In Which I Am Schooled

[Warning: I'm not going to talk about gaming at all in this post. If you aren't interested in art and culture in general, drive on. I'll have a gaming post up soon.]

Specifically by Rita / Karaya / Jaqueline Heat. She said, in response to my offhand jibe at Death Metal…

Easy there, slugger. Let’s not turn into the very people we’re trying to admonish. Some of the best, most supportive people I know happen to be death metal heads. I myself keep a few death metal favorites on my iPod. That Cannibal Crap guy speaks only for himself.

Then, in a later comment, she mentioned this song – We Will Rise, by Arch Enemy

The sum total of my experience with Death Metal consists of two or three songs on Rock Band III and this. The songs on Rock Band III gave me the following impression: Fantastic chops, not much musicality. A deliberate pose of ugliness and transgression. Deliberate distortion of vocal sound to the point where it doesn’t really sound human. I presume it is meant to be heard as demonic, but maybe that’s a holdover from the days of Black Sabbath?

The above track is better. The chops seem to serve a musical idea, which is linked to an idea in the lyrics. Transgression is definitely a tool in Arch Enemy’s arsenal, and an important one.

I am the enemy
I am the antidote
Watch me closely
I will stand up now

So I see the attraction of this art that someone who is a member of a marginalized group might feel.

So, when I said, of Cannibal Corpse, “What do you expect from a Death Metal head?” I was thinking of the transgressive pose that seems a defining feature of Death Metal. But here’s the thing: The “transgression” in his rant is of the most superficial and banal sort. The guy’s handle is “Cannibal Corpse” for pete’s sake. If I saw someone in an MMO named “Cannibal Corpse”, I would think, “Wow, that guy has no imagination at all, and is desperate to impress everyone with how badass he is.”

And the sentiments expressed in the video – that the Alliance is weak and foolsh – is likewise squarely in the mainstream, and uses a mainstream mode of expression – taken to the extreme. It was so far taken to the extreme, I read it as satire.

I don’t know that I’ll have any DM on my iPod going forward, but I’d like to revise my comment:

Instead of “What do you expect from a Death Metal head?” I emend that comment to “What do you expect from someone who calls himself ‘Cannibal Corpse’?”

Stand Up and Be Counted

Blizzard, I expect better of you. You are the company that challenged the great gamer/nerd prejudice that orcs are bad. To you, orcs were kind of cool. And then undead and trolls, too. But, apparently, not gay people.

Well, I’m sure you’re happy to have gay people work for you and play your games. I bet you’re a pretty progressive employer.

However, at the end of the latest Blizzcon, you showed a video featuring George “Corspeater” Fisher, from Cannibal Corpse talking about his love of the Horde, and also his hatred of the Alliance, which was described using homophobic language. If you follow this link, you will find a version of the video shown. If you watch it, be warned, it’s so very, very NSFW.

What did you expect from a Death Metal head? It’s pretty clearly meant to be a joke, just way, way too far over the top. But some people aren’t going to be able to take it that way. There are lots of instances of that, and I’ve been on the other side, attempting a joke that others found hurtful.

And George clearly ascribes to the idea that if he doesn’t use the word “fuck” or a derived form twice in a sentence, he wasn’t being “authentic” or something. He’s clearly of the “don’t use a normal word when I can say something offensive” school of thought.

The video was bleeped out, but they showed it anyway. Does that make sense to you? How was this decision made? Let’s offend over half of your audience? I can appreciate how someone just thought it was funny, and kind of mocking. There’s a thread of self-mockery in George’s tone, it seems to me.

But would someone who has been beaten for being gay hear that? Or someone who has been humiliated repeatedly for being not quite “manly” enough?

I’m not sure Blizzard has made an official response yet. It seems to me the Blizzard is a fairly progressive employer and fosters a gay-positive workplace. But WoW players, and particularly raiders, use some of the most vulgar language out there, including homophobic slurs. So, will they affirm their own values when doing so might upset some of their best customers?

I expect them to stand up for what they pretty clearly believe in.