Grand Theft Auto V: The Satire Defense

By Shamus Posted Thursday Aug 30, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 177 comments

I’m going to spend a lot of time criticizing Grand Theft Auto V. I know I’ve already tipped my hand in the earlier entries of this series, and you can probably guess what some of my complaints will be: The tone is inconsistent to the point of incoherency. The story structure is endlessly meandering. The humor is broad, lazy, and scattershot. The characters have abrupt and unearned shifts in behavior that the writer tries to pass off as character arcs. Its depiction of California culture is ugly, mean, and oddly shallow. I know other people have covered a lot of this ground before me. I mean, obviously. It’s pretty hard to say something novel when your review shows up five years late to the party.

But I’ve been doing this game critic hustle long enough to know that the first line of defense against these complaints will be, “No Shamus. You just didn’t ‘get’ it. See, this game is actually satire.” So let’s put that point to rest right now.

I’ll admit that this game thinks it’s doing satire. But its not. It’s doing mockery, which is a much less sophisticated form of humor.

Satire is focusing on a target and holding up their follies, abuses, and shortcomings to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself. Sometimes this is done with the aim of offering constructive criticism, and sometimes it’s just done to blow off steam. In contrast, mockery is just depicting something as stupid or evil to show your distaste for it.

Perhaps An Analogy Would Be Useful

EA CEO Andrew Wilson.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson.

Let’s say I want to make fun of Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson. If I wanted to satirize him, then perhaps I could set up a comedy sketch of an EA board meeting. One of the underlings asks Andrew what his plans are to increase the earnings of the next Titanfall game, to which he replies “Lootboxes“. Then they ask him what the plan is for the next Mirror’s Edge game, and he replies “Lootboxes”. The accountant stands up and announces that profits are up 20%. He asks what sort of ventures they should spend this money on. “Lootboxes,” Andrew nods definitively.

Then someone from catering shows up and asks what the board would like to eat today. An argument begins among the other board members but Andrew silences them by insisting on “Lootboxes”. His secretary comes in. His wife in on the phone. Their first child has just been born and she wants to know what to name her. Andrew takes the phone into his shaking hand and – overcome with joy – tells her “Lootboxes”.

I won’t claim this is a brilliant skit or anything. I don’t think it would pass muster in the SNL writer’s room. But it is satire. Andrew Wilson seems to be a man with one idea and a lot of recent problems at EA stem from him trying to cram lootboxes into games whether it makes sense or not. This skit just takes that idea to the next level – that lootboxes are actually his reflexive answer to everything – and allows that idea to create an absurd situation.

For contrast, if I just want to mock Wilson then I can put on a suit, adopt a dumb cross-eyed facial expression, and put on a cartoonishly derpy speech impediment. I’ll march back and forth on stage with a goofy stick-up-the-ass gait and announce, “HURR DURR. I’M ANDREW WILSON AND I LOVE MONEY. DUH. VIDEOGAMES SUCK.”

Mockery can feel good. It can be funny and cathartic. But it’s not satire. We associate satire with higher forms of comedy and we associate mockery with the lower stuff. Grand Theft Auto has incredible production values and it does a lot of satire-ish kind of things, so we tend to give GTA a pass and treat it like a higher class of humor.

The problem is that Rockstar isn’t American. They’re Scots. Which is fine, except the all of their satire is aimed at the United States and it feels like they have no understanding of their target. A good example of bad mockery is when it drills down and tries to tackle specific targets and the alleged satire is so far removed from the target you can’t tell what the intended target is.

The risk here is that if I attack some of the game’s clumsier attempts at political “satire”, I’ll end up arguing with people who will insist I’m just disagreeing because I don’t like the game’s politics. I could deflect that by announcing my political positions up frontSpoiler: I’m going to actually do this in a future entry. It’s going to be weird., but that would hopelessly derail the topic and we’d end up criticizing politics instead of criticizing the satire. That’s a mug’s game and I’m not falling for it.

So instead of going for the obvious targets, let’s pick on some of the topics that are low on controversy. But to make sure we don’t get lost on topics that are perhaps too frivolous, let’s focus on instances where the developers spent money on the attempted satire.

Anime is Stupid

I think the title "Princess Robot Bubblegum" is the only part of this that comes remotely close to the target.
I think the title "Princess Robot Bubblegum" is the only part of this that comes remotely close to the target.

In the game, you can park your character in front of the TV and watch some shows and commercials. One is an anime skit that seems to have been made by someone who’s never watched anime. If you’re trying to satirize something, then you want to mimic the look and feel of your target so the rest of it lands. Just like on Saturday Night Live, the first step in poking fun at Sean Connery is getting a cast member to do a proper impression of Sean Connery. And so if you want to make fun of anime then your first step ought to be something that superficially looks and feels like anime.

But this skit in GTA V doesn’t look like anime, it doesn’t sound like anime, the dialog doesn’t flow like anime, and it doesn’t even have any of the stereotypical markers of anime. Yes, it has girls in skimpy outfits which you might think is anime-ish, but none of it really fits. The outfits are wrong, the body shapes are wrong, the situations are wrong, and the framing is wrong.

It’s not like anime is beyond satire! Anime is a nice, big, juicy target filled with silly tropes that are instantly recognizable and thus ripe for humor. If I was going to take a swipe at anime then maybe I’d hit some of these ideas:

  • Why are these kids being left to save the world with no adult supervision?
  • The sexulaization of characters that are underage by western standards.
  • The odd cadence and awkward pauses that result from translating a very rapid, poeticOr so I’ve been told many times. I don’t know anything about Japanese myself. language to the slower and more workmanlike English.
  • All of these people look the same aside from hair shape / color.
  • Somehow nobody can tell this boy / girl is actually a girl / boy, despite their many flagrant gaffs and countless vocal, physiological, verbal, and behavioral cues.
  • People explaining their superpowers as they use them.
  • People standing around talking during what is supposedly a fight.
  • The classic freeze-frame shots during moments of high action.
  • This plot is an incomprehensible mix of goofy-ass technology, deeply interconnected relationships, and hokey metaphysical bullshit.

And so on. By all means, take a swipe at Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragonball Z, Last Airbender, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Macross Saga, or any of the other sacred cows of anime fandom. Anime, like any form of entertainment, has lots of odd tropes and habits and quirks. You just need to understand those quirks before you begin writing.

Wrong. This feels like it was written by someone who only knows about anime through second-hand descriptions.
Wrong. This feels like it was written by someone who only knows about anime through second-hand descriptions.

Instead of zeroing in on these many satire-ready quirks, the GTA V anime just has girls in skimpy outfits. Yes, those sorts of anime shows do exist. But they’re not really the most popular or well-known. And even among fanservice-based shows, this isn’t really how they work or what they look like or how their fanservice works. I won’t say that there aren’t any anime that look like this, because I’m sure if you dig around you can probably find some obscure hentai title that works like Princess Robot Bubblegum. But then you’re not satirizing anime. You’re just making fun of this one show that almost nobody has seen. It’s like making fun of “Hollywood” by doing a parody of The Room. It doesn’t work.

The accents are wrong. They’ve got a guy with an awful “Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Asian-ish accent opposite girls with California accents. But anime is either subbed (all Japanese) or dubbed (all English) so this doesn’t feel right. The art style is wrong. The outfits and body types are way off. The framing, pacing, and subject matter are wrong. This isn’t satire. It’s just mockery, and it doesn’t have anything to say about anime.

Also, it’s crass, mean, ugly, and not at all funny.

The King of Beers

Wrong. This is NOTHING like a beer commercial. It's nothing like the subtext of a beer commercial.
Wrong. This is NOTHING like a beer commercial. It's nothing like the subtext of a beer commercial.

Then there’s the Pisswasser commercial, which is a swipe at American beer… Drinkers? Manufacturers? Advertisers? I have no idea. It depicts beer not as a product for blue-collar American workers, or even as a product for rednecks, but as a product for hayseed yokels. The commercial features stereotypical inbred hillbillies, drinking beer. One of them has sex with a pig.

This isn’t how beer commercials look. It’s not how beer companies see themselves. It’s not how beer drinkers see themselves. It’s not how beer drinkers see beer commercials. It’s not even an exaggeration of any of those things. (For my money, this is a far smarter satire of beer commercials. Although I suppose that’s more a parody of advertising tropes than beer. Still. At least the writer is familiar with the topic they’re lampooning.) The writer has marched out on stage saying, “HUR DUR. BEER IS SO DUMB. AMERICA LIKES BEER. AMERICA IS DUMB.”

It’s like if I tried to make fun of Scotland so I made a commercial about five guys all named Angus who wear kilts, play the bagpipes, and are paedophiles. That’s not a satire of Scotsmen. That’s just the three most shallow things an outsider can name, along with a bit of mean-spirited cultural slander.

Can you please just watch ONE beer commercial before you try to satirize the form? You don't even have to come here. You can find them on YouTube.
Can you please just watch ONE beer commercial before you try to satirize the form? You don't even have to come here. You can find them on YouTube.

Not only is this not satire, it’s also not particularly funny. It’s shallow, lazy, ugly, and wrong. It says more about what the designers think about America than it does about America itself. It’s why I find the humor in this game to be off-putting. This isn’t a playful swipe at the United States and its many satire-worthy shortcomings, this is a mean-spirited mockery of the American people, perpetrated by someone who doesn’t seem to understand their target.

How can you swing and miss at a beer commercial? These things have a gigantic bulls-eye painted on them by way of many well-known and time-honored tropes:

  1. The ads always talk about snow-capped mountains and nature, implying that the product comes from the rocky mountains and not from an industrial facility in MexicoOr wherever..
  2. The ads have this heavy-handed subtext that opening one of these beers will cause loads of conventionally-attractive women to show up and be instantly charmed by whoever owns the beer. That’s ridiculous and everyone knows it and yet this style of commercial is older than I am. That’s practically an entire joke in itself. Just change the subtext into text.
  3. Like all drinks, the ads are selling self-image. It’s all vague and obvious: Hard work. American Pride. Friendship. Can-do attitude. Integrity. It doesn’t matter if these ideas are real or not. If you want to satirize a beer commercial, just take that same voice-over and juxtapose it with dissonant or contradictory images. Easy.
  4. The commercials often tie themselves to totally unrelated imagery like race cars, American footballHand Egg.
    , horses, pickup trucks, or other things that people like. It’s easy to push this into satire by loosening the connection between the aspirational object and the beer itself. The commercial is basically saying “Our company likes whatever stuff you like.” So make that explicit in the voiceover rather than implied. Make it sound like the narrator is willing to say anything for the viewer’s approval. Have them claim to like contradictory things. Have it start off with familiar stuff and then spiral into surreal desperation as the commercial goes on.

The point is that in order to properly satirize a beer commercial, you need to imitate them. Copy the existing form, but change some part to make them more “true”. Having a hillbilly screw a pig doesn’t make any sense, since it is both less true and less like a beer commercial. (If you’re trading in crass tropes, then lower and middle-class people drink beer, and hillbillies drink homemade moonshine.)

Reality Television

Is this a parody of America's Got Talent, or Jerry Springer? Bah. Who cares? It's less interesting than either one of those.
Is this a parody of America's Got Talent, or Jerry Springer? Bah. Who cares? It's less interesting than either one of those.

The humor in this game is so far off-base that even when I agree with the writer, I still disagree with their expression of that idea.

As one example of dozens: I hate reality television. I mean I really deeply despise itTo be clear, I’m talking about celebrity drama and public shaming as entertainment. Jersey Shore et al. If you’re one of those people who files stuff like “Mythbusters” or “How it’s Made” into “reality TV” then I should make it clear that I’m totally cool with that sort of thing.. I hate seeing it, I hate that celebrity gossip is so celebrated, and I’m embarrassed by proxy that my culture is associated with this sort of entertainmentNot that I think it shouldn’t exist. If people want their junk food TV, let them have their junk food TV. Their right to watch trashy lowbrow television comes from the same place as my right to play trashy lowbrow videogames like this one.. So I should be an easy lay for material that pokes fun at reality TV. I’m already predisposed to want to ridicule the target in question.

And yet the swipes GTA V takes at reality TV leave me completely cold. Am I supposed to laugh during these scenes? I hope not, because it always makes me feel sad and uncomfortable. It’s a supposedly satirical situation in which nothing funny is said and no clever observations are made. The story presents a gross strawman version of reality TV, calls it stupid, and moves on.

Sure, amid all the frantic stabbing GTA does sometimes manage to hit a vein and properly satirize a topic. But the game strikes out far more often than it hits. Satire ought to be clever, observant, or mischievous. But if I had to sum up the attempted satire in GTA V I think I’d describe it as “mean and angry”, which is not a good recipe for comedy. GTA spends a lot of time clumsily mocking topics and ideas the writers don’t seem to understand, and so I’m going to declare right now that “It’s SATIRE!” is not a valid defense for something obnoxious, incoherent, or flat-out wrong.



[1] Spoiler: I’m going to actually do this in a future entry. It’s going to be weird.

[2] Or so I’ve been told many times. I don’t know anything about Japanese myself.

[3] Or wherever.

[4] Hand Egg.

[5] To be clear, I’m talking about celebrity drama and public shaming as entertainment. Jersey Shore et al. If you’re one of those people who files stuff like “Mythbusters” or “How it’s Made” into “reality TV” then I should make it clear that I’m totally cool with that sort of thing.

[6] Not that I think it shouldn’t exist. If people want their junk food TV, let them have their junk food TV. Their right to watch trashy lowbrow television comes from the same place as my right to play trashy lowbrow videogames like this one.

From The Archives:

177 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto V: The Satire Defense

  1. Ebalosus says:

    Yeah I agree that at best the humour in the HD GTAs is very heavy-handed and on-the-nose, and at worst lazy mean-spirited aimless potshots at Americana. Saint’s Row 2, a game not known for its funny radio commercial, has more biting satire than the HD GTAs, and that should really tell you something about how the writing for the modern GTAs has been lacking.

    Even though I’m not American (I’m a New Zealander), I know enough through pop-cultural osmosis that the so-called “satire” in the HD GTAs doesn’t work. If that pop-cultural osmosis can inform me all the way on the other side of the world that the humour doesn’t work, then why didn’t it inform the writers of the game across the pod to write better humour for their game? Stripped of context, it comes across as lazy, and makes me think that Lazlow Jones has either gotten too comfortable or too much protection from the editors to do anything better.

    1. Dorenkosh says:

      The original Saints Row had an amazing talk radio station that I’m really sad was not continued in the sequel. 108 FM: WMD KBoom

      I’m not sure where I’d put it on some sort of satire-parody axis, but it’s definitely far above mockery. I’ve had friends struggle to listen to it because it sounds too much like actual US talk radio.

      And then the hosts start talking about Norwegians and how disgusting they are.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        I’m listening to the video you linked, and I love it.

        The voice actors says these horrifying things, but they say it with a reasonable, perfectly conversational tone; bad voice actors would chuckle or sound like angry preachers, but these guys just sound like two perfectly normal podcasters who happen to be super prejudiced, entitled and politically ignorant.

        1. eldomtom2 says:

          See, that’s the trick. If GTA did something similar it’d just be them screaming “WE ARE BIGOTS”.

          1. RichardW says:

            If the current Rockstar Games attempted it *today* I’d agree. I really think there’s been a shift in tone over the years, back in the days of Chatterbox or VCPR things were heightened but they were actually funny and managed to do some actual satire.

    2. RichardW says:

      I wouldn’t lay the blame for this stuff on Lazlow, he mainly seems to deal with sourcing and recording the talent while occasionally doing things like additional dialogue. The direction for all of this stuff comes from the Housers, who from all I’ve read really seem to be ambivalent toward the empire they’ve made, almost like they’d rather be doing something else. Perhaps making movies, going by how much they’ve ripped in the past.

  2. ElementalAlchemist says:

    At the risk of being one of the “you didn’t get it” people, I have to wonder how much this is down to you not being the target audience. And I don’t mean you as in specifically Shamus, but Americans in general. Because as a non-American, frankly a lot of GTA’s piss-takes of American culture are pretty on the mark for how America is perceived from the outside (and that was before Trump. I’m not sure it’s even parody any more). I’ve seen this from the other side, where Americans love some send-up of a foreign culture, but as a member of that culture I look at it and feel similarly cold. Of course from a sales and marketing perspective that theory makes little sense. The game is published by an American company and no doubt Americans make up the largest proportion of the sales demographic.

    1. PPX14 says:

      Interesting – perhaps if they know that the USA audience does not mind it enough (to not buy the game), then they actually do this to attract the non USA market with a form of mockery/satire that will appeal to them more?

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        Well at this point they certainly know they could release anything and people would still buy it. But I’m not sure that would really be a motivating factor.

        1. Kylroy says:


          It’s annoying for people who want game stories to be halfway competent, but the answer to “how did this AAA game get away with such an awful story” is, 99% of the time, “because the vast majority of consumers don’t care”.

          I think I was first introduced to this bracing look at video game writing on this blog:

    2. BlueHorus says:

      That doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t seem funny*? And Shamus’ ‘it”s mockery, not satire’ criticism seems pretty accurate.

      *bog-standard YMMV disclaimer.

    3. Ed Weatherup says:

      I can see this … because not being au fait with anime, and not seeing many if any American beer advertisements and generally avoiding reality TV … I considered all those parts as being just “video game made-up stuff”, in the same vein as the car manufacturers and models being almost but not quite real-world. I didn’t see … or expect … any humour in of them. But then I didn’t realise that Friends is/was (supposed to be?) a comedy.

    4. Echo Tango says:

      I’m a Canadian, and enjoy moving Americans, but the humor in the later GTA games barely got a chuckle out of me. The target demo is not non-Americans, so much as people who don’t care if the mockery/humor has any depth.

      1. Jan says:

        Hey, if you’re Canadian, you are American. You’re just not a US of A citizen :)
        Anyway, as a European who lived in California for a time, I tend to agree with the OP here. What GTA actually does is exaggerating stereotypes others have of the US: the beer tastes like piss, people are incredibly patriotic and are irrationally obsessed with owning guns. In that sense it is satire, just like your skit about Andrew Wilson is satire. Of course, any EA board member will say that the Andrew Wilson would never only talk about lootboxes, but it can be sort of fun to imagine. Of course anybody living in the US will say that it is nothing like the world imagined by Rockstar, but for people outside the US it is sort of fun to imagine what it would be like if all the stereotypes were true. You are not the audience for the satire of GTA, just as Andrew Wilson is not the audience of your satire skit, just the object.

        Is it any good? Not in my opinion, it is extremely heavy handed and dumb (just like the few SNL skits I saw) but I would still call it satire.

        1. Guest says:

          More specifically, if it’s to be taken as satire it’s not good satire. Cramming lowbrow stereotypes about Americans into your satire of their beer commercials doesn’t make the satire more incisive, it makes it more scattershot and aimless. More to the point, the way that GTA V constructs it’s humour, in satire and mockery, put it in the position of having something to say, and the high ground in the discussion they’re creating. Particularly with satire, it’s done with the tongue in cheek because the satirist thinks what they’re satirising is wrong, and so wrong that it’s only two steps from everyone else seeing it too.

          By making lazy jokes about crass consumer products and lowbrow entertainment, GTA completely undermines it’s own satire, because what it has to say is no smarter, no better, than what it’s criticising. It traffics in the same markets, it’s gleefully trashy, instead of a clever joke delving into advertising and how “lifestyle” marketing is vague nonsense, just add a stereotype and some bestiality. When the game wants to point out that torture is sadistic, it uses a character who is written as the destructive id of a mid-rampage player (Also the quest is impressively frustrating and there’s a bug on PC which can cause lockups). The idea is there. Torture is bad, reality TV is bad, beer commercials are amusingly transparently fake. And none of these ideas are particularly novel either, they’re common sentiments. The execution just doesn’t deliver, even the white bread social commentary they’re going for.

          The game isn’t counter-culture, it’s a behemoth. It is culture. It’s as popular with the beer drinking bong ripping bros it tries to rip on as the Jersey Shore is.

    5. Stu Hacking says:

      I was going to comment something like this. I feel like GTA (in general) is a very British piss-take of how American culture is perceived here, which comes across as a very silly, low brow imitation, rather than a serious satire piece.

      American culture as seen in Britain is already distorted by the lens of Hollywood and television, and the larger-than-life characters from film and drama are further distorted by GTA to comic absurdity. So I don’t think GTA is intended as a slight against real American life, but the twisted Americana of film and TV.

      1. Asdasd says:

        Yeah. As a Brit GTA has always struck me as not holding up a mirror to the US as she is, but as she presents herself to the rest of the world through her own media.

        This also helps to explain why the school of Bully is such as crazy place. It’s not a realisitc or a satirical portrayal of an American school, it’s an amalgam of all the popular American media about schools through 5 decades of popular culture rolled up into a day-glo package. And I love it for that.

    6. Zak McKracken says:

      It just struck me that (not having played the game, just going by a few videos and Shamus’ description), the portrayal of US culture in GTA is a little like the portrayal of other cultures in (some) US movies. Reduced to clichés, then exaggerated beyond recognition.

      Not that I’d claim that this was the intention, nor that they hit that mark very well, or that it was a good idea to do it … but there’s some food for thought there :)

      Really, what they actually did is probably how Logan Paul might imagine the US if that wasn’t where he’s from.

    7. LCF says:

      In the same context (not-american), I think “Princess Robot Bubblegum” is a great title, and the name “Pißwasser” (pisswater) is a good satire of the watered-down american beers.
      I can’t say much for the rest, though.

  3. Tizzy says:

    I find it interesting that Shamus brought up SNL in the discussion of satire, given that from what I’ve seen of current-era SNL, few of the skits are satire. I don’t know enough about older SNL to say how different it was in the past.

    (Also: in my version on the EA skit, they would bring actual sandwich lootboxes to the meeting room for staffers to buy, each with a random sandwich paired with unedible crap that no one wants.)

    1. Shamus says:

      Context: SNL has never been great at satire, and I haven’t really watched the show in 25 years. I just used it as an example because it’s familiar.

      1. Tizzy says:

        I posted my remark to generate some discussion. I know that SNL is a complex social artifact, and its status as a long-standing institution means that no one ever talks about the same show. (The real SNL run is always the year you started watching, right?)

        As a foreigner who missed most of this but often sees its referenced in everyday conversation, one of the most vexing things is realizing that the strengths I see in SNL are not what SNL appears to stand for in the collective culture. Anyway, I’m always interested to get people talking about the show so that I can get a broader perspective.

        For instance: I was not familiar with that Beer Ad skit that you linked. I think it’s an example of SNL doing great satire. Unsubtle, but lands squarely on the target.

        1. Hal says:

          As a foreigner who missed most of this but often sees its referenced in everyday conversation, one of the most vexing things is realizing that the strengths I see in SNL are not what SNL appears to stand for in the collective culture.

          That happens, even among American viewers. Part of it is, as said, the long-running nature of the show. When a show spans decades, you can’t talk about it as if it’s some unchanging monolith. But besides that, the social/political commentary of the show has also changed a lot depending on who’s been in the cast and in the writers’ room; it probably depends on your perspective as well. Maybe you thought Chevy Chase portraying Gerald Ford as someone who was always falling down was hilarious. Maybe you thought Will Ferrell’s portrayal of George Bush as a naive nincompoop to be mean-spirited. Maybe you felt like the writers gave Barack Obama a pass because they didn’t want to criticize a president they liked. The point being that the political humor played such a prominent role that you can’t really talk about the cultural role of SNL without that being a prominent part of the perspective.

          For instance: I was not familiar with that Beer Ad skit that you linked. I think it’s an example of SNL doing great satire. Unsubtle, but lands squarely on the target.

          You might also want to look up some of their other commercials. Frankly, I think they get it best when they mock commercials. Colon Blow, Oops I Crapped My Pants, Huggies Thongs, Mom Jeans, The Mercury Mistress, etc.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            I’m certainly biased because late 80s/early 90s SNL was “my” run, but I do feel the commercial parodies of that era were particularly good. The Citywide Bank commercial (the bank that only gives change) still cracks me up.

        2. JakeyKakey says:

          From my British understanding of SNL, it’s relatively lowbrow on account of the absolutely herculean task that is coming up with 1h30m of new live material every week, but it’s also a massive cultural touchstone.

          Being on SNL is a bit of the same kind of tradition for US comedians as doing a round in Royal Shakespeare Company/West End Theatre is for British actors.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            You mean Footlights isn’t the equivalent for English comic actors?

            1. JakeyKakey says:

              Come to think of it, that’s a valid comparison, but I’d say no.

              A huge amount of famous British comedians and actors do indeed come from Cambridge Footlights and Oxford Revue, by the virtue of a) Oxbridge usually attracting the best and brightest and b) Oxbridge opening a ton of career doors, but that is exclusively predicated by having gone to Oxbridge to begin with. It’s a cool bit of historical trivia, but if you studied somewhere else, you’re automatically not part of that group – you were either there at 18, or you weren’t.

              Doing a stint at SNL is much more of a traditional rite of passage for a US comedian than having been part of a specific comedy club at Stanford.

              British comic actors don’t really have the same equivalent aside from maybe appearing on some specific panel show, so imho the closest comparison is the fact that almost every notable British actor will go on to do stage acting at some point of their lives.

  4. PPX14 says:

    All I could think of when I started reading and saw the word satire was… I can’t believe you missed the satire in Starship Troopers! It was on the nose to the point of being clumsy! :D

    Ahh in that case is there a “clumsy” defence?

    1. Water Rabbit says:

      Starship Troopers the movie was very clumsy satire. Mainly because it crapped on the target audience that came to see one movie and instead got another completely different one. The animated series was what the fans wanted (it unfortunately was four shows from being completed before it was completed).

      1. Guest says:

        Clumsy? It had a point, which it made pretty well. I’m actually still suprised that people missed the satire. You have bits like “Mobile Infantry made me the man I am today” as he shakes a recruit’s hand with a prosthetic, and the camera pans to his amputations and wheelchair. You have the fascist Federation in classic Hollywood style dressed like Nazis, with what are obviously propaganda broadcasts cut in.

        It’s not clever, no. Neither is the source material, that’s why it’s such fun to rip on it as the film does.

        1. SSC says:

          I read Starship Troopers when I was very young and watched the film much later. I’m not sure if I was aware of the book as essentially promoting fascism before I saw the movie, but I know I was afterwards. I feel like a lot of the references in the film work better for people who read the book first, which is an odd thing to say about an adaptation so unfaithful to and contemptuous of its source material.

          However, the movie does more than just say, “Hey, military sci-fi can be pretty fascist sometimes.” There’s that deliberate satire which works quite well, hidden it in plain site among the usual trappings of gung-ho military action films. But most of the runtime is devoted to other things. The characters all seem really stupid and incompetent and the plot is borderline incoherent. When someone dies, characters get really worked up about it and there’s this swelling sad music, but then 30 seconds later they all act like that person never existed, and nobody cares.

          Is all this a deliberate knock on dumb action films, or is some of the writing just really bad? Given the clearly deliberate criticism of the fascism in military films, I want to give the film the benefit of the doubt, but it’s often so disjointed, not funny, or even boring, that it feels generous to excuse everything as deliberate satire. At the very least, some of the satire is just not interesting to watch—making fun of action movies by making an extra stupid action movie is more in the realm of GTA “satire”.

    2. Jennifer Snow says:

      This is the second time I’ve seen this in this thread. “On the nose” doesn’t mean “unsubtle”. It means “accurate”. Saying that humor is “on the nose” means that it hits the issue that it’s going after really, really WELL. It is not a complaint. It is praise.

      1. PPX14 says:

        I’d have thought of “on the dot” for precise. Interesting, Wiktionary says that “on the nose” means both.

        Accurate in the context of humour or commentary does not necessarily mean nuanced or subtle, in fact it might mean unsubtle due to the plain unedited accuracy – presumably why “on the nose” came to be used to mean unsubtle. “He is fat, haha” is very accurate but that does not mean that the humour is “spot on”, just that the description is. It depends on whether one is referring to the accuracy of the statement or instead the quality of the articulation of the statement. I think to say that saying “humour is accurate” means “humour is good” is to say that imitation is the same as satire.

        So now we’re using “on the nose” to mean unsubtle / accurate / good.

        Apparently the Australians use it to mean pungent.


    3. JDMM says:

      The thing about Starship Troopers the movie version is they throw us through a couple of secondary worlds. You watch Robocop and you’re thrown into the future and you’re wondering how much of this is real than it turns out it’s in Detroit and the technology isn’t too far off so you accept this is a satire of the US privatizing the Police (or whatever)
      With Starship Troopers you’re thrown possibly into the future and then into some weird version of Brazil and then it turns out there are psychic powers and starships? Well if that’s satire why not argue the Foundation trilogy by Asimov is some sort of colonialist satire because human societies aren’t so path independent?
      In science fiction we’re trained to accept some amount of constructs for the sake of the plot, throw us into a world entirely unlike ours with weird people and some might accept it’s fascist society but some would just take it at face value as being some weird alternate future for the purpose of some point to be made.
      Well it’s a point

      1. Guest says:

        The Federation military are literally dressed like Nazis.

        They have propaganda aired throughout the film.

        Like, it’s incredibly on the nose. And I’d say it’s the better Verhoeven film, the action is better, and the satire is both funnier and makes more sense, than Robocop, who’s satire is often pretty contradictory.

    4. Zak McKracken says:

      I think you can play a joke too straight, and then you risk people not getting it.
      When I left the theater, I felt like there would have been a great satirical element in that story but that the director seemed to not have gotten it. Most of my friends said they thought it’s just dumb action shlock so stop thinking about it already.

      I think it is completely okay and proper to show a satire of a thing to people who expect to see the thing itself (because Film can and should totally be allowed to contradict the audience — which of course remains free to disagree), but the risk is, as happened in this case, that some don’t get it and some don’t like it.

  5. Tizzy says:

    Shamus should not feel that reality TV is reflecting badly on American culture. By this point, I get the impression that the reality TV craze is worldwide. It certainly spread through Europe like wildfire, maybe even before the US, and people are equally obsessed everywhere. Now, individual programs may reflect individual countries, obviously, and there’s much shame to be had in that. But then again, for every “Jersey Shore”, there is an “The Only Way is Essex”.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      Aren’t two of the biggest series that kicked off the American reality TV craze in the early 2000s, Survivor and Big Brother, European imports? And the various talent/skill competition shows all trace their lineage to Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsey, right?

    2. Hector says:

      Reality TV seems to be something that sort of arrived everywhere all at once, and any “good” show (meaning popular, not high-quality) quickly crosses over, particuarlly between the US and Britain probably due to the shared language making it much easier.

    3. Nentuaby says:

      Jersey Shore literally has a cross-pond spinoff called “Geordie Shore.”

  6. PPX14 says:


    I don’t think any non-US people think that liking beer is a characteristic of Americans. That seems to be a self-styled accolade, much like the love of apple pie. Most other nations (in Europe anyway) consider themselves beer countries as well, and far more so than they would think of the US I believe. As a Brit all I know of American beer is Budweiser and .. Coors Lite? We certainly don’t associate them with yokels. I highly doubt that the Scots do. The closest to a beer-culture stereotype of America I can think of is keg-parties and maybe beer hats.

    So I don’t think it’s likely to be that. It’s not like it’s Germany or Ireland or even Belgium or Denmark.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Americans don’t like actual beer; they like horse piss that has been stored next to the beer for a few weeks

      Plenty of good American beer, just joking.

      Anyway, I do agree with ElementalAlchemist to a point: the Americana-jokes seem more aimed at anti-American stereotypes abroad than at actual Americans.

      1. Redrock says:

        Well, let’s put it like that. Over the years, in several cities across the world I’ve seen German beer halls, Belgian beer halls, British pubs, but never, ever, an American beer hall. Kinda makes you think.

        1. Ed says:

          There’s a real craft brew/local brewery thing going on in the US now. From my experience in the northeast US, upstate New York, New York City, and Philadelphia all have a shifting landscape of local breweries and larger regulars competing against each other.

          1. Redrock says:

            Like craft brewing, that sort of thing? Yeah, that seems to happen all over the world. What I’m getting at, people looking for beer in Moscow or Amsterdam or whatever probably won’t be looking for American beer and won’t find a bar specializing in it. That’s not to say that American beer is all bad – just that America is not really seen as a “beer country” by most people.

            1. Hal says:

              You’re not wrong about the perception of America, but that’s largely because the mass market beers have basically defined the perception of America’s drinking habits in our lifetimes. The American Beer Trinity (Budweiser, Coors, Miller) are still the highest sellers, but the boom in microbreweries has really taken off in the last 10 years, so I’m not surprised it hasn’t quite affected the global perception of American beer yet.

              Maybe you don’t go into a bar in Europe to look for an American beer. You go into any American bar, though, and you’ll find at least one of the Beer Trinity there, but you’ll also find at least one or two beers that were brewed by a local company and will taste very differently from that mass market beer.


              1. Jennifer Snow says:

                The U.S. doesn’t really export food culture apart from fast food. Forget beer–when was the last time you went to an “American” Restaurant? What would they even serve? Burgers and pie? Also, remember, this country tried to prohibit alcohol completely about a hundred years ago. There are still some insane laws on the books about how you can sell anything that contains alcohol. Tends to make exporting kinda problematic, especially for smaller “craft” breweries.

                1. Redrock says:

                  Well, how about Tex-Mex and what can only be called American Italian cuisine? Plenty of American-style diners around the world. They usually serve burgers, various salads, burritos, fajitas, mozarella sticks, wings, hell, even spaghetti and meatballs. It’s considered pretty distinctly American. American-style pizza is also clearly distinct from Italian, and some people prefer it.

                2. Hal says:

                  You’re not wrong about the alcohol laws, though at this point many of the laws are now about hampering competition than they are about protecting anybody from anything. (For example, in my places liquor is taxed on production rather than sales. That means you owe the government money before you’ve even sold a drop; that could only exist to either limit who can afford to get into the business, or to discourage anyone from it entirely.)

                  Also, we eat at “American” (non-fast-food) restaurants all the time, we just don’t think of them that way. Like so many elements of culture, we don’t recognize them as such because they’re native to us. There’s the classic example of asking a fish how the water is, and the fish saying, “What’s water?”

                  Southern food is, ostensibly, the paradigmatic American cuisine. Barbecue would be another good example (granted, not unique to America, but we have certainly made our style distinct from barbecue from elsewhere in the world.)

                3. Zak McKracken says:

                  “American Restaurants” around here: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Frankie & Benny’s.

                  That last one is actually okay, although it is a chain. There are also some smaller burger places billed as American restaurants where the burgers are actually good. But that’s pretty much it.

                  …but then, Chinese restaurants in Europe are also a rather shallow copy of actual chinese food, and that includes most places in London’s Chinatown. I did once find an actual Japanese place, though, evidenced by the fact that everyone spoke japanese except for me. Had a very tasty eel soup.

                  …but then, I think “traditional” American cuisine is mostly the cuisine of all the immigrants making up the population, and resulting mash-ups, and I’d expect it to vary wildly between the different parts. Actually, Cajun food is something you can order in some places here, and I quite like it, but somehow it doesn’t register as “American” with me.

        2. Hector says:

          In all seriousness, American alchohol traditions are more based around liquor than beer. Wasn’t was hardly unknown in the Colonial period, but we were then a Rum-drinking nation. Later on, whiskey began its rise to prominence as well. Beer really took off following the immigration of large numbers of Germans (in the cultural sense; they hailled from Holland to Russia geographically). The big beer companies were all started by German immigrants. Likewise, wine production was pretty low until the rise of Sonoma.

          Even today, after a huge decline in national alchohol consumption, bars are more oriented around liquor than beer. They’re happy to serve you brews on tap, of course, but they usually feature liquor. The rise in microbreweries, however, has been spectacular and increasingly we see lots and lots of interesting local recipes, made in limited quantities for the regional market. These may or may not be served in most bars. Additionally, it’s often the case that bars which do orient around beer may also focus on quality food to accompany it, which might not be quite what you expect from the casual beer-hall. (But of course, there are some pretty good traditional dishes served alongside beer in many parts of central Eirope).

        3. Hector says:

          Well, I wrote a long reply but then the site just ate it, apparently.

          Short version: There are some historical reason why, but the American bar scene tends to be more oriented around liquor than beer. You can find beer joints depending on region, but we don’t really have beer halls like you might expect in, say, Munich. This tends to apply even if the place in question actually sells way more beer than liquor.

      2. PPX14 says:

        Lol as a hater of beer, the light american ones in tiny bottles seemed preferable to me. My friend used to call Heineken “Danish piss”, but I could not for the life of me see the difference between it and every other lager that made me feel sick after a few sips!

        My point was I’m not sure it’s much of an anti-American stereotype abroad that they are beer guzzlers. But perhaps then the joke was aimed more at the quality of American beer?

        1. Redrock says:

          The joke is, of course, that Heineken is Dutch. Also, all pale lagers and pielseners suck. That’s just scientific fact. You want a beer, you get an ale, a stout, a porter, a weissbier or anything in between. The only two decent pale lagers I’ve ever drank were a Heineken I got right at their Amsterdam brewery and a Corona, and that’s only because of the lime.

          1. Leipävelho says:

            Yes! Finally, someone else agrees!

          2. PPX14 says:

            Carlsberg!! Not Heineken!! Sorry!

          3. D-Frame says:

            Exactly. Cheers!

          4. ThaneofFife says:

            Heineken in Amsterdam is a completely different beer from Heineken anywhere else. I was completely blown away by how fresh it tasted. I’d drink it every day if I could, even though I’ve willingly bought Heineken maybe once in the 15 years since I visited the brewery.

        2. lurkey says:

          > I could not for the life of me see the difference between it and every other lager

          That’s because there is no difference. That’s lagers for you — tame, dull, indistinguishable, boring.

      3. Shamus says:

        I watched a fascinating video the other day explaining why American beers are so watered-down:

        Basically: Before 1850, Americans drank British style beer. Between 1850 and 1900 German immigrants showed up and tried to recreate the kind of beer they enjoyed in the homeland. They liked it to be “clear”, not murky. But American barley has a higher protein content, which makes it more opaque. So they mixed it with other grains.

        Then prohibition happened and it all gets complicated.

        1. Redrock says:

          Heh, the Dutch made their beer like water exactly because they were mostly drinking it instead of water on account of the water in their canals being able to give the river Ankh a run for its money in terms of sheer unpleasantness.

        2. Kylroy says:

          My understanding was that Prohibition happened, all large scale brewing ceased. Then Prohibition was repealed, there was a race to get product to market, and pilsners can be produced faster than most other beers, so initially that was most of the market. People like what they know, started drinking pilsners, and there wasn’t much money to be made on slower-brewing, stronger-tasting beers that were strange to consumers.

          1. Nephilium says:

            Then Prohibition was repealed, there was a race to get product to market, and pilsners can be produced faster than most other beers, so initially that was most of the market. People like what they know, started drinking pilsners, and there wasn’t much money to be made on slower-brewing, stronger-tasting beers that were strange to consumers.

            Not really. Pilsners are a lager, and due to that take longer to produce then an ale would. There’s a reason that most craft brewers make ales and not lagers (turn around time on an ale can be a couple of weeks, lagers can run for months and require cold storage). However, pilsners were light, crisp, easy drinking, and generally avoid strong flavors. This gives them mass market appeal. You also had the Czech and German traditions going towards light lagers as well, and there was a large immigrant population from that area which held to the old traditions.


        3. EwgB says:

          Thanks for the link, it was really fascinating. I have never tried typical American beer; I live in Germany, and we don’t see much of it here, though we do get the occasional American craft beer, which is actually quite interesting. The whole craft beer movement has swapped over into Europe, so Germany, UK and Italy (that’s where I’ve been in recent times) are already full of their own craft beers, which is awesome as far as I’m concerned. Traditional German beer is generally of a consistently high quality, and tastes good, but there’s not much innovation happening there. German beer makers actually pride themselves that their beer is made according to a medieval beer purity law, which (in its modernized version) allows only four ingredients (barley, hops, yeast and water). So you have maybe half a dozen traditional styles of beer in Germany, and inside each style there isn’t much difference (though I wouldn’t say that to that beer lover’s face),

          1. Hal says:

            The “typical” American beer is going to be one of the big three pale lagers: Budweiser, Coors, or Miller*. Despite brand loyalty among drinkers in the US, they’re all pretty much the same. You should try at least one of them just to have a reference point, but you’re not missing out on much if you don’t. They’re mass market products, so they’re fairly inoffensive; in other words, they don’t have a lot of flavor. I don’t know about the other two, but I know Budweiser uses rice in their brewing process to get that light flavor. (The Anheuser-Busch world headquarters is/was here in St. Louis, so I’ve been on their brewery tour more times than I can count.) I think most brewers would scoff that that, but it does what it’s supposed to do: Create an unremarkable but palatable beverage.

            *Funny thing is, looking at Wikipedia, it seems as though Miller got passed around, first being in a partnership with Coors for a time, then purchased by InBev, which makes it part of the same company as Budweiser.

      4. lurkey says:

        Never played any GTA but yeah, “Pisswater” sounds just like European country with beer traditions making fun of American beer quality (old established joke that probably won’t go away even if Americans learn to mass-brew something decent), not advertisement parody.

        1. D-Frame says:

          I always thought Pißwasser was meant to be a parody of a crappy German export lager sold in the US. If I remember correctly, there was this catchphrase “for export only”, implying that this was a kind of beer that Germans would never drink themselves.

    2. PPX14 says:

      My alcohol stereotype of America is cowboys drinking whiskey (and rye… but coincidentally NOT “American” Pie!!! Stop claiming apple pie!! Cherry pie, yes.)

      1. MelfinatheBlue says:

        You know, you can’t fight Big Apple… A is for Apple, give the teacher an apple, heck, the USA was growing like 1400 varieties of apple by 1800, then there was Johnny Appleseed… Sure, apples come from Asia, originally, and the first known apple pie recipe is Dutch (and the oldest written British recipe also involved figs and raisins and pears), but it’s hard to argue with GIs saying they’re fighting for Mom and apple pie.

        No, I’m not expecting anyone to see this, but heck, I didn’t know a lot of this and the Smithsonian has a good article…

  7. Kathryn says:

    My rule of thumb for making fun of people, whether individuals or groups, is, if you substitute the name of some other person or group you hate, and the joke makes exactly the same amount of sense, it isn’t funny – because then the joke isn’t about the person or group but instead about your attempt to bond over shared hatred of that person or group.

    I developed this rule of thumb after the tenth or so time that someone asked where I went to college, I answered, and the person proceeded to spend the next ten minutes telling all the “people from your school are stupid” jokes they could think of. If you substitute, say, an ethnic slur, it becomes obvious how mean-spirited and nonsensical this behavior is.

    (The part that gets me is that my alma mater does have plenty of things to make fun of. Believe me, there is a rich vein of material. But nope, straight to the “you’re stupid” “jokes” every time.)

    I think that one of the keys to really effective satire is a certain degree of affection for the subject. Take Northanger Abbey for example. Brilliant pastiche – and only someone who loved Gothic novels despite their flaws could have written it.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Not a fan of mr. adams,I see.

    2. Mersadeon says:

      I think it’s often misleading (or even somewhat “dangerous”) to simply swap out groups like that to judge a statement, because those groups, even if they are part of the same “type” of groups, often just aren’t on the same footing. But I like your turned-around version: yeah, if you swapped out a group name and the joke makes the same amount of sense, chances are it wasn’t a particulalry good joke because it didn’t actually graps at anything that sticks out from that group.

  8. JH-M says:

    This might be a bit late to suggest, but will you be taking a look at “Bully” from 2006? I remember a review describe it as “LoZ: Majoras mask, if GTA: San Andreas was Occarina of Time”, meaning that it had a bigger focus on a smaller physical area, with more defined characters (every NPC at school was not randomized, but had a specific design, VA, reacted differently to different situations, etc.).

    It could be an interesting look at how the basic design and story method in GTA can be applied differently, and how successful they were.

    1. John says:

      Bully has the same problem that Rowling has with the world outside Harry Potter. Hogwarts is a send up of British boarding schools and British Boarding School stories. Then she makes the American School, which is not a sendup if American public schools and American Public School stories, but is instead just a palette swap of Hogwarts.
      Bully does not behave like an American School, instead it behaves like a UK School. Jimmy Hopkins should be in a shitty public school with low funding, not a boarding school with rich but corrupt parent donors. The popular kids are British-seeming, down to the NotBurberry clothing line. The nerds don’t play video games like nerds even back then all did, no they play DnD and MTG.
      Then there was that time the game asks you to help the lunch lady date rape the science teacher.
      Also, preps and greasers? Really?

      1. JakeyKakey says:

        When did Rowling come up with the American school, again?

        1. Retsam says:

          It’s some of the Twitter/Pottermore lore that she’s cooked up that didn’t make it into any of the books. Specifically, it was being talked about in the lead-up to the Fantastic Beasts film, which was set in America. (Though it didn’t mention the American school either, IIRC)

          She explicitly says that the founders of the American school were just copying Hogwarts, I’m not sure if her blaming the lack of creativity on her characters makes it better or worse.

          1. Kathryn says:

            That might be justifiable depending on when the school in question was founded. There was definitely a period of time when Americans were aping English culture (hence “Yankee Doodle”). We did have boarding schools for kids from wealthy families* for a while (and boarding school novels – you can find some of them on Project Gutenberg). It’s not really a thing these days, though. (Although…I’m not wealthy, so maybe it IS still a thing, and I just don’t know.)

            So American wizards imitating Hogwarts back in the 1700s and then never making any changes could fit, especially since Rowling’s wizards are generally not what one would call modern and up to date.

            *I was reading a (British) boarding school novel a while back, and the main character lamented her family’s poverty. All four minor children were attending private school, with one in *medical* school, only one of the adult children worked, only one parent worked, and the family kept multiple servants. Different perspective for sure.

            1. Jennifer Snow says:

              There are boarding schools of a sort in the U.S., but they’re usually aimed at *behavioral correction* for “problem” or “troubled” kids instead of teaching, and they’re often just this side of being an actual prison.

              There was a fairly decently long period in the U.S. where you simply didn’t go to secondary school unless you were planning on becoming a.) a lawyer or b.) a clergyman or c.) an academic. It was basically preparation for you to go to college from there. Most other careers, you just went and DID them, and learned your business on-the-job.

              MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was a weird anomaly when it was founded, IIRC, and people thought it was nutty.

              1. AzzyGaiden says:

                This is factually untrue regarding boarding schools. There are a large number of “elite preparatory” schools in the United States in the Etonian British mode, though they are largely concentrated in the Northeast. Some examples would be Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Saint Paul’s, Choate Rosemary Hall, Deerfield Academy, Lawrenceville, Saint George’s, Hotchkiss…I could go on, but I imagine you get the picture.

                I do agree that J.K. Rowling’s attempts to expand the Harry Potter universe have generally left me cold. Her description of “Ilvermorny School” (could she have POSSIBLY come up with a less American sounding name?) does not ring true in any way.

  9. Ed says:

    I like the one billboard that advertises a 25 blade razor, that actually feels like competent satire.

    That’s all I got.

    1. Redrock says:

      The first blade gives you a clean shave! The second makes it even cleaner! The 25th polishes the bone!

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats because they cribbed it.

  10. PPX14 says:

    Surely they could have made even the laziest attempt successful just by lifting jokes from some episodes of The Simpsons from the 90s?

  11. Redrock says:

    I’m with you on that one, Shamus. I’m not American and actually grew up listening to lots of anti-American propaganda, so satire or even mockery of America doesn’t necessarily offend me any more than mockery of any other nation. That said, GTA V’s attemtpts at humour, or whatever it’s intended to be, irk me to no end. The reason for that is, I think, the fact that it’s not about actual distaste that Rockstar harbors towards America. I don’t think that this distaste is there. There’s nothing sincere about it. Rather, it looks like a bunch of not very talented or skilled writers coming up with the nastiest, most juvenile put down of everything just for the sake of it. It’s mockery, but it’s not even ill-intentioned mockery. It’s like a kid repeating everything you say back at you in an annoying voice. It would’ve probably been better executed if there was some actual deep-seated negativity behind it. But there isn’t. Just a writers room full of people contemplating what would the most annoying kid you can imagine do.

    1. Ander says:

      Having not watched South Park, this is more or less my impression of it. Is that not accurate? If it is, then there is an audience for that (also applies to…whatever that adult cartoon is whose main gag is playing out a gag interminably)

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Nah, that’s not what South Park is like. There’s some really crude humor, but there’s really on point satire as well. And absurdist humor and so on and so forth. They’ve done a lot of different things because the show has 10+ seasons.

      2. Water Rabbit says:

        From my perspective, that is South Park to a tee. However, given monkeys with typewriters they occasionally do something funny — kind of like SNL which hasn’t been funny in decades.

      3. JakeyKakey says:

        For the most part, not really. South Park will usually have a notably left/right wing stance on something, but it doesn’t really pull the “both sides are bad haha” centrist hot takes anywhere near as often as the detractors would have you believe. The most infamous one of them was the Douche and Turd episode, which aired almost 15 years ago and has a lot of people still missing what its actual point was.

        Also, you have to bear in mind that South Park has been getting way more flak these recent couple of years as politics have become more divisive in general. As far as the general periphery of your average millenial audience goes, South Park is just about the only notable popular TV show that doesn’t really toe any political lines so there’s been a lot of bad will towards it.

      4. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Nah.Just watch the few classics like the pokemon and the world of warcraft episodes to see how different they are from what Shamus is describing here.For example,the chinpokomon episode has a bunch of jokes about ww2,anime,japanese people having tiny penis,etc all on its surface.But at its core,its an episode mocking peer pressure and group think,with these jokes being layered on top of that.

        Theres also the great mormon episode,where the mormon legends are portrayed with a song calling it dumb over and over.It looks like the episode mocks the mormons up until the very end where it pulls the rug under you and you realize that it was actually mocking the people who mock mormons because they think they are dumb.

        All of the good south park episodes are like that:A bunch of easy,crude jokes on the surface,but with a deeper,smarter core.

        1. Steve C says:

          The tiny penis joke was apparently based on one specific weird person they met that kept saying that.

          1. Dotec says:

            And surprisingly enough, even the “tiny penis” stereotype is not deployed at the expense of the Japanese characters. It’s something they repeatedly bring up with the male residents of South Park to blow smoke up their asses and distract them.

            “Oh yes, yes! We have such small penis, compared to you large Americans. Truly there is no comparison.”
            Proceeds with secret plans to bomb Pearl Harbor again while all the South Park residents are busy congratulating each other over their dongos.

            What a beautiful subversion. Rian Johnson, take notes!

    2. Jennifer Snow says:

      There’s been a “humor” trend for some years now where the humor attempts to mock things that *are actually good*. It doesn’t add anything to point out some silly aspect of whatever it’s mocking, it just . . . repeats the thing and then pauses, expecting you to laugh because the thing was . . . popular? Is being popular a sin?

      It very much feels like they’re saying “if you like *anything*, you’re ridiculous and everything you like is ridiculous”. If you don’t despise EVERYTHING, there’s something wrong with you.

  12. The Rocketeer says:

    Of course, you’re talking about the company that made Max Payne 3, a game in which the villain is a businessman with a sideline in organ harvesting, snatching people off the streets and chopping them up in the basement of a dilapidated hotel in São Paulo, a city instantly recognizable by the extreme visual clash of the opulent highrises and the seemingly endless favela, where countless people live lives of grinding poverty punctuated by extreme violence and unrest under a corrupt, cronyist government that lets its militarized police force, considered perhaps the most violent in the world, run wild slaughtering street children, up which they place bounties and see as vermin.

    But you know who really gets the wagging finger of blame and shame in Max Payne 3? Americans, who, as we all know, are boorish, ignorant, complacent, decadent, and violent, just like Max himself. FUCK YOU, America! Or something. It’s unsurprisingly lacking any coherent thesis, especially given that detestable, pathetic, disgusting ur-American Max, uh, shuts down the organ-harvesting operation, dismantles the villain’s organization, and metes to him the rough justice that only a grenade launcher can deliver.

    I’m actually not sure it’s as badly written as Max Payne 2, but whereas that game was mostly an inept stagger through a series of horribly mishandled tonal clashes and muddled, asinine characterization, Rockstar’s entry into the franchise, just like GTA V, is heavily soaked in the dismal pretend-socially conscious tongue-clucking that so thinly disguises a rank, guttural anti-Americanism that can’t even muster the decency to cover its tracks with some post-hoc intellectualization, however thin and tendentious. The Housers still don’t come close to Hideo Kojima, who has ridden this pustulent, flea-bitten jackass all the more brazenly for twenty years, slinging with deliberate and particular smugness the post-Cold War revisionism that stooges like the Housers merely channel on a visceral level.

    And I’m not going to bother questioning the fact that Rockstar’s work unabashedly exemplifies and panders to everything they seem to most thoroughly despise in the name of making a buck. That’s just showbusiness for you.

    1. Redrock says:

      I actually think Max Payne 2 is the best of the series in terms of story and tone. Also, I don’t think Max is supposed to be all that disgusting in Max Payne 3? Sure, he has his problems, but Max Payne doesn’t really share the same universe as GTA, so I can’t say I got your point.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      As a guy completely ignorant of basically everything you mentioned: MGS has Cold War revisionism?

      1. Redrock says:

        Ehhh. I think The Rocketeer means that MGS and especially Snake Eater paints the American government as less than saintly, which some people take really hard. Personally, I think that the term is reductive, because unlike WW II the Cold War was never all that cut and dry, but it’s obviously a problematic topic for a lot of people, and not a conversation we necessarily want to start here.

        1. Geebs says:

          I think Kojima’s political stance is basically reducible to “Nukes bad, Tits good”.

    3. Mersadeon says:

      Not trying to be a defensive fanboy, but I don’t really see “Cold War Revisionism” in Kojima’s works. That’s a pretty harsh accusation and I’d like to hear more about it, because I kinda can’t see where you’re coming from.

  13. guy says:

    Wow, I am used to seeing swipes at anime by people who do not watch anime, but this looks particularly bad. For crying out loud, the scantily-clad girl looks like she’s been photoshopped in from a western animated show. That’s just not how anime characters are generally drawn.

    Also, yes, usually no accents. There’s sometimes satire-worthy accents, but only when there’s a character speaking English voiced by a Japanese person who does not in point of fact speak English. Particularly bit part tourists who are supposed to be native speakers but aren’t important enough to go to extra effort in casting. So you get FBI agents who are unintelligible. There’s also the occasional hilarious incident when they cast Donna Burke and then have the script written by Google Translate and have her read it as written.

    Incidentally, calling Avatar The Last Airbender anime is pretty contentious due to conflicting definitions. I tend to go with anime meaning “animation from Japan”, which Avatar is not, but it is drawn in the typical anime style. Though I tend to not get too worked up about categorizations and regard that as a mere technical point rather than a judgement of quality.

    1. Ander says:

      Steins;Gate 0 has a reeeeally bad case of the Japanese person playing an American by speaking English in an obviously not native accent (the original visual novel does anyway). It would be a funny thing to satirize, albeit a bit niche in appeal.

      I’d argue that the ability to recognize the bad satire anime as an inept representation of the style is evidence that there is something inherently anime-ish to Avatar. I know the discussion is contentious, but ’tis interesting to note that we can recognize “not anime” by watching GTA’s in-game show despite its ostensible Japanese origin, but origin, i.e. something outside the show, is the strongest argument that Avatar should not be defined as anime. (And, of course, as LessWrong would remind us, what we call a thing is much less important than shared recognition of the thing’s inherent traits)

      1. guy says:

        Anime does have a charateristic typical style that most of it fits in. Avatar is made in that typical style. The contention is whether it’s defined by the style or the origin. If you go by the origin definition the GTA show is anime in-universe but not a good satire of typical anime. Plus the rest of the image is in the regular style, where Japanese studios may vary their style but tend to maintain a consistent feel within a scene unless deliberately making certain elements look out of place.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        The “anime is only anime if it’s made in Japan” thing is unimpressive to me, as an argument. What if an anime studio packed and moved to Hawaii because of an incredible tax break? Would their next show not be anime? Someone might try to argue that they are still Japanese, so that would still be anime. Okay, but what if there were suddenly tax breaks IN Japan for hiring foreign animators, so 60% of the studio was suddenly Chinese immigrants. Would that show be anime? It stinks of a purity test, for something that was never pure to begin with. Some of the original anime creators were very obviously and overtly doing their best try at a Disney style.

        1. guy says:

          But those early anime aren’t Disney cartoons, because they weren’t made by Disney. Same principle.

          1. Ander says:

            They would, from a non-origin definition, be Western, or at least more western than most anime made since the early days. Which is, I would suggest, a more useful category for a show than merely identifying who made it.

            In other words: we already have a way to identify animation made in Japan. We say it was made in Japan. However, the conventions that make Avatar more like Fullmetal Alchemist than Fairly Odd Parents are less concrete and take more time to enumerate. Fortunately we have a loanword that, in English, does capture those conventions/characteristics: anime.

            1. guy says:

              Does it really though? How many of those distinctive conventions are shared by Doremon? Which is generally considered anime and the longest-running anime series.

              1. Ander says:

                Yes, it really does. It does enough for two native language speakers to have shared comprehension when saying, “Anime is like x.” Which is what we need in our words.
                I’m not arguing the word is always precise or that a definition ought to be nailed down; that’s why I use the word “useful”. I’m assuming the value of a word is its usefulness, not its absolute precision. If one defines the word “anime” in terms of origin, you can ensure that the term is never used “wrong,” but you also will be excluding many ways the word is actually used and connotations it carries.
                The Mother’s Basement (Geoff Thew) video referenced below spends more time than I can providing examples of shows that tend to be classified as anime regardless of origin; I’d recommend it.

                1. Ander says:

                  Missed edit window but meant to add:
                  I know nothing about Doremon beyond what you’ve said about it (well, and seeing screenshots before). As was said above, the category of anime has never been “pure.” It’s better to have a word we can use even if its boundaries are unclear than a word that can certainly be used correctly but doesn’t have a purpose beyond not saying “Japanese cartoon.” One can disagree that this state is truly “better,” but it will probably lend itself to more understanding with other people who use the word.

                  1. guy says:

                    Doremon had a three-decade continuous run, has movies with more combined ticket sales than Godzilla, is officially endorsed by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, and is generally regarded to be anime. It is considered a kids show and has a different visual style from Shounen anime such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Dragon Ball, and suchlike.

                    1. Ander says:

                      I appreciate the information. It does not change the argument that usage determines meaning. Rather than, “This show is called an anime, so we can derive the meaning of anime from traits of this show,” we must say, “These shows are called anime; why?” Any one show contributes to the answer, but it can’t fully control the answer. This is not a maverick position; this is how linguistics is done.
                      But as for Japanese government recognition: the word “anime” in Japanese has different connotations than it has in English. It is probably best translated as “animation” or “cartoon” as evidenced by a movie like the live-action Let Me Eat Your Pancreas using the Japanese word “anime” to refer to The Simpsons and probably best translated in sub or dub as “cartoon”.

                    2. guy says:

                      Basically, a definition of anime that excludes Doremon is like a definition of first-person shooter that excludes the original Doom. Sure, many (US) fans are largely unfamiliar with it (my direct experience is watching a couple episodes in Japanese class) except by reputation, but neverthless it’s kind of a big deal and its status is not in significant dispute. And I am dubious that you can define anime in a way that includes both Avatar and Doremon but not Fairly Odd Parents.

                    3. Ander says:

                      “And I am dubious that you can define anime in a way that includes both Avatar and Doremon but not Fairly Odd Parents.”

                      Granted (even if the material is there, I haven’t seen the second), but that’s not the point. The point is that many people do see more categorical similarity between the first two than between the first and last. Why? That’s the question. I can’t say what makes Doremon unlike Fairly Odd Parents. I suggest that the answer to “Why?” for Doremon involves origin and historical influence at the least. For Avatar it would be influences, structure, characterization, and visual style, much like for FMA, with the addition of origin.

                      Of course, you are living proof that not everyone does think Avatar is/ought to be related more to Doremon than to Fairly Odd Parents. However, we know why: it’s because you use origin as the determining factor. I just don’t think that holds up consistently in general usage.

                      Also, I can show someone how Doom is related to Call of Duty: Ghost. The term FPS hasn’t shifted significantly enough for that. I’d suggest RPG as a term that, on the other hand, has shifted. Many games with widely-recognized “RPG” tags could not be meaningfully related to Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Fallout 1, Balder’s Gate, and AD&D. Many certainly don’t involve much playing of a role. And that’s okay; we just need to recognize the shift in usage.

                    4. guy says:

                      Well, that may depend on how you define “general usage”. I would regard Crunchyroll’s anime tab as general usage, and while most of it does look like Avatar, Folktales from Japan, for instance, does not. Now, it does include RWBY, which is not anime by my definition, but I would argue that its CGI gives it a different visual style from both hand-drawn anime and the typical CGI programs used in more modern anime and it wouldn’t really be anime by your definition either. Certainly it is very heavily influenced by anime, but you cannot confuse any frame of RWBY with any frame from any of the series we named. But I put that down to significant audience overlap and not wanting a separate tab for one show.

                      You may well be correct about how it’s used among people who don’t watch anime enough to use Crunchyroll, which is indeed a much larger section of the population, but by the same token they don’t tend to know of the shows that wouldn’t meet that definition. It’s kind of like how people might define sci-fi as “includes space ships” if the only examples they’re familiar with are Star Wars and Star Trek. The big names in terms of historical US airtime are largely shounen, which Avatar is indeed quite like. Same target audience, same plot structure, well within the usual visual style range for that genre.

                    5. Ander says:

                      This has been fun, and I think I’ve invested too much time into this. Only coming back to comment on RWBY.
                      I think it’s fair to call RWBY anime, but I don’t think RWBY wants to be called anime, because then it is being compared to shows that do most of what it does much, much better. The fight scenes are pretty, the music is good, and that is the extent of the positive things I can say about the show (which makes season 3, the tournament arc, the ideal subject matter).

          2. BenD says:

            Anime is a family of styles or a family of genres with a history of location/origin/culture. It has multiple ways of being defined and organized so some flexibility in determining which traits are definitive is available. You’re being inflexible on one factor only – nationality.

            Disney is a brand. The only flex in a Disney/not-Disney test is the difference between ‘owned by’ and ‘produced by.’

      3. Boobah says:

        The dude’s Japanese (in the Stein’s;Gate 0 anime, at least) is marred by a, presumably, American accent to the point that even as someone who doesn’t know the language I can tell he’s doing something different.

        My go-to example of mangled English-in-an-anime is Kaji in the opening of the second Rebuild movie, because A) he’s virtually unintelligible even with the subtitles, and B) everyone around him can actually speak the language. Including the Eva pilot, who is the only other character in the scene not a one-scene wonder.

        Also, as soon as I saw Last Airbender in Shamus’s list, I was sure I’d get an opportunity to link Geoff Thew’s “Avatar is an Anime. F*** You. Fight Me.

        1. Ander says:

          Yes, his Japanese is intentionally odd (in-universe he’s using a computerized translator much of the time). I’m referring to the very beginning, where he is giving a speech in English, translated live by Maho. His English is very weird yet intelligible enough to be distracting. I think the anime cuts down or omits that segment, so it might not be there. Your example is probably better, though; in S;G0 he’s the only “English” speaker.

        2. eldomtom2 says:

          That said, Mari’s English is noticeably off for a supposedly native Brit.

      4. Len says:

        Steins;Gate 0 has a reeeeally bad case of the Japanese person playing an American by speaking English in an obviously not native accent

        Leskinen isn’t American though, he’s Finnish.

        1. Ander says:

          Descent, maybe, but he works in America, is referred to as nothing but “from America,” and there’s no reason to conclude that he wasn’t born there. I hope that’s not presumptuous.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Eh, a lot of VIZ dubs from the late 90s and early 00s used different English accents. Usually to communicate a Japanese regional dialect or a foreign nationality. Then you have all the anime dubs that have to deal with a character speaking with a Kansai accent. Since it’s usually associated with comic relief characters, they’re usually dubbed with an English accent considered inherently funny, e.g. stereotypical Brooklyn or “Southern” accents.

    3. Civilis says:

      The female character does have the oversized eyes stereotypical of how Americans describe anime (see Big Eyes, Small Mouth). It’s as if someone took only the most common and lowest common denominator caricatures of anime (from Japan, colorful hair, big eyes, lewd fanservice) without having actually seen much anime, especially that which made it to American TV.

      I think an interesting contrast in depictions of anime in Western media is Dr. Krieger’s holographic girlfriend in Archer, who also ends up giving a contrast in the use of satire. In her case, the reason her accent works is it makes her a satire of an anime character as created by an American fanboy that needs to mark his creation as being Japanese. She exists to mark Dr. Krieger as (among other things) a satire of a Western anime fanboy.

      1. guy says:

        Well yes, but big eyes aren’t actually a distinctive trait. Pretty much all drawn and non-photo-realistic CGI exaggerates eye sizes to some extent; it helps replace the expressiveness lost to stylizing the rest of the face.

        1. Redrock says:

          Yup! It’s a well-known fact that the big eyes thing wasn’t a Japanese invention – it stemmed from Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy, being inspired by Betty Boop. Sure, it’s become more distinct as time went on, but the roots of the trend lie in western animation.

    4. guy says:

      I feel an irresistible urge to list everything wrong with that one frame.

      1. While there’s a wide variance in anime art style, the one the woman is drawn in doesn’t look like any I’ve seen.
      2. I swear the guy is a nearly exact copy of some actual anime character I’ve seen, but can’t quite place it. However, anime tends to maintain a consistent style within a series except when the variance means something specific, and rarely has two parts of the same scene in differing styles except for comedic sight gags or to indicate some part of the scene is unnatural.
      3. I feel like the background is a bit more detailed than is typical for TV shows, but there is stylistic variance there.
      4. Based on the title this is supposed to be a magical girl show and the scantily-clad woman is the main character. Magical Girls are, uh, almost never adult women. Also, most of them are for girls and the outfits tend towards excessively frilly more than skimpy. There’s like two Magical Girl series of any note that this could be an exaggeration of, and neither of them is Sailor Moon.

  14. Sarfa says:

    “It’s like if I tried to make fun of Scotland so I made a commercial about five guys all named Angus who wear kilts, play the bagpipes, and are paedophiles. That’s not a satire of Scotsmen.”

    It also wouldn’t land because the Housers, for all their company is headqurtered in Edinburgh and founded in Dundee, were born in London and are thus actually English. None of the writers of GTA 5 are Scottish. Which means you’d need a very different set of stereotypes. Mind you, the fact that this comparison is using the wrong stereotypes does make it closer to the writing style of GTA V.

    1. Ed Weatherup says:

      I was wondering about this … because according to the company is wholly owned by Take Two Interactive which is a New York City company (

      And the Houser brothers were born in London, educated in England and formed Rockstar in New York ( … and while this is all very cosmopolitan and global … I don’t see any Scotland in there. I probably missed something.

      Lastly … American craft beer is generally very good, the mass-produced stuff not so good. The British craft beer is generally very good, the other stuff … not so much.

      1. eldomtom2 says:

        Rockstar North, the main development team behind GTA, is based in Edinburgh. The writers are based in New York though.

      2. Sarfa says:

        Rockstar north was also originally Acme Software and was founded in Dundee back in 1984- but as far as I can tell the four founders of the company (while at least two of them are Scottish) were not involved by the time GTA V happened.

    2. Ed Weatherup says:

      Drat! I wrote a whole comment about the Housers not being Scots but either it has been deleted or I failed to post it …

  15. Joshua says:

    I’d use the Edgar Wright movies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as good examples of satire. They’re poking fun of the tropes, but in a loving way.

    1. No Names Ever says:

      In that look. I would had Pisswaser as a beer that doesnt have the beer drinker hitch hiking from town for horrible microbrewed beer before making his way back home thirsty and finding the last bottle of pisswaser and just downs it like water.

      Pisswaser: Beer that you dont have to travel for.

  16. BlueHorus says:

    Alright, obvious point ahead:
    TV. Inside the game. Just, why? I can watch TV in real life. What I can’t do is drive like a maniac or buy a rocket launcher from a gun shop , then immediately blow up the gun shop – that’s why I’d play a GTA game.

    I get having an in-game radio station: background entertainment while your drive around the city or whatever. And GTA has in my experience done that well before*.

    But to sit your character down and watch TV? That sounds less fun than constantly having to go bowling with your cousin.

    *I remember putting off missions in Vice City because I was listening to Press The Issue.

    1. Syal says:

      Eh, I don’t see it being less worthwhile than putting story books in Elder Scrolls games. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break without, you know, actually taking a break.

    2. Redrock says:

      Dunno, I loved watching TV in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. Mind you, in that game you could talk to the TV and have it talk back. At least, if you played as a Malkavian. And if you didn’t play as a Malk, then what the hell were you playing that game for in the first place?

      1. BlueHorus says:

        To make sense of what’s going on?
        Something memorable in my first playthrough of VTM:B: there’s a section where you meet a malkavian goth vampire inside her nightclub, early on – I didn’t quite know what she was talking about, I didn’t quite know what my character was talking about….
        …and to cap it all a quirk of perspective/animation had an NPC dancing in the background, partially blocked from view. Dude looked like he was jumping out of her head to wave his arms at me every so often, then hopping back out of sight.

        It ws awesome, but playing through again as a normal person with relateable reactions to what was going on was kind of a a relief after that.

        1. Redrock says:

          I dunno, malks aren’t nearly as indecipherable as people make them out to be. Most of your dialogue options have some sort of feverish logic to them. God, I miss Troika. Between Bloodlines and Arcanum, their dedication to the bit was second to none. Well, maybe modern Larian, but still not quite.

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Oh, sure. You’re never really completely lost as to waht you’re character is saying. But still, the ability to instantly understand and/or relate to the words coming out of my character’s mouth was a nice relief after a Malk playthrough.
            (Incidentally, trying to write good malkavian-style dialogue? Harder that it seems!)

            Now, playing VTM:B as a Nosferatu…that’s something that doesn’t seem worth doing.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              I’m late but you did walk into one of my favourite topics. It’s obviously not a hard rule but Malkavian is kinda intended for a second or later playthrough since they went with the “Malkavian foresight” thing and a lot of the nonsense that comes from your mouth is thinly veiled spoilers to either the plot of the game or the other characters’ backstories. I found it a really fun experience to play a Malk when I knew what was ahead in the plot.

  17. Big Tam says:

    the first step in poking fun at Sean Connery

    Poke fun? At me? I mustache ye why ye would want to do such a thing.

  18. Raion says:

    Although I don’t find GTA’s humour to my taste and I agree it seems quite lazy (sexual innuendo and perversion is instantly funny, always, in any context) I will say one thing… how you feel about foreigner misrepresentation of the USA in this instance, is how the rest of the world always feels about any depiction in any american media.
    Not that foreign perspective/ignorance excludes a work from criticism, but… you know. *winky face*

  19. TehShrike says:

    I’m not sure if it’s a “satire”, but I enjoyed Rocket Jump’s “Anime Crimes Division” short series:

  20. Agammamon says:

    The thing about the beer commercial – they could have taken a fairly normal Budweiser commercial and changed the name of the company to the ‘Pisswasser’ they had and it would work perfectly fine as a European poke at American beer. It’d still be just mockery – but at least the mockery would have been on target.

    1. That could be perceived as copyright infringement or Budweiser would have sued. Remember Lindsey Lohan suing Rockstar over using “her likeness” ?
      Only it turned out that while they might have parodied her, it also wasn’t her likeness but instead that of a model that looked remarkably like the character on the cove/on artwork/in-game etc.

      I think they may be going really over the top to make sure that nobody can sue and say “that’s us” in a lawsuit without it backfiring on them.

  21. I think you messed up with the mock anime tv ep critique Shamus.
    You are thinking of popular more digestible anime.

    There are anime that (rather popular one) that focus on making food but their clothes get ripped off, I’m sure many her are aware of it. And that I’d consider “high brow” anime.

    Then there are the ones where the hero gains power by drinking breastmilk…directly.

    I thought the mock anime was okay. The creepy old pervert grandpa figure if a classic trope in anime. Appearing somewhere between “silly fanservice” anime and hentai anime.

    Remember, Japanes anime artists has a long proud tradition of people gaining powers of “powering up” by orgasm (there was a super mecha series that did that if I recall correctly).

    And I’ve lost count of the number of times a male protagonist and a girl have fallen on the ground with the male having his nose buried in her panties. Mind you, none of this is hentai/eroge at all.

    Also note that Princess Robot Bubblegum first appeared in GTA IV and it’s expansions.
    “In Grand Theft Auto IV, PRB is only mentioned in a radio advertisement, however in The Lost and Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony, the program itself appears on television, specifically on CNT. Within the game universe, it courts controversy, with Weazel News in GTA IV reporting on a protest by Asian Americans against the airing of the anime. ”

    “In Grand Theft Auto V, the anime was supposed to broadcast, but some parents were aware of issues concerning young males possibly raping cosplayers at schools. Thus the anime show was banned from airing on TV (although it is already banned since the beginning of the game).”
    “In the enhanced version of Grand Theft Auto V, however, an episode of the cartoon is available to watch, and is broadcast on CNT”

    The character bios of the anime characters listed in that wiki is amusing.
    “Humpy. A floating animal sidekick intended to replace Saki after his death. As the name implies, he humps everyone.”
    This is a parody of a character in at least one anime. Again I think it was not a hentai.

    There’s this weird thing with Japanese anime where a anime can exist in three states at once (sort of like quantum theory with a 3 state qbit), you have a “kid” friendly one, then a “fan service” one suitable for teens, then a “adult” one which is borderline hentai or actually hentai.

    Sometimes a anime originate with a eroge game, then gets toned down and/or censored for the tv anime, then all hentai stuff is removed for the magazines. Sometimes the way things gets transformed go the other way. Or they are a mix.
    It would be like finding three different versions/media formats of Deadpool, a kid friendly comic magazine, then the teen/mature movie with the naughty stuff blurred or blocked by a elephant trunk (I’ve seen that in actual anime), then back in the store you’d have Deadpool the hentai/eroge game for adults. But they are all made by Marvel, or with the permission of Marvel by some other studio or group of studios.

    Princess Robot Bubblegum possibly under-delivered because it can i no way top the actual creative madness that is Japanese anime.
    The world itself has gotten weirder. Which is why I’m a tad nervous about GTA VI. What are they gonna make fun of, Twitch Thots?

    Princess Robot Bubblegum is voiced by Ayana Osada who’s IMDB info shows as having worked on a bunch of GTA games in the franchise. Her roles are mostly pedestrians etc. Since Lazlow (or his company) has been doing the “color” stuff of GTA like all the pedestrian dialog, radio and TV and internet stuff, PRB is most likely something he had part of the creative process of.

    Since I’m not an american I can’t speak to how anime is perceived in the US. But looking at the PRB episode I can see how american’s might stereo-typically see anime as being like this. Especially a certain sub genre of anime as I mentioned earlier.

    The drawing style is more western’ish. But I think that may be intentional as they could easily have had a Korean animation studio done the animations (and cheaper than in the US). Though the Master Hentai character seems more along the lines of dirty old masters in some anime I’ve seen.

    One odd thing is the apparent live audience which makes it seem like a american style sitcom. But the characters speaking of merchandise and censorship of the american DVDs is funny, and some Japanese anime do break the fourth wall saying stuff like “the animator/writer was lazy” or similar.

    In the episode the also make fun of sidekick branding, and slyly (in my opinion) makes fun of Pokemon churning out new types of Pokemons all the time.

    And closer towards the end of the episode when at the comic convention they slap it in your face that all things (subverting you exceptions, parodying them, etc) is all to just sell you stuff. It’s a industry, anime factories, corporatism. Comercialism (which has been made fun of in GTA since way back).
    Then there is the logger light (bud light?) spilling on the chest, which I’m guessing is poking fun at how in the US there are commercials (or where?) of chicks spilling beer/sodas over themselves.

    You even have three otakus at one point saying “this is really subverting those cliches” while hugging a pillow with a anime chick motif on it, sweating, and fountain nosebleed. The writers (I assume the actual writers at Rockstar/Lazlow) even make the characters say that the episode makes no sense and they gave up trying to make an ending, instead ending with a song. Interestingly I’ve seen animes do that (not admit it, but being confusing in the last episode an end with a song/music slideshow of the characters just looking at stuff).

    Here’s the creepy part. I’m not an otaku. I’ve just seen a lot of anime over my lifespan. It would be really fun to have an actual otaku review the PRB episodes (they are listed in that wiki as two seasons and a “movie”).
    The episode I’m referring to in this (rather long) comment is “Princess Robot Bubblegum And Sexy Time Japanese Horseradish” which I found on youtube, I can’t recall the episode contents otherwise nor do I wish to sit through them all (and I’m not re-installing GTA IV to watch just those).

    Also note that the episode mentions weaboos
    “weeaboos claim to love and support Japanese culture, counter intuitively, they tend to stereotype Japanese culture by how it appears in their favorite anime”

    Japan is weird. Even a Japanese would agree to that. Also note that Japan is still the only nation that has a animation industry that is a massive producer of adult cartoons (not to be confused with porn), a concept that the west (isn’t the US east of Japan though?) still hasn’t fully grasped. I mean, Deadpool’s success confused the industry a lot.

    A quick search of “western” adult cartoons gave me “Coonskin (1975), Heavy Metal (1981), A Scanner Darkly (2006)” as titles that stood out, ironically half the other anime on the list was Japanese like Akira.
    I pondered adding Aeon Flux to the above but it was created by a Korean American animator so it’s not really truly a “western animation”
    I guess TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2004) is “adult” but its’ stop motion rather than “drawn” animation, then again Heavy Metal and especially A Scanner Darkly are rotoscoped so…

    I’m getting sidetracked. Basically my view is that the PRB anime shorts tells “you” the viewer that this is how america perceive anime, and that is why they are showing you this (and telling you it is so), mocking the (US) audience rather than anime itself and that anime “fans” think higher of themselves than they really are when deep down they are happy to wash “anime trash”/”anime junkfood”.

    Now if that is the original intent/meaning behind all this, or if it’s just my own inferred meaning is hard to say. If you managed to get a hold of Lazlow you could probably have asked him about this stuff.

    Maybe you could do a piece for The Escapist about GTA and stuff like the in-game website, TV and radio shows and the mocking/satire/parody stuff and what Lazlow and the crew wanted to achieve/the meaning behind some of it?
    I’m sure the chief editor of The Escapist may be able to pull the right string to get you in touch with Lazlow (if his own site yields no results). Lazlow also worked a lot with one of the two lead guys behind the GTA games and might give you some insight into their writing process.

    1. Ander says:

      I’ll respect whatever reason you choose to not refer to Victual Conflicts by name… I agree that it is “high-brow” and it only gets more perverse going down. The GTA show is probably how anime is perceived by many. It’s not that anime is all smut, but there could be weirdly sexual content in a lot of anime at almost any random time.

    2. eldomtom2 says:

      And closer towards the end of the episode when at the comic convention they slap it in your face that all things (subverting you exceptions, parodying them, etc) is all to just sell you stuff. It’s a industry, anime factories, corporatism.

      See, that’s why it’s bad satire at the very least. There’s no subtlety, the characters just blatantly state they are trying to sell you stuff. And that’s where GTA’s satire falls down for me. You can make the same point in a much more believable manner.

    3. Syal says:

      So having watched an episode of Princess Robot Bubblegum, it feels like… a Drawn Together version of an anime abridged series. Like, it’s bad, but it’s not worse than stuff I’ve seen on actual TV.

  22. RFS-81 says:

    Then someone from catering shows up and asks what the board would like to eat today. An argument begins among the other board members but Andrew silences them by insisting on “Lootboxes”.

    At lunchtime, every board member receives a mysterious metal box. One finds Ramen in it, another a beefsteak, and someone else a rotten apple. “Mr. Wilson, what did you get?” Andrew ceremoniously opens his box, and beams “Lootboxes!” He then pulls out a miniature lootbox and, with increasing frustration, tries to take a bite out of it.

  23. “this is a mean-spirited mockery of the American people, perpetrated by someone who doesn’t seem to understand their target”

    That is the point I think.

    Lazlow is a american so I’ll assume he understands american culture well.
    Pisswazzer is a joke brand for a american beer with a german sounding name (I forget which beer it is, I think americans has two actual beer brands that is actually european).
    GTA also has “Sprunk” which is a soda brand, or a flavour. Parody name of Sprite maybe?
    eCola is another and obvious one.

    The humor is hit and miss. For some it makes them chuckle or laugh, myself I chuckle more than laugh, but I do sometimes laugh at the absurdity of some of the fake ads etc.
    Then on the other scale I guess some people end up feeling offended; either because it hurts their sense or patriotism or real brand loyalty. The ol’ “a little too closer to home” feeling which some comedians like to try and hit.
    I’m not sure if I’d call Lazlow a comedian though, at least not a conventional one.

    Oh and you missed the radio/tv commercials for Maibatsu Monstrosity (parody of a giant Mitsubishi SUV?) and other cars.

    I also speculate that while at some point GTA may have been satirical/parody of the real world, it is now as much it’s own world with parallels to our own. In which case the off-beat satire you point out actually fit within the GTA universe (it’s self consistent, at least as far as I’ve noticed).

    If there is one thing that’s been consistent over the GTA franchise it’s the “80s” based juvenile satire/parody humor, Lazlow has kept that alive. And I think that is part of GTAs “charm”.

    Which is why I’m worried about GTA VI, if a modern audience do not get it/like it then GTA V may be the last single player GTA. By that I mean, GTA VI will probably be quite different from GTA has we know it. Studio heads have stated in interviews that they are thinking of ways to integrate the other cities (possibly via the airport). This would make sense of GTA Online, less sense for single player. Making a “GTA V” or similar is time consuming and expensive, if Take Two want Rockstar to do it the easy way then a online “games as a service” where they add a new city/map every few years and trickle out content (possibly some paid?) over the years instead of single player they may end up doing that.

    In GTA Online I doubt most pay much attention to the ingame radios (that has chatting) or he ingame internet websites or the stuff on the TV. The missions and related story content is what they notice instead.

    So the stuff you dislike Shamus may actually vanish with the next GTA game. Dan and Sam Houser almost left Rockstar before GTA V, and Lazlow probably would have gone with them. We’ll see if Dan and Sam Houser stick around for GTA VI, if they don’t we may see a tonal shift for GTA (new game director(s)).
    GTA has already lost some of it’s key people like Leslie Benzies who left in 2014 and sued for outstanding royalties.
    He also worked as producer and lead designer for Red Dead Redemption and Rockstar seems to have found a good replacement there though.

    But Red Dead Redemption has the benefit of being set in a time period and to be “historically accurate” (more so than Battlefield V it seems). GTA will struggle.
    GTA III was set in the 90s, Vice City in the 80s, San Andreas in the 90s/00s, GTA IV in 00s, and GTA V in the 10s (present day).
    A GTA VI will either have to stick to the GTA V “time” so it fits in with the GTA Online/GTA V world, or it’ll have to be set in a different time period. How that will impact GTA Online I have no clue. Parodying a time in the past is easier than “present day” though.

  24. In reference to anime and silly titles, a recent (still running) anime series which is moderately good IMO is: Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu
    English title is “How Not to Summon a Demon Lord” but Google translate gives you “How many letters are cooked by a couple?”
    Full title per wikipedia is supposed to be “The Other World Demon Lord and the Summoning Girl’s Slave Magic”
    Now the titles seen here no longer seems “that” silly. Machine translations fail badly at times.

    There is also at least one character later in the season that is dressed as scantily as PRB (the top at least) is. The series is not eroge or hentai, but it is censored (in Japan it seems), in the west it’s not, and I can’t recall seeing anything explicit really, so not sure what’s up with that.

    I can’t recall any merchandising though, but I’m sure figures and pillows and whatnot exists of the characters.

    Transformers was created to sell the toys, or rather they wanted to sell the toys and thus created the animations unless my history is wrong. A lot of these animes are probably similar in that regard.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Without doing too much research, my best bet for the disparity in censorship is the difference in how Japan and The West view the sexual implication of female breasts. They are more taboo in Japan than in the USA.

    2. guy says:

      Uh, no one calls anime by their machine translated titles. Unofficial releases generally use the Japanese straight-up and official releases either get a good translation or just make up another title. Also, if they did they’d probably feed Google Translate the actual Japanese characters, which gave me “Slave magic of different world demon and summoned girl”.

      Where you get hilarious nonsense titles is when the original name is in English. Like All You Need Is Kill, which is an actual name of an actual manga. The official English title is now Edge Of Tomorrow after the loose movie adaption.

    3. Len says:

      Actually, you’ve got it mixed up.

      Crunchyroll is the US site that’s streaming it “censored”. There’s no legal US stream to watch the uncensored version. Only in Japan, the channel AT-X is broadcasting it it uncensored.

      For reference, the “censorship” mostly consists of adding a bunch of pointless bubbles and lightbeams, no nipples were ever shown anyway. Comparison (obviously NSFW) “censored” , “uncensored”

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Not a single comparison to saints row?Shame.

    But I dont think the problem with humor here is that the developers arent americans.If you look at the parody movies of the last ~20 years,they are mostly weak,lame,unfunny drivel.Comedy is hard,and parody is even harder.But due to the growth of the industry and the budgets,every talentless hack gets a chance to spew their “parody” these days.And of course,video games want to emulate movies.But if you are emulating meet the spartans and madea,chances are you are going to get trash.

  26. Roofstone says:

    Partially ignoring the “is it satire?” “Is it funny?” and so on; I wonder how much perception of GTA differs between Americans and non-Americans. Considering the things we hear about the US over here in Norway I often find myself thinking “No yeah that is pretty accurate” when it comes to GTA mockeries.

    I wonder how our perception changes our ‘agreement’ with the jokes.

    1. Viktor says:

      I do think it depends a lot on your familiarity with the subject matter. I’m at work so I haven’t looked up the actual footage in question, but just based on screenshots, that beer commercial does not look at all like an actual beer commercial. It looks like a political ad, or a certain class of talk news show. There’s jokes you could make about US beer commercials fairly easily, and there’s jokes you could make about the ultra-patriotic aspects of our culture*, and they aren’t the same joke. Combining the two is a good way to bury the punchline of your joke with irrelevant info.

      *I grew up listening to old-school rodeo country music. Ask me about modern country sometime if you want a rant.

  27. Alex says:

    As Russian I always hated depiction of Russians in ANY American popular film. Just, arghhhhh, hated!
    Most notable examples? I really like Bondiana but you can’t make me rewatch Golden Eye. It’s idiotic and stupid. And every scene with Russian general sitting in empty basement-like room. Jesus, wtf. Or Russian Astronaut in Armageddon? Just, wow.
    Bet you liked it. So.
    It’s nice to see you guys irked for a change. )))

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even red heat?Come on,how can you not find an austrian body builder portraying a russian to be funny?

      1. Redrock says:

        Oh, many Russians actually like this one. Then again, both Arnie and Sly have a lot of nostalgic fans in Russia. They were HUGE in the 90s, when the bootleg VHS market bloomed.

      2. Alex says:

        Yes. You’re absolutely right. That is the one and only exception.
        That movie was so bad it became good. It was ripped apart for all sort of memes. Most famous: “ Kakie vashi dokazatel’stva” pronounced in deeply broken Russian accent. Good times. ))))

    2. Joe says:

      I realised once that I can’t name a single Russian ‘good guy’ in any movie I’ve seen. Yeah, Red October, Enemy at the Gates. But those are British, Americans, and Kiwis playing Russian. They’re always the bad guy. Sometimes there’s one who is honourable, but committed to the other side. If it isn’t cold war villains it’s the Russian mafia. I’m not even Russian, and I find it kind of lazy and thus annoying. No wonder that Russians seem to be annoyed with the West, they’re sick of being slandered.

      1. Redrock says:

        Well, there’s Chekov in Star Trek. Harrison Ford’s character in K-19, and…erm. Yeah, you got me. There was this nice assasin guy played by Konstantin Khabensky in Wanted, but that was directed by a Russian director, so probably doesn’t count. The Black WIdow is Russian, although who the hell cares.

        1. Furo says:

          Plus above-mentioned Red Heat. Arnie there plays a Russian cop, who is very quirky, but likeable and definitely a good guy.

          Oh, and that spaceman guy (Trotsky?) in Armageddon.

  28. Crimson Dragoon says:

    Personally, I think Rockstar is at its best when its trying to satirize something the writers actually like. In the earlier games, this was crime dramas and gangster movies. The writers clearly enjoy movies like Goodfellas and Scar Face, and seemed to be having fun telling their own versions of those stories while poking fun at the genre at the same time.

    This was most clear with Red Dead Redemption (a game I really hope Shamus will cover in this kind of detail). The love of Western movies oozes from every pore of the game, even as they were satirizing the tropes and conventions of the genre. That love makes the game shine and its one of the reasons I think its Rockstar’s best work.

    But GTA V doesn’t have that love. Rockstar clearly hates modern American culture and as Shamus says, they barely understand it. So the jokes aren’t interesting or insightful (or even very funny), just mean and cruel.

  29. aradinfinity says:

    “The sexulaization of characters”
    This ain’t it, chief. (You also put ‘don’t’ and ‘even’ in the wrong order on the alt text for the beer commercial with the single finger salute.)

    That being said, as someone who hasn’t played a single GTA game but is American, I have to say that your descriptions of these don’t seem very on the mark. Sure, a patriotic beer commercial is something I could see, particularly given how it’s more common to drink than to refrain from it, but I haven’t seen any like that in my admittedly lacking television experience, and that anime… oof. It hits my uncanny valley something hard, because it looks like they just stapled a generic anime girl head onto a hentai actress’ body without bothering to mix the art styles any, and the guy is also in a different art style. I think the only show that mixes styles like that I know if is The Amazing World of Gumball, and that’s both for a specific idea and doesn’t mix them in single characters.

  30. Decius says:

    The gold standard in satire of American TV has to be Idiocracy’s show “Ow My Balls”. And it’s so simple to deconstruct: find the things about the subject that are both intrinsic and unstated, turn it up to eleven, and make it explicit.

    For movies, that would be the “good guy” saying “Our only hope is to make the Bad Guy kill Mel Gibson’s family.”, or something much better than I can write.

    For anime, make the title “Adolescent world-saving harem adventure!”, and have the characters talk about how all of the best-trained world-saving teams died trying, and per standard procedure they need to randomly select one male and five females and give them experimental weapons that have a significant chance of turning the user into one or more tentacle monsters.

  31. Dreadjaws says:

    I’m sure this has been mentioned, but I believe part of the problem comes from the fact that the developers aren’t trying to satirize american culture, but rather their perception of american culture based on the last few years of parodies in the entertainment industry.

    See, in the first level there’s the american culture. Then it comes the good satire. Then it comes the tired, lazy satire that just takes what was already done and overexplains it. Then it comes the plethora of movies and shows that don’t understand satire and resort to taking the previous level and add gross-out/scat “humor” to it. Then it comes GTA.

    I believe that if the developers were directly exposed to american culture rather than basically following an overly long game of broken telephone they’d do a much better job. Then again, it’s possible that they’re truly trying their best and are simply no good at it.

  32. Anthony Serrano says:

    I mean really, all that needs to said about the quality of the GTA franchise’s humor is that they though it was clever to have a moped brand called “Faggio.” In 2002.

  33. marty says:

    There’s something that I’ve been chewing on for a while (years!) and I guess this is the appropriate time to bring it up. Even if Rockstar was spot on with their humor–if it was some brilliant skewering of American culture–they’re using a lot of ultra-popular American artists on the soundtrack (and it’s even a bit weirder than that because the soundtrack is non-diegetic). I don’t think they’re putting hundreds of popular songs into the series ironically or to further their “‘critique'” of American culture–Rocstar thinks these are good songs; they’re paying for the privilege of having genuine American pop-culture in their games. Is there some director just pacing around the Rockstar office, muttering to themselves about how much they hate American pop-culture in one breath, and then declaring their undying love for American pop-music in the next? Because that’s exactly how the game feels at times.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      It’s probably less a matter of anyone at Rockstar liking the music as muc has it is just business sense: put currently popular music in to make people like it more.
      Whether someone think having popular music in the game will help it sell better, or that this kind of game is just expected to have music like that, who knows.

      Feeds back into Shamus’ point that the games seem to want to critique shallow, comsumerist culture – and yet they are a fantastic example of shallow, consumerist culture – lazy attempts at ‘satire’ included.

      Though that might have more to do with different departments during development. The people writing the ‘biting social satire’ probably aren’t the same people picking the music for the radio stations.

    2. Lame Duck says:

      I think you may be assuming an overarching vision that just doesn’t seem to exist. If the mockery is coming from a place of genuine disdain for American culture, it’s clearly not shared by the entire team, given how heavily and nakedly GTA is inspired by American movies. As with most things, however, my assumption is that it’s less a case of actual malice and more likely to just be stunning incompetence; someone wants to poke fun but their targets are incredibly scattershot and they lack finesse and subtlety, so the results are shallow at best and extremely ham-fisted.

  34. Jabberwok says:

    Watching the Errant Signal on this and reading half the article (I will finish it) makes me feel as if what Rockstar has really been doing is just riding the cultural zeitgeist that prevails in gamer communities and on the Internet at large. Poking fun at anime, celebrating misogyny, and most of all just generally refusing to recognize any thought or emotion as genuine. And I think that last part is the cynicism that has so thoroughly turned me off of the series. Everything they express has to feel like the butt of some joke, even if the joke is just ‘society’ or ‘humanity’ and as a result it’s all fundamentally cruel and robotic. It’s a very 4chanian ethic, or lack thereof.

  35. john says:

    I had forgotten that Rockstar’s in Scotland. But their brand of humor had always felt off, for the same reason South Park and Family Guy feels off. Basically, Comedy X wants to satirize/mock the people who use the n-word, but they also really wanna to use the n-word.

    San Andreas was the first GTA that tried to be serious. There was a real tonal shift between slapstick violence, serious-faced bits of police corruption, and little screeds of “look at how those people behave.” It’s like Family Guy, which had a pro-gay marriage episode by using Brian’s flamboyant stereotype of a cousin. GTA V has a “Torture is wrong” mission. It portrays this by having the psycho character, the one most likely to engage in random violence in-story, torture somebody on the government’s orders. Then he says it’s wrong. And that’s the lesson.

  36. garion333 says:

    In order to satirize reality TV all Rockstar needed to do was take an episode of The Bachelor or Bachelorette and recreate it digitally in-game, word for word.

  37. John says:

    An element of parody/satire I think works: Franklin’s getting-out-of-the-hood story. It’s got the whole crab mentality baked into it. However, the satire comes in when you are offered legit business (the towing company) and reject it, because the reason you’re leaving the hood is not to pursue legit business, but more lucrative crime.

  38. Blue Painted says:

    I know this is *way* behind the fair … but re-reading this (waiting for compile) after re-playing GTA-V (avoided Cyberpunk) something struck me: The English-voice female DJ on the in-game radio station is a piss-take of a piss-take because she is one of the four or five “English” characters you ever see in TV and movies.

    And, for what it’s worth after this long which I suspect isn’t much, as an infrequent visitor to the USA, almost all New York, GTA-V’s portrayal the feel of American society and especially TV is spot-on. Sorry.

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