Sunday, March 18, 2018

I have not seen Dunkirk yet or WWII movie fatigue

Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working today. I know as soon as I sit down in the theater to see one of his films, I'm not just watching a movie, but I'm witnessing an experience. Having said that, I have still haven't seen his latest installment, Dunkirk. I know it got really good reviews and was nominated for Best Picture and took home more than a few awards. I always enjoy Nolan's films.

So why haven't I seen it? Well, I'll tell you.

It is not this bad... yet

I'm so sick of World War II films, especially those that take place in the western front. I find it compelling that a war that happened over 70 years ago still captures the imagination of filmmakers and writers. But even if that is the case, I find it even more curious that for a war that is named after the whole world-- for good reason-- how much we tend to focus on only one part of the conflict.

I've been thinking a lot about this since the Oscars because I should have the desire to see Dunkirk -- I just don't. I just can't get over that this film seems like every other World War II film but just shot at a different angle. Not to say World War II is not interesting in of itself and we must never forget what happened during the Holocaust or the dangers of imperialism but how many times can we tell this story? Allied soldiers show strength and gumption of human spirit while defeating the darkness of humanity in the form of the Axis.

I think one of the reasons why this story is such a draw is because we like our good versus evil narratives. We want that clear line between what is good and what is evil. We want to cheer the good guys and jeer the bad guys and feel all fuzzy inside when good triumphs. World War II is really the only war in recent memory in which the line is pretty clear. While the allies did commit atrocities including even the U.S. interning their own citizens and the controversial atomic bomb drop, nothing can really top sending certain groups of people to gas chambers after a campaign of othering them. Or a clear form of imperialism, intent of world domination, steamrolling over one country to the next. Hitler can easily be painted as Darth Vader. The Japanese can be portrayed like a single hivemind of Borgish evil. And Italy can be forgotten even though Fascist Italy rose to power first and partially inspired Hitler to begin with. I'm not defending the axis, keep in mind, but situations in all three countries are a lot more complex than depicted.

Wait... I'm confused. Which is the bad guy?

Compare this to the wars that happened afterward. Like Vietnam. Very few Americans nowadays defend the Vietnam War. And sure, jingoistic movies about 'Nam exist, but for the most part movies depicting the war show the hopelessness of it, that young men are going to a country they never heard of to die. Or they come back home to protesters. Sure, the 60's and the 70's were different time for media, but it is like movies about World War II never really shifted focus while other war movies have. That comes down to the fact that WWII had a clearer cause -- stop Germany from taking over Europe and stop Japan from doing the same but in Asia and to stop Italy from eating too many damn carbs.

Remember, Full Metal Jacket humanized the sniper who was the antagonist for most of the film and is even more human than the Drill Instructor in the beginning

One of the frustrating aspects of WWII movies is that there are a goldmine of stories that haven't been touched -- probably because they don't take place on the western front. There are tons of stories from India, North Africa, the Eastern Front, the Pacific. Even some neglected stories on the western front. I even came up with some ideas.

Probably one of my most favorite stories is that of Agent Garbo or Juan Pujol Garcia. He was a Spanish double agent for Britain. And his deception greatly aided the allied forces on D-Day. Juan was kind of an odd guy -- had many odd jobs and none of them stuck. He loved movies though and one of his failed ventures was running a movie theater. He really hated the Nazis and other fascists having participated in the Spanish Civil War. He wanted to help the allied cause. The Brits wouldn't take him at first so he went and lied to the Germans that he had accesses to the Brits. The Germans took him in and once he had established that contact, Juan went back to the Brits and gave his offer again. They accepted. So, Juan developed a complex spy network -- that never really existed. He entirely made it up -- even giving his spies personalities and temperaments. He then used that network to mislead the Germans for the Brits.

This picture cracks me up

Tell me how that would not make an amazing movie! You could frame it like a comedy, maybe told through the eyes of aging Juan to his grandchildren, maybe exaggerating a bit of it. You could have scenes with the fake spies acting it out like on an episode of Drunk History. And I don't know, maybe get Oscar Isaac in the lead role.


Another idea I had for a WWII movie not in the Western Front would be a story about the Eastern Front. A very human story about the civilians in Stalingrad for instance. Or maybe look to the Baltic states as they find themselves between a very old enemy and  new dangerous one. I know we have Enemy at the Gates but the Eastern Front was just downright depressing and a heavy slog through the Russian winter.  It was less morally clear than the western front

There have been many Holocaust films but none (that I've seen) that touch on what happened to the Jewish communities in Baghdad or in North Africa. Baghdad instituted progroms of their own -- although I realize that would be a politically loaded topic now as it has been hijacked by Islamophobes. But still, there used to be a large Jewish community in Baghdad but the progroms during WWII decimated that population.

There were also stories in North Africa in which when France fell or Germany took over, Muslims protected their Jewish neighbors. Check out the story of Khaled_Abdul-Wahab who when he heard that the German occupiers planned to rape his Jewish neighbor, he got the Germans drunk and took in the entire family and their neighbors, saving them not only from the rape threat but also from forced labor.

Then there was an idea for a movie I had while reading about the Pacific Front. I read the account of a Japanese officer landing on one of those tropical, thick with jungle islands near Papua New Guinea. More of his men died from disease or the fauna than from actual attacks by the allies. I got thinking how terrifying that must be, to be on an island in which there were parasites and critters that ate some of your comrades in addition to the enemy you were there to fight. I thought of an idea of a horror film about an expedition to such an island. And there may be something decidedly Lovecraftian on the island but it isn't very clear if there really is or if our protagonist is affected by disease or it is war weariness. That would be a movie I would love to see.

IDK, maybe this is in the jungle

Having said all that, I hope people realize there are other wars just as interesting as WWII. How about World War I. How about other battlefronts than the western one? Can we do a story through the point of view of an Indian or a North African in any of these conflicts? Hey, maybe we can do a movie about women associated with the WAC. We can show the women going through their basic training and so forth. Hey, why don't we do a movie about the French and Indian War through the Native American point of view? There was a bit of political intrigue going on with the Iroquois and the Algonquin. Also along the same lines -- how about we do a mini-series about King Philip's War? You could follow both the Native Americans and the Colonists. First season can be the build up, surrounding the death of John Sassamon, itself a mystery. Then the next season can be about the hostilities.

But I get it. People like war films and not only that, a hero to cheer for. Unfortunately, war is a complicated beast and all can't be broken down into the dichotomy of good versus evil. WWII, though, is the one war in recent memory in which you can and get away with it. Can we at least branch out from the western front now? As for Dunkirk, my respect for Nolan as a filmmaker will probably eventually overcome this aversion to western front stories to see it but for now...


Saturday, December 16, 2017

How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Paragon

I know. I haven't posted in almost a year but I sort have lacked the inspiration to blog lately. Plus, I've been driving right along a private writing project.

But Wonder Woman brought me back here. I just watched the movie this morning and suddenly the inspiration struck. First of all, this is one of the best superhero movies I've ever seen and I'm not that much into the DC universe. Most of all, the story's message and themes seemed to align with how I've been feeling a lot lately about everything. Lately, I have found myself entering the next chapter of my life, further enough into my adulthood that I can be retrospective in a truly meaningful way of how I was when I first became an adult.

I love when Diana is fish out of water

For one, back when I was a teenager and into my early twenties, I favored the anti-hero or at least the hero with a bad attitude. The Iron Mans, the Wolverines, the Dr. Houses. I think what attracted them to me was I had this cynical view of the world and I think I felt somehow better about myself that I could say that "the world is dark and bleak and no one really understands this except a few people, myself being one of them." It is the self-centered nature of youth, the driving thought process of hipsters everywhere. You want to be different and you got it all figured out. I think everyone goes through a version of this phase. It is a way to feel like you have some control over your life when you understand that life is much harder when you're out actually doing it.

I'll always love Spidey

20 year old me would probably have mocked Captain America and Wonder Woman (and to a lesser degree Superman but I still dislike him). I used to make fun of paladins all the time as too restrictive and uninteresting. I would have argued that those characters are not deep enough to be interesting or not gritty enough. Because life is pain.

Now, as I turn 36 in a month, I have adopted a different way of thinking. I still have a cynical streak. I don't think that will ever go away, however, I like to call myself cautiously optimistic or a hopeful optimistic. I came to realize, cynicism and pessimism are not as comforting as I led myself to believe. It takes a lot of energy. I also came to understand that being optimistic or kind are not weaknesses. It is much harder to be either of those things. I'm not perfect at either but I strive everyday to become kinder and more optimistic and just a better person with varying degrees of success.

Yeah this still happens a lot

And that is another epiphany I have come to realize too -- Perfection is really a myth because we as humans are complicated people and well-written paragons are too. What perhaps matters is you work hard each day to strive to be kind and to see the good, to be the good. You won't be perfect but you're trying and you are better than yesterday. I think that is the most you can ask of yourself.

I still inwardly feel like this some days -- okay most days. And sometimes outwardly

This is what brings me to Wonder Woman and how I have come to love the paragon. Wonder Woman and my superhero spirit of choice Captain America are both heroes that are complicated and still learning what it means to be a hero but they strive to be better and still strive to help the world despite all its flaws. The scene in Wonder Woman, besides the fantastic no-man's land battle, that really made me realize my own evolution as a person was the climax. You have Trevor telling Diana that everyone was responsible for this. That humans are dumb messy beings. Diana doesn't really understand until the end what he means. This is after Ares shows her an alternative history without humans does she realize that yes, humans are big stupid warlike animals. But that does not mean they shouldn't be saved or to give up on all attempt doing so.

Roy is a Paragon too but one in Sheep's Clothing

I feel this very encompasses my frame of mind of where I'm heading in life now and how I've become to admire the paragon -- at least the well-written one. Not to say I don't love myself a good anti-hero. But I find myself growing more and more to admiring paragons than I ever had.  The paragon strives to be a better person and to make the world better even if they realize they may not win the biggest battle to save humanity. It is the small battles that count. A well-written paragon is one that moves forward, fully aware of the limitations of their actions, but they make the effort anyway. And that is what I hope to be.

Paragons All of them

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.


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:

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..." 

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.

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!