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The Sandbox: Racial Profiling

The Sandbox: Racial Profiling (photo)

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Video games offer escapist fantasies in which we get to control, even virtually embody, an on-screen avatar. And most of the time, that avatar is a white guy. According to “The Virtual Census: Representations of Gender, Race and Age in Video Games,” a new study published in the journal New Media & Society by UCLA researcher Dmitri Williams, in the top-selling video games from 2005-2006, nearly 85% of primary characters were white, and 90% of them were male.

That’s way beyond the make-up of the U.S. population (which is 49% male and 75% white) and, for that matter, the gaming community (60% male). Women, African-Americans and Hispanics were all under-represented, while Asians — probably due to the immense influence of Japan’s game development industry — appear more frequently in games than in actual American society.

What this means is that if you’re a white male, your on-screen surrogate will likely resemble you in certain basic ways, making it easier for you to “enter” into the game’s fiction. And if you’re not a white male, you’re theoretically going to have to work a bit harder to achieve that same kind of connection. Such a situation isn’t exactly shocking — as Williams’ study notes, there have long been similar discrepancies in the world of television. And it’s not without its exceptions, the most revelatory of which was “Metroid”‘s bombshell that intergalactic explorer Samus Aran was, upon removing her helmet, female. But examples like that are rare, and considering that one of the central aims of video games is to create a bond between player and character, the current white male-dominant paradigm is a little perplexing, especially in light of the industry’s desire to become a mass media juggernaut, as well as the strong, loyal fanbases of games amongst minority groups.

10092009_Halo3.jpgThe gap between what people look like on screen in games, TV shows and (to a lesser extent) movies and how they look in real life has to have consequences on the sense of identity and self-worth of underrepresented demographics. Sure, actors and actresses have always been thinner, better groomed and more beautiful than the average man or woman on the street, but in gaming, where there’s the added freedom of characters being designed creations, the fact that they also tend to end up whiter is troubling.

Why, despite multiple platforms, myriad genres and an ever-expanding number of customers, do so many A-list game titles resort to the same old hero? Niche products like “LittleBigPlanet,” “Braid” and “Scribblenauts” (to name a few idiosyncratic gems) don’t hew to convention. And “Halo,” for all its clichés, wisely keeps Master Chief masked at all times, the better to let gamers of all shapes and sizes imagine that he resembles them. But, these exceptions aside, stock types are dominant: the macho commando (“Gears of War”‘s Marcus Fenix, “Call of Duty”‘s grunts); the rugged superspy or swashbuckler (“Metal Gear Solid”‘s Solid Snake, “Uncharted”‘s Nathan Drake); the thuggish underworld criminal (“Grand Theft Auto”‘s various hoods); and, for girls, the impossibly thin, buxom female badass (“Wet”‘s Rubi).


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.