So, the clumsily titled Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is out. Surprising, as I had heard just about nothing about it. I guess it was doomed once they figured out it would be going head to head against Zelda and the Switch. Nothing dominates the conversation like first party Nintendo software, even more so when it’s actually good. Being of little interest in the franchise I haven’t really done anything to seek it out, the last time I saw it was when it was demoed at E3 last year. Until, that is, this advert screened in the cinema.
From the looks of it, it was released pretty recently, and what with this year not having the typical first quarter drought there’s better things to write about, and sure, a Tom Clancy property being uncomfortably colonialist, you don’t say. But you gotta wonder at the mind of the person who looked at this and thought, ‘Yeah, great job. Nothing wrong with that.’ Dude was probably a white guy and all.
You know what, let’s just take a look at this thing scene by scene to see what it is doing wrong. There’s probably a more intellectually rigorous way to do this but I’m already putting more into this than it deserves.
One: An elderly man is abducted from his birthday party. There ain’t too much in this one, however, it brings up two of the core troubling themes of the piece: casual, unexplained violence and a exploitative portrayal of the suffering of women. Violence itself ain’t no big problem, but the lack of context in the portrayal means the filmmaker loses their grip on how it is interpreted. When your entire film is about the amorality of brown skinned men and the victimhood of the women they oppress you gonna get some pretty shady interpretations. As we leave the scene the camera does not follow the action but instead holds of the screams of a woman.
Two: We move onto a couple of scenes intercut, night and day, the juxtaposition a suggestion that this a portrait of life here. In the first a group of young men drive a car by two elderly women, harassing and throwing money at them, one of the ladies spits on it. So, now we got this implication that wealth in this world is correlated with the culture of violence here presented as an extension of the violence present in the first scene. A suggestion that the natural state of this world is one of poverty and that deviance from that norm is an aberration. The wall here is covered is missing person posters, another tacit acceptance of the world’s violence
The second of these two scenes involves a police officer being beaten by unidentified men as another police officer watches on, this is all observed by a young man from a nearby balcony. So, now we also playing with the suggestion of corruption, the presence of the bystander in this scene serves to reinforce the concept that this violence is in the fabric of this place. The character’s acceptance of the situation conveying to the audience that they too should not cast a critical eye upon this reading.
Three: Alright, this is just gross. First we see a stripper dancing. Of course, it is shot attractively because victimised women are still sexualised objects in the film’s eyes. We see this white girl, visibly distressed, around older men she is held by the arm and then pushed into a sitting man’s lap. We are meant to deduce that the girl is a victim of sexual slavery. Why make her white though? Are we supposed to care for this woman more because she is white? Is the implication that she is of higher value than the other women we have seen up to this point? Whatever the intention the depiction falls into easy clichés of the scary brown men defiling white women. This is despite the fact that, as explained by Extra Credits in their analysis of the equally problematic Call of Juarez: The Cartel, the victims of sexual slavery are predominantly women of colour.
Like, I know this representation is supposed to be painting the perpetrators as bad people, even more so then the previous scenes, but this is both nakedly exploitative, unpleasant, and a racist depiction of actual horrors. In an advert. Gross, bad, and wrong, and this got aired in a cinema, I believe it was before a screening of Fist Fight, so that was a real unpleasant time in the theatre.
Four: Again we have two scenes intercut, the first is of the elderly man as he is doused in fuel and immolated, we are still given no reason why he deserves this treatment. The second is of a barn in which a few men are holding captives. Suddenly the door explodes and a group of armed, attractive, white men enter and dispatch the captors. Their brand of violence is depicted in a very different way to what we have seen before. Clean, methodical, as opposed to the rough and dirty style previous acts have been choreographed and shot in. These men have a legitimacy lent to them by the way the camera chooses to shoot them, the way the edit favours their actions, their attractive appearance, and their white white skin.
After they have dispatched the captors they set to cutting a captive loose, one draws a knife and walks towards the camera, a cut reveals he is freeing yet another victimised, dirty, brown skinned woman. This is the first time a resolution has been provided to the audience for this state of affairs, the direct and violent intervention of whitey. Great. Hard cut to the game’s logo.
I don’t really have a conclusion here. The terribleness of this goddamn thing should be pretty obvious and I honestly ain’t feeling all that great today. Why don’t people think? Who could have though this might be okay ever? The game itself is set in Bolivia, it involves the crimes of fictional drug cartels, not that you’d be able to tell from this advert, it’s enough that it give you a whole lot of bad brown people to kill. Eugh.
You know a few years back there was a Rainbow Six game in development, Rainbow Six: Patriots, in which you were cast as a private mercenary tasked with defending corporate America from those pesky Occupy Wall Street types. It might not have been exactly, but that was the message they ended up sending out. It was rightfully scrapped because that sounds like a garbage idea. Maybe it’s time to scrap Tom Clancy as a whole and take some more personal responsibility for the art we create. Can’t see a downside to that.