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Personal opinions and commentary.

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You Can’t Go Home Again: The Legacy of the Angry Video Game Nerd

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared at ZEAL and is republished here with permission.

Permit me, if you will, to take you back to the past. Way, way back a dozen years ago — before major gaming sites made comedy a key part of their video strategy, before most sites even had a video strategy. Before PewDiePies and Game Grumps and ProJareds and Dunkeys. Before the concept of YouTube stars. Back in the mid-2000s, things were simpler: we had a man. A rant. An Angry Video Game Nerd.

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The Best Heroes Help Us Learn to Lose

When I was 22 years old, I was officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression—finally putting a name to something I never properly realized I had. Throughout my teen years I always thought my experiences were due to teen angst or a result of not knowing how to control my emotions,  or even that I just wasn’t good at being a person.

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Pain Is a Garment: Pornography and Sexuality in Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden

Pornography—notoriously difficult to define, its moral weight and cultural impact bitterly contested not just by prudes and lewds but by opposing factions within movements like feminism—has always been a dicey subject for discussion. Is it art or exploitation? Does it objectify women or empower us? In Park Chan-Wook’s 2016 twisty lesbian thriller The Handmaiden, the complex nature of porn takes center stage, explored with real insight in a story concerned not just with the abuses and ugliness of pornography, but with the beauty and connection it can foster between lovers.

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The Shot-on-Video Devolution, Pt. 1

In the days before the analog extinction, a most prominent purveyor of physical media emerged. Now a fetishized monument, it was at the time considered by many to be a scourge upon the once proud institutions of the drive-in and the grindhouse. Tumbleweeds rolled across vacant lots once lined with cars—their windows steamed, the vans a-rockin’ while the fleapit movie houses of New York’s 42nd Street were on the docket for Disneyfication. Overtaking their spot atop the movie watching world was the video rental shop. Or, as it was known by the ancients, the video store.

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The Videogame Fandom That Wrote the Book on Their Favorite Series

Dark Souls and Bloodborne are titles that tell wonderfully weird stories in a fragmented and ambiguous way. Dark Souls is a series in which humanity attempts to manifest itself in a world that has forgotten it. The player plays as an Undead warrior, tasked with determining the fate of mankind in a world of fire and monstrosity. Bloodborne, on the other hand, combines cosmic horror with a Victorian Gothic aesthetic, in which beasts run rampant in a place called the Nightmare. The player is a hunter who must traverse the realms of the Nightmare in order to put a stop to the Scourge of the Beasts.

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Anime, Video Games, and the Texans Who Love Them: A History of Rooster Teeth

How does a team of college kids go from getting drunk and reviewing video games to producing an animated series with hardcore fanbases in both the United States and Japan? It sounds like an unobtainable geeky American dream, but it’s the true story of entertainment company Rooster Teeth. From Halo machinima videos to magical girls and mecha shows, let’s take a look at a how a team of six fans became a major studio conquering just about every corner of modern media.

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Frasier is Anime

Launched as a spin-off of the popular 80s sitcom Cheers, nobody could have seen Frasier coming. Of all of the characters populating the famous Boston bar—the dumb but sweet Woody, the biting Carla, the wry Sam—the bumbling, ineffectual psychiatrist Frasier Crane seemed the least likely to land his own series. And yet he did, kicking off one of the greatest anime of all time.

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The Gospel of Marge: Fargo and the Fallen World

The tropes that the Fargo TV show shares with the film—the Minnesota accent, the quirky humor, and the “true story” title card—can make the franchise seem as blanketed in sameness as the vast stretches of snow that serve as the movie’s opening shot. But the appearance of uniformity is deceiving: beneath the snow, the terrain varies. Old dirt forms the shoulder for the newly paved road. Cracks and fissures split the hard frozen ground.

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Why Adventure Time’s Lesbian Romance Matters

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the finale of Adventure Time.

The only fanfiction I ever wrote was about Marceline and Princess Bubblegum from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. Unlike a lot of my fellow quiet, nerdy friends, fanfiction was never really my thing. I liked television shows and movies, but reading and writing about characters I liked in different, often unhinged scenarios seemed a little odd.

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Making Monsters: The Enduring Appeal of Star Wars’ Creature Design

A rusted portcullis rises, concealed machinery rattling as sand falls from the bulwark’s blunt durasteel teeth. Beyond, a pair of pinprick eyes gleam in the deeper darkness. Gnarled talons unfurl, and the snorting breath of massive lungs cuts through the laughter in Jabba’s court above. The rancor, portrayed by a foot-tall rod-operated puppet designed by Phil Tippett and the artists of the Lucasfilm creature shop, appears for all of perhaps a minute and a half, but its impact on both the field of special effects and the minds of the millions of children who saw Return of the Jedi in the spring of ‘83—and the tens of millions more who’ve seen it in the decades since—has been tremendous.

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What Do You Get When You Cross Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Satanism, and Birds With Knives?

Italy: there is perhaps no other country with so rich, so bountiful a culture of the arts. It’s the soil from which opera grew, the birthplace of Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Caravaggio, the hub of the fashion world, and it’s the very land where La Rotunda and the Colosseum stand to this very day.

But it’s their inventiveness in the art of the cinematic pseudonym that towers above even the most celebrated of structures. Each finely crafted by the artisans of the industry to soothe the average American with a strongly-rooted aversion to foreigners. To fool one into believing you’re watching a film that is totally not from Italy, we swear.

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Driving Across America in a Van Full of Videotapes

In terms of literal size, the United States is about a fifth as big again as Australia. Driving across the country, though, the US feels substantially smaller. Even driving through the least densely-populated states in the lower 48—Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas both North and South—it’s impossible to drive for a few hours in any given direction without finding yourself suddenly nestled within the bosom of a town. Australia is not like this. Australia is big and empty. The state I live in is about three times the size of Texas and has just one sixth the population—it’s not even the emptiest one. We fall just about in the middle, population density-wise.

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How Bisexuality is Shaking Up Reality TV

I have something to confess: I love reality television.

This might not be a huge surprise—reality television is a big market in the United States, often filed under guilty pleasures and the “treat yourself” mentalities we cling to in times of chaos. It gives us comfort and lets us take a break from our brains in a way that no other type of media can.

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Am I Your Girl? The Female Gaze in Horror Film

As a genre, horror focuses overwhelmingly on women. Our bodies are its medium, whether sensuously posed and slathered in gore or twisted into monstrous forms to reflect our fears and anxieties. Think of Dario Argento’s lovingly butchered maidens covered in gallons of vibrant red paint, or the Alien Queen hunkering bloated and distended among her thousands of eggs, a monstrous reflection of Ellen Ripley’s maternal instincts. But for all horror’s fixation on our suffering—sometimes gratuitous, sometimes revelatory—and inner lives, horror films actually written and directed by women are few and far between.