The Ten Most Needless Nerdy Controversies of 2012

By Andy Hughes in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Friday, January 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Now that 2012 has staggered to a close, we, along with everybody else on the Internet and in life, can look back on the year's events with a bit of insight, that insight being: we freak out really easily. Seriously, I know it's generally not difficult to cause an uproar online, but it feels like this was an especially good year for panic attacks, trolls and shouting matches. That isn't to say that some things aren't worth getting upset over, but far too often a situation can spiral out of control when every sentient lifeform with wifi gets to weigh in, and outrage begets more outrage like some horrible plague. There were people that said and did stupid things this year, and some items on this list are only needless because they never should have happened in the first place. But in most cases, it's a simple matter of people going crazy to go crazy and blowing things hopelessly out of proportion. I'll warn you now that revisiting some of this might make you angry all over again, and let me say up front that I don't mean to lecture anyone. I didn't come here to cause any trouble. I just came to do the Sarcastic/Reflective Nerd Rant Shuffle.

Clearly, we're all tired, despairing, aimless slugs disappointed that the world didn't end on December 21st because it means we still have to go to work in 2013: if some videogame designer said something sexist or we discovered a potentially unsettling detail in our favorite TV show, then it lets us take a break from the real problems of our own lives. On that uplifting note, we at Topless Robot present an aperitif, if you will, as we buckle up for the oncoming storm that will be the new year. If nothing else, I can guarantee this article will be one of the few year-end lists you'll read that won't mention a certain ubiquitous K-pop song. At all. That's a promise.

10) The "Cockamamie Coulson Controversy."

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The name comes from our dear friend and former TR editor Rob Bricken, coined to describe an odd change between the US and UK releases of The Avengers Blu-ray. In the UK version, Loki's staff does not protrude quite so much through Agent Coulson's chest at a pivotal moment in the film, whereas in the American version it's definitely sticking out there. Why was this change made? It wasn't apparent until later, when...well, actually, it's still not clear, but we know it was to secure a "12" rating, since the scene was not considered appropriate otherwise. Why was that? It's not like erasing the tip really makes that much of a difference, and it clearly has had no effect on Coulson's viability for other projects, like the upcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, news that undoubtedly still has fans the world over masturbating with joy. I suppose calling this controversial is a bit of an overstatement, as there wasn't exactly any rioting in the streets over it, but it did seem unnecessary and was certainly much ado for no real reason.

9) Before Watchmen.
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The outrage around this one's pretty understandable, actually, being the usual tale of writer makes comic, comic gets prequel without writer's permission, writer gets screwed and prequel gets produced anyway (for the record, the artist of Watchmen, Dave Gibbons, supports the series). Noah Berlatsky's great Slate article about the situation nicely explains why the protagonists of Watchmen (who are NOT called "The Watchmen," mainstream media) were never meant to be treated like most comic book heroes. I wish getting pissed off about this mattered more, because it does seem to be yet another example of modern media clinging to recognizable brands and forcing them into franchises, rather than come up with any challenging ideas (to be fair, I have not read the prequels) . But even Moore has washed his hands of the affair, the way he refuses to see any movies made of his work, so it would seem best to follow suit. If you don't like Before Watchmen, you're probably already doing the best thing you can do to show it by not buying any issues. On the bright side, Moore fans had the final volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century to calm their wounded hearts, a comic which resulted in its own needless controversy: I'm pretty willing to bet that Before Watchmen does not feature a giant covered in eyeballs and shooting lightning bolts out of his penis.



8) George W. Bush's head outed on Game of Thrones.

We live in a time where very little can be kept truly secret, as the makers of Game of Thrones learned this summer. A little aside thrown out as a bit of trivia on a season one DVD commentary quickly billowed into a hurricane of scandal once it hit the media, eventually culminating in an apology from HBO and series creators David Benioff and DBC15 Weiss. Apparently, one of the heads on a spike slightly visible alongside Ned's during the season finale was a replica of George W. Bush's, albeit facing away and adorned with a gnarly Conan the Barbarian wig. With all of the hullabaloo, no one seems to remember (or care, or believe) that the actual commentary makes it clear that this was not a conscious decision or political statement, although I can't really imagine why HBO would have spare George W. Bush heads "lying around" unless Bill Maher likes to use them for throw pillows or something. Whether or not you find this offensive, it's hard to deny how little it really has to do with Game of Thrones. It's barely in the show, you can hardly identify it when you see it, and I daresay no one would have given a shit had the creators not openly admitted to it being there. Yet this became a frightfully huge deal, so much so that the offending shots were removed from future season releases. See, even a show where people get cleaved in half and prostitutes get fucked with antlers can still shock people every once and a while. One plus to this whole situation: all those folks who had already bought the DVD's suddenly had collector's items on their hands, which will be a comfort as we approach the Fiscal Cliff.

7) "Girlfriend Mode" in Borderlands 2.

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If you're a fan of sexism, you were in for a real treat this year, as many folks put their respective feet straight into their speaking orifices when it came to women's issues (and only some of them were politicians). There's more of this later down the list, but first let's examine the curious case of Mr. John Hemmingway of Gearbox games. In an interview with Eurogamer, Hemmingway, the Lead Designer of Borderlands 2, touted the more accessible skill tree being implemented in the new game's Mechromancer class as "for lack of a better term, the girlfriend skill set". In hindsight, it turns out there were probably many better terms he could have used, perhaps millions. Soon paraphrased to "girlfriend mode", this unfortunate idiom sparked waves of deep upset throughout the gaming community, with some people canceling pre-orders in disgust. It was a dumb thing to say, and it is unfortunate that there is such latent and unintentional sexism in the gaming industry and that many developers (and gamers) still think like this. All the same, there are bigger issues at work here, and the fact that this was not ever an official name or anything but just a misstatement should not be overlooked.

6) The Hunger Games' Racial Casting Outrage.

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So the movie of The Hunger Games came out and people saw it and stuff. Apparently there were lots of fans who were hardcore enough to read the books but not to glance at the film's IMDB page, where certain characters that had not been, perhaps, explicitly described as being black were suddenly played by black actors, specifically the character Rue. Some people tweeted about it and said some things that were kind of racist, and voila: another scandal that could have easily been avoided. However, just like that time some tweeters didn't know the Titanic was a real boat and everyone got upset, the backlash against the initial offenses have proven almost as tiresome as the offensives themselves. A whole blog entitled Hunger Games Tweets suddenly materialized, devoting to criticizing and shaming the fools foolish enough to broadcast their foolish foolery in such a manner. Whatever. All the same, many important questions were raised: Do we really care what a few ignorant people think on Twitter, and does one tweet about such things make you categorically a racist? Will there be a time in the future when Lenny Kravitz is more widely known as Cinna than the guy who did that annoying cover of "American Woman" for that Austin Powers soundtrack? Is that time upon us already? What horrors!

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