Grand Theft Outrage
It's hard to take the perpetually aggrieved at their word.
Hello, readers. Parker here.
Earlier this week, Rockstar Games released the first trailer for Grand Theft Auto VI, slated for a 2025 release. And like past GTA games, this latest installment looks to be another raunchy, ultraviolent satire of the American experience. I thought the trailer was great, and I really liked the use of Tom Petty’s “Love Is A Long Road.” Naturally, the game is rated Mature, meaning that it is targeted to adults.
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But no sooner was the trailer released than the predictable reactions from perpetually aggrieved conservatives on social media rolled in. Some decried the fact that one of the game’s protagonists is a woman. Others seemed irritated that Black people exist in the GTA universe. But it was the posts that decried violence and sex and warned about the possible corruption of children that caught my attention.
Violence and sex in video games used to be big topics. They were the core points of the seemingly unending moral panic that lawmakers and culture warriors have latched onto for decades. That said, it seems to have taken a back seat to a host of other panic-worthy cultural topics and appears to now mostly be the realm of One Million Moms-type activist organizations.
Pearl-clutching takes about sex and violence in the new GTA game are weirdly anachronistic. Matthew Gault at Vice News has a piece about the extremely forced reignition of an old moral panic, coming from a lot of “anti-woke” conservative commentators:
Grand Theft Auto VI is just the latest thing they can use to soak money and attention from their reactionary followers. It’s a game they can point to that proves, to them, that the West is a fallen place with degraded morals. They’ll trot out the same line the next time Marvel has a huge hit, or something like Barbie takes off.. And when GTA VI releases, I’m confident cable news hosts and old media pundits will write a thousand more moralizing articles. From novels to comic books to rap music to video games, new forms of entertainment are met with resistance from old heads who fret about violence in forms of art popular with younger people.
Gault concludes his piece with something I’ve been thinking about as it applies to other topics for months now:
In the era of influencers, as social media slowly dies, it’s hard to tell who actually dislikes Grand Theft Auto VI and who is just trying to make a quick buck off of the aggrieved.
What bothers me about this is that the same people who build their political arguments around false claims of being absolutists about free speech are the same ones who latch onto these types of moral panics as a way to achieve their goals.