Media Analysis

Discussion in 'Fan Town' started by Aondeug, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    'kay so if anyone wants to watch the original thing, it's from about 3:20 in this video (warning: long).

    First, for people unfamiliar, the basic background the player knows at this point: Our famously spiky-haired, impractical-sword-wielding protagonist, Cloud Strife, is a former member of the Shinra Corporation's supersoldier corps, appropriately named SOLDIER. Sephiroth is the famous star war hero of that group. Cloud is childhood friends with another party member, Tifa, and when they were kids and he said he was going to join SOLDIER, she made him promise that if he became a famous hero like Sephiroth and she was in trouble, he'd come back to help her out, but modern-day Cloud is murky about remembering that and needed to have his memory jogged. Earlier, when breaking into Shinra's headquarters, the gang ran across a tank with some sort of freaky headless woman monster in it, and Cloud briefly passed out after saying it was "JENOVA." Not long after, someone cut a bloody swath through the HQ, including totaling that tank, and when I say "bloody swath" I mean you follow a huge, smeared blood trail through the offices until you find the president of Shinra sitting at his desk with a seven-foot katana stuck through him. Cloud takes one look at the sword and says Sephiroth did this. The gang wants to know what he knows, but it has to wait until they're at an inn in a village well outside the city before he has time to tell them. Cue very long segment where he explains how he was sent with Sephiroth on a mission to Cloud's hometown of Nibelheim, which ended with Sephiroth going nuts and burning down the town, and Cloud having to chase him down to a reactor in the mountains.

    Now, the Big Cloud Spoiler, which is one of the two big plot twists of the game and the one that not everyone knows by osmosis, so don't click the spoilers in this post if you don't want this 20-year-old game spoiled:
    Cloud isn't actually a member of SOLDIER. He flunked the intro exams basically for being too weak-willed and susceptible to mental influence, and was in fact an ordinary, dime-a-dozen grunt soldier. He was so ashamed that the entire time he was back in town, he refused to take off his helmet so Tifa wouldn't recognize him and he wouldn't have to explain that he didn't make it. There was a SOLDIER First Class along for the flashback events- a guy named Zack Fair who was basically a human labrador retriever with a buster sword. After the events of the flashback, Zack and Cloud got locked in a basement and experimented on for years, and while Cloud conked the hell out under the effects of what they were dosing him with pretty much immediately, Zack stayed lucid and talked to Cloud constantly. Zack broke them out while hauling Cloud like a sack of potatoes, eventually died heroically, and Cloud was left for dead because he was still comatose. When Cloud woke up, his grasp on his own identity was still nearly nonexistent, so at present his memories are soup and he's mixed up all his impressions of Zack with his own memories so he basically thinks Zack is him. Modern-day Cloud's persona as Toxic Masculinity McMercenary, Too Cool To Care About Things Or People, I'm Just In It For My Money is his somewhat addled brain going, "I'm an ex-SOLDIER 1st Class who turned mercenary. What would a supreme badass sound and act like?", and the game uses your own impressions of a Badass Mercenary, Too Cool To Care to hide the fact that he's actually an awkward, insecure dork with severe psychological problems who's playacting at being cool in plain sight.

    Tifa knows something is wrong- before the game started, she found Cloud passed out and incoherent and took him in, and since she knew him as a kid she knows he's not acting like himself and his memory is a mess. And she was there for a lot of what happened in Nibelheim, and knows the SOLDIER whose role Cloud is putting himself in as he tells the story wasn't Cloud, but that Cloud is still getting most of the rest of the details of what happened right, even though as far as she knew before, he wasn't there.

    So the Nibelheim flashback has to 1) introduce us to the main villain, 2) set up a lot of things about the world and the backstory, and 3) write around the Big Cloud Spoiler the entire way in such a way as to not give it away, but still set it up so when it happens, it's foreshadowed. And it does a really good job of that.

    The stuff that really struck me the first time, when I only knew the Big Cloud Spoiler in the absolute most vague terms, was how well it uses gameplay to drive home just how powerful Sephiroth is. By this point, you've had Cloud in your party for a while, and know him as a solidly well-rounded character who can do pretty good damage on all fronts and take a few hits.
    In the flashback, almost everything kills Cloud in one hit. He has less than 1/20 of Sephiroth's HP, and does damage in the teens when Sephiroth is doing 3000 damage at a single normal attack. Sephiroth takes zero damage from basically everything, and you can't control him; since Cloud dies if anything hits him, whether you even get to act depends entirely on whether Sephy's RNG decides to raise him after he goes down (and that's assuming he doesn't nuke everything out of existence with an All-[Element] 3 spell). Sephy, meanwhile, has a bunch of maxed-out materia when you've almost certainly only got the level 1 versions and only even seen a couple of the level 2 spells. But at the same time, his actual damage output here is mostly that of a well-equipped but non-minmaxed near-endgame party member; on a replay, it's apparent that despite how completely and utterly he outclasses Cloud, he's still human at this point.

    Additionally, just how weak Cloud is here serves as foreshadowing for the plot twist later. At this point, you've fought SOLDIERs as random encounter enemies, and Cloud the alleged "SOLDIER 1st Class" has lower numbers and worse gear than those SOLDIER 3rd Class random enemies, who are level 13. Cloud starts the game at level 6 and is level 1 in the flashback. There are other little details, too- e.g. Cloud's in the back row, most likely because as a grunt, he'd have been issued a gun, not a sword.

    The first fight with Sephiroth in the party also uses the beginning of "Those Chosen By the Planet" on a loop as the background music instead of any of the usual battle themes, but without hitting the main melody. So that's your first impression of Sephiroth in a fight: absolutely butchering a gigantic dragon as you stand by helplessly and an ominous thudding heartbeat plays in the background. When the full song kicks in later after he snaps, it's so fantastically ominous that it pretty much carries the scene.

    It also does a really good job of buildup and drawing out the tension in the bit just before Sephiroth's rampage, as you have to locate him inside Shinra Mansion, go back down to check on him to that same thudding heartbeat, and then go all the way back up two screens of dungeon and a spiral staircase up a well with Those Chosen By The Planet playing in full before you come out and find the town in flames.

    And then there's the Big Cloud Spoiler.

    One of the first things you notice when the flashback begins is that Cloud is not acting at all like the Cloud you've been seeing in most of the game so far. He's outgoing, enthusiastic, wants to know how everyone's doing and feeling, and wears his feelings on his sleeve. This comes across on a blind playthrough as younger!Cloud's inexperience and excitement to be on a mission with his idol, and his current demeanor being due to hardened cynicism he's picked up since. However, this isn't the case- the reason he's not acting like Cloud is because that wasn't Cloud.

    The Shinra grunts who came with Team Sephiroth are steadily there in the back of the group for almost the entire sequence. There's even a bit where "Cloud" talks to Sephy alone, and as you talk to him one of the grunts chooses right then to come up the stairs next to you and walk past. "Cloud" talks to the mooks in a couple of bits and you can interact with them more, but they never talk without being spoken to first, and Sephiroth pays them very little attention or concern and basically just goes "oh well" when one of them falls off a rope bridge into a chasm. You kind of forget them, because you've seen dozens of identical mooks in that uniform with that model already this game, and killed most of them. They just seem like background NPCs, and why should you remember they exist when you have special people front and center? And it's not as if you have any reason to believe that dialogue like this means anything but that NPCs think you're cool and wish you well:

    A lot of the NPC dialogue is in this vein- the game just... lets you draw conclusions, so you don't notice it means anything unless you already know what it means.

    That said, it does quickly establish that something is wonky about Cloud's narration. When you're walking around Nibelheim talking to people, sometimes the screen whites out, and it cuts with no explanation. It's especially bad in his mom's house, where large chunks of the conversation are just missing, skipping later in the conversation several times. What is shown is mostly her expressing worry that Cloud's not taking care of himself and should settle down with a girlfriend who will take care of him, and Cloud seeming mopey and pushing her away; easy to write off as "Cloud is prickly and emo and moms fuss"... if you don't remember that five minutes ago "Cloud" was doing squats in the truck from excitement that he might get to hit things with his sword. He eventually stops talking about it entirely to the others because "I can't remember much else," and if you try to walk back into the house, he won't.

    NPCs in town often don't recognize Cloud at first glance, and this either fades into the background, seems like an indication that he grew way up and got big and buff, or just seems vaguely absurd (since how do you not recognize that hair) the first time through... but is actually an indication that he's wearing a face-concealing helmet.

    Despite the fact that the flashback is framed as Cloud narrating the events to the group, there's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment where he narrates something that the onscreen "Cloud" was not there to witness:

    And after Sephiroth sets the town on fire, "Cloud" gets all the way to the reactor offscreen, "alone," despite this taking him through an area where the random encounters were one-shotting him earlier.

    I'm just really impressed about how much thought went into it and how well it does its job. You get to know Sephiroth, you get to be impressed by and scared of Sephiroth, you get to learn more about some things that make the plot tick, and it manages to sneak in a huge amount of incredibly subtle foreshadowing alongside the big whopping hints that's something's up, without ever giving away what that "something" is.
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  2. BaseDeltaZero

    BaseDeltaZero Shitposting all night.

    Well, the kaiju kind of *are* bioengineered xenomorphs. They're huge, even compared to the Precursors(why are they called that, anyways?), who in the one scene we see them come about halfway to a Jaeger's knee, but I suspect that might be related to the nature of the portal. If they can only send so much through at limited intervals, they want to make sure what they send counts, and have decided One Big Shot does the most damage for their buck. Or maybe they need to establish a control tether through the portal or something. After Newt drifts with the Kaiju, and realizes the location and nature of the portal, they know they need to act quickly, and presumably pull out all the stops to jam it open. Of course, this comes back against them, but if they hadn't done it the humans could just hang out around the portal with a bunch of nuclear depth charges waiting for it to open again.

    I disagree with the idea that Otachi was a prototype, as you mention, if they destroyed the Shatterdome and such, it wouldn't have mattered if the Jaeger's survived. Moreover, we see 'in-progress' Kaiju in the ending scene, I believe, and they're being grown/constructed in giant scaffolds, not inside other Kaiju.
    Hence, I suspect Babytachi was a hunter-killer, intended to be deployed not to kill Jaegers, but to kill Newt, the biggest security threat at the moment, and, if possible, to infiltrate the shatterdome and cause as much damage and kill as many personnel as possible. They may have planned it as a backup if the primary attack failed, or they may have intended to neutralize or distract the Jaegers, and deploy the HK to get into areas the full-size Kaiju couldn't.
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  3. ZeroEsper

    ZeroEsper Well-Known Member

    Why the Blackcoat's Daughter is powerful, AKA Zero has a LOT of Feelings

    So I just watched the Blackcoat's daughter the other day and I still feel kind of raw and tender from it. Admittedly it has its flaws, but I thought it was really, really powerful. I think at its core, it's a movie where the horror doesn't necessarily come from violence. I mean yes, the violence is bad, but. Look at what most of the scenes have in common. It's empty space. Even scenes with people in them often focus the camera so that the person doesn't domimate the shots. Instead you see the long, dark, empty hallways, the barren winter landscape, the barely furnished rooms, the open road, etc. When you hear that description, it's easy to think 'oh, the director didn't know what he was doing.' but I don't think that's true at all! The empty space os just as important, if not moreso, than the inhabited space.

    Look at Kat, for example. The entire reason her character is traumatized is because she's suffering a deep, powerful loss. Both of her parents are gone. She's alone in this school. Maybe she has friends, but we don't see her interact with any of them. She has nobody except for the headmaster, but then he leaves. Kat is told that she can't live in the school, the only place where we know for sure that she has a human connection.

    Rose, on the other hand, has friends, but she's isolated by shame and fear. She might be pregnant and she doesn't know what to do. She clearly feels powerless. That's incredibly frightening.

    And as for Joan, well, as far as we can tell she just got out of the hospital and is homeless, so.

    The common thread here is isolation. All of these characters are suffering and all of them bear it alone. They're hurt, they're lonely, and they're scared. And that is conveyed expertly through the use of empty space and the cold, clinical environments surrounding these characters. There's no warmth - except, you could argue, with Bill and with the furnace.

    So is there a supernatural element, or is it isolation wreaking havoc on a vulnerable girl's mind? Personally, I think it's both. Isolation made Kat vulnerable to the thing that spoke to her on the phone. As her loneliness increased, so did her vulnerability, until she couldn't withstand it anymore.

    Which brings us to another point: the significance Kat's fixation with staying at the school. She tells Rose 'he's going to tell me he was wrong. He's going to tell me I can live here.' she also says 'this time, he'll tell me I can stay.'

    Why does she want the headmaster's permission to live at the school? I think it's a dual desire. The Thing in the Corner of The Room who Speaks Over the Phone doesn't belong in a catholic school. It can't stay - unless it's allowed to. Kat wants to stay because she has nothing else. The fact that they had the same desire is another thing that made Kat vulnerable. The line 'This time, he'll tell me I can stay' also may have double meaning. Yes, Kat may be referring to earlier, when she was told she can't live at the school. But maybe the Voice has been told the same thing. Maybe that's why, when the exorcism is performed, the priest doesn't just say 'leave this place.' He says 'Leave this place and never come back.'

    And those words have dual power, too.

    Because Kat wanted to stay too. Kat wanted to live in the school too. But now she has to acknowledge that she really, really can't live there.

    So why does she go back if the place is condemned and she can't live there?

    Because that's where she saw the shadow and heard the voice. And her only company, her only companion, was that thing. She wanted him to come back so she would never have to be alone again.

    But that's the thing. The priest didn't say 'leave'. He said 'never come back.'
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  4. Verily

    Verily surprised Xue Yang peddler

    I have things to say about The Good Place. This is only season 1 because I only have Netflix, not network TV.

    Severe spoilers for all of season 1

    My favorite train of thought so far has been about Chidi's ethics. During the hideous boot incident I kept thinking that I really really wanted a pair of boots like that.

    I also thought a lot about the Miss Manners advice column that runs in the paper on Sundays. The columnist has voiced an opinion I thought was very interesting. As near as I recall, she said that she is not fond of the idea that brutal honesty is morally superior, on the grounds that "brutal" is often the operative word. Like, it's one thing to tell important hard truths. It's another to unburden yourself of petty details to benefit your own comfort at the expense of others. Maybe it's best to simply say you have other plans the night of the dinner party rather than explaining to the hostess that you hate spending time at her house because you detest her dog, her baby, and her taste in upholstery. Maybe it's best to kindly thank your cousin for the wedding gift rather than explaining to him that you'd sooner go into isolation forever than be seen with that china pattern on your table.

    Maybe it's more cruel than moral to explain to someone recovering from life-saving surgery that the connection he thought you shared was a lie because you hate his boots. Not because lying is good, but because it's hurting someone over something ultimately pretty trivial and subjective in order to make yourself feel better.

    I'm going to bring up Immanuel Kant's ethical theory here, which did come up in the show, I think specifically in the context of lies. Going by Kantian ethics, it's immoral to do something that relies on everyone else not also doing the same thing. (This is specifically about the first formulation of the Categorical Imperative if anyone should want to know.) I've mentioned this somewhere else on the forums recently I think, but here I go again. Cutting in line is my go-to example because I think it's pretty easy to understand the logic there. (And ethics has a lot to do with logic. The study of ethics is about trying to figure out the rules of morality so we can understand how to make the right choices and do good things. That's why Kantian theory bothers to tie immorality to illogicality.) Cutting in line only works if most people don't do it. If everybody did it, there couldn't be any lines anymore. The concept of a line would cease to exist. Therefore, the very concept of cutting in line would be nonsense. It would never occur to anybody to cut in line because they wouldn't know what a line fucking was. Cutting in line is therefore illogical, because it undermines its own self. The advantage of cutting comes from an act that destabilizes the concept it depends upon to even exist as an idea.

    I've heard people argue that lies very much fall into this category. There can only be any advantage to lying as long as people generally expect most people to tell the truth most of the time. If everybody lied, nobody would expect anything else. A lie undercuts the trust that it relies upon to offer any advantage.

    So anyway the point of bringing this up is that one major criticism of Kant's work is that there is no way to resolve competing ethical issues. There is no leeway. There's no method offered for resolving the conflict you could, say, save a life by lying. There's definitely not a suggested method for weighing a white lie against a hurtful yet fairly pointless truth.

    Chidi's big sin was that he prioritized his own moral comfort over other people. He pulled one continuous lifelong Kant dilemma. Whether that should actually be enough to condemn him is another debate. I kinda think the frustrating arbitrariness of every possible moral point system even mentioned in the show is both glaring and intentional. (The one they seem to be using seems kinda like an unholy hybrid of Rule and Act Utilitarianism. I can't say I'm a big fan of any Utilitarianism, though it does have the benefit of scaling better than many theories.)

    The thing that really interests me, though, is that the Eleanor situation was really, really good for him. Maybe the best possible thing. And damn did he rise to the occasion.

    What did he do the entire time but lie to save her?

    He was so uncomfortable with it. It made him very unhappy. It made him question his moral character. But he did it anyway.

    He lied repeatedly, constantly, in huge ways. He did it because he couldn't bring himself to condemn someone to eternal damnation for his own comfort. Even if she wasn't a very good person. Even if it was both unpleasant and dangerous to help her.

    Was it an impeccable moral decision? Maybe not. But it's exactly what he didn't do his entire life. I think he grew as a person, in a way he maybe didn't have an opportunity to do in life.
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