By: Travis Allen
The Shame of Seattle
Seriously. Did you watch the Saturday night PAX preview show? Juvenile actor turned soulless coalescence of toothless and vapid internet culture Wil Wheaton was joined by Ashly Burch—voice actor for a Borderlands 2 throwaway NPC, pedo-magnet, and 2012’s instance of companion cube Tiny Tina—to ham-fistedly bumble through skin-crawlingly awkward and forced dialogue that never missed an opportunity to remind the crowd that hey, we’re nerds just like you, we read Reddit and also know what memes are.
Within seconds, Wil had made an out-of-place and inappropriate “tap the police” joke, immediately followed by a slow, obvious explanation of the joke, attempting to wring any semblance of humor out of the flat reception. Within two minutes, we were treated twice to Wil regurgitating the tired cultural expression “that’s a thing,” met with near complete silence from an audience collectively wishing an aneurysm would free them from this violation of the Geneva Conventions.
For the entire rest of the hour-long presentation, every single time an Eldrazi appeared on screen, or someone said Eldrazi, or someone made the mistake of talking to him, Wil made a point of explaining how much of a fan he was of the Eldrazi and how much he hated allies, a fact that nobody cared about whatsoever before he said it once, much less the fifth or sixth time.
While every second he was on stage I was forced to weigh the excitement of new spoilers with the torture that was his continued presence, there were two moments that stood as shining beacons of his worthlessness, and I’m unsure which was more excruciating. The first was when he mistakenly said “buying” instead of “earning” in reference to acquiring coins in Magic Duels. He made a point to correct himself, and in the process referred to the clenching butthole of the legal department. And then the butthole of corporate. And then the collective buttholes of all of Seattle. It was a machine gun comedy of errors, and at any point in time he could have recovered by simply moving beyond his childish and immature butthole-oriented diatribe. Instead, he chose to make everyone in the room squirm at what they knew would result in a dressing down by whichever highest-ranking Wizards employee happened to be standing nearby the next time he walked off stage.
Or perhaps it was when he slipped “not all Eldrazi” into his inane “look at me, you’ve seen me on the internet before” drivel, quickly and casually normalizing the structure of “not all men,” a misogynistic hashtag that sought to marginalize the domestic abuse and violence suffered by women, which was shared through #YesAllWomen. Using this hashtag structure in such an offhanded way, aside from being yet another attempt to remind you that HEY I READ THINGS ON THE INTERNET JUST LIKE YOU SO YOU SHOULD CONSIDER ME RELATABLE, reveals how flippantly he regards vile, toxic attitudes.
Wil Wheaton, and to a lesser extent Ashly Burch, managed to make every single person in that room uncomfortable with his insistence that we like him simply because he browses the front page of Reddit every morning from the computer he bought with money earned while poorly performing as an ironically liked character from a science fiction show more than twenty years old. That Wizards continues to use him in its media campaigns is an insult to Magic fans everywhere. Such blatant pandering, and with such a poor tool, comes across painfully clearly as nothing more than a blunt, flailing attempt by marketing to connect with a demographic they’re having trouble understanding, even as that demographic continues to shower them with money. Do you think anyone in the top four of the World Championships, set to take place less than a day later, enjoyed his presence on that stage? Wizards, please stop using fleshy homunculuses stuffed with lame internet culture to sell us a product we’re already eager to buy. Treat us as people rather than a subreddit.