Blazing Saddles

With the recent loss of Gene Wilder, we have been doing a lot of reminiscing about the comedies of yesteryear, and the one that always rises to the top is Blazing Saddles. The interesting thing about this Mel Brooks classic is that -by far- it is not politically correct and yet it is still a classic. Mel Brooks has gone on record saying that he believes such a movie would never be able to get made today in Hollywood. In fact, even when it was produced in the 1970’s the studio was giving notes to Brooks saying things like, “Can you reshoot Black Bart with a white actor?” and we can understand why. The N-word is used enough to qualify the movie as a gangsta rap album, and it leans heavily on almost every stereotype and joke one might be able to think of when it comes to racism, sexism, and even homophobia. So why is it still such a classic? Is it wrong they we enjoy it so much? Is this a question that is too big for us to accomplish?

Oh Lord! Do we have the strength to pull off this mighty task in one night…or are we just jerking off?

On the Nature of PC
We here at The NYRD pride ourselves on being inclusive and progressively minded, almost to a fault. We believe that everyone should be treated equally and that the artificial boundaries of race, religion, and sexuality should not limit people’s potential or affect how they are treated by one another, but by-god if it isn’t funny when the mayor says “to extend a laurel and hardy handshake to our new… N*****” See, we can’t even write the word because it a foul and terrible expression of centuries of oppression and bigotry. Yet, we laugh. So what is going on? Are we terrible people for laughing at the very un-political correctness of this movie, or are we just having fun? Should we be taking comedy so seriously, or are we just bad people?

Blazing Saddles is the type of movie that a lot of people point to as the very reason political correctness is wrong. “People care too much about offending each other today. Back in my day we laughed at one another. Look at Blazing Saddles,” these imaginary men might say. It is true that if Mel Brooks had limited himself to being “PC” this classic movie would have never been made. A racist Western written by two Jewish men and Richard Pryor does not exactly sound like it would be a marquee moment in civil rights. And yet, does the inclusion of Pyror make the script acceptable? Does the fact that the movie won three Academy Awards and is listed as Number 6 on American Film’s Institute of 100 Years… 100 Laughs make it okay to laugh?  After all, we want to be inclusive and fair to all people, but sometimes funny is funny. This is all so confusing…

Maybe the term Political Correctness, itself, has become part of the problem. Over the years it has transformed into an almost derogatory phrase. It has become a sort of clarion call by those on the more conservative side. It has become the bigot’s excuse for why people take certain actions. If Obama apologizes to a foreign country it is political correctness, as opposed to just fair-minded diplomacy. If a black person gets a job over a white person it must have been because of political correctness, as opposed to just one candidate who got a job over another candidate. If a Christian baker is forced to make a cake for a gay wedding it is seen as political correctness, as opposed to just a merchant fulfilling a job they were paid legal tender to accomplish. Ultimately, being “PC” has become a word that allows people to avoid dealing with deeper issues of society and race. It is a cop-out phrase that some people use to label certain actions they see as offensive to their good-old-boy sensibilities, but then again…

You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.

Beside a Brooks near a Stone in a Parker
Regardless, it is hard to argue that Blazing Saddles is politically correct, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. For our best contemporary comparison we need to turn to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the minds behind South Park. The cartoon about four foul-mouthed children from a small town in Colorado is usually both political and correct, but it is not politically correct. The genius behind Stone and Parker’s work is that -like Brooks- they lean on stereotypes, but they often subvert them or turn them on their head. They do not shy away from making fun of people, even making fun of those who make fun of the very people they just lampooned themselves. South Park is a landmark show because it goes after everybody: black, white, gay, Christian, Jew, celebrity, Hollywood, small town folk, big city folk, Canadian… etc. It is an equal opportunity offender painted in the form of outlandish comedy, and that is something they have in common with the master, Mel Brooks.

Being politically correct means making all interactions equal and colorblind, which is a noble goal, but also fails to acknowledge and even joke at our differences. Comedy is a contract that allows us all to enter into a safe space where we can acknowledge and laugh about the idiocy of the cultural norms we have constructed around ourselves. Blazing Saddles and South Park are ways for us to look around at the absurdity of the social cage we have built and laugh as equals. In Blazing Saddles, the black men are called the N-word, the Chinese are called the Ch-word, but the white people are morons. The politicians are cross-eyed idiots, the townsfolk are inbred Johnsons, the male-dancers are all gay stereotypes, and even the Native Americans speak Yiddish. We’re all idiots, and that is the real reason why we should enjoy this movie. Mel Brooks doesn’t want us to laugh at one type of race or one type of religion or sexual identity. No, he is asking us to laugh at humans and our absurd ideas. In essence, we aren’t laughing at black characters but at the concept of racism.

This is different than movies that put white actors in black face and ask the audience to laugh at the wild hijinks of the “negro,” or use the only gay character as the “weird and funny” one. Those are offensive and -quite frankly- lazy jokes. Those moves are deserving of our derision. However, that does not mean we should wash away all our differences, or stop joking about them. In fact, comedy is an amazing arena that often allows everyone to come together to laugh at our flaws as human beings. Mel Brooks accomplishes just that with Blazing Saddles. It creates a world where not one type of person is ridiculed or made to feel inferior, but where everyone is made to see their own flaws and find the humor in them. Thus, despite what critics think maybe Blazing Saddles is more PC than anyone realizes. It is about finding the funny in the absurdity of humanity as a whole, and not just one single human.

Men, you are about to embark on a great crusade to stamp out runaway decency in the west.

The Big Finale
Just look at Bart, the main character of Blazing Saddles. He is the smartest man in the picture, a Bugs Bunny type transported to the absurdly backwards racist West. Much like Mark Twain, Mel Brooks is not showing us a black character worth of ridicule, but instead a moronic world that cannot see the sense and rejects him simply because of something as arbitrary as the color of his skin. The movie even addresses the overly simplistic labels of black and white

Sir, he specifically requested two “n*****s”. Well, to tell the family secret, my grandmother was Dutch.

So maybe, Mel Brooks is right. A film like Blazing Saddle with its outstanding and offensive story will probably never get made again in today’s Hollywood. Maybe we have become too PC, but that’s also not as bad thing. Equality, justice, and love are not concepts to be avoided, but they also should not negate the humor of our stories and differences. Being PC is fine, but we also can’t be afraid to laugh about ourselves, so long as we do so fairly and equally. After all, the real humor of race, religion, and division is not so much in the differences between people, but that those differences exist at all.


We here at The NYRD are big gamers, in that we mostly just play Candy Crush and Angry Birds when our slave driver of a boss unchains our ankles from the computer and let’s us step away for a few minutes to remember what sunlight feels like. However, when word leaked out two days ago about the upcoming Steam Summer Sale, we got so excited that we almost snapped a few of our vitamin D deficient bones while clapping through our manacled hands. So in preparation for the happiest time of the summer our staff got together to give you our recommendation for what you should be playing instead of going to the beach, or hanging out with friend. Play them well. Play them for us.

Shovel Knight
ShovelKnightLet’s start out this list right by bringing up one the best games ever made, and we’re not just digging our own grave either by making that boast -See what we did there? Shovel pun- It doesn’t get much better than Shovel Knight. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up mashing buttons on an old Nintendo or while mashing keys while playing some “classic” games on Mod for the PC. Shovel Knight is a true testament to the old 8-bit retro gaming aesthetic while still managing to bring in a new flair that’s all it’s own. This game is a platformer, but don’t let that scare you away. You will be amazed by the its beauty, awesome soundtrack, and seamlessly fun gameplay. The difficulty, though not overwhelming, still offers a good amount of challenge to keep you interested, and at $14.99 on Steam it is a real steal. We promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, we think you’ll really “Dig it.” -Get it? It’s another shovel pun-

Darkest Dungeon
We have talk Darkest Dungeon before, but it is so good, we thought we would bring it up again, like that annoying cousin who will never stop telling you about that time he met Ewan McGregor. “We get it, Greg. You know he’s not really Obi-Wan, right? That’s Sir Alec Guinness.” However, Darkest Dungeon is worth bringing up again. One of the New Yorker’s Best video games of 2015, this game has all the macabre turn-based action you could hope for. A true love letter to Lovecraft and video games geeks alike. It is equal parts frustrating and entertaining. Each time you enter into a dungeon you will never know what might happen, who you might lose, or who might just go plain mad. As much a work of art as a video game, the aesthetics will really draw you in, but it will be the challenging gameplay that will make you stay. It is $24.99 on Steam and now with new updates, characters, and dungeons, Darkest Dungeon is even darker than before… but watch out for the pig vomit.

Stick of Truth
Stick of TruthWe usually try to stay away from reviewing big console games that have been ported to the PC, but our next two entries are going to be the exceptions to that rule. The Stick of Truth is everything you could hope for in a South Park Fantasy game. In fact, this might be the game you don’t even know you want. Coming in at $29.99 on Steam, it is well worth the price. South Park has been a mainstay of humor and culture for almost two decades and Stick of Truth proves their staying power. One part parody and one part kick-ass fantasy game it encapsulates all the humor and greatness that is the Comedy Central series without overstaying its welcome. Whether you like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, or just a really good RPG game, Stick of Truth is no laughing matter. We recommend you check it out.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of MordorNot only is this game the second major developer game on our list, but it is also the second game adapted from a larger franchise. Lord of the Rings is a phenomen and it seems almost impossible that a video game could enter into the world of Middle Earth and even come close to being worthy of the books of JRR Tolkein or the Peter Jackson movies. Yet, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is damn good at proving that point wrong. A unique story with interesting characters it works well to keep our attention storywise, but that is not where it really shines. No, the true genius of this game is in its gameplay mechanics, specifically the Nemesis System that allows you to conscript your orc enemies into working for you. Even better the enemy AI means that orcs have a hierarchy all their all their own, and your enemies will change and grow over time. It’s a little pricey at $49.99 on Steam, but well worth your wishlist. Hey, that’s why Eru Ilúvatar created the Steam Summer Sale.

Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings IIMore Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings Crusader Kings II, is a grand strategy game taking place in the late Medieval period. This game focuses on raising a family from nothing to become powerful emperors, until you lose it all again when you decide to sleep with your brother’s wife. You can bribe your way to power, assassinate your way to power, or just become a good old fashioned conquer, the possibilities are endless. Crusader Kings II will let you turn history on its head all while sucking up your own time in the process. Admittedly the game is not without its flaws, but they are ultimately forgivable in the end. A slick looking map and the ability to play multiplayer -and assassinate your friends- goes a long way to endearing Crusader Kings II. Currently $39.99 on Steam, we definitely recommend you put this one on your list, because in the game of thrones you either buy now or you wait for the Summer Sale.

StellarisWe move now to another grand strategy game, Stellaris. The latest in a galaxy spanning tactical genre, this game distinguishes itself on several notable points, not the least of which is its customization. Stellaris allows your to design your starting species, homeworld, traits, and even emblem. This game is also incredibly vast in scale, and with an infinite variety. Solar systems and stars are randomly generated so each game is going to be slightly different than the last. However, it is the Pops mechanics where this game truly shines. Introduce new technologies to your empire and your people and you could face unexpected consequences. The game is by no means perfect, there are some AI and UI bugs that need addressing, but don’t count this one out. We talked about StarDrive 2 in the past, and Stellaris managed to take all the good of that game and increase it by ten fold. if you like games where you need to manage entire galactic empires, than we highly recommend you check out this Stellaris. It is currently $39.99 on Steam.

Garry’s Mod
Garrys Mod2Can we get weird for a minute with you? Because we want to talk about Garry’s Mod, an incredibly strange but strangely incredible game that you can download for only $9.99 on Steam. This game is a physics sandbox. It has no goals or predefined rules, other than physics. You cannot win but we promise you will not lose either. With thousands of ready made physics objects that you can spawn and use to create everything form a jet to a jet boat to a jet footstool, the limits of this game are endless. You can create and play and just get as weird as you want, either by yourself or with your friends. Maybe you’re not creative, well don’t worry. There are millions of already user created content in this game that you can simply grab and paint red or add antlers to or just have fun with. How will you ever be bored again?

Divinity: Original Sin: Enhanced Edition
DivinityDespite the overabundance of colons in the name Divinity: Original Sin: Enhance Edition, delivers on its promises. Gamespot named it PC game of 2014, and it has received over 150 awards and nominations. if you like playing classic RPG fantasy or like playing Dungeons and Dragons, than this game is right up your dragon-infested alley. An open world RPG experience, you can design your characters, collect your party and interact with everyone you meet. Best of all the “Enhanced” in “Enhanced Edition,” means that everyone you meet is fully voice-acted. You can fight, cheat, lie, steal, and make decisions that affect not only you but the world at large. Still, what sets this RPG apart from others in the genre is its insanely fun combat system. An innovative turn-based mechanic, it allows you to control the action and effortless micromanage your group and your combat strategies. Even better, if you get lonely, you can play with a friend. At $39.99 on Steam it is well worth the price.

Pixel Piracy
Pixel PiracyOf all the games on this list, Pixel Piracy is the lowest rated, but at 71% it is still well worth your time. A 2D simulator you will get the chance to design your own pirate ship, recruit your own crew, customize, and sail the seven pixelated seas. Falling somewhere between beautiful, simplistic, and brutal, Pixel Piracy is the kind of smooth running fun game that can eat away your hours.  It is a simple game to learn, but that does not mean it is simple to master. You will need to manage resource and your crew while you raid other ships, plunder islands, and explore a two-diminsional world. This pirate RPG is not perfect, but if you are looking for a little piracy in your life we highly recommend it. Also, there is a lot of opportunities for poop jokes, and at $9.99 on steam, who can resist that?

Homeworld Remastered Collection
HomeworldRounding out our list is a classic video game, Homeworld. You command the helm of a massive mothership in this real-time strategy game. With your world on the the brink of disaster, you are the only thing left to protect and guide the last remnants of your sleeping people as you desperately try to find a new home. Hauntingly masterful and with a story that will live on in your memory, the original Homeworld, came out in the 1999 and was a triumph of gameplay for its time. Now it has been remastered with new graphics and updates including enhanced audio and cinematics. For $39.99 on Steam this package contains remastered editions of Homeworld and Homeworld 2, as well as the originals. If you were a fan in the past, or even if you have never heard of these games, we cannot express enough how much you need to play this RTS. It is not always an easy game, but always highly enjoyable. This needs to be on your list.

Now that you have our recommendations for the upcoming Summer Sale, we want to hear yours. After all, we are always looking for new games too, assuming our boss ever opens the food-hole in our cell doors wide enough so we can escape. So let us know what’s on your wishlist in the comment section below, and happy gaming.

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