Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Guild

Much has been written on the paradox of how actresses cast in romantic comedies are usually among the most beautiful women on the planet, yet they have to convince an audience that they would have any problems finding dates (until Mr. Right comes along, that is). Not only is a beautiful woman bound to get the attention of any man with a functioning pair of eyes she walks past, her ego will naturally be inflated by it to the point where she couldn't possibly see herself at home among socially-awkward nerds.

AV Club writer (and a friend of this blog*) Nathan Rabin went so far as to coin a popular term-"Manic Pixie Dream Girl"**-to express a theory that girls only really exist as a vehicle to help the male protagonist achieve his goals and are too quirky to exist in real life.

That might go toward explaining why Felicia Day is something really special: She more or less looks like she belongs in Hollywood but she really is a nerd and that gives her an edge with the "painfully shy and nerdy" quality that beautiful women always have trouble nailing down. She really did have the gaming addiction and pulled from those experiences when writing the web series "The Guild." And yes, not only is she a true nerd and a relatively beautiful lady, but she is a very talented writer.

TV and movies focusing on pathetic people leading lives that seem bleak to the audience (ie Party Down, Weeds, Misfits, The Good Girl, Napoleon Dynamite, Garden State, American Beauty, an internet comedy by Front Page Films I just saw called Kid Farm) usually falls into two categories with little middle ground: life-affirming or depressing. In terms of patheticness, The Guild sets the bar pretty high: the web series centers around a team of six role-playing gamers who are devoted to some team mission at the expense of sextet of role-playing gamers who play on some form of a team together and devote themselves to the team's quests at the expense of any healthy semblance of reality due to the 6-8-hour-a-day time crunch that this hobby acquires.

One of the members, Vork (not his real name: his game name), has no income outside of his deceased grandfather's social security checks and is more concerned with acquiring in-game gold than he is with earning actual money. He also gets his electricity through a rather ingenious scheme at the expense of his alzheimers-ridden neighbor.  Another character, Clara, is a mother so neglectful of her three kids that if not for the sheer hilarity of her situation, you could more easily picture her as the villain in a movie of the Kramer vs. Kramer genre with her overly-appeasing husband as the protagonist.

Then there's Felicia Day's Cyd (aka Codex). She's a former concert violinist with social anxiety who's turned to gaming for refuge against what we assume was a career-ending traumatic experience (later revealed that it either might have to do with a dad who turned gay, or that she set her ex-boyfriend's cello on fire because he turned out to because he was either canoodling an oboist*** or turned out to be gay himself). The opening scene shows Cyd being dropped by her therapist via phone because she's not committed enough to leaving gaming behind. As cold as being dumped by your therapist over the phone is, Cyd barely cares enough to get off the phone and do something about it (among the the show's strengths is how economical it is with providing exposition).

The catalyst for change for Cyd and the rest of the group is the arrival of one of the other players, Zabbu, to her apartment because he mistook a flirtatious exchange ("I accidentally typed a semicolon" she insists, to which he responds "it was a Fruedian slip") for a physical relationship. A manchild among man children, Zabbu comes off as a little extreme (his mom bathed him until age 15) but the show seems to be able to find a good mix of characters in various stages of stunted development. In contrast to Zabbu, there's a teenager in the gang, Bladezz, who seems less caricatured as sheltered teenagers go.

It's through trying to get rid of Zaboo that Cyd concocts the idea that they should all meet up in real life and just like that everyone's out of their bubble. It's an unlikely group of friends that forms and that's why the show is so uplifting when it could easily fall flat.

Definitely,  a strong entry among web shows.
*Did I say friend? I meant someone who I've exchanged pleasantries with on twitter once or twice several years ago. This blog, however, has a looser definition of friendship. Its a bit of a friend whore.
**If anything, I resent Rabin achieving my longtime dream of coining a word AND coining the idea I already had in my head and was vaguely aware of
***And really, who wouldn't want to leave a violinist to canoodle**** an oboist.
****"oboist canoodling"=is that a coinable term?

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