I’m gonna start this off by saying that it’s fortunate that Billy Mitchell doesn’t live near my house. If he did, I would have a few choice words for him, none of which I can repeat here.
As a gamer and a human being, I was appalled at the treatment poor, sweet, sensitive Steve was given in the film The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. How can you blame me? Any viewer with a soft spot for the underdog would feel the film pulling at her heartstrings as the cameraman zooms in on Wiebe’s frustrated tears of defeat, fresh after the personal insults he received at the hands of Mitchell. Despite Mitchell’s prowess at the Donkey Kong arcade game, after 80 minutes of tricks, insults, and unrestrained arrogance, I truly wanted to punch the smug gamer in his self-righteous face.
But I’m getting off track here.
After attempting to sort out the heap of negative emotions I felt towards Billy during the film, a thought suddenly came into my mind. I didn’t particularly like it, for it encouraged me to be a reasonable, level-headed adult as opposed to a furious, bull-headed teenager. The thought was this: Did I really hate Billy Mitchell, the human being, or did I just hate the film’s 80-minute caricature of him? Sure, I couldn’t stand the smug smiles he flashed toward the camera or the infuriating way he refused to meet Steve in an honest, live competition, but was that really who Billy Mitchell was? A heartless snob who delighted in embarrassing his competition and flaunting his wife around the arcades? I wasn’t sure.
And honestly, I’m still not. Now that the passions ignited by the film have died down, I’ve had time to think, and it still bothers me that I’ll never know the truth about Billy Mitchell. I like to think of myself as a compassionate person, so I don’t want to say I hate him. Heck, I don’t even know the guy. The movie wanted me to hate Billy, and so I did. But was this my own true emotion, or one simply given to me by a manipulative director? Does it even matter?
I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t such a thing as an unbiased emotion. After all, aren’t all of our emotions simply products of our own personal experiences, and filled with our own unique prejudices? Perhaps Billy Mitchell isn’t the heartless, gamer-devouring demon that the film depicted him to be, but that knowledge doesn’t make me inclined to dislike him any less. Regardless of my biases, my eyes saw a shy, kind man being mocked by an arrogant bully, and my emotions reacted accordingly, just as they would if I had watched the scene play out in front of me. While there might be more to Billy than 80 minutes of rude harassment, I doubt anything I saw or heard would make his actions in the film excusable.
So, Billy, while I won’t say I hate you, you probably shouldn’t show up near my doorstep. Ever. My mind might say “Hey, give the guy a chance,” but my heart will probably say “Kick him.”
And people do often tell me I should follow my heart.