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!