Forspoken Trailer Shows How Marvel Ruined Modern Media
Against my better judgment, I’m excited for Forspoken. I’m not sure it’ll be that good, but with its much healthier January release window and funky gameplay, I’m on board. I expect to love it the same way I love Agents of Mayhem or Sunset Overdrive. Forspoken seems to harbor ambitions in the form of control, but a smart layered experience already seems beyond that. Insane fun is Forspoken’s forte and I’m not giving it up. But boy, does the latest trailer want it.
The most influential medium of the past decade has been the MCU. Its power is so vast that the DCEU, Marvel’s closest rival, has just burned itself out to rebuild and replicate what Marvel does. The idea of a “cinematic universe” was pushed into the mainstream by Marvel, and for all of Marvel’s flaws, there was a huge improvement in the quality of nerd cinema after Iron Man. That video game movies found their footing after Marvel established a foundation for adapting geek-fueled source material is no accident.
The MCU has been a huge, almost unbridled success, but its influence hasn’t been entirely positive. When the MCU first appeared, it was all over the place. Iron Man was pretty on the money if a bit melodramatic, while Captain America was overly serious and Thor boring and overwhelmed. Things weren’t quite sewn up until Avengers Assemble, written and directed by Joss Whedon. The team was so successful that Marvel relied heavily on “Whedonization” for all subsequent films, even giving Whedon the second Avengers movie to further imbue his style.
Although Whedon moved on after his second outing, Whedonization was now a solid mainstay in the MCU. A few other directors have managed to imprint their own styles on their own projects (James Gunn and Taika Waititi come to mind, as does Sam Raimi’s recent Doctor Strange), but the golden rule has remained: when in doubt , Whedonise.
Whedonization is something you will be acutely aware of even if you have never heard the term before. Every time a character undermines a tense moment with a bland, dumb joke? This is Whedonization. Every time a Marvel character makes fun of another Marvel character for having a silly name? This is Whedonization. When characters say “so let me understand”, “you’re probably wondering how I got here”, “so…it happened”, or “oh my God, he’s behind me, isn’t he ?” is Whedonization. Joss Whedon didn’t invent any of these lines, but that’s kind of the point. Whedonization is about taking existing catchphrases and playing them as jokes over and over again.
The Forspoken trailer begins with “so let me understand”, before listing the basics of the game in a very “oh boy, how did I get into this mess?!” tone, which screams Whedonization. Audiences seem to be bored of this style (hence the poor reaction to the trailer), but as long as Marvel continues to be successful, others will continue to copy it.
There is, however, another slice of Whedonization that I fear more than a few overused bad jokes. Before the MCU, Whedon rose to prominence as the showrunner of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and later made a career out of creating badass, quippy, and smartass female characters – much like the lead role of Forspoken. Buffy is a legendary character, but I fear what that might mean for Forspoken.
Whedon has long been defined as one of media’s greatest feminists, which shows how low the bar was set — especially when it was all a lie. Michelle Tratchenberg claimed that Whedon was “not appropriate” with her on the set of Buffy and that there was a rule that he was not allowed to be alone in a room with her. She was 14 years old. Another Whedon show, Firefly, is also full of allegations. Writer Jose Molina claimed that Whedon had a habit of making women writers cry, even bragging about his talent for being mean.
Of course, I don’t think the poorly written Whedonised jokes mean the Forspoken studio was a hotbed of abuse, but I do worry about the character’s direction. Whedon’s women were badass, sure, and quite progressive for the 90s, but they were also defined by sex appeal and seemed built for male desire, even as they offered a platform for young women. . Alien Resurrection, written by Whedon, has one of the most iconic women in movie history in Ellen Ripley saying “so who do I have to fuck to get off this ship?”. I know it’s technically a Ripley clone and it’s to show the change in his nature, but it’s also incredibly lazy and incredibly relevant to Whedon’s writing. Video games are a bit more finicky about gender, so Forspoken might avoid that trap by accident, but Whedonization and a female lead make me very nervous.
So let me clear things up. We have a game with a cool concept, launched with little competition, that has detected a gap in the market, and they promote it not with unique gameplay, but with corny dialogue? So…it just happened.
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