Omar Mateen was a homophobe, not a lunatic


Omar Mateen was not mentally ill, and he was not a Muslim; he was a homophobe who was disgusted by gays, and a sexist who beat his wife.

Lunatic is a word that lets us distance ourselves from the difficult people and difficult problems that we had a hand in creating. In reality, we live with the kind of hatred that Mateen represents every day. We see it and we hear it, and most of the time we let it slide, because, after all, we’re good people; we’re the liberal West: we gave them marriage and we gave them the fringe, what more do they want?

Well, it is those very freedoms that make our homophobia that much more dangerous, and the reason is very simple: disenfranchisement. Omar Mateen did what he did because he could not effect change in a legitimate way. He had no legal recourse, and so he picked up a gun and went out to Pulse, because it was the only option available to him. He would have been right at home in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan, but in the States, his views are not reflected or legitimized by the law. At least not officially.

Make no mistake: that’s a good- no, a great- thing. But it’s also what makes Western homophobia so much more volatile. Mateen faced a legal wall, so he shot it down. What we need to do is engage with, or ideally preempt, that point of obstruction.

There are two ways I can see of doing this.

Firstly, stop the homophobia. Mateen should never have been able to get that desperate and frustrated, let alone reify his desperation and frustration. He should not have had those views in this day and age. So, what we need to do is deal with and intercept the problem of homophobia through education, and by actively working against the every day normalization of homophobia in society.

As an aside, I don’t think we can lay the blame at Islam’s doorstep for this one- at least, not entirely. Every Abrahamic religion is vehemently sexist and homophobic, and every religion has terrorists. Terrorism has no religion? Terrorism has many religions. And anyway, Mateen was not a practising Muslim. He was a homophobe who found justification in Islam, in one aspect of his cultural identity, and used it to justify violence.

The second way for us to deal with the problem is to take away the violent option entirely. Doing that seemed pretty simple before the Bataclan: take away the guns, take away the assault rifles. It worked for us. It didn’t work for France. But I don’t think that that was a failure of the written law; I think it was a failure of the law in practice. Just look at the scenes in France this past week: English, French and Russian football fans running amok in Marseille and Lille, and a bipolar, unfocused and improper response from French riot police.

Ultimately, we just need to start getting this conversation right. Calling Mateen a lunatic sanitizes his motivations and takes them out of the complex sociopolitical melange in which they festered for 29 years. Branding him mentally ill, with no medical evidence and an offhand quote from his ex-wife, does the same and, more importantly, offends and dangerously stigmatizes an entire group of people who have enough to deal with as it is. This is about bigotry, and this is about gun laws. Stop talking around the issue, and confront it.


HITMAN Episode 3 ‘A Gilded Cage’ Review

HITMAN‘s new mission, The Gilded Cage, sees Agent 47 travelling to Marrakesh, Morocco, to carry out a double contract on the two power-players in an ongoing diplomatic crisis and imminent military coup. It’s essentially the Tehran embassy debacle with a messy paramilitary conspiracy tacked on for good measure.

Marrakesh is a bit of a mixed bag. The scenario is pretty novel and involved, and the opportunities it facilitates make for some of the best set-pieces in the current build of the game. Passing through consulate security as a news team’s cameraman or exploiting evacuation protocols to end up in your target’s armed escort is clever, creative and thrilling. However, these eclectic opportunities can sometimes be too obvious. When NPC’s are telling me where to find the master key for half the map, you know that the handholding has gone too far.

Most of the map just feels like padding. The market, the bazaar and the winding back streets have little to no use. In my first run, I went from the school, to the consulate, and left the way I’d come in. I didn’t even step foot in the market until my third or fourth run through, and that was just to see it.

It doesn’t help that the map is also the least visually appealing of the three episodes thus far. It’s drab and pallid, and the textures on buildings and NPCs are bad enough to look unrendered, even when they are. This is a real shame, and such a missed opportunity. The lamp market at the back of the map gives you a taste of the kind of exotic musk IO could have gone for. Instead, it’s anemic, plain, open and blocky, which makes its aesthetic mistakes all the more glaring. Sun-washed doesn’t mean desaturated. It also doesn’t help that Marrakesh is the follow-up to the absolutely stunning and insanely detailed Sapienza.


Marrakesh differs from Paris and Sapienza in more complicated ways, too. Whereas the first two episodes had a sense of momentum and of forging a path deeper into the heart of the place or event, Marrakesh is dichotomous. The Swiss consulate is clean and glossy, busy and secure. Zaydan’s hideout, however, is like a bombed out Middle-Eastern warzone; sandy, decrepit, stockpiled with guns and ammunition, surrounded by armored vehicles and patrolled by varyingly indolent troops, something else that facilitates some pretty hilarious and morbidly creative kills. At first, I thought that this was a problem. Tonally, the transition from glassy consulate to abandoned school seemed off and disjointed. But then I kind of got the point- that the wealth of the political class is built on poverty and ruin, and that men like Strandberg see an occupied schoolyard as an opportunity, rather than a tragedy. All three of the game’s current maps have used location to parallel the themes of their hits and the stories behind them, and I think to great effect. This is certainly shaping up to be the franchise’s most political and critical entry yet, and props to IO for that. It’s so great to see a franchise develop and mature over time. I suppose they realized that it’s 2016, and that Christmas-strippers and sex-nuns don’t fly anymore. Female spies and scientists? Much better.

nuns sex and stuff duh

This progression is undermined, however, by cringe-worthy VO whitewashing- the kind of cockney redux that Unity‘s Parisians were lambasted for. How am I supposed to buy your Morocco when your Moroccans can’t even give me a convincing asalaam alikum? It’s racist and it’s lazy, it’s insulting to the fanbase, and it completely kills player immersion. They didn’t even have to go full Arabic; just give me some accents! They managed the Swedes at the consulate just fine, so what happened with the Moroccans? Giving a megaphone-wielding Moroccan political dissident a voice from the bleachy heart of white America completely undercuts any weight that the fictional protests could have had. It’s offensive, and it’s unnecessary. Cut it out IO; if I can beat your game I can handle a fucking accent.


+ Creative assassination opportunities…

– …that can sometimes be too obvious.

+ Novel setting and scenario…

– …that IO unfortunately don’t pull off.

– Low res textures and ugly NPCs

– Lazy and offensive VO whitewashing


The Survivalist (2015) Review

I was a bit late to this one, but nonetheless felt compelled to put something up about it.


Martin McCann in The Survivalist

Stephen Fingleton’s directorial debut, The Survivalist, is an art house dystopian drama about, surprisingly, a survivalist, played by Martin McCann, living alone in a shack out in the Irish forests.

The film opens with a brilliantly minimalist graphical animation that immediately establishes a stylistic precedent for the sparsity that defines the film, both diegetically and aesthetically. The Survivalist is a masterclass in directorial restraint, frugal world-building and implicit narration. With a single animated graph, Fingleton tells us everything we need to know about this world and its context: the oil ran out and everybody died.

Visually, the film is verdant and lush. The camera floats across green fields and digs into the earthy brown soils of Ireland’s forests with a loose airiness that punctuates the agrestic quiet and emptiness of the film’s long and careful sequences. Even the violence is treated with a gentleness that cogitates more on psychology than physicality. The film’s few confrontations are about mindset and trickery, rather than brute force and aggression. Fingleton’s camera is meditative and careful even in the film’s most tense and brutal scenes.

McCann’s survivalist is quite the opposite: constantly on-edge, paranoid and twitchy. He’s stiff, choked, and utterly possessed by the singular will to survive, putting everything, his time and effort, even himself- quite literally, with his urine and excrement- into conserving his austere existence; sustaining his meager crop and maintaining his scant inventory. Every day is the same, and everything is about being ready and able to deal with whatever or whoever comes next.

That ‘whoever’ ends up being a mother, Kathryn, and daughter, Milja, played by theatre actress Olwen Fouéré and Nymphomaniac‘s Mia Goth, respectively. The couple strike a deal with the survivalist: room and board, so as long as Milja shares his bed every night. This problematic arrangement is the crux of the film. It is fortunate, then, that it is also the best and most engaging part. The way in which the trio’s relationships fluctuate over the course of the film is as compelling as it is disturbing.

Contrary to the edgy critical consensus that thinks we need to come out of every rough-and-tumble art film feeling like Bear Grylls, The Survivalist is not some bleak two-hour slog. This is not the pretentious masochism of your Blue Ruin‘s; it’s a human film about human people. The Survivalist shows us the best and worst of humanity, from the darkest to the most endearing and loyal. That’s not relentless; that’s honest. It’s not all death and betrayal, it’s just that what love there is hides among it, and can even be synonymous. Such is the grayed marvel of the movie’s muddy morality- we don’t know who to like or who to hate; who’s right and who’s wrong. In Fingleton’s naked diegesis, every action feels morally variegated and tangled. One particular scene, involving some intimate fever-relief, really illustrates what I mean, but I won’t spoil it for you; it’s surprising, it’s touching, and it’s complicated, so go in blind and see what you think.

Featuring three fantastic performances, and an admirable expository minimalism and visual deftness to rival the best of the contemporary art house circuit, The Survivalist is an easy recommendation to make. Be prepared, but don’t be afraid. Don’t let the blood mask the humanity that rests at the heart of Fingelton’s twisted visual poetry.


Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

(Just before we start, all screenshots used in this review are my own, and were taken using the Uncharted 4 photo mode during gameplay which 1. should get the copyrighters off my back and 2. show you why you need to buy this game!)

Uncharted™ 4: A Thief’s End_20160521173236

It’s funny, I don’t really consider myself an Uncharted fan. But what I remembered while playing A Thief’s End is that I am.

I wasn’t excited about this game. I wasn’t excited about the others either. I watched half the E3 demo and then never gave it a second thought. Until last week, that is. With HITMAN dead until next month’s map releases and Fallout 4 expansion Far Harbor currently unplayable, I was left with a pretty desolate PS4 library. So I decided to jump back on the Sony party train and download A Thief’s End.

I finished it in a sweaty day-and-a-half, and it was fantastic. Everything, the graphics, the gameplay, the story, the performances (across the board) and the Zimmer-level soundtrack, was nothing short of excellent. Naughty Dog are the masters of execution, and this is their opus.

Yes, I think we’re going to have to de-crown The Last of Us. The quality and consistency of production here, the attention to detail and interactivity, intuition and variety, is without parallel, and that includes the developer’s last gory effort.

The game’s biggest achievement is its combat. And no, I didn’t expect to be saying that either. While I’ve enjoyed every one of the series’ entries, I always felt like their shootouts were just monotonous obstacles that got in the way of the next spectacular set-piece or chase, dizzying climb or mind-bending find. That is absolutely not the case here. A Thief’s End pools the best bits of the series’ gunplay and climbing to produce some seriously explosive firefights.

Uncharted™ 4: A Thief’s End_20160521214144

Not only are the environs bigger and more varied, but the addition of the new grapple rope gives them a verticality and natural kineticism that makes every encounter a joy to blast through, replay, and direct, because with the new, and commendably nuanced, photo mode, every encounter becomes an opportunity for you to break out your inner Spielberg. A Thief’s End really makes you feel like you’re in one of those great Indy action scenes that the series so lovingly pays homage to.

Naughty Dog have clearly been paying close attention to contemporary trends in games of all genres, but particularly the open-ended evolution of the Metal Gear franchise with its fifth and supposedly final entry. One chapter especially takes obvious inspiration from Kojima’s swan-song; a road-trip through the Madagascan jungle and mountains in a jeep, full of guard outposts to annex in any way you want- subterfuge or guns-a-blazing, it’s up to you. And while this clearly isn’t an original approach- Far Cry, the aforementioned Phantom Pain- serious props should go to Naughty Dog for being the first to understand that that formula fairs much better in short bursts than the entirety of forty-hour games…

If you want to be blown away, this is the one to pick up. Uncharted 4 achieves what so many game developers have tried for so long to do: put you in the movies you love and that they love. Movies and games are not inextricable, but they share an undeniable formal bond that, sometimes, it’s okay to just accept and revel in. This is one of those times.