Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Metal Mania

I've grown a kind of grim fascination with these Christian "Media is bad" Videos from the 80s and early 90s since I downloaded a couple last year. This one, as is clear from the title, details the ways in which heavy metal is destroying the youth of America. As someone who was raised in South Yorkshire by a mother who trusted my intelligence and judgement to give only the barest set of rules (essentially amounting to "don't get hurt, don't hurt anyone else, don't get arrested") I can only pity the poor kids who's parents were taken in by these tapes and subsequently had their adolescent years trampled over. The host of this video, Bob Larson states near the start that his video will "help to break down the barriers that heavy metal has built up between you and your children", showing a bare-faced unwillingness of the makers and their audience to even try to understand their children.

He shows a clip in which he talks to members of the band Laaz Rockit, who tell him that the music they make and the themes it contains are only entertainment and flavour, and that they're not only on the same label as the Christian band Stryper, but they are also friends with them. The video then cuts to the host alone in his own studio, where with a stony face, he tells the camera "Laaz Rockit seem like a nice bunch of guys, but remember that they've sold their souls to rock and roll."

As I said in the first paragraph, Bob just can't understand why metal contains themes of destruction, demonology, the occult and so on. He's completely incapable of imagining that anyone could take listening to metal as a positive experience. He says that musicians are manipulated by Satan to sow seeds of rebellion in teenagers and youths. He goes on to say that metal musicians and fans don't come from families or backgrounds with "a strong bond of love", which feels entirely like a weaselly way of leading into his real agenda: the motive of this video is entirely to cajole parents into being stricter, more controlling and less forgiving to their children.

Later in the video, he talks to teenagers, who tell him to his face about the positive effect metal has had on them as people, and who are mostly thoughtful young people. The only truly "negative" thing he can say about these kids is that they aren't Christians, or at least, they aren't the kind of literal interpretation Christians he'd like. Metal has given them self-esteem, and one girl talks about how metal has turned her life around after she attempted suicide. After this, there's another one of Bob's solo spots where he disregards all this and extolls the virtue of "tough love" and that any "harsh words" between parents and their children are only temporary and are needed to get kids back in line.

Other videos of this genre I've seen that tackle subjects such as action cartoons and Dungeons and Dragons have been almost laughable in their ineptitude. Though I'm sure they caused as much bad parenting as this video, those always seemed like the creators were just out to make a quick buck, with no regard as to who might get hurt in the process. Metal Mania and Bob Larson seem completely sincere and completely malicious. It's insensitive to those who might have been affected by these sorts of videos, but I admit, I usually watch these as a kind of bizarre psuedo-entertainment, as the hosts will make bizarre connections between media they don't understand and all kinds of extreme phenomena. Metal Mania doesn't have that kind of value, it just feels like a nasty, malicious video with a potential for causing real harm to innocent people.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Environmental Superhero Ecogainder

Ecogainder is a low-budget tokusatsu TV series, and while this usually means a weird late night show made specifically for an adult audience, in this case, it's actually an educational show aimed at kids. Ecogainder himself is an android sent from the future to educate the people of 21st century earth about preserving the environment, though he seems to focus all his efforts on one middle class Japanese family. The villains, trying to tempt this same family into wasting energy and not recycling are the Eco Crushers, Mudaana (played by AKB48's Sayaka Akimoto) and Hakais, who are working under the orders of Queen Deathgaia.

Mudaana and Hakais are the most interesting characters in the show, as the Suzuki family are just generic "everyman" types, and Ecogainder himself barely has a personality at all, beyond giving environmental advice. They're based on the old Doronbo Gang archetypes started by Yatterman and seen in a ton of shows and comics and videogames since, though they're missing a fat guy, having only the attractive woman and skinny guy parts of the trio. Hakais is a pretty good example of exactly how low the budget for this show was, as the weapon he wields is clearly just a plastic Doctor Octopus arm toy, not even modified or repainted.

What's interesting about those two is how their relationship with the Suzukis changes over the course of the series. A typical episode sees a member of the family thoughtlessly doing something that's mildly environmentally unsound, like forgetting to recycle, or leaving the TV on standby, at which point the Eco Crushers will turn up and aggressively state how great it is that the family are helping the cause of environmental destruction. Then Ecogainder shows up, and the three of them go off to the "battlefield", which is some kind of big white tent thing, and Ecogainder shoots his ecology beam and the Eco Crushers are banished away.

But over time, the Suzuki family's reaction to the Eco Crushers changes: at first, they're scared and confused when Mudaana and Hakais show up to harass them, over time, they treat the villains as a mild nuisance, and the series' big turning point is a few episodes from the end, when the kids are bored and turn the heating up specifically to summon Mudaana and Hakais so they have more people to play cards with.

I'm sure I'm not spoiling anything when I reveal that in the last episode, Mudaana and Hakais turn against Queen Deathgaia and help Ecogainder in the final battle. It's predictable, but still nice. Ecogainder is definitely no must-watch series, but it's only fourteen nine-minute episodes, so if you really need to see a cheap superhero show, this one isn't too painful. Be warned though, that the series focuses mainly on comedy and educational value, with pretty much no real action on offer.
This series is also known as Kankyou Choujin Ecogainder