Breaking News: It turns out Ready Player One isn't everyone's new favourite movie. Our original Gunter, Nate McKenzie defends the OASIS against the voices of dissent...
Read Nate's review of Ready Player One
A lot has been made of the so-called "problems" of Ready Player One. Numerous articles spatter the internet expelling these issues that refer to the RPO's influence that contributes to toxic gaming culture, perceived misogyny, objectification of women stemming from male obsessiveness, and how the story is nothing more than typical patriarchal fantasy tripe. Save the world, get the girl, etc. Those people are not completely wrong. The film is an a-typical adventure story, revolving around a quest to win the pretty girl, fame, and fortune.
So was Indiana Jones. So was Star Wars. So were countless others.
So what? Does that diminish the world Cline created or tarnish the adulation that his book has incurred?
Aside from the technical issues with the prose, those "problems" with the storyline aren't actual problems; they are problems projected at the story, not derived from it. Painting the book and movie with that broad brush illustrates bias and exhibits an inability to look past personal experience or issues. The people doing this are missing the point entirely.
A major point of contention among dissenting voices revolves around Parzival's behavior towards Artemis, specifically after she rebuffs his advances. He laments over the downturn of their burgeoning relationship and begins to obsess over her, sending her countless emails and constantly watching her video streams. If you think that sounds creepy, well, that's because it is - but only because it's out of context. The tidbit that some people seem to conveniently ignore is that Artemis had already made known her interest in Parzival. They kissed, went on dates, and did all of the relationship things that two people do when they are exploring their feelings for each other.
Now, Artemis has the right to change her mind and decide she no longer wants to pursue that relationship, and she does just that. But she didn't do this because she wasn't interested, she did so because she felt that she was losing sight of the bigger picture. Winning the hunt was more important to her. That plot point should be lauded as empowering to women as it showcases a woman's drive and focus and dedication to something greater than her own feelings. She wants to win the hunt to save the world from the evil corporate overlords. Meanwhile, Parzival sulks and obsesses and becomes easily derailed in his quest. Of course, in the end, they end up together and he wins the contest and together they save the Oasis. Cliche? Sure. But that doesn't mean there is something sinister in the journey.
Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is meant to inspire people to discover a love of pop-culture, and its many entangled sub-genres and cascading facets, with fondness and a youthful awe. Yes, there has always been an unspoken competition within real life nerd culture to throw out more references and obscure bits of knowledge than your friends; but I don't know any true nerd, geek, or dweeb that actually looks down on other people for not being in on the joke. When you see a Swordfish replica in the film, that isn't Spielberg saying "I'm better than you because I made this reference", it is an invitation: "Cowboy Bebop is great! You should check it out!"
Within true nerd culture, interests are shared with anyone who will listen, creating a larger circle of acceptance and comfort. That is what Ernest Cline did with the novel and that's what Spielberg has expounded upon with the movie. This is a new space for quiet nerds to give each other a nod of understanding, pointing out the innumerable references on screen. My eleven year old son and I sat in a theater nudging each other at every reference we caught. We weren't competing to find the most, we were collectively sharing the experience with each other and with the other people in the theater.
There is a camaraderie in that which outsiders will mistake as indicative of something clandestine, of a larger problem within our society. They'll say it breeds sexism and chauvinism. As a thirty-six year old man, I probably have some inklings of those issues ingrained in me, even while I actively try to be better than that; but my eleven year old son does not. The film and the book are meant to be enjoyed as you would have when you were a younger, better, version of yourself.
If the story doesn't resonate with you, if it doesn't feel inclusive enough for you to enjoy, and you're pissed about that, let me be the first to let you in on a secret: no one cares. Everything doesn't have to be catered directly to you. Some stories aren't written with a mid-30s guy that resembles Telly Savalas in mind and yet I can still appreciate them and enjoy them and understand that they are meant to inspire someone else.
But if you can't enjoy a movie like Ready Player One, why do you even bother to watch movies at all?
Much like the book, the silver-screen version of Ready Player One is not perfect. But it is also not something vile that deserves the vitriol being spewed upon it by those with personal agendas. Creating a better world doesn't mean destroying all other worlds. That is something a movie villain would do.
Follow Nate on Twitter @WriteMyWrong
Image - IMDb