Bookbyte Blog

Posts tagged ‘satire’

Headline News’ Social Media-Focused Reboot Is Beyond Ridiculous


Source: xkcd

Oof. Cable news network HLN, originally a CNN off-shoot, has taken the page from the strategy of networks like TLC or AMC: abandoning the original concept for the station (Headline News, The Learning Channel, and American Movie Classics, respectively) but keeping the original acronym. The new, refurbished HLN is doing away with the endlessly repeated news cycle and the Nancy Grace-like “outrage news” segments, and replacing them with new material targeted to the millennial demographic.

Apparently the people at Turner Broadcasting don’t have a very high opinion of your demographic.

Here are the new show titles, ranked in increasing order of absurdity:

  • Keywords
  • Vacation Hunters
  • Videocracy
  • One.Click.Away
  • I Can Haz NewsToons
  • #What’sYourFomo

The idea behind the network reboot is to integrate social media with news in original ways that encourage greater levels of engagement. That’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, but you’d think they could have found some people to come up with ideas that actually understand the advantages online and social news have over cable news, not somebody who browsed Urban Dictionary and KnowYourMeme for an hour.

I don’t understand what the network could possibly offer that couldn’t also be found online without 8 minutes of advertising per half hour. For example, from the description, I Can Haz NewsToons (just typing that makes me shudder) will apparently just show off politically minded e-cards and webcomics. How is that a show? Will the host just read them to us? Will they be crudely animated? I’m not sure which is worse. Why would anybody sit through 2 parts slideshow and 1 part ads for half an hour when they can just scroll through a Tumblr that gives them the exact same thing in two minutes?

Look, HLN, I understand you have a challenge to face trying to reach a younger audience. But if you want to engage with people, you don’t need gimmicks, you need better content. You’re not going to out-Internet the Internet. The fact that you’re trying to shows just how clueless you really are.

Millennials do engage with the news. Really. But almost never through cable. There’s no reason to. This generation is not used to passively consuming information. Young people want the ability to comment, to discuss, to share, and to control how much news to consume. It’s an active experience, as anyone who’s ever done a deep-dive through link after link knows. And no amount of misused hashtagging is going to make cable look more appealing.

(Quick aside, didn’t anyone point out that punctuation closes hashtags? That show can’t even use its own dumb name as a functional hashtag.)

The only way to get millennials to pay attention to cable as a news source is with a strong personality. If you want a model for that, look to Stewart and Colbert. No gimmicks other than entertaining commentary and spot-on satire. It doesn’t even have to be funny, just engaging and… read carefully, because this is the important part… NOT TALKING DOWN TO THE AUDIENCE.

These Obamacare Ads for College Students Can’t Be Real, Right?

As the provisions in the Affordable Care Act start rolling out, the state of Colorado decided to spread awareness with one of the most confusing ad campaigns I’ve ever seen.


Let’s catalog this ad’s many crimes against humanity:

  • Stealing the tagline and font from the “got milk?” campaign, which may very well be older than the models used in this campaign.
  • The “word” “brosurance.”
  • The sentence “Don’t tap into your beer money to cover those medical bills.”
  • Attempting to turn the perfectly good “Thanks, Obama!” meme into a tagline for insurance.
  • A website that is genuinely called “”
  • The combination of calf-high white socks and American flag shorts.
  • The combination of backwards baseball cap and tank top.
  • The “word” “brosurance.”

This is satire, right? It has to be. I refuse to accept this as a real thing. This was put together by people who are secretly criticizing healthcare reform, right? It has to be. Please tell me this isn’t real. The world isn’t that sad of a place.

But wait, there are other ads in the campaign that weren’t written by crazy people.


Okay… that’s weirdly normal. Now I’m even more confused. The message here is “You shouldn’t have to go shopping for medical help. You should get medical help when you need it,” whereas the message of the last ad was “Who needs a liver when you’ve got easy access to a healthcare brofessional? #YOLO”

What are you trying to do here, Colorado? Do you just have a really low opinion of college students? Do you even have a plan, or are you just throwing models on white backgrounds and freestyling the rest?

Was This ‘Sweatshop’ Simulation Game Too Offensive for Your iPad?

Screenshot from "Sweatshop HD" game

One of the “perks” of getting apps through the App Store is that, unlike downloading desktop software from a random website, Apple screens and approves each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of available apps. For better or worse, that means Apple gets to decide what’s fit for consumption and what’s not.

Most of the time that means blocking copyright violations and pornography, but every once in awhile something will get flagged for reasons that are a bit more unclear.

A bitingly satirical iPad game called Sweatshop HD was recently yanked out of the App store because, according to LittleCloud, the studio that built the game, Apple was uncomfortable with the game’s themes. LittleCloud resubmitted the game with an added disclaimer that the game’s intent was primarily to educate people on social justice issues, and that it was designed with input from the Labour Behind the Label campaign. Apple still wouldn’t lift the ban.

I checked out the game myself (still available as a flash-based browser game) to see just how offensive, beyond the title and premise, this game could be. The game opens with a brightly animated and stylized opening, where customers swarm to grab “Le Shoes” designer sneakers. The camera then pans rights to the shoe warehouse, right again to a fleet of shipping freighters, and finally back to a sweatshop conveyor belt, manned by tired, dehydrated, injured, and underage workers.

You play as a member of middle management, who needs to hire and position workers to handle the flow of materials down the conveyor belt. You’ll routinely get yelled at by your boss to maximize profits and approached by a wide-eyed Dickensian child worker asking for basic things like water. Naturally, since it’s a game, your competitive side will encourage you to cut corners in any way necessary to get the highest possible ranking, usually to the detriment of your workers.

It’s all fairly tongue-in-cheek until you start completing levels. Each time one ends, you’ll be presented with two paragraphs or so or real-life information and statistics about life as a sweatshop worker. These jar you out of the fantasy of the game every few minutes, and set the project pretty firmly on the side of satire, not just gallows humor.

While developed by an independent studio, the game was produced in part by Channel 4, a British commercially funded, but publicly owned, broadcasting network. That fact lends a lot of credence to LittleCloud’s claim that this game was intended primarily to be educational. As a piece of publicly funded entertainment, this is basically Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

So why was Sweatshop‘s brand of educational satire considered inappropriate, but the casual, maniacal violence of, say, Grand Theft Auto III acceptable?

LittleCloud points out that Apple’s developer guidelines are somewhat vague, and grant Apple a fair amount of leeway on what it will and won’t allow. LittleCloud highlighted one line in particular from the weirdly casual guidelines:

“We view apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical app. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.”

I understand Apple’s need to give themselves carte blanche in making judgment calls, but personally, I find this statement more dismissive and offensive than anything in Sweatshop. The patronizing tone of “If you want to criticize a religion, write a book” is pretty bold insult to the countless game designers who’ve tried to make games with goals loftier than killing time.

Having games criticize real-world themes isn’t exactly a revolutionary concept. Bioshock was a retro-futuristic sci-fi that doubled as a criticism of ObjectivismSpec Ops: The Line criticized the fetishistic way most games idolize modern warfare. Another browser-based flash game, Darfur is Dying, intended to spread awareness of atrocities committed in Sudan by letting you manage a virtual refugee camp.

The developer guidelines’ blanket condescension of games’ ability to address serious issues is entirely unfair to both the people who want to make, and to play, games about something more than, let’s say, throwing birds at pigs.

You can play the game and make your own call here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers

%d bloggers like this: