HOTB2020 Panel 3.3: Cultures of Extraction in U.S. Film and Video Games



Panel 3.3: Cultures of Extraction in U.S. Film and Video Games

“Selling the American ‘Oil Frontier’: Tulsa, Giant, and American Resource Politics during the Early Cold War”

Sarah Stanford-McIntyre (University of Colorado Boulder)

“Leveling Up by Digging Down: The Portrayal of Mining and Sustainability in Video Game Genres”

Brian James Leech and George Boone (Augustana College)

“‘Y’all Sitting Up Here Comfortable:’ Extracting the Afrofuturist Myth from Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther”

José Sebastián Terneus (Miami Dade College)



Q & A

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4 replies
  1. Brian Leech says:

    Hi all!

    It was quite enjoyable to watch my fellow panelists’ presentations, which I found quite thoughtful and provocative. One thread I saw throughout them was that even when these pieces of popular culture try to issue a critique, they often still enforce the current condition (whether it’s the progress of oil, colonial conquest, or a belief that extractivism can continue forever).

    I have a couple of questions for panelists. For Sarah–I especially enjoyed your conclusion, where you show how these two oil films repeat themes typical in Westerns. I’m curious: are there other examples you (or others) know of that give an industrial/energy twist to the Western, especially its emphasis on inevitable conquest? In other words, both Giant and Tulsa seem to suggest that the industrial conquest of the American West was itself inevitable. I feel like There Will Be Blood is similar in that respect, for instance. I’m just wondering if there is a sub-genre of Westerns about the extractive West (or even oil in particular).

    For José: I really appreciate how you tie Afro-futurism and extraction together. I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) at alt-right members trying to alter the film’s message about borders. You show that Wakanda’s over-reliance on extraction made it unable to deliver on its Afro-futurist promise. Do you feel like the film’s conclusion suggests that it intends to move the franchise into Afro-futurist territory, where vibranium will serve more people in the African diaspora, perhaps in the sequel? I don’t know how familiar you are with the story arc in the comics. (I’m not.) Do you know if the comics do something similar with Wakanda? Have they made the move towards a less isolationist Wakanda?

  2. Baron Haber says:

    Thank you, Sarah, Brian, George, and Jose, for a compelling panel. No specific questions but I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

    All three of these presentations provided fascinating accounts of how mythologies of extraction circulate in popular media; the George Lipsitz quote about the invisibility of labor seemed especially prescient with the texts discussed here. (On that note, Jose, are there any scenes of vibranium harvesting in Black Panther? I’m trying to remember.) The relationship between extraction and nationalism ran through both Sarah’s and Jose’s presentation — and, if we think of the different Warcraft/Starcraft factions as proto-nations, it certainly can be seen all over your archive as well, Brian and George. All of these presentations touch on the fact that extraction of and struggle for resources is a key (the key?) function of the state.

    One more comment: I used to play World of Warcraft, and one element of the game that you don’t touch on is how these online economies like auction houses actually tap into real-money economies. Earlier in the game there were “gold farmers” who would sell you game money for real-life money — apparently there was an entire international economy for this type of in-game extractive labor. This also meant that there was a ton of account hacking, as hackers would access other people’s accounts and sell off all their items, as well as their guild’s items. The game designers eventually used account keys and other in-game function to stop this “extraction” from the player’s accounts. Later, Blizzard figured out how to control this market; now you can purchase tokens for play time with real-life money then sell them in game on the auction house for gold. So you can play the game “for free,” as long as you earn enough gold in game.

    Thanks again!

    • George Boone says:

      There is a lot of research out there on the creation of virtual economies, and your comment about “gold farming” reminds me of Lisa Nakamura’s work on the racialization of gold farming. Blizzard has done a lot to try to control the trade of gold (including the strategies you mention), but it seems like every MMoRPG has to deal with the emergence of a secondary economy related to selling currency and hacking accounts. Hence the representation tied to genre–in each case the social environment of multiple players typically corresponds to a way to sell these goods to other players.
      Thanks for your comment!
      ~George Boone

  3. Brooke Stanley, University of Delaware says:

    Hi all, and thanks for this great panel!

    José, I’m also writing on Black Panther and extraction, so I really appreciated your talk! I was intrigued by your argument that Wakanda’s relationship to resource extraction perpetuates (or intensifies) precarity for Black people outside of Wakanda. Along these lines, I was curious to hear more about your reading of the character Killmonger. You mention that Killmonger ends up being victimized in the sense that T’Challa mortally wounds him (Wakanda ends up hurting Black bodies, like the rest of the Western world.) I also find it troubling that the film’s only major African American character is represented as a villain or potential imperialist. Could you say more about how Killmonger’s characterization relates to your take on the film? How do you see Killmonger in relation to extraction?


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