Adoption (in Portal) / Rapture (IRL)

Two independent devil’s-advocate-sy thoughts, which I hope get imported to Facebook before tomorrow… Either way, these are more musings than structured posts, so you might need to get some context before responding to these.

There’s been a big brouhaha over Portal 2’s use of adoption as an insult. This is nothing new…it came up in the original Portal as well. This time, however, two characters consider it an insult. Hm.

I have adopted friends and adopted family, and it seems like one of those things that isn’t really an insult at all anymore. At least not in America. Now, clearly there can be questions about your birth parents, about your circumstances of adoption, whatever…but seriously, this is going to be what sets it off?

On the other hand, though (and I realized this writing a comment on someone else’s post about this), what if, at the end of a stream of obvious insults, GLaDOS said something like this?

GLaDOS: …I’m surprised you didn’t dye your hair with a color like that. Oh, and your file indicates that you’re probably gay. Too bad there are no other humans down here to confirm that.

In my mind, that feels like a GLaDOSish line, an insult snuck into a pretend observation. But it’s one Valve wouldn’t touch with a forty-foot pole, and I’d be upset about it too. (Hey, everyone, stop using “gay” as an insult! That applies whether you mean “homosexual” or not.) So maybe the adoption line was going too far.

(Which raises the question: when would it not be going too far? When it obviously is an insult, but still one that doesn’t matter to Chell, like most of the others in the game? The difference is you can tell Chell’s not fat / out of shape, and any stupidity is attributable to you, the player, while adoption is shrouded in Chell’s redacted past. How about when it is obviously a bad insult, like “your mother was a Protestant”? Well, is that going to have the same effect? Psychological games with a timely audience are tricky.)

Completely separately, how about that rapture? An article from the NY Times talks about families split by belief, which must make this an awful week to go through. But that article’s summary of the whole thing leaves an interesting point open:

Ms. Douglas and other believers subscribe to the prophecy of Harold Camping, a civil engineer turned self-taught biblical scholar whose doomsday scenario — broadcast on his Family Radio network — predicts a May 21, 2011, Judgment Day. On that day, arrived at through a series of Bible-based calculations that assume the world will end exactly 7,000 years after Noah’s flood, believers are to be transported up to heaven as a worldwide earthquake strikes. Nonbelievers will endure five months of plagues, quakes, wars, famine and general torment before the planet’s total destruction in October. In 1992 Mr. Camping said the rapture would probably be in 1994, but he now says newer evidence makes the prophecy for this year certain.

Ignoring the seventeen year mistake, “plagues, quakes, wars, famine, and general torment” does seem to be the way the world is going right now. We’re not doing so well as a species. But, if nothing happens on Saturday…it doesn’t tell us anything. Why? Well, last time this happened, God only saved one family: Noah’s. (Thanks, BareStage.) If no one we know vanishes to heaven tomorrow, maybe that’s just cause we’re a pretty wicked, sinful group of people, and even those who tried weren’t really trying properly. Maybe one family was “raptured” and the rest of us are left on Earth.

Or, maybe Dave Temple’s May 21st is just the last day of commencement ceremonies at UC Berkeley. Congratulations, Class of 2011.