Saturday, November 14, 2009

Someone's got to be the villain

Today in the news:
The Russians are angry. Apparently, they did not like how the controversial airport massacre level in Activision's blockbuster game [Modern Warfare 2] was named the "No Russian" mission. To express their anger, they have ordered the recall of all the console versions of Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, and PC) from their store shelves. The said level has got the Russian gaming public in an uproar, along with a number of their politicians. They raised protest over how the Russian armed forces were depicted as a bunch of terrorists who came and invaded the United States, and putting up statues of dead terrorists all over Washington D.C.
This kind of thing happens all the time and it's always the USA taking the blame for casting someone else as the villain, whether in a movie, a video game, a book, or something else. It's always some kind of veiled insult, some grand statement about the political situation, or a campaign to erode public opinion and poison minds.

But for every action blockbuster with a Russian villain, how many are there with an American villain? For every time the Russian government is behind attacks on civilians, how many times is the American government attacking its own people for shadowy purposes? And if it's not the American government, it's an American greedy businessman, or a cabal of dirty cops, or a rogue mass media mogul, or something else. There's not a single part of our own culture we're not eager to press into service as the villain, whether misguided but well-intended, truly malevolent, or somewhere in between. Heck, even when the villains are outsiders, there's usually someone inside, some seemingly loyal American in a position of trust, working with them.

And given how much we love ourselves, the Russians should probably take it as a compliment when they get to be the villains again. Okay, I'm being glib, but seriously, how exactly is it poisoning anyone's minds against the Russians that on one day they're mowing Russians down with bullets, and on the next, they're doing the same to Americans, or aliens, or whatever happens to be in the crosshairs in that particular game?

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