The Guild: Season Five is being re-released on the Geek and Sundry YouTube channel. I watched the season on Netflix as soon as it was available, so consider this a Spoiler Alert!! I’ll be discussing aspects of the show that have not aired yet in their new home, so please – watch then read! -aniko
Season Five, like all of The Guild webisodes, spouts clever dialog pertaining to funny scenarios. It is an entertaining, giggle-inducing foray into a gamer convention replete with coffee-scented farts, steampunk, and frittata. If that’s all Season Five offered, it would be a likable frolic.
Season Five didn’t stop there. Instead, it took on bigger questions. What is the relationship between creator and fan? Do fans have warped perceptions of famous people? Are indies offering unique content that can’t be duplicated by bigger companies, even if they acquire the rights to indie-produced content?
To maintain the fizzy-fun of the show without sacrificing depth, the examination of these questions is incorporated organically into the plot. The Guildees are at a convention, MegaGameORama-Con(!). Baldezz and Vork team up to make money off of Bladezz’s minor celebrity as an internet meme. Zaboo is organizing Seat Savers to help fans get into the sessions they want to see. Tink indulges in cosplay to hide her identity, a fact that turns out to be hugely revealing about her identity. Meanwhile, Clara wanders around with a bad case of “baby-brain,” which results in a hilarious dalliance with corsets and a flying-gondola-blimp-thing. Codex, the narrating protagonist, struggles with an unrequited crush. That’s the light stuff.
The story-within-the-story is a bit heavier. It starts when Codex deeply insults the creator of The Game that brought The Guild together. Here’s a snip:
(These may not be exact quotes; I watched the show twice to catch the phrases, but mistakes are as unavoidable as they are unintentional!)
Codex is playing a sneak-peak trial of the newest version of The Game:
Codex: “What are they, smokin’ crack crazy?”
Random Guy, Who Turns Out To Be Designer: “The creator oversaw the changes personally.”
Codex: (lots of vitriol about how stupid the changes are)
Random Guy: “I spent hundreds of hours on this, and you spend like two minutes and start to tear it apart.”
The conversation continues, ending with the designer pointing out to Codex that she has “trolled” him to his face. He invites her to create something better, and then leaves. In a later scene, the designer says that it’s hard to take the daily personal attacks. He appreciates some of Codex’s criticism, and incorporates her suggestions in a revision of the game – but even valid criticism can hurt when delivered with the delicacy of a blunderbuss. The creator is a human being, with feelings. Fame is not a shield from negativity.
Season Five goes on to show this is not only true for creators of content, but also for actors portraying content. A side-plot has Vork meeting an actress of whom he is a fan; in fact, he launched her fan club. Vork was crushed when, many years prior to their meeting, the actress chose to leave the show which made her famous. Her explanation is that her character was just a prop in gang-rape scenes, and she no longer wanted a job portraying the character. Vork reacts with near-religious zealotry. The divide between idolatry (Vork’s view) and “just a job” (actress’s view) is quite a deep. The skewed nature of their relationship illustrates the acquisitive tendencies of fans, which encroaches on a sort of ownership-at-distance of another person.
This sets the backdrop for an examination of the distorted perceptions of fans towards the famous. One of my favorite scenes in Season Five is a party full of famous people to which Bladezz wrangles an invitation. In addition to being chock full ‘o guest appearances (Eliza Dushku!), the party scene portrays the huge delta between what a fan perceives and the reality of life for a star. Bladezz critisizes the snack food, and a star replies that he got a great deal on them by buying them in bulk. Bladezz responds with incredulity, “Famous people don’t buy in bulk.” A series of short conversations with different stars results in the progressive dismantling of the myth of fame. Famous people aren’t always partying; they eat healthy food, like spirulina, which is “a party for your colon.” Their houses get leaky roofs, they suffer from eczema, they go to the dog park, and they turn in around nine. Famous people are… human beings! Stars face the same mundane problems that plague everyone. In addition, stars are expected to be a commodity for fans to consume. Once the veneer of misperception is removed, it becomes clear that fame is a nasty side-effect of doing or creating something unique.
When it comes to unique, think indie. This is a premise behind both the main plot in The Guild: Season Five, but also behind the creation of The Guild series itself, which started out as entirely indie produced. The theme of the relationship between creator and fan ties in with the examination of indie vs. corporate because the creators are always people – living, breathing, feeling people. The strain of the false idolatry and subsequent trolling has driven The Game’s designer to consider selling The Game to a big company. In one scene, a representative of the big company cajoles, “No matter what you do, you’re going to be dogged for it. Cash out, man.” The designer says he’ll sleep on it, and leaves the bar. The big company rep pockets money out of the tip jar, a not quite-sly commentary that is seen only in the background of a dimly-lit scene.
Throughout Season Five, there is a running discussion about how The Game, an indie-produced platform, will be ruined by acquisition by a big corporation. The assertion is that making things “glossy” for marketing kills the original spirit of the thing independently created. Codex pleads with the designer, “Look, it’s not easy to do what you do, but no one else can do it.” Isn’t that the essence of any creative endeavor? It has to start with the passion of an individual, or a group of tightly-aligned individuals. It can’t be created by a formula, and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to either art or entertainment. Season Five could only have made its point stronger if it had a banner somewhere that read, “Yay, Indie!”
Best of all is that the serious issues are chased by a double-shot of laughter. One of my favorite phrases in Season Five is, “pre-owned frittata.” That’s what’s essentially lovely about The Guild: there’s plenty of fun to go along with the thought that it provokes.
My takeaway from Season Five? First, remember that creators are people. Give them your thoughts respectfully and with empathy. Second, remember that what we think is true may not be the reality, and try not to make assumptions about other people, even if they are famous. Third, support an indie!