Article Game of Yemen- Feature Image

How an Arabic Dictator is like Game of Thrones

If you haven’t been catching up with the news recently, there’s a war in Yemen which started when a faction called the Houthis took the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and booted out the Yemen president, a guy called Hadi. There’s alsa a faction called the Southern Movement who want independence from Northern part of Yemen, and who may or may not be allied with Hadi, and now the Al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen has just started making gains, with ISIS starting a new branch, and Saudi Arabia and it’s buddies (including Uncle Sam) have started attacking attacking the Houthis, while Iran has allied with the Houthis, and they’re accusing each other of supporting the other side and….

Aaah, It’s like Game of Thrones, except with AKs instead of Dragons. And like Game of Thrones, Yemen has it’s Machiavellian character in the form of Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen. And while it would be weird to see an Arabic dictator knocking it off in Medieval Westeros, he possess a lot of the characteristics that would make the likes of Littlefinger and Tyrion applaud.

His Beginnings were Humble

Varys was a homeless eunuch, Littlefinger was born in one of the smallest houses of the realm, Saleh was from a peasant family and had almost no formal education. It’s the popular rags to riches narrative, though given how they turned out it’s more like from nobody to nightmare. Varys and Littlefinger became the Master of Whisperers and Master of Coin respectively, and more powerful than their positions. Saleh moved up through the army and became the President of Yemen for more than three decades.

Saleh with his Son

 

He looks Harmless

It’s not the nice-looking guy you have to watch for but the ones that look harmless. Tyrion’s a dwarf, Littlefinger’s a financier, and Varys is a fat eunuch, Arya could probably beat all three in a fight. However Arya is still a pawn in the scheme of the game while they are more like the Kings and Queens. Saleh being president, can’t hide behind his throne, however while he is a typical middle-eastern dictator, i.e. jailing political prisoners, nepotism etc. He’s typical. He’s almost unknown by the media in comparison to some of his contemporaries i.e. Kim Jong Un, Gaddafi, Hussein, Assad, who are giving coverage for their insanity and cruelty. As such Yemen has enjoyed reasonably okay relations with the rest of the world.

 Tyrion, Varys, Baelish

He knows when to fold’em

One of the most iconic prequel characters in Game of Thrones, the one who didn’t know when to quit was the Mad King who did whatever he wanted, until killed by a member of his own Kingsguard as his city burned, the smart players know when to fold’em. Gaddafi, Mubarak and Assad chose to fight to the bitter end. Gaddafi was killed by a mob, Mubarak is now in jail. The only reason why Assad is still president is because he’s like Prince Joffrey, not just stupid and crazy but because he is being propped up by greater men than him, just replace with Tywin with Putin (though someone should still just poison him). On the other hand, Saleh in the face of the Arab spring, resigned in exchange for immunity to prosecution. He could have spent the rest of his life living it up in his mansion in relative comfort.

 Saleh, Gaddafi and Mubarak + their fates

 

He is a Chronic Backstabber

A honest title for Game of Thrones would be game of Backstabbing, so much backstabbing. Nearly every character has backstabbed or backstabbed another. The Feys and the Boltons backstabbed the Starks, Varys backstabbs everyone (he’s almost a chronic backstabber). Saleh didn’t need to take notes, he’s already a master. Case in point, the U.S. allied with him in his war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, even ignoring his previous alliance with Saddam Hussein. However Al-Qaeda became an enemy of convenience, going as far to work with Al-Qaeda further his goals. His most current backstab was allying with the Houthis, his former enemies, against his former allies, Saudi Arabia. And if he should win, it’s likely he will betray the Houthis afterwards to be allies with the U.S. again.

 Littlefinger betraying Ned

He is Power Hungry

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In every case it has been the pursuit of power that has pushed much of the series. Even the “good” characters such as Robb or Daenerys, are leaders in that their actions are about securing them more power. Characters still fight for other things such as Varys who wants what’s best for the realm, Tyrion just to survive. Tywin and Littlefinger understand their desire for power and wish to gain it. Saleh has already achieved it and is still achieving it. It would be surprising if Saleh ever took the mantle of president again, he already declared he wouldn’t. And the most powerful man in Westeros doesn’t wear the crown, it’s the man at his side. Littlefinger maybe a lord but he is still hasn’t reached his goal, Tywin has, but he is dead. Saleh is still alive and kicking.

Saleh on the Iron Throne

Homeless Man Walking

Why Narrative Marketing can be great for Homeless Shelters

Poster ads have always been the place for advertisers to shine their creativity, and this example has been more awesome than  new poster ad from Depaul UK. Bonus points for it not being some finance institute run by sideburns and copious tea-drinking but a homeless shelter for youth in London. The poster, created by publicis.london, wraps around a corner having two faces. One side reads how homeless youth are perceived, and the other side of how you should perceive homeless youth. It’s an amazing piece of copywriting, using the audiences own perception against them, and embodies one of the strongest marketing tools for homeless shelters: the everyman narrative.

 _MG_6291

While we like our superheroes, like our “chosen one” narratives, we also like stories who are as rich, as fit, as flawed as we are. There are whole stories about pedestrian #3 from the left, and have them ascend into the spotlight. While we have Batman, we have comics about the GCPD, or comics about living in the big city. It’s an entire genre of stories of just the average guy, not the hollywood handsome average guy (I think is Christ Pratt these days) but struggling to survive in their own world. Because we sympathize with us, and we engage with those we sympathize.

As I’ve mentioned before we care about characters not statistics, which is why nonprofits will show pictures of starving children and their names. One example has been a subway ad from the Covenant House in Toronto, “Why Can’t Street Kids just Get a Life?” It violates one of the biggest tenets of marketing, that is Keep it Simple Stupid by being just a block of text.

Article Homeless Narrative - Covenant House Ad
But getting English Prof here, if you do actually take the time to read it (please do because it is well-written), it also underscores how a overall perception of homeless is so shallow compared the more meaty reason, because they are people, they have struggles, they laugh and cry as much as the rest of us. Steve becomes a living human being, not just a obstacle on the street to look away from. For any shelters and non-profit homeless organizations, if they wish to gain more donors, or at least spread awareness on homelessness, it won’t be statistics, but narrative advertising to make the homeless human in our eyes. It’s their greatest strength.

Nazis vs ISIS Feature Image

Why ISIS are NOT our new Nazis

ISIS has been considered the 21st century Nazis (including me). However, if the Nazis had Facebook it would pictures of perfect blond children and Hitler doing something cute; not posts bragging about beheading a bunch of people. That’s just crazy, and there haven been recent publications explaining what ISIS wants: Make everyone their enemy, call them the army of “Rome”, lure them to a town called Dabiq (consequently the name of their propaganda magazine), have them fight the army of Islam (read them) which will bring about the Islamic apocalypse, where ISIS will naturally win. Even Hitler’s generals managed to stop Hitler from thinking that stupid, and below is why ISIS are totally different villains from the Nazis.

Flaunting their Crime

Villains often come in two flavours: the ones who hide their crime and those who don’t care. For example, General Mandible from the movie “Antz” manipulated everyone with his bulldog general demeanour to hide his genocidal plan to create a stronger colony. On the other hand, if the whole of Gotham (especially Batman) doesn’t know of his deeds, the Joker would rather just turn on the tube and yell at Harley for another beer.

Hitler Triumphant + ISIS Boy

Replace, Patton-like ant with frothing Charlie Chaplin, and you’ve got the same intentions. Then replace a plucky Woody Allen with a flood of Allied soldiers, and Nazis who acted like everything they did was for the good of the world, frantically burning bodies, blowing up gas chambers, burning papers to hide their crime.

The Islamic State, on the other hand (thankfully), cannot hope to match the scale of atrocity as regimes before them. What makes them so terrifying is that they’re like internet trolls. Everything that they do will provoke outrage, so it most definitely will be shared with the world to get a reaction.

Well-intentioned Extremist

For most villains, it’s all about sex, money and power. Take Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, who manipulated the entire Galaxy just to gain power. On the other side of the coin, Darth Revan from the video game Knights of the Old Republic, invaded the galaxy because he wanted to prepare the galaxy for the real threat approaching from the outer reaches of the galaxy. 

ISIS on Horse + Hitler on Car

While Hitler was  anti-Semitic, and of course wanted his perfect world to be non-Aryan free, Nazi military conquests were quite similar to many empire builders through European history. Hitler could be considered a 20th century Napoleon (except with a dumb moustache and stupider).

On the other hand, ISIS are taking a very stupid way to gain riches and power, provoking factions that didn’t even want to fight them, and even making potential allies their enemies. And if it isn’t the power and prestige of a state but to fulfill their beliefs, they are well-intentioned in their extremism. Of course, said intentions are great for everyone under their view on Islam (just horrible for the rest of us).

Still Crazy

Most villain plans they are credible enough that their failure was because of the Big Damned Heroes ruining it. On the other hand, there are villain plots that are still undone minus the hero. In “Return of Superman” how was Lex Luthor going to defend his island with just three guys against the buttload of refugees coming from the land he just destroyed?

Sad Hitler + Lonely ISIS Flag

For the Nazis, they had clear strategic goals and the tactical plans to create a German Empire, and only the stupidity of Hitler and violating one of the lessons of history (don’t invade Russia) were they defeated.

For ISIS, victory is relying on luring all their enemies to fight them at Dabiq. Even forging their military limitations (no airforce) how are they going to manoeuvre their enemies to fight at Dabiq? And if they did somehow succeed in this, how are they going to defeat the rest of the world, including the most advanced military force the world has ever seen? Everything is relying on their enemies showing up and hoping that their prophecy is true. And maybe it will happen and that ISIS will win, and then maybe Hitler can come by to congratulate them while riding a unicorn. 

Jordan King & Clint Eastwood

Why Middle Eastern Kings quote Hollywood

So King Abdullah has started thinking he can carry a Winchester and go all squint-eyed on ISIS. With him quoting Clint Eastwood from “Unforgiven” and with fighter pilot experience (Not like Mr. Mission Accomplished who shirked Vietnam) we have a crazy chance that a head of state might actually lead his troops into battle like it was the Medieval Ages. But let’s get back to King Abdullah, a Middle-Eastern King, quoting America’s favourite gritty cowboy.

It may be odd for a head of state to quote Hollywood, but it’s a testament to Abdullah’s savviness of how pop culture narratives influences our perception of reality. 

Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven

While I’m sure Jordanians watch Hollywood movies, Abdullah was talking to U.S. lawmakers who have at least watched a Clint Eastwood film (I would expect that Dirty Harry is required watching for every Republican) and undoubtedly enjoyed the escapism of them. Now “Unforgiven” is a great film, four Academy Award wins including Best Picture and Best Director is the definition of a great film. A hallmark movie for a genre that is unequivocally American and part of it’s psyche.  And announcing ones intentions for  “Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.” can be taken that Abdullah is as serious as Clint Eastwood’s face.

Of course Jordanian Kings isn’t the only head of state to try and evoke the power of popular culture in political rhetoric. Kim Jong Un, was his usual adorable self again and refused to hold talks with the US (unless it’s US giving food aid) calling them gangsters.

Scarface & Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un was probably trying to channel the best of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, his movie knowledge likely from powering through his dear departed dad’s movie library. He was likely using the definition of our gangster narratives. The stories from Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese. The rags to riches rise to the top of the criminal underworld, losing friends and family along the way until the inevitable downfall as a metaphor for U.S. capitalist culture. Or maybe gangsters is a naughty word in North Korea. Who knows with the country that threatened to bomb J-Pop?

But King Abdullah on the other hand is a smarter sort of chap who runs a country a little more competently than the land of people who think grass is nutritious. Because Abdullah isn’t just making sure the U.S. fully understand his intentions but also setting up his and his country’s narrative of vengeance against ISIS. “Unforgiven” is about inexperienced boys getting caught in violence and old veterans embracing it. Quite appropriate for the situation. Something that King Abdullah means full well and ensure he is going to bring narrative compliance of destroying ISIS.

Article Jordan - Airstrikes

Hero Feature Image

Why the Modern Hero wears Turtlenecks and not Medals

General Petraeus & Scandal

Underneath the radar of the Charles Hebdo Unit Rally and the warming of U.S. Cuban ties of the potential downfall of General Petraeus, the hero who saved US’ dignity to leave the Iraq war, and former CIA director is being charged for sharing secret intel with his mistress. There has been a tendency for military leaders to suffer downfalls (his predecessor in Afghanistan, Stanley McCrystal was forced to resign just for criticizing Joe Biden) and Petraeus’s downfall has been quieter than most. And it’s highlighting a trend in our society to no longer look at our soldiers or military commanders as our heroes but instead look up to the ‘Entrepreneur’ hero.

Steve Jobs Outfit

Our real-life heroes have always been those that we aspire to be and represent the dominant narratives of our society. And in our society, it has been the rise in information technology, the techie entrepreneurs who are riding it. For example, Steve Jobs, arguably the most successful modern entrepreneur is also our real-life hero of our generation. His hero attributes is defined by his trademark black turtleneck outfit, his personal philosophy for the Mac Brand, but more importantly Steve Jobs life narrative in relation to Apple. Steve Jobs starts Apple in a garage. Steve Jobs is kicked out of his own company. The fortunes of Apple plummet and Microsoft dominate. Steve Jobs returns to Apple sparking a revolution in user-friendly communication tech that we can all admire. His narrative has conflict, a plot arc and represents the unconventional ‘startup’ thinking that we find popular. Which is why we have a Steve Jobs biopic (okay with Ashton Kutcher but still) and another one on the way.

Marcus Luttrell & Mark WahlbergNow I’m not saying that military leaders or soldiers who have performed heroic deeds don’t inspire people, they do, and they do have movies made about them. We are seeing a splurge in modern war films like “Act of Valor”, “Lone Survivor” or the recent Academy-nominated biopic “American Sniper” starring Bradley Cooper. Now can you name the guy that Bradley Cooper was playing, or what he even looks like? If yes, then yeah you watched the movie. Now how about the guy from the Lone Survivor” the one Marky Mark made millions acting as? Point is you could get a peach fuzz, put on some glasses and a black turtleneck walk down the street and everyone will tell you that it isn’t Halloween yet. These guys could walk around in their military uniform and their medals and sure they’ll get a couple salutes, perhaps free drink if they walked into a pub, but you wouldn’t know who they were and what they did. It’s a far cry from when War Heroes starred in their own films.

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Profile

While Mark Zuckerberg certainly didn’t star in “The Social Network”, though (Jesse Eisenberg was an awesome replacement) his biopic and Steve’s is part of the “Entrepreneur biopic”. Sure he may have been portrayed as a bit of a loner asshole (yet still cool and successful) but that asshole genius is a character we admire (see House or Sherlock as two great examples) the nerds that lack social skills because their genius leads them to do amazing things we all admire, whether incredible deductive skills or creating the next online startup instead of that war-weary veteran fighting a war we can’t even find on a map. 

Heroes over history

Throughout history, we have always had our heroes who are the face of our society and change it in the way we admire. For example, the Nine Worthies were nine of the greatest heroes that exemplified the Chivalric standard of duty and adorned churches during the Medieval Age. Likewise during the Age of Enlightenment with the collapse of Divine Rule, there was Napoleon a Corsican who through his own personal merit and military genius defined his time. And now Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, whose narrative defines our age of entrepreneurs.

Missing Flight

Why the Malaysia Airline Crashes has Redemption Narratives

It has been an utterly awful year for Malaysian Airlines, with three airplanes tragedies all due to stupendously bad luck. And while hundreds of deaths is no laughing matter, what’s peculiar is how many narratives have been in the news of those who weren’t on the planes but almost were. From the dutch cyclist who missed two Malaysia flights to the former beauty queen who just missed the AirAsia flight, they have received a lot more attention than the number of deaths per plane.

Dutch Cyclist Malaysia Flights

However, it’s not just missing an airplane flight. We have always been fascinated by people who have escaped death because of fate or luck. And it’s because near-death experiences are narratives in our own character development. 

Protagonists Survive

A pastor once complained that we tend to single out those who survived while many died. And notice that “Dutch Cyclist” and “Former Beauty Queen” is more characterization than a list of nationals that died.

Former Beauty Queen AirAsia Flight

What’s amazing is that if none of those airplanes crashed from the cyclist to the beauty queen would have just been one of the many unlucky folks that missed their flight for which I don’t think there is a statistic for. However as I’ve pointed out before, we sympathize with their narratives because they are a face, not a statistic, and serve a positive narrative that in the face of such tragedies they “survived”.

A “Moment of Destiny” or Moment of Self-Development

It’s almost a cliche for characters to change in some way when nearly dying. For example when Jules, Samuel Jackson’s character, from “Pulp Fiction” is not even grazed when a criminal unloads a entire clip at point blank range, he undergoes one of the strongest character developments of recent film history. It’s why when Hitler nearly got killed in 44 he believed he had a “moment of destiny” to not give up a hopeless war (not that I’m comparing you to Hitler, everyone’s Hitler if your on the internet anyway).

Hitler Plot 1944

It’s because we want to believe that our lives our bigger, that we want to feel a sense of enormity behind our lives, that we upraise those who missed a flight or who were late for work little inconsequential missteps that allows them to survive. Their narratives validating our own that we can also survive and that our survival means something.

Redemption

From the passengers who missed the AirAsia flight there is a sense of fate. While I don’t know how their lives will change after, in pop culture there is character redemption. Again pointing at “Pulp Fiction” Jules decides to lead a more spiritual life even sparing the man who was going tor rob him (his partner, Vince, chooses not to and is not as lucky). Hitler, instead of thinking maybe he needed to rethink his life instead wiped out any last internal resistance in his shrinking empire and even commissioned a special medal for the survivors (said decision also also did not work out for him).

Pulp Fiction Jules Quote

While almost dying doesn’t necessarily mean we will change, but significant life events can be attached to our own development in our narratives. In marketing, whiles not smart to put customers life in danger, it’s inserting a product or a service that provides a need or opportunity to change their life, and them being a customer is how they find redemption. See Al Pacino’s great “You Rent It” monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross as a great example. That’s why we love these narratives, you don’t have to nearly meet death (though it’s a great motivation) rather they allow us reflect our own life, and how improving it is worth it.

The Interview Marketing Stunt

Could “The Interview” Hack be a Marketing Stunt?

So with Kim Jong Un calling the shots in Hollywood and deciding that Sony will not release “The Interview” we have officially entwined pop culture with world politics. As exciting as it may be it’s just another  cotton-candy vomiting ride of Dear Leader, nukes, and crazy that North Korea is dragging us through. Sony has lost millions in revenue with the premature release of several movies as well as execs being incriminated with racist and sexist emails.

However, if there is one silver lining for Sony is that

  • Everybody now knows about the “The Interview”.
  • Everyone wants to watch it now that North Korea is banning it.

Pretty awesome benefit if there ever was one, but what’s the possibility that the whole thing was Sony orchestrated the whole thing as a marketing stunt?

Pretty nil, with the FBI and Obama saying North Korea was behind it, making it a bit too geopolitical for a pair of stoners and their fancy suit handlers, (unless Sony promised to use Obama’s ideas for 23 Jump Street) however how would it play out if the world is being controlled by a bunch of clever chaps instead of some fat idiot with too much power in his hands?

Sony’s Motivation

The Interview Rotten Tomato Score

As interesting as the premise of assassinating Kim Jong Un is, it’s received middling-reviews by reviewers, by most analysts would have flopped internationally and likely would have just died quietly and added to the Rogen film collection.

The only thing the movie had going for it is it’s premise, and marketing it using a meta-narrative as a movie of assassinating Kim Jong Un almost assassinated by Kim Jong Un, is brilliant to be crazy.

It has grabbed the attention of the world and crafting this sense of realism the absurdity of a nation state trying to play Hollywood critic will always grab the news. Heck, if they do release it I wouldn’t put it past Obama to hold a private screening just as a screw you North Korea.

And being hacked is the only plausible way for the movie to be targeted, so how would it work?

The North Korean Hack job    

North Korean Hackers

Given the Kim’s family love for movies and that it was about killing Kim Jong Un “The Interview” was going to be threatened by North Korea. So blaming them would not have been difficult and if Sony did orchestrate a hack job as a marketing stunt, here’s what they could have done.

  • Had “chunks” of movies released i.e. first half-hour enough for the plot to get interesting, or movie without the audio, or a poor-quality version, any form that made the movie watchable but would leave the viewer wanting to watch the “official” versions
  • Emails that revealed personal, embarrassing but sfw details of the cast, crew and execs that humanized them, dropped some behind the scenes of the movie, and hints of future movie ideas being created.

While unconventional it would have created a further sense of realism for an interactive marketing campaign and more creative than getting a Denny’s breakfast.

What now?

The Interview Seth Rogen & James Franco

Sony’s announcement that they would not be releasing “The Interview” is not permanent for several reasons.

Sony is going to keep tabs on events such as Obama promising a “response” to North Korea’s hack, and with rumours of The Interview being released on Crackle, this story is far from over. Despite Sony just wanting to walk away from all this with damage control in mind, the combination of geopolitics and pop culture creating “The Interview” awkward, but powerful meta-narrative has made it a marketer’s wet dream: Becoming the most talked about movie of 2014. I for one will be watching this story with great interest and hoping that the next time a movie becomes this talked about again, it’s because of a clever interactive marketing campaign rather than politics gone petty.

Fergusen Riots

How Darren Wilson killing Michael Brown incited Ferguson

If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, Darren Wilson has escaped prosecution for the death of Michael Brown and Ferguson is rioting. With international protests reacting to the failure of the grand jury to indict Darren Wilson, this narrative has already reached proportions not seen since the Trayvon Martin shooting. But why?

Article Fergusen- People Protesting Michael Brown

Why has the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, received so much attention?

To start, here’s how the typical white cop kills black man narrative goes.

  • White cop(s) kills Black man.
  • The news has a mild uproar, with police brutality, crime, and racial profiling being bandied about by different viewpoints.
  • The characters of the killer and the victim are explored in biased and exaggerated detail.
  • The cop(s) are charged minor crimes or not charged at all (many are forced to resign).
  • News dies down until the next killing.

And this narrative has occurred with depressing regularity, lasting on a couple weeks. However the Darren Wilson killing Michael Brown narrative is special because it happened in Ferguson. A community where a mostly white police force is policing a mostly black community, has a history of racial profiling, and a severe lack of trust between the two groups. Then protests in Ferguson are met by the racial politics of the United States and now the Ferguson will be synonymous with the riot and it’s two citizens Michael Brown and Darren Wilson.

But Fergusen isn’t about Darren Wilson or Michael Brown. They were just the inciting incident to expose their community and the tensions underneath.

Match symbol of Inciting Incident

Let me explain, a narrative can only begin with a inciting incident (except for Boyhood, when just existing helps) that introduces the narrative’s problem to shake up narrative’s characters and setting puts them on the plot’s path. Imagine the match above is the inciting incident, the rest of the story is the barrel of TNT and the explosion. However while inciting incidents are the start, they are only there to bring forth the weight and depth of characters and the world they live in.

Take World War 1. Anarchist kills a high-ranking leader, and boom, the greatest war the world and seen at that point.

World War 1 Trench Warfare

Here’s the thing, there have been assassinations in the past, prior to Gavrilo Princip’s dumb luck. However the causes of World War 1 had been building up since at least 1870 and all Gavrila knew was that his gunshot was answered by four years of gunfire that nearly broke the world.

However inciting incidents are not lucky breaks. Unconsciously, we understand that a inciting incident is needed to justify the inception of any narrative we want to have, i.e. the Gulf of Tonkin Incident led to the Vietnam War. More recently, the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar by ISIS were just a manufactured inciting incident. 

Yazidi Refugees

The Yazidis were not better or worse than the other groups being attacked by ISIS, nor their suffering any worse than the atrocities that ISIS or for that matter any faction within the war were committing. However there plight was used by Obama to justify launching airstrikes against ISIS (the Yazidi have been saved, for now anyways) , a mission that is expanding and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight.

Narratives need a inciting incident to start, you can’t burn down a forest until you have a match. And as for Ferguson, let’s hope this narrative plays out differently than the ones before, however unlikely it may be. 

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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).