The Last of Us Part II: Fathers & Daughters

Ellie playing guitar from The Last of Us Part II

Full spoilers for The Last of Us Part II follow.

I cried on Sunday evening after I finished it. I cried on Monday morning thinking about it. The Last of Us Part II was an incredible experience I devoured over its release weekend. Not many people seem to agree with me though. The internet is ablaze with complaints directed at all the main characters of the game:

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The Man Without a Team

Astrodome

I am currently an asshole, so you can only imagine how insufferable I was as a teenager and early twentysomething. I would argue with everyone about everything. Naturally, debate was my extracurricular activity of choice. When arguing with my friends and family, I would always play devil’s advocate no matter what the position.

After the 2010 World Cup, I got into soccer and wanted to pick an English Premier League team to support. My dad and granddad were both Arsenal supporters. Arsenal would have been a good choice for me. While still having the familial connection to the team, they are also historically good without being too good. I never want to be accused of jumping onto a bandwagon. Naturally, I chose Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal’s hated North London rivals, just to give my family a hard time.

Spurs have been an exciting team to keep up with. I got to watch them in all their Champions League seasons, see Gareth Bale reach his prime before leaving for Real Madrid, and watch the club segue into the Harry Kane era. But I have noticed my interest in them has waned over the years because I have no reason to keep supporting them. My family is not from North London, and I do not have any family members that support Spurs.

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Me Write Bad

Ralph Wiggum

Like every twentysomething white guy, I am an aspiring novelist. The first novel I wrote was called Mecha Americana and was about the mind-body problem, the disempowerment of middle class white men in the modern economy, and giant robots fighting each other. That book was not good. The novel I am currently working on is called Using Your Hands for Fun and Fighting and is a story about love, loss, and competitive rock paper scissors. This book may be even worse than the first.

I thought I would be really good at writing. I have no musical, artistic, or acting talent, so I assumed all my creative ability must be in writing. Plus, not to brag, but I have been using the English language for over two decades. In order for the universe to be fair and consistent, it must have given me at least some writing skill.

Now, I could blame myself for my own shortcomings, but in the words of President Trump, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” English class failed me. Students spend years of their lives discussing the symbolism in The Scarlett Letter and The Great Gatsby, but we never learn how to actually write fiction. Here’s a hint: The green light at the end of the dock in The Great Gatsby represents an unattainable dream like my hopes of becoming a novelist.

In twelfth grade, I once told my English teacher, “This class is a joke.” It turns out people do not like when you shit on the subject to which they have dedicated their entire professional lives. However, I do stand by my original assessment. If English class was effective, I would be like Ernest Hemingway, but all I have is the drinking problem.

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Infinite Jest Minus Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I am a basic white lit-bro. My favorite fiction writers are:

  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Haruki Murakami
  • David Foster Wallace

Naturally, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is my favorite novel, and I have actually finished the 1,000-page magnum opus. That novel is truly amazing but is also a struggle to get through. I would never suggest someone force themselves to read the book “because it gets good near the end”. If you made it to the ending and never enjoyed any part of Infinite Jest, you would think I played a cruel joke on you.

I want to argue why you should check out Infinite Jest without spoiling anything. What follows is an explanation of what Infinite Jest is about (at least to me) without actually covering any of the plot:

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A Defense of Christian Bale’s Batman Voice

Full spoilers for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises follow.

Christian Bale is a fantastic actor. His performance in The Fighter won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. That film is probably his greatest role, but he is great in every one of his movies. However, Bale gets a lot of criticism for his role as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. In particular, his Batman voice is cringeworthy; it is like an 8 year old pretending to be an adult.

Bale is clearly a talented actor, so why is his Batman voice so comically bad? Maybe he just cannot do a deep, aggressive voice. Regardless whether it is intentional or not though, Bale’s performance is the right acting choice, but to understand this, we have to understand which version of the character is being portrayed.

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Bojack Horseman: The Shitty Things You Did

Full spoilers for Bojack Horseman follow.

Breaking Bad gets compared to many shows: The Wire, Mad Men, The Sopranos, and other great live action television. Yet the show that it is closest to thematically is an animated one—Bojack Horseman. At the beginning of the show, Breaking Bad seems like it is going to be a story about a good man who is forced to do bad. In order to provide for his family and pay for his treatment, Walter White’s terminal lung cancer compels him to cook meth, but then creator Vince Gilligan flips this story around. Though his circumstances always give him some cover throughout the first few seasons, Walter keeps going back to the drug trade and committing evil actions. At a certain point (and this point differs between individuals), every audience member realizes that Walter is actively choosing this life because he enjoys the power and success it brings. The theme of Breaking Bad is that we are not beholden to our circumstances; morality is always an active, personal decision.

And that same theme is a critical part of Bojack Horseman. Though Bojack never reaches the same immoral depths as Walter White, he still does plenty of bad things. As the show progresses, we come to understand why Bojack is the way he is: Showbusiness has a corruptive influence. Bojack clearly has a drinking problem. His parents ruined him. The audience empathizes with Bojack and starts to excuse his bad behavior as the end result of an abusive childhood and a lonely life.

But this belief is shattered near the end of season 3. After Bojack reveals he slept with Todd’s friend, Todd bluntly cuts through all of Bojack’s bullshit: “You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing shitty things and then feel bad about yourself like that makes it okay! You need to be better…You are all the things that are wrong with you. It’s not the alcohol, or the drugs, or any of the shitty things that happened to you in your career or when you were a kid. It’s you.” For the rest of the series, a guardedness exists in Todd’s relationship with Bojack.

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Final Fantasy VII Re:Make

Full spoilers for Final Fantasy VII Remake follow.

I am a fraud. I love video games but have never played many classic titles. One such title is Final Fantasy VII. I never had an original PlayStation and going back to early 3-D graphics hurts my eyes. Plus, turn-based combat is not my cup of tea. But another reason is that I have a love-hate relationship with the Final Fantasy series.

I loved Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, but those were not core entries in the series. MMORPGs like XI and XIV get me addicted for a week or two then I quit cold turkey. I loved XV, but it is an incredibly flawed game. On the other hand, Final Fantasy XIII might be my most hated game ever.

As someone with only an Xbox 360, I was excited to play my first numbered entry in the series, but what a pile of shit that game turned out to be. The combat basically plays itself. In between battles, you walk down empty corridor after empty corridor. And when you are not playing the game, you get to hear from some of the most annoying characters ever written. Somehow Square Enix was able to churn out a boring, dry performance from one of the greatest voice actors ever, Troy Baker. I gave up on XIII after about five hours or when you are about halfway through the tutorial. If Final Fantasy XV did not have a trailer with the cover of “Stand by Me” from Florence + the Machine, I probably never would have picked up another Final Fantasy game again.

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