I’ve been thinking a lot about Pandas lately. That’s weird for many reasons, but it’s just how things are right now.
They’ve come up in numerous conversations because a few of the people I’m close to (most of them male) are video game aficionados. You remember that game World of Warcraft? It turns out people are still playing that game and it’s just as bizarre as it ever was.
At this point in popular culture we all know that goblins, ogres, giants, elves and orcs are real and incredibly cool. But World of Warcraft (WoWc) has jumped (flown) way beyond such ordinary, everyday characters. They’ve got Worgen (which are a lot like werewolves), Vrykul (which seem to be a cross between Vikings and giants) and Tauren (a sort of bull/human hybrid. Get it? Like Taurus, the sign?!). They have characters called Murloc (which I think must be a phonetic combination of “warlock” and “merman.” It could also be a riff on H.G. Well’s “Morlocks,” which I’m pretty sure were the evil characters in The Time Machine. And now that I think about it, those Morlocks were quite possibly the inspiration for the Ewoks of Star Wars Trilogy fame. Funny how all this crazy shit seems interconnected. Maybe there is a great universal plan after all. At least, there’s definitely a plan if you keep up on your science fiction and fantasy reading.)
|A Morlock hangs out with Weena in the most excellent The Time Machine (George Pal, 1960)|
So, this kid I know that likes to play WoWc rather abruptly stopped playing it a couple of months ago. When I asked why he explained that they’d added Pandas (called “Panden” in the game, though the name fools no one) as characters and it was just too lame for him to continue.
|Panda Series 1. Oil pastels and pencil on paper (Lacey, 2012). $500|
A more cynical and less supportive me might have said, “But wasn’t the game already incredibly lame to begin with?” but I refrained. (Look at me being mature!)
When I brought it up with my friend Brian, he asked, “Did he stop playing when the Pandas were added because it’s trendy or because he really thought it was lame?”
Again, a more cynical Lacey might have responded, “Since when does a person who plays WoWc care about what’s trendy?”
But I didn’t. I’m sensitive to the artistic temperaments of those who play video games (a sensitivity drawn from experience, which I will explain at some point in the future).
Good for me.
I asked Brian what he meant by “trendy” and Brian (who works in the video game industry but doesn’t play WoWc, I’m sure he would want me to add) explained that a lot of higher-ups/government officials in China were appalled that Pandas had been added to the game. They’re endangered, after all, and we wouldn’t want to encourage people to go around killing them for sport. Even if those “people” were actually troll or elf or ogre avatars. Even if they were killing them with magical spells. Even if it were IN A GAME.
But I digress.
When Brian brought that up, I suggested that this kid was not upset about the Panden because they were/are trendy, but because they’re just a stupid thing to add to any game that has anything to do with battle or survival. And as I talked about it, I realized all the things I was saying were incredibly true and obvious and brilliant. (I have this realization kind of a lot.)
|Panda Series 2. Pencil on paper. (Lacey, 2012). $475.|
See, Pandas don’t want to be alive. They have to be constantly protected to the point of absurdity, despite the fact that they have no natural predators. Not even people are hunting them. They pretty much have to be incentivized in order to reproduce. Despite the fact that they’re carnivorous, they’ve adapted to eat mostly bamboo (weak). Here’s a quote about how much fun they have at The San Diego Zoo:
“In zoos, they like to play with enrichment items like piles of ice or sawdust, puzzles made of bamboo with food inside, and different scents like spices.” (Quote)
Cool! So, they’re basically bears that act like domesticated animals. Pandas are the new labradoodles!
I haven’t done a ton of research on Pandas, and I don’t intend to (deal with it), but I think that they really aren’t suited to a world full to the brim with war craft(s). It just seems contradictory.
|Panda Series 3/Coy Panda. Pencil on paper. (Lacey, 2012) $8000.|
They like to laze around and look cute or sad or thoughtful or suicidal. I honestly think that if we all just quit trying, the Pandas would be perfectly happy to just lie down and die. Not the kind of mentality I want in my army, but that’s just me. And I think the fact that they’re cute is just accidental. Pandas don't really "try" at anything.
Anyway, like I said, they were on my mind. So I got all artistic up in here and made a Panda Series. Apparently this is what I do when I have too much time on my hands. You're welcome!
*Kung Fu Panda (Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, 2008). A children's movie based in no way on facts of any kind. Pandas do not know Kung Fu just because they are of Chinese descent. That's racist.