“Gamer” or “Because, Apparently, My Prof & I Have No Overlap in Taste”

I’m going to very quickly try to make three points about the film Gamer (2009), a near future, soft sci-fi, action flick starring Gerald Butler. It’s not a good movie.

On that point, I agree with Sara, but not for all of the same reasons. Where Sara focuses a lot on the stereotypes, violence, misogyny, and immaturity of the film (and all of these elements are certainly present and worthy of analysis), my issues stemmed more from the structure and storytelling aspects of the film that make it difficult for me to take it seriously. The worst example, and Gamer is not alone in this respect, is the ending, which features (as a function of Clarke’s Third Law) a magical battle of wills where the protagonist overcomes the villain and the latter’s fortress crumbles, leading to a happy ending. We’re talking about a multi-billion dollar corporation that is supposed to be controlled by a single dude?

I’m to assume that there was no chain of command in this company? That the bad guy being exposed gives the protagonist the right within the law to kill him, and everyone else who worked for him is totally fine with that? A group of employees (who, admittedly might have been mind-controlled prior to the villain’s defeat, though the film never conveys this) literally just walk away at the end. No concern for their jobs, no one excited that they might get a de facto field promotion, they just walk away. One of them even congratulates the protagonist! As far as we know, the games are still going, because all the public knows is that the bad guy is a bad guy, but is that enough to change the public’s love affair with these games? On top of that, the film explicitly makes the point that one of the games in particular provides all of the funding for the prison industrial complex and implicitly implies that the games make up a huge part of the economy. If I’m to assume that the games just stopped, as seems to be the implication—since two of their characters get to just walk away scot free without fulfilling their obligations—then there’s very likely an economic collapse. To say nothing of all of (thousands? Millions?) of people who are now unemployed. Did I miss a thing? Was there a final news report from Shawn and Jules about how everything’s cool now? Killing Bowser and destroying his castle does not automatically make the Mushroom Kingdom into a safe place.

The very foundation of the tech is inconsistent and vague as well. Why would the killers in Slayer be given any more control over their actions then the avatars in Society (aside from providing the film with an excuse to allow Kable to escape)? Angie (Kable’s wife and a woman so necessary to the plot that none of the other post discussing this film in our class seem to remember her name) is completely unable to speak or move on her own while in the control of her user, while Kable “makes the decision to pull the trigger” and can even converse with his user? Hell, why did the resistance group let Kable go out to save his wife without arranging a getaway? For that matter, how is there no security stopping Kable from waltzing into the Society field of play? Why does Castle think we care about super realistic video porn when HE LITEREALLY CREATED A SYSTEM THAT RENDERS SUCH TECHNOLOGY REDUNDANT?

I guess I’m trying to say that I don’t like the film. It really doesn’t make sense and Michael C. Hall chews so much scenery that he comes off like a Bill Hader SNL character.

Noah approaches (or maybe you could say “makes,” but I’m trying to do a thing here) a point that I wanted to discuss when he brings up Mr. Bungles and wage slavery. I want to expand from the rape aspect a bit, though. In those events, and in Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts, and in Gamer, we have instances of someone using a networked technology to appropriate someone else’s person, though with varying degrees of relationship to the MeatSpace. Gamer uses literal human bodies to accomplish this, leading to MeatSpace ramifications for those in the unfortunate position of having to work these positions. They have their bodies controlled by an outside force and must engage in acts that they wouldn’t otherwise. The Sluts divorces things slightly from MeatSpace in that, from the average user’s perspective, the names and lies conjured up on the network are only thought to correspond with the people they think they do. That is to say, Zack posting as Brian is using that avatar in the same way as Simon shooting (or, rather, aiming, because that makes more sense) as Kable; though, in the former’s case, Brian isn’t necessarily connected anymore to how he’s being controlled. Further, the fake reviews posted about the central figures of Brad, Brian, and others, are in the same way stealing the agency from those people, forcing their persona into a position that it wouldn’t have normally. (This is, of course, so long as you assume that anything that we’re told happened in the world of the book actually happened in the world of the book.) The only difference in this case is that the version of the person (at this point simply a character) that is co-opted exists only on the network. Presumably. The case of Mr. Bungles makes most explicit the ways in which these various levels of “reality” are corrupted and transformed by the network, in that the people violated there feel real pain at their violation. Perhaps the workers in Gamer’s Society rationalize their experiences by not accepting them as their own experiences. Perhaps they reject what others make them do as not the real them. In that way, it further deconstructs the ideas of what is “reality” and what is “representation.” This is not the point I wished to make, but I’ve written myself out of remembering what it was. That’s “soft theory” for you.

It seems that the very casual anonymity that certain networks provide (And I don’t necessarily disagree with Bersani that this factor is beneficial and necessary. Can I say “necessary” more?) tends to be both their great freedom and joy, as well as their great danger. Of course this isn’t a new idea, especially in this course. But there seems to be some assumption of power between the members of a network, that I’m having trouble articulating in real world terms, because I’m not sure I completely believe it. (Feel free to comment and tell me that this paragraph makes no sense.) Yes, people who promote unsafe, anonymous sex are villains and being able to have a relationship without responsibility can be a comfort. Yes, our networks can offer freeing connections (there’s an oxymoron) that allow us to feel more honest and anonymity is not always necessarily a good thing. Yes, a person can compare two things that imply a false dichotomy and not have meant to imply that false dichotomy.

Anyway, Gamer had some okay ideas, though I don’t think it was particularly thoughtful or unique. I can see why it bombed.



4 thoughts on ““Gamer” or “Because, Apparently, My Prof & I Have No Overlap in Taste””

  1. I feel like your argument about the fallacies and plot holes in Gamer is the half of the argument I didn’t quite get to in my simmering crankiness and I agree with you whole-heartedly.
    Because there’s still the issue of the chips. How do they remove them? If the members of Humanz were the only people who had reason and motive to devise a way to remove the chips- a very long process that has to be personally coded to each individual’s DNA- how in the hell did they remove the chips when there was only one Humanz member left and she had to go into hiding? Did people just opt not to get them removed? Is this the set-up premise for a sequel? Gamer 2: The Game Isn’t Over And You Thought It Was Over, But It Wasn’t So Haha?

    1. Exactly. From a logical standpoint, everything kind of just falls apart. And because these points don’t hold up, it makes it hard for me to consider the “bad politics” of the movie as being purposeful satire. I mean, there’s still the point that the sole surviving member of Humanz (the woman, BTW) is never presented in film as being one of the members of the team to develop or use the particular tech that nullifies the mind-control machines. The film makers don’t seem self-aware enough for me to seriously consider the film’s negative portrayals as satire.

  2. There are plot holes abound throughout the film. For all its drawbacks i still think that we can take something away from the film. Massive corporations are becoming the de facto agents of control in the world. People are becoming more and more bound and constrained in the day to day lives by the use of their devices. At the same time i say this we can also get back to the arguments of whether or not Gamer is aware of what its doing. We could revisit questions of authenticity.

  3. Of course! We can always draw something from any work. The Birth of a Nation is a film that seems to have deliberately “bad politics,” and people have taught it for years. Star Wars is full of plot holes, but remains as a cultural touchstone (for some reason). I think I keep coming back to the fact that It’s difficult to make a definitive statement about Gamer because I don’t trust it. I could talk about how the film Dude Where’s My Car has something to say about gender and age relations, but I wouldn’t write a paper on it (on purpose). It is somehow comforting, though, that some of the very things that I notice that I dislike are the things and that make it hard for me to seriously consider the film are the same as the things Shaviro is pointing out as being significant. At least the editing was notable, for instance.

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