Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Once again, I am celebrating Grand Theft Auto Day

Last year, I made a proclamation that July 4th, along with celebrating the American Independence Day, should also be Grand Theft Auto Day, and since it is once again that magical day, I have more to say on the subject.

Over the past year, I've had a bit more time to think about the subject, so this should be a better celebratory post to the glorious satire that is GTA. Last year, if I may quote myself, I dealt with aspects of these games which demonstrated "[t]he [American] obsession with cars and the Second Amendment, conspicuous consumption and mass appeal to the lowest common denominator, no matter how base", and for the second celebration of July 4th as Grand Theft Auto Day, I thought about a couple of other issues that GTA deals with in its own warped way.

On some level, the series makes a definite statement about corporate crime and values. The prevailing societal idea is that corporate crime is non-violent, but when you look at the nature of the plotlines and character interaction within these games, a definite corporate culture emerges, as is the nature of organized crime. However, as your character is generally an entrepreneurial freelancer who works for many employers with different wants and needs, employers whose interests are at times largely at odds with each other before using the knowledge and capital you have accrued over your experiences to take over and usurp the power of the very same people who had once paid your salary. Is that not the behavior that is encouraged in the business community? Learn from your competitors and then defeat them?

And the in-game advertising is truly subversive, especially in the chapters of the saga that take place in the past(Vice City and San Andreas). For example, in GTA:SA, there are a series of ads for an typical seminar series with a twist:

Man: Coming soon to the Los Santos Convention Center, it’s Mike Andrews!

Mike: Poor people, stop complaining! Start living! You can’t take the money with you when you die! Even I can’t!

Man: He’s changed millions of lives with his book, "Rags are Riches." This all-day seminar features workshops on: cooking potatoes, dumpster diving, huffing paint, bathing alternatives, and pharmaceutical baking!

Mike: Instead of complaining about being poor, lady, enjoy it!

Woman: Mike, I can’t feed my kids! And the rent’s due!

Mike: Whoh, bitch! Settle it down! Are you saying this ain’t the greatest country in the world?

Woman: I can't...

Mike: Wait! Hold on, hold on, wait- Everyone! U - S - A!

Crowd and Mike: U - S - A! U - S - A!

Man: Hear Mike’s favorite programs, such as: There’s No Rich People, The Rich are Miserable, Play Harmonica, and Expect Less, Achieve More! See Mike Andrews Live for only $200, payable in ten installments! Reserve your seat today!

And in another one of the ads, Mike Andrews while berating someone for asking about government aid slips in "don't vote".

Or the ads for a sleazy legal drama on the WESL network, or for a diamond company that is DeKoch that advertises their wares with a line like: "Nothing says I love you like a lump of carbon, mined by wage-slaves in Angola."

Taken as a whole, it is a potent recipe for satirizing the whole glorious country(as there are a number of call-in shows which go through a lot of the issues facing a wide swath of the American heartland), and I have a feeling this trend is going to continue in the future. Grand Theft Auto IV, which is coming out in mid-October looks poised to shed a little bit of light on the immigrant experience in a more accurate representation of the New York City area, while I believe that the satire is going to get a little more cutting.

The series is at once a celebration and distortion of American cultural values, and its release and popularity is a testament to the First Amendment rights that every citizen should savor.

So to my neighbors to the south, I wish you a happy Independence Day and Grand Theft Auto Day! Huzzah!


Semaj said...

I love all the GTA talk radio shows from the GTA III through all the spin offs. There seems to be an over arcing storyline, plus the writing is funny.

MC said...

Well, there are a lot of reoccuring characters like Laslow and Fernando.

I liked Wil Wheaton's recurring role in SA as reporter Richard Burns myself.

"In foreign news, we have war, famine, pestilence, and a lot of envy aimed at our way of life. Stay at home, it's better that way. I'm Leanne Forget, WCTR News. Stay alert; they're after us."