Andre Carrilho Ebola coverage

Why the ebola crisis is about characters and extras

So if you have been keeping up with the Ebola crisis, you may read high flying accusations of how western coverage is about “West vs rest”. And it’s totally true. We care more for the victims that are connected to us in the same way that we want to see a superhero movie in the viewpoint of the superhero as opposed to one of the nameless civilians that is killed. 

We sympathize with characters we can connect to.

In any movie with a epic montage, one of the great ways of doing so is showing snippets of peoples and slices of their life being affected by whatever the movie is about. As well, in most major historical nonfiction of a event, it usually is viewed through several viewpoints around said event. 

If a movie, or book was ever written about the Ebola crisis, you can bet your last dollar that Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian with his own wikipedia page, who achieved the dubious award of becoming the first Ebola case on American soil would be included. This narrative would also include the viewpoint of health workers such as  Craig Spencer, returning from Liberia also tested positive with Ebola in New York city.

Media covers these victims because they are closer to us, and we can relate and understand their situations. It’s more difficult to relate to victim #3059 from the Ebola virus. More Afro-centric media, especially news from West African countries, would cover news that their audience can relate to.

It’s impossible to sympathize with a statistic

One dies, Million cry; Million die, No one cries

If ever watched the end credits of a movie, you would notice how there would be the main characters, the minor characters and then extra 3rd from the left. Or the LOTR trilogy which of the hundreds of characters that Tolkien created, we probably would only remember the characters that were played by A-list actors.

in a real-life example, if you took all the memorials, museums, books, movies, media of the Holocaust, Anne Frank would take a huge share of museum and movies (1-sentence movie review time: the 2001 mini-series Anne Frank was the first movie that made me cry). Then there are other victims/survivors of the Holocaust who are remembered such as Elie Weisel or Mordechai Anielewicz, who had a book about them, a memorial, but the average schmuck on the street wouldn’t know their name. Then there are those hundreds of names, mentioned in books, had names etched in memorials Only a Holocaust scholar would know those names. And the other millions? The best we can do for them is round the figure to the closest million. We can still count the number of Ebola cases in the west with fingers. The Ebola crisis in Africa has inflicted nearly 5000 deaths. No one is going to weep for a statistic.

Being entertained means not weeping for the extras

2012 meme Happy Ending

In the movie 2012, billions of people were killed in scene after scene, all for the sake of making the escape of John Cusack and co. exciting. In videogames we can have hundreds of NPCs die in game, but when a important character dies we weep bloody biscuits.

News coverage knows we will only seek to read characters that we can relate to or how they would relate to our lives or both. During the 2010 Haitian Earthquake, the Toronto Star covered a series of articles about a Haitian girl named Lovely a lovely (lovely get it?… nvm) coverage that was more understandable than a accurate death toll. However in the end, it’s all about seeing the narrative she would still just be a character, like Craig Spencer or Thomas Eric Duncan that is our narrative of the Ebola crisis. 

Nazis = ISIS

Why ISIS is our new Nazis

So in recent news,  ISIS, or ISIL or IS (Why don’t we stick to ISIS because it reminds me of Archer) has utterly dominated the war in Syria and Iraq in headlines and military successes, as well as been accused of numerous atrocities, including ethnic cleansings, genocide, slavery, and beheading westerners on Youtube.

They are also totally like Nazis.

Nazis playing with kittenISIS Soldier playing with kitten

Okay cute kittens aside, (even villains have their Pet the Dog moments), ISIS aren’t just Nazis because they kill and enslave people under their role (more on this later) but because they fit into the narrative of the greatest real-life villains we love to hate.

They are both box-office busting sequels: For many movie trilogies it’s usually the second one that’s bigger and better than the original i.e. Godfather 2, The Dark Knight etc. Likewise both the Nazis and ISIS emerged from the failures of their weaker predecessors. In this case, the Nazis were more dangerous than the imperial ambitions of the German Empire, while ISIS, once just the Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq eventually became more radical and powerful than the whole of Al-Qaeda.

Their ascents are frightening: When establishing villains as the all-powerful and primary antagonist to the heroes there is often a montage or a background exposition of how they ascended so quickly and how they are a threat. For the Nazis, by conquering France and the Low Countries in little more than a month, they accomplished more than what the Imperial Germany army had bled themselves over for the entirety of World War 1. Their Blitzkrieg tactics and waves of goose-stepping soldiers became the most feared army in the world. ISIS in the same way, captured the city of Mosul despite being outnumbered 15 to 1, and fighting an army equipped with the latest military equipment, then they proceeded to capture more territory than Al-Qaeda in Iraq ever hoped to dream. They have also developed their tactics and capabilities to become a fighting force that even the US military is getting nervous of facing.

Nazis marching into cityISIS soldiers marching into city

Both committed crimes deserving of villains: Villains we love to hate have to establish their status through their actions, often when they are introduced, as there has to be a reason they deserve to be defeated. The crimes the Nazis committed really don’t need a introduction. If you don’t know why they have been the go-to villain for many a video games, than me and your high school history teacher are very disappointed in you. ISIS also hasn’t been quiet in the atrocity front. Unlike the Nazis who at least made some attempts to hide their crimes, ISIS have not only been accused of crimes from genocide to sexual slavery, they post it on the internet. (P.s. if your  twitter account has your kid holding up a head, then you seriously need to rethink your qualifications as a dad). 

Nazi warsaw uprisingISIS massacre

Their defeat will be in the hands of the allies: Nothing is more epic than when the allies team up together to deliver a epic smack down on the stories main villain (The big damn heroes, Ravagers and the Nova Corp teaming up to take on Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy is the most recent example). Bonus points if said allies were enemies before. One of the few great things about World War 2 was that the western powers were nearly at war on the Soviet Union over Finland before becoming firm allies to give the Nazis a thorough ass-whupping.

United we are strong World War 2 posterAnti-ISIS Coalition: A Mile Wide, An Inch Deep

ISIS has followed the Nazi’s role to being beaten. From antagonizing practically every country, military group (even original flavour Al-Qaeda) they can; they are also losing support in  the territory they occupy by being oppressive.

All that we are waiting for is the Alliance.  The alliance where Turkey and the Kurds could put aside their enmity, that Iran and the US can sit down and agree that ISIS is a greater enemy, that all these potential allies can actually be allies and fight together to deliver another proper beating on a villain that deserves it (and here’s hoping that the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Syrians can achieve the freedom they deserve).

"Everything Is Not Awesome" Header

Why the Greenpeace Lego video “Everything is not Awesome” is pretty awesome

Recently Greenpeace achieved a notable victory when Lego announced it would not renew it’s contact with Shell, allowing Shell to sell Lego sets at it’s gas stations. Greenpeace had been advocating for the end of this partnership due to Shell’s controversial efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic. Greenpeace’s effort can be encapsulated with a Youtube video created by Creative agency, Don’t Panic; that is less than two minutes long but already has 6 million hits on Youtube as of this writing.

It would be fantastical to believe that Lego CEO, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, was moved to end his company’s partnership with Shell simply from the tears of watching this video. But regardless of personal tears (or more likely awareness that bad publicity isn’t cool) the video is awesome is because it encapsulates so many elements of great story.

Parody: With most audience knowing Lego in recent memories to the highly successful Lego movie, the viewer is reminded of this fact, most blatantly with the music (more on next entry) but with the appearance of Emmett and Wyldstyle. The businessman lego figure standing on his oil drill is also standing in as Lord Businessman, the villain of the Lego movie, ensures that it reaches the memories of the targeted viewers aka the parents who paid for the tickets to see the Lego movie with their kids and will decide if little Tommy deserves another lego set with another Emmett lego figure while gassing up their van. 

Greenpeace Lego Video- Emmett & WyldStyle

Music: The Youtube music video of the movie’s hit song “Everything is Awesome” already has 23 million hits, (for my personal record I have listened to this song longer than I have watching the movie). The sharp ironic callback, with “Everything is not awesome” is not just a obvious jab at the original  but calls out to the movie where the song was used for propaganda purposes (especially when sung by Lego workers as they destroyed Lego constructions Lord Business detested) to keep the citizens of Bricksburg complacent and not question what was beyond their walls. As metaphor it attaches itself to Lego’s questionable business with Shell even as Lego tries to maintain a wholesome family image. 

Greenpeace Lego Video- Oil workers

Plot: The set-up of the Lego Movie is about Lord Business keeping his citizens happy while quietly planning to destroy their world by dumping glue over them. So what do we have in this video? Happy citizens? Check! Businessman pouring out dangerous chemical on lego figures? Check! A montage of individual lego figures, some of their faces changed to fear, creating a sense of dramatic enormity of the dangers of this chemical? Awesome Check!!! Wait, drowning lego children in oil? Not awesome 🙁

Greenpeace Lego Video- Lego Child Drowning

Focus: The entire video it’s entirely focused on the relationship between Lego and Shell, where the blatant examples are the Shell branded truck in one scene, or the wholesome image of Lego machines drilling for oil. This is sharply juxtaposed by the highly evocative imagery of oil slowly swallowing up the individual lego figures. The final ending of a LEGO flag of Shell dominating the sea of oil, is the perfect imagery to imply end result of any continued relationship between LEGO and Shell.

Greenpeace Lego Video- Message

Sad, thoughtful, provoking, it almost makes you want to burn down a Shell gas station (don’t do that please, you’ll get arrested).  Regardless of the debate about arctic drilling or how awesome the Lego movie is (to pre-empt any debate, yes it was) the way Greenpeace was able to market its campaign in all the right ways is a reason to applause, when Greenpeace succeeds they succeed.