I'm not liking the show, however. It suffers from being on television. And by that I mean, it has phrases and exposition and characterization that exist only so the really stupid people watching won't change the channel. Example? Some scientist on the show spits out a bunch of nonsense technical speak, and the inserted dumb character on the show says, "Um, High School drop out here." I swear, that's an actual quote. It's supposed to be funny, but it really just says, "There are a lot of high school drop-outs watching without any I.Q., including the producer, who is the son of a network executive, who has final approval of the show, so could we please dumb this down for a significant portion of our audience?"
Result? About 10% of the show's dialogue is stated twice. Once for the smart people, and once for the stupid people. This is why I don't like television.
Film seems to be divided much more clearly between audiences. A film is either made by morons, or made exclusively for morons, and thus it can be avoided easily. Certain directors and actors can be found only in moron-made films, like a big sign that says, "Don't see this if you have a brain."
Alternately, there are films that clearly don't give a crap if dumb people watch. Sadly, there aren't enough of them, and every now and then a smart director will go right up their own asshole. So we can never be sure.
This all has something to say about players. The DM presents the game for the players, and so the DM is in the same position as television and film. Some of the players are smarter than others. Some of the players aren't able to communicate as easily. They find it difficult to focus their attention on a person's words. What do we do about this?
Television has long taken the attitude that shows must be reduced to the lowest common denominator, there aren't very many smart people anyway, and our biggest sponsors are those who sell to lower class, non-professional, ignorant consumers. So write off smart people and keep it simple, stupid.
Film has approached it more like a DM would if that DM were to say, "You're too stupid for this campaign, get out." Or, "You're too serious about this campaign, get out." Having observed the players, and having decided what the game shall focus on, the players who don't fit the mold are pushed out of the group by a variety of peer pressures.
But this is what we do with our friendships, isn't it. Jim doesn't like drinking at the bar? Fuck Jim. Marie doesn't like rafting? Fuck Mary. And so on.
The main problem with this is that Joe pretends to like drinking at the bar, and Marie pretends to like rafting, because if they don't pretend, they're going to spend that day alone. And no one likes to be alone. Being alone is worse than rafting or heavy drinking. And after a lifetime, both Jim and Marie have gotten good at pretending to smile and nod their heads and go through the motions, and making up excuses for why they're not smiling like, "Oh, things have been bad at work lately." Or, "I'm worried about my . . ." (insert family member, pet or material value here).
Because humans are like this, the usual result is six people on rafts drifting along a slow river and getting sunburns because ONE person really likes rafting, and knows how to manipulate the others. And each person who doesn't like it thinks they're the only one who doesn't, so that they spend the whole day being miserable and pretending with one another, never realizing that there's a consensus here they'll never identify.
The reader, I hope, sees the problem.
If you are the DM of the group, YOU are the person that really likes rafting. You love your world. And you have a lot of players who really want to role-play. Your world is what they have. They see others enjoying your world - or appearing to enjoy your world - so they cram down their own displeasure and keep playing.
Some of the people in your world probably like your world. Some, however, probably don't. And here's the thing - you won't be able to tell the difference.
Let me pull this back to film again. I've seen a lot of bad art films, awful, boring, pretentious art films, but there is something that's always true about them. People LOVE them. I've never been clear why. The people themselves never seem very deep. Many of them are vaguely artistic, but like people with their own table at a Comix Expo, they don't get formal training and they don't seem concerned about technique. Where discussing the film, they speak in vague, generalized terms, like the 'acting' or the 'presentation' or 'camera angles' and the like - things that are wholly subjective. Why one camera angle is crazily superior to another is often lost on me - not always, but often. The shot across Anne Bancroft's legs at a tiny Dustin Hoffman makes perfect sense:
|Remember, this is the woman who married Mel Brooks,|
and gave birth to the author of World War Z
The shot is obviously about lust, impotence, youth and so on. Ben in the film is a little boy. During the scene above, Ben has already slept with Mrs. Robinson several times, and he's trying to relate intellectually with her. He can't, of course, because she's smarter than he is, she's in control, she knows the effect of her sexuality and he's completely hopeless. That is why this particular shot is famous and easy to find.
Most clever camera angles, however, are really just camera angles. They barely do a good job of showing what's going on. But hell, do faux film lovers love them!
Okay, I'm off topic. I'm going up my own asshole. I'll get this back in line.
The thing about 'smart' art films, and the lovers of art films, is that they are about pretension. Not the pretence of liking film, but the pretence of liking film that is too 'smart' for stupid people. Oh, it was boring? That is because you're stupid. Oh, it seemed to lack a plot? You only thought that because you're stupid. And so on.
If you will look around at the Internet, you'll see the same attitude used to defend a lot of worlds. You think story arcs are railroading? That's because you're stupid. You think a DM shouldn't fudge the dice? That's because you're stupid. And so on.
The final pitch I am making here is for honesty. Television and movies that are clearly made for stupid people is at least honest. Television that wants to be made for smart people, but doesn't want to leave the dumb people behind, is effectively dishonest. Art films that are deliberately made to be irrational, so that a host of pretentious people can claim the importance of camera angles, are fundamentally dishonest. And thinking that everyone at your table loves your world, because they appear and play every week . . . that is your version of camera angles. You're only seeing what you want to see.
Hm. That sounded like a much better conclusion when I started out this post than it does now.
I don't want to be dishonest. That really sucked. Sometimes, you start off with the best of intentions, but it just goes . . . nowhere.
Okay. Not enjoying Agents of Shield. Watching it for the actor. Working on a section about getting to understand your players and the importance of engaging them in your game. Getting some of my thoughts onto the blog. Take it for what it was worth. I'll have something better tomorrow.