What Does Facebook Have on You?

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytics scandal, people are starting to take a more thorough look at what Facebook has on them.  Of course, Facebook’s been harvesting user data and selling it for years now but the latest news has hopefully jump-started public consciousness about Internet privacy.  What prompted this post were the number of strange stories people were telling when they looked into what Facebook had on them.  Stories such as people saying Facebook had been archiving phone calls and labeling you on the political spectrum.


Facebook won’t even recognize my real name so color me suspect about their analytical data harvesting methods.  I listed my political affiliation back when I signed up but this did not translate to the advertisers so we’re already off to a promising start…  This isn’t to say that Facebook is completely inept or harmless but Murphy’s Law is definitely valid.


Now I’m old enough to remember when Facebook was the new hotness (back in late 2006/early 2007), back when it first let high schoolers sign up.  One of the things you could do is fill out interests i.e. what sort of movies, TV shows you liked.  They did away with that in one of the interface overhauls (it all got folded into under “pages you like” or some such bullshit) but whatever you listed ended up getting used to create an advertising profile on you.


I removed some things because they’re grossly inaccurate (I’ve never seen Madagascar and would never “like” downloadable content) or because the pages are crap (Link’s Awakening has a page image but Twilight Princess didn’t???).  Anyway, from that list come general categories.  You like Batman, Van Helsing and The Living Daylights?  You’re a fan of “fictional films”, a generalized term no one in real life would use to describe their interests…but would be a convenient category for an advertiser looking to spread the word.


And whatever news/entertainment you’re interested in, obviously you must be interested in the people too!  So advertisers have some idea of what to target you with, they just use these people.  Simon Pegg’s in the next Mission Impossible and is involved creatively with the new Star Trek movies?  Well, person who likes Hot Fuzz and Spaced (so presumably they’re a Simon Pegg fan), advertisers will be sure to bombard you with that information!

(ironically people I listed as inspirations are conspicuously missing from the list of people I’m interested in)


Oh and the algorithm isn’t all that smart either.  I had listed Firefly as an interest under TV shows…so I must also be a fan of naturally occurring fireflies.  There’s another example not pictured here of where House was listed as one of my favorite TV shows…which the algorithm interpreted as “you must be a fan of buying/selling/remodeling homes in general”.

You can access what Facebook uses to ad farm you by downloading your archive under the settings tab (this is how you find out if Facebook has your phone call data).  Alternatively, going under Account Settings -> Ads will take you to the areas seen in this article.  Check it out and see what looks odd to you!

The Last Jedi

The most interesting thing about The Last Jedi is that it’s the latest example of the polarizing split between critics and the movie audience.  Critics love the latest Star Wars film, with aggregate review sites like Metacritic (86%) and Rotten Tomatoes (93%) rating the film very highly.  As of this writing, only 3 critic reviews on Metacritic are “mixed” on the film with the other 51 being positive.  Contrast this with the 4.9 user score on the same site, where the most numerous reviews are negative as well as positive (both over 1,300).  By the same token, only 56% of Rotten Tomatoes’ user base liked it.

So, let’s make a checklist and see what’s +good+ and what -sucks- about The Last Jedi.

– The opening sequence where Poe Dameron calls the First Order commander and puts him on hold is something you’d see in a Marvel film and not a Star Wars one.  Han Solo didn’t make any cracks to the Imperial officer during this scene because it would have undermined all the dramatic tension.

+ But it’s OK because Poe Dameron is a deconstruction of the military maverick.  Poe’s a talented Resistance pilot but that talent doesn’t excuse his fatal flaws.  He’s hot-headed, impulsive and doesn’t see the bigger picture his superiors do.  His plan to take down a First Order capital ship gets his entire team killed and leads to his demotion because he went against Leia’s orders to disengage.  So what if he took down a ship?  The First Order can rebuild a ship whereas the Resistance can’t replace those pilots and crew members.

So, Poe making that call to the First Order?  He’s just a stupid asshole whose bravado gets his comrades killed.  Thumbs up!

+ I didn’t mind Luke being a failed Jedi initially.  Obviously he’s in hiding because he fucked up training Ben Solo and feels regret over it.  The idea of Luke failing to train a new generation of Jedi isn’t a bad one.  The idea was horribly implemented, though…

– I can see why people are annoyed by the Porgs, though.  They’re fucking everywhere on Luke’s planet.  If not visible, they’re in the background chirping away.

+ At least they’re not like the Ewoks (who play a pivotal role in Return of the Jedi’s climax) or Jar-Jar Binks…

– The Last Jedi has two main plots.  The First Order has recovered (quite quickly) from the destruction of Starkiller Base and is on the cusp of wiping out the Resistance forever.  Somehow, The First Order has learned to track ships through hyperspace?  Like a few things in Last Jedi, this isn’t really explained and the audience is supposed to roll with it.  This technology has also not been mass produced, since Supreme Leader Snoke’s vessel is the only ship that possesses it.

In order to deactivate the hyperspace tracking mechanism, the Resistance needs to board Snoke’s ship but they need a code-breaker.  So Finn and some girl he just met go to some casino planet because that’s where they can find one.  This whole sequence is just padding to fluff out a 2.5 hour film, really does John Boyega a disservice and is in the running for “worst part of the film.”

+ On a personal level, I loved the idea of the code-breaking character being a selfish bastard who sells out Finn and the Resistance.  In the Star Wars RPG I ran, one of the things I wanted to do was show players that recruiting the dregs of society to rebel against The Empire wasn’t the best move.  It was up to them to make the Rebellion the idealized version it is in the original trilogy.  Finn and his friend find this code-breaker in prison and don’t consider that this guy may not be the best ally.  Especially since the two of them fucked up and didn’t find the code-breaker they were supposed to.

– While all that’s going on, the Resistance fleet has about 18 hours of fuel left before the First Order catches up with them.  It might be the most boring chase sequence ever put on film.  Leia gets knocked out of commission so command passes to some lady with purple hair who has no idea how delegation works.

Consider that the Resistance’s ultimate plan to escape the First Order is to hunker down in an old Rebel base that’s in the vicinity.  Why this is kept on a need-to-know basis is only so Poe Dameron can get impulsive and stage a mutiny.  Because to him, since he wasn’t told of the plan, it just looks like Resistance command is going to do nothing but get killed.  Someone might bring up that Poe was demoted and thus not given clearance to know but that doesn’t answer the question of why the Resistance’s plan is need-to-know.

+ The other main plot revolves around the Force-users.  Luke eventually decides to train Rey in the ways of the Force and become a Jedi…

– …Except he doesn’t really train her.  Luke tells Rey what the Force is, she ends up destroying some rocks and then he backs off again because he’s scared of her raw power.  Luke then leaves Rey to her own devices.

+ But that’s just a reason to have Rey develop a Force bond with Kylo Ren (Ben Solo).  Throughout the film, the two of them link and can see/talk to each other (although not their surroundings).  The two characters have a lot in common; both are powerful Force-users who are being trained by masters who aren’t really solving their true ailment of self-doubt.  Kylo’s conflicted after killing his father and is unsure of his role in all this.  Rey doesn’t know her parentage (or won’t acknowledge the truth about it) and is unsure of her role in all this.  Each have their own agendas too, with the each thinking they can turn the other to their side of the Force and restore peace to the galaxy.  Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley have amazing chemistry together and their scenes are the highlight of the film.

– How Luke, who is so powerful he can cut himself off from the Force and project himself across the galaxy, does not sense the Force bond between the two of them is…???

– While we’re on the subject of Luke Skywalker, let’s remember that Mark Hamill fundamentally disagreed with just about everything director Rian Johnson had in mind for his character.  And who better to know what kind of character Luke Skywalker is than the actor who played him?

The main crux for me is the truth behind why Ben Solo became Kylo Ren:  Luke saw the darkness in Ben and considered premeditated murder with a lightsaber.  Never mind that Ben is his nephew and that explaining to Han and Leia why their teenage son is dead would have been real awkward…I guess he really was a Jedi, like his father before him.  Ben wakes up, sees his Jedi Master with an ignited lightsaber and correctly assumes the worst.  This would have been a neat set-up if it was a Dark Side ploy by Snoke or Kylo to plant discord between Rey and her master…but Luke confirms it all as true.  Rey storms off to try and convince Kylo to come back to the light side of the Force (you know, the side of the Force that considered murdering him as a kid?).

+ Rey surrenders herself to the First Order and gets brought before Snoke.  Each of the major players has their own gambit going and the scene in the throne room is an exciting car-crash of them all colliding into each other.  Snoke thinks he’s going to complete Kylo’s training by having him extinguish his light side equal.  Rey thinks she can redeem Ben (somehow) and they can take down Snoke.  It’s Kylo Ren who mostly wins out by killing his master and assuming the role of Supreme Leader.  Rey rejects joining him because this sequence can only be so awesome!

– The problem with Snoke getting killed, though, is that the film doesn’t tell us who he is other than “Kylo’s Sith teacher.”  We don’t know how he rebuilt the First Order to challenge the Republic.  We don’t know how he got a hold of young Ben Solo and turned him to the Dark Side of the Force.  He’s just a plot device who looks like Goldmember in that bathrobe.  That’s the main criticism of the film:  Nothing has any meaning or substance, it’s all plot devices to excuse what’s happening.

+ Let’s skip the majority of the film’s climax (the battle on the abandoned Rebel planet), since it’s all a plot device to show how desperate the Resistance’s situation is.  Instead, let’s focus on what matters:  Luke projecting himself as a Force hologram to duel Kylo Ren while the Resistance escapes on the Millennium Falcon.  It’s a pretty awesome sequence…

– Although I’m not sure why Luke becomes “one with the Force” at the end.  Why he would use a Force technique that would kill him?  He even tells Kylo, “I’ll see you around, kid.”

+ But I don’t think Luke’s really dead.  He just became “one with the Force” and I feel like he could reappear if Disney wants him to.  In fact, they’ll probably have to because Carrie Fisher’s death probably screwed up plans for Episode IX.

– Speaking of Episode IX, The Last Jedi does a pretty terrible job at hyping people to see it.  The Resistance is all but over (forget Leia’s words, if your entire band can fit on the Millennium Falcon, it’s over) and all the character arcs have been fulfilled.  Kylo Ren is Supreme Leader without any self-doubt.  Rey’s embraced she is no one.  Finn’s fully on-board with the Resistance.  Poe Dameron could become less of a brash pilot but he’s not as interesting as the other three.

With a pretty even number of positives and negatives listed, it’s easy to see why The Last Jedi is so polarizing.  There’s a lot to like and a lot to hate.  It’s a better film than The Force Awakens but only because it didn’t try to do The Empire Strikes Back beat-for-beat.  But it doesn’t really matter what people think of The Last Jedi.  Rian Johnson is handling the new trilogy whether people like it or not and people will go see them because the Star Wars brand is all that matters.

Lose 6, Pick 6: 2017-2018 NFL Predictions

Compared to other pro sports, the NFL has a surprising amount of parity. Unlike the NBA or baseball, where the team with the most talent/money generally wins, the NFL can pride itself on “any given Sunday.” This doesn’t guarantee a team that was one of the worst in the league last year can suddenly contend for the Super Bowl, it’s certainly more plausible. Especially when people realize that, as a rule, half the teams that were in the playoffs last year end up not making it the following year.

Take a look at this short list compiled since the lockout, where teams that had made the playoffs the year prior didn’t make it that year (so, for example, the Steelers made the playoffs in 2011 but not 2012).

2011:  Bears, Chiefs, Colts, Eagles, Jets, Seahawks
2012:  Giants*, Lions, Saints, Steelers
2013:  Falcons, Ravens*, Redskins, Texans, Vikings
2014:  49ers, Chiefs, Chargers, Eagles, Saints
2015:  Colts, Cowboys, Lions, Ravens
2016:  Bengals, Broncos*, Cardinals, Panthers*, Redskins, Vikings

* Denotes a team was in the Super Bowl the previous year.

It’s something to keep in mind when looking at power rankings or whatever horse shit people are using to drive clicks to their site.

So, let’s play a game: Take six teams that made the playoffs the year before and replace them with six teams that did not. Obviously, when playing, keep in mind divisions and conferences.


Who’s Out?

Kansas City Chiefs:  Admittedly, it’s not easy to find six teams to remove from playoff contention this year, especially in the AFC. Andy Reid’s a helluva coach and has assembled a great staff. This can be accurately stated because they’ve made the playoffs three times in the past four years…despite the fact they have almost no vertical passing game. One would think that defensive coordinators would figure this out and shut down his one-dimensional offense but it hasn’t happened (yet).

However, if we’re picking six teams, the Chiefs are going to make the cut. For all his coaching ability, Andy Reid absolutely sucks at clock management. The Chiefs also have a tough schedule with games against teams that either made the playoffs last year and/or on the cusp of entering this year (Patriots, Eagles, Texans, Steelers, Cowboys, Giants and the Dolphins).

And that’s not including the division they play in. The Broncos and Chargers took them into overtime, with the Chiefs’ victories against them coming later in the season when both teams were out of playoff contention. While they swept the Raiders and have dominated the series (Andy Reid’s Chiefs have only lost 1 game to the Raiders), there’s nothing stopping the pendulum from swinging the other way.

Miami Dolphins:  Every year has a “fluke” team that makes the playoffs, a team that didn’t really impress before and doesn’t the year after. Such teams include the Eagles (2013), Lions (2011, 2014), Redskins (2012, 2015) and the Vikings (2012). Last year’s “fluke” was the Dolphins.

Unlike the Chiefs, the Dolphins are an easy pick for this list. The Dolphins piled up victories against mostly crap teams (49ers, Rams) or snake-bitten ones (Browns, Chargers). They also play in a fairly easy division, with games against the Jets and Bills. However, they also have to play the Patriots twice (and went 0-2 against them last year). The Dolphins also lost games to teams that were in contention in 2015 and/or 2016 (Bengals and Seahawks). In fact, their only legit victory was against the Steelers, who underestimated them (the Dolphins were 1-4 heading into that contest).

This year, the Dolphins have to play against the Titans (who they lost to last year), the Ravens (who they also lost to last year…), the AFC West and the NFC South. Jay Cutler is an upgrade over Ryan Tannehill in terms of talent but he’s also only made the playoffs once in his entire career (2010 with the Bears).

Who’s In?

+ Los Angeles Chargers: The problem with this game is that the AFC is a weak conference. There are two elite teams (Patriots, Steelers), one on the cusp of joining the elite (Raiders), teams that are very good but need a quarterback (Chiefs, Texans)…and those teams are on a whole other level from everyone else. Aside from the Bills, Browns and the Jets, the AFC is full of middling teams that have potential but something is holding them back.

Since Kansas City is being ruled out this year, the Chargers have the best shot to replace them. While the Chargers have talent on both sides of the ball (notably Philip Rivers and Joey Bosa), I’m going to put my tinfoil hat on and figure the NFL wants a return on its Los Angeles investment. They’re more likely to see that return with Philip Rivers and the Chargers than the Rams.

The problem with the Chargers is that they are the most unlucky team in the NFL, whether its accumulating injuries or finding creative ways to lose games (4 of their losses had deciding scores within the final two minutes of a game or overtime). Of course, a new coaching staff can fix all that. The Chargers aren’t a pick to be made with confidence but their chances are better than the other teams in the AFC (see the honorable mentions below).

+ Tennessee Titans:  With Andrew Luck dinged up and Joe Flacco’s contract eating up the Ravens’ talent, the Titans make the cut as an AFC playoff team to add. Tennessee has a lot of good pieces in place: stellar offensive line, a potent ground game, star QB and a terrific pass rush. This is a team that kicked the shit out of Green Bay last year and beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead (in December!). The Titans also get some cupcake teams to beat up on (49ers, Browns, Rams) in addition to the weak division they play in.

That said, if the AFC wasn’t so devoid of talent, I’d be a lot more pessimistic about the Titans. Their coach sucks (Mike Mularkey has two winning seasons but is 9-32 otherwise) and Marcus Mariota has been injured each season he’s played. The NFL’s a QB-driven league and the Titans are toast without Mariota.

Honorable Mentions:  The Bills were a possible entrant before they traded Sammy Watkins. The Bengals could sneak in but I think Hue Jackson was the key to that offense’s success. I like Doug Marrone in Jacksonville (he coached the Bills to a winning record a few years ago, only the second time that’s been accomplished since 1999) but Blake Bortles is going to hold that team back. The Colts are a soft team that will fold without Andrew Luck for any period of time…and there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% when he returns. The Ravens are in a similar situation with Joe Flacco, whose massive contract has really depleted that team of talent.

The Steelers were considered as a team to take out of the playoffs for two reasons. (1) Ben Roethlisberger was considering retirement this past off-season, so it’s fair to question whether his heart’s still in the game. (2) For an elite team, the Steelers have a nasty habit of playing down to competition (they lost two games to rookie QBs last year and allowed the 1-4 Dolphins to beat them). However, the Steelers play in such a weak division and their schedule is pretty easy (they play the AFC South and the NFC North) so it’s difficult to see them missing out.

The AFC Playoff teams:  Patriots, Steelers, Raiders, Titans, Chargers, Texans


Who’s Out?

Dallas Cowboys:  Jason Garrett reminds me of Art Shell: A coach who was once a player during the franchise’s glory days who oversees a talented team that underachieves or comes up short. This might be an odd thing to say considering how much Dallas overachieved last year (I was pro-Dak over Tony Romo but didn’t think they’d win 13 games with him) but the fact remains: Green Bay was able to march down the field in 30 seconds to kick the game-deciding field goal and knock the Cowboys out of the post-season. At the very least, a talented team takes that game to overtime.

Another reason to be down on Dallas is that quite a few of their players are either suspended for a few games (Ezekial Elliot, David Irving, Randy Gregory) or injury-prone (Dez Bryant). While Dak Prescott is talented, defensive coordinators now have a whole year of game film on him to study. If anyone’s a candidate for a sophomore slump, it’s Dak. Also, the Cowboys had fits against the Giants last year and with the Eagles on the rise, Dallas won’t have an easy walk to the division crown.

Atlanta Falcons:  Since the lockout, there have been three times a team that was in the Super Bowl has failed to make the playoffs. Last year was crazy enough to have both teams miss it! If we’re picking a team from the Super Bowl to miss the playoffs this year, the Falcons are a better choice than the Patriots.

It’s incredibly hard for a team that lost the biggest game of the year to muster up the strength to make another run, especially when that team blew a 28-3 lead. Out of the following teams (87 Broncos, 88 Bengals, 89 Broncos, 93 Bills, 98 Falcons, 00 Giants, 01 Rams, 02 Raiders, 03 Panthers, 04 Eagles, 07 Patriots, 16 Panthers) that made the Super Bowl but missed the playoffs the next year, the Falcons share similarities with 4 of them: The 87 Broncos lost a 10-0 lead to the Redskins, the 88 Bengals lost to Joe Montana’s game-winning drive, the 04 Eagles couldn’t manage the game clock (as well as Donovan McNabb throwing up on the sidelines, depending on who you ask) and the 07 Patriots lost to David Tyree’s ridiculous catch. Like the Falcons, all of them blew leads or lost in a soul-crushing fashion.  Unsurprisingly, they all missed the playoffs the next year.

Also, Matt Ryan has talent but is overrated. He doesn’t strike fear into defenses like Drew Brees, Tom Brady or even Cam Newton would. A lot of his success last year can be attributed to Kyle Shanahan, who has gone to coach the 49ers. His replacement is Steve Sarkisian, who was last seen at USC (where he was fired for drinking on the job) and being Alabama’s offensive coordinator in the title game against Clemson (which they lost).

The Falcons certainly have the personnel to make another post-season run but it seems more likely they are dethroned in the competitive NFC South. Since the division’s inception in 2002, only twice times has a team repeated as division champion (Panthers from 2014-2015). If we include repeat post-season appearances, only 6 times has that happened (10 Saints, 11 Saints, 11 Falcons, 12 Falcons, 14 Panthers, 15 Panthers).

New York Giants:  The Giants have a good defense but their offense is lacking. They ranked 25th last year in total yardage and 26th in total points scored. Eli Manning may have done his job with 4,000+ yards and 26 touchdowns…but he also threw 16 interceptions (his most since 2013) and maintained a 6.7 yards per average attempt (his worst since 2008). Viewers watched Peyton Manning fall off in his last year with the Broncos, so the defense had to carry his dead weight to a title. The Giants will have to hope for the same thing.

Such a hope will be faint, for the Giants have a tough opening slate. Before their bye week, the Giants face the following teams: @ Cowboys, Lions, @ Eagles, @ Buccaneers, Chargers, @ Broncos, Seahawks. They get to beat up on the Rams and 49ers after that but the Giants could be in too deep of a hole by that point.

Some people might think Brandon Marshall would bolster the Giants’ chances of making the playoffs. Some people would be wrong. The Giants already have one headcase receiver so adding one who is also a locker room cancer despite never being on a team that’s made the post-season is mind-boggling. One of the reasons the Giants were able to win Super Bowls is because they were able to marginalize headaches like Tiki Barber or Jeremy Shockey. Why they’re casting that mindset away now makes no sense.

Detroit Lions:  There are two reasons to be down on the Lions this year: Jim Caldwell and the team’s terrible luck. Caldwell has taken the Lions to the playoffs twice in his three years there but he was also the coach when the Colts folded under Peyton Manning. This ties in with the team’s terrible luck, as the Lions were 9-4 before injuries to talented players (QB Matthew Stafford, center Travis Swanson, running back Theo Riddick) derailed them. The overall point is that Jim Caldwell can do just fine when his talent is healthy but does a poor job at coaching up new talent (which is kinda the point of coaching).

Who’s In?

+ Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  There’s a trend in the NFL of talented young quarterbacks who were drafted by a team picking in the top 5 taking their team to the post-season in their third year. Matthew Stafford (1st overall pick in 2009) helped the Lions in 2011, Cam Newton (1st overall pick in 2011) took the Panthers there in 2013 and Derek Carr (2nd round pick but the Raiders were drafting in the top 5 in 2014) accomplished this feat last year. While this trend only seems to kick in every few years, Jameis Winston has a good chance of helping the Buccaneers be the exception to the rule.

There’s other reasons to like the Buccaneers. DeSean Jackson’s speed will give defensive coordinators headaches, as it willopen up things for Doug Martin (and Winston, if need be). It’ll also take away attention from Mike Evans, who is a little underrated compared to other stud NFL receivers (Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, A.J. Green). Jackson’s not the only Redskins player the Buccaneers acquired in free agency. Chris Baker will be lining up beside Gerald McCoy, which gives Tampa the best 1-2 punch at defensive tackle in the league.

+ Arizona Cardinals:  An argument could be made for the Cardinals to be an overrated team. Carson Palmer is another year older (38), their offensive line is pretty subpar and their defense lost some key personnel (Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson). Good thing their divisional opponents are fairly weak and they get to beat up on the AFC South!

The main reason Arizona is a contender is Bruce Arians. Arians did a helluva job filling in for Chuck Pagano in Andrew Luck’s rookie year before taking the Cardinals to double-digit winning seasons for three consecutive years. With that kind of track record, it’s reasonable to rule last year as a mulligan. Carson Palmer has also looked really good this pre-season (last year he looked old and decrepit), so the offense will have some potency.

+ Philadelphia Eagles:  A lot of the attention last year focused on Dak Prescott and deservedly so. But there was another NFC East rookie quarterback who performed well and that was Carson Wentz. This is a team that destroyed the Steelers in week 3 last year. They were also 5-1 when Lane Johnson, their best offensive lineman, was in the lineup. In fact, his suspension can be attributed to why the Eagles finished 7-9 as they only won 2 games without him.

With the Cowboys and Giants forecasted to take a step back, the Eagles have the best chance to step up. Their only weakness on offense is at running back (which could be fixed with LeGarrette Blount’s signing). They have some key pieces on defense (Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, Timmy Jernigan) and just like Jim Johnson, Jim Schwartz will get the most out of his personnel. Besides, it’s not like Philadelphia has a history of a rookie QB having a losing season his first year and taking the team to the post-season the following year…

+ Carolina Panthers:  Like the Cardinals, the Panthers had been mainstays in the post-season before not making the cut last year. Like the Cardinals, they have a good chance of returning. Carolina’s problem last year was that they had relied on an injured Cam Newton to carry their offense (who has had no one aside from Greg Olson to work with) and their defense lost Josh Norman.

Well, both of those issues had been fixed. Numerous pieces have been added to give Newton support. As for the defense, it’s unreasonable to guess they’ll return to the level of performance they had with Josh Norman locking down one side of a field. However, Ron Rivera is a good defensive coach and a year should be sufficient to coach up some new talent.

Also, the Panthers were in the Super Bowl just two years ago. If we revisit that list of teams that were in the Super Bowl but missed the playoffs the year after (87 Broncos, 88 Bengals, 89 Broncos, 93 Bills, 98 Falcons, 00 Giants, 01 Rams, 02 Raiders, 03 Panthers, 04 Eagles, 07 Patriots), all but two of those teams rebounded. To elaborate, the 1987 Broncos missed out on the playoffs in 1988 but rebounded to make the Super Bowl in 1989. The 1988 Bengals returned to the post-season in 1990, as did the 1989 Broncos in 1991 and so on and so forth. Carolina strikes me as a team that will rebound. For the curious, only the Falcons (who bottomed out and eventually landed Michael Vick) and the Raiders (who went through a decade plus of futility) are the exceptions to this rule.

Honorable Mentions:  The Saints would be an option if Dennis Allen wasn’t their defensive coordinator (the Saints have been ranked dead last and next to dead last in allowing points the past two years). The Vikings have potential but Sam Bradford’s inability to throw deep will cost that team. The Redskins also have a brutal schedule and have too much dysfunction (drunk GM, Kirk Cousins contract drama, Cousins losing two of his top receivers via free agency and not being on the same page as Terrelle Pryor) surrounding them.

The NFC playoff teams:  Packers, Eagles, Panthers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Cardinals

Luke Cage

Marvel’s Netflix division is still going strong with Luke Cage.  While it’s an excellent TV series, there is one pet peeve:  While its plot references fellow series Jessica Jones, Luke Cage doesn’t keep the main thing that should carry over.  Jessica Jones‘ penultimate episode and finale established that Luke Cage, despite his toughness and strength, is vulnerable to concussive force.  That doesn’t carry over into Luke Cage and there’s at least two instances where the lead should be dead.

It should go without saying there will be spoilers for the first seasons of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Towards the end of Jessica Jones, Jessica and Luke (who’s mind-controlled by Kilgrave) fight and Luke ends up taking a shotgun blast under his chin.  Now the bullets themselves don’t kill him since they can’t puncture the skin.  However, the concussive force of having shotgun pellets impact his face can knock the brain loose from the cranial spinal fluid it’s floating around in.  This can have all sorts of effects, from inducing dizziness and headaches to altering a personality (if they survive).  Further reading on the effects of internal injuries induced by blast trauma can be read at National Geographic.

At the end of Luke Cage‘s third episode, Luke is in a building with his landlady and is subjected to a blast from a rocket launcher when he uses his body to shield her.  The resulting explosion brings down the building on top of him.  Regardless of his super durability, Luke should have died from the resulting internal injuries either from the blast going off next to him or the building coming down on him.

What if he hand-wave all that way and chalk up the discrepancy to Jessica Jones‘ writers not coordinating with Luke Cage‘s?  Maybe someone wrote Luke to be tougher than it really was?  This is a pretty plausible explanation, especially with a corporate umbrella as expansive as Disney’s.  Even if we buy into that explanation, though, someone didn’t do the research on what happens when a rocket explodes next to you.

Obviously, the fire from the explosion wouldn’t have incinerated his skin but it could still affect him internally.  Luke would have died from the fire eating up all the oxygen in his vicinity, resulting in either a collapsed lung or the fire scorching his respiratory system.  A collapsed lung would have resulted from the air pressure rapidly changing due to the force of the blast.  The rapidity of this change flattens the lung and makes it impossible to breathe.  Luke and his landlady would have then suffocated to death.  If the lung doesn’t collapse, then the explosion’s heat and chemicals used to create would have scorched the airways of the victims.  With the airways set ablaze and respiratory system torched, both of them would have asphyxiated.

I’m no Doctor or even WebMD but TV Tropes pointed this out too.  This is also only the first instance Luke should be dead.

The other instance occurs shortly after mid-season when Luke is shot twice by bullets that can pierce his bulletproof skin.  Let’s put aside “there are safe places to shoot someone” trope and marvel at the fact that Luke Cage is able to move around, defend himself, fight (not at his best but still…) and not bleed out on a 12 hour drive to Georgia from Harlem.  Let’s also marvel at how Luke and Claire can travel across multiple states through multiple congested metros (Philadelphia, Washington D.C….) notorious for how congested they are traffic-wise without stopping for 12 hours.  It’s almost as if a writer ran directions through Google maps and rolled with it…

This piece detracts from an otherwise brilliant show.  Luke Cage has kickass music, a unique yet suitable tone and presentation as well as some great moments and themes that it explores.  Thinking the main lead should be dead after 3 episodes really hung over the series though.  It keeps the show from eclipsing Daredevil as the best Netflix show.



Viewers Will Complain Yet Continue to Watch

This was published two months ago but it’s worth revisiting its central thesis:  That people will complain about a show yet continue to watch.  In this case, the show in question in Game of Thrones.  With the current sixth season of the show only a few episodes away from ending, let’s see if season 5 was enough to turn viewers off from the show.

Before we start comparing seasons, though, we should look at what data we’re dealing with:  the TV ratings for each episode and the seasons as a whole.

Season 1:  2.22 (premiere), 2.20 (lowest rated), 2.44, 2.45, 2.58, 2.44, 2.40, 2.72, 2.66, 3.04 (finale)

Season 2:  3.86 (premiere), 3.76, 3.77, 3.65, 3.90, 3.88, 3.69, 3.86, 3.38 (lowest rated), 4.20 (finale)

Season 3:  4.37, (premiere) 4.27 (lowest rated), 4.72, 4.87, 5.35, 5.50 (highest rated), 4.84, 5.13, 5.22, 5.39 (finale)

Season 4:  6.64 (premiere), 6.31 (lowest rated), 6.59, 6.95, 7.16, 6.40, 7.20 (highest rated), 7.17, 6.95, 7.09 (finale)

Season 5:  8.00 (premiere), 6.81, 6.71, 6.82, 6.56, 6.24, 5.40 (lowest rated), 7.01, 7.14, 8.11 (finale)

Season 6:  7.94 (premiere), 7.29, 7.28, 7.82, 7.89, 6.71 (lowest rated), 7.80 (with 3 episodes yet to air)

We can see a few trend lines right away:  Viewership tends to have increased from the first episode to the finale.  Viewership also grows exponentially by the time of the next season (the jump to season 3 from season 2 only nets a .17 whereas the others are all above .82).  While the premiere and finale episodes have higher ratings, viewers don’t really depart in mass droves throughout the season.  Season 1’s audience is fairly consistent (the first two episodes are the ones with the lowest ratings) and the other good seasons never drop by more than half a million (0.5).

Season 5 has some of the highest ratings yet but viewership does crash throughout.  Despite never having ratings drop by more than half a point at any time throughout the first four seasons, season 5’s 2nd episode falls off by almost 1.20 points!  The 5.40 rating for season 5’s episode 7 is the lowest the show did since season 3!  While the finale continued the trend of having a higher rating than the premiere, it was the lowest increase in the history of the show.  To top this argument off, season 6’s premiere was the first in show history to actually lose viewers from a previous season!

So the logic that “people will complain yet continue to watch” is complete bunk.  If a show’s as terrible as season 5 Game of Thrones, viewers won’t even stick around to complain…they’ll just stop watching entirely.

Now, Maisie’s right in that people have continued to watch the show.  Aside from the premiere, Season 6’s ratings are a pretty considerable jump over season 5’s.  With three episodes left to air, it’s quite possible the show could jump back into the 8’s.  However, based on the above data, the show should already be performing in the 8’s and possibly the 9’s.

Look at the average in ratings for each season:  Season 1 (2.52), Season 2 (3.80), Season 3 (4.97), Season 4 (6.85), Season 5 (6.88), Season 6 (7.49).  Ratings jump substantially until season 5, which grinds everything to a halt.  Hell, season 5’s average is thrown out of proportion by the premiere and finale episodes.  Take those out and season 5 averages 6.59, a lower number than season 4’s (6.84) if the same standard is applied.

So, it doesn’t look like season 5 was awful enough to keep people away from the show.  It was terrible enough to severely cut into the show’s growth and quite a chunk of the audience did quit watching for a substantial period of time.  As for why people are still watching, there’s a myriad of reasons:  The plot’s actually moving, curiosity from book readers to see where plots could be headed, etc.  I only keep up through the Internet to see what all is going to happen but watching it via HBO is a step too far.  In essence, I’m complaining about a show I used to watch but don’t anymore.

The Future of Console Gaming

I used to have this magazine that was a holiday 2000 video game guide.  It detailed what sorts of games were worth getting, for what consoles and even speculated about the future.  This was around the time the PS2 launched in America and the Xbox and GameCube were only a year away.  SegaNet was also a thing, so there was an expansive piece on the future of online gaming and what it would mean.  I wish I still had the magazine itself but I remember it being very much a fluff-piece.  In essence, it argued “the future will be great!”  It’s interesting to think back on that magazine in a similar way that people get a kick out of seeing what the future would look like according to someone in the 1950’s.

It’s an article I thought back on when reading about the new Xbox console upgrade.  “In March, Xbox boss Phil Spencer dropped some hints about this new approach, telling journalists that he’d like to see consoles take a PC-like evolution.”  Well, hell, consoles have been on that trajectory since 2000 (at the very least)!  At this point, there’s no discernible difference between a console and a PC that’s relevant.  Some will argue hardware technicalities but as someone who values more important aspects like plot and functionality, arguing how graphically powerful a device is will fall on deaf ears here.

The first step towards console-PC integration was the inclusion of an internal hard drive with the original Xbox.  The magazine touted this up as a great feature that would “reduce load times” and be a substantial improvement over memory cards/cartridges.  That prediction was true for a time.  There was more than enough hard drive space for games on the original Xbox and the first half of the Xbox 360’s life span.  Then the attitude changed where players had to directly install games on to the drive to avoid issues (of the stability or loading variety) with games.  The Xbox One and PS4 now mandate it as a prerequisite to playing.

Games have also ballooned in size too.  It was pretty notable when an installed game on the 360 took up a few gigabytes.  Now games on the Xbone take up at least 20 and it’s not surprising to see them surpass 40.  20-40 GB games eventually add up on a game console, even if someone’s not using it as a multimedia device for Netflix or whatever else.  Factor in the paltry hard drive space of 500 GB and it’s a complete mess!  Compare that number to the store-bought computer I have that’s 6 years old, which has 700 GBs on it!  I suppose it’s just a marketing gimmick to sell external hard drives…

The real damning bit is online connectivity.  The magazine thought online gaming would be great:  “Keep playing your favorite games as developers can update them after release via the Internet!”  “Play with random strangers across the globe!”  It didn’t mention overpriced DLC.  There’s no mention of developers releasing unfinished games and then patching them later, if at all (or, if they’re really cruel, pricing them behind a paywall).  There’s no consideration that online gaming would be a factor in the death of split-screen multiplayer.

But enough sounding like a grognard, the damage “a PC-like evolution” has really done to consoles is rob them of what made them unique.  Before this generation, it was possible to buy a console and have a reliable piece of hardware that would last 6 years minimum.  If I ever wanted to scratch an itch for a certain game, all that needed to be done was take care of the console and it would still work.  Compare this to the nightmare of playing older games on a PC, where a change in the operating system can cause more than enough headaches.

That wasn’t enough of a selling point for consoles, though.  Now, companies need to “update” their hardware so they can keep up with the latest technology.  Shit like this is why it was difficult to get into PC gaming:  Every time a new and interesting PC game was out, something like a graphics card had to be updated so the game could be played.  And Sony and Microsoft want to bring that hassle into the console market?  More power to them but I’m going to go find a new hobby to pour time into.


Saw this headline, read the ensuing article and found it to be a bit hilarious.  Not because a show’s fandom has turned against it to the point they’re hyping up another show but because of the article’s last sentence:  “If even these die-hard Arrow fans who made it through 4 seasons of camp can’t continue, it probably isn’t looking good for the show’s prospects.”  Now there’s no point in arguing Arrow season 4 is any good because it isn’t (the penultimate episode of the season got the lowest rating in the show’s history) but we can take issue with a pessimistic take on the show’s future.  We can also argue whether Arrow’s camp or not (it isn’t).

“It probably isn’t looking good for the show’s prospects.”  Well, Arrow just got renewed for a 5th season.  Obviously, The CW isn’t going to hold shows to the same standards as FOX or CBS would…but a renewal (especially after 5 seasons) is pretty good for what a network thinks about a show’s prospects.  Having a full season order to turn possibly turn things around is a lot more than the majority of TV shows get.

The above paragraph is only taking issue with half the quote, the other half labeling Arrow as “camp.”  Considering that using the word “camp” to describe a superhero TV show brings to mind the 1960’s Batman series, it’s absolutely hilarious to imply Arrow‘s in the same league.  In fact, the majority of complaints about the show are that it’s “too dark/serious/brooding, especially when compared to more ‘fun’ shows like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow.”  It’s actually quite nice that Arrow stands out in that regard and gives people who prefer grittier, street-level heroes a watchable option.

So, if Arrow‘s not campy and the show’s prospects look good, what the hell went wrong the past two seasons?  Well, look at the correlation.  Most people enjoyed the pilot but the show didn’t really take off until The Odyssey episode, where Slade and Oliver develop an unlikely friendship in the flashback.  Sara Lance and her mother’s search for her also becomes a plot point around this time and Sara eventually appears.  From that episode on until the end of season 2 is considered the pinnacle of the show.

Season 2 bears some more mentioning because of how fucking awesome it is!  Slade basically gets injected with a drug that gives him superpowers (strength and accelerated healing) as well as making him crazy.  Events on the island cause Slade to lose his grip on reality and his friendship with Oliver disintegrates.  Things go south on the island, to the point where Oliver has to kill Slade…except he didn’t.  Slade survived and now wants revenge on Oliver, planning to achieve this by murdering everyone he lives (the entirety of Star City).  Sara reappears and some plot is devoted to figuring out how she’ll go about rekindling her relationships with various loved one while being pursued by the League of Assassins.  There’s also various other excellent subplots (Oliver training a sidekick, what happens when a rich idiot doesn’t do his day job, to name two).

Season 2 ends with the Slade plot being resolved and the third season opens with Sara being killed by a mystery assailant.  In two episodes, the show had neutralized one of its best villains and killed off one of its strongest characters.  This results in two of the show’s best actors (Manu Bennett and Caity Lotz) no longer being on the show.  There’s an episode of season 3 that encapsulates the decline; the episode where Slade escapes from his prison on the island and Oliver has to team with/protect his sister.  Now, Slade as a villain had a season and a half’s worth of focus so he’d be worthy of a multi-episode arc, right?  Wouldn’t it have been awesome to see how Ra’s al-Guhl figures Slade into his plans to make Oliver his successor (or how Slade would interact with the League)?  Instead, the issue’s resolved at the end of a single episode.

As for Caity Lotz’s Sara, she’s eventually revived via the Lazarus Pit so she can have a lead role on Legends of Tomorrow.  Unlike Slade, she at least gets some focus.  She’ll be missed on Arrow full-time, however, because of the talent and intensity she brought to the show (watch her fight scenes and compare them to anyone else’s).

Arrow has a future and it could be a good one.  Bringing back Slade or Sara would be a cheap fix but a better way would be to look at that stretch of episodes from The Odyssey to the season 2 finale; all the while taking notes on what worked.  Strong characters, drama between them, a competent villain, more science and street-level heroics than magic nonsense…these are the elements that made Arrow a great show.  Re-implementing them will give the show an excellent shot at returning to its season 2 form.

Hold the Inconsistencies

An HBO affiliate ended up releasing “The Door” episode of Game of Thrones a day early. The spoilers for that episode and the feedback for it was so wut-tastic that I had to lift the moratorium on watching the show to see the craziness for myself. The episode did not disappoint. It also looks like the source for this insanity is the laziness of the show-runners, as evident from all the narrative inconsistencies.

Without George R.R. Martin’s framework to keep the show in check, Game of Thrones has careened into a nonsensical mess. Just look at how Sansas interacts with Littlefinger, Jon and Brienne. She correctly tells off Littlefinger for “saving her from the people who murdered her family so he could give her to the other people who murdered her family.” Then she takes his word that the Blackfish has retaken Riverrun seriously enough that she sends Brienne away from Castle Black. Oh and she trusts Jon Snow enough to use him as a symbol to rally the Northern houses but not enough to tell him about Littlefinger’s visit?

The nonsense isn’t limited to the North either. The summit on Pyke to determine who will become the new King of the Iron Islands ends with Euron Greyjoy being chosen over Yara. They justify this by saying “Yara’s a woman and thus can’t rule” but it doesn’t Euron, who even admits to murdering the previous King (who is his own brother). Remember when Jamie Lannister’s reputation as the “King-slayer” was a major plot point and was used to develop his character? Or when the death of a character leading a house destabilized it?

These are but mere nitpicks compared to this visual…


So, Yara, can steal the entire Ironborn fleet to the point Euron’s first act as King is to order people to deforest the Iron Islands to “build 1,000 ships”….but she can’t win enough votes to become Queen? Maybe the writers should have played The Witcher 3, which shows how this type of plot should be done!

Of course, any review of this episode wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Bran. Bran in season 1 ignores an elder (his mother) to do something he’s not supposed to (climb a tower), the consequences of which results in him being paralyzed, the near-extinction of his entire family and the deaths of thousands (if not, millions) of people. So it makes total sense that he would ignore the wishes of an elder (Bloodraven) to do something he’s not supposed to (use his seer powers unsupervised); the consequences of which results in him being branded by the Night King, which allows the King to find where Bran’s located. The ensuing raid results in a near total party kill of Bran’s traveling company as well as the deaths of Bran’s mentor and the Children of the Forest.

Oh and the scene where Bran’s marked and Bloodraven has a sense of urgency of getting Bran to safety? The next scene shows them leisurely watching a past vision that doesn’t really relate to the story. Nothing says “immediate danger” like taking the time to casually view past events!

The real admission that Game of Thrones has gotten lazy and nonsensical is through an indirect admission by the writers themselves. From Slate: “When we first started working on the show, we did not want to do flashbacks because oftentimes it seems like a hallmark of lazy storytelling.” It’s no coincidence that season 5 (universally considered the worst season) began with a flashback and they’ve only become more frequent since.

Some book readers will cling to the hope that George R. R. Martin will handle these scenes better. Well, keep the following in mind when Brandon Sanderson eventually finishes the books: “[The Hodor twist came] from one of our conversations with [author George R.R. Martin]. This is one of his ideas that he told us in Santa Fe. We thought it was f–king fantastic.”

The Daredevil Dilemma

One of the main themes throughout Daredevil season 2 is the question of what vigilante superheroes should do with criminals once they’re apprehended.  There’s the approach taken by the title character:  Work within the law as much as possible and trust the system to reform the individual.  Contrasting this is Frank Castle’s idea that criminals are irredeemable and the legal system doesn’t go far enough to punish them.  While it’s appreciated that the writers don’t take sides and leave the viewer to decide who’s right or wrong, Daredevil’s argument is completely undercut by the narrative and its failure to properly reinforce his ideals.

The theme of trusting the law is apparent throughout all of season 2 but it’s best encapsulated in the third episode.  Daredevil is chained on top of a roof by Frank Castle (aka The Punisher) and the episode revolves around the two of them debating their approaches.  The relevant exchange is posted below with Daredevil’s words in red.

“I’m not a bad guy, Red.”
“You wanna explain that to the orphans and the widows of the men you killed?”
“For Christ’s sake, that’s what you think?  I’m just some crazy asshole going around unloading on whoever I want to?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I think.”
“That it?”
“You think you’re anything else?”
“I think that the people I kill need killing, that’s what I think.”
“You left men hanging from meat hooks!”
“They got off easy, in my opinion.”
“You shot up a hospital.”
“Yeah and nobody got hurt who didn’t deserve it.”
“Oh, yeah.  What about you, Frank?  What happens the day someone decides you deserve it?”
“I tell you what, they better not miss.”
“Come on, you run around this city like it’s your damn shooting gallery.  You think you do–“
“Yeah, what do you do?  What do you do?  You act like it’s a playground.  You beat up the bullies with your fists.  You throw ’em in jail, everybody calls you a hero, right?  And then a month, a week, a day later, they’re back on the streets doing the same goddamn thing–”
“Yeah, so you just put ’em in the morgue.”
“You’re goddamn right, I do.”
“You ever doubt yourself, Frank?”
“Not even for a second.”
“Really?  Really?  You never think for one second, ‘Shit, I just killed a human being’?”
“That’s being pretty generous.”
“A human being who did a lot of stupid shit, maybe even evil, but had one small piece of goodness in him.  Maybe just a scrap, Frank, but something.  And then you come along and that one tiny flicker of light gets snuffed out forever.”
“I think you’re wrong.”
“Which part?”
“All of it.  I think there’s no good in the filth that I put down, that’s what I think.”
“And how do you know?”
“I just know.  Look around, Red.  This city, it stinks.  It’s a sewer.  It stinks and it smells like shit and I can’t get the stink out of my nose.  I think that this world, it needs men that are willing to make the hard call.  I think you and me are the same!”
“That’s bullshit, Frank, and you know it!”
“Only I do the one thing that you can’t.  You hit ’em and they get back up.  I hit ’em and they stay down.  It’s permanent.  I make sure that they don’t make it out on the street again.  I take pride in that.”
“Let me ask you this.”
“What’s that?”
“What about hope?”
“Oh, fuck.”
“Come on, Frank–“
“You wanna talk about Santa Claus?”
“I live in the real world too and I’ve seen it.”
“Yeah.  What have you seen?”
“Redemption, Frank.”
“Ah, Jesus Christ.”
“It’s real.  And it’s possible.  The people you murder deserve another chance.”
“What, to kill again?  Rape again?  Is that what you want?”
“No, Frank.  To try again, Frank.  To try.  And if you don’t get that, there’s something broken in you you can’t fix and you really are a nutjob.”

Clearly, Daredevil believes criminals can rehabilitate themselves or, at the very least, deserve the chance to do so.  Unfortunately, the narrative completely undercuts his entire argument.  He believes in the law despite admitting that it sometimes isn’t always enough to do what’s necessary, thus it’s acceptable to act outside of it.  His criticism of The Punisher’s actions and motives are understandable, they are also completely unsubstantiated.  Also, while Daredevil is convinced people should have a shot to redeem themselves, there’s no one in the story who actually does this.

It’s a bit hypocritical for Daredevil to be chastising The Punisher for operating outside the law when he has no qualms himself.  He even admits to his best friend, Foggy Nelson, that operating within the law has its limits.  His admission comes an episode after going to a warehouse with the intent to kill Wilson Fisk, to which Foggy responds, “It’s not enough playing judge and jury?  You gotta add executioner to the list?  What happened to all that talk about going after him through the system?  Making the law work for us?”  Daredevil’s reply:  “Sometimes the law isn’t enough.”  The Punisher’s absolutely right when he insists there’s no difference between the two of them other than methods.

Speaking of The Punisher’s methods, Daredevil’s critique of them is understandable but  also unsubstantiated.  Punisher’s right that nobody got hurt who didn’t deserve it when he “shot up” the hospital (i.e. nobody died and anyone thinking about the cop who got assaulted should remember most cops outside of Brett are corrupt and easily bought off by someone with power and influence).  Leaving criminals hanging by meat hooks is a valid criticism in Daredevil’s favor but can be countered by the bone-breaking interrogations he often commits.  Basically, if a vigilante is going to operate outside the law, what good does it do to half-ass it (other than to morally justify what they do)?

Daredevil believes in criminals having a chance to redeem themselves but so far, no one on the show has been able to successfully rehabilitate themselves.  Turk, for instance, is still a career criminal who (despite being monitored by the police) has gone from human trafficking to dealing in illegal weaponry.  Wilson Fisk is hellbent on becoming the Kingpin of crime in New York City again and seeking vengeance on the people who put him away.  The only person who can even be remotely argued to be “rehabbed” is Melvin, who was only threatened into making ballistic vests for Fisk.  In other words, if there was someone who had been engaged in serious criminal activity and then changed their ways, Daredevil’s argument that “people should have the chance to redeem themselves” would have some weight to it.  Instead, everyone on the show doubles down on being a criminal and Daredevil’s belief relies on a viewer’s preexisting beliefs to trust him.  A character who was once a criminal and turned away from it to the side of good would have been much more effective.

Ultimately, Foggy Nelson’s belief that it’s better to operate within the law has more merit than Daredevil’s approach.  However, if the drama of the show is going to revolve around how far vigilantism should go, than it’s no surprise The Punisher’s methods win out.  Daredevil’s argument lacks substance because he really is an ineffective half-measure.  Belief in people redeeming themselves is a nice sentiment but it’s not a practical one, seeing as how no one in the series has been able to turn away from their criminal nature.  Is it any surprise then that people empathize with The Punisher and support him over the archetypal superhero?

What If The Goblet of Fire Selected A Slytherin Champion?

There’s been a lot of chatter about “what if the Goblet of Fire had selected the Slytherin guy instead of Cedric Diggory?” and how it would have been super touching for a Slytherin to get killed by Lord Voldemort which would rally the Slytherins to join the others in opposing the Death Eaters…  Slytherin has always been designated the “evil” house and any attempt to add some complexity/depth to it is always welcome.  It would be preferable, however, if such an approach was built on something plausible.  Most seem to be presuming a “Cedric Diggory but Slytherin” stand-in is chosen but that’s not correct.  What would happen is that the Slytherin champion would be a complete asshole and his interactions would completely alter the dynamics of the novel, not necessarily for the better.

From what information is given in the books, the Slytherin guy who put his name in the Goblet of Fire is named Cassius Warrington. He is a recurring character in books 3-5 and is a total dickbag whose only character traits are that he’s big, looks like a sloth and that Dolores Umbridge thought highly enough to place him on the Inquisitorial Squad. Yes, Umbridge didn’t show up until the next year but we can look at who else was placed on that squad to get insight into his character. Other “inquisitors” include Filch, Draco Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy Parkinson (who openly spoke up about handing Harry over to Voldemort before the final battle in Deathly Hallows). If people are often judged by the company they keep, then Cassius Warrington is just another asshole in Slytherin.

The scenario also changes the whole relationship dynamic of two Hogwarts champions. Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter respected each other because they both valued fairness and not just in Goblet of Fire. When the Dementors cause Harry to lose the Hufflepuff/Gryffindor match in Prisoner of Azkaban, Cedric proposes replaying the match. Harry warns Cedric of the first task in Goblet and Cedric returns the favor later with the second task. If Cedric’s replaced with a Slytherin champ, all that goes out the window: Harry’s not going to warn some jerkass from the most hated house of the first task and a Dolores Umbridge-approved individual isn’t going to help Harry with the second task.

If that’s not enough of an argument, consider this:  In Order of the Phoenix, Graham Montague, another Slytherin on the Inquisitorial Squad, is pushed into the Vanishing Cabinet by Fred and George Weasley.  This is after Montague tries a dick-move power play. Montague only gets out because he Apparated but he almost dies in the process. He spends several weeks in the hospital, long enough for his parents to come visit. When Hermione proposes telling Madam Pomfrey what happened to Montague, Ron and Harry shoot her suggestion down.

In other words, the hatred between Gryffindor and Slytherin is so strong that our heroic protagonists were willing to let a Slytherin suffer from near-fatal injuries than do anything to expedite his treatment!  The Slytherin/Gryffindor hate even continues when Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters are outside Hogwarts near the end of the seventh book.  Voldemort asks only for Harry to be turned over to him.  Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin, is the only person who suggests taking the deal.  Slytherin walks in step with Voldemort to the extent their entire house leaves with Filch and the under-aged, rather than side with Harry and fight Voldemort.

Now, the only reason Cedric ended up in the graveyard at the end of Goblet is because he and Harry made a conscious decision to touch the Triwizard Cup at the same time. It’s already been established that a Gryffindor and a Slytherin aren’t going to have that kind of camaraderie, so the only way Cassius ends up in the graveyard is if Barty Crouch Jr. (who’s manipulating the events of the maze) allows it. The only reason he would allow that is if Cassius is complicit with the Voldemort resurrection plot or because of writer fiat.

Even if we allow for Cassius to end up in the graveyard for whatever bullshit reason, what’s to say Voldemort kills him like Cedric? By all accounts, Cedric was a pretty cool guy and not the type to take suggestions from an evil overlord. Voldemort had no use for him because he couldn’t see a use for him. A Slytherin, on the other hand, would be more susceptible to suggestions. Perhaps, as described above, Cassius is keen on Voldemort’s resurrection. In that case, he’s just another Death Eater at the graveyard. Maybe his survival instinct kicks in and he runs for the portkey, leaving Harry in the graveyard with no way out.

Finally, if we play along with the idea that Cassius gets murdered by Voldemort, there’s a few problems that crop up. (1) There’s no guarentee that Harry brings Cassius’ body back, if Cassius even asks such a thing. (2) The memorial feast for Cedric would be more like a memorial roast for Cassius, since the student body would remember him as a big Slytherin dickhead. Even the Slytherins would most likely discuss whether Cassius was “evil enough” or that he was “mudblood sympathizer” and that justified Lord Voldemort murdering him. (3) The Ministry of Magic did a really good job covering up Cedric’s death and ostracizing Harry and Dumbledore as conspiracy theorists. Substitute Cassius in for Cedric, add in Death Eater parents covering up the truth and there’s not (m)any Slytherin students who are going to be joining Dumbledore’s Army. (4) Any Slytherin student that did join up would be doing so out of self-preservation, not because they realize Lord Voldemort is a threat to the entire wizarding world (the conclusion the other houses correctly reach).

People have been wanting more complexity out of Slytherin since they’ve been shoe-horned (slug-horned?) into the “obviously evil” Hogwarts house. This fan theory is an attempt to address that but has no basis within the rules of Harry Potter. Much like everyone else who was sorted into the house, the Slytherin contestant is a total jerkwad. Because characters like Cedric Diggory either don’t exist or speak up in Slytherin, we can’t just sub in a “Cedric Diggory but Slytherin” replacement without changing the plot.  What would happen is that Cedric Diggory would be replaced by a complete asshole who’s another obstacle Harry has to overcome during the Triwizard Tournament.  Much of the narrative would have to be tortured to get a Slytherin champion to the graveyard and there’s no guarantee Voldemort would kill him.  Even if he did die, there’s no reason to think his death would galvanize Slytherin to take up arms against Voldemort considering Cedric’s couldn’t do that for the wizarding world after the Ministry of Magic suppressed the truth.