On my recent trip to Ogden, Utah, I treated the family to a trip to the movies to see Ready Player One. We enjoyed the movie but I was curious about how much it deviated from the book because experience has taught me that movie makers take extreme liberties with their depictions of books and other source material.
The basic plot of the movie is that the future is a miserable, dystopian place to live so people spend as much time as they can in a virtual world. You can be anyone or anything in this world. People navigate thru the world as avatars. You can be a Star Wars Storm Trooper, a World of Warcraft character, Iron Man, or anything else. The only stipulation is if you die in the virtual world then you lose all your stuff that you have accumulated and must begin again. The inventor of this virtual world created a treasure quest that if completed would allow the winner to own the virtual world. Think-winner of contest owns Internet and all its content-and you get an idea of the prize.
I often read articles on a website affiliated with the SyFy Channel (formerly SciFi Channel)—even though we are cable cutters and I haven’t watched their programming in many years. This website has changed names several times over the years most recently changing from Blastr.com to SyFy.com. It is owned by NBCUniversal Media, LLC whose parent company is Comcast. So when I read content on this website I know two things, first that the person writing an article is getting paid for their contributions and secondly that they represent the company for which they work—at least to some extent.
I found only one review of the movie on their website. I thought I would be getting a perspective from someone who would critique the movie either in comparison to the book upon which it was based or at least in terms of how well Steven Spielberg did in making the movie.
If someone wanted to be critical of the movie—irrespective of the storyline in the book—they could complain on three points:
• The movie is a typical hero journey movie, average or misfit young person discovers an ability or aptitude as he begins a quest, gets discouraged along the way and overcomes adversity to succeed
• Corporations (and governments) are always the bad guys
• Hero falls in love with girl that doesn’t like him at the beginning but their relationship helps him to prevail
I began reading the review and it was clear that it went off the rails very early and into an alternate reality.
You’ll see He-Man running into battle alongside Catwoman, and Harley Quinn hanging out in a dance club in The Oasis, the virtual world where gamers intermingle. But these aren’t the characters you know and love. Within the movie, these are the chosen avatars of anonymous gamers around the world. Their cameos tell us nothing new about He-Man or Harley, as they are in no way bound to behave as they would in canon.
Why does the reviewer expect avatars to behave as they would “in canon” meaning in comic book character. Which canon is this reviewer talking about? The one where Superman marries Louis Lane or the one where he marries Lana Lang? I found a website listing 18 different women that had a love interest in Superman and this is just one comic book character out of thousands. Thanks to J.J. Abrams, what is canon in Star Wars or Star Trek anymore? It is ludicrous that the reviewer expect that avatars must only behave as they do “in character”.
Reluctantly, the reviewer later concedes:
But its use in Ready Player One doesn’t tell us much about The Oasis, except that someone somewhere likes He-Man.
Yeah, this is why it’s an avatar.
Lest you think this dense person admits that an avatar is an avatar, the author then starts a rant about the Iron Giant. Why, because the Iron Giant shoots a bad guy and that is out of character for him to behave like that. Seriously.
A big element of promoting Ready Player One has been showing its inclusion of the Iron Giant, the beloved robot at the heart of the adored 1999 animated feature. In his own movie, the Iron Giant’s defining moment is when he declares, “I am not a gun.”… He is a hero who refused to be a weapon but still saved the day.
In Ready Player One, the Iron Giant is an avatar of top-notch gamer Aech. Despite the fact that the titular character’s entire arc in The Iron Giant was about how he chose not to be the weapon, Ready Player One only uses him as a giant gun in its climactic battle. Some are already venting their frustrations on Twitter about this misuse of the definitely anti-gun character. But this isn’t even the only assault on Iron Giant fans that this movie has in store. Because when Ready Player One does decide to be true to this character, it’s to kill him.
Ok, so despite admitting that the Iron Giant is an avatar and not the character from the children’s movie, the author of this review has a tantrum about the giant shooting his gun—in self-defense I might add. All I know at this point is how much this person hates the Second Amendment but never worry because she is just getting warmed-up.
Hubris is defined as: excessive pride or self-confidence.
synonyms: arrogance · conceit · conceitedness · haughtiness · pride · vanity · self-importance · self-conceit · pomposity · superciliousness · feeling of superiority · hauteur · uppitiness · big-headedness
Now we get to the real core of the reviewer’s complaints against the movie; she hates it because the movie doesn’t bend over shamelessly to validate her lifestyle. Since when does the rest of the world have an obligation to so?
A more caustic element of Ready Player One is the way it uses allusions as a litmus test of cool. In one scene, Parzival readies for a virtual date with Art3mis, and decides he’ll wear a suit from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. On one level, it’s supposed to show her he’s cool enough to know this cult classic. But, he tells his confidante Aech, it’s also meant to see if Art3mis will get it. What’s implied here: is she a real fan, or some Fake Geek Girl? Of course, Art3mis—the manic pixel dream girl that she is—recognizes it and thinks he’s super cool, because Ready Player One is nothing if not a fantasy for straight-fanboys who dream of hot gamer chicks who’ll get all their references to obscure (or not that obscure) sci-fi. But that’s not the end of this tedious testing thread.
The story of Ready Player One’s hero Wade Watts suggests there is one right way to fan. Notably, the one who figures out this one true path is a straight, white, cisgender fanboy —which suggests that to be a “Real Fan,” you must like things on the terms of dominant (and often exclusionary) fanboy culture. Spielberg could have opened up things if the characters of color or women took a stronger role in the film. But despite the heroics of the other members of the High Five, they are ultimately sidelined as sidekicks to Wade. Alternately, Spielberg could have explored new pathways into the familiar characters he folds in by using familiar avatars to explore elements of fanfiction, a sphere of fandom that’s often more female and LGBTQA+ friendly.
Ready Player One feels like Spielberg dumped out a collective toy box, but wasn’t interested in playing with its incredible contents. It’s a wasted opportunity, and worse yet a lazy exploitation of geek culture that promotes its more toxic elements of sexism, self-righteousness, and fan-versus-fan hostility. What could have been an inclusive celebration is instead determined to divide us.
For those that haven’t seen the movie, it features kids and adults of a variety of races and genders but because the author can find nothing blatantly homosexual promoting in the film, her conclusion is that it is a dud and “wasted opportunity”.
Sorry babe but neither Steven Spielberg nor any of the rest of us need to conform to your views or values. The world at large does not exist to validate your life choices, this is hubris.
Folks if this article had appeared on the Huffington Post or some other website I would just ignore it but since it is on a site paid for by one of the biggest media companies in the world I think it deserves a rebuke.
Ready Player One is a fun romp and great entertainment for the whole family.
Oh, the ridiculous review quoted above can be found here:
Link: How Ready Player One fails geek culture