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BadWrongFun: Are You Enjoying Yourself Correctly?

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | True Detective | March 11, 2014 | Comments ()


True-Detective-tralier.jpg

I have only watched a single scene of True Detective, and it’ll be at least a year before I watch more than that because of HBO’s fabulous policy of only releasing DVDs right before the next season of a show. It kind of makes sense, they’re going to sell exactly the same number of DVDs, but now they get to punish those of us who don’t have an extra $20 each month just for the privilege of a single additional channel. In economic logic of some kind, it enhances their brand by creating artificial scarcity.

But sweet zombie Hitler with a chainsaw has it brought out the worst in people on the Internet. It hasn’t just been True Detective, but it’s been at the heart of the maelstrom these last few weeks. It started around Valentine’s Day, when House of Cards hit Netflix, and we got diatribes on how Netflix should space out their releases because the enjoyment of shows is ruined by marathoning. Then it’s complaining that people are overly analyzing shows, talking them to death with endless spinning of theories and going down the rabbit hole of references. Then there were counter arguments that those who don’t try to read into shows aren’t properly enjoying them either and so their criticisms of said shows can be dismissed. And of course there were the updated installments of the wars between those who live in mortal fear of spoilers and those sick of self-censoring every single moment of entertainment since we found out Bruce Willis had been dead for the entire movie.

I’m all for debate and argument, and even getting into the analysis of how entertainment is best appreciated, but there’s a distinct line that is being crossed more and more where there is not constructive discussion going on, just fingerpointing and accusations that some other people are enjoying things the wrong way. Hell, our own Drew Morton got called a “goon headed cunt” for defending fan theorizing yesterday on Facebook, and his head doesn’t even resemble that of a goon.

In roleplaying game circles, this is an old phenomenon, if only because when you sit down a half dozen people at a table week in and week out, fights inevitably flare up over one thing or another. “Badwrongfun” is the term used for this, when the line is crossed from constructive argument into just declaring that the other person is having fun in the wrong way and that it is so intolerable that it’s ruining your fun as a result.

Come on Internet, I’m not telling you to stop being cranky and scathing, I do love you that way. But take it down a notch already. Not everyone has to enjoy things in the same way.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • e jerry powell

    Hmm. Now that I have deeper insight as to the contents of the videotape, I think I'm done trying to over-analyze.

  • John G.

    Nice True Detective Theory:
    theory by this guy (http://goo.gl/Otkw7G0)

    True Detective is a Metafictional Show about )Characters Who Are Driven to Madness By The Incomprehensible Revelation That They Are Works of Fiction

    I believe that this is what’s really going on in this show. The real message is about the audience’s masochistic relationship with the characters, and our endless insatiability for flawed, downtrodden heroes fighting against evil that is never vanquished. From book to book and show to show and movie to movie, we keep telling the world’s oldest story about good versus evil, light versus dark, endlessly, circularly. How many times has Jesus been tortured to death by the Romans? How many times has Wendy Torrance been chased around the Overlook Hotel with an axe by Jack, running for her life? How many times has Little Red Riding Hood learned of her grandmother’s death at the hands of the Big Bad Wolf?

    Nic Pizzolatto has said in interviews that the message of the show, and all we really need to understand it, is contained within the first episode. A couple of major lines by Rust stick out here.

    I think human consciousness, is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.

    People out here, it's like they don't even know the outside world exists. Might as well be living on the fucking Moon.

    This place is like somebody's memory of a town, and the memory is fading.

    And by episode three, we get a little bit more:

    …all your life, all your love, all your hate, all your memories, all your pain, it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person.

    What's it say about life, hmm? You gotta get together, tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the god damn day. Nah. What's that say about your reality, Marty?

    People... I have seen the finale of thousands of lives, man. Young, old, each one so sure of their realness. You know that their sensory experience constituted a unique individual with purpose and meaning. So certain that they were more than biological puppet.

    Let’s not forget classics like:

    Someone once told me time is a flat circle. Everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they're gonna be in that room again, and again, and again, forever

    Rust may just seem like a pessimistic asshole, but really, it’s just that his character can at least somewhat understand the nature of his universe.

    And remember Joel Theriot’s sermon?

    This world is a veil and the face you wear is not your own.

    The Light of the Way ministry seems to have knowledge of this too.
    And LeDoux before he gets his brains blown out?

    It's time isn't it? The black star. Black stars rise. I know what happens next. I saw you in my dream. You're in Carcosa now, with me. He sees you. You'll do this again. Time is a flat circle.

    Whereas the Light of the Way adherents have glimpsed into their true nature and chosen to believe that, when they feel hollow and unknown, that god is watching, and whereas the cult members believe that they serve the watchful Yellow King, Rust sees beyond the void and tells himself that there is nothing, that there is just a cold universe in endless cycles of pain and degradation as the same little girls are abused again and again with every retelling. He does posit the possibility of the existence of an audience or controllers external to his universe:

    It's like in this universe, we process time linearly forward but outside of our spacetime, from what would be a fourth-dimensional perspective, time wouldn't exist, and from that vantage, could we attain it we'd see our spacetime would look flattened, like a single sculpture with matter in a superposition of every place it ever occupied, our sentience just cycling through our lives like carts on a track. See, everything outside our dimension that's eternity, eternity looking down on us. Now, to us, it's a sphere, but to them it's a circle."

    But by and large he believes that his and others’ existences are pointless.

    Self-Awareness of the Cosmic Horror

    This is where the Lovecraftian elements begin to resonate more. Weird fiction and cosmic horror is typified by curious characters driven to insanity by forbidden knowledge. The more they learn, the greater the horror they experience. In Chambers, it is the revelations of the full text of the King in Yellow that break peoples’ souls and minds, driving them to suicide and other madness. In much of the Lovecraft/Cthulu mythos, it is catching a glimpse of the Old Gods or the world beyond the ordinary plane of existence. To gain even a modicum of understanding that the world is not what it seems, and you are at the mercy of all-powerful malevolent beings who are indifferent or actively hostile to your existence. You can only ever help to win the battle, never the war. In True Detective, the audience are the Old Gods and cosmic beings. Carcosa is the world beyond the scenes in the story True Detective, that includes other works of fiction containing boundless evil that is fought pointlessly, over and over again across infinity, and the Yellow King is some character[1] from Carcosa, the world beyond theirs, that drew worship from the cult.

    This is what the show is about. Characters that live their lives on rails, dreaming that they are people, at the whims of an audience with a remote control, and the writer who tells them what to say and what to do. The writer visits horrors upon them, which we the audience demand. Hell, we even get the wonderful cameo of Nic Pizzolatto showing up as a bartender and getting asked by Marty why he makes him say the shit that he does. It’s a wry moment that rises above a cameo. It is the creator taunting one of the unaware characters, for Marty has chosen to believe in the religious explanation of the nonsensical world, and will never accept that he has been designed to suffer for our amusement. This masochistic taunting arrives again in the epilogue, as Rust laments that he was face to face with Erroll way back in 1995 – that he saw him – but was unable to notice him right in front of him because the story wasn’t written that way.

    The Doors of Perception, and What Errol Childress Sees

    Even the characters that catch a glimpse of the world beyond theirs still cannot comprehend our existence. I posit that drug use has something to do with how characters in this series become self-aware. Most of the audience is probably familiar with the notion that many cultures, including some people in our present culture, believe that perception-altering drugs like LSD can open our minds to a true nature of the universe. To see beyond the world in front of us. Imagine in the world of True Detective that this is also the case, and actually has truth to it. Rust, Eroll, the LeDouxs, Dora Lang, and the pharmacy robber, all have a history of drug use. Rust makes frequent mentions of his hallucinations following his time in vice. At least that is the story he tells himself. For what else can it mean when he sees the other-worldly spiraling of birds, or peers into the cosmic vortex?

    Erroll Childress has fallen deep into this rabbit hole. He sees beyond the cracks through to Carcosa, where he adapted the Yellow King he saw into an object of worship for his acolytes. But there is evidence that he sees far more. In the final episode, we see that he leaps between accents and characters from other works of fiction, and talks about ascension to another plane. He has looked out through the abyss and found another world, clearly believing that his murders bring him ever closer to it.

    He even seems to be aware of the author, and the audience. And while the acolytes only seem able to recite bits and pieces of the notion that they are on repeat, being watched by someone who is everywhere and everywhen all at once. I also posit that Erroll’s murders are being performed in defiance of the audience and the writer. He is marking his symbols and his signs throughout the series to insist that he is coming for us, that he does not answer to us. When Rust, acting as the agent of the writer and the audience demands that Erroll drop to his knees, he says only “NO”.

    In the maze of “Carcosa”, he projects his voice as omnipotent, giving directions to Rust and calling him a “Little Priest”. This is because Erroll sees Rust as a servant of the Old Gods sent to contain him. He invites Rust to “Take off His Mask”, to release the illusion that he is a person, and to ascend with him after he witnesses the portal between worlds, to eschew his fate as the character that puts him down at the behest of the writer and audience looking to neatly tie up their masochistic story. Rust instead chooses to kill him, finding happiness in the brief moment of remembrance of the love of his imagined father and daughter, dooming himself to endlessly repeat the cycle for a fleeting moment of optimism.

    What does this say about us as an audience?

    I think it’s pretty obvious how this reading of the show serves as a commentary on the audience’s obsession with stories of pain and suffering leading to vindication. Is there a sociological explanation for it? Nic Pizzolatto makes no attempt to hide that a big influence on True Detective was an actual case of satanic child abuse in Louisiana in the 90s.

    We tell ourselves these stories, the oldest stories, to contain and forget the horrors of our existence. “The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door”. This is another core element of Lovecraftian horror – that civilization is under threat of darkness and barbarism, and we are under threat of falling to destructive decadence in a constant battle against evil. Against this backdrop of evil and darkness, humanity tells ourselves stories about small points of light. Fighting for the triumph of civilization against what might be the inevitable, and this is the final image True Detective leaves us with.

    The only questions that remain, then, are whether this is moral of us. Are we culpable for the pain and suffering of the characters that we create in the dimensions that we control to feed our need for complacency against our own cosmic horrors? What if those characters become self-aware? Are we still culpable for demanding that they suffer ceaselessly for a small moment of catharsis before enduring it again and again on our command? What if they wanted something else for themselves? What if the same fate awaits us?

    These are the questions you should be left with after watching True Detective. Not whether Rev. Tuttle is the Yellow King or if the color of Marty’s tie has any significance, or if his wife was a member of the cult. Those are not important. This is not a story about twists or hidden plot devices. This is a story about your responsibility as a viewer to the characters you compel into existence, and why you do it.

    PS.

    Audrey draws the sex scenes and arranges her dolls like one of the ritual murders because she too can see through the cracks of her reality. We learn that later in life she takes to modifying the dosage of medication, so a small leap to the possibility that she was taking medication from a very young age could lend credence to the idea that she was simply able to perceive those events by peering into other scenes of the show around her. Mystery solved.

  • Jelinas

    I have no problems with people being cranky and scathing, as long as they articulate why they're complaining. "That's stupid/You're stupid," adds nothing to any debate; it's just lazy*. If you can't argue your point intelligently, you're still free to hold to it. But I'm also free to roll my eyes at you through the magic of the internet.

    *This may or may not be why I don't post to FB much.

  • e jerry powell

    And even the gays are getting in on it. Eight weeks of pulling apart the "True Detective" lead-in. And it's gotten personal. My feelings got hurt a couple of times.

  • Ariel Schudson

    Actually, Mr. Wilson, since you are so concerned in publishing other people's conflicts and making it a public matter, the argument came from a disagreement that began on my page and your current defense is translating what happened in an entirely different way, which I do NOT appreciate. The least you could have done is explain the situation and how it came about and WHY that phrase was used (in frustration, I might add) for Drew. Also, I believe that Drew is a very solidly defined individual and needs no White Knighting.

  • pluiedenovembre

    Most series DVDs are released only a couple of months before the start of the new season. Season 1 of The Americans came out February 11, season 2 premiered February 26; Justified season 4 came out December 17, season 5 premiered January 7. It's less obvious in the case of network shows because the seasons are longer but the DVDs still come out only a couple of months before the the start of the new season. For instance, Supernatural season 9 premiered October 8 and the season 8 DVD came out September 10.

  • wsapnin

    #1 reason I followed "True Detective" to the end.. The little snippet of Cary Fukunaga following each episode. I would have watched 8 hours of him just telling the story.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    For the sake of discussing entirely not the point of the article, HBO has a strategy that makes sense. Those who want True Detective, or any other series, close to real time have to have the channel. It's not punishing so much as incentive. Releasing the dvds right before the next season creates additional marketing buzz, pulling in those who have already seen and want to own, and those who hadn't seen and want to own...and making those who don't subscribe possibly subscribe so that they have real time access for the new season.

    On the spoiler note...I'm not all over social media, so I generally don't have things spoiled for me per se, but really...I have just about lost interest in people complaining about it.

  • I'm a lot the same way. I'm not on social media either and as I'm not all over the Internet in general unless it's talked about here I'm not really in any danger from spoilers. And to be honest, I'm pretty much in the 'knowing the destination doesn't ruin the journey' camp anyways.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I just think of people who try to avoid spoilers for big games, because they want to watch the whole thing. A person puts the onus on him/herself to not have it spoiled by going into blackout. They might ask a few close friends not to mention it, but they don't demand it of the world.

    Why shouldn't people who just saw a piece of entertainment they are excited about feel free to discuss it?

  • Maddy

    Also - other people not liking something you like, or having genuine criticisms of it, doesn't affect you or your own enjoyment. Not everyone has to like the same thing, and that's fine. Except if you don't like Game of Thrones, because really.

  • pluiedenovembre

    I agree that not everyone has to like the same things, but not liking something because it doesn't fit your idea of what it was supposed to be seems kind of odd and pointless.

    I love GoT, but I'm having a hard time with A Dance With Dragons. I'm about 10% in and haven't picked it up in almost 2 months...

  • Berry

    Also also - people liking something you dislike doesn't make them morons either, and you don't have to get apoplectic over it. And third also, sometimes people criticize things even they themselves deeply love, and that's okay too.

    (But all this means nothing coming from me, a person who was so entirely unmoved by the first Game of Thrones book she hasn't even managed to work up the desire to see the series. Oh well.)

  • Emilie

    i stopped in the middle of the second one when it got slow. the series is phenomenal though.

  • Maddy

    I've read those books multiple times, so even though I love Game of Thrones, I am also hugely critical and nitpicky of it. And how can you not want to know what happens after reading that book? (sorry .... trying very hard not to judge you for not liking something I like but ... I failed.) I'm just going to accept that I'm a hypocrite.

    I don't think True Detective is anything special or amazing, so I'm sure someone can hate on me for that

  • Berry

    I did feel some stirrings of mild curiosity about what happens next, but not enough to spend all that time reading all those door-stoppers when there are so many other books I passionately want to read and only maybe 30 or 40 years left to do so.

  • Repo

    True Detective was the first show in awhile I bowed out of the discussion pretty early on when I realized how outlandish it was going to be and I realized it could taint the way I was enjoying the ride. I'm glad I did because I got to experience it on my own terms and now play catch up with all the shenanigans people were getting into while it aired.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I, for one, am enjoying this shirty new SLW.

  • kinoumenthe

    What does "shirty" even mean ? The last time I encountered the word it was on Buffy… a long time ago.

  • kinoumenthe

    Ah, never mind.

    adj. shirt·i·er, shirt·i·est Chiefly British
    Ill-tempered; angry: "He saw how shirty she was about it" (P.G. Wodehouse).

  • BlackRabbit

    It is a word they used in the Way Back, the Before Time.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I think you have gotten to the root of the problem. Not enough people play RPGs. They have forgotten how to pretend. Pretend controversy is much more fun than real controversy... oh yeah, and television is pretend. However spoilers are real controversy about pretend stuff.

  • John G.

    You fire this off in an ambien haze, SLW. Has power gone to your head? You think just because you're in charge you can toss off half thought out screeds off the top of your head any time you want?

    -The internet

  • Bert_McGurt

    "...since we found out Bruce Willis had been dead for the entire movie."

    Ohhhhhh, so that's why it's called Die Hard!

  • Mrs. Julien

    Comedy is easy. Die hard.

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