I went viral last year. Well, not just me. A bunch of super talented people who made this video I wrote also went viral. It was a fun, frightening few days.
I've written several videos and articles since, and I've been proud of them and very happy with the results and humbled to be able to do them. But, it's hard to make lightning strike again. Especially, perhaps, when there's an iota of expectation involved.
It seems like the best anyone can do today is be passed around social media for a few days and then immediately forgot. Remember The Evolution of Mom Dancing? Or that really hot guy in with the sex mugshot? Eh, no one else does either, really. #Kony2012? That might as well have happened in the Triassic Period.
I suppose this is always been the life cycle of notoriety. A moment in the sun, chatter, and then a fade out. It just used to last longer. Decades ago, movies would run in theaters for half or most of a year. A creative effort could be appreciated, discussed, in the zeitgeist for much longer. Mostly because there was less, and a slower production pace. Now, it's a couple days. Hours, even. We go to Broadway shows, the zenith of live performance spectacle (North Korean arena pageants not withstanding) and check our phones the entire time to see if someone Liked our status update about seeing this show. We go to the concerts of legends and the most famous people in the world and we stare at them through our phones, because we want credit for being there. It's not about them, or their music. It's about crafting that perfect image on social media so the appropriate people will celebrate you/be jealous. So you can break 100 likes. So you can go micro-viral. Be somebody. But, even then, it only lasts a few hours.
Ruby Dee dies and she gets about half an hour of Facebook RIPs and links and photos from when she was young. And then, gone. Supplanted by man saving a drowning bear or a guy stuck in a giant stone vagina.
We're such a bored species. We all want to feel Big Emotions, but without doing the things to earn those Big Emotions ourselves. We all want to life to feel a little more like a movie, which is perhaps why we're obsessed with curating our own storyboards via our Facebook walls That's why we gawk at car accidents and mindlessly scroll through our Facebook feed for our tenth Most Amazing Video You've Ever Seen of the day. That's why we divorce our husbands after two years of marriage, because suddenly we're not celebrities anymore and no one cares that we're married and the number of Likes we get on our re-re-re-re-posted wedding photos has dropped off a cliff. No one cares anymore.
And when they do, it's only for an instant. Then it's back to boredom.
So, I'm playing this video game. And I'm unreasonably angry about the graphics. It's a problem.
I played the first game in the series, Dark Souls, and it was amazing and glorious and had great graphics and satisfied my need to escape from my humdrum existence and feel special and in control and a bad ass. But the sequel, Dark Souls II, while still fun to play, looks like donkey shit a lot of the times. I mean, look at it. Repeated textures, bad lighting, bad textures, simplistic levels. And it all makes me SIGH and HUFF and GROAN and be INDIGNANT because how DARE they!
I may or may not have a video game addiction. It's unclear. I've been playing since I was a kid, stealing time on my brother's NES to fart on turtles and eat weird-ass mushroooms and perpetuate the misogynistic concept of princess-saving. I evolved into a PC gamer, playing early CD-ROM games that took up a jaw-dropping 50MB of space. Now, at 31 years young, I'm an Xbox fiend, usually playing RPGs that allow me to customize female characters that I name middle-aged-mom names like Sheila and Brenda and Judith Light. Thankfully, my boyfriend loves to work late into the evening, allowing me ample time to sit on the couch and take my cleric Carla around a haunted castle and fire-mace the shit out of some skeletons.
I fell into video games, I think, to stop being me for awhile. To avoid some obvious truths and to be in a place where I was a hero, where I was extraordinary, and where I was strong. Nowadays, even though I'm clearly out and clearly an adult, I still yearn for that childish feeling of being a monster-slaying hero, a highly important, lone ranger that the world revolves around. Also, a world where my day-to-day anxiety doesn't exist.
So maybe I've reached a diva level with my demand for satisfactory graphics. Is it that much to ask that designers create more that three square feet of wall texture and not repeat it 60,000 times in one room? If I'm going balls deep in this fantasy world for three hours on a Saturday morning (or Tuesday evening, or Sunday afternoon, or Thursday or Wednesday or Monday or Friday or Saturday evening) at least make it feel fleshy and realistic so I can properly get off.
Dark Souls II, I love you and I hate you. Your graphics mostly suck. But your ability to make my brain stop generating seven megatons of anxiety chemicals because I have a writing deadline or maybe accidentally insulted someone on the Red Line and that clearly makes me a horrible person forever is truly magical.
Dark Souls II, I wish you were more like the original Dark Souls.
I wish I was more like Dan Savage, or an early 1990s Michelle Pfeiffer.
But we are what we are. I'm a grown man who still loves to play pretend. And god damnit, I like my pretend to have nice graphics.
Sometimes I think, like Belinda Carlisle and her high-waisted belt are clearly thinking in that photo, what is heaven like?
I don't mean, like, is it all cloud-print carpeting and gates made from the souls of a million slaughtered oysters, or are there little cherubs fluttering about playing Enya muzak on their harps all the fucking time?
I mean, like, if there is a heaven, who is there? Who would I be spending eternity with (assuming gay men with a penchant for purple skinny pants are allowed)?
And I don't mean that tired Christians, Jews, Muslims WHO IS RIGHT?!? debate (the answer is clearly June Squibb. She is the alpha and the omega.)
What I wonder about, and what I feel is so ridiculously under-discussed is abundantly obvious fact that if heaven does exist, it is almost certainly filled with 99.99999% shitty, shitty people.
Think about it. Of all the people who have lived and died in the history of mankind, how many lived during a time when you were told to be nice to gays/minorities/women? How about during a time when slavery was an across-the-board abomination to everyone? Very, very few. Hell, it's only been really the last decade or so that America has majorly turned the corner on gay rights, and only the last few years where transgender citizens are getting a long-overdue spot in cultural discourse (and they still deserve far more consideration and acceptance than they're getting right now).
Think about it more. You could've lived an upstanding, uber-Christian life in 1733, done everything society told you was correct and good and necessary for securing a one-way ticket to St. Peter's Sandals resort, and you were still likely a complete monster by today's standards.
Way back in those comparably primordial times, not hitting your 15-year-old wife too hard was a "good thing." Selling your slaves at a fair price was a "good thing." Helping Goody Sanders dunk the witch when her arms got tired was a "good thing." You could've done all these horrific things, lived to the ripe old age of 51 and died thinking "Yep. Nailed it."
And what about all those good religious folk who said please and thank you and died of old age in the 1950s, who never had anyone tell them the N-word was fucking awful or that gays weren't deranged perverts or that hitting your kids was bad? It's easy now to say they should've known better (of course they should have!), but they didn't because literally no one told them their entire lives. And, they didn't murder anyone, or covet their neighbors wives, so to them, they were heaven bound.
And I'm not absolving them of being horrible. On the contrary, I'm suggesting , based on our own simplistic understanding of heaven, either they must've gotten a free pass into the after-life on a bogus technicality, or they got blindsided by a trip to hell. Or neither actually exist, but shh, we're not talking about that.
MY QUESTION: If no one is around to tell you what you're done is not just wrong, but horribly, astonishingly, ridiculously wrong, then can heaven still reject you?
This brings up three possibilities:
1) Yes, they're rejected, and heaven has like six people named Claire in it.
2) Everyone who acted horribly for millions of years, but had no real context in which to understand their horrible behavior, gets in through some sort of "You didn't know better" clause, and goes through some quick adjunct-taught orientation class titled This Is Actually How You Should Have Acted You Shitty, Shitty Human before they're given the keys to their Heaven Condo and let loose on the streets of Heavenburg.
2) WE'RE like those people in the 1730s and we just don't know it yet. Maybe when we die, decades from now, OUR grandkids will be embarrassed of US. Even though after a life of saying please and thank you and using progressive terms like cisgender and learning to (rightly) call each other out on our misogyny and racism and homo- and transphobia, we die and are like "Yep. Nailed it." And then we go to heaven and God is like "Ohhhkkayyy. So, it says here you led a traumatized animal by a rope tied around his neck his entire life and called multi-soul-tarians by the slur 'schizos' and killed thousands of electronic humans in video games--turns out they had a rudimentary sentinence. And oh wow. You ate a fuckload of carrots. FYI, they actually have highly developed souls and an extreme sensitivity to pain and are my most prized and perfect creation, so fuck you very much, Donna B. from Souix City, Iowa."
But we didn't know about the dog leash thing or the carrot thing because no one told us it was wrong and if they did, we would've thought they were loony, the way someone calling for gay equality in 1659 would've been considered loony. And we find out that although we're millions of light years ahead of our shitty, shitty ancestors, we're still monstrous by comparison of the Actual Good Way To Act, and we get filed into This Is How You Actually Should Have Acted You Shitty, Shitty Human, taught by alpha and the omega June Squibb.
I guess my point is, every single person in the history of humankind who thought he or she was the most evolved, socially and emotionally, you could possible be, has been dead fucking wrong. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
Also, there is nothing logical about the concept of heaven. But look at Belinda's catsuit! Rarrr!