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!
“Look, it’s not easy to do what you do, but no one else can do it.” – I love this quote! Sums up the indie experience: an independent creative venture can be a painful experience, but it is also possibly the most authentic kind of creativity: genuine, personal, and untouched by the big marketing gods.
I have to confess, Aniko, that I’ve never actually seen The Guild, but suddenly I have a strong desire to watch it … 🙂
There is something to be said for the authentic creation of unique items by individuals. We are fortunate to have the freedom to read, write, and create what we want; as writers, we have the ability to bring our creations into the world as we see fit. In the sorted history of our species, this is a pretty unique time. I’m glad that web producers, writers, even other physical-media artists are availing themselves of the unprecedented freedom and interconnection. To me, the community and discussion are the best parts of being a creative individual.
I think you’ll like The Guild. It comes close to veering into a bit of too-silly every now and then, but it’s fun. I guess you know how I feel about Season Five! 😉
I really enjoyed reading this blog! Not Just for the content but your writer’s voice as well! I have heard of The Guild like Mari Bella said too and have been happy for its success though having never watched it. Indie-anything is a great source for something new and honestly criticism is too (haha when wielded in the right hands). When you think about it, the one [indie] exists as a result of the other [criticism]. The concept of “making something different than what’s out there” is a valid motivation for creating art, but on the other side of its proverbial-coin a criticism on prevailing trends. I think my biggest problem with criticism is when its not “founded in the work.” Like for example “I hate that scary movie because it’s too scary.” *chuckles while shaking head to self*
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy the way I write. I work hard on the posts, and it makes me smile to know you enjoy reading them.
As for criticism, the act of existing at all opens us to the critics. The world is tough, and it is probably a hundredfold more difficult for people in the public eye. People do have a right to their opinion, but there are times when opinion comes across more like a lynching than honest criticism. The producer/writer/actress behind The Guild, Felicia Day, has been in the news a lot recently for being viciously attacked online first for a music video she produced (Gamer Girl/Country Boy) and then again by someone accusing her of not making any contributions to video gaming (!? whatever that means, right?!). To me, the worst type of criticism is the type that deliberately attacks the creator and not the thing created. That’s just mean, unhelpful, and threatens to homogenize the world because who really wants to be attacked by mobs of anonymous people for something they put their heart and soul into creating?
Thanks again for stopping by & commenting, Matthew! If you get a chance, you should check out The Guild. It’s enjoyable, and an entire season isn’t much longer than a feature length film.
haha yes, your blogs def show that and yea I guess criticizing a creator rather than their creation would be even more step removed. I’m not gonna lie, the series does seem fun/interesting. Ah! There is like sooo many hidden crannies of uber-cool-stuff to get into these days!
I plan to watch The Guild, so I just kinda skimmed. I’ll come back and read it when I’m caught up. I liked the video, though. 🙂
I had this post in the hopper for four months, Marie, but it was our recent discussion about cosplay on your blog that let me to go ahead and write the post. I hope you do watch The Guild. It might be a bit too-silly at times (I think Season Three got that way), but Season Five is interesting despite some minor bits of too-silly.
🙂 I like the video, too!
Same as Marie. Your spoiler alert at the beginning made me skip pretty much to the end. But now I’m very curious. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Paul D. Dail
http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog
I’m glad the Spoiler Alert work as intended! I am very, very bad; I see Spoiler Alerts and immediately dive in. Lots of times I forget whatever the spoiler was by the time I get around to watching/reading whatever it was I ‘spoiled,’ but occasionally the spoilers are enough to convince me not to watch. My hope was that I was a teensie bit deviant about spoilers, and other people would try better to not ruin surprises. My fear was that I’d ruin the whole season for newbies because everyone is like me about spoilers! :p
If you do get a chance to watch The Guild, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Season Five!
I quit watching the show sometime around Season 2; I thought it was enjoyable, but like I said in this week’s Emissaries update, it felt a little try-too-hard at times and guilty of geek pandering (which drives me up the wall, I could write a book about The Big Bang Theory). Still, you’ve piqued my interest. It sounds like things have changed and they’ve gotten a little more focused. I’m definitely going to check it out, maybe start with Season 3.
Skip to Season Five, man. You don’t think you’ll be missing anything you can’t pick up from context. I am curious: in what way was it pandering to geeks? I feel all seasons of The Guild are more likely to pander to those who are only interested in seeing a showcasing of the goofy-cute side of Day. That’s my only disappointment with her weekly show, The Flog. I’ve heard interviews where Day says interesting, powerful things, but The Flog stays entirely in the enjoyably silly zone, and never ventures out into being more serious. That seems to be the format she wants to present, and one that is a popularity powerhouse, but I do wish for a shift from silly-smart to thoughtful-smart every now and then.
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