Posts Tagged ‘Villains’

Real Video Game Villains: Jack Thompson

November 2, 2020

To me, “activist” usually denotes fighting for the powerless and being the voice of the voiceless. In that sense, Thompson was not an activist. He was the unhinged voice of the Christian Right and a lawyer (the latter I will not immediately hold against him). He first came to some prominence by crusading against Rap music. He fought for censorship in the now-infamous case against 2 Live Crew. Bolstered by his perceived success, he turned toward violence in video games.

He went hard against Grand Theft Auto 3, creating a huge fervor that caused my mom to make me return the game to Blockbuster. He said that the game was far too violent and that kids would be influenced to commit acts of violence. However, the game’s title was Grand Theft Auto so what did he expect. While violence is prevalent and rewarded in-game, characters who engage in violence are quickly punished.

He also railed against the game Manhunt (by Rockstar, the same publisher as GTA3). In Manhunt, you play as an ordinary person stuck in a twisted reality game show where a death row prisoner is offered his life and freedom if he can kill all of the other contestants (Running Man style). The game is designed to look and feel dirty as you murder people in horrible ways while trying to remain stealthy. The game is written to put the player in a huge gray area where you are forced to kill or die. You are not a hero.

The third major game he targeted was Bully (again developed by Rockstar). In Bully, you play as a young kid freshly arrived in a boarding school who must contend with the cliques in school often with violence and manipulation. The game plays a lot like GTA 3 with plenty of lewd and violent behavior. However, nobody has a gun and you more often use your fists, rubber bands, and stink bombs instead.

Jack Thompson made a lot of the same leaps of logic that other proponents of censorship go with. If a school shooter had a copy of one of these games, the games were the problem. He didn’t think about all of the people who played these games who did not engage in actual acts of violence. He was convinced that, as a born again Christian, he had to be the moral authority and save children from themselves. This probably comes from a belief that morality is an external thing gifted to humanity by God instead of something that is inherent or logical. In the case of Manhunt, he rose to the occasion because of an erroneous news report that a copy of the game was present in a criminal’s home.

The thing these people do not get is that most humans are fairly stable. Most people know the difference between fiction and real life. They know that many things that happen in video games are not acceptable to do in the real world. We would have way more problems if most of us did not have that solid line between fact and fiction. People would have been stomping on turtles in the Eighties.

Thompson created a lot of fire and fury in the 90s and 00s but it eventually died down as people started to look more at the actual causes of violence. Thompson eventually overstayed his welcome in the courts and was disbarred in Florida and quietly rode off into the sunset in disgrace. He was rightfully ridiculed and the games industry and games journalism came together to deal with him. He will be remembered as a lunatic but sadly probably made a lot of money with his fear-mongering activity.

Real Video Game Villains: Joe Lieberman

September 14, 2020

Back in 1993, Senator Joe Lieberman got a bug up his butt about video games. What apparently happened was that his Chief of Staff, Bill Andresen, was approached by his son to buy a copy of Mortal Kombat. Andresen was appalled by the violence he saw in the game and ran to his boss to put a stop to it. Lieberman had already taken note of a moral panic about video games based on a game called Night Trap. The bottom line is that gun violence had skyrocketed in the United States and politicians were panicking. They could have admitted that the problem was complicated and systemic and worked toward a solution that could have saved the lives of so many people. They could have even enacted some short term fixes by curtailing the NRA and enacting common-sense gun control. No! Video games, rap music, and television were the problem! Lieberman called a congressional hearing.

If you watch footage from this hearing, you can see that nobody involved had ever really played video games or if they had, it was not for over a decade. Everybody mentions Pac-Man or Pong and cannot seem to mention specifics of what they are objecting to. Instead, they pull out mothers near tears or old white men and have them say what a shame it is these games are being sold to children. They fail to mention that it is parents buying games for their kids because most kids do not have the pocket money. One mother holds up a video game box and says that it is more confusing than reading the ingredients on store-bought food. Let us pause and look at the covers of the two aforementioned games.

Night Trap is a fairly innocuous name although it does sound vaguely sinister like the title of a Stephen King short story. The cover shows a screaming blonde teen which is a bit of a red flag. (Hollywood teen which means she’s probably twenty). Behind her is something but we do know that it is reaching for her and that it has red, pointy eyes which even Scooby-Doo viewers know is a villain trait. To top it off, there is a trio of armed soldiers off to the side. Without knowing anything about the game, I would hope that most sane people would pause before giving it to a kid.

The Mortal Kombat box art is rather simple and there are no actual visual red flags. A dragon emblem does not immediately shout at parents not to buy it for kids. Although, the name “Mortal Kombat” kind of describes a game where people might do combat to the death. The back of the box definitely describes a martial arts tournament and depicts some of said kombat. It is not exactly rocket science. If you just pay a little attention to what you put your kids in front of, you might just be alright.

Lieberman’s hearings eventually resulted in a bill being put forward to create a video game rating system. The video game industry saw the writing on the wall and they created their own rating system the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) which still exists today. They rate everything either Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone above 10 (umm), Teens, Mature, and Adults Only.

The bargain kept the government’s hands off of video games and they turned their attention elsewhere. It did not stop the moral panic because nothing stops dumb people panicking over the wrong things without doing their research.

I leave you with the goofiness of Night Trap.

It’s basically a bad b-movie

Top 11 Favorite Disney Villains Pt. 1

September 22, 2018

Top 11

Obviously, I am adding a SPOILER WARNING here but for eleven movies that you should have seen by now. There are still a few Disney animated films that I have not seen but these are my favorite based on how important I think they are but mostly how much I enjoyed them. Some, like the Evil Queen and Malificent, have become more iconic to me in later materials but this is based solely on their appearances in Disney films.

11 Syndrome (The Incredibles 2004)

Syndrome did not start out as a villain. He used to just be Buddy Pine, a boy who was a huge fan of Mr. Incredible. He geeked out over his favorite superhero but his fandom started to become unhealthy when he started to take it farther. He tried to convince Mr. Incredible to accept him as a sidekick and in the process, endangers himself, others, and causes trouble for Mr. Incredible. As a result, Incredible gets frustrated and has Buddy taken away from the police and rejects him. As a result, Buddy grows resentful and bitter and changes into the super villain Syndrome. Since he could not become a hero, he decides to kill all heroes so that he can finally be the only hero. Whether intentionally or not, Syndrome represents the worst parts of fandom. First, he becomes such a fan that he tries to insert himself in Mr. Incredible’s life and career. He is rightly rejected because his sudden appearance causes complications. Second, he becomes bitter by being rejected instead of just going off and doing his own thing. He could have forged himself as an impressive hero and earned respect as Mr. Incredible’s peer eventually. Third, he grows to hate the thing he loved because it is not how he envisioned it. He is played with annoying perfection by Jason Lee as a sociopathic, toxic young man.


10 Ernesto de La Cruz (Coco 2017)

Ernesto was a famous musician in Mexico who became an Elvis-level celebrity, with elaborate stage shows, costumes, and backup singers. He died in a stage accident and he is still mourned and practically worshiped at least by the people of his hometown of St. Cecilia and probably the rest of Mexico. However, like a lot of celebrities, the public does not know the whole story. In truth, Ernesto does have a lot of talent for performing but had little imagination. He dreamed to become a celebrity for the fame and fortune and not at all for the love of music. Fortunately for him, he was able to convince his friend Hector to join him on the road to stardom. Hector was truly gifted and was able to write many beautiful and popular songs. When a homesick Hector wanted to go back home, Ernesto killed him and took his songbook for his own. This is especially despicable because, if Ernesto asked, Hector might have given him permission to play his songs as Hector had given up on being a star. In the afterlife, Ernesto remains a big celebrity but he still only plays the songs Hector wrote. When he meets Miguel, Hector’s great-great-grandson, he sees another Hector he can exploit. However, when Miguel proves as difficult as his ancestor, he tries to take him out too. Ernesto is arrogant and uncaring but deep inside he is also afraid of his secret getting out, desperate for fame, and jealous of men like Hector. He is willing to ruin or kill anybody who opposes him and thinks nothing of exploiting the people around him. He is played by Benjamin Bratt with Antonio Sol doing the singing. His performances makes him smarmy but it makes you believe that he could convince others to love him.


9 Scar (Lion King 1994)

Scar is the brother to Mufasa, the ruler of the Pride Lands which is an area around Pride Rock which is somewhere in the African wilderness. They both belong to a pride of lions who have passed down the title of ‘king’ from father to son for generations. In the event that his brother were to die, he would become king but that was changed when Mufasa and He observed the birth and early childhood of his brother’s son Simba with obvious displeasure. Scar always wanted to be king and resented that his brother became the monarch of the area. He was forced to resort to the lesser role of adviser to the king. This is a role he is obviously not satisfied with. He befriends some of the scavengers of the land and stages a coup by murdering his brother and convincing his nephew that it was his fault. In Simba’s absence, Scar rules over the Pride Lands as a cruel dictator instead of the benevolent monarch that his brother was. Scar is largely based on Claudius from the play Hamlet who envied his brother’s life and killed him and took it over. Scar is much like any bad bureaucrat who believes they know what is best but do not actually have any good ideas. Scar and his cronies over hunt the Pride Lands and the environment suffers and a once thriving area suffers. Scar holds no illusions that he is what the Pride Lands need. He is gleeful about being cruel to get what he wants and uses fear to control his subjects. Jeremy Irons is really good at being unapologetically evil and slimy which became kind of a theme for his career around that time.

8 Gaston (Beauty and the Beast 1991)

Gaston is the most handsome alpha male in the small town where the heroine Belle lives with her father. It is never explicitly mentioned but he is a town hunter who provides meat for the town. As a result, he seems to be idle often and he also seems to be independently wealthy as well. He is accompanied by his assistant LeFou who he treats horribly. However, he seems to treat everybody in town pretty horribly.  Gaston gets it into his head that he is the town’s most eligible bachelor, an idea that is reinforced as many women in town pursue him and flirt with him. As the most eligible bachelor, he believes that he deserves Belle as his wife. To get this clear, he believes that he <deserves> Belle as an award for being the most handsome and the strongest guy in town like she is some award. When Belle repeatedly turns him down, he cannot accept it and remains in denial as if it was some sort of game she is playing. Instead, she is not interested because Gaston is a pig and has no chemistry with her because she is a dreamer and an intellectual and he is shallow. When Gaston finds out that Belle might be falling for somebody else, somebody ‘unattractive’, he flips out and lets toxic masculinity completely take over. He tries to blackmail her into marrying him but when that does not work, he decides to kill her potential suitor. When he is defeated in combat, he is granted mercy but he still refuses to believe that he has lost his chance at Belle and attacks only to be accidentally killed by the man he was trying to kill. He is the patriarchy made flesh and he dies, still raging about not being the winner for the first time in his life. He would have lived if he had just accepted that one girl in town did not want to kiss him.


7 Judge Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996)

Frollo is a judge and minister of justice in Paris, France. He presides over the Palace of Justice and he uses them to both keep the peace and further his personal agenda. Like a lot of the most misguided religious people, Frollo is prejudiced. He believes in a ‘natural order’ but that natural order involves Christianity and nothing else. If you are not Christian, then you are guilty in the eyes of Judge Claude Frollo. Specifically, he has a vendetta against gypsies because they are heathens in his eyes. They flaunt their non-Christian lifestyle and seem to make a mockery of society. In the beginning of the movie, he accidentally kills a gypsy woman and is shamed into adopting her baby. However, her baby grows up with a hunchback and a disfigured face so Frollo treats him like an abomination. Years later and his goal has become to discover the Court of Miracles, the Gypsy sanctuary, and destroy it and murder them all. Yes, this is a Disney film. When a Gypsy girl, Esmerelda, defies him in the middle of the city, it enrages him and his twisted mind fixates on her. He hates what she is but he finds that he also lusts after her and racism and bullshit guilt clash in his head. He pursues her across the city terrorizing, torturing, or murdering anybody who he thinks might be hiding her. When he is questioned by his captain of the guard, he sentences him to death for insubordination. When Esmerelda refuses to sleep with him, he tries to kill her too. When all of this fails, he tries to kill the young man who is supposed to be his son. He only dies because his religious mania makes him see the face of Satan which frightens him into death by falling. He is an unstable man who got further destabilized and twisted by his religion and it ultimately killed him.


6 Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog 2009)

Dr. Facilier is a fortune teller and general voodoo practitioner for hire (also known as a bokor) on the streets of New Orleans. Bokor are usually supposed to serve the loa (or voodoo spirits) with ‘both hands’ meaning they work for good and for evil. However, Facilier apparently was somehow connected with dark loa who are much more proficient in dark magic. So, Facilier became accustomed to being in control of dark powers through his ‘friends from the other side’. Of course, he also seems to be indebted to these loa and trusting in them ultimately proves to be his undoing. While these dark powers may have influenced him into a wicked life, it seems that he did not start off so good anyway. He mentions being descended from royalty but he has obviously fallen on hard times as he tries to swindle tourists and locals on the streets of New Orleans. He has formed a grudge against the wealthy of the Big Easy and actively works against them, seeming to believe he is owed wealth and power. This is a direct contrast with Tiana who works hard for everything she has and is not looking for handouts. He built an infamous reputation around town and is left with the desperate and the ignorant to prey on. He shows that he is very willing to curse or kill to get what he wants and what he wants is to rule New Orleans. Facilier cannot grant himself boons through his magic and so he manipulates others by giving them gifts whether they want them or not. He does not care who gets hurt as long as he satisfies his own desires and pays his debt to his dark masters.


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