in short, starts behaving like a sociopath with Nothing Left To Lose?

It was when they took away her notebook.

Yes, friends, this was the heinous atrocity that pushed Harriet over the edge. She withstood every trauma that went before--the departure of her eccentric governess, the exposure of her innermost secrets to the hoi polloi, the subsequent hostility of her peers--through all this, she remained stoic, stalwart, hermetic. But when the Evil Authority removed her Notebook, her self-created universe, her confidante, the repository of her vast creative spirit, they removed Harriet's soul. And Harriet turned upon this cruel indifferent world with righteous vengeance.

Pretty Lady herself, though not nearly so brilliant as Harriet, utilized a similar mechanism to navigate the shoals of a hostile pubescent universe. She camped out in the library, reading Penrod. Also the complete works of--well, come to think, she started at 'Aiken' and proceeded through "McKinley" and wound up with "Tarkington." Some of it was classic, some of it was crap, all of it was preferable to the ocean of blandness and indifference where she was marooned. Even now, in times of extreme stress, she heads for the nearest library, finds a secluded corner, and does not emerge for four hours or so.

But just because she read, obsessively, of dragonslayers, and wizards, and orphans, and vagabonds, and reprobates, and heartless flirts, does not mean that she went forth into the world to slay dragons, create orphans, seduce thousands, and vanquish the oppressor. No, she may have gone forth with a dreamy, knowing smirk upon her lips; she may have gazed thoughtfully upon her vapid cohorts and Imagined Things, but she kept those imaginings strictly to herself. She was not pushed to the wall, like Harriet; she was allowed to drift through her days, safely anaesthetized with her fictive drug of choice. And a good thing, too.

Pretty Lady suspects that this entire video-game-banning hooplah is a giant Red Herring for something else; she suspects that these nefarious politicians are trying hard to Prove Something. What they are trying to prove is anybody's guess; what is certain is that these persons have no recollection of ever being children. They seem to regard young people as dangerously suggestible beasts that must be herded together, isolated, restrained, beaten and suppressed for their own good, until they grow up into Responsible Citizens. They must never be allowed to let off steam, or indulge their imaginations; evidently these politicians do not credit the youth of today with enough intelligence to distinguish between fact and fantasy.


Desert Cat said...

Why, that makes me so angry I'm gonna fire up Unreal Tournament 2004 and slaughter a few thousand aliens with my Flak Cannon, until the announcer declares me to be GODLIKE!!!!

Seriously though, it's about sublimation, not acting out. No different in that respect than most sports. And serves a similar positive function for society in general.

I feel sorry for this generation of kids.

Anonymous said...

DC, watch out for _eZs_yert, he'll frag your ass but good.

PL--If I had gone to school in the current age, I would have been incarcerated several times over. Not only did my notebooks contain the horrible, lovingly-described desecratory acts I wished to see enacted upon the suffering flesh of my asshat classmates, but most of my creative-writing assignments did, as well. I clearly remember, in 7th grade, turning in a short story for English in which we had to describe our twenty-year reunions. In mine, I came in with a beautifully-maintained Kalashnikov and shot up the disco ball, made everybody sit in a big circle and sing "Kum Bay Ya" until their throats bled, and then killed them one by one. It was like 30 notebook pages long, and I got an A. Mostly, I think, because I consistently spelled "eviscerated" correctly at age 12.
If I had been constantly censured and had my "escape hatch" blocked off by asshats who thought they knew what was best for me (the way everything else in the world was, dammit!!), then I certainly would have done much more damage to either myself or the general populace. We should *all* be grateful that my teachers, on the whole, had enough experience with adolescents to leave well enough alone.

Pretty Lady said...

Gracious, Mitzibel, we have established in the past that the Young Pretty Lady might have been Mitzibel Lite; conversely, that if one had concentrated Essence of Pretty Lady, and decanted it into a rebellious young lady with garish hair, we would arrive at Mitzibel.

Pretty Lady's adolescent, prize-winning piece of fiction was a Saki rip-off involving a large party, a fire alarm, and Ex-Lax in the fondue. Veiled. Tame. But, in its own way, packing a quiet punch of sublimated hostility.