Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Of Dragons & Ruined Cities

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 14 Jan 2014 17:00
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All human culture is phlegm. Phlegm emitted from the throat of human beings collectively as a species. And just like phlegm, sometimes analyzing it can give you a pretty good idea of the health of the entity it came from. It's an occasional hobby of mine to examine broad trends in popular culture and try to figure out if that indicates a change in the collective mindset of the human race.

For example, for a while now I've had the theory that the moral depiction of dragons in popular fantasy gives a decent rough indicator of the global financial situation. In a boom, you see, the hoarding of gold is more likely to be considered to be a harmless eccentricity, even something desirable, and dragons are noble and nice. But in a recession, when everyone hates the people with all the money, then dragons are villains. Examples: Smaug is the archetypal asshole dragon, and The Hobbit was written in the Great Depression. The dragon on the far other end of the spectrum is Puff the Magic Dragon, and the best-known version of that by Peter Paul & Mary came out in the 60's. This was also the point when the global economy was at its strongest in the entire twentieth century because of post-war redevelopment.

And I've noticed a new trend in popular culture that I think may be worth examining. Knack brought it to light, but it's been brewing for a while. It's like I was examining a little patch of dirt and then the camera pulled back to reveal that I was standing in a giant Godzilla footprint the whole time. And the nature of the footprint was this: At some point, everyone seems to have stopped caring about collateral damage.

There are sequences where Knack has become big and is smashing buildings apart willy-nilly, when nowhere near enough time has elapsed to allow for a full evacuation of the city by the human populace. The game even makes a point of showing us people running away in fear. And yet, at the end of the game, those very same people are throwing him a sodding ticker-tape parade. I can't even remember the last time ticker-tape parades were a thing. Jack Bauer doesn't get ticker-tape parades, and he spends all his time trying to ensure that buildings DON'T get destroyed. Admittedly by sticking tin openers up people's noses.

Then there was all that business in the recent film Man of Steel wherein the big fight Superman has with his enemies deals damage to the city that must surely have gone into the billions. And to a lesser extent Superman's playmate Batman left Gotham go to the weird mask-wearing dogs in his latest big screen outing, where there were no doubt lots of off-screen deaths and property destruction that Batman invites us not to care about 'cos he was away on spine-mending holidays.

And I wonder what all of this punishment administered randomly to large swathes of population is saying about the attitudes of the human race in general. And to answer that question, we must ask what is represented by the unseen mass of uninvolved citizens and homeowners who we seem to enjoy getting victimized so much.

Perhaps one should read nothing more into this than yet another lingering symptom of 9/11, culture feels it has to manufacture disasters of ridiculous scale just because it will put up with a lot of things but cannot abide being outdone by reality.