What’s With That: Ben Spurr’s wrath, Rotten Tomatoes, and foie gras
What’s with the news: Anita Sarkeesian is causing waves in the gaming world. She is the proud recipient of a deluge of hate mail, and now a game designed by Ben Spurr allows players to digitally beat her face in.
So what’d she do? Surely something awful, like swallowing Skyrim whole or force-feeding her Xbox to a lion.
Not exactly. Anita Sarkeesian set out to raise funds via Kickstarter for her project entitled Tropes vs Women in Video Games — a project that seeks to explore the limited roles that female characters occupy in the gaming world.
What’s with us: Johnny Flores, illustrator and co-owner of Sacramento-based mobile gaming party company Event Gaming, weighed in on the value of Sarkeesian’s project and the motives behind those who so desperately hate her.
“I’ve listened to some of Anita’s videocasts before and I agree with her views about female characters in video games,” said Flores. “One of the more popular games to come out recently is Batman: Arkham City. One of the major, playable characters is Catwoman. She wears a skin-tight suit, like Batman, and she’s every bit as intelligent, insightful, skilled, and intuitive as he is. Unfortunately, the game writer and designers decided to over-emphasize her sexuality. Even when you are privy to her inner thoughts, she speaks in this over-the-top sexpot voice and walks around with her breasts spilling out. Her attack moves often involve her defeating thugs in very erotic ways, while Batman gets to just pummel the s— out of them without any sort of sexuality.”
“The gaming industry caters to a lot of males of all ages. Maybe if more men were willing to speak out against the objectification of women in these games, game designers would start making female characters that were complex and well thought out. There are very few games with a strong female character who doesn’t show off her body in an alluring way or isn’t a damsel in distress. Very few.”
When asked what he thought motivated Spurr and his army, Flores replied, “These guys are immature, pathetic, and spiteful. I don’t understand them. I don’t want to understand them. I hope if they are ever lucky enough to love a woman as an equal, that they reflect back on the way they behaved and remember that they were on the side of objectifying women, and threatened a woman who tried to shine a light on something she felt morally obligated to speak about. I hope they realize how wrong they were and just how dangerous their actions were. Maybe if that day ever comes, one of them will have the backbone to find a way to apologize to Anita.”
What’s with the news: Film-review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes was, for the first time, forced to shut down its user-generated comments after a couple of bad reviews for the film "The Dark Knight Rises" led to a slew of hate speech and death threats in the commenting section.
And while a lot of speculation, primarily taking place on Twitter, lays blame at the feet of Internet trolls, the fact remains that the act of shutting down their comment section is unprecedented for Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t Batman’s fans have day jobs?
What’s with us: Tony Sheppard is a professor of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration at Sacramento State. He has been writing film reviews for over a decade and also serves as co-director of the Sacramento Film and Music Festival. He talked cult followings in film with The Sacramento Press via email.
“The idea of a cult film has changed somewhat over time,” said Sheppard. “In the past it was more likely to be used to signify a film that had a core group of followers, often relatively small, and perhaps a film that didn’t gain much mainstream support or success. But mainstream films can also gain cult status, with a very loyal group of followers.”
“It seems fair to say that what has become known as “The Dark Knight Trilogy” has a cult-like following — but I’m not sure that it’s entirely similar, and it seems unlikely to be as long lasting … The Batman character has been around for decades and has had generations of fans … You also have a very popular cast that have followings of their own, and a director who might even be labeled as having his own cultish following. So you potentially have multiple levels of fandom involved in the outcome and a great vested interest. It’s a quasi-religious experience for some fans.”
“I’ve been posting (on Rotten Tomatoes) for over nine years, and it’s not unusual for people to track the reviews as they come in and comment on the first negative reviews for popular films,” Sheppard said in closing. “But I think there’s a bigger change that has occurred over time … What you’re seeing is this strange combination of factors that have turned films into something more like sports have traditionally been … Now if you’re a big fan of a project, it’s not just about how well it’s produced, it’s about how it stacks up against other projects measured at the box office. After all, the deep, quality dramas have their awards shows to separate out the wheat from the chaff, but the giant effect-laden comic book and action movies are rated by their fans in the box office competition — and it’s just like a sport with home teams and rivalries.”
Sheppard’s review of “The Dark Knight Rises” is up on The Sacramento Press, and readers can look forward to his full analysis on why we love our movies so much later this week.
What’s with the news: A statewide ban on foie gras, “fatty liver” in French, approved in 2004 in the state of California, finally went into effect on July 1 of this year. The ban was fueled by those questioning the ethical treatment of force-fed fowl, but many fans of the cuisine and those in the restaurant industry see things a bit differently.
On July 18 a federal judge refused a motion to temporarily stay the ban, though he set a new hearing for Aug. 29.
What’s with us: Molly Hawks is executive chef and co-owner of Hawks Restaurant in Granite Bay, where she “blends modern cuisine with locally farmed ingredients.” Prior to the ban, foie gras had been one of many popular dishes served at Hawks, and she was kind enough to share her knowledge of foie gras production and her thoughts on the ban.
“Foie gras is a long-rooted culinary tradition,” Hawks said. “Ancient Egyptians discovered that the livers of certain migratory waterfowl were distinctly better at certain times of the year — times nearing migration. In preparation for migration, ducks eat in excess to store fat in their livers and beneath their skin … With the domestication of animals, farmers have simply replicated this naturally occurring phenomenon.”
“We purchase our foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York, where the ducks are free to roam in free-feeding barns until 12 weeks of age. They are then moved to another barn where the ducks are grouped into open pens where the 18 to 21 day gavage occurs. The term gavage, French for “gorge,” refers to the hand-feeding of ducks; a feeder inserts a tube into the esophagus of each duck and funnels in a cupful of feed. The entire process is said to last approximately 30 seconds per duck. Upon receiving a lobe of Hudson Valley foie gras at the restaurant, if we notice that a lobe is imperfect in any way, that lobe can be traced back to a particular feeder … this leads me to believe that there are tight controls on the process.”
Regarding foie gras in the media, Hawks continued, “I do think there is a difference between what many perceive to be happening versus reality. Time and again we are subjected to photographs of ducks in tiny cages covered in what appears to be yellow vomit. These images do not ring true with the practices set forth by our nation’s foie gras farms. I cannot speak to the farming practices in other countries, where such photos are thought to have originated."
“When Guillermo Gonzalez of California’s Artisan Foie Gras approved the bill which led to the current foie gras ban in California, he did so because he was promised that funding would be provided for independent research to determine whether foie gras farming was humane. Guillermo was confident that the research would show that foie gras practices are indeed humane. However, after the bill was signed the research funding was pulled.
“I think the California ban has impaired the ability of California chefs to compete on a national scale,” Hawks said in closing. “We worry that California’s young talent may choose to pursue culinary careers in other states where they can learn to work with such luxuries as foie gras. In addition, it’s sad to see something with such significant culinary history just disappear.”
What do you think? I personally don’t eat the stuff — it’s too pedestrian for my "refined" starving artist palate. Yet anyone who’s driven past a certain cattle farm headed south on a certain interstate might consider — which battle ought we be fighting?
Each week "What’s With That" will find local experts from the Sacramento area to weigh in on national and international news stories. Stumble across an interesting item? Wondering, "what’s WITH that?" Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas!