Abortion

Decent Political Commentary in Entertainment Weekly. Really.

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king

Stephen King uses his regular Entertainment Weekly column to score some points against the latest push to ban the sale of the really good kind of video games to minors in my current base of operations, Massachusetts. Here's the master of horror on why he's freaked out by video game bans:

What makes me crazy is when politicians take it upon themselves to play surrogate parents. The results of that are usually disastrous. Not to mention undemocratic….

What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture — not just videogames but TV, movies, even Harry Potter — as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud.

King tosses in a gratuitous what-we-really-need-is-gun-control point at the end, but he comes out strong for "plastic videogame guns," which is still pretty good.

reason on King here. And on The King here. And on Dr. King here.

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  1. Yikes! Great photo.
    I think that’s what Nick Gillespie’s death mask will look like.

  2. King’s a great writer (fuck off, literary snobs), but he’s not the greatest political thinker. I read his EW column, as my cable company sends me it for free and I need something besides reason to read on the shitter, and for each thing he seems to be good about, there’s something he’s a moron about (for example, guns in this case).

    Maybe getting mowed down by a pickup truck scrambled his brains a little.

  3. King tosses in a gratuitous what-we-really-need-is-gun-control point at the end,

    Then he doesn’t actually understand freedom, or the very premises on which his video game argument ultimately lies.

    He also makes the common modern mistake of describing as “undemocratic” something that is actually “anti-freedom.” There’s nothing “undemocratic” about the citizenry regulating whatever it wants to regulate. That doesn’t run counter to democracy, but it does run counter to liberty.

  4. He also makes the common modern mistake of describing as “undemocratic” something that is actually “anti-freedom”

    Hell, he’s just a writer.
    Do you expect him to know what words mean?

  5. An insane Stephen King is not a good thing. He might make all those stories about evil small towns in Maine actually happen.

  6. It could be undemocratic as well, if it’s small number of busybodies lobbying to ban something the majority enjoys.

  7. Redrum . . . . Redrum . . . . Redrum . . .

  8. Then he doesn’t actually understand freedom, or the very premises on which his video game argument ultimately lies.

    He also makes the common modern mistake of describing as “undemocratic” something that is actually “anti-freedom.” There’s nothing “undemocratic” about the citizenry regulating whatever it wants to regulate. That doesn’t run counter to democracy, but it does run counter to liberty.

    Wait, wait, wait a SECOND! Are you telling me that a non-libertarian is not using libertarian rhetoric? That’s insane! How can this be?

  9. This column made me wonder about the correlation between videogame popularity and decreases in crime.

  10. King’s a great writer (fuck off, literary snobs)

    Yeah, that’s a bit optimistic. He left a couple letters off the title of IT. Let’s see… an evil clown kills people in a small Maine town, and can only be stopped by a group of 12 year olds. But the evil clown is actually a cosmic spider who has waged continual war with a cosmic turtle in the omniverse! And when the 12 year old kids lose their way chasing the evil clown spider, they get Google Maps beta in their head by having an orgy! Awesome, kids! After you clean yourself up, go tell the turtle how it was.

    It took me about 7 years after reading that piece of shit to pick up another one of his books, which I’d previously enjoyed.

  11. The end of IT suffered from the same problems that all books like it (books that are extremely ominous and suspenseful) have: there’s basically no way that the end can live up to your expectation, because your own imagination has been what’s fueling your experience.

    Faerie Tale by Raymond E. Feist had the same problem. However, it is a testament to the authors’ skill that they could create such a suspenseful build-up.

  12. Yeah we need more gun control like we need another release of Langoliers in movie form. I don’t know which would put an insomniac to sleep faster that movie or an Al Gore speech.

  13. BakedPenguin,

    At least Tim Curry brought the character up to the appropriate level of creepy.

  14. Forgot to add that Tommyknockers actually ended pretty damn well.

  15. Episiarch,

    King’s a great writer…

    Sorry, dude, but King’s a grotesque (all the pun intended) writer. He’s not even among the best of his own genre. Maybe you’re a tad nostalgic about all that bedside reading you did as a teen?

  16. Are you telling me that a non-libertarian is not using libertarian rhetoric?

    No, I said that somebody was misusing the word “undemocratic.” I have no idea if that somebody is a libertarian or not.

  17. NP, who would you characterize as a great writer? Who would you characterize as the best of King’s genre?

  18. If the people who got so upset about Mortal Kombat or Night Trap back in 1994 could’ve been visited from the future and shown a 2008 first person shooter, they would’ve shit their pants.

    The games that were considered “violent” and “sexual” then look so tame now.

    Yet crime really hasn’t gone up to any great degree.

  19. Of course someone can be pro-game violence and anti-gun, but I would prefer if Mr. King, among others, would avoid making arguments in the case of one issue that he ignores in the case of the other. For example, he mentions that game players and kids will inevitably find media and game violence anyway; true, but surely something similar applies to guns (and at the very least, bombs and other ways to mass murder people at a school)? Similarly, discussions of the tiny to non-existent effect of game violence on actual violence lead naturally to discussions of how gun ownership rates are similarly unrelated.

    Naturally, there is room to explain distinctions between the argument, and I’m sympathetic to the idea that an EW op-ed does not let one get into the specifics, but still.

  20. I enjoyed King a lot when I was a teenager. Now most of his books seem a bit juvenile and cliched.

    He makes some good points before getting the inevitable “gap between rich and poor” and “oh noes teh guns!” crap. No word on whether he’s going to give his books away for free and disarm all security guards at his events.

  21. “I just wish to God that legislators were as eager to point out that this nutball had no problem obtaining a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.”

    I mean, come on, read the freaking Constitution. It’s not half as long as any of your books, dude.

  22. “I just wish to God that legislators were as eager to point out that this nutball had no problem obtaining a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.”

    I guess he’s assuming that if the ban on sales to minors was approved (Cho was not a minor, btw), that no minors in MA would actually get a prohibited game, so it would work for firearms too. I guess, nothing else makes that comment make sense. Right, got it then.

  23. Tom’s comment hits the nail dead center. Well put.

    King tosses in a gratuitous what-we-really-need-is-gun-control point at the end,

    Then he doesn’t actually understand freedom, or the very premises on which his video game argument ultimately lies.

  24. So King interprets the Second Amendment differently than you, saying it allows restrictions on gun sales. I think his most salient point is not undone by that fact.

    He says that the government acts like surrogate parents – this is the crux of the mess today. No matter who is moralizing, it’s still moralizing. He does not base his pro-gaming argument on calls of free speech since that won’t convince people who are on the fence about this issue.

    Instead he’s more effective because he mentions that people expect the government to do certain things for them. Raise their children, etc. When no one is personally responsible for themselves or their kids, the entire thing collapses.

  25. Episiarch,

    Now of course we’re not talking Shakespeare here. Frankly I haven’t read much horror fiction; the only King book I’ve read is Misery (you know why), and I did enjoy it, but wasn’t quite bowled over. I’d say the best book of the genre I’ve read is the Jekyll/Hyde novella by Stevenson (yeah, I know that’s a pretty broad definition of horror fiction), and I enjoyed some Lovecraft too.

    If you want my picks for “pure” literature I’m as predictable as one can get. Like all literary snobs I’ll pick the Bible (KJV), Dante and Shakespeare as the greatest. Tolstoy is probably the greatest novelist I’ve read, though there’s no chance in hell I’m gonna reread War and Peace anytime soon. (Anna Karenina is pretty boring too at times, but I’ll certainly put the death of Levin’s brother and Anna’s final moments among the very best in literature.)

  26. Me, I liked the part where Anna developed telekinetic powers and used those powers to throw Vronsky in front of the train.

  27. Mad Max, you wish.

    Now one more nomination. The most boring book by a great writer (that I’ve read): Pnin by Nabokov. Graham Greene said it’s “hilariously funny and of a sadness.” Hilarious and sad, my ass. It was anything but. (Well, the part where Pnin is trying to get back his valise did make me smile a little, but still…)

  28. EW redirects you with “we don’t support your browser” for a fucking ARTICLE?

    Get the FUCK off the World Wide Web.

    You’re FIRED.

  29. Shakespeare as the greatest

    So you bought that load of shit from your teachers too, eh?
    I’d pick King far above that hack Shakespeare, who couldn’t get a gig today writing afternoon TBS sitcoms. No, I’m not kidding.
    And to me, the greatest American writer is, was and probably always will be good ol’ Mark Twain.

  30. I talked to this one lady who was actually in the publishing industry and she explained to me the reason that King’s later books are so fucking large is because the more powerful and profitable a writer gets, the more intimidated the editors feel about telling the authors to tone it the fuck down. The same applies to the lady who writes Harry Potter.

    Kind of makes you think about the dark side of “giving the power to the writers.”

    She also talked about this one editor that worked on all of the great authors; Hemingway and Faulkner and others that I forget. The guy claimed that there where actually a lot of authors at that time who where considerably more talented than Hemingway and the others, but they wouldn’t listen to his suggestions so he dropped their asses.

  31. I would think King would be more in favor of banning vans than guns.

    People don’t kill people, cars do!

  32. Wait, wait, wait a SECOND! Are you telling me that a non-libertarian is not using libertarian rhetoric? That’s insane! How can this be?

    Actually what we have is a non-libertarian saying that the government should regulate things he doesn’t have an interest in, but should keep its hands off what he likes. That attitude is so common it’s boring.

  33. Jamie Kelly,

    I’ll agree with you on Twain, though others might say Faulkner. As for your anti-Shakespeare rant, I’ll just say you need to visit the puppy farm less often.

    Jonathan,

    The first bit of your story makes sense, but I’m not sure about the 2nd part. As you most likely know, Hemingway wasn’t a great writer per se; he just had a very distinctive style that he could employ to great effects in his short stories. And one more thing: Many editors are among the most insufferable aesthetes you’ll ever find. These people actually claim, without any irony, that Nabokov is the greatest author of the 20th century, greater than Kafka, Proust, Yeats, Joyce, Eliot, or even Beckett. People like that wouldn’t have rated a writer like Hemingway very highly until after he began enjoying critical recognition.

  34. He left a couple letters off the title of IT.

    Nicely done. I read IT in high school and thought to myself that this guy must be getting paid by the page. Seriously, he needs a good editor. Edgar Allan Poe did more with 20 pages than he did with 1,000.

    On the other hand, I really enjoyed Shawshank Redemption.

  35. re: Stephen King and guns:

    I thoroughly enjoy King’s writing, but I have to blush with embarrassment when I read his knee-slappingly error filled depictions of how firearms are operated. This is clearly a man who has probably never even picked up a gun in his life. His ignorance of even the most basic firearms is pathetic, especially for a guy who writes about a “Gunslinger”.

  36. King’s an honorable writer; his craft has sometimes been sloppy (especially in his drug and alcohol days), but saying the man can’t write well is obtuse. I’m not his biggest fan (in fact I find the sheer volume of his writing voice sometimes gives me a headache, and subtlety isn’t one of his strengths), but it seems his detractors mostly have a problem with his subject matter and the length of his novels.

    Cosmic spider, though…yeah. I remember that WTF? moment. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

    I’m curious…what do King haters read when they want a break from the heavy stuff? John Irving? Dan Simmons? Jonathan Franzen?

    Or are my worst fears actually true, and the US really is a nation of James Patterson fans?

    …anyway…

    King’s a smart guy, but politically he’s a liberal and always has been. If he wants to believe fictions about gun control laws actually meaning something, that’s his problem.

  37. James Patterson is, if anything, entertaining. I mean, come on, you’re guaranteed a 10-page sex scene in each novel, at least! The booksnobberymongering on this thread is about as pointless as the one that devolved into which-music-is-better a few weeks ago. Yawn. It’s cool to talk about books and why you like them, but to say is a good or bad writer and I don’t know how you could say otherwise is a little much for me.

  38. Black shirt. Odd haircut. It’s Gillespie.

  39. He says that the government acts like surrogate parents – this is the crux of the mess today. No matter who is moralizing, it’s still moralizing.

    He has no problem with that, he just doesn’t like how they’re moralizing. He wants more forced redistribution of wealth and restrictions on gun rights, because that’s a kind of moralizing he agrees with.

  40. He left a couple letters off the title of IT. Let’s see…

    Funny description. I read that one and nearly everything else King had written as a teen, but haven’t read him in 15 years. I remember loving IT, Tommyknockers, The Stand, etc. I’ll have to reread one of them one day to see what I think now.

    I also remember liking some Peter Straub (Shadowland, The Talisman with King), but borrowed The Hellfire Club for my current business trip. I’m nearly finished but it’s certainly not grabbing me by the balls or anything. Dean Koontz was crap, even when I was a teen.

    I’ve read mostly non-fiction for 15 years and just don’t dig what I once did. I did like some Dan Simmons and Clive Barker I read about 10 years ago, although Barker is way out there.

  41. I used to love King when I was in middle school / high school. You know what I found to be his most effective writing (scariest, most effective)? The short stories. He’s a great short story writer, and the feel of those stories stayed with me long after I read them.

    Then again, maybe I am biased, because I haven’t read many of his novels. I can’t even remember which ones I did read, so probably, one at most.

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