Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deadlier Than the Male

Lately my bottom-of-the-barrel consumption has been Spike's Deadliest Warrior.  For those of you who have not sampled this program (available streaming on Netflix or also on Spike's own website), the premise is that two prototypical, unlikely, and mostly historical combatants (say: viking vs samurai, pirate vs knight) are put into a hypothetical battle.  Though the shows always culminate in a simulated live-action "face-off" between each of the contestants, the bulk of the running time follows specialists from either side demonstrating their weapons.  A computer simulation runs a thousand virtual battles to determine "the deadliest [meaning: deadlier] warrior." 

The most repetitive and unimaginative trash-talking and punditry pads out the program.  Think something along the lines of, "Oh man, that samurai sword is intense.  It will definitely kill you [i.e., if you are standing there being passively sliced by it].  But the chainsaw just has too much power.  Gotta give the edge to the chainsaw."  I believe Noam Chomsky once indicated that the general public is presumed to be a bunch of chumps, but if you listened to something like a call-in radio show about local sports, you'd hear people volunteer intelligent commentary.  This may have been more true in the past than it is today.  I wonder if sports punditry - which these days is just beyond idiotic, as with mainstream political punditry - might operate with similarly sinister effects on public culture.  Discourage people - The People? - from ever even thinking about strategy or tactics, which of course is what sport still offers the spectacularized public an opportunity to do ... so that the only end a person will end up ever being encouraged to achieve is selling labor in order to obtain and maintain the opportunity to eat and sleep.

At any rate, in Deadliest Warrior we see what happens when puerile but admittedly fascinating questions - like could an Apache defeat a gladiator? - are posed.  (Let's recall for a second that Guy Debord was a great student of war and martial matters.)  The show has a curious feature in that, when it pits like weapons against each other - such as the mid-range ones - it does it only by separating them and tabulating data based on what each weapon does to an inanimate object like a pig carcass or forensic gel torso.  (If the software the show uses does anything more complicated than this, we are not informed of it.)  Does even such a childish question as this show thrives upon require such dissembling?  This show simply cannot conceive of actual conflict, but instead can only run on the engines of simulation, of R&D execution.  It may be "totally rad" to see a katana blade slice through an entire swine, but the consistently evaded question is exactly what the show vocally promises.  Who would win?  Which weapon actually wins?

Not that one should ever expect that a show like Deadliest Warrior would deliver what it evokes.  I just find it interesting how baldly - and yet unconsciously - the film divorces itself from its actual premise.  I've plenty more episodes to go, but have yet to see a single woman on the show.  I am no expert on Spike and its demographic-marketing strategies, but this channel is still gunning for the heternormative dads-dudes-and-bros market.  (Right?)  It seems, at first, strange that they don't even offer the spectacle of "hot babes" as with boxing, professional wrestling, and mixed martial arts.  But perhaps it's an illustration of the separation between men and woman that war is supposed to engender - war is man's domain, and woman is man's repose.  (So bellowed Nietzsche, if I recall.)  In any event, a show like Deadliest Warrior promises a certain appreciation of violent, macho effectiveness while in fact nullifying this very thing.  Not from a feminist perspective, mind you ...


jake said...

I am no expert on Spike and its demographic-marketing strategies, but this channel is still gunning for the heternormative dads-dudes-and-bros market. (Right?)


If you haven't seen Spike's 1000 Ways to Die yet, do so. It's probably their most ridiculous show and one of the most ridiculous shows I've ever seen... it's a curious mixture of misogyny, misanthropy and sadism and self-righteousness. An episode can show a woman's boob implants exploding in a airplane take-off (what a deadly sin vanity is) yet also show transitions between segments featuring bikini babes with title cards.

During one of those completely laughable x-ray analysis of a clown's death with some medical expert's commentary running in the background, the clown's x-rayed body still showed his clown nose and hair. It's one of the many things that makes me wonder if the show is mocking itself (and Spike as a whole).

In any case, it's due for a Ludic Despair examination.

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