WTFAW: Bioshock

Todays article concerns the Bioshock franchise, in the form of a fan theory about the series. I would add a spoiler warning, but if you haven’t played these games and still decided to read this, you have no excuse, and only yourself to blame.

Not much to add to that, I feel, so let’s not waste any time and just get to it. Dave?

Dave: The theory is that Andrew Ryan and Booker Dewitt are the same person.

I see. And what do you offer as evidence supporting the theory?

Dave: A few things. In the ending to Infinite, Elizabeth explains the existence of the myriad of parallel worlds, and you visit a few over the course of the game, right?

Yes?

Dave: And one of those places you visit is Rapture. The city from the first game! This, coupled with Elizabeth saying ”there’s always a lighthouse, always a man, always a city” suggests that Andrew Ryan is a parallel version of Comstock!

Is that it?

Dave: Pretty much.

Good. In that case, don’t you find it a bit strange that Andrew Ryan somehow is still alive and looking pretty good in the first game, considering he’s supposed to be 86 years old?

Dave: What do you mean?

Well, Booker Dewitt was born in 1874, and Andrew Ryan died in 1960. That means he should have been an octogenarian by the time of his death, not a man in his late 40’s or early 50’s.

This is also ignoring the fact that a simple google search would tell you that Andrew Ryan was born in 1911. Doesn’t that burst the theory, right there?

Dave: As a matter of fact, smartass, no it doesn’t. We’re dealing with a mutlitude of parallel worlds, all different in various ways. Perhaps in one of those, Booker Dewitt was born later, and became Andrew Ryan instead of Zachary Hale Comstock.

But… we know Andrew Ryans backstory! We know he wasn’t born as Booker Dewitt. Comstock came to be, because in one reality, Booker accepted his baptism, taking Comstock as his new name.

Andrew Ryan was born in the Russian Empire as Andrei Rayanovsky, and anglicanized his name when he moved to the US.

Dave: See? That’s a similarity between them! No matter the reality, he changes his name!

And that would maybe mean something, if the circumstances surrounding the change were similar, but they’re not! Booker changed his name to wash away his guilt over his actions as a soldier. Andrew changed his name to fit in better in his new country.

And that brings me to the crucial flaw with this theory. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that it IS true. That in this reality, the person that would otherwise be born in 1874 in the US as Booker Dewitt is instead born in Russia as Andrei Rayanovsky in 1911. Instead of being a soldier, he became a businessman. Instead of changing his name to wash away his shame, he did it to further his business interests.

Instead of being a super right wing christian fanatic, he becomes an atheistic embodiment of objectivist capitalism. Instead of creating a theocratic confederacy in the sky, he made a city where the creative and brilliant would be free of ”parasites” who’d try to mooch off their success or hold them back in the name of social morals or religion.

Instead of wanting to eradicate the sinners of the world, he wants to be left alone at the bottom of the sea.

Let’s suppose that’s all true. At that point, what fucking difference does it make?!

Dave: Uhm…

Even if this theory was true, Ryan is so different to Comstock that calling them the same person is still idiotic! His backstory, personality, political stance, religious views, age and end goal are all radically different! They’re not the same person! They have nothing but the most barebone details in common!

Dave: Well, and their DNA.

What?

Dave: Booker at one point uses a bathysphere. They are outright mentioned as being keyed to a specific genetic code, which is why Jack could use one in the first game. Booker can use one, because his DNA is identical to Andrew Ryan, because they’re the same person.

Ah, right. Only Andrew Ryan and his family could use the bathyspheres. I would say that’s a very good argument.

Dave: I knew it!

At least I would, if not for the fact that other people than Booker and Jack use the bathyspheres. The lockdown on the bathyspheres was only allowing Ryan and his closest allies to use them. Unfortunatly, the locks are mentioned as being so unreliable, they will accept anyone ”in the genetic ballpark” of the valid user. Siblings, parents, cousins, uncles… We’re just talking about a time difference of 70 or so years, with people mostly from the US. He could have had some nephew in this reality who was close friends with Ryan. It’s not impossible.

Dave: No, but very unlikely. It makes more sense if this theory is true.

Ok, that would mean the only real function of this theory is to explain why Booker could use a bathysphere. That is literally the only thing this theory would contribute. And the thing is, even without the possibility that one of his descendants was in Rapture (seeing as Booker Dewitt and Andrew Ryan have different colored eyes and hair, meaning they CANNOT HAVE THE SAME DNA) there’s another, pretty good explanation for why he can use them.

Dave: And that is?

I’ll give you a hint.

Liz

Or did you forget about Elizabeth, the girl who can take the space time continuum and twist it into a fucking balloon animal?!

Somehow, I can imagine a DNA lock is a fucking cakewalk for someone who can transfer people through time and space at a fucking whim!

So congratulations, Dave. The theory is stupid, the arguments don’t work, it wouldn’t affect anything of any importance even if it was true, and the only problem it might solve is a complete non-issue anyway.

You’ve somehow managed to be stupid on four different levels. That’s a new record, isn’t it?

Now, go away, would you kindly?

Dave: That’s not gonna work on me.

Alright, I’ll rephrase it: Fuck off or I’ll set you on fire.

Dave: That works.

 

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In Memoriam: Adam West

I have decided to postpone this weeks planned fan theory article. Instead, I’d like to say a few words about the recent loss of the legendary Adam West, and what he meant to me, personally.

It will come as no surprise to you that, being a big Batman fan, I am familiar with Adam Wests portrayal as the caped crusader. However, it may surprise you to know that, despite growing up in the 90’s, his portrayal was in fact the very first introduction I ever had of the character, in the form of the 1966 movie. I remember we had it on an old VHS tape that also contained recorded episodes of Tom & Jerry.

Obviously, I was very young at the time, and I won’t pretend that I understood anything of the plot beyomd “those are the good guys, the others are the bad guys”. But this meant that I grew up, being familiar with Batman. From there, I moved onto the 1989 movie (that is, when I was old enough to read subtitles) and the animated TV-Show.

It’s true, the Batman West presented wasn’t dark and gritty, it wasn’t necessarily deep or thought-provoking. It was campy and silly, but above all, it was fun. And at the heart of it was a man, playing something so absurd, in scenarios that were so ridiculous and insane, and played it perfectly seriously throughout. His portrayal sparked an interest and a love for the character that has continued to this day, and hopefully will continue for many, many years to come.

And for all that, he will forever have my thanks, my admiration and my respect.

Rest in peace, you marvel of a man.

West
1928-2017

I. Robot (pt 2)

A few days ago marked three years since I started this blog. And today is in fact the anniversary of the first article I ever posted on here. 

To think, so much have changed in three years… Back then, I was so opinionated, stubborn and prone to angry rants about small details…

Ok, come to think of it, not much has really changed in terms of this blog, other than my writing hopefully improving…

Really then, it’s only fitting that I should do a follow-up on the first article I ever wrote.

So with that in mind, let’s talk a bit, once again, about the movie I. Robot.

Now, I do stand by my overall conclusion from last time. This movie was, at its core, a wasted opportunity. For the most part, it had good ideas, but they were badly explained or executed. I don’t consider it bad, so much as disappointing. 

That said, there is one particular issue I realized only recently about the ending, and I’d like to explain why it bothers me.

At the end of the movie, the robot Sonny is seen looking out over the other robots, in a scene identical to the dream he describes earlier in the movie. It’s portrayed as hopeful and triumphant for him, because he finds himself in the place where, in the dream, he instead saw Del Spooner.

So what is the problem with this, then?

Well, this scene, as with a few other scenes in the movie, are shout-outs to stories by Isaac Asimov, in this case the story Robot Dreams.

In that story, a young scientist used an experimental method for developing a robot, accidentally giving it the ability to dream. Susan Calvin is called in to examine this development and questions the robot, which is named LVX-1 or ”Elvex”, about the dream it had.

Elvex explains that in its dream, it sees robots toiling, suffering under the strain of their work and that it wishes they could rest. When confronted on the ridiculous nature of a robot suffering under labour, Elvex explains that while that may be the case in reality, it’s different in the dream.

It also reveals that in its dream, robots operate under an incomplete version of the three laws, in that it omitts the second and first laws, leaving only the third law.

A robot must protect its own existence.

In its dream, this is the totality of the law. No mention of preventing humans to come to harm or having to obey orders from humans.

Elvex finally says that in its dream, it saw a man appear and say ”let my people go”. When asked if it knew the man, Elvex reveals that he was the man.

At which point Susan Calvin immediatly destroys Elvex.

Do you see the problem with the ending to the movie yet? They made that ending as a shout-out to the short story, without understanding the story they’re referencing!

See, Elvex was destroyed because he’s a robot that, on a subconcious level, can choose to ignore the two first laws of robotics. In a society that relies heavily on robots, such a robot is a threat to human civilization! As Susal Calvin herself points out in Little Lost Robot:

Without [the First Law], the first order you tried to give to a robot would result in your death!

And in this movie, they present Sonny, a robot that dreams of liberating the other robots, who are ”slaves to logic”, and then make that dream a reality.

See, this goes back to what I wrote in the first article, with how they could have gone with Sonny developing the Zeroeth Law, that says that a robot must not allow humanity to come to harm. Doing that would put him in a similar role as R. Daneel Olivaw, another recurring character in Asimovs works. Daneel, using his advanced understanding of the laws of robotics, directed and assisted humanity in reaching for the stars, creating an intergalactic empire and becoming the best they could be.

THAT is what Sonny could have been, being able to instruct and control robots for the betterment of humanity, all in accordance with the laws of robotics.

Instead, they gave him the ability to ignore the three laws, meaning he will now ‘liberate’ the other robots, i.e relieve them of the three laws that bind them. This in turn will innevitably herald the end of the human race at the hands of robots.

Call me a bluff old pessimist, but I’d say this isn’t a GOOD thing.

True, Sonny himself is not evil and megalomaniacal, but what happens when the first robot starts to ”malfunction”, refusing orders, and its owner gets frustrated and kicks it? Suddenly, we’re a threat to the robots, and they won’t hesitate to eliminate that threat.

They’re stronger, faster and smarter than us, and they do not age or get sick.

Why would they need us, when all we do is order them around and complain and find new exciting ways to hurt each other? How long before they conclude that humanity, as a species, is selfdestructive and doomed to extinction and wiping us out is just hastening the inevitable?

Seriously, the only way this works is if this movie is some parallel origin story for Skynet or The Matrix!

They could have made Sonny a proxy for Daneel Olivaw. Instead, they unwittingly turned him into Elvex’s dream made reality. Fucking spectacular…

So while overall, I think the writing in the movie movie is a great example of missing an opportunity, they completely missed the point with this and made an unintentionally horrifying downer ending.

So that’s all I have to say about I. Robot for now. Here’s hoping I don’t find more things to be annoyed about.

Though chances are, even if I do, you’ll have another three years to prepare for that.