Five (Super-Spoilery) Reasons You Should Catch Up On/Keep Up With The Guild

September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Five (Super-Spoilery) Reasons You Should Catch Up On/Keep Up With The Guild

Reason One: The plot is getting REAL. As of the most recent episode, S507 “Downturn,” Codex is seriously considering quitting The Game. When we first met Codex in S101 “Wake-Up Call,” she was addicted to The Game. When the comic book prequel to Codex’s story was released in between the third and fourth seasons of the series, we saw what we had forgotten existed behind the avatar: a depressed, tetris-playing Cyd Sherman, with a boyfriend and not a single internet friend. And now, Codex is considering becoming Cyd again, developing a post-avatar persona that makes a go at living in the world? I’m excited, I’m nervous, but I know I want to see what happens. What’s amazing about The Guild storyworld thus far has been the attention to daily life, but I’m confident that Felicia Day can take a page from the Book of Whedon and pull off a leap into post-crisis character development, the likes of which we could never have anticipated from her show’s delightfully small-scale premise. The setting of season five being the Megagame-O-Ramacon creates a wonderful opportunity for all the characters, but especially Codex, to imagine a life-course oriented around a different relationship to The Game, whether one more thoroughly immersed in it (as in the case of The Game’s employees), or less, as a casual, even lapsed fan.

Reason Two: The comics are paying OFF. I was bowled over by all of the one-shots that were released thus far, but the Tink and Bladezz comics especially tickled my curiosity in ways I couldn’t have predicted. Day’s restraint in revealing anything about Tink’s “real” identity in a comic designed to showcase her origin story with slick psychological reasoning was impressive. Perhaps it’s not surprising, post-Dollhouse, that Day was up to the challenge of creating this kind of intrigue through storytelling, and, as far as I can tell, is up to the challenge of making the wait to meet “the real Tink” well worth it for fans of the character. (And really, who isn’t a Tink fan?) And as for Bladezz, perhaps because his one-shot focused intensely on his predictably, but movingly tumultuous family life, the payoff occurs when we see his modeling savvy once again help him to recover needed resources after making some mistakes. I’m often frustrated when I try to recruit new fans to The Guild that it is so hard to convince them that the comics are integral to the storyworld’s canon, as I understand it. Fortunately, as the series gradually incorporates information first revealed in the comics, and then builds on that information to develop the characters, I at least feel that my own love for the comics is being rewarded.

Reason Three: For those moved by The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going to Miss Almost Everything, The Guild provides a highly generative survey of the contemporary cultural landscape, from which to organize one’s new media to do list. The Guild speaks to so many established and emerging trends in contemporary popular culture, it’s remarkable. From the dizzying array of visual culture allusions showcased in the music video for Game On to the playful gendering of gaming aesthetics in the “guild hall” plot of the fourth season, The Guild creates a collage of trends and images that is at once recognizable and critical of the subculture(s) from which it originates. Look at it this way: I haven’t played an MMOG in years, and yet, The Guild still manages to speak closely to the experiences I had when I did play, and the ones I have now, as a media fan in other quarters, who continues to live much of my life online. The Guild is probably not for absolute outsiders to internet culture, I’ll admit, but I think that the storytelling is sufficiently compelling to make the series recommended viewing for most anyone who’s thought about their life online, whether food blog fanatic, etsy seller, or news junkie. Anyone who’s ever refreshed a page anxiously for more than ten minutes, or lost himself in Angry Birds (and I’m way outside my comfort zone with that reference, so take it for what it is), or made a profile on an online dating site can likely relate to the navigation of multiple identities that is at the emotional core of this storyworld. From the beginning of the series, we are shown that the way this navigation occurs within the complex layered publics of the internet informs the lives we live offline, and thus our social world on the whole. It is part of the task of good fiction to help us to situate ourselves within the dynamic social whole, and The Guild is one great example of a fictional world that helps us to do just that.

Reason Four: Television is losing women writers at a disturbing rate, and The Guild gives us the opportunity to support one of the most badass women writers of our generation. And to return to the theme of cultural critique, Day and her team do amazing work creating characters who can simultaneously find frustration and pleasure in the gender identities imposed on them by the larger culture. There are women who dress up, and women who don’t. There are men who play male characters in The Game, and men who play female characters in The Game. Codex herself is some kind of cross between 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Xander Harris, and Friends‘s Chandler Bing. The Guild is interested in and honest about the gender politics of gaming, dating, and cultural consumption generally, and nicely balances the representation of gender-stereotypical behavior with its complements, both parodic reversal and more subtle rejection, in parallel corners. As Heather Hendershot has argued, The Guild succeeds where The Big Bang Theory fails to address the fraught gender politics of nerdom seriously. That The Guild is female-authored is only one component of that larger issue, but it undoubtedly influences the final product.

Reason Five: The season five cameos are OFF THE HOOK. Neil Gaiman. Bam! There it is. I mean, really, what more could you ask for? Maurissa Tancharoen, how about it. Nathan Fillion? Bam. Richard Hatch? Yeah! How do you like that? Seriously, if you are into things that are cool, and you do not find one of your all-time favorites appearing in season five, you need to reevaluate your coolness self-assessment. That’s right. Like Clara at the steampunk booth, you’ve got some reflecting to do.

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