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Some thoughts on "Zero Charisma."


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I have a problem with the portrayal of RPGs and their players in the mainstream media.

 

EVERY TIME, it seems, when RPGs and their players are portrayed on mainstream film or TV, they can't resist going for the stereotype. People who play RPGs are maladjusted nerds; normal people simply do not do such things.

When we see it on "The Big Bang Theory," it's because all our male characters are maladjusted nerds.

When we saw it on "Community," it was because our regular cast of attractive, if quirky, people, wanted to make the maladjusted nerd feel accepted and not like such a loser. 
When we saw it in "The Gamers," and "The Gamers II" ... well... actually, it was pretty good, but neither of these productions are what I'd call mainstream... the feel of these two productions is more like "made by nerds for nerds," to be honest. Independent films can afford to aim for smaller audiences. 

So I'd been hearing about this movie, "Zero Charisma," about a gamemaster, his game group, and how this hipster guy joins the game and shakes things up and the gamemaster winds up taking a dislike to him. I was curious; I wanted to see it. It's an indie film, and I had hopes. Regrettably, those hopes were dashed.

Our protagonist, Scott Weidemeyer (Sam Eidson) is very quickly established as a stereotype; he's in his late twenties, perhaps early thirties, and lives exactly like he did when he was fifteen: heavy metal music, still lives with his grandmother in a room plastered with heavy metal band posters, fantasy art, and assorted Renfaire props, and has a lousy job as a donut deliveryman. He USED to have a job at the Friendly Local Game Store until he got canned for being too obnoxious and opinionated. Oh, and he's convinced that Hollywood stole his movie idea for "The Matrix." Our protagonist... is an angry, immature, maladjusted nerd.

His friends aren't much better. One member of his group discovers his marriage is falling apart because he doesn't spend enough time with his wife. The others lack wives and/or girlfriends entirely, and tolerate Scott's tyrannical gamemastering and overbearing attitude because... well... we never get much explanation for why they put up with this guy. We establish quickly that this whole group is a pretty sad bunch, and that the center of Scott's world is that for a few hours every Thursday, he gets to be God.

After twenty minutes of this, I began to wonder precisely who this movie was aimed at. Who wants to see this? Ordinary folks would be saying "Yeesh, what an unlikeable nerdy bunch of people. Why are we watching this?" and gamers would be saying, as I was, "Yeesh, what a poisonous, unlikeable stereotyped nerdy jerk being abusive to his poor geeky friends. Why are we watching this?" The zit scene in particular made me feel like I was watching staged bumfights between children with Down's syndrome; it literally plays as if you're watching a date rape.

...but then, we introduce Miles (Garrett Graham), a likeable, well-adjusted individual with an interest in gaming, fantasy, comics, and so forth. He has a decent job, an EXTREMELY popular fantasy and gaming blog, and a gorgeous, sexually insatiable girlfriend. He's lighter, funnier, more pleasant, and far more interesting than Scott... and when Scott's social circle starts gravitating towards Miles at the same time Scott's relatives invade his home life and start making it into even more of a living hell, the movie really gets rolling. Regrettably, it grows even less pleasant and more uncomfortable as it goes.

The movie is pitched as a comedy, but it ain't real funny. It's the story of a bunch of squalid clueless losers caught between a loud, obnoxious, maladjusted nerd and a much nicer seeming person who is ultimately no less of a jerk. And as a gamer and general nerd myself, it made me feel kind of nasty and unpleasant. I shouldn't want to take a shower after seeing a "comedy." Even a "black comedy." This is a flick that can't decide if it wants to make fun of its loser protagonist or not, but ultimately can't decide what to DO with him, either.

In short, if you're not a gamer, this movie is rather squalid and unpleasant... and if you're a gamer, it's rather squalid, unpleasant, and INSULTING. Either way, it's frankly kind of depressing. Not recommended.

I really hope "Knights of Badassdom" is a better experience...

Edited by Dr.Bedlam
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Yup, thanks for the warning/heads up. I'll be sure to miss it.

 

Not to derail the thread, but I kinda have to wonder how heavy metal got lumped into the nerd sterotype. Most of the kids I knew way back when that liked metal weren't considered nerds (weird and/or troublemakers/devil worshippers maybe, but not nerds), nor were they into RPG's. Also, why is it something that one is expected to grow out of? I know that I haven't; i still listen to it, wear the concert shirts and go to shows every once in a while.

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Not sure, but I think the whole heavy metal thing was just put in there to emphasize that what we have here is a guy who's very much a grown adult... who has undergone nearly no maturation or development since he was fourteen. Lord knows his room looks about like mine did when I was that age... 

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Yeah, My gaming group is not exactly made up of the Vin Disel type (more Robin Williams truth be told) but we're not all maladjusted nerds. I have mental health issues that affect things and could be lumped as one, (you know, if it wasn't for the karate cowboy side of things) and our GM's brother is to some extent as well, but we have a Vin Disel type, who's big into rock climbing, and automotives, we've the GM who works in HR with a wife and two kids, we've his wife, who is heavily involved in social things outside of the group, admin for a LGBT website (she considers herself pangender whatever that means,to us shes just who she is)

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Talking to my friend about why he started doing Dungeon bastard after fear of girls, he made the very good point that fear of girls was keeping with the negative stereotype and he wanted something more positive, which is where the idea of the "training coach for gaming" character was born. I think we do need to have more positive stereotypes out there.

 

I know I've played with a GM kinda like the one in this movie "zero charisma" but it's not the only type out there. I would like more positive gMing role models out there.

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I've known some gamers who lacked social skills. They were not people I generally wanted to game with. You run across them sometimes at conventions. 

On the other hand, just watching this movie made me feel kind of dirty. "Yeesh," I thought, "this is how people see my hobby." They really do go out of their way to portray nearly every gamer type in the movie as ranging from "kind of a loser," to "total immature social maladroit." Hell, even the hipster guy has his unpleasant side.

"Theatre Of Cruelty" comedy can be pulled off. "Ghost World" was pretty good. "Welcome to the Dollhouse" has something to say. But "Zero Charisma" really had very little to say aside from "the painful, pathetic adventures of a bunch of oblivious losers." 

I don't take it on. I'm no loser. I'm socially adept, I'm a degreed professional, and I have a life. But I don't like being painted with this kind of brush, and I can't say I find the painful, pathetic adventures of a bunch of oblivious losers to be terribly entertaining.

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Yes... I'm a degreed professional.  I work in a technical field playing with food.  I'm not the most socially apt, but I'm also not completely inapt.  I don't have a basement (I paint minis at the table instead).  I don't play in a basement... I even wash regularly.  Oh... and the thing that all those shows miss out... I'm female!

 

The shows/movies that paint us all as basement geeks.... is sad.

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I'm rather insulted that they have a character named Martin in the show and do you think they would call a real Martin? Noooo! Of course not! Heck, I'm way prettier than that talentless hack that has my namesake. I'd be a way better casting choice anyway. I wouldn't even have to act, I'd just be myself. Well, I would have to tone down my AWESOME to about ten percent so as to not completely upstage the other actors. Heck, I'd have painted their minis for them way better than that. Geez. No respect anywhere!

 

Where's my Evian?!?!

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Yup, thanks for the warning/heads up. I'll be sure to miss it.

 

Not to derail the thread, but I kinda have to wonder how heavy metal got lumped into the nerd sterotype. Most of the kids I knew way back when that liked metal weren't considered nerds (weird and/or troublemakers/devil worshippers maybe, but not nerds), nor were they into RPG's. Also, why is it something that one is expected to grow out of? I know that I haven't; i still listen to it, wear the concert shirts and go to shows every once in a while.

 

I was re-watching season 1 of "King of the Nerds" today and one of the "nerds" is a mathematician who's also into metal (Jon, I think.)  He got the trivia question about what is the percentage of rolling a crit in D&D correct (5%).  The show's pretty entertaining.

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I paint in the basement. It was the best place to set up a studio, even if the ceiling is hobbit height.* It's raised up and there's actually pretty good light, it has its own sink, and it can be sealed off from the rest of the house. It's deliciously cool in the summer, which makes up for being flipping cold in the winter.

 

Are the no women or women gamers in that oddly hermetic geeky universe? Just that one guy who's drifting away from his wife? Jeebers. My husband and I bonded over our roleplaying games, and we have passed the bug onto our littl'uns and various of their cousins as we've been able. It's a pretty sustainable family activity. And if we're not the most gregariously sociable of people, we're basically ept and get along fine with other humans.

 

 

 

 

 

*Just over six feet, I believe.

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