Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Archive for July 2007

Bad girls in bloom

The Internet is buzzing about bad girls today, specifically about this review from Erika Schickel, reviewing Ellen Sussman’s anthology “Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave.”

Her opening paragraph is a masterpiece, so I will boldly waste some space here and quote it entirely:

The bad-girl racket ain’t what it used to be; time was, bad girls had sass and smarts and originality. Lately it’s been taken over by celebrities and heiresses given to sloppy behavior. Ellen Sussman’s anthology “Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave” reminds us that bad girlery is so much more than sloppy behavior and wardrobe malfunctions — it’s a calling. It’s the call to self, mixed in with the call of the wild. Anybody can get a DUI, but a real “bad girl” is a creature of passion and conviction, simmering rage and acute horniness, frailty and fearlessness.

Obviously Sussman’s collection is about a different kind of bad girl, the literary bad girl, a creature almost lost in this age of vodka and peroxide.

My favorite example is Joyce Maynard. Made famous by her 10-month affair with J.D. Salinger, Maynard proudly served as muse to the author, who seduced her with a series of letters in 1972.

Maynard put those letters up for auction in 1999, citing financial trouble. This action, seen as a crass violation of a private man, earned Maynard outrage in the press and the contempt of her peers.

Brooke Allen said she wanted revenge. Dominated and bullied by Salinger in her youth, she struck back in the most effective way she could.

A clever author could spin this as empowering, and I think that’s what Sussman has done, celebrating “bad girl” behavior as a kind of liberation.

It’s hard to see the liberation angle when you’re watching Lohan pass out in the back of an SUV or surfing pictures of Britney caught without her underwear.

Sussman’s book reminds us there are other kinds of bad girls in the world, and some of them might be worth listening to.

And as for Maynard, well, I think her only crime was being ahead of her time. Emotional exhibitionism is not new, but the Internet has taken it to new heights.

With her blog, and her memior, and her graphic descriptions of sexual and medical experiences, Joyce Maynard is not merely “Salinger’s Girlfriend” — she’s a living advertisement for Livejournal.Com.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 11, 2007 at 12:12

Posted in Culture

Star Wars invasion at the Rose Parade

Here's one for the Star Wars fans.

A brief insight into what it might be like to be George Lucas. You've got all the money in the world, built on the goodwill of millions of fans worldwide, and the service of rabid fans who would do darn near anything for you. He's almost a cult leader at this point.

So, if you had that kind of power, what would you do? How about a full-on Star Wars extravaganza for the Rose Parade? George put all his resources into a series of floats, put a marching band in Imperial uniforms, and flew in members of the 501st Stormtrooper Legion to march with the parade.

The best part of this is watching the announcers stumble over Star Wars terms and Internet slang in a vain attempt to be hip. “The onlines and the blogs” indeed. Please folks, if you're over 40, don't try to use Internet slang. You're just going to embarrass yourself.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 11, 2007 at 10:01

Posted in Movies

Duff: Violent video games too hot for Britain

Duff: Violent video games too hot for Britain

Have you ever wanted to hack someone up with an ax? Or bludgeon them to death with a sledgehammer? Well, now you can.

Rockstar Games has made a game called Manhunt 2. Gamers who’ve had their fill of fantasy and science fiction can step into the shoes of a mass-murdering psychopath and wreak havoc across a virtual landscape.

Manhunt 2 has just been banned in Britain, and the British Board of Film Classification’s statement on the matter is a masterpiece of modern English.

BBFC director David Cooke said, “Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in a game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed and encouraged.”

I am generally against censorship, but Cooke’s justification is so eloquent, it almost won me over.

If you’ve never heard of Rockstar Games, you may have heard of its previous products: a little something called Grand Theft Auto, a video game series in which you steal cars, kill cops and recharge your game stats by having sex with prostitutes.

It’s tough to make excuses for games like this, but if free speech was easy, we wouldn’t need laws for it. I have to go back to my constant theme of freedom vs. responsibility. The digital world is granting us all kinds of new freedom, and increased levels of freedom require a heightened sense of personal responsibility. We have to take extraordinary steps to protect our kids, and we have to take extraordinary steps to protect ourselves, as we face the temptations of anonymity and the spectre of game addiction.

A number of online game retailers said they would refuse to sell Manhunt 2, even if it was legal to sell in Britain.

I’m not going to make a slippery slope argument; I’m just going to ask the questions. Should adults have the freedom to play whatever games they want? Should adults be forced to live in a childproof society?

American consumers face a choice now. We can be grownups and take responsibility for our own choices, or we can turn it over to the government and let Uncle Sam make children of us all.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 6, 2007 at 14:58

Posted in Columns, Games