5/21/2012

Spotlight - "Huh, never thought of it like that."


Earlier today I read a blog post by sci fi author John Scalzi (Old Man’s War, Zoe’s Tale) wherein he compared “straight white male privilege”—i.e. the social advantages straight white males receive from being straight, white and male in Western society—to the lowest difficulty setting in a video game. Speaking as not only a straight white male but a gamer as well, I felt the comparison was spot on. Purely in terms of content, Scalzi didn’t really say anything new or that I didn’t already agree with, but I thought his actual rhetorical approach was utterly fascinating.

Every so often I stumble across an opinionated piece such as this one that’s able to phrase an oft-repeated argument in a new and surprisingly intuitive fashion that hammers the point home better than a straight take (“this is right/wrong because…”) ever could. I call it the “Huh, never thought of it like that” Effect. As someone who enjoys a good opinion piece and good writing even more, it’s as refreshing as a chilly can of Coke on a blazing hot day.


So this week, instead of me holding sway on some comparatively petty subject like who wrote the best Punisher comics (Jason Aaron, by the way), I’m going to post links to a bunch of similarly interesting and neatly recontextualized arguments. Not for the purpose of changing anyone’s opinion, mind you (in fact, there’s one piece at the bottom I steadfastly disagree with). I just feel these pieces are fascinating enough to be worth sharing.


“How The Karate Kid Ruined the Modern World”—David Wong is one of my favourite writers at the moment, authoring one of the scariest and funniest books I’ve ever read, John Dies at the End (pre-order the sequel here) as well as a multitude of insightful columns at Cracked.com. In the piece I linked here, Wong explains how the montage sequence in The Karate Kid (and by extension every montage sequence ever) has significantly and negatively impacted the amount of work people are willing to do to accomplish a goal.


“If Tiger Wood’s Apology Was Honest” and “Ben Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl Media Day: Translated!”—These two are by another Cracked columnist, the wonderfully awkward and analytically nerdy Dan O’Brien. DOB occasionally deconstructs an issue or movie he has a bone to pick with by venturing inside it and assuming the voice of the central figure or a made-up ancillary character. The former piece reveals how utterly ridiculous the media blow-up over Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal was. The latter, on a somewhat darker note, hammers home how our society is way, way too willing to forgive bad people from time to time based on how much they entertain us.


“Addictions and the Human Toll”—Not an article,  per se—though there’s a nice little info dump in the corresponding news post—but a comic, in this case an update of chainsawsuit by Kris Straub. At first glance it seems Kris is just taking the time to explain the emotional realities of sex addiction, until you read over it a couple of times, glance at the search tags and realize SPOILER ALERT                        he’s actually calling out Ryan Sohmer and Lar  deSouza’s webcomic Least I Could Do for glorifying unhealthy sexual behaviour and attitudes.


Literally Everything Fred Clark Has Written About Left Behind Ever—For the last few years, blogger and Evangelical Christian Fred Clark has been painstakingly deconstructing the Rapture-centric book series Left Behind one chapter at a time. In these breakdowns, Clark reveals not only how bad these books are on a literary level, but how the authors are advocating an especially poisonous concept of Christianity, one that celebrates selfishness, self-righteousness and basically being a psychopath. Enlightening reading regardless of your faith or lack thereof.


“April 2006 Message from Dan”—While Dan Simmons is one of the best horror and sci fi authors of our time and rightfully critically acclaimed, he’s also unfortunately overlooked. Seriously, check out Song of Kali and The Terror. He’s also posted some interesting and contentious pieces to his blog, chief among them this speculative short story, in which he expounds about the dangers of Sharia Law and what he perceives (at least then) to be the growing influence of Islam. That article I said I completely disagreed with? Yeah, this is the one. It’s almost certainly an overreaction and, in hindsight of everything that’s gone down in the last six years, absolutely ridiculous, but it’s a thought provoking piece of rhetoric nonetheless, even if the thought in question might be “Wait, really?” Also check out his follow-up.


And those are my contributions. If you’ve happened across articles that portray a certain argument or issue in a counter-intuitive fashion, feel free to post it in the comments. I might update this entry on occasion to include pieces linked to below or ones I’ve stumbled across on my own time.

1 comment:

thejosefkstories.com said...

The Dan Simmons article is so difficult to take. Like you, The Terror and Song of Kali are among my favorite novels (as well as the Hollow Man), but I have a very difficult time separating art from artist. It's hard to think of him this way, and it's precisely the reason I haven't thought of reading his "Flashback"; I understand it wears similar conservative prejudices on it's sleeves.