I want you to look at that picture real hard. Now I want you to imagine this guy singing the Bon Jovi (ahem) classic “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Apparently, if that’s the sort of thing you dream of, you should be kept out of the gene pool at all costs. Also, your dreams can come true in Guitar Hero 5: The Guitarening (may not be actual title).
As you might imagine, there’s been a bit of an uproar about this. Everett True got very sweary about this on his blog (seriously, Mr. True, that is an epic swear. I commend you) and Courtney Love ejaculated a billion tweets saying first that she didn’t approve the use of Cobain’s likeness and then that she did approve it but was somehow tricked into doing so by dirty lawyers. I’m guessing that “tricked” in this sense meant “handed a suitcase full of cash which will, over a period of days, be injected slowly into whatever good veins Courtney Love still has on her body.”
Activision confirmed in a statement (quoted in a statement from the Foo Fighters’ publicist) that they obtained the rights to plaster Kurt’s likeness all over GH5 “in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love.” That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, sounds pretty fucking compelling to me. If her name’s on it, she’s fulla shit. Sounds like Love wants to cultivate an image of herself as the protector of her late husband’s image while slowly selling bits of him off to the highest bidder. And who can blame her? She’s got a child to feed. A child named Mind-Blowing Drug Addiction.
What are we to conclude from all this? There are, no doubt, people who like Guitar Hero and like Nirvana (I am one of these people and I know several others) and they might enjoy playing as one of their heroes rather than one of those hulked-out, douchey cartoons that eerily resemble a composite of all the assholes from Kiss. But anyone who was even remotely familiar with Kurt Cobain knows full well he would never, ever in billion motherfucking years approve of something like this if he was alive. Courtney Love probably knew that too and it’s abundantly clear that she doesn’t give a shit.
I do give a shit, but I don’t see what’s to be done about it. I mean, I’m not calling for a boycott of Guitar Hero here. They try to get stuff people want for their games and by and large, they do a good job of it. But it’s always painful for me to watch the posthumous whoring of my heroes. I’ve heard Ramones songs in car commercials (and Pepsi commercials, those fuckers), Beatles and John Lennon songs in commercials for fucking everything, and ABC’s horrifying The Bachelor did a season subtitled “London Calling” (note to whatever prick executive came up with that: enjoy your balls while you have them, sir. For, should we meet, I’ll be taking ’em off of you. With violence). This is shit John Lennon and Joe Strummer wouldn’t ever approve of (one of my living heroes, Tom Waits, has practically put his kids through college by suing companies who used Waits impersonators after Tom himself refused to shill for their shit. Waits also, it should be noted, admitted to a fantasy of John Lennon rising from the grave and kicking Michael Jackson’s ass for buying up the Beatles catalog and shilling it out. That’s how Tom Waits rolls.) and it’s in the same boat as putting Kurt Cobain in a video game. The idea has been floated of “re-locking” Kurt’s avatar in Guitar Hero 5 so that he can only do Nirvana songs. I’ll go you one better: keep him in the game but change two things: any time he’s on a Bon Jovi song (or something equally terrible), he shows up in his t-shirt that says “Corporate Rock Sucks.” Then, make it so players lose points for every correct note they play, thereby encouraging them to mangle these shitty tunes in a very satisfying way. Then they can unlock a Courtney Love avatar and smash their guitar into her skull. Come on you dark princes of the internet, how about whipping up some of that user-created content?