Episode 209: Meryl Streep, Oscar Nominated Government Assassin

The Overthinkers tackle branding, marketing an experience, truth-in-fiction, and Team Fortress 2.

Peter Fenzel, John Perich, and Matthew Wrather overthink Valve’s “Meet The Pyro” video for Team Fortress 2, launching into a discussion of branding, marketing an experience, and truth in fiction.


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17 Comments on “Episode 209: Meryl Streep, Oscar Nominated Government Assassin”

  1. cat #

    Fleagle Eagle Beagle sounds a little bit like Falkor from The Neverending Story.


    • cat #

      It’s interesting that both Wrather and Perich wanted to animate their toys to tell them stories. My understanding of Ted is that as a child, the boy wishes for the bear to come to life and it does and then continues to grow up with him. Whereas you are imagining bringing a toy to life as an adult for the purpose of nostalgia. You want the toy to access a part of your life for you that you have forgotten. This supposes that the toys have no desires of their own and their existence is bound up in their relationship to their owners. And it also implies a curious sense of stagnation. There’s no reason to assume the toys would have a better memory of that period of time than you do, unless perhaps they were frozen at that point in time. But to be frozen they had to once be animated. This seems to reflect the way we assume that by playing with them, the toys become animated. Though the Nintendo kind of complicates this point.


      • cat #

        To take a few steps back in the discussion, how does the character of the Pyro relate to gender, mental illness, and what is socially acceptable?

        For instance, let’s assume the character is “deranged”. Is it more or less comforting to know that this character believes he is doing good when engaging in violent and destructive behavior? On the one hand, we can be comforted by the character’s impulse towards what we perceive as kind and nonthreatening. The Pyro wants to spread joy. On the other hand, we are threatened by the character’s inability to connect to reality. It is easier to understand a character who does something evil for personal gain than a character who does something evil believing they are being selfless and good without the support of any ideology. The Pyro is not driven by a particular cause. He is legitimately unable to distinguish between good and evil or perceive that he is doing harm.

        Let us assume the Pyro is a woman. Does the knowledge of what is going on in her mind make her more or less threatening/socially acceptable. On the one hand, she is no longer a woman engaging in senseless violence. She is instead more in line with the “traditional” ideology of femininity, particularly with the nurturing behavior towards the flying babies. Yet she is still a woman doing violence against exclusively men. And her care for the babies is being corrupted by the reality of violence. Is she the unfit mother who does violence against her children without meaning to? How does this relate to mental illness?


        • Erigion Member #

          One quick thing to add: At 1:57 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUhOnX8qt3I&feature=player_detailpage#t=117s) of the Meet the Pyro video, we can see that “Optical Mask” is stamped on the gasmask.

          I’m assuming that the mask is producing the Pyro’s visions and they’re not a mental hallucination. Does this make him/her some sort of unwilling combatant? Did they capture the Pyro, stick this mask on, and shove him/her out the door?

          The official plot for TF2 says that mercenaries were recruited to fight this war. This suggests that the Pyro knows what is happening. Is this the next step in war? Instead of soldiers who know exactly what they’re doing will they be fitting with some sort of virtual reality interface that makes them believe they’re not killing people? Some sort of way to prevent PTSD?


          • Dr_Demento #

            I’m fairly sure “Optical Mask” is just another way of saying a mask that protects the eyes by placing glass/plastic lenses over them, but in support of your theory, TF2 came out with these puppies that gave every character access to “pyrovision”


  2. cat #

    “Male stripper.” What is it about the profession that makes it necessary to specify gender? I don’t think it’s purely a question of which gender is perceived or actually dominant (in terms of numbers) in a profession. Male nurse. Female doctor. Male nurse. Female executive. Actor. Actress. Are some professions gender neutral and if so, why? I find it rare for people to ask if a teacher is male or female but it occasionally happens depending on the subject they specialize in or the way they approach it.


    • fenzel #

      I don’t have a ton of experience with either, but from what little I do have, the baseline “stripper” versus “male stripper” have very different jobs, which would reinforce there being different terms for them. A “male stripper” is closer to a burlesque performer or even a showgirl — doing a campy character-driven act (whether there’s an actual gimmick or just a persona) or otherwise putting on a show for a crowd.

      A baseline “stripper” is being paid for things like lapdances and pretending to be nice to you to cajole you out of money — the “show for the crowd” part is a very small part of what they are actually trying to do, and a lot of them are really bad at that or not even concerned with it. A “stripper” is, baseline, less of a theatrical performer and more of a sex worker.

      Now I know this kind of “stripper” isn’t _everyone_ who does it, not even close, (just ’cause she dances Go Go, that don’t make her a ho, no, and all that) — but it’s a _really_ different feel that is very easy to spot. The only times I’ve seen male strippers have been when groups at bars near our group have had one come in — and the silly sort of show they put on is something I would _never_ expect to see from a female who marketed herself as a “stripper.” There’s just so much less money in doing that versus what strippers tend to actually do (which is also, if you ask me, quite a bit darker and less pleasant).


    • Dr_Demento #

      The short answer (that applies to *Gender* Stripper*) is that the gender of the professional plays a major part in whether their services are desired. Most bachelor parties are not going to hire a male stripper. Most bachelorette parties are not going to hire female strippers. The same applies to actors/actresses, gynecologists, and proctologists.

      There is a longer answer to more generally cover doctors, nurses, and secretaries, but I can’t quite get the phrasing right, so I will just put the important words down and pretend the argument is self evident: Service Industry, power dymanics, homophobia and emasculation,


  3. cat #

    “I want an MMA fighter to do my acting for me, about as much as I want an electrician to do my plumbing for me.”

    I think a more fair comparison would be the one that often comes up between dancers/singers/actors. You’re looking for a pop act. Would you rather have a professional dancer you can teach to sing or a professional singer you can teach to dance? Or you’re casting for a musical. Would you prefer a professional singer you can teach to act (Madonna in Evita)? Or would you prefer a professional actor you can teach to sing (Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge)? Two skill sets are actually required but the question supposes that all applicants will lack one of the qualities.


  4. Charles Etheridge-Nunn #

    Two notes I have from the start of the podcast are this:
    I thought I was the only one with toy blocks in that style. Hearing that it was a fairly common toy for a child makes me wonder why no one has tried to use the magic word “synergy” with it and make a Hollywood movie of the blocks. It feels like Battleship reached further than it needed to with such low hanging fruit.
    In addition, hearing the overthinking of really young children’s toys makes me realise that the first of my geeky, overthinker friends if going to be a father. I feel that there should be something for the overthinkers of the future to play for them while they’re growing up. Giving the toys of the preschoolers the scrutiny they probably don’t deserve


  5. Leigh #

    I haven’t seen Magic Mike or The Girlfriend Experience, but I have seen Haywire. I wanted to make sure it was clear that Gina Carano did not do an awful job acting in that movie. I thought her performance during the non-fighting scenes was good enough to get us to the fighting scenes, in which she excelled. It’s not really a question of calling a plumber to do an electrician’s job – it’s more like calling a part-plumber/part-electrician to fix your powered toilet.

    To say it another way, Soderbergh wasn’t using Carano to take away artifice, he was using her to add something else. And I think it worked – she’s a pretty domineering screen presence throughout the film, and the fight scenes are phenomenal.


  6. Howard Member #

    It says a lot about Valve’s privileged position in the gaming community that the question about the Pyro that’s received the most scrutiny since the game was released, whether the Pyro is a man or a woman, went completely unaddressed in Meet the Pyro – and yet, nobody (that I’ve seen) has made a stink about it. Almost all the comments have been positive. Contrast that with a recent EA game, Mass Effect 3, which just got a patch that extended the ending because enough people complained about it.

    I’m not saying that Valve deserves more criticism for this, or that EA/Bioware deserve a pass, I just think it goes to Fenzel’s point about how the two companies are viewed by the community.

    Anyway, any other TF2 players out there? I haven’t played in a while, but I might pick it up again. Anybody want to get a weekly OTI game going or something?


    • Timothy J Swann #

      I play, from time to time.
      Can we agree that pushing the cart is definitively a Sisphyean task?


    • Erigion Member #

      That’s not really a fair comparison.

      The Mass Effect series was, for many people, a game with an expansive universe, deep characters, and a hero that was yours and yours alone. The story of my Shepard was probably unique compared to every other player’s Shepard. The choices your Shepard made in the first game had an affect on what happened in the third game. Many of them were minor, but it still made it feel like your actions mattered. The outcry over the ending was because it felt like Bioware ripped the control away from the players and forced them to go down 3 different, but similar, endings.

      For all its extras, Team Fortress 2 isn’t a story driven game. The plot, as it were, doesn’t have any effect on the game since it was probably written after the game came out and released in comic form. Many players would probably still be playing the game even if Valve didn’t periodically release these extras. There’s also no ending to a game like TF2 until Valve decides to stop supporting it. Then the outcry will be for a completely different reason.


  7. Outis #

    I believe it is better to think of acting as a form of communication, rather than a trade. If someone called from Germany with a plumbing problem, whom would you put them on the phone with; a master plumber, or someone who speaks German and owns a copy of “Do-It-Yourself Plumbing?”


  8. Rob #

    I was trying to think of the amateur vs pro actor from an angle other than Val Kilmer being douchey. Maybe the ideal of verisimilitude would be to follow a real international spy and capture the action and drama and whatever we want out of her real life story as it happens. Obviously it would be impossible logistically and politically to have that much access, to have cameras positioned everywhere that action might happen.

    So the next best thing would seem to be getting a real spy to recreate events later, or to star in a fictional role that draws on her life experiences. You film the scene where her agency boss betrays her. She knows what that feels like, and maybe she can channel that into her acting. The lighting wasn’t quite right, so we’re on take seven telling her to draw on those life experiences again and think of the betrayal. Whoa, whoa, you felt that strongly about it? That’s kinda weird. Can you dial it down some? Maybe your emotion is authentic, but viewers are going to get the wrong impression if you’re crying that hard and breaking things at this point. Then the wind kicks up and it’s rattling some of the set, everybody waits around to see if the weather’s going to cooperate. Come back tomorrow and try to give that feeling again.

    Being able to convey an emotion on command just isn’t a skill that everybody has, even if they have relevant life experiences to draw on. Also fiction has to be better than reality in some ways. Sometimes reality doesn’t fit into a clear narrative or make much sense. The ultimate in verisimilitude would involve following characters to the bathroom every time they had to go, or showing all twenty or forty hours of McNulty and Greggs bored out of their minds during a stake out. They show a few minutes to give viewers an impression of how boring it is waiting, but not enough for boredom to rub off on viewers.


  9. Justin Mohareb #

    A week late and a point short, the Chuck spinoff that was mentioned reminded me of Harry & Lloyd: Out of Control, which took two side characters from the Steve Carell Get Smart film and gave them their own adventures.


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