I was recently reading (and by reading I mean scanning the headline) of an article claiming that eventually every person divides their life into two distinct segments. The first is “youth”, the place from which goodness flows like Niagara Falls. Of course, as any person who has tried navigating the falls (in a barrel) could tell you, the beauty of the rushing crystal blue water is simply a false façade perpetrated by the river to hide the ugly truth that lies waiting underneath, a collection of horribly stubborn rocks borne with the sole purpose of destroying any would be river-barreler. Poorly spun metaphors aside, the crux of what I’m saying is that if one were really to take a hard look at memory lane it would appear more like the imagined Rockwellian dystopia of Tranquility Lane in Fallout 3 rather than the cherry topped sundae one may wish to recall. However, this is precisely why people divide their lives in the first place. At some point an advancement or debasement occurs in a person’s life that manages to turn everything that person once knew on his or her ear. Suddenly everything that has happened to the person and the world around them before the incident in question becomes “The good ol’ days” and everything that comes after this point becomes “humanity’s decent into the River Styx”. The two eras are separated only by a matter of moments, a rather thin division but then again so was the Berlin Wall, so the significance is better off left to hyperbole.
The point is that I, being one of class and distinction, have separated my life into three distinct epochs: “The good ol’ days”, “The rather not so good ol’ days” and “Hey, when did this turn into ‘A Brave New World?, um…days.” Strangely enough, these eras are not separated by White House impeachments, immoral oil-driven wars, terrorist zealotry or Lindsay Lohan but rather cartoons, video games and movies and how they combine into one malevolent force to ruin what was once pure and wonderful in my life.
When I was young and video games were still a novelty extracted from the veins of the passionate and insane instead of funded and produced by the money bags of massive corporations there was a certain childhood giddiness and anticipation that followed the announcement of characters and stories leaping the chasm between the home console and the silver screen. I watched with wide-eyed innocence as Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo searched for mushrooms and battled that strung out hippie from Apocalypse Now for evolutionary dominance, I peered in as Highlander became the god of lightning and led a ragtag group of international warriors on a quest against um…intergalactic warriors in…some kind of tournament…that was important for some reason and I gleefully applauded when Raul Julia decided to bookend his career with his artistic emulation of the Street Fight antagonist, M. Bison. In my life these movies earmark “The good ol’ days”, the days when my childhood was in full swing, when plot was ancillary and good acting wasn’t a requisite skill. However, that isn’t to say that these movies are without merit. All three of these films exist within the realm of the absurd. In their attempt to bridge the gap between film and game they walk the tightrope separating god-awful and genius and manage to emerge on the other side bruised but undoubtedly triumphant.
The first shift into the “not so good ol’ days” occurred around the time Angelina Jolie plucked the video game movie torch from Julia’s steeled grip in her attempt to bring Tomb Raider to the big screen. As the movie progressed I slunk lower in my seat and glowered at the screen as I came to realize the awful truth; gone were the days of low-budget induced absurdity, the mantle had been usurped by the malaise inducing mighty hand of low-brow special effects. The charm and wonder were absent, replaced and thrown in the dumpster behind the movie studio.
The day I woke up with the Marxist arm cocked, readying his opiate blow, all the while massaging SOMA down the throats of the unknowing masses was in 2007, at the release of the new Transformers movie. No, Transformers was not a video game turned movie but it does illustrate my point. Transformers, a favored relic from childhood, a cartoon draped lovingly in the guise of 80’s rock and cheap animation; a toy marketers strange misadventure down the rabbit hole consisting of giant alien robots continually shifting from semi-trucks and cassette players into gigantic metal behemoths and back again all in search of magical energy and the protection of the human race remained fantastically nestled in the realm of the absurd. It’s newest iteration however, replete with its face melting digitations, cookie-cutter script and pop-junkie cast pronounced with clear defamation that my most beloved childhood distraction had leapt over to the mass market and had dumped its old flame, the absurd and taken up residence in the bed of the lowest common denominator.
Media popularity is cyclical, it all comes around to where it started regardless of medium or taste. Britney Spears influenced Christina Aguilara, Paris Hilton influenced Lindsay Lohan and the current influx of poorly made movies are influencing the current crop of video games. The problem with the lowest common denominator is that for whatever the reason the product appeals to greatest amount of people and therefore grosses the most amount of money. It’s only a shame that entertainment as it is today has forced me to feel so old, so adult, that it has forsaken my childhood for someone else’s, that it has resigned me to watch as modern entertainment descends slowly into that fiery abyss. Thank you Hollywood, thank you Electronic Arts, you are the opiate so glamorized, this black eye is courtesy of you.