Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Un-Marvelous Experience of The Marvel Experience

Featuring all of your favorite heroes...and The Vision

Pretentiousness is a bitch.  Far more times than we've been able to keep count, we've been hit by promises of creative games and toys wherein the only limit is our imagination, films and books that take us on journeys and adventures instead of just informing us of them, candies and drinks that take us on hallucinogenic drug trips, and similar bold-faced lies, and we eventually get numb to it there.  Yet once in a while, something unfamiliar, presented as a novelty belonging to a bold new era of culture, regains the ability to pull people in only to underwhelm them.  In this era, where Marvel fandom is no longer the exclusive domain of stereotypical nerds, The Marvel Experience is just such a thing, and its general banality is only made worse in comparison to its over-the-top presentation.

For a particular poignant point on pretense, see this ad for the event's showing in my area:

This is blatant false advertising; at no point in the event did I get to become Captain America, or even an average schmuck holding his shield.  More on that later.  As to saving the world...oi; I know nobody even buys that, so I'll move on.  Here's a more descriptive, but still inflated ad for what the event actually is:

Here's the truth.  The Marvel Experience is essentially a technologically powered revival of the circus, with a Marvel paint job, except worse.  That's a loaded statement; I understand.  Circuses have a seedy reputation, of being bad for their animal performers, not even very good for their human performers, forcing a life of cramped quarters and restlessness, pawning suckers out of money at side attractions, scaring more children than they entertain with their clowns.  They've been losing ground to television, and now the Internet, and for many it's good riddance to bad rubbish.  Still, the kid in me loves his memories of when the Carson and Barnes Circus came to my crummy little podunk (that I lived in then) and made it a little less crummy.  The moment felt particularly unreal because the circus set up right on our Elementary School's soccer field, which meant that in Physical Education class, we jogged our usual laps around the unusual big top, then relished going back to our campus at night for the big show.

The Marvel Experience briefly revived those experiences with the over-the-top way it stoked our fandom at the gates, but when we got into its modernized version of the big top (it's a bunch of white dome structures), it soon dawned how empty it felt.  Ultimately, it was a collection of quaint-but-cheesy sets, serviceable-but-short films, really terrible video games and live actors, and a mediocre 3-D film and motion simulator ride.
Through the thick of it all is an increasingly transparent message of "You're special!"  From the moment you get through the front gates, you'll be constantly hearing about how S.H.I.E.L.D. has recruited you all to help Marvel's named superheroes save the world from a new, dire threat.  An early attraction right out there takes the form of photo booths where you can enter information and have a photo taken for your own personal ID badge.

A brief anecdote about those illustrations: This was held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and we were presented fliers for an upcoming horse show at the toll booth.  I had the amusing idea to hold the flier up to the camera in the ID station, as I thought it would be funny to make myself a S.H.I.E.L.D. badge with a horse portrait on it.  Sadly, I will never know how funny it actually is, because at the end of the event, I was disappointed to learn I needed to pay over ten dollars for the badge, and I had no intention of doing that.

A particularly odious thing about this attraction's pretense is that it mandated crowds be delayed from entering at a normal pace, so more pep talks could be delivered, either by employees (who were, in my judgement, more likely to have been locally contracted proles than a troupe traveling with the show) or characters in videos.  This kept us stopping where we were, first outside, and then in a lobby where we watched some videos...and then in another lobby where we watched some more videos.

The two lobbies are marked in the lower-right quadrant of the map.

The first video we watched was by Captain America, the second by Iron Man (with Pepper Potts coming in to snark it up), the third a collaboration between a generic female reporter, a thinly veiled expy of Stan Lee played by Stan Lee, and J. Jonah Jameson, and the fourth by the whole Avengers team, plus a feminine robot hostess who may or may not be original to this event, and who was, but-for no visible nipples or camel toe, essentially naked.

The "Recruit Staging Area" was beautifully-lit by color-changing spotlights, for absolutely no reason.
Captain America talks up the weaklings.
Is "Megan Fox the New York Reporter" the new TMNT film's main contribution to pop-culture?
"Hi there; Virginerds!  I'm hear to make you not regret spending your money on this!  (No promises.)"
The "Shield Mobile Command Center" was full of glowing machines that didn't do anything.
A bit more about these videos.  They weren't bad; in fact, we chuckled a lot in the right places, but what's weird is that they chose to go with a cartoony CGI approach.  In an event that promoted itself as immersive, wherein Marvel characters came to life and interacted with real people, that seems like a bizarre choice.  Anyway, we "learned" via these videos that the world was under threat by "Super Adaptoids", evil robots that could replicate the abilities of Marvel heroes, and that's why they needed us to come train with the heroes and defeat the Adaptoid menace.  With that briefing out of the way, we stepped into the most visually impressive part of the exhibit, to begin our "training".

Well, this is neat, but what the Hell is it?!
The "Recruit Training Center" (Yes; I'm putting all of the official location names in quotes) was a visual spectacle that looked like some bizarre cross between a casino, a video arcade, and a museum, and it actually did give a surreal sense of immersion.  I really love colorful, practical set design, something I think some action films have lost sight of in the CGI era, and it felt cool to be stepping inside one such set.  The centerpiece was a defeated Super Adaptoid encased in glass, with mirrors beneath the container creating the impression of a larger void.
Is that sky?  Is this supposed to be the Helicarrier we're on?
Unfortunately for me, the immersion ended abruptly, because I needed to pee since getting into the front gates, and so rushed for the restrooms as soon as I saw a sign, only to be greatly disappointed by them being anarchronistic peripheral.  You will note on the map pictured above that the restrooms were not included in the main dome, but down what appears to be a hall, but it was even worse; there was no hall.  All there was was a Marvel-themed sign, pointing out a door to restrooms outside of the event.
There were both outhouses and a trailer of regular, flush toilets, like this one here.
Back in the "Recruit Training Center", I dove into the various attractions, many of which were informational.  There were touch-screens we could touch to play videos about various superheroes, diagrams of Super Adaptoids and their abilities, and one exhibit that was literally just a collection of book covers.
I actually own a book collecting these.  "Blablabla transistors bla!"

Cox made an interactive exhibit of sifting virtual Adaptoid parts out of virtual dirt and reassembling them.  Weird.
There was one bit of the informational side of the event that I thought was pretty cool, and that was its collection of iconic Marvel props in display cases.  Iconic weapons and armor are cool to see treated like serious museum subjects, with informational plaques and all!  The closer one got, the faker they obviously looked, but I still have a soft spot for such prop design.

Hey; I think I've seen these at Toys 'R Us!
Sometime between last Thor movie and now, I guess they developed walls that could hold up Mjolnir.
Pictured: Not vibranium.
Marvel villains are a metrosexual lot.
Nick Fury's nerf gun.
The more interactive bits of the event were generally not good.  One exception was "Avengers Encounter", which let people stand in a televised spot and strike a pose, which would cause members of the Avengers to join them onscreen.  Much as in the other videos, they didn't look terribly realistic, but it was still cool to see, and easily my favorite part of the event.  I took a lot of pictures of it, some of which I am in.

That picture was taken while I stood in line for the Iron Man "Mark 47 Flight Training".  That brings us back to the bit about Captain America mentioned earlier; at no point does this event simulate you being Cap, but if these simulations were anything to go by, it may be a blessing in disguise, because they were abysmal.  You would think that a "game" simulating an Iron Man suit would at least let you lie on your stomach in the pose Iron Man usually flies forward in, but no; it's a bad Kinect-style affair where you just stand in front of a screen, leaning right and left to steer and raising your hand to shoot--and I do mean bad!  Perhaps because there was a huge variation in size of the people who played the booth, the camera didn't seem to work well at capturing leaning motions, and the shooting, though better, was delayed.  It hardly mattered, though, as all you had to do was shoot pieces of junk that came and hovered in front of you.
If you're disappointed you can't see any gameplay, don't be.  It sucked.
There was another bad simulation video game like that, which let people "be" the Hulk, meaning they could stand in a spot and punch oncoming objects.  This was more amusing, as I decided to put actual power into my punches as my workout for that day, but the docents didn't explain it well, so I never figured out how to punch lower targets.

I don't have a picture of that one, but speaking of somewhat physically exerting tasks, there was also a booth where you could wall-climb like Spider-Man...except not really.  It was two standard rock-climbing conveyor belts, plus one that had a ladder instead, and a screen up above showing a video of Spider-Man monitoring your progress--maybe.  I did it, and it was fun enough, but that's not really how Spider-Man does it, at all--he doesn't need to grab outcroppings; he just sticks to things.

One other "video game" was available to play in the "Recruit Training Center"; this was a lightgun game in a theater where people all got a gun and shot at Super Adaptoids on a screen.  I put "video game" in quotes there, because save for the numeric designations of our guns appearing on the screen when we aimed and fired, I don't think there was any actual effect on the outcome, although they did tally up scores afterward, somehow.

After that, I actually stood in line for the Avengers Encounter segment I had photographed a lot while standing in line for other things, which means I finally got photos with myself in the action.
Black Widow kicks me in the face.
Now Hulk punches me in the face.  This was the highlight of my evening here.
On the subject of attractions involving Black Widow, on that map is marked a "Black Widow Agility Maze", but I didn't see it here, so I don't know what happened.  Also, some may recognize that as a Marvel-themed shirt I'm wearing.  I've had it a long time, and don't tend to wear it much these days because it's got some holes that need fixing, but here it felt only right.

Having done all of the things in the central dome, I went into what was supposed to be a Quinnjet, but they did a terrible job at it.  The thing had no floors of its own; merely walls separating its interior from the rest of the dome.  In this was one more really bad video game, entitled "Villain Tracking", where you watched videos describing villains, after which you touched an interactive world map with "threats" displayed, and after clicking them, you'd decide how much of a force you would need to dispatch to take care of them, and then read the results.  That's it; that was the whole game.
Are you sure this thing is aerodynamic?

These stills are from a video with Maria Hill describing Red Skull.  By the way, Nazis are never mentioned.
The "cockpit" was just a picture behind a window.
The door on the other side of the "Quinnjet" led to the "Transfer Dome", where we were given kitchy little bracelets that most of us couldn't fasten on properly without each other's help. (Remember that.)  After some time there, we entered perhaps the most bizarre portion of the event; the "Simularium".  This was one of those dome-shaped theaters with screens surrounding people, such as exist in some museums, plus 3-D glasses.  Such venues do well for science documentaries, displaying long shots of such things as forests and the stars, but for this sort of video, it just was strange.  The movie involved superheroes attacking a Super Adaptoid base, and because of the perspective, they looked like giants, or maybe viewers just felt small.  The 3-D also was not very good, but it seemed to put a focus on making characters' butts stick out; including those of all the Super Adaptoids when they were shown.  So if your fantasy about meeting Marvel characters involved you shrinking and looking up at their know; I'm just assuming it didn't.  Anyway, the movie concluded with the revelation that Red Skull, Madame Hydra and MODOK were behind the Super Adaptoid invasion, and we then departed for the "Transport Cooridor".  Here, we watched a video by Spider-Man, explaining proper motion simulator etiquette, at one point hacked into by Red Skull.

The video ended with Skull's goons shooting at what was supposed to be the place we were, and jamming the door out, after which Hulk leapt into action onscreen to yank it open, and we then saw a cute practical effect of his big green hand receding into a curtained nook besides the door.  Through that door was the "Transport Hangar", ostensibly a sort of mini-helicarrier embedded in the domes, in reality a mediocre motion simulator ride.  The ride's footage was supposed to depict the event itself, as seen from the outside, but there was one problem; the surroundings of the event simply didn't match.  Ahead to the right in the video were a bunch of generic tall buildings, which simply don't exist in Del Mar; also the region seemed to be a desert, while Del Mar consists of many flood plains; hence the name.  A bunch of stuff flies across the screen, and then the villains board a massive mech and attack.  After the heroes swarm over it, they request people's help, asking them to hold up their hands wearing the bracelets received in the "Transfer Dome", which supposedly caused a bunch of laser beams to hit the big mech on screen, and blew it apart.

There.  That was the whole "We help save the world" bit the whole event was building towards.  Wow.

After that was the "S.H.I.E.L.D. Shop", with a generic inspirational Stan Lee plaque, a quite limited selection of merchandise, a spot for people who actually wanted to to buy their own S.H.I.E.L.D. IDs, and very unconvincing fake incarceration pods for Red Skull, Madame Hyrdra and MODOK.
"Well then; onto the next endorsement!"
Final thoughts?  In case it isn't clear already, The Marvel Experience is not good.  It is outright bad at many parts, in other places its simply not good enough given the alternatives, and the few truly good parts of it, like the set design (in some places) feel wasted on something like this.  I've heard the defense that "It's meant for kids, and the people who are young at heart" multiple times, but that badly underrates both groups and their tastes.  A slightly more apt description might be "n00bs"; those newcomers to the Marvel mythos who want a lively primer, but even there, so many better alternatives exist.  There are far better Marvel video games people can play, far better Marvel movies people can watch, actual Marvel books people can read instead of just little blurbs, and for people who like summaries that let them absorb many characters' histories in a shorter time than it would take to read the books, there's, which is free.  The Marvel Experience is to these things what a Magnadoodle is to paper, pencil, and crayons; a trumped up technological amalgamation whose ostentation distracts but fleetingly from the fact that it can't do its job as well as the cheaper, simpler alternatives.

It's sad, because the idea itself isn't without merit.  If they were more interested in noting their competition and finding out the sort of themed attractions that actually appeal to people, they could've made an experience as good as its concept, but here they just got too ambitious, and tried to do too much for too many in too little space and too little time with too little money, to do any of it right.  It's my hope that since Disney now owns Marvel, eventually we will get something better, preferably a sedentary Marvel theme park that's bigger, better, and broader (in its demographics).  For now, though, The Marvel Experience is a waste of time and money.  In fact, whatever the Marvel experience really is, it's not this.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

In Defense of In-Crowds

What I am about to say is going to be controversial.  I understand full-well that in this culture, with the way it views individualism and tolerance, the following statements will strike many as politically incorrect, and I hope you understand full-well that I don't care at all.  Still, I will endeavor to sound courteous and not repel people, as I feel this needs being said and needs being read, because these days, calls are being made about taking desegregation and harmony in an extreme direction--a direction that, I maintain, is against the interests of many of those involved, and should prompt us to take a fresher look at diversity.

One of the things that's at the center of the #Gamergate controversy is the rash of "Gamers are Dead" articles published in response to digital terrorism, which attempted to give evil a face and diagnose its motives--with very questionable logic.  I've thought of writing a blog dissecting these points, but this has already been done, probably more than once, so instead, I'm just going to focus on the calls journalists have made to make gaming culture more inclusive and less alienating, for the sake of a more harmonious society.  Writes Dan Golding,

"Today, videogames are for everyone. I mean this in an almost destructive way. Videogames, to read the other side of the same statement, are not for you. You do not get to own videogames. No one gets to own videogames when they are for everyone. They add up to more than any one group.
On some level, the grim individuals who are self-centred and myopic enough to be upset at the prospect of having their medium taken away from them are absolutely right. They have astutely, and correctly identified what is going on here. Their toys are being taken away, and their treehouses are being boarded up. Videogames now live in the world and there is no going back."

Golding is convinced this has already happened, and gamers are on a counter-offensive, but Devin Wilson argues the reformists still need to make their main offensive, as she proposes:

"We make and play fewer isolating games, including online multiplayer games. If our medium is designed for people to stay secluded for dozens of hours while having their egos stroked, then we reap what we sow in terms of the kinds of people who emerge from this pastime. We need to consider the very real possibility that the offensive behavior displayed by gamers in recent weeks is not unrelated to the artifacts they rally around (which I doubt are especially obscure). These people didn’t come from nowhere to fight about nothing. They came from games to fight about games. They’re organic results of the medium we’ve all played a role in cultivating, and they won’t go away if the medium doesn’t change significantly."

She goes on to say,

"We jettison the hardcore/casual dichotomy. It’s utter garbage that’s only used for three reasons: 1) to feel superior to others, 2) to tragically submit to unjust hierarchies of play, or 3) to sell products (and effectively reinforce the other two). Besides, what’s more “casual”: mastering a free mobile game over many years or spending a Saturday buying and exhausting the latest murder simulator that you believed you were supposed to play?"

The vagueries of these articles are worth contempt of themselves.  Whom are they attacking?  If gaming culture is already diverse, what hope has condemnation of an abstract stereotype have in affecting a more tolerant world?  If it's already diverse, how could so many people be concentrated against isolated targets?  What fans of what games do they think attack what fans of what games?  Objectively, it's impossible to get any meaningful discussion out of this sort of blanket statement unless we break "video games" and "gamers" down into sections to address individually, and opting to do that now with one segment of the culture, I declare that no; we do not need to get rid of alienation.  We do not need to board up the clubhouses, or dispel the hardcore/casual distinction.  In fact, these things should be maintained, and encouraged in others, for the sake of real diversity and everything that makes it beautiful.

I pick as my example one franchise that gets a fair amount of criticism and presumably is on a few hitlists of games to make more inclusive or kill off, Dead or Alive.  It indisputably qualifies for what Anita Sarkeesian calls the "Fighting Fuck Toy" trope.  It has never denied that, and it is not going to change that.  It wears the badge proudly.  Is that misogyny?  Only if you move the goalposts of misogyny from hatred of women to value of specific types of women.  Is that sexism?  Only if similar standards are not held towards men, and I would be willing to bet DOA fans would much rather hang out with an athletic woman cosplaying as Kasumi and doing martial arts than with a fat man delivering diatribes about how shameful their game is.  Is that discrimination, at least?  Of course it is, and that's what makes a subculture a subculture.  You have to draw a line somewhere, establish some rules about what you support and oppose, whom you will and won't hang with, and that's entirely fine.  Feminism may not like it, but it's here to stay.

Yet what is interesting is that while feminism has been attacking male-oriented sexual fanservice as discriminatory for years, last month feminism itself came under a similar attack.  The Vagina Monologues, a staple of feminist literature for two decades, was attacked and cancelled by a women's college for discriminating against transexuals--by which it means not making disparaging remarks towards them, but rather failing to include them at all.  Once again, I'm not trying to argue there's no discrimination on the part of the play, because of course there is.  As with the quintessential DOA mindset, a woman-oriented play must draw a line somewhere as to what a woman is; lest there's no point to writing such a play.  Speaking from the admittedly limited perspective of a man, but nonetheless a man who knows how reproduction works, I'd venture to say that yes; the vagina is an immensely important part of being female.  It is maybe the important part that necessitates women offering their own perspective on sexual adventuring possibly counter to the self-indulgent "playa culture" that pervades machismo.  Men can't get pregnant, have their resources and time sucked up by gestation and childcare, or experience the trauma that even strongly pro-choice women tell me goes with abortions.  If someone assumes this doesn't give men the innate understanding of women's rights to their own bodies that those with vaginas--and moreover, wombs--possess, why should an exception be made if men start declaring themselves women despite still not having those parts?  The Vagina Monologues may be crass, but its extreme valuation of vaginas is probably more exaggeration than lie--can so many girls be wrong?  A play that gathered legions of fans based on offering a specific perspective and  espousing the specific values of reveling in one's genitals regardless of who's offended, was quashed by external critics who suddenly thinks that's an intolerable problem; in the name of promoting a culture where transexuals have a voice, natural women were deprived of theirs as the first measure.

I just defended two groups that probably have very different perspectives, even if quite possibly, they rival each other in their level of gender nihilism, and some would say I can't take both sides; that there is an irreconcilable conflict between feminism and male-oriented video games (and now, apparently, transexual rights) that needs to be resolved.  On the contrary, I'd say the only reason these conflicts exist is because absolute unity has long been our traditional ideal of diversity and tolerance, and in some progressive mindsets, any amount of bumps and compromises are to be taken in order to achieve it.  I understand why.  We've all learned about Jim Crow at school.  We've learned that as an important civil rights victory, it was concluded that "separate but equal" is an inevitable paradox, because separate facilities are inherently unequal.  We've seen movies lamenting situations where the nerdy girl is ostracized when she wants to hang out with the cheerleaders, or the nerdy boy can't get a girlfriend because he's a nerdy boy.  We've seen shows like W.I.T.C.H. promote a situation as ideal where people of all races hang together.  I do not disagree that all of these developments are positive, but there are behavioral traits that go along with identity, to which discrimination against the more touted visible elements of identity cannot and should not be considered as analogous.

Let's look again at that nerdy girl who wants to hang out with the sharply-dressed, shapely cheerleaders; we feel bad when the cheerleaders say no, but what would happen if they said yes--and it just didn't work?  What if they invite her to come hit the gym with them, where she struggles to breathe, after which they go clothes-shopping, where she finds herself so bored that she gets depressed?  The tolerance is to be lauded, but that outcome isn't ideal, either.  So where to go from there?  Ought the cheerleaders decide that when they hang out with their new nerdy friend, they won't go to the gym or clothing stores, to the detriment of other group members who like those things?  Maybe--hopefully--that's not the end of it all; maybe the nerdy girl and cheerleaders both enjoy Dead or Alive or The Vagina Monologues, and over those interests they can come together in a way they couldn't elsewhere.  If they can't,'s unfortunate, but it needn't be horrible.  They just need to conclude that this isn't going to work, and continue the search for companions they find more to their liking.

As an autistic man, and before that, an autistic boy, I have faced this sort of situation throughout my whole life.  Spending time with my brother and our neighbor, they almost always voted two-to-one against what I wanted to do.  I was pushed by my parents to join Scouts, where people hated me, forced to attend birthday parties that just annoyed me, forced to get out of the house because they didn't like how I found more solace in video games than any of the people close by, to the point they ended up taking away my games to force me out--that didn't work, either.  To this day, I get recommendations from people who are concerned about how I'm a lonely autistic man, to go try this or that group that's meeting, and the groups they recommend wind up being full of people with Down's Syndrome.  I'm not rude to the people, but I can't associate with them.  None of the things I want to talk about have been things they want to--or maybe, even can--talk about.  There's this assumption, it seems, that a black sheep getting into a flock is, in itself, a great accomplishment.  For many, in relation to why they're black sheep, it's not.  Many specific people need specific flocks, which is why strongly-defined subcultures are important.

Moving back to Gamergate, another article has been written condemning the Journos' call for reinventing gaming subculture (condescending to the view that assumes there's only one), citing Madonna's co-opting of the gay culture of "voguing" as an analogue for gaming, and revealing that the original purveyors of that culture are not necessarily thrilled with her watering it down.  It's wordy enough that it might intimidate some readers, but it makes good points and played no small part in inspiring this article; I recommend it.  Perhaps it is no accident that gay culture is what's getting brought up, because I am increasingly convinced that gay culture provides possibly the best model of an alternative approach to diversity and tolerance; one that welcomes cliques without putting them on a collision course with one another.  Consider the context in which gay bars/clubs actually exist.  The rainbow flag flying outside needn't be taken as a "no straights allowed" sign, but it is, if the boot fits, a warning to straight people that in this venue, there is a high chance that people of the same sex will try flirting with them, and if the straights have a problem with that; they should consider going somewhere else to get a drink or vogue.  Some will see this as an imperfect solution to deescalating conflicts in a society with some traces of homophobia still lingering, a society that, when cured of those tendencies, will have no more need of such segregation, but in fact, the warning is not just there for the consideration of straight people who don't want sexual advances from the same sex--not even primarily for that reason--but also in the service of creating a safe space for gays to make those advances without the risk of offending at worst or being encumbered by distractions at best.  Gay society has drawn a line, behind which it can indulge its own unique interests unrestrained by concerns for people outside it, and it has made that line blatant for those people who will travel a long way in their desire to partake in it, with all of its quirks that might offend others.

Far more subcultures should be interested in doing the same thing, and laugh in the face of outsiders who are offended by them.  The inconvenient truth about diversity is that it's not always pleasant--and moreover, that pleasantness is subjective.  People develop their own interests and their own tastes, they flock to others similar, and that means what pleases and doesn't please becomes a matter of group consensus that, when the group faces pressures from outside to change, might well come apart from its foundation being upended.  Nobody can truly be him or herself when their hands are tied by the fear of alienating anyone who's not him or herself, which is why being aggressive in asserting one's own identity and repelling incompatible personalities ahead of time is a better option than letting incompatible personalities come together and then come to blows.  If you're a woman who objects to the DOA club's fetishism of prominently displayed attractive women, don't join the DOA club and whine, don't try to silence them; make a game where women aren't displayed that way. If you're a transexual worried about how feminists celebrate the vagina as the essence of their gender, don't silence them; don't scream that they're transphobic, find other transexuals and make your own play highlighting your own perspectives.  If you're straight and don't like homosexual advances, don't enter the gay bar.  If you don't like swearing in lyrics, think twice before visiting the ghetto.  Find your own subculture, or make your own subculture, and go wild doing what pleases your own subculture!

Because the alternative is very, very bleak.  Voguing, and Madonna's watering it down, have been discussed, but I'd also like to refer back to my own criticism of My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks.  As tragically flaccid as that film's music was, it can't even claim to be the first time rock music has fallen victim to My Little Pony, as evidenced here (skip to 24:34 for the episode: Battle of the Bands).  Listen to the saccharine, "Sweet Music" song the misnamed "Rockin' Beats" played to win the battle, and shudder to think how the bands that lost might have sounded.  Nor is the"not-rock" music issue limited to that series; listen to this mess:

Even after decades of forced neutering of rock music, such a cool design for a character as that might briefly raise people's hopes that you'll hear something cool, but no; just the same old gym theme with a small bass part and "lyrics" about--what else--Pokemon.  The problem arises because Pokemon is catered to children at the expense of many others (which is worth its own post, and I do intend to write that entry soon), and that means that it, like so many child-centered, rock-related media before it, cannot rock.  It cannot, because, as I stated in my RR review, that musical genre is designed with the intent to unnerve someone, somewhere, sometimes a lot of people, sometimes, as in the case of subgenres like death metal, most people.  That's the reason it appeals to its core demographic, and to them, bastardization may be more embarrassing than it is to anyone else.  Rock is a subculture whose subjugation by the "offend nobody" drive to make all culture feel inclusive to everyone is essentially complete; media now channels it for attention only to defecate on it, when they would be better off just sticking to musical styles whose appeal does not depend on offending people.

To see the same sensitivity facelift attempted everywhere else is a scary thought indeed, because in spite of the high ideals of its proponents, it doesn't lead to true diversity, and the tolerance it hopes to achieve, if possible at all, will be bought at too high a price.  It co-opts elements of society that produce diversity when left to their own devices, forcing them instead to compromise on their own vision until they can no longer produce anything appealing, and makes people hate each other when they're forced together and inevitable conflicts between their interests come to a head.

Should anyone be left alive when the smoke clears, the new world may be polite, tolerant, and sensitive, but it will struggle to be any more, because while this factor is not usually stressed in our traditional way of looking at it, individual personalities need conformity as much as they need diversity.  Diversity, and the promotion of it as a value, are obviously very important to create a situation where nobody is afraid to walk down the streets for what they are, but what good are even safe streets if they don't lead anywhere?  What happens to the gay man who's tolerated by all in his town, but loved by none, because there's no place where gays have an in-crowd anymore?  Where does he go to find a significant other?  What happens to the person who wants to marry a woman who cosplays as a DOA character when there's no longer a club designed to select for such people?  What happens to women who want to converse among women, as opposed to converse among everyone?  What happens to the girl who likes rock music, when rock has made so many compromises to non-rock fans that it no longer is distinguishable from other music?  This is where conformity has to come back into people's lives, in order to get an individual together with other individuals of a similar nature--and that means throwing some other sorts of people out of the clubhouse.  Not hunting them down, not telling them they can't start their own, not shaming them for opting to add their own color to the rainbow, but maintaining one's own color with heels dug in.
 That's the thing about real diversity--it's not harmonious.  It's not clean.  It's not seamless.  It's stubborn.  It builds walls as often as it builds bridges.  It's hundreds of identities asserting themselves at once.  It can be scary.

Yet even so, it is beautiful.  Let's keep it that way.