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Hey everyone. This is Jared, creator of all
things Wisecrack, and today we’ve got another special episode for you guys. Many people have called Grand Theft Auto V a satire, some have called it social commentary, and some have called it sarcasm. World doesn’t need anymore sarcasm. It’s the blade of the age. But, which is it? People will tend to get sarcasm, irony, and satire
mixed up. It’s kind of like squares and rectangles. You know, that thing “how all squares are
rectangles but not all rectangles are squares”… or is it vice versa? Phew, we need a math channel. Welcome to this special episode on social commentary, satire, and parody in Grand Theft Auto V. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the opening
scene in the game takes place in a therapist’s office. The argument can be
made that the main characters: Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, are all incarnations of Freud’s
model of the unconscious. If the constantly whining Michael is the punishing superego
and the cool-headed, fast driving Franklin is the ego… then Trevor’s desire to blow
shit up, hump and kill everything make him the ideal fit for the ID… desire run amok. He died a noble death bringing great joy to a lonely man All right, so let’s focus on Trevor Phillips: the depraved psychopathic
tweaker residing in sandy shores. He could easily foster a discussion on mental health and the war on drugs but the more pertinent and less mentioned element of Trevor is his relationship
to violence, torture and the current state of gaming. I appreciate your honesty. Trevor has no qualms smashing a biker in the face with a bottle and then stomping his head until it’s mush. He has no issues with eliminating
an entire banker gang, or kidnapping and seducing someones wife. You are a good man. I can see that. Basically, Trevor has zero fucks to give. Trevor is, in a sense, the personification
of the average GTA player, the shit talking crazy person people become in sandbox worlds.
Trevor reflects the sociopathic behavior that most players exhibit when they play a GTA
game. In this way, the game forces the viewer to confront the actual personification of
their actions. While most people might argue that the function
of this franchise is catharsis, to act out in the virtual world and then go back to their
peaceful existence, having fulfilled their impulse… it can be argued that the very
deliberate psychotic nature of Trevor suggests something else—when presented with the choice
to indulge in debauchery—to satiate their most violent urges—people tend to be pretty
messed up. Trevor presents us with the more radical possibility—that deep down inside
we are all violent sickos. The terror (and macabre pleasure) we derive
from Trevor’s actions force us to confront this. Trevor essentially presents a meta-fictional
element to the game. Traditionally defined as fiction about fiction, we would have to
adjust our definition and wording to says something like Grand Theft Auto presents us
with Meta-gaming, games about games. It’s not only killing, robbing, and prostituting
that this sandbox game allows you to do. It also enables you to do inane things like yoga. Did somebody say yoga? Which is the most boring, pointless mini-game ever. Tennis, bike riding, golf, darts, hunting,
skydiving, etc. But it would be a mistake to consider the ability to have these choices
as arbitrary. If doing the yoga mini games is boring, then why is massacring troves of people fun? The game has received so much flack over the years for supposedly “empowering” the gamer to random acts of violence. But in GTA V, the player is presented with viable, peaceful alternatives. Playing the yoga mini-game is just as viable as random
drive-byes, yet people usually chose to bask in destruction and chaos. In that way, the
game developers make a statement about how we project our OWN psyche and desire on to
the game, and not the developers empowering us Nowhere is this clearer than the most controversial
scene in GTA V—where Trevor tortures an informant for the FIB. Not only does he Torture someone without batting
an eye—he seems to take some sick pleasure in it. At one point Ferdinand Kerimov, the tortured
Azerbaijani, screams “sadist”. The real question is: who is the real sadist? Trevor? Or the gamer who enjoys acting out their psychopathic urges
on fictional characters? Far from being a passive acceptance of torture, this
scene serves to over-identify with the sadistic desire to inflict harm on the threatening terrorist. Over identification is a loaded term that is best described as a
sort of radical re-production of what is deemed taboo—it is a tactic of performance that
undermines power through mimicry. By forcing the player to violently play out
the very tactics of “advanced interrogation techniques”, it creates the possibility
of provoking a strong reaction from the gamer—whether it be disgust, thereby subverting the ideology
of the war on terror, or even sadistic enjoyment. This is a form of satire. According to the
Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Satire’s “goal is not to abuse
so much as to provoke a response, ideally with some kind of reform.” It is easy to lampoon a character that wakes
up in his underwear under a bridge covered in puke and blood and has no problem murdering
an entire gang to take over their turf—but the more difficult thing is to see how Trevor’s explosion of the fourth wall creates a reflection for the gamer—that forces a confrontation
with our true psychic selves and our actual feelings about gruesome violence. I’m sorry I showed by thingy, okay? Continuing on to part two, in which
we interrogate Michael De Santos, the California life style, Parody, and the media. Like Mel Brooks movies—the world of Los
Santos is a somewhat askew representation of reality. In many ways Grand Theft Auto
is a parody, or as it is defined “a form of high burlesque that imitates a specific literary work or style of an author for comic effect, usually to ridicule or criticize that work, author,
or style… parody is often used to make a satiric (and even a political) point.” Android phones are badger phones, Apple is replaced by iFruit, Fox news is weasel news – even complete with a fictional news ticker. American Idol is Fame or Shame, the Mark Zukerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs of the world are
all combined to make Jay Norris, Google maps is eyefind, and Facebook is lifeinvader. Michael De Santos, a retired bank robber in
witness protection provides a conduit to discuss the clichéd California lifestyle—concerned
with the economy, capitalism, personal fitness, paparazzi, celebrity, and all forms of
media. Michael is the only character that routinely
watches TV and is enamored with old movies— a parody of the stereotypical Los Ageleano. Likewise, Michael’s wife is “enamored” with her tennis coach AND her yoga instructor, Michael one straps his backpack, listens to horrible music, *Rhythm of the Night* his son has identity issues, his psychologist is utterly inept, cynical, and greedy, Family work is a little more expensive. What? Double? Squared. and his daughter messes around with porno
dudes. Michael, like most snowbirds that navigate to California on permanent vacation, has Hollywood problems. Even his criticism is decidedly Californian. Go to college. Then you can rip people off and get paid for it. It’s called capitalism. Michael rails against capitalism but doesn’t
risk anything. He’s still chasing that San Andrean dream. Nothin’, I was just lost in an 80s movie fantasy. Michael is smug in his criticism of capitalism— but he still owns a yacht, a
fancy house, tricked out cars, several giant televisions, a tennis court, pool, and a decent collection of snazzy cargo shorts with sandals ensembles. Michael doesn’t really challenge
the underlying logic of consumption—he just sort of complains… like most people in Hollywood. The setting of the game world itself is a
tongue and cheek play on real California locations. Vespucci beach is Venice beach, Vinewood is
Hollywood, Del Perro Pier is the Santa Monica Pier, the famous Watts towers are renamed
the Jefferson towers, Compton is reimagined as Davis, long beach is cypress flats, the
pacific palisades are renamed the pacific bluffs, Bel Air becomes Richman, or rich man
and the Salton sea is renamed the Alamo sea—where the surrounding desert in GTA is the sandy
shores—in reality the area is the hipster sands of the Coachella valley. Grand theft Auto 5 goes to ridiculous lengths
to insure verisimilitude—the amount of hours and labor spent to create such an enormous,
living breathing environment is outstanding. The attempt to create a world that seems real
to the player is commendable, but perhaps at times it is a little too real. To the point that Lindsay Lohan has sued Rockstar over the use of her likeness for the creation of the character Lacey Jonas, a former child star who has exiled her parents and is constantly mobbed by the paparazzi. Oh shit! Here they come! GO GO GO! LOSE THEM! Sound familiar? GTA V presents an all out criticism of our
media driven world—all forms of Radio, television, film and social media are fair game. Some
of the most stinging criticisms come when you’re driving from place to place listening
to talk radio. The gaming and tech industries aren’t exempt
either. Jimmy plays a strange game where you slaughter pigs, Michael infiltrates the lifeinvader
campus to find coders unable to close copious not safe for work pop ups and run simple antivirus software, and Lester is constantly shouting while he undoubtedly teabags the people he “domes” in his first person shooter. If Trevor serves as a way to criticize the
ever encroaching onslaught of drugs and violence in media—Michael is perhaps the most cynical
character—Michael’s storyline digs at the feeling of emptiness inherent in the shallow upper class California lifestyle—of a lifestyle built around appearance—a world of plastic surgery,
self help, leisure, and misery. Our third section, in which we discuss Franklin,
the commodification and appropriation of black culture and white-collar crime. Franklin Clinton, an ambitious youth from
South Los Santos serves as a sort of catalyst for the game. Franklin’s repossession of
Jimmy’s vehicle is the precipitating event that brings Michael out of retirement. But it is Franklin’s role in the market
that serves as the critical starting point for our discussion. When Lester asks Franklin to make ummm… moves to insure the manipulation of the stock market an interesting contrast
is made. No matter how many people disappear, no matter
how suspicious the deaths may be, no matter how much money is made betting on the stock
market, no one is ever sent to jail. You literally cannot get caught for insider trading in GTA V. Which is funny given Franklin’s hatred of
pyramid schemes. If GTA is a satire on our contemporary condition
is it any wonder that the people that make millions and billions of dollars dubiously
rarely ever see the inside of a jail cell? While economic corruption may be something
that goes unpunished, it doesn’t mean the police aren’t out in force. The lack of
effort to capture white-collar criminals is contrasted with the very real violence that people deal with in the inner city, whether it be criminal in nature or violence from the police—the
LSPD’s motto is literally “Obey and Survive.” The LSPD are a caricature of the LAPD whose
history of race relations is well… stellar. See what I did there? That’s sarcasm. Complicated relations with race are explored
with Franklin—each character that isn’t a person of color adapts their own version
of street vernacular when they interact with him. Trevor, Jimmy, and Devin all change the way they speak when they see Franklin. Jimmy, in particular, serves as a sort of foil to Franklin. Brother from another mother. A sort of way to prove his authentic blackness—Jimmy merely wears blackness like a mask. The game does it’s best to assure us that
Franklin is real. Whenever he smokes weed from the Marijuana Lobbyist he doesn’t see aliens like Michael does— he just shrugs it off— because the lobbyist has weak shit compared to the chronic that Franklin smokes on the reg. Appropriation of Black culture is an important
discussion. In the end Jimmy can act black whenever he wants but he doesn’t have to
deal with any of the daily realities of being a person of color in America—not unlike
the player who gets to pick up the controller and play an” original gangsta” whenever they
flip over to Franklin. This is much deeper than it seems. The player
is allowed distance from the racial politics of GTA. They believe themselves to be part
of the solution and not part of the problem— they aren’t acting like jizzle. What GTA V confronts is the desire for a guilt
free solution to racism by asking the player to laugh at white people awkwardly attempting
to pass as black—while they literally control a stereotypical shadow of a black male. Which is pretty ironic given the number of
white kids in the suburbs feeling smug because they know they aren’t Jizzle— at least,
they think they aren’t. They may not have the poser swag and stupid name, but they do
get to participate in drive byes, get in gang wars, and smoke weed—all the while believing
Franklin to be an accurate depiction of an authentic black male. Just as Jizzle lives
vicariously through Franklin and the vitality of “black culture,” GTA V self reflexively
makes the audience experience the very same gratification, it makes a more interesting
statement on racial politics than just shaming old people and pointing fingers. To say that GTA V can just be reduced to a
game about stealing cars and blowing stuff up is perhaps a mistake… I mean, it is about
so much more—like strip clubs, drug deals, and turf wars. Sure it’s possible to focus on the sensational
aspects of the game, but to just see it as something that glorifies sex, violence, and drug use, it’s to choose be on the outside of a long string
of inside jokes. To paraphrase a popular song about missing
the point—you would be the type of person who “likes to sing along and shoot their
gun, but you wouldn’t know what it means. Michael, Trevor, and Franklin all serve to
destabilize the players ability to believe in the validity and seriousness of a world
that they play in. Grand Theft Auto is less an opportunity to
indulge in debauchery and is more like a mirror that shows America its true nature… Perhaps
the writers aren’t vindictive sadists that profit off suffering, but rather, are craftsmen
that use the supposed glorification of sex, violence, and torture to create a masterful
criticism of American culture.

39 thoughts on “The Satire of GTA V (Grand Theft Auto V) – Wisecrack Edition

  1. I used to think the yoga was dumb as I just started the game in Feb……..2019…….lol!
    But after playin' it for the 3rd time, I realized the yoga was for the old gamer, to get used to the new style of game play. As my thumbs started to hurt, like goin' for a run(when you haven't done so in a loooooong time).
    Gamers, today, younger, faster, better are able to move their characters more fluently, than I can(the old gamer)….mashin' buttons.
    I noticed that my gameplay was evolving as I started to really play the side activities.

  2. All squares are rectangles. A rectangle has: 4 sides, 4 right angles, and has 2 sets of parallel lines. A square checks these boxes. A square has those and also all sides are the same length. A rectangle doesn’t have that. Unless your rectangle is a square anyway, as all squares are rectangles.

  3. 7:30 I would say that hipocracy is supposed to represent left wing (leftist) politicians who say capitalism sucks ,but they own mansions and cars

  4. The ending where you the player had to decide who you will kill and no third option is why i just couldn't finish the game I still like thinking about the trio causing chaos in Los Santos.

  5. San Andreas was the shit . i wish gta had the house as a check point u should be able eat sleep and bring chicks back to the house to fk that would be awesome

  6. If a regular person plays GTAV they do everything Trevor would do, but if someone like Trevor plays GTAV, he's the one doing all the yoga "exercises", races, bike rides, and other meaningless side activities.

  7. So, a question: Because Franklin is controlled by the player does that make him a bad representation of black people in America? And if Trevor is the id then what about his moments of loyalty or affection towards other characters?

  8. at 11:04, they’re doing the “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” thing when they’re being told the government is corrupt

  9. You can do yoga, exercise, and do other peaceful stuff, but they aren't significant when it comes to progressing the story line, right? You're given options that involve good behavior, but the game rewards criminal behavior more.

  10. Pretty much what I have known about Rockstar games ever since the GTA 3. Not so much 1 or 2, because they didn't have much in the way of story. And tbh I didn't like the first GTA because it was a top down 2D run n gunner. And my intrest was in immersive 3rd person 3D games with story such as Spyro or FF7.

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