Friday, January 27, 2017

Mary Gets Political Again -- Tear Down This Wall

"Locks keep honest people honest." - One of my High School Teachers

Man, there is a lot of talk about walls lately. Really expensive walls. Aggravating walls. Walls, I wish wouldn't be built because it logically and morally does not make any sense. I have a bone to pick about the urge to build walls. Sure, they can look cool and make a statement, sometimes a very bad statement, but at least a flamboyant statement. My biggest problem is walls don't work, at least not for long. If there is a problem, the problem adapts. And at the proclamation that you made something "big, believe me", a metaphorical iceberg comes out of nowhere and ruins everything. 

Well, the wall looked good as it lasted.


Usually, walls are built to keep out supposed bad stuff, that is the theory anyway, but it often keeps out the good stuff too. You can confirm the good stuff will stay away because good people take the hint that they're clearly not wanted here. Bad people? No, they take that wall as a challenge. 
I mean, how dare that wall walk so seductively
If people really want to go over a wall, they will. Whether it is because they are, as certain politicians say, criminals, or people who are looking for safety and stability, if you feel you need to get over that wall, you will get over. That wall is not impassable. As one Syrian refugee said, "A mother wouldn't put their child in the water if the land was safe." Let that sink in for a moment.

An example from history, although not a traditional wall, is that of the Maginot Line during WWII. France, worried about Germany invading them, created a rather large trench filled with explosives and artillery on the border they shared with Germany. The Germans just went around and Paris fell in 1940. 

Pretty accurate

Another historical example is look at Hadrian's Wall in the UK. Or for my geeky readers, the Wall in the North in Game of Thrones. The wall was built to keep the Picts/Wildlings out. But the Romans acknowledged the Picts/Wildings scoffed at it and went where they wanted. Wait, what is the real life equivalent of the White Walkers? The... Hebrides?

Yeah, I don't trust that Puffin. I bet he'd ignore Hadrian's Wall too

But that is the weakness of walls. There is always a way around them. There are boats, airplanes, tunnels, fake IDs, Seige engines if you're playing CIV 6. There are cheaper ways to stop criminals. And more effective. Criminals will adapt and not follow the wall's statement much like they wouldn't listen to a lock.


The titans in Attack on Titan eventually learned how to destroy walls

Another problem walls create are divisions within communities and create isolated cultures. You don't have to look far to see that the Berlin Wall created a divide between a people causing them to slightly diverge culturally. North Korea and South Korea face a similar problem if they are ever *ahem* united. 

One day I will not use a comparison to Avatar the Last Airbender, but that is not today. But a fictional example of divides created is the city of Ba Sing Se. In Avatar, it is a city that has a large wall around it and mini-walls inside that divide the classes. People in the city are forbidden to acknowledge that a war is going on outside the walls. Walls breed ignorance in this case. 

I mean... bear???
Also, worth mentioning Iroh probably could have destroyed the wall had he not had a breakdown. And the wall did not stop Azula from infiltrating. 

Walls are largely symbolic of power, especially now when there are things called airplanes that can fly over them. I am not against proper border security nor do I think we should let everyone in willy-nilly. Just this idea of a wall is not well thought out, is mostly symbolic, and will cost more money than it would to make sure the people of Flint have clean drinking water. 

So let's build bridges rather than walls.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Thoughts on Final Fantasy XV in Vignettes



So I just beat Final Fantasy XV and I have a lot of thoughts and feelings. During my adventure with Prince Noctis, I kept on hoping a theme I could expound upon in an entry would present itself so I could write a review entry. That didn't happen as it turns out there was a lot of little topics I wanted to talk about.

Spoilers of course. You have been warned.

First, to address the elephant in the room.


Here's a Baby Elephant
Earlier this year, Hajime Tabata made a controversial statement in regards to the fact that the four characters in FFXV would all be male. And it would focus around a car that he called the fifth character. He then went on to say that a female character would have ruined the dynamic as men cannot be honest around women (?! Insulting for men and women equally!), that the story would have to  become about love because that is all what bitches care about amirite! Okay, I paraphrased the last comment. His statement felt like something out of Mad Men and felt like a huge step backward from characters like Lightning or Yuna.


Can't be honest around women because I sleep around!


I mean, a story about a bromance and a road trip is not a story that needs to be told. We have so many stories about this. Seth Rogan wouldn't have a career without the bromance formula.

I felt a little frustrated when I first heard this. And when people said they didn't plan on playing it, I toyed with it in my mind. But then, I decided while the statement was problematic, I wouldn't turn away and give it a chance at least. What Tabata said was ignorant but not malicious. And everyone is allowed to have problematic faves. This may be one of them.

While I do not blame people who choose to skip this one, I'm really glad I gave this game a chance. Not only did the developers step outside their comfort zone and went open world for most of it, they developed a unique battle system that could entertain experts and novices alike. And the story, while it borrowed from other source materials, put many interesting spins making the world its own.

After completing the game, there is a bit of irony to Tabata's statement. Noctis and Lunafreya's intertwined fate and love for one another is a major driver of the plot. The real ending is the two of them finally wed either in the hereafter or an alternative universe. Noctis's impression then appears on the FFXV logo. In other words -- love as well as duty is what motivates the main character.

This is seriously how it ends. No love my ass.


Also a bit ironic too is that the lesson Noct learns is one of sacrifice. He's a man of privilege who must sacrifice himself to help the world and bring back light and end the cycle of kings. And this isn't a fake sacrifice like in Harry Potter Deathly Hallows. No, Noctis dies. And he's not coming back.

The Four Main Characters Could Have Just Been Archetypes, But Weren't.

I'm not going to lie. I like bromance stories. I'm sure part of it falls on the fact that I am straight female. But also it may be because I like stories about friendship and bromance is a subset of that.

Even though the bromance aspect of what I read and saw before the game came out didn't deter me from playing it, I did kind of make fun of the character designs because they looked so typical. Oh, there's the brooding prince, the badass tough guy, the happy dumb one. And there's Ignis who looked to me was created in a board room in which someone piped up with, "You know what the kids like now? Black Butler."


Yas but can he cook?
The game could have held up with those archetypes, but each character was very distinct. I cared about them by the end, I didn't even realize it until something bad happened to them in the plot. Not in game play because GODDAMNIT PROMPTO! I JUST GAVE YOU A STUPID HIGH POTION!


Noct has a moment of clarity -- Chocobos!

Noctis could have been a bratty prince. Or moody. Noctis's primary characteristic can best be described as bored. He sleeps a lot, kind of has his head in the clouds, is a bit naive, but he's not a mean person. unless you choose the mean interaction options, that is. Noct doesn't really understand what "duty" is. And that is his story and what he learns throughout the adventure.

I really like Prompto's freckles
Prompto is the happy idiot character, sure. However, you get flashes into his past that gives him surprisingly a lot of depth. You see bits of it at certain points in the game, that part of him that wants to belong, that wants the group to be together. Sure, the happy person with a dark past is nothing new, but Prompto could have just been the comic relief. Instead, he reminded me so much of Vivi from FF9. Also, I looked forward to see what he caught on his camera during camping!

Ignis just said something very British


I really liked Ignis. He was so Team Dad. Also, I have to admit, I like the idea of a Battle Butler. Even though his defining trait is his loyalty and stiff-upper-lip, I like that we get glimpses of him faltering. And when he goes blind, you sense his pain at the loss of agency, of being in the position forcing others to help him, but it is done subtly and in line with his high brow deposition. Out of all the characters, I wish I could have seen more about him during the 10 year skip. He went blind just as the world went dark. He had no prince to serve and now people saw him as helpless. Also, cooking is super fun!
He really likes noodles
 Gladio was probably the least developed of the four main characters, however, he still surprised me in many ways. For one, he is a laid back guy except he is the only one that is willing to call out Noctis. Ignis may do so but in a kind, diplomatic way. No, Gladio tells Noctis to stop being an ass. That part of his personality is the most interesting to me.




They did have a great dynamic. I cannot deny that at all. It felt reminiscent of Final Fantasy X-2.

THERE IS EVEN A POSING SIDE QUEST! NO JOKE!


The Female Characters Were Varied.

I liked Lunafreya but I will even admit it kind of annoyed me how her entire motivation revolved around Noct. Granted, it was pretty mutual. Even so, Luna had this whole background plot in which she just was so badass and had a lot of rough choices to make herself. Glad the movie covered that a bit more. Luna reminded me of Yuna in terms of both of them having a great inner strength. That is what I liked about Luna. I also really liked how she took care of Noct and both of them had very sweet moments.

Despite Lunafreya falling into this pit of doing what she did for a dude -- not saying she didn't have a good reason to help Noct, she understood her destiny as much as Noct understood his at the end -- the game provided us with female characters who were different from Luna and two of them joined your party for a little bit.

First off, there is Gladio's little sister Eris. She definitely fits into that container with Yuffie and Selfie and Rikku. However, what I liked about her, sure, she definitely is the tagalong sister type, she had agency. She was a nice addition to the team when she came along. While she crushes on Noct, she definitely wants to make a name for herself which we find out, she eventually does. I was kind of disappointed that we never see Eris the demon hunter.

I love how Eris is so amazed by the damage of my firaga spell

 Second off, we have the dragoon character Aranea Highwind. I wanted to know more about her. She pops into our team. She makes snarky comments. She turns into a freedom fighter after her time with the empire. She and Iggy have a thing (I can't help but ship them -- to hear them talk to each other, I just like the idea of the two of them together. SHUT UP! It's MY FAN FICTION!). Then she leaves your party. I really want a spin off game a la Rogue One. But what is great about Aranea is the same as of one of the few things I like about FF12 -- she's a character with a motivation outside the main plot that doesn't revolve around the main character. However, she sticks around because it continues her story -- we just don't get to see most of it.

OMG! It is an actual legit ship! (credit to: https://twitter.com/h_ff15/status/810013942273675265)


I hear the DLC coming out this year, Aranea, Eris, and Luna will all become playable. I sort of wish they were in the party more to begin with.

Final Fantasy XV is an Interesting Take on the Christ Allegory

Don't look at me like that, Jesus


Like bromance road trip tales, there is nothing new about these Christ Allegory stories. They're older than Christ himself. However, there is always this loneliness about those tales. The Christ figure is a person who sacrifices himself for the world and loves the people in it, but he is usually alone.

Don't get me wrong, Noctis IS a lonely figure. He's one of those people who just has a hard time connecting with others. But he DOES with Luna, Prompto, Gladio, and Ignis at different levels. They make him feel less alone. Even as he heads to the throne of self-sacrifice alone, he brings their spirits with him in the form of the photograph you choose.

That is something that always interested me about Jesus's story and how this story reflects that. Jesus had 12 apostles. Yeah, you hear about Judas as his bff, but he still was surrounded by his followers that people never really look to. Noctis has his friends and yes two of them are servants. At the end, of the game, you see the last camp fire and Noctis tells them that he has to die to save the world.

"I made peace with it," he says as tears roll down his cheeks. Then in the biggest bromance moment ever says his appreciation of his friends for being there.

It was such a point of humanity that I don't think I will ever forget.

Don't look at me like that, Prompto


There are also more on the surface comparisons. Noctis is the last one in a line of kings. He is reborn and comes out of a cave. He even says, "It's finally over" which reminds me of , "It is Finished".

Not to mention he faces off with a man who became a demon basically because he thought it would help mankind... which leads me to...

Man! What a Villain!

The moment Ardyn shows up on screen, I was already drawn to him. I think it was his crazy red hair and his hat.

Definitely the hat


But also, it is because he didn't really feel like any other Final Fantasy villain. Sure, Luna's brother Ravus fits the mold more closely to a typical one. He has a serious Sephiroth Vibe. But I felt like the writers knew this and wanted to bait and switch the players. I REALLY wish we knew more about Ravus. It's heartbreaking what we do see.

Man, such Sephiroth vibes


Anyway, there are a lot of Kefka allusions to Ardyn. Noctis calls him the jester a few times. Ardyn does dress colorfully and very much fits the archetype of trickster. He kind of reminded me of a fox. I couldn't help but liked Ardyn, though. He wasn't slimey like Seymour or Kuja. He was too much of a joker to be a Sephiroth. Not brash enough to be Jecht.

Heck, even when Ardyn taunted me, I still liked him.

True to Final Fantasy form, Ardyn did have a sympathetic backstory. And like I alluded to in the paragraph before, it fit in nicely with the whole idea of Ardyn being Lucifer. He did what he did claiming to help humanity but it ended up poisoning him instead. Made him a little bit twisted.

This is a great video about what is amazing about Ardyn

That Was Some Creepy Shit, SquareEnix

Final Fantasy always had these creepy moments that make you feel a bit unsettled. However, Final Fantasy XV took creepy to almost Silent Hill Levels. First off, the demons were enough for me to make sure I made camp before sunset.

Second off, Nifelheim level. Never had I felt so on edge and creeped out. I screamed out loud at least twice, scaring my cat. It didn't help that you had very few attacks at your disposal and hiding from the demon infused soldiers was terrifying enough. What was even worse, but great game play, you can hear them before you go around the corner.

It was an experiment that paid off.

Paid Homage to Past Final Fantasy Without Being A Retread

There were a lot of shout-outs. Luna's association with flowers and how she died (Aeris). Soldiers that were experimented on (SOLDIER in FF7), Ardyn being called the Jester (Kefka, FF6). A road trip with friends (FFX). But it never overwhelmed with those references.

The easiest comparison is Noct to Yuna in FFX. Both put an end to a cycle except Yuna didn't have to sacrifice herself while Noct had to. Both characters had to learn something different. Yuna learned that there is a 3rd way. Noct learned that as someone who many sacrificed for, that he would have to give his life. 


Some Missteps.

Like I mentioned above, I sort of wished we could have had more of certain characters like Aranea.

I also wish that 10 years later had the option for open world and you could have Demon Hunter Eris in your party.

Also, while I liked Prompto's backstory, I wish there was a bit more. Like I wish Ardyn maybe somehow activated in Prompto the demonic stuff that was implied to be put in him in the first place and you'd have to fight him. But then the ~*~ power of friendship ~*~ broke him out of it.

His blood could then become one of his talents but maybe there is a drawback. Like sometimes it makes him confused.

I Wanted More

This game was so packed filled with goodies. Like you could seriously form infinite amount of strategies to play this game with the battle system. I would replay it purely for that reason. There were so many side quests. I had so many questions about characters and the lore but in a good way. The characters' special abilities was another neat addition.

This game is replayable.

Lastly, I Really Like This Song

I had this like on repeat in the car

Monday, November 21, 2016

Words Matter

There is only two certainties in my particular world of fandom -- I will always buy the latest Final Fantasy series, even if Conan O'Brien calls it a video game if written by James Joyce; and I will always be a part of the Harry Potter fandom, even just as I feel myself falling away from it. 
I just can't get away from that face filled with hope

This is especially true with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Harry Potter in a historical setting, I mean, how could I not? However, unlike the Cursed Child and Rowling's other works, I really enjoyed this story as much as I liked the original series. I have so many feels. So many. 
Really, this is me


However, like the title of this blog entry suggests, I am going to use this movie as a vehicle to talk about a very important matter. Words matter.

Spoilers for the movie. 

While I loved Newt Scamander's gotta catch em all plot, I felt especially drawn in to the tragic character of Credence Barebone. He was beaten by his mother and grew up in an ideology that cursed his very existence, then "Percival Graves" developed a predatory relationship with Credence under the guise of accepting him. This became a perfect storm causing Credence to develop an Obscureal -- uncontrollable dark magic that is born from the self-loathing of a young witch or wizard who attempts to hide their magical powers. Credence's new power arguably did more damage to New York City than the Avengers did. 
Pictured: An Obscurus

I cannot escape that whole idea over the weekend. It melded in with my thoughts of the latest election and how I relate to people. Credence is more than just a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. He is the vulnerable of society, the downtrodden, the exploitable, the lives that don't matter. And just like that, he became deadly and uncontrollable. That is what hate does -- whether you become it or just absorb it, soon, it just becomes a swarm of locust and there is little anyone can do to stop it when it comes down to that. 
The locusts are under the coat

Credence's story isn't new. It actually reminds me of Carrie White from Stephen King's classic, Carrie. Carrie and Credence grew up in similar homes and wanted something very similar and simple -- they just wanted to be accepted and loved and protected. But the world chose not to give them that. So both end up lashing out. What is further interesting is Carrie's self-loathing eventually turns towards herself, which is common for females. Credence's goes outward, hurting others, much which is common for males. 
This is basically what Grindelwald did to Credence... except creepier

What pushes both of them over the edge is what people say and do to them. No one shows them kindness. Carrie finds out the boy who asked her to the prom, did so as a joke. Credence realizes the love and affection Graves shows him is not sincere and he is but a pawn in someone else's agenda. They were both rejected for the last time. And they ran out of options and their cries for help were not heard.

Words Matter. Actions Matter. I know it is easy to cast aside this by brushing it off with, "Well, it was /their/ actions." True. Credence did kill people. So did Carrie. But no man is an island. We do not live in a bubble. What you say and what you do can have consequences on other people. You have no idea that the person you just called a freak is an active grenade or not, so just don't do it.

Another excuse, too, is that "they should just be stronger." That is not for you to judge. Everyone works through things in different ways and at different speeds. And how you treat people does effect them. So try to make it for the positive.

Additionally, not only do words and actions effect people, but the wrong words and actions can allow the vulnerable to become easily exploitable. "Graves" does this with Credence in many scenes, pulling him along with the false premise that he cared about Credence that he could even help him and teach him magic. Then Credence fell out of favor and was alone once again.

Here's the thing, Graves is actually, Grindelwald, yes, Voldemort's predecessor. He uses Credence to further his own extremist agenda against non-magical people. This is how many extremist organizations develop and recruit. They zero in on the vulnerable. When you have people in positions of power saying, just for a hypothetical example, that everyone in a specific group are terrorists or rapists, you are opening up vulnerable individuals in those groups to the sounds of extremist voices purring in alleyways, "Those in power do not understand you, but /we/ do..." 
*shivers*

This is why words matter.

As a counter example, I present you Zuko from the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. Like Credence, Zuko has an abusive parent and a sociopathic presence in his life (for Zuko, Azula; for Credence, Grindelwald) who would like to use him for her own ends. Both these people contribute to Zuko's self-loathing and explosive personality, sometimes effecting his very power. 
I imagine Zuko talking to Credence in this cross-over fanfic I'm writing/not writing

Unlike Credence, though, Zuko has the positive words from his Uncle Iroh. Sure, those words don't really get to Zuko until the third season, but he still had that positive influence. 
Uncle Iroh is everyone's uncle.

When Aang rescued Zuko in the Blue Spirit episode, Aang says that if there was no war, he'd like to think he and Zuko could be friends. Even though Zuko tossed a fireball at Aang, as the Avatar flew away, there was a hint those words had a positive effect on the future Fire Lord.

Newt's words to Credence at the climax echos Aang's first season Avatar words to Zuko. You aren't alone. I'm here for you. Newt's words seem to effect Credence in a positive way. Until the American Wizarding Government shows up and true to form shoots and asks questions later (which also draws a #BLM comparison).

The Fantastic Beasts crew have spilled the beans that Credence is still alive and will have a larger role in the coming movies. I really hope he gets a Zuko style redemption arc. And if that is the case, I hope it was Newt's kind words that pushed him down that path. Because words do matter.

I guess the bottom line is, quoting from another movie I saw this weekend, The Edge of Seventeen, is that everyone is going through some sort of shit, some are better at hiding it. And to quote another movie, maybe we should just Be Excellent To Each Other.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

If You Lie With Dogs, You Get Fleas

Hello again, after an incredibly long space between entries again! Life caught me off-guard again and I got busy with stuff. Work. Dating. Friend Stuff. Civilization VI.

Even with all of that, nothing has caught me so off-guard than the results of the U.S. election. Deep down, I did have a feeling he would win, but I wrote it off as my inner pessimist getting out of the circle again.

No negativity!

But I have my degree in Political Science and I'm a former Political/Military Analyst. I've studied the urban/rural divide and what it means. I know that our news media tends to be "coast heavy". There is still lingering sexism and racism in this country. And during the primaries, when Bernie Sanders did better than what anyone else said he'd do and Trump won the nomination, it became clear to me that we were in an anti-establishment year.

So why did the Democratic Party push so hard for Hillary Clinton, a political insider if there ever was one, for the nomination?

Take note, DNC
Before anyone asks, yes, if Bernie had the nomination, I definitely think he could have beaten Trump. The states Hillary lost were ones were he had incredible popularity. And I do think the Democrat establishment would have circled the wagons around him much like the Republican party reluctantly did for Trump. If Bernie ran against a Mitt Romney or a Marco Rubio, I think he probably would have lost (Blue Dog Democrats would have voted Republican for moderates like them). But against Trump? Absolutely.


But anyways, this post is not meant to be a post mortem of the DNC's mistakes. I want to discuss my biggest worry about a Trump presidency. And since this is a geek blog, I am going to do it in the geekiest way possible.

Segue Gif. Pictured: The world watching this madness
First off, on November 9th, the first emotion I noted from my friends was not anger from losing, but fear, especially from my POC, LGBTQA*, and female friends. Despite what some of my conservative friends say, these are justified feelings to have. Trump's rhetoric managed to mobilize far right groups that people previously believed to be small in number or dead completely. This includes white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and frenzied ideologues like those in the alt-right.

It is no surprise this happened. Trump's calls for mass deportations, massive wall along the border with Mexico (to keep those pesky rapists out!), and his treatment of women galvanized these groups because finally, here's a candidate who "gets it." This is not some sort of left-wing propaganda as I heard some people make the excuse. The KKK were literally out in public marching in downtown areas in places like South Carolina after the election. Stephen Bannon, the favored to be Chief of Staff, is a member of the alt-right. Hate Crimes have gone up since the election.

Now, Trump is already walking back on those promises favored by the extreme right. He has tried to distance himself from it in the last days of the election. And he has called for unity and that he will protect LGBTQA* people. I don't think Trump is a "white hood" racist and it is possible his rhetoric was a way to get elected to the White House and he doesn't believe it, if you give him the benefit of the doubt. If that is the case, Trump needs to realize that emboldening these groups is like Pandora's Box. Once you unleash them, you cannot put them back as easily.

The extreme right being let out is much like letting out Bill Cipher. Just Don't!
In fact, it will likely backfire spectacularly. There are two shows I feel practically predicted the future when it comes to this. They serve as a warning of what it means to tap into hate of extreme elements. And it doesn't end well.

The first show that comes to mind is the last season of Orange Is The New Black. Now, in this show, there is always the joke that they're not racist, they're tribal. And when Piper stupidly tried to call to the tribes and used dangerous, dog whistle rhetoric, she bargains for more than she expected.

Piper in last season and into this season runs an underground panty ring. When one of the Latina girls, Maria, one whose father is a drug lord, asks if she can join, Piper says no for reasons that aren't entirely clear. Maria begins her own business. Piper is furious so starts a security team as revenge. Piper stupidly uses some dog whistle language against the Latina girls. That attracts skinheads and other racists who take the opportunity to protect Piper, sure, but also to beat up minorities. Piper tries to walk back what she said but the skinheads don't listen.

The Latina girls jump Piper and Maria decides to give Piper a lesson. She says that she doesn't think Piper is racist with the likes of Skinhead Helen but the fact that she plays to it for her own purposes makes her just as bad. Then, the Latina girls hold Piper down and brand a swastika in her arm.

I just... don't feel bad for you, Piper
If you lie with dogs, you get fleas. Piper was complicit in racism by allowing the skinheads to do what they want. She used them to get the upper hand and now she couldn't get rid of them, no matter how much walking back she did. Maria was right. To associate with the skinheads and their ilk makes you just as bad and you might as well wear that swastika.

The second show that I think the Trump administration could learn a thing or two from is Game of Thrones. In this comparison Trump is Cersei and the extreme right is the Faith Militant.

And here's Tommen Trump
Two seasons ago in Game of Thrones, Cersei Lannister didn't like the fact that Margaery Tyrell was moving in on her turf to become Queen of Westeros due to her marriage to Cersei's youngest son, Tommen. I mean, the people actually like Margaery.

 
I mean Cersei would be like... ew non incestuous kids (probably)
And Tommen likes Margaery. Cersei couldn't have that. She wanted to be queen and she didn't want to relinquish her power to Margaery. So she made an alliance with the Faith Militant so they could crack down on the Tyrells' often hedonistic ways.

All they need are some white hoods
At first, the Faith Militant does Cersei's dirty work. They imprison Margaery's gay brother Loris for his sodomy and they imprison Margaery for being complicit. But then, the Faith Militant turn on Cersei, pointing out her own crimes against the flesh because of her sexual relationship with her twin brother Jaime. This leads to her walk of shame.

Backfired
In the latest season, Cersei manages to get rid of the Faith Militant, but at a drastic price.

But that is my argument. Groups of people who the far right target know all too well you can't put these group's back. And that is why they're afraid. Trump can walk back all he wants but these groups already feel emboldened with his campaign rhetoric. And he should also step back lightly -- Anwar Sadat and Yitzak Rabin were both killed by the extremists of their own side for stepping back previous promises.

If Trump goes the way of Rabin and Sadat, I fear a Pence presidency. Trump has always been wishy-washy on LGBTQA* stuff but it is scarily obvious where Pence stands.

I don't know the solution to this problem except that we as a people need to really make it obvious that this behavior is unacceptable. I cast my vote not in my own self-interest but rather who I think could best represent ALL people of this still great country. And I do not want my friends to be afraid. I wish I could tell them not to, but the most I can say is I am here for you. You're beautiful. You're wonderful. I love you.

I will end this entry by reflections of Roy Mustang:

Protect each other, people!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Good Person does not automatically mean Good Parent and other annoying Parenthood tropes

I just read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last night and I found it flawed but enjoyable. I really wish it was just a book instead of a play but alas. I'm a Potterhead and I'll take what I can get. I read some reviews people had on Goodreads and there was one reoccurring theme that I couldn't help but disagree with. The big beef people had was that Harry wasn't a particularly good father.

I'm still not sure who the cursed child is -- Scorpius or Albus (lot of -uses)


This leads into an assumption I'm not in full agreement with. Someone who has done good things and is mostly a good person doesn't automatically mean they will know the secrets of being a perfect parent. Parents are humans and no one has yet figured out the magical formula that guarantees your child will grow up to be a successful human being. The Cursed Child was flawed but I didn't think the whole "Harry was out of character" was actually a problem.  There were a few moments yes, but not about that.

***Spoilers!***

Albus is a typical angsty teen and let's face it, he's Harry but without the issues to angst at that Harry could. James and Lily are practically Weasleys in personality and Albus had Harry's sullen, urge to prove himself. That urge are clearly qualities Harry shares that are Harry's Slytherin qualities. Albus and Harry are too similar yet different enough that they can't see eye to eye. And Harry had a horrible temper -- mostly because he wasn't allowed to get angry as a child. His suspicions of Scorpius aren't entirely unfounded. He's a Malfoy and when Harry's scar started hurting, I could see how Harry would be jumpy about it.

Good Lord, seven years did he run into Voldemort in some form...


That being said, just because Harry saved the wizarding world doesn't mean he knows how to deal with a child like Albus. That's the thing, no one form of child-rearing works because all children are different. Albus is a little asshat because he's 14. Harry has no idea what he's doing because he has no frame of reference to work off of. I guess he had Arthur Weasley but that's about it.

Let's face it, Molly was mostly on her own here


Criticism of Harry in Cursed Child reminds me of another set of characters that received the same exact critique and that is of Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender. In Legend of Korra, Aang's children go on an adventure together where they vent their frustrations. It is revealed that Aang may be the Avatar but he wasn't the best of fathers. He favored Tenzin and ignored the other two. In fact there are shades of Albus in Tenzin. They both love their father but resent their family legacy to a degree and feel somewhat burdened with carrying it in the next generation.

Pictured: Family Resentment


However, Aang has the same problem Harry has. Yeah, he had Monk Gyatso but the idea of a familial unit like he formed with Katara, he doesn't know how to be a father in the typical nuclear family. The only relationship he's familiar with is mentor/trainee -- the one he had with Tenzin.

This can also happen in the reverse -- Bad People can love their children and be good parents. The Cursed Child also showed this with Malfoy and Scorpius. Malfoy loves his son (and his wife) and actually raised Scorpius to be a decent person. Malfoy doesn't even chastize him for it, in fact, he expresses he wished Scorpius would discuss his feelings more. I was surprised that Draco was a great father. However, this made sense because Lucius was cruel to Draco and Draco probably figured he didn't want to be that type of father. Draco at least had a guideline of what not to be while Harry didn't even have that.

Pictured: Father of the Year


Of course, at this point in the story, I hesitate to call Draco "bad" just more reformed. However, Narcissa, Draco's mother definitely counts. 

Also Bad People loving their children is in spades in Game of Thrones. Cersei is a horrible, conniving, social climber, but it is said over and over her best quality is she loves her children. Even the horrible one.

A little shit only a mother could love

 Another good example I can think of is in the Spielberg movie Munich. First off, I cannot recommend that movie enough. If you want to talk about a movie whose morality hovers in the gray, this one is it. For those who don't know, Munich is about the Israeli response to the murder of the Israeli Olympic Athletes in Munich, which was to send assassins throughout the world to kill those suspected to be behind the plot.

There is one scene in which the protagonist comes into the fancy house of a man who was involved in Palestinian movements that he was assigned to kill. It is clear this man is not a particularly good person. He is okay with killing innocents if they were Jewish people. As the protagonist sneaks off to get measurements to place the bomb, he runs into the man's daughter who is about 12 years old. The protagonist is obviously conflicted by her presence. And we watch as this nasty man who previously said he was okay with violence against Jewish people be the most adorable father to this 12 year old girl.

He loves his daughter? Holy shit.


 I feel like one of the biggest insult you can give a person is to accuse them of not loving their children (or if they don't have children, like children period). But how someone fares in parenthood is not the only quality you can judge a person on.

Another Parenthood trope I wish would just die is that motherhood has some sort of magical power that cure sickness and that anyone can just take to it like riding a bike. Sure, I am sure motherhood is a wonderful thing for some people but it doesn't solve all problems. It is not as prevalent as it used to be which is refreshing. I still want to share my favorite subversions.

 The first one has to do with Carrie Mathieson in Homeland. She has some mental issues, which are fine for a character to have, when the writers decided to make her pregnant, I groaned hoping that she suddenly wouldn't become well because motherhood is magical like that. No, Homeland made Carrie a terrible mother. She loved her baby, sure, but she could not handle that stress that it entails. There was a moment you could tell she came close to drowning the baby.

The other subversion is in the movie Babadook (another great movie). This horror film focuses around a mother and son and the bogeyman who haunts them. The mother gave birth to her son on the same day her husband died. And her son has behavior problems. She loves her son but she resents him because her son is so difficult to deal with and she misses her husband so much. He's like a constantly reminder of what she lost. The movie is brilliant in that it showed how motherhood did not solve her grief but rather it was something she had to grow into.

She looks like she wants to strangle him and she's not even possessed yet.


Parenthood is a wonderful thing for some people. It is also a complicated experience, or so I hear and have observed. I like when writers explore how complicated it is and how good parent/bad parent is not a label of absolutes. Yes, Harry Potter can beat Voldemort and make shitty decisions as a father. And yes, a conniving Queen Regent can love her children and supporters of terrorism can be cute fathers. But this also probably comes down to we as humans are not defined by absolutes. Villains can have good qualities and heroes can have flaws. And there is no such thing as the perfect parent.

Total disclosure: I am not a mother. I definitely could be wrong but this is just my opinion as I see it!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Frustrating Movies -- X-Men: Apocalypse

My relationship with the X-Men franchise started with a boy. My first boyfriend. He really wanted to see X-Men 2 and I went along with him after he whined a little. Before X-Men, I never was super into superheroes. I did like Spiderman but I said Spiderman was just the big exception. But the moment I saw Nightcrawler BAMFing everywhere, I knew I was in love.

Unf


Since then, I really liked the X-Men universe. I loved the characters and the hijinx they got into. I loved the frienemy friendship between Professor X and Magneto. I loved Magneto and the fact that even though he was a bad guy, you can see where he was coming from. His goal wasn't out of megalomania -- it was more about respect and protection. Misguided sure, but he was an interesting antagonist and an anti-hero. And at the time, I loved Wolverine. As I age, I find myself less interested with him but at the time I was a fan. I never stopped loving Nightcrawler though.

Magneto does what I want to do to Congress sometimes. SOMETIMES!


And I never really stopped loving the franchise, even during highs (X-Men Days of Future's Past) and lows (X-Men 3).

But X-Men: Apocalypse. I really wanted to be blown away. I really did. And instead, I decided to revive my frustrating movies series. Because it wasn't X-Men 3 bad but it wasn't super great either. The movie had wonderful moments and great choices but the missteps were big and distracting.

The movie starts with the somewhat origin of Apocalypse, the oldest mutant in the world, and how the Ancient Egyptians had him buried, hopefully to be forgotten. He rises in the 1980s and he chooses his Four Horseman -- street urchin Storm, sword for hire Psylocke, um... metal head hired fighter Angel I guess?, and Magneto -- and wants to destroy humanity to turn Earth into a mutant haven. So basically, Magneto's endgame but on steroids. Can the X-Men stop him? In the 80s???

Angel is so lame, I am not even gonna give him a section.


I decided to split the rest of the entry on what worked and what didn't. So, Spoilers below!

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What Worked

Quicksilver

Look at this lil scamp


I loved Quicksilver in Days of Future's Past. I never get tired of his trolling of everyone around him and how he executed that trolling by using his speedster abilities. His scenes were small but they easily stole the movie. However, I respect Singer for only using Quicksilver when he was needed. No need for Quicksilver to take over with his one gimmick like Castiel took over Supernatural.

He took over the FBI now? So glad I stopped watching


I was pleased to see Peter Maximoff returned to the movie but I feared he would become a one trick pony like those characters have a habit of doing. However, the screenwriter gave Quicksilver a character arc which kept him fresh and developed him as a character but also gave us fan servicey scenes that made us fall in love with him to begin with.

Loveable anarchist


I saw one online reviewer saying he felt it unbelievable that Quicksilver still lived in his mom's basement 10 years later. I... don't think it is that surprising. First off, Peter is a classic slacker. I can also see him falling into the existential crisis hole because of his abilities. What would be the point of working if any task given to you, you can finish in five minutes, for an example? Then, I'm sure when you see your father on TV, who you just broke out of the Pentagon and then he tried to kill the president, that is something that would take a lot to work through.

Peter goes to Xavier's School to find Magneto and to meet his father despite his mother advising him not to. "Nothing good will come out of having a relationship with him" she insisted, "But I can't stop you." Quicksilver arrives at the school and manages to use his ability to save everyone mid-explosion in a beautiful scene to Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. I felt this defined Peter's character to show how much he grew. He didn't know these people yet saved all of them. Except Havoc.

When Quicksilver has his moment to tell Eric about his lineage and hopefully distract him enough to drop the large magnetic field, he chooses not to. It is like the words his mother said to him begin to ring in his ears. And he realized he won't figure out who he is by just talking to Magneto. That suddenly everything will make sense (another reason why he was a basement dweller for a decade) because he met one of his DNA donors. Also, he got to see what his father did when in pain -- he wasn't this strong man who had all the answers like he seemed to in DC.

He says at the end that one day he will tell Magneto, but  it has to be at the right time.

I imagine it would be like this (by Wacky06)


But, at least he moved out of his mom's basement maybe to live in Charles's basement, I don't know. But that is already a big bit of character development. So glad he did not become the franchise's Castiel.

Jean Grey

I'm not a fan of Jean Grey. I remember getting a huge comic fan friend pissed at me for saying that and even gave me the whole, "If you're a woman, you should like her!" But I never found her character particularly intriguing. She's an extremely powerful mutant who has two guys fighting for her. Okay? She's just so bland. I've been told the Dark Pheonix Saga is brilliant but still. I just never really liked her.

But I love Sophie Turner's Jean Grey. Maybe because she's young Jean and we get to see her before she gained more control over her powers. We get to see Jean vulnerable with this inner social awkwardness and fear about her abilities. We see her before she was the Big Woman On Campus. Now, we see her when everyone is afraid of her so she's pretty lonely as a result.

Jean should sit on the Iron Throne


Most importantly, we see her as a foil to Apocalypse. She is an extremely powerful mutant and Jean knows this. She fears it, something Mystique helps her to confront that fear. But more importantly, she has the good sense and empathy of when to use it. I'm sick of Wolverine but the scene of her giving back his memories worked really well (as long as you push aside the fact that Logan and Jean have a thing in the future). She is afraid of hurting people and her helping a stranger like that shows how she embodies the film's message of Great Power is all on how you use it. Use responsibly.

Charles Xavier Still Hates His Powers

Ever since First Class, Xavier's character development has always been treated well. I believe this is partially true due to James Mcavoy's performance. He loves playing Charles and you can tell. It's infectious. His crush on Moira is adorable. I was glad he gave back her memories.

We see him in this movie the closest he has ever been to the professor we all know and love. However, when gets into Apocalypse's head, there is one moment in particular that made me gasp. He says, "You want to know what goes inside my head? You want this?" And grabs Apocalypse's head to project a more chaotic cerebro. Why this moment worked so well is because while Charles had made peace with his abilities there still remains a part of him that hates it. There is part of him that didn't ask for this. Much like how Jean looks annoyed when she acknowledges knowing what everyone else feels, we see angry Charles at the fact he can connect with anyone.

It is another hook into the theme. Having great power is a BURDEN.

Michael Fassbender

I use the name of the actor and not Magneto because I have some issues with some of the choices made for Magneto's story line which I will discuss below. But man, Fassbender is an incredible actor. I still felt his pain even though he had a crappy fridging storyline to deal with.

SO ANGRY HOW BAD THIS SCENE WAS! Was probably his point of focus


Beast As The Bridge

Oh Beast. I just. I love everything about his portrayal. However, one thing I really liked how he is and was used in this part of the franchise is that he's sort of the bridge between Charles and Eric. On one side of the mutant debate we have Charles who believes in the good of everyone. On the other side, we have Eric who believes mankind is guided by fear and ultimately are dangerous to mutants. You can't trust them. Then there is Hank who believes that there are good in some people but not all. You should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. He is a much needed voice in a world of extremes.

The Action Scenes Were Good

I have no complaints here.

Storm was Mediocre

She wasn't great but she still was better than Halle Berry's passionless Storm.

NIGHTCRAWLER

Alan Cumming will always be awesome, but this Nightcrawler held a candle to him. He was adorbs and badass. Well done.

So wide-eyed and innocent


Psylocke's Costume

I just kinda liked the boots.

Most of the costume is like Whaaa? But those boots, man.




The Frustrating Part

Cairo

This is probably a nitpick but kind of bothers me. 1980's Cairo is depicted like 1920's Cairo with 1950's style cars. More people were dressed traditionally than not and there was reference to cutting off the hands of thieves. Also, Egyptians speak a dialect of Arabic. There is no Egyptian language unless you're referencing Coptic which is a scholary language.

1980's Cairo wasn't stuck in some time warp. There are paved roads and the government then was secular. In fact, Egypt in the 1980s was almost militantly secular. Most people in Cairo at the time would dress in western style clothing. Yes, some would have opted for traditional ones, not saying there would be any, but I saw one or two people dressed in 1980s clothing? Additionally, what was all this talking about hand cutting? Because of the secular nature of the Egyptian government, they pretty much banned any too conservative religious bodies. Hand cutting is sadly more common now than it was in 1980s Egypt. Cairo in the 1980s was not Agrabah from Aladdin.

1980s Cairo. Paved roads. Modern cars. Still rundown buildings but you get the idea.


I mean, Cairo is a cool setting! It really is! But don't treat the country as backward in ways it wasn't.

The Fridging of Mrs. Magneto and Magnelet

In 1983, Eric seems to have found peace in Poland working in a factory, a married man, with an adorable fledgling mutant daughter. Then the villagers find out about Eric's past as he saved a man from almost being crushed by metal. They kidnap the daughter to bring him out into the woods and confront him. He said he'll go with them if they just let the girl go. They do. The daughter is upset so all her animal friends attack the villagers, causing one person to shoot a bow that shishkabobs daughter and wife, killing them. This motivates Eric to join Apocalypse.

Pictured: Magneto's motivation to join Apocalypse


As I said above, Michael Fassbender SELLS it. But it is really lame. First off, it is lazy storytelling. fridging is when a writer kills off a love interest or their child to shock them into action. I understand that the writer wanted Magneto to be one of the Four Horseman, however, you really don't have to go to that length. For Eric, his mistrust and anger at humans is always bubbling below the surface. To get him to join Apocalypse, you could have done so many other scenarios. Like what if Eric didn't tell his wife about his past? What if his daughter's mutant ability is subtle so easier to hide? What if he just saved the guy and everyone in the village makes the connection and they go after him trying to kill him?

All those are plausible reasons to cause Eric to turn to Apocalypse. And Fassbender would have sold it either way. But shishkabobing his wife and child on an arrow, not only is it DUMB but just kind of lazy.

So while Kurt, Scott, and Jean save the world, I assume Jubilee was Babysitting?

I honestly don't understand the point of adding Jubilee. She didn't use her powers. She had a few lines. And while seem seemed to bond with Jean, Scott, and Kurt, why wasn't she suddenly there when Striker showed up? Couldn't Jean, Scott, and Kurt have their mall adventure without Jubilee and lose nothing?

They spent more time figuring out her costume than her lines


The Climax

When Charles decided to go into Apocalypse's mind, all I could think was aw yes, Charles is gonna mess with Apocalypse, maybe find the most vulnerable part of him -- the good part because it is Charles. Already in my mind, I saw this kid who only had one power, to jump into other people's bodies. He was ostracized and vowed to become powerful. I guess we don't need villain backstories but this was an opportunity for it and also an opportunity for Charles to practice what he preached which that there is good in everyone.

Then I thought later, what about the guy who Apocalypse jumped into in the beginning -- Poe Dameron. Where does his consciousness go? Does it "die"? Or does it become a shadow of the subconscious mind? Wouldn't it have been cool if Charles or Jean somehow freed Poe Dameron and he helped with the mental assault?

Apocalypse wouldn't stand a chance


Then when Apocalypse was finally destroyed, it was purely because Jean just went Phoenix on him. Which I guess is to show power comes restraint?

I just felt the Climax was a little bit lazy. What was special about Jean's powers that it could destroy an immortal being?

The climax made Charles a hypocrite because he always said there was good in everyone. But apparently not in Apocalypse. He was the exception. If anything, the climax proved Beast and Mystique right, which I guess is kind of cool. But it would have been cooler if Charles admitted to that. Which he didn't.

---

In Conclusion

I'm missing a few things. Like for one, timeline issues. I'm willing to handwave Magneto and the others looking young for people born in the 30s because mutants. I mean, Magneto almost always looks young in the comics even with his birth timeline placing him born in the 1930s. It's shaky but I'll take it. I have a hard time reconciling Havoc and Cyclopes brotherly though. Just messing with the timeline stuff? I guess? I don't know? Couldn't they just make Havoc that cool uncle instead?

Anyway, I don't hate his movie. It is not X-Men 3 or Wolverine Origins. But it is not near X-2 or Days of Future's Past or First Class. I will watch it again because there is so much snarkbait. SO MUCH. But what is so frustrating is it could have been good but it had so many problems.

Like I don't think people realize Apocalypse once jumped into the body of a mutant who had the abilities to make era appropriate superhero costumes out of thin air.

He has good taste in boots


Diehard fans will probably like this movie. If you're not and the kind of person to get hung up on details, you probably won't like it.