Roger Ebert Stars in Blow-hard: With a Vengeance (UPDATED)

Ebert and I go way back.  First I disagreed with him, then he agreed with me

Good times.

And I would never have referred to Ebert as a blow-hard until today.  Today I read this.

The pomposity and smugness of his supremely backhanded retraction, as well as the many, many semantic arguments it will inspire, I shall leave to others to address.  Instead, I’m going to talk about Clive Barker.

You see, making Clive Barker the defender of a medium as artistically valid feels to me a little like making Dick Cheney the defender capitalism as a benevolent force in society.  Sure, Barker has been involved in media that sometimes produce art, just as Cheney was involved in an economy that could sometimes be called capitalist.  What both of them have done, though, is more like pillaging than anything else.

Oh, and agreeing with either leaves you feeling a little icky and inhuman.

So, if Blow-hard…I mean, Ebert, wants to set up Clive Barker as the marker for art in games, let him.  Because Clive Barker also made movies.

Having viewed portions of Clive Barker’s movies, I can state with certainty that movies are not art.  That’s not to say that movies may not become art at some point in the future, or that people who watch movies may not experience them as art.  I’m simply saying that, based on my knowledge and experience, no movie has yet been produced that can be considered art.

People keep suggesting movies to me; I’ve certainly heard the name Citizen Kane bandied about, but I’m not really interested in watching any of those movies.  Anyway, I’m busy, and I don’t have a television or DVD player.

So good luck, movies.  Maybe one day you’ll make it as a medium for artistic expression, but based on my partial viewings of the first three Hellraiser films I can safely say that no movie yet produced has any artistic merit.

(UPDATE: When I wrote this wee rant, Ebert’s story had pictures from Clive Barker’s Jericho laced throughout it, and ended with two YouTube videos of Jericho.  Now, Ebert has seen fit to replace those with images and video from Shadow of the Colossus.  Without saying it, he’s backtracking even further…and undermining some of the cleverness of my post, though Barker is still the only proponent of games quoted in Ebert’s article.

My biggest issue with Ebert’s little pseudo-retraction is how backhanded it feels.  He’s saying that he’s sorry for getting involved in the debate, all the while the Barker-alia reinforcing the correctness of his original position.  That was, after all, a terrible, terrible game – and deeply, impossibly far from anything that could be considered art.  Hence the above response.

While the change in images has eased a certain amount of the sting, he’s still saying that gamers may certainly moved by video-games, but since they are illiterate and have no taste or consistent opinion there’s not much credibility to that.)

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2 Responses to “Roger Ebert Stars in Blow-hard: With a Vengeance (UPDATED)”

  1. BKamper Says:

    I’m kind of agnostic on the question of whether or not video games can be art. It’s impossible to predict the future, as Ebert suggests. But I’m not sure I understand why Ebert is being a “blowhard” on the article that you link to. He seems to backtrack on some of his arguments and suggest that he represents a generation that has little time for videogames.

    Isn’t this like listening to an food critic on film criticism? Or a book critic on film? The experiences delivered by film and videogames are so different that it’s hard to listen to one critic so closely identified with one medium discuss another with which he is self-admittedly ignorant. That said, though, Ebert is not alone in having some questions about the aesthetic of video-games: http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0706KLOSTER_66

    Your snark about Clive Barker only confirms that you can be just as much of a sanctimonious asshole as you’re accusing Ebert of being.

    • Will Kaufman Says:

      I am every bit the sanctimonious asshole Ebert is. My hope is that if there are more sanctimonious assholes on the side of gaming, gaming will gain the same credibility that sanctimonious assholes have brought to other media.

      Also, that Esquire feature was out of touch when it was written, four years ago. It falls into the same trap as every other major criticism in that it considers only the most visible, big budget aspects of the industry. It’s like judging films solely by summer blockbusters.

      And there are volumes of the kind of criticism they see as missing available.

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