Vice City Public Radio

One of the best things about any GTA, but especially Vice City, is the radio programming. And one of the best of the stations, I think, is the Vice City rendition of VCPR. Unlike the Stories one, which is modeled more after NPR with varied programming consisting of other discussions shows and recycled radio plays from yesteryear, the original one only had three episodes of one show. Pressing Issues is a roundtable discussion show, sort of like Crossfire, in which radically opposed guests discuss a single subject.

In each episode, three characters are introduced, each based on amalgamations of complimentary 80's events and tropes. In the two politically-themed episodes there's two conservative characters and one liberal. I would guess Rockstar perhaps has liberal leanings anyway, at least in reference to social issues, which is why these episodes usually portray the conservative characters as extremists with hangups that influence their bad ideas (although the liberals are also made fun of, though in a different tone). But it also reflects the overall conservatism of the 80's.

When you move out of the bright colors, flashy dress, and pop culture of that time, you start to see that the rest of the world was becoming more and more straitlaced.

A lot of this was the pendulum swinging back from the sexual revolution. For the twenty years or so prior to the 80's, you could have sex with whoever you wanted or as many people as you wanted, unchristian as that was, with relatively little consequence. As a holdover from this time, naturalist and nudist Barry Stark (you see what they did there?) espouses a philosophy of equality through lack of clothing. With no clothes, he claims, you cannot tell if someone is rich or poor (or black or white, apparently). He, however, exhibits his sexuality at inappropriate times and has trouble respecting others' boundaries.

But Stark's heyday came to an end as herpes and, later, HIV came on the scene. And these incurable diseases played into the resurgence of fundamental Christianity that had begun in the 70's in response to the growing presence of the gay community and free sexuality in general. It was a convenient occurrence that religious leaders of the time claimed was a punishment for sinful behavior. The religious element of 80's conservatism is portrayed in evangelist Pastor Richards, although rather than fix the "problems" of the world, his cultish solution is to build a statue of himself that is actually a rocket with which he will take anyone wealthy enough to buy a seat to the "promised land". In actuality, and in reflection of the televangelist scandals of the 80's in which several televangelists were exposed as frauds and adulterers, it is revealed that Richards is a charlatan who intends to use the money for the statue to build himself a mansion in Hawaii where he can live with his five concubines.

This same sort of conservatism, usually billed as "family values" when it benefited to distance the idea from religion, would also be the driving force behind issues of censorship, such as the PMRC, the feminist movement against pornography, and the beginnings of criticism against violent videogames. These attitudes are portrayed by the character of Jan Brown, a homemaker and activist against the degradation of the family unit. She is proud of her home-schooled children, whom she teaches to hunt for their own food (which resulted in the death of a mailman) and must wear bathing suits to take a bath for fear of them seeing their own nude bodies. Her fervor, however, is revealed to be an extension of her efforts to keep her own family together, as her husband cheats on her with his secretary.

While all of this is going on, the tailend of the Cold War is going on, and this results increased fear of Russia and extreme nationalism. On top of this, specific especially to Florida, is the Mariel boatlift, in which thousands of Cuban immigrants left the country to seek asylum in the States. John F. Hickory is an exaggeration of this, in that he considers anyone who isn't from Florida a foreigner, although he himself only moved there recently. More concerned with Northern state retirees than communists, he wants to dig a river to separate the state from the rest of the country.

Congressman Alex Shrub, on the other hand, sees retirement and tourism as beneficial to Florida as many people are making money from it. Consequently, he derides liberal panelist Callum Crayshaw for his wish to help the poor and those in third-world countries. Shrub proposes that if America worked Crayshaw's way, no one would do any work because there'd always be some charity ready to pay their way. He uses this as a platform for his Republican position of making the rich richer while the poor get poor. America, he believes, cannot and is not a country of people making peace and being a unified front. Americans must look out for #1, though he ignores that the people who have become rich are not actually doing much work themselves.

To be fair though. Crayshaw, a well-traveled liberal yuppie, does not have realistic ideas about how to solve any real world problems either. His ideas all have to do with talking a lot about visiting impoverished countries, weaving baskets, and spending his father's money.

Mostly, if you were not on drugs or otherwise unaware of the world outside of Mötley Crüe and Miami Vice, the 80's was a scary time and when people are scared, they revert back to these attitudes as they offer a semblance of control and safety. This should be very familiar to everyone today.

Which perhaps is why there is an entire episode devoted to the idea of positive thinking, or more broadly Perception. It's an entire episode about methods of coping with a bleak and uncertain world. Representative of, of course, unhealthy dealing are Konstantinos Smith, Jeremy Robard, and Jenny Louise Crab.

Smith is a stereotypical goth who claims that the world is a lie and "only darkness is truth". He copes with the world through pessimism, resignation, and a delusion that he possesses magical powers. Intriguingly, though, he often comes off as the best adjusted of the guests and they frequently find themselves agreeing with him. Crab is overtly optimistic and bright, despite contending with the memory of her foster parents' murder, although this is the result of the high dosage of anti-depressants she takes. She represents coping by reliance on drugs and other addictions. Robard, on the other hand, isn't coping so much as taking advantage of others trying to do so by hawking his 3-step self-help programs. well, maybe he does do in that he deludes himself into thinking he is a successful motivational speaker. This facade is shoddy and he is ousted as a shyster by the end of the episode as well as busted in the face with a paperweight by the host, Maurice Chavez, who professes to feel pretty positive afterward.

Violence is always the answer in GTA.

In this way, the attitudes and stories behind the episodes of Pressing Issues. despite being written nearly ten years ago, about a period of time thirty years ago, continue to be relevant today.

You can listen to all three episodes of Pressing Issues on YouTube. I have even made a nice playlist for your convenience.

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September 2021