Square Enix’s Leavea video game set in a high fantasy setting where the protagonist is a jaded teenager transported to the magical realm goes viral for all the wrong reasons.
The game has earned a low 68 on Metacritic and received criticism for a poorly received demo, performance issues, and high specification requirements, but most of the attention the game has received is for the game’s “Whedonesque” dialogue, aka like “soybean banter.”
It doesn’t help that adults are generally bad at writing know-it-all teens — it’s not an easy task to pull off.
What is “Whedonesque” dialogue?
It’s a self-conscious style of writing, seemingly popularized by Joss Whedon, that mocks genre tropes while actively engaging in them, in which characters practically turn to the camera and wink at the audience after something stupid happens.
For example, if a character responds to their newly discovered superpowers by saying, “umm…. so that’s something that happened, ‘well, that’s a ‘Whedonesque’ dialogue.
This style of writing was once seen as cool and clever, but is now generally seen as annoying and “cringe”, as it often undercuts serious moments or seems to fool the audience into enjoying the story.
It’s not always horrible – this kind of humor works for a character like Iron Man – but the MCU has overused this style, often to its detriment. For example, at the height of an intense battle during Century of Ultronsays Hawkeye, “Okay, look. The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I’ve got a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”
Disneys Star Wars have taken over to some extent (they’re flying now!), and there’s a new one Dungeons and Dragons movie comes out, that, of the trailerlooks much more annoying than Leave.
Marvel still uses this style, despite the fact that the MCU audience is happy to accept silly cartoon characters, and has done so for years; even the most recent Spider-Man movie, No way home sees Peter Parker burst out laughing at the name ‘Otto Octavius’.
Although, the negative reaction to the constant joking of Thor: Love and Thunder shows that there is a limit to how much self-consciousness the public can tolerate. Not everything is necessary Rick and Morty; hell, even Rick and Morty’s compulsive meta-comment can be too much.
There is an argument that can be made that the resistance may appear selective and racially motivated; finally, Ryan Reynolds’ deadpool never led to the same level of backlash as Mindy Kaling’s Velmadespite their near-identical shtick, constantly reminding the audience that they’re in on the joke.
Part of the reason Leave caused such a negative reaction may be due to the developers creating a world that didn’t need to be mocked; the game offers beautiful landscapes, unique costumes and an intriguing story.
What’s the point of making an effort to create an interesting fantasy world, only to compulsively mock it? Players are more than capable of doing that themselves, but they certainly won’t take it seriously if the protagonist can’t.
Perhaps we are approaching the end of the “well, that just happened” era, as fans are ready to seriously embrace the wonders of fantasy and sci-fi, without being mocked for immersing themselves in the fiction.