Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009

The Beatles, Nirvana and the Video Game Culture War

By Evan Rytlewski
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The dueling responses to video games featuring the likeness of The Beatles and Kurt Cobain speak wonders about the respective fan bases of those musicians. The Cobain faithful, on one hand, are horrified that a certain cash-crazed widow would license the grunge hero's likeness to a commercial video game that celebrates the very hair-rock culture he detested. The following (outstanding) YouTube video, posted yesterday, illustrates how demeaning Cobain's Guitar Hero appearance is far better than any words could:



Beatles fans, meanwhile, couldn't be more thrilled about next week's release of The Beatles: Rock Band, THE VIDEO GAME THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING. I'll concede the game is interesting for its unique appeal to baby boomers, but I think the New York Times' giddy review the game yesterday overstates the case. With the kind of grand hyperbole only The Beatles can provoke, a tittering Seth Schiesel wrote, "
The Beatles: Rock Band is nothing less than a cultural watershed, one that may prove only slightly less influential than the band's famous appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964." Yessir, this is the biggest, most exciting piece of Beatles news since... the last remixed/remastered whatsit came out. I can't keep track of them anymore.

Anyway, it's a cultural divide: One fan base celebrates the continued commercialization of their icons, eager to jump on an opportunity to shell out cash for any product featuring the band they hold so dear. The other regards commercialization of any sort as a criminal betrayal.

[Interesting side note: There's a great, albeit abstract, debate occurring in the comments section of this YouTube video over whether Cobain himself might have actually appreciated the humor in his Guitar Hero appearance. There is, of course, no way of knowing.]

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