I cannot convey into words the kind of death you feel when looking at the picture below. The best I can do is describe how I felt watching Supernatural after season five. One day I walked into a kitchen that I worked in and I told a coworker to come with me. He followed me into the freezer, which was our yell office.
I looked him in the eye and I shouted at him, without any preparation or forethought, just pure emotion formed into these words “Supernatural had become a gutted marionette of its former glory, dancing to the string of undeserving masters.” Some muse had taken over my body and created a poetry I will never again match.
The show that was so well crafted, acted, and executed became a parody of itself over time. And each season I felt worse and more disconnected from the experiences that made me love it. By the second evil clown episode or third werewolf episode, I was done.
Seeing a McDonald’s archway with Cloud is a very similar extension of that feeling. Except for over seasons or years, it was all instantaneous. I’m not sure any other picture has impacted me so much and so quickly as what you see below.
Before I go on, I will offer that I do not judge what other people like. If you loved Supernatural after season five or want your happy meal to come with FF7 toys, that’s fine. You do you and live your best life. What I will do from here on out is explain how awful this reality is. Which Reality? Yes. Observe below.
Why do I care about this? Why am I offended that McDonalds and T-Mobile and America’s FF7 Twitter all nerded out about FF7? Why does this matter? And ultimately it doesn’t. I’ll wake up tomorrow and the world will be about the same. However, I will ask my readers to reflect on some lyrics within Black Materia by Mega Ran and Lost Perception.
I want to be very clear that the message of FF7 was extremely anti-capitalism. I’m not really sure about the Remake or the dozens of different spinoff properties that exist within the FF7 umbrella. I can’t speak to the FF7 “Metaverse”. I’m only going to tell you what I know about the first game released in 1997.
Your heroes are basically ecoterrorists fighting for the planet. As a kid, when I played this game, I didn’t think any of it. It was a fantasy game, taking place in another world, and the parallels to our world did not hit me. The idea of class warfare, living in the slums, or selling your body weren’t things I really paid attention to at the time.
Playing the game again as an adult was an absolute trip. When you have the context of how the U.S. Government experimented on its soldiers with drugs during Vietnam, the idea of injecting Mako or Jenova cells takes on a different and much more real connotation.
In Barret’s story we see him accepting Shinra’s offer of help to increase the prosperity of his town Coral. The reactor gets attacked and Shinra burns down the town and kills many of the residents in retribution. Not unlike an alleged, but not confirmed response of an oil company who lost a lawsuit to a indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest. Or the violent, heavy handed tactics by oil companies to buy or bulldoze tribal land with or without permits and against treaties.
Shrina reflects the logical end of Capitalism, where one company has complete control of the market. The stated goal of capitalism is to generate wealth and the promise to stakeholders of companies is to do everything within a company to maximize profits. The best way to do so is eliminate competition, usually through mergers. Consumers want competition, companies do not. Consumers want an invisible hand to determine demand and supply, companies have long since put a ring on that hand and are now parading it around to their various shops. Don’t worry, they’ll take good care of you.
Companies like McDonalds or T-Mobile or even Square Enix are all a product of Shinra Incorporated. T-Mobile was owned by AT&T and may as well just be Shinra. They probably actually have a Highwind. I don’t know. What I do know is most media exists within an oligopoly.
Let’s move away from that subject for a hot second and get back to talking about that fantastic album I shared. Do you know it is a rap opera of ff7 and the lyrics and songs absolutely slap? I kept looking up things to pull into this piece and I really felt like including the entire soundtrack. This album perfectly understood the characters, the game, and the themes of the game and modernized it to our current world. Lyrics from Cry of the Planet below:
You can hear the cries of the planet
Even scientists can’t understand it
We all at a disadvantage, impossible to manage
So-called-experts is callin’ it a “hoax”
Now it’s time for the networks to take a new approach
Greenhouse gases, natural disasters
Unexplained phenomena, time to wake up outta the
Mindstate, that we can’t change things
The world is changing
How many times we gotta see the same thing?
Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions
We need more action and much less discussion
And less corruption, before we all goners
Somebody inform us what the earth is tryin’ to warn us
But we worry ‘bout the trivial, superstars, interviews
Millionaires drama, people what’s gotten into you?
Temperature is risin’ like the CO2 levels
It’s settled, sooner or later we’ll see the true devils
And what I hate about The FF7 McCloud is that there is absolutely no value or dignity given to the intellectual properties that many of us have taken great value from. The creators of FF7 were originally nervous to do anything else with the game, because of the fear of destroying what they had created. These are interviews I read a decade ago, I’m not sure I can find them now. They had a reverence for the material that lasted until the movie Advent Children in 2005. I’m not immediately sure if anything else came before that, but Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus came pretty quickly after. The door was now propped open, FF7 just another Honey Bee doing what she could for tips, under the control of the Don.
This is not isolated to FF7. The biggest recent consideration for soulless puppets of people you loved being danced to strings is Multiversus, with a good article by the mostly Fez Blog Kotaku. The biggest gripe being how often folks just love to make The Iron Giant into a fighter, when the entire movie was about how he refused to do that.
It becomes a morbid, yet interesting look at this hollowing out of any real meaning of property, beyond the construction or simulacrum we find. Capitalism does not care about the message of any given work or the meaning any work has for any person. Nothing makes this more clear than the new Matrix Movie. They spent approximately thirty minutes of its runtime talking about how there is a man off camera with a gun forcing them to do it. They effectively did an Atlas Shrugged reference. (Which means I’m effectively making an Atlas Shrugged reference here. I read that whole thing. Fantastic piece of fiction, do not recommend the forty page essay at the end. People would much rather read shorter things, at minimum 500 words. That’s why I keep my articles so trim and short! I’m just like the Cody Showdy!)
Anyways, the entire time I was watching this part of the Matrix I thought I was participating in some kind of Malarkey. I felt like a child who was alone and swearing, knowing if my parents found out I’d be punished. It felt like I was a real rebel, with the kind of power you get wearing a dinosaur onesie. And I wondered how they got a script approved that took an absolute dump on the parent company and capitalism in general. It wasn’t until I watched a video from JesseGender on YouTube, that I realized that hating capitalism was an acknowledged and welcome brand within capitalism. Capitalism loves that you hate it, so long as you buy the “I Hate Capitalism Mug” on your way out.
I don’t even hate capitalism and there are potential benefits within capitalistic systems. It’s like a fire. If you have it to keep you warm outside then things are pretty good. But once you lose control of it, it can burn down the entire town, the trees, and kill everyone you know. It ultimately and fundamentally doesn’t care — it is fire, it will gladly consume anything flammable in the hopes of making more flame. One of those flammable things is my childhood. The other one is the world, which is usually on fire. This is a pretty direct metaphor.
Incidentally, I spent an entire summer cleaning an apartment I lived in with my Dad and Sister when I was nine years old. The contract we had was that if I did this all summer, he would buy me a PlayStation and FF7. And I did. I cleaned the kitchen, the dishes, the rooms every day or near every day. I earned that game and I played for just countless hours. I beat it and immediately started a new save file and did it again. I beat the optional bosses. I leveled all of my materia to max level. I can remember the smell of my room when I played that game.
I went back to this game as an adult and I found the beginning of it to be a masterclass in game design and storytelling. I might write another article on that. I met a woman online who was incredibly beautiful and cosplayed Aerith and met her for coffee. We talked about our love of the game and stayed connected for a few years before life took her somewhere else. And I think about her every time I think about Aerith. It’s just a cool connection.
And it isn’t that these experiences are made less or worse because FF7 McCloud is offering to take the whole gang out for chicken nuggets. My experiences are still important and unaltered by that. What I hate is what they’re doing to something I loved and is important to me now. You can love your Grandma until she dies and those memories are going to be precious, but if someone turns her into a puppet to sell you apple pies you’re gonna get a little freaked out and really upset.
I know folks will just dismiss feelings like this and say, why even care? As though that has any real merit as an argument. One should care, it should be appropriate to care. We should have values in things, draw value from them, and find things important. It is 100% okay to do that. Not so much that we start a FF7 House, but I find the opposite…some state of general apathy, I find that to be disappointing. Basically, it’s okay to care about silly things. That’s my argument I guess.
I don’t have a bigger point to this article, but if you loved ff7, I recommend this abridged series on it below. I think it is way better than TeamFourStar’s effort on it, which wasn’t terrible. The series below is a real love letter to the not just the game itself, but to other creators of abridged series at the time. So, check that out (takes a few episodes to get rolling) and the Album I shared above. If you’re anything like me, that’ll clean your palate.