Sunday, July 3, 2011

The South Rises Again... As XBox Live DLC

Oh, dear... This will not end well.


As seen on KOTAKU, XBox Live Marketplace is now selling a collection of history-based doll clothes for Avatars. One of which, pictured, is a Confederate Civil War uniform.

It's only listed as a "Civil War Uniform," but it's worth noting that a Union alternative is not offered - by contrast, both British and U.S. outfits are availed for the Revolutionary War. I don't know that I've checked, but are Confederate Flags allowed as Avatar-wear? If not, why this and not that? And while I'm at it, can I also get a Soviet army uniform? North Korean? WWI or WWII Germany? If not... why not, if this is "okay?"

I imagine there's no way to avoid the usual tiresome back and forth that always comes up in regards to the Civil War: "It was about slavery!" "No, it was about States Rights!" "What rights were they angry about?" "Well, the right to have slaves - BUT IT'S THE PRINCIPAL!!" At this point, I've given up wondering just how many generations its going to take for (some of) the American South to accept that "honoring your ancestors" and "pretending that your ancestors' cause wasn't on the wrong side of both basic morality and history" are not the same thing... though I'm REALLY eager to see how enflamed it all gets when Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (which is purportedly about an escaped slave who turns gunslinger to liberate his wife from a white plantation owner in the pre-war South) comes out - that's gonna be a party.

Is it even worth asking why this was supposed to be appropriate/revelant for a 4th of July release thing? The Holiday commemorates the formation of the country the folks in this uniform were trying to get out of. The only thing symbolically important about 7/4 for the Confederacy was the withdrawal from Gettysburg... which was a devastating loss.

29 comments:

Mads said...

Well, there's probably more demand for the confederate uniform than any of the others you mentioned; So it's likely that microsoft are just being equal-opportunity capitalists.

But it's also not as recent as any of those other uniforms you mention.

At a certain point war memorabelia is so far distanced from that which it repressented during the war, that it may no longer retain its original meaning. This is one of those times.

I'm sure german uniforms from the first world war are a-ok; second world war ones, not so. Conquistador uniforms, again, perfectly ok. Samurai uniforms? perfectly fine. Japanese world war 2 uniforms? they might actually be ok since they don't hold much of their original meaning anymore.

But for whatever reason, the swastika has persisted as a symbol of oppression and genocide, and the same is the case with the hammer and cicle.

You know, I don't mind overthinking, but sometimes you grab at an idea, and you get ahold of some general notions, and you extrapolate...and then when you're done, it seems like the consequences of those extrapolations aren't brought to bear if it conflicts with the original idea.

Here, those extrapolations end up creating a false dichotomy: Either all uniforms should be ok, or none of the ones that repressented horrendous points of views should be ok. It completely ignores that the symbolism of the uniforms may change over time.

My qualm with that is, it seems like you should notice that dichotomy, and be able to deconstruct it, and find out it's wrong. It seems like you didn't do that, because you didn't care enough that what you said was right to really invest that work, so long as you got to talk about something you felt passionately about.

That's a problem. It makes you seem oppinionated. I want your oppinion when it's reasoned, when it's solid, and when it's backed up with consistent observations and thought...I don't really care for it when it's impassioned to the degree that these qualities take a back seat.

O.T said...

As snazzy as I think those confederate uniforms are, It really just seems in poor taste for the week of the day we celebrate our country's unification. Albeit, not as in poor taste as CoD on veterans day, but still, stupid timing.

@Mads
Popular culture has done a damn good job to ingrain the visual symbols into the minds of most americans. Not to mention how much we love reminding ourselves how we totally abolished slavery.

IMO, people tend to remember in-fighting better than foreign affairs. Its hard to avoid all the blood on your own land. Any American worth their salt knows who those uniforms belong too, and what they fought for.

review person said...

I am a very proud Richmond, Virginia native and all I will say is this. What I disprove of is demonizing every Confederate Soldier. Yes slavery was very wrong and it is a great thing it is gone in this country. But many soldiers did not fight to keep slavery but to protect their homes and families. That is the reason Gen. Lee decided to accept the Southern commission rather then the Union which he had served in for years. This point I wonder how long it will take for people to realize.

Varya said...

As a history nerd and a LARPer, I can see how if you're an reenactor, you might want to show that on your avartar. But then again, where can you draw the line? I'm swedish, so I can't say how sensitive this is, but is the German WWII uniform really an apropriate metaphor? seems kind of harsh. Any flags, I'd say is a crossing of the line thogh, and to make it simple, this should be applied to all but current, real-world flags.
As an outsider, looking at USA, this is how I see it: Yeah, some will use this avatar because they are racist, but some will simply be from the south and patriotic about it. Maybe they had ancestors fighting in the war. And yeah, the south was in the wrong, but from what I gather, that was not what the avarage solider fought for. Theyd din't have a say in ploitics, and as a decendent, you shouldn't have to be ashamed of you're ancestor just because he was born in the wrong state. They fought their friends because they had And if you can be patriotic in a country like USA that has really done a lot of messed up shit, I don't see why you can't be patriotic abouth being from the south, even though they also did a lot of messed up shit.
I can see how it's a sensitive issue, but I don't think we should have to hide our history for the sake of not-offending.

Nathan said...

To be true, there's nothing wrong with this. What the south stood for, as far as slavery goes... yeah, that was bad. Horrendously bad. But, the uniforms... were mostly the same. At the start of the Civil War, most southern armies were, well, nonexistent. So, they would steal the uniforms off of dead Union soldiers. Hell, for most of the war, most of the Confederate soldiers wore civilian clothing. They just didn't have the means, the funds, or the will, to adequately supply their soldiers. So, calling this a generic "Civil War Uniform" is spot on. In my opinion, anyway.

Nathan said...

Also, if I may point something out real quick. To review person's point, Gen. Lee released his slaves prior to the war's beginning. Gen. Grant, however, kept his slaves until he was required to let them free after the war's end. I'm not gonna hijack this thing and make it a civil war discussion, but, for an interesting look at it, take a gander at what President Lincoln did to Maryland, a state that swore not to secede and shot down every attempt made to secede. It's an interesting read.

Avistew said...

I don't think it's wrong to offer it but it doesn't seem very fair to offer only one side. Shouldn't both be able to get uniforms? Are former Union States (well, they're also current Union States, but you know what I mean) not allowed to be proud too?

A friend of mine tells me it would basically amount to a colour swap because the uniforms were close. Not sure how accurate he is, but if he's right it's even weirder, because it would have been easy to fix.

dragonclaw900 said...

Actually, there's totally North Korean stuff on the Avatar Marketplace because of Homefront. You can dress your avatar as Kim Jong Il, complete with glasses.

The Karligarchy said...

First, uhh not including uniforms for both sides is just a P.R. mess waiting to happen. I can´t believe it was anything more than a mistake - However, Microsoft making a subtle pro Confederacy gesture is less likely.

Second: As a Southerner, All I´m going to say Bob, is that the whole Confederate memory for white Southerners is a very complicated, deep issue. Frankly, you just don´t and can´t understand it. Most non-white-non-southerners don´t. Discussion of which just leads to equivocations with Nazis and thinly veiled arguments that illustrate that a seemingly large majority of my fellow countrymen think of Southerners (me and almost everyone I know) as degenerate, racist, embarrassing, burdens to everyone else in the country. It´s REALLY offensive. The burden of history in the South is great, much greater than in other parts of the country. It´s something I had to live with everyday for 25 years. It´s really aggravating when people feel the need to make sweeping, rabble-rousing judgments and condemnations about Southerners (me) over a pervasive, lingering historical legacy that they´ve only seen on T.V.

Example: Most of you are going to see the a fore mentioned Quentin Tarantino film and see an oppressed victim exacting righteous justice on scum of the Earth, evil, villainous slave owners. Whose existence certainly proves the fallibility of God, because only an act of divine negligence, could explain the existence of such a cretin.

What many Southerners (me) are going to see is both a direct depiction of a reprehensible human being but also, a more sublte, indirect, and probaby inadvertent representation of how the rest of the country feels about Southerners (me). It will be at least a little alienating, to see (again) that deep down in the irrational part of people´s mind the abstracted Southerner (me) is a subject worthy of scorn hatred and death. What will be the most disturbing will be seeing (again) the subtle signs that many Americans view Southerners (me) without empathy as standing apart from themselves. For the overwhelming majority of people I´ve experienced do this it´s completely unintentional, and they don´t even realize they´re doing it. Its unconscious (I´m not accusing non-southerners of direct hatred of Southerners)its similar to those offhanded not so blatant racist comments someone makes in mixed company. The person meant no ill will but, through ignorance of the reality of living as whatever ethnicity, its offensive. Had said commentator been more aware of that reality he would have not made said comment, because he held no intentional, conscious malice. These faux pas occur frequently when discussing how the Civil War rests in many Southerner´s historical memories. These arguments over Civil War historical memory reveal something about alot of people they are not conscious of, and would probably be ashamed of if they were. Be aware of this when discussing it.

The Karligarchy said...

And uh, include Union uniforms Microsoft!

imsmart said...

I can see the Southern argument though. The North only supported the forced imposition of abolition on the very moment that they personally escaped any possible consequences for it, which as it turns out were pretty severe. And while this may be pretty abstract from the Northern point of view, remember that this is the South's actual history, and pretty recent as far as history goes. There are probably people alive today who heard first-hand accounts of it.

toosoo said...

I'm from alabama for the longest time the confederate capital was in my state alabama is the state most people think about when they think of a southern state and we are called the heart of dixie

but all that doesnt mean theat all people from my state were racest, there was a county in my state that was still part of the union during the civil war now that doesnt make up from the many many racist people but it does prove a point not only that but alabama did host alot of big moments in the civil rights movement

i have a reproduction of a confederate hat in my room, and my sister has several confederate flags
it doesnt mean we support racism(infact I have a couple of black friends) it just means that we have a certain amount of pride for our state and our little section of the usa

now i can see your argument that not having some kind of union uniform seems racist but, only if you make the uniform some kind of symbol for racism on its own but does that mean every war game should have avatar costumes for both sides? imagine the backlash if the microsoft people put in a taliban avatar costume or a nazi costume comeplete with nazi arm band

does that mean that every confederate soldier was wrong for fighting for what he belived in, that every confederate soldier was out there trying trying to keep slavery going because i think thats a gross overgerneralization because not every person in the south was or is racist its treally just the minority who try to rationalize it as them being some how better by class or by some other nonsense

i know im ranting its kina because im half asleep thats just my thoughts tho

Etries said...

I have a problem with the Confederate soldiers because it stands for out of control sectionalism and overall non-patriotism in general. I understand that many Confederates didn't own slaves, but many also believed that it was more important to fight to keep a way of life that was destroying both the land and the socio-economic system than to admit to a greedy mistake. The minority of them who didn't agree were conscripted by a higher authority who did, which adds to the evils of Confederate army.

I may have been okay with it if it came with the Union suit too, and possibly even more okay if it was part of an "America's Wars" avatar suit pack and not for a patriotic celebration.

So no, the Confederates weren't cartoonish monsters, but they still represented an evil and should be hated because of it.

(Yes, I'm aware the Union conscripted too.)

Alison said...

@Nathan: Thank you for bringing up those points, both about Grant and Maryland. I also agree with the person who pointed out that the WWII comparison wasn't appropriate.
That being said, a Union option would be cool as well, but NOT because the Confederate one is an "enemy" option. Like it or not, both sides were in one way or another Americans, and demonizing either side just blinds you to the history.
(Sorry if I sounded preachy, but I had this conversation earlier today, to some extent.)

Avistew said...

You know, I'm not American so of course I don't know all the details, but I never saw such a problem with Southern States being proud of their heritage.

Sure, they wanted to leave the US, and lost, but the country that now exists is the way it is due to the Southern States as well. So they're not celebrating a time when they wanted not to be part of today's US. Today's US didn't exist then.

To give an example I can relate to (you probably less), Asterix is about Gauls fighting not to be part of the Roman empire. In the end, they lost. France is what it is because the Gauls lost, in part. We're still proud of the real Gauls enough to have a cartoon version of one as some kind of nationalistic figure. Our national bird is still the rooster (which is what Gaul was named after).

It's on a different scale, and in 500 years the Empire had risen and fallen again, but Gaul didn't come back. And we don't speak Celtic nowadays, we speak a Latin language.

I don't know, maybe it's a terrible comparison because today's France isn't called the Roman Empire anymore, or because not enough time has passed for you guys, but wars happen all the time, and some people win, some people lose, it doesn't mean there was a clear-cut "good" and "bad" side most of the time.

Especially with secessions. Bits of countries want to secede all the freaking time. Quebec. Britanny. Corsica. Wallonia vs Flanders.

I don't think this should be about the Confederates being "bad guys" or whatever. There rarely are bad guys among the soldiers anyways, they follow orders from high up, where the bad decisions are made. I think the issue here is with the simple fact that including only one of the two uniforms makes very little sense, and including either at all when what's being celebrated is the Independence War and not the Secession one doesn't make a whole lot of sense either.

Avistew said...

I was actually thinking... More than the South thing, what I have always wondered is about people saying, for instance, "I'm German" when they can't speak German, haven't set foot in Germany ever, the first immigrant hasn't been alive for a while, and they probably left said country (in our example, Germany) for what they thought was a good reason.

Yet I keep meeting people from the US talking about how they're partially Irish, or French, or whatever, really. I don't get it. I'm sure I have ancestors from all over Europe, but I'm still French because it's my language, my culture and my country. I know the US is a melting pot or something, and I would get saying "my ancestors were from there, there and there" but I don't get the "I'm X, Y and Z".
Especially when the same people afterwards explain why they're against immigration.
Does not compute.

Mads said...

O.T.

My point is, look at this thread. There's a whole lot of ambiguity, right there. It's a deep subject. The men who wore the uniform were not necessarily slave owners, or people in favor of slavery. The war was also faught to end slavery. 30% of all males, 18-40, on the confederate side are estimated to have died in it.

Yes, slavery was cruel, but the slaying of so many people was cruel as well. And these people were slain, not just because they were willing to accept slavery, but because Lincoln and Buchanan believe session by individual states to be national treason...in spite of there being no law ratifying this, and no congress and senate made the war legal.

If american popular culture has truly made this issue that simple to everyone, then I would counter, that's just not right, not anymore. Historical insight should long have allowed you to distance yourself from such an interpretation...as in indeed, many appear to have, from the looks of this thread.

QSKSw said...

Just when I was thinking of actually buying an Xbox THIS happens. >_<

Sylocat said...

Jim McCullough was kind enough to do a word-for-word comparison of the Constitutions of the USA and CSA. He found that they are almost word-for-word identical, except for special items specifically preventing any state from outlawing slavery (and yes, it is explicitly referred to as "negro slavery" in the Confederate constitution). The individual states do not gain any significant rights, and in fact one major right (the right to outlaw slavery) is explicitly taken away.

So yeah, complaints about "demonization" do not exactly ring true, and complaints about "the burden of history" would sound more sincere coming from southerners who actually made an effort to distance themselves from this part of their history.

So no, it ISN'T "More Complicated Than That™." If you wave around Confederate flags, you are waving the rallying symbol of a bunch of racist dicks who tried to found a country based around racism. A country whose vice president gave a speech in which he said that the country was founded on the principle that "the negro is not equal to the white man" (and when placed in context, it's even worse).

I don't care how loudly you proclaim that you're not racist. If you either fought in support of this system, or laud and idolize the people who did, you are supporting slavery.

If you hang around with racists, idealize racists, and claim that racists are totally-not-racist-honest-guys, don't be surprised when you get lumped together with them.

review person said...

@sylocat your missing the point of this discussion. The actual soldier probably did not give a damn what happened with slavery all he cared about was that his home and family were under attack. yes the higher ups in the government and the plantation owners did not want to have their entire system torn down and the north didn't want such a vital part of the economy breaking away. all of these are the people in power not the common man. the north did not care about the slaves until it was convenient for them and many northern citizens hated the war and protested it and the first draft highly. It was a war of governments and brothers were forced to fight their parents war. that is how we should look at the civil war, as the common American being forced to shoot and kill their fellow citizens. that is what the south is proud of, the common man, NOT the "racist dicks" that were in power.

review person said...

or at leas that is what i am proud of as a native of the capital of the south, Richmond Virginia

smile said...

The Civil War generation are all dead while the WWII generation are still alive and would have every right to be personally upset to see Nazi and Soviet iconography... and that's why I'm okay with the confederate uniform.

I mean, if people can dress up in togas and celebrate an era where slavery was much worse and paedophilia was permitted or fantasise about the medieval era where proud Christian knights were just as eager to rid this world of Jews as a certain untalented painter form Austria - we can tolerate the Confederacy in its correct context, right?

Sylocat said...

The actual soldier probably did not give a damn what happened with slavery all he cared about was that his home and family were under attack. ... It was a war of governments and brothers were forced to fight their parents war. ... that is what the south is proud of, the common man, NOT the "racist dicks" that were in power.

Wait, you think that secession was decided on without public support? Secession was ratified by popular vote in more than one state (including Virginia), and the delegation that voted for secession in the other states were enabled by the populace. That's how this whole "representative democracy" thing works.

The "common man" was not an innocent bystander. The "common man" voted for secession and voted for slavery. The "common man" put the racists in power.

Mads said...

@ Sylocat

If waterboarding is torture, and americans elected bush, and he perpetrated waterboarding, then they elected a torturer.

What you suggest is then that, if you fought in support of this system, it doesn't matter how much you proclaim you're against torture, you still shouldn't be surprised when you get lumped together with the people who do the actual torturing.

Presumably, you feel this lumping together is fair, if you feel what you're saying is fair.

So is it fair to say that american military uniforms are symbols of torture? that the american flag is?

Hell no, say I, but the way you argue your point suggests that, given an absense of hypocricy, you would believe that.

Personally, I think you probably just want to rant about how much you hate racists, and haven't really given the consistency of your points much thought.

Another example. In the constitution of the USA, in it's original draft, slaves were regarded as 3/5th of a person. Since slaves were always black, that's racism. The revolutionary war was fought not to protect the values shaping the constitution, but because of taxation; and yet slavery had been abolished in great britain in 1772. Had the britts won, the US would not have been keeping slaves, so logically, it kept slaves because it won.

So all the founding fathers, all the revolutionary war soldiers - they all fought for a system allowing for racism and slavery. Were they racists?

After all, they were cesseding, just as the south was. They wanted to allow slavery in the union, just as the south did. They were declared war on first by the forces they seceded from, and only took up arms to defend themselves and what they believed to be right...which again, in both cases, included slavery.

As I recall, the US flag today is a permutation of the original one the revolutionary war soldiers fought for, so are all who wave it around racists?

No they're not. And yes, it's a little bit more complicated than you make it out.

Joe said...

@Nathan: I'm a dirty foreigner (Canadian), but I had read the Union=blue/Confederacy=grey was basically a Hollywood oversimplification and most soldiers, especially in the South, were lucky to even have a uniform. So I appreciate the clarification.

@review_person: Fair enough. But on the subject, I'm always curious why citizens of democratic nations are generally quick to wash their hands of the crimes their leaders have committed in their name, while many of the same people will condemn the entire population of brutal and oppressive regimes for the crimes of their leaders. Not saying that you do this, so please don't take this as an accusation, it's just something I always wonder about when this sort of thing is discussed.

review person said...

@joe honestly now that you brought up the point i do not see a difference besides an outsiders perspective. Maybe because the events are less drastic. Another reason maybe because their has to be some semblance of cooperation for a dictator to come and stay in power. There is a great book of essays on this topic of if to judge soldiers of "evil" armies (nazis in this book) and if the argument of "just following orders" holds up called the sunflower by Richard Paul Evans you should check it out.

Smashmatt202 said...

If anything, this shows just what kind of people Microsoft thinks are playing their games.

What's next? Klu Klux Klan outfits?

TheAgriPunk said...

I really believe this is just them appealing to their base of "pro American" confederate flag touting lovers of shooters. Why else put this suit on the fourth of July? It's for all the Call of Duty fans! In the south, going to war for the Union and loving the confederacy are not opposing thought processes!

Valium said...

Wars are dark, muddy affairs. Just about the only war you could call a clear battle between good and evil is World War II.

Heck, even in the American Revolution, we pretty much were a bunch of whiny douchebags. The most iconic image of the war? George Washington crossing the Potomac. To murder the British in their sleep during what was effectively a cease-fire (Christmas), yet we hold that image of brutal war crimes in the highest esteem. Hell, we were founded by terrorists.

The American Civil War was more complicated than good versus evil; it is quite possibly the single darkest chapter in American history, and white-washing it with a simple, "The south was wrong," dishonors our entire country.

The Union and the Confederacy were two sides of the same coin, and the war was pure Americana turned in upon itself, with all the worst we have to offer on both sides.

Wanna frame slavery as a central reason for the war? Fine. However, you must also recognize the North's relationship to slavery.

Slavery in the North was not abolished out of benevolence or a desire for equality. No, it was abolished for economic reasons; having so much capital invested in your labor force, having a vested interest in each individual's continued productivity, was simply not economical. Instead, the North adopted the model of wage slavery; if a unit in the labor force lost an arm, that's not a problem. Remove that cog and bring in another desperate for work; there's always more. It's lean and efficient.

The Civil War was a child of the Industrial Revolution. The worst of the old world against the worst of the new, and both sides were wrong. Our entire history after the Civil War has been spent dealing with the myriad ways the North was wrong. The union movement (whose fallout we're still dealing with) was a direct response to the North's business practices, and the problem of a central government feeding itself more and more power at the expense of local government... it'd be faster to list those among our problems that AREN'T rooted there.

Oh, and then there's the question of how Grant won. Real brutal, that. One thing the Union had that the Confederacy didn't was a steady supply of immigrants. So, they promised immigrants fresh off the boat and didn't even know a war was going on were promised citizenship if they enlisted, then Grant used his numbers as cannon fodder, sending wave of the huddled masses seeking to be free at Lee's troops knowing full well he'd lose two men for every one Lee lost, but hey, he had reserves.

Very brutal war. Very American war.

Yet having pride on either side is no worse than having pride in being descended from that band of terrorist war criminals we call the founding fathers. I'm certainly proud. I'm just proud without forgetting the blood-stained baggage and shame that must, by necessity, temper that pride.