Critical Media Analysis WORKSHOP–next week
Plan for the Day
- Tournament Brackets
- Men’s Champions…
- Women’s Champions…
- The great Stephen Hawking died today on Pi Day
- Critical Media Analysis
- Head back to Ursula K, Le Guin
- Discuss Ready Player One
Ready Player One
Let’s see how ready you are. I have no notes, but I have a pen, paper, and ears, so let’s make up some of that lack of participation.
Ready Player One is a contemporary science fiction novel that offers an exciting narrative, funny situations, and more 1980s pop culture references than you can imagine (especially video games). As a product of our American culture–popular and hegemonic–the novel is a classic David vs Goliath story where the little guy wins the prize(s): money, the princess, and a universe for his entourage.
One can read the novel as an adventure, but we can also read it as representative of white male fantasy and a particularly adolescent white male fantasy. The American values of hard work (even if that hard work is playing video games over and over and over…), individualism, and patriarchy mediate this novel. The novel tells us, in the end, that a white male god (and his prophet) will prepare a life for us–one with temptation, intrigue, and danger–and reward us for following the rules.
Ready Player One reproduces our winner-take-all American value, which stems from our illusions of individualism. In video games, you can always be player one after a restart. Without the perception that we can “restart” our lives and change course, we’d wallow in defeat and self-loathing, which is anathema to white American male perceptions of masculinity. You don’t have to have the biggest muscles or look the best; you just need to master the rules and work within the boundaries of the game. When a white male god makes the rules, guess who’s most likely going to win?
The novel has a scathing anti-corporate critique, but it’s a critique of an organization and not the system. Market forces–which built Halliday’s company and universe–are never challenged, never complicated. The artificiality of the OASIS reflects the artificiality of the imagined worlds we construct. Parzival now gets to restart after winning the lottery and rule over the subjects of the OASIS. What kind of ruler will he be?
You can use your illusion – let it take you where it may
I’ve worked too hard for my illusions
Just to throw them all away
–Guns ‘n Roses “Use Your Illusion”
Personally, I liked the novel and hope to teach it for years to come.
Upcoming film version: I’m worried the film is going to accentuate the trite parts of the plot, expanding them to be more important than they should. I know it’s going to be a
You absolutely must have some kind of hard copy draft of your Critical Media Analysis to exchange with at least one other classmate. Make sure you keep up with the reading:
- Judith Butler “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory”
- Roland Barthes “Novels and Children”
Butler’s piece isn’t an easy one, but Alli is going to lead class discussion, so you’re off the hook for 20 minutes.