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The Backlash to Ready Player One Reveals the Blindspots of Entertainment Journalism

Quotes from the novel paint an obvious picture, and reveal weaknesses in pop-culture criticism.

Article by Matt Kim, .

The first trailer for Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of author Ernest Cline's Ready Player One premiered at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, and my particular part of the internet has been actively tearing down the trailer. "I knew if I didn't stop reading this bazinga-ass shit I was going to jail for murder," wrote one of the most popular Tweets to come out of the following controversy. Here's my question though: where were the warning signs?

Ready Player One Movie

As far as I knew, Ready Player One was both a well regarded and popular novel that tackled geek culture. It was good enough apparently to please both mainstream audiences and nerds alike. When Ready Player One was first published in 2011, respected culture websites like BoingBoing ran trumpeting headlines like, "Ready Player One: the best science fiction novel I've read in a decade". iO9 ran a book review under "Ready Player One is a dystopian gamer novel that's as addictive as a great game". Warner Bros, having already purchased the film rights before the book even hit stands, announced that Steven Spielberg would be directing the film adaptation with John Williams scoring the soundtrack.

For all intents and purposes, a person who's never read the novel would assume that Ready Player One must be a good book if all the Google searches bring up such luminous results. But when the first trailer dropped, suddenly the book's detractors—as if lying in wait for this very moment—came out at full force, contradicting years of Google top searches to explain "Hey, Ready Player One is actually kind of bad?"

And the "haters" ended up bringing some pretty damning evidence to prove their point: excerpts from the book itself.

"Descending the network of metal girders had always reminded me of old platform videogames like Donkey Kong or BurgerTime. I'd seized upon this idea a few years ealier when I coded my first Atari 2600 game (a gunter rite of passage, like a Jedi building his first lightsaber)."

Quotes like the one above are littered everywhere in Ready Player One, which taken out of context offer the main indictment against Cline's novel. While the novel does an adequate job of capturing one boy's loneliness and detachment to his physical world, passages like the one above are no less strained and awkward. Cline's constant cycling of 80s nerd culture isn't just immediately exhausting, it's glaringly pandering to a specific type of reader who revels in the kind of performative bullshit that forces us to ask one another what the best Star Wars movie is, or if we can recite the Konami code by heart.

The novel, for all of its breathless rundown of nerd cred, does manage to tell a story that tackles how pop-culture can provide solace for loneliness. But passages like, "After I beat Aech at three rounds of Tron: Deadly Discs, he threw down his Intellivision controller in disgust and grabbed a magazine off the floor. It was an old issue of Starlog. I recognized Rutger Hauer on the cover, in a Ladyhawke promotional photo," come at so many rapid intervals that I'm genuinely surprised how nobody thought these were red flags at the time.

My only answer is that in some way, the coronation of the novel as a "Holy Grail of Pop-Culture" (so says the debut movie trailer) was too much to ignore. Anyone keeping tabs on the book prior to its release knew that Ready Player One was the subject of an intense bidding war before inking a movie deal on the same day the publishing deal was signed. And if Ready Player One didn't already scream "I'm (nerd) culturally important!" Wil Wheaton narrated an audiobook that came out on the same day as the novel.

"When it came to my research, I never took any shortcuts. Over the past five years, I'd worked my way down the entire recommended gunter reading list. Douglas Adams. Kurt Vonnegut. Neal Stephenson. Richard K. Morgan. Stephen King. Orson Scott Card. Terry Pratchett. Terry Brooks. Bester. Bradbury, Halderman, Heinlein, Tolkein, Vance, Gibson, Gaiman, Sterling, Moorcock, Scalzi, Zelazny."

I think it speaks volumes that reviews for the novel read in that same breathless, name-dropping, wide-eyed wonder. An "A" review from AVClub (conveniently left out of the site's recent post tackling the novel's backlash) almost reads like the novel itself. "Monty Python, John Hughes, Dungeons & Dragons, WarGames, Blade Runner, Pac-Man, Rush, and infinitely more highly regarded geek cultural touchstones appear both as delightful inclusions and ingenious plot devices... The adventure comedy of Mike Judge's Idiocracy meets South Park's Imaginationland with a dash of Willy Wonka," wrote the website in 2011. "[B]e warned! If you read this book, you won't love it-you'll worship it!" chimed FantasyBookReview.co.uk.

It didn't help that negative reviews came mostly from stuffy publications like The New York Times who wrote in 2011 the thing that everybody appears to be saying in 2017, "[T]here comes a point when it's clear that Wade lacks at least one dimension, and that gaming has overwhelmed everything else about this book." At the time, I would have dismissed the New York Times' review as they typically approach pop-culture from the vantage point of stuffy academics who wouldn't "get" things. Yet it appears to me that they were one of the few publications that pegged Ready Player One correctly.

Look! It's the metal titan!

The problem with pop-culture journalism is that sometimes it's easy to get carried away in the zeitgeist, even when it's so evidently manufactured. Eventually, the fogged glasses clear, and critical thought returns. It's how overlooked bits of entertainment gain cult status decades later, or popular titles of nostalgia become less endearing in the proper light. Laura Hudson wrote in her 2015 Slate review of Cline's second book, Armada, a preview of the Ready Player One backlash in 2017, "Ready Player One was far too joyously self-absorbed in its referential excesses to step back and examine what they might mean."

Video game journalism is under that same umbrella, and Ready Player One took gamers for a spin as well. Cline was apparently invited to Oculus for talks and signings, with employees reportedly given copies of the book for inspiration. It's kind of crazy to think one of the biggest companies in video game development of the past five years looked to this book for ideas.

"Still it will be interesting to see how "Ready Player One" becomes (as is planned) a movie based on a book about songs, TV shows, games and movies," concluded The New York Times review. It reads like an admission that even negative criticism of the novel can't take away from the fact that the novel was destined for some kind of predetermined relevence. If pop-culture criticism is ever to evolve, we'll need to be able to see past the pageantry. Maybe then the nearly decade later turnaround on Ready Player One wouldn't feel like such a surprising moment of whiplash.

"But I didn't think I was going to need much help. Over the past six years, I'd watched Holy Grail exactly 157 times. I knew every word by heart."

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Comments 32

  • Avatar for John-Thacker #1 John-Thacker 3 months ago
    I find both the original hype and the backlash overdone. It was a decent first book by a new author. His writing didn't get any better, and he didn't have any more ideas worth a second book, but one hit wonders happen. The book was fun entertainment, a light read even if not an enduring classic. It's certainly not worse than spending your time on Twitter feeds, communicating in and consuming memes and reaction GIFs.Edited July 2017 by John-Thacker
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #2 UnskippableCutscene 3 months ago
    The way I've perceived the disgust seems to revolve around this self-centered masturbatory fiction that the culture we're living in should ever be considered the most important or influential culture of our times. The entire story revolves around this guy in some distant future with a studious reverence of our very recent past. Which feels, honestly, like someone is lying to make us here and now feel more important than we really are. It's a pleasurable lie, to think that the icons of my 80s youth would be important cultural age since the Renaissance; but given the existence of DVDs and the benefit of hindsight I know that the Gummi Bears don't deserve it. Nor the rest of the Disney Afternoon, nor does the NES Power Glove.

    I've said before that I appreciate when I see Nintendo make new things like Splatoon or even try experimental ideas like ARMS without the saddled baggage of their familiar bench of mascots. And the reason I feel that way is because it's kind of embarrassing to me that the cartoon heroes of my childhood, that the beats and soundtracks of my upbringing, would be foisted onto the children being born now. They deserve their own original concepts.

    There's the other factor that it's impossible for anyone, including people who want to wear their hobby as an identity the way Cline does, to be right about all these things. I'll leave the chin-stroking about whether it's unhealthy to identify through consumerism and brands to people who want to do it (I don't have a problem with the idea, but I don't want to fight people who do). But even a guy who is King Nerd enough to write a book with all these Nerdy References doesn't realize the show called "G-Force" is widely recognized as "Battle of the Planets" or even as "Gatchaman" shows the inherent flaw in writing a script like this. You can't be the world's foremost expert in everything simultaneously, and the farther you stretch yourself the more likely even casual fans of something will see where you're "frontin' it".Edited July 2017 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #3 riderkicker 3 months ago
    What separates Ready Player One from... Omeros, the Derek Walcott epic chock-full of literary allusions? Actually a lot, as each passage from RPO says a bunch of words that I as a nerd understand but there is no soul, no real meaning behind them.
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  • Avatar for Maelgrim #4 Maelgrim 3 months ago
    I loved the book when I read for the breezy silliness that it was. Being a nerd of the right vintage, I appreciated that it was aimed more or less directly at me.
    Then some friends and I listened to it on a cross-country trip. It was godawful.
    Being forced to listen to it word by word underscored that it was exceptionally obvious, poorly written, and pandering. The things that I glossed over while reading, or subtly re-wrote in my head to be slightly less terrible (read: "more in line with my own preferences") were suddenly on agonizing display. What had been a three hour read was now a twenty hour slog that we still make fun of.
    Bottom line: fun though shallow story, inexpertly expressed as a terrible book. This article nails it.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #5 DrCorndog 3 months ago
    That excerpt in the tweet...wow. I was going to proclaim this book "as bad as Twilight," but no. Twilight was (bad) juvenile fiction whose main fault is getting far more attention than it's worth. But that excerpt is truly atrocious. It's clear that RPO was only published because they knew how it could tap into nostalgia and become a cash cow, and even with that inderstanding I find it incredible that such ameteurish nonsense was ever put to print.

    @Maelgrim You and I...we will turn every avatar on this site into a classic prog rock album cover. And then, we will rule as kings!Edited July 2017 by DrCorndog
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  • Avatar for ShadowTheSecond #6 ShadowTheSecond 3 months ago
    The book--and to a lesser extent, Armada--occupy that range of a light but passingly entertaining fiction. It's fun, and it something that a fairly large group of people decide to check out. It's truly a "pop" novel, for all that entails.
    @John-Thacker
    I agree that both the hype and the hate were overblown. I'm just shocked by the amount of people I personally know (not just random tweets and editorials) that have either totally turned against the book, or have suddenly decided that they won't read it because "everyone says it's trash".
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #7 Roto13 3 months ago
    Remember nerdcore?



    There was a brief window between the moment nerd culture became mainstream and the point where random nerd references became so overdone they got obnoxious. Ready Player One was released sometime in that two month window in 2011. It has not aged well.
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  • Avatar for metal_maniac #8 metal_maniac 3 months ago
    Well, I for one really enjoyed RPO and do not feel ashamed for saying so. But then again, I also enjoy the Transformers-movies. Christ, I must be a horrible human being for liking something that was made to be easily digestible. Just like pizza, pop music, games like Uncharted and nerdy t-shirts. But then again, perhaps I'm just human.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #9 VotesForCows 3 months ago
    I've never really heard of this until this week, but it sounds completely atrocious - albeit with all excerpts taken out of the context of the novel.
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  • Avatar for Helios9 #10 Helios9 3 months ago
    As a non-native English speaker I have the feeling that this article was not addressed to me, nor to a mediocre book reading person (also like myself) because i haven't understood at all what the subject of this article is about. Could someone please explain to me what the drama is? The book/movie is bad or the perception of people from the trailer or...what?
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  • Avatar for Spectreman #11 Spectreman 3 months ago
    In 2011 be nerd or geek was at your peak. Big bang theory and early super hero movies has turned nerd things mainstream. So the media praised anything. Now the main problem is not that the book is bad, but the mindset is to bash nerd culture, no matter what.
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  • Avatar for vonjay22 #12 vonjay22 3 months ago
    @UnskippableCutscene

    Great comment and I absolutely agree.

    This is all self-reflexive postmodern entertainment. It's the sorcerer's stone of entertainment formula. Studios and now authors are seeing the future gains from chaperoning the ghost of everyone's childhood.

    I too wonder what happened to the innovation.

    I cannot imagine what shows and other media will be about in the future, a continuous cycle of calling upon the past? For what reason other than financial gain?

    And I believe that Peter Thiel captures our modern awareness and use of formula with his quote from Zero to One,"There are two forms of progress, Horizontal and Vertical. Horizontal progress is when someone creates the typewriter, and other companies make 100 different typewriters. Vertical progress is when someone invents the typewriter, and someone else invents the word processor.

    He later describes Japanese affinity for western culture as horizontal progress, and he describes this type of progress as globalization.

    Postmodern art does have a few gems in Bansky, Breaking Bad, Pulp Fiction. But at times it is absolutely mind numbing, like when postmodern artists like to paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa, a lot like what JJ Abrams did with TFA.

    Finally, I think often about the saturation dilemma. What would happen if innovation was the norm? What would stand out? For instance, does Chris Nolan stand out because of his genius, or does he stand out because he's the only one trying to create new material?Edited July 2017 by vonjay22
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  • Avatar for vonjay22 #13 vonjay22 3 months ago
    Though It was a struggle to get through Ready Player One I must admit that there were a few memorable emotional payoffs that made the grind worth it.

    The extensive information drops riddled with nostalgia would have been 'ok i guess' if they were used in the books first chapter. And then if he just quickly identified a Delorean or any other 80's symbol in later chapters.

    But what was most surprising to me was the trailer for the film. I never thought that Spielberg would elect for the Zack Snyder look. I was extremely unimpressed with Spielberg's presentation of the source material.

    But I will still watch the film. Spielberg has surprised me more than once, like in Minority Report. But then there's BFG, WTF?
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #14 CK20XX 3 months ago
    Sounds kinda like the Sonic Adventure of books. When it was first released, everyone went, "This is SO cool!" A few years later though, everyone is going, "This is SO cheesy!"
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #15 Kuni-Nino 3 months ago
    @vonjay22 Gotta be honest, I've watched the trailer twice and there's nothing Snyder about it. I'm a huge fan of the guy and there's nothing in RPO that indicates that Spielberg is borrowing from Zack's cinematic language. I felt a lot of it looked like a Spielberg movie especially in the chase bits with the DeLorean and some shots that were ripped straight from A.I.

    Could you mean the extensive use of CGI, perhaps? Because if that's so, Snyder isn't the only one who uses CGI to such an extent. Plenty of directors have been doing that since LotR and WETA made it possible.

    Anyways, back on topic. I think I agree with the fundamental premise of this article even if it comes off like a hater flipping off a middle finger to the establishment. The NYT is a respected institution with incredible writers. Calling them stuffy when they ended up being progenitors of the book's backlash seems kinda wrong. If they're able to dissect a book in a moment when everyone is too busy heaping praise, maybe they should be shown a little more respect?

    Small writing issues aside, I think pop culture criticism has a long way to go if it remains in its tendency to bask in the moment. Because we live in an age of immediacy thanks to twitter, Reddit me Facebook, the only interesting reactions are the ones specifically made off the cuff and the ones that contain the most snark. The chase for the perfect tweet has infected most online discussions with nuance and thought taking a seat by the wayside.

    It sucks. Because this scenario with RPO is also happening with other entertainment such as Game of Thrones, Bioshock Infinite and others: there's the praise and then the backlash. Sometimes it's in reverse with things greeted with hatred only to find love and admiration years later like a Blade Runner or Moby Dick.

    Pop-Culture, much like pop-music, is ephemeral. Its relevance is fleeting which is why I don't put much stock into what a review says sometimes. Like Bob Mackey used to say, a review is a snapshot of a specific moment taken at a specific time. With time always in flux and perspectives always changing, a single review can't be taken as gospel. It's only until after a few years when things have coalesced that one can garner a determining view of a single product.

    If pop culture criticism could take its time and think things through, maybe it would have more value. But who wants to wait a few years for a review on the latest Game of Thrones episode? That's where this all falls apart and we realize that opinions are like assholes.

    Woe is me and us.
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  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #16 ojinnvoltz 3 months ago
    Well, my distaste of nostalgia driven pop culture feels validated. And isn't that what criticism all about? Feeling validated in your opinions? ;) I used to listen to a podcast -- hosted by nerds of a certain age -- that hyped Ready Player One to no end. They even got Ernie Cline on the show who mentioned that he bought a DeLorean. And I knew that I'd never read it. Not because I'm a literary snob, though I have read works of Oulipo and picked up on the recurring theme of fraud in William Gaddis' work (anybody can make impenetrable references!), but RPO seemed like enjoyment very much hinges on you giving a shit about the exact same stuff Cline gives a shit about. I lost my point. I started writing this and then went to make food. But I had a line in my head along the lines of "why surround yourself in a Bastille references." I haven't been graded on words for almost a decade! Why do I bother with a thought out collection of them when there's no stakes?
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  • Avatar for Ralek #17 Ralek 3 months ago
    "The problem with pop-culture journalism is that sometimes it's easy to get carried away in the zeitgeist, even when it's so evidently manufactured. Eventually, the fogged glasses clear, and critical thought returns."

    Close, but not quite.

    Let's see here, ah ... "it's glaringly pandering to a specific type of reader who revels in the kind of performative bullshit that forces us to ask one another what the best Star Wars movie is"

    I think it's important to ask this question in particular. Why? Because there are still people who think the prequel trilogy are good movies. Yes, I know, but hear me out: It's not about whether you like the movies or not, it's about taking a good, hard, critical (semi-) professional look at Lucas' FILMMAKING - you know, (the script,) the camera work, the use of light, sound and music, the editing, the directions given to the actor trying their best in front of a green or blue screen (or lack there of) and so on and so forth . If you do THAT, there is really very LITTLE room for any argument that esp. the Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are anything but mediocre to shoddy movies, plagued by mediocre to shoddy filmmaking. Hell, even the CGI is bad in the first two films, something that here, now, today no one can deny for it is self-evident upon observation.

    Anyways, my larger point is this: Most reviews for 'pop-culture' products, be it games, movies, tv-shows or to a lesser degree ... books, are just opinion pieces, where someone gives a basic, more or less spoilerish abstact of the product at hand, plus his or her personal likes and dislikes. I think it's actually the worst for movie reviews, where filmmaking often times does not seem to matter AT ALL anymore, but it also definitely impacts game and book reviews to a certain extent.

    Maybe this kind of stuff is too ... stuffy for today's Twitter-generation to bother reading through it all, quite possibly, maybe too many of today's author simply don't know the first thing themselves about how to craft a movie, film or book, and are thus simply unable to criticise just these aspects of craftmanship, or maybe we are indeed in an age of pure subjectivity, where one can look at the Phantom Menance and Attack of the Clones without being bothered by the fact that great actors like Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson spend OVER 2 HOURS using virtually the same expression and tone of voice through, proving themselves almost completely unable to convey any kind of emotion, without having to spell every single one of them out with endless onslaughts of 'emotional exposition'.

    Just FYI, I'm a political scientist. I was supposed to like a movie like Phantom Menace, that is all about trade negotiations, senate proceedings, votes of no confidence, peace treaties and ... yada yada. I didn't like it though, not one bit. It was just a bunch of people, sitting or walking around, doing the talk... oh my the endless, utterly pointless talk. C-SPAN has more excitement on an average day (certainly these days) than the Phantom Menace.

    I mean, what the hell are we even talking about here. Tell us what the game/movie/book or show is all about, tell us about well it was crafted and then tell us what you liked about it, what you didn't like about it ... and yes, WHY, tell us WHY. It's really not THAT hard.

    By all means dear authors, share your opinions, but please, for the love of it, DON'T stop there.
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  • Avatar for vonjay22 #18 vonjay22 3 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino


    First, let me say what I love.

    Man of Steel was ridiculously amazing. The movie wasn't perfect, but I left the theater satisfied.

    Watchmen is probably his most polished in terms of the rhetoric matching the visuals.

    And Speaking of rhetoric, I have a huge problem with Snyder's Modes of Persuasion. Especially when they don't translate well visually.

    Snyder doesn't understand a color palette's relationship with human emotions, nor does he understand human emotion on it's own at all.

    Blues are our most comfortable colors because they are the colours we see the most, and they are accompanied by seeing things with ease.

    Imagine if James Cameron painted his avatars red, and the planet a fireball, with a permanent sunset, it wouldn't feel like a spectacle or an exotic destination that we'd like to visit. Now plug superman into the real Pandora...

    Snyder doesn't understand emotions, especially in bvs, note the immense opportunities he had to zero in on coherent modes of persuasion by simplifying the emotions he wanted his audience to feel.

    He knows the ethos of his characters but is seemingly unaware of their modern day film ethos, he looks for rare variants in character ethics throughout the history of the comics to suit his need to be dark, or to even hold a "didn't you know" contrarian attitude when someone asks, Batman with a gun? Luthor with hair? A superman who doesn't save? "Yes!" It's on page so and so written some years afterr the great depression.

    In bvs there's tension, confusion, horror, sympathy, awkwardness, annoyance, sadness, fatigue... really, it's pathos is all over the place.

    He could have used Batman as a vehicle for horror which was done absolutely and amazingly well in the "Diablo" scene when the slaves didn't want to be freed because the bat devil was lurking in and on the ceiling of the premises. They were afraid of what might happen, he'd kill them, perhaps, afraid that he'd hurt, judge and brand them, what an amazing sequence. He could have stretched that feeling through out the entire movie and resolved the sensation with believable examples and feelings of understanding(how we quiet our fears), or even avoid resolving the horror at all letting superman's arc somehow bleed into his.

    He could have used superman as a vessel of hope compounded by spectacle(blues, bright environments, breath taking and inventive action sequences, and not him just standing in front of a screen with a rocket in his hands) and a liberating resolve. Freeing him of the false perception others gave him. By doing what he does best, but doing it even better. Where he uses his hologram father's last words "save them all," practically, innovatively, and actually saves everyone!

    This would come after a fight in the beginning where many people die, and even the audience would say things like, How would he have saved them anyway, to be only shown why he's called super man by having him actually save everyone in the final sequence.

    But the characters' most recent film ethic brings about confusion.

    The lex Luther portrayal brings about annoyance and awkwardness.

    The color palette brings about unease and bombardment.

    The permanent sunsets and 7 day a week- Friday night gala parties usher in a visually somber and monotonous tone.

    His cgi and cgi subject movements aren't sober enough to avoid crossing the live action cartoon barrier.

    And there's no spice to superman, he's like a dry and Unseasoned chicken wing, he's just a vehicle for the blue cheese.

    None of the emotions the audience is directed to feel are resolved. Too many emotions to be resolved.

    Now to spielberg, unless he has an amazing story to buffer the oversaturation of cgi, I doubt that I'd be tied to my seat in the theater. This, besides the floating squid like platforms in the beginning of the trailer, look nothing like the Speilberg I know. And I may be wrong, I was wrong about Minority Report, but not about BFG. His CGI in Jurassic Park was topical, it was the icing on the cake needed to avoid the live action cartoon barrier.Edited July 2017 by vonjay22
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #19 donkeyintheforest 3 months ago
    It's like Snowcrash for the Hunger Games crowd. I have some friends who enjoyed it a ton. I think that's great!

    The movie will bring lots of IP together for a fun jaunt directed by Spielberg, who has never failed to make a good sci-fi movie. His weakest, probably Minority Report, is still fun!

    I'm absolutely tired of everyone getting caught up in the hordes judging movies months or year before they come out based on rumors, trailers, and a bunch of angry nerds. It's ridiculous. F- the social media mobs.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #20 Kuni-Nino 3 months ago
    @vonjay22 The fact that you can write so much about BvS only further confirms its artistic brilliance to me. You read what you want to into its images. BvS is a moody, introspective contemplation on the nature of superheroes. It says more about us, the audience, than it does about those characters and that's why in a few years people will be hailing it as a misunderstood masterpiece.

    Thanks for taking the time to write that. It couldn't have been easy trying to detail all those thoughts.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #21 Monkey-Tamer 3 months ago
    In 2011 being a nerd was in? Why didn't I get the memo? I could have stopped hiding my comics and video games when I brought girls to my place, or better yet, showed it off.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #22 donkeyintheforest 3 months ago
    @metal_maniac I'm totally down to get some pizza and go see the movie haha
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  • Avatar for ericspratling56 #23 ericspratling56 3 months ago
    A big part of this is that between 2011 and now, it became acceptable to bash nerds again. Even (if not especially!) among people who might identify or be identified as such. "Nerds" (especially the Silicon Valley types) became an extension of "entitled wealthy white people," and targets don't get any more acceptable than that. I'm sure many would point at GamerGate as a cause of that, but while GG accelerated the process overall, you'd still have the causation backwards.

    Which is a shame, because as Matt Kim only glancingly touches on in the article, RPO really DOES have something meaty to say about both the values *and* limits of encyclopedic cultural navel-gazing. Yeah, the book has a lot of clunky and grating parts and it tries to have its cake and eat it too, but there genuinely is more going on there than the "lol it's just a bunch of geek shout-outs pandering to neckbeard loserbros!" backlash would have you think.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #24 yuberus 3 months ago
    My view remains that it's sort of a nerdy "beach read" - nothing earth-shatteringly good or deep, but an enjoyable, fluffy, sorta-trashy read. It's not particularly well-written and I'd hesitate to say i think it's actually a good book, but it was fun. As an homage to 80s storytelling and as a vehicle for so many nerd references even Family Guy is feeling embarrassed, it got the job done. Still don't think it needs a movie, and I can certainly understand the critical reviews from a while back (as well as the comments that the references were all from a very specific white male nerd perspective).
    @Monkey-Tamer The secret was just dating other nerds!
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  • Avatar for vonjay22 #25 vonjay22 3 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino

    I'm familiar with the notion that any form of art will never reveal the artist, it will only reveal critic.

    There's no way that that could have been the best representation of Batman and Superman's conflict.

    And I seriously cannot see how my critique of BVS leads to its brilliance unless you believe that brilliance means polarizing.

    All I want is innovative theater and perhaps a spectacle, I wouldn't mind something to look at. But if you're going to use cgi I believe that there's a way to do it. Even in stills BVS's most CGI'd scenes are damn there ugly compared to even the lowest levels of postmodern art.

    Bansky knows the how to say 1000 things in one frame and he rarely uses color. (He uses color for symbolism.)Edited July 2017 by vonjay22
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  • Avatar for vonjay22 #26 vonjay22 3 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino

    Also, I don't think you got what was said about the match of emotions presented in BVS.

    Nor do I think you understood what was said about the modern film ethos of the characters vs what synder has dug up out of the past.

    Bansky uses symbols in art not to redefine them, but to use them as the world understands them. That way the message is clear. He can put two Taliban Soldiers around a dead Dumbo, and we immediatley recognize what is being said, and at the same time say so much more.

    Snyder used Superman and did nothing with what we understand him to be.
    He used Batman and did nothing with what we'd recognize of him.
    Next, you can't tell me that you know exactly what that movie was about, beside what the audience already knew, two good guys having a misunderstanding. Other than that, what is there? Building being knocked down, bright lights in the dark, a being with immense power, I don't see how that is great filmmaking, all of that stuff has been done before.
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  • Avatar for Nellion #27 Nellion 3 months ago
    This is a waste of time. RPO is the equivalent of fast food. It isn't healthy, but it's easy and fast to consume and it tastes good, a guilty pleasure. Why are we trying to judge it by the standards of higher quality books? That's not what its trying to be. Just enjoy it for what it is and if not, then just move on and look for things that are tailored towards you and judge it in that realm. I'm got going to go read a Bonds book and judge it because that character is a Mary Sue.
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  • Avatar for swamped #28 swamped 3 months ago
    Hmm, I wouldn't say the criticism of RPO the book is all that new since I've been hearing this stuff in fiction circles for years, but the unreserved praise it got at launch and for the couple years after that was certainly baffling. But it parallels other properties that were popular at launch purely for centering "geek culture" whether or not there was any substance to it. I'm thinking of things like the Big Bang Theory and the Spider-Man movies. And not all those things are completely without merit, but they get overblown because of the excitement

    It will be interesting to see if these types of things keep happening now that geek culture is experiencing mainstream acceptance and participation. I fully expect in another couple years we'll be talking about how the recent Marvel movies aren't actually that good, and why did they get such good reviews at the time, etc.
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  • Avatar for Jeremynd01 #29 Jeremynd01 3 months ago
    I've lost count of how many times I've read RPO. Each time I pick it up, it was like descending into my own OASIS. By the odds, Wade Watts isn't a dark horse in the search for Halliday's eggs, he's a total non factor. But with winner take all stakes on the line and online (and the real world swirling around the bowl), I completely bought in to his total immersion. All of the content irrelevant to the plot were just part of the research.

    In the back of my mind, I knew Renaissance nerd Ernest Cline was writing his first book, from the heart. And it worked, cuz freaking Spielberg is making the movie. Ready Cline's bust for the nerd hall of fame.
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  • Avatar for sleepiest #30 sleepiest 3 months ago
    @riderkicker Out of curiosity, why did you decide to reference Omeros? I just finished Omeros a month or so ago, though I'd started not long after Walcott's death, and I didn't expect to see it in the comments section here. It's not something so numbingly referential as Ulysses; and imo I think most of it can be gotten through as it is, without worrying about referentials. I've never read RPO though (one of the few who read the Times review, apparently) so maybe the comparison is natural?
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  • Avatar for fkoff- #31 fkoff- 2 months ago
    "Yet it appears to me that they were one of the few publications that pegged Ready Player One correctly."

    So who gets to decide what the "correct" interpretation of a fiction is? Piss off.
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  • Avatar for fkoff- #32 fkoff- 2 months ago
    @UnskippableCutscene Identifying with brands is the only correct way to form an identity.
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