RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster Jun28

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster

“Death feels like a roller coaster,” I remember thinking during a heart-stopped moment. I had rushed out the door, ten minutes late to a Master’s class, brushed off my mom’s hug—too busy to waste three more seconds—and sped out of the driveway with speakers blazing. A few minutes later, the car in front of me stopped—a bit too quickly. I ground to a halt behind it. An instinctive glance in my rearview mirror revealed an F250 twice as tall as my little Buick Century barreling toward me. I tore my gaze away from the mirror, determined to ignore the impending disaster. I thought, “It’ll be fine. Bad things only happen to other people—!” A sonic boom exploded inside my car. Howard Shore cut off mid-crescendo. My seat hit the floorboard, then threw me against the steering wheel, along with a rain of glass. The moment the world stood still again, I forced my jammed door open with a kick fueled by adrenaline. Taking stock of myself for injuries, I realized I was fine. Everyone else involved in the accident was fine too. The next day, I drove to college, just a little more cautiously than usual. Whimsically reflecting on the harrowing incident as I headed for class, I made myself laugh at the way I had been worried about the wreck ruining my “cosplay face” and how my old “Tank” had remained true to its namesake to the very end. It’s easy to get comfortable wearing the blinders of guilt and fear. Then someone nearby slammed a bathroom door. Hard. In the space of a blink, I saw that F250 racing up behind me at 45mph, felt the blood rush to my gut in panic while euphoric vertigo flipped me heels-over-head, and heard a crash like a mountain collapsing in my ears. At the time, I had no idea it would be my only flashback of the incident, just that it was my first. And that worried me. In RWBY Season 4, Yang has a similar experience when she accidentally shatters a glass, triggering a traumatic flashback from the Season 3 finale. Unlike the other three members of her war-torn team, Yang’s developmental arc features no physical fights with fanged monstrosities or deadly assassins. Hers is a battle of the mind, where suddenly her reliable fists hold no sway—largely, because she’s lost one of them to a villain’s blade. I’ve always related to Yang’s tomboyish mannerisms and physical strength, but especially to her golden optimism. She powers through every setback on a smirk and a glimpse of a better tomorrow. In Season 4, though, as Yang idles away in front of the TV and numbly occupy herself with chores, it’s clear that she can’t see a moment beyond her next footstep. “Sometimes bad things just happen,” Yang tells her sister, in an excuse to keep unbearable blame from crushing her broken spirit further. No doubt Yang replays the fatal fight in her mind, wondering if a moment’s thoughtful preparation (or even running away like her best friend Blake) could have helped her survive the battle unscathed. It’s a trap I found myself looped into for days after the wreck—wondering if I could have avoided it if I hadn’t looked down from my mirror like a coward. Yang’s understated anger is all that keeps her moving during her steep depression, and her excuses are the fuel it thrives on. Even when gifted a priceless prosthetic arm of cutting edge technology, Yang refuses to accept it and move forward. “I lost a part of me. A part of me is gone, and it’s never coming back,” she finally tells her father. While Yang’s arm had been replaced, her security was gone. Similarly, I didn’t feel safe behind the wheel of a car anymore; I lost the confidence I had that the next truck to pull up behind me would stop short,...

Battlestar Galactica and the Virtue of Waiting Jun26

Battlestar Galactica and the Virtue of Waiting...

Breaking News! The original Battlestar Galactica series is going to be on a local TV station near me this summer! Whoop-dee-do, you say? It’s been on Netflix for years, you say? Well, pardon me, but I’m somewhat elderly (42!) and don’t remember things like Netflix when I’m wishing to see my old TV shows. I still “tape” the shows I want to watch on my DVR. As much as I try to live in the brave new world of technology—with some small successes—my brain is wired for the 1980s. So, when I heard that BSG was going to be on, I was very excited. I bought the theme song on iTunes and have been listening to it frequently in my hype. There are three main reasons that this is excellent news: 1) Dirk Benedict, 2) the fabulous theme song, and 3) now the kids today will see what Cylons are supposed to look like—stocky, chrome dudes with Knight Rider helmets that speak a robotic, “By your command.” They aren’t skinny blondes in slinky, red dresses, or your best friend, or you and you don’t know it! In the 80s, we knew who our enemies were; and they were stocky, evil robots. “Binge watching” wasn’t a thing during my childhood. You had to wait, probably a week at a time, to see a show you wanted. And if you missed it? Too bad. You’d have to wait until it was in syndication—if it ever even made it! And, if seasons ended on a “to be continued” cliffhanger, may God have mercy on your soul! You could bust a gut waiting for that next episode! My husband was grounded when the first episode aired, and I don’t mind telling you that I have listened to that...

Dear Anakin, I wasn’t promoted Jun23

Dear Anakin, I wasn’t promoted...

Dear Anakin, I’ve been working my butt off for a big promotion at work for a few years now, but I just found out my boss gave the job to someone else in my department who is way less qualified than me. How should I handle this? Yours truly, Overlooked on Ryloth Dear Overlooked on Ryloth, You deserved that promotion. You showed your bosses you were willing to work harder, longer, and smarter than anyone else to prove you were worthy of the position. You were entitled to it, and now that they’ve made their mistake, it’s time to make them pay. Start by becoming close, personal and invaluable friends with your boss’s boss. Find the department manager, or better yet, the CEO, and buddy up to them. Once you’ve spent some time in their inner circle, it’s only natural to mention the promotion you were denied, and once your new friend hears about how unfairly you were treated, he or she will surely want to help you—that’s what friends do. Ideally, your powerful friend will simply force the other managers to bring you on, even if that position is ceremonial and unrequired. Everyone else in your department will know how important you are because you’re there whether they want you to be or not, and they will never, ever cross you again. If you’re interested in seeking more detailed advice on how to rise through the corporate ranks, I recommend seeking out The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Just don’t ask a Jedi, it’s not a story they’d tell you. With hate, Anakin Need some career, relationship, or life advice? Email dearanakin@geekdomhouse.com and ask your own...

Compassion and Strength Collide in Wonder Woman Jun21

Compassion and Strength Collide in Wonder Woman...

After watching Wonder Woman, a friend and I were talking about an image I’ve been seeing around the web: it shows a picture of Robin Wright and Carrie Fisher as Princess Buttercup and Princess Leia, next to a photo of them as General Antiope and General Leia, with the caption, “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.” I love this because of the cultural shift it represents. Though Hollywood has been moving away from this, princesses have traditionally been depicted as weak characters, damsels in distress who are just waiting for a prince to save them. But generals are symbols of strength, leadership, and authority. Not only that, generals are active; they affect the plot of their story lines and have agency over their own decisions. For someone who has disparaged the lack of substantial roles for women in Hollywood, seeing Diana finally get her own movie—a movie that was done well and subverted a whole bunch of sexist tropes, mind you—is a big deal. Even more encouraging is the fact that young girls are growing up with big movie franchises, like Star Wars and Ghostbusters, giving them the role models boys have had for decades. Not everyone sees this as a good thing. The discussion around strong female characters always includes some who argue that strong female characters, like Black Widow or Katniss Everdeen, aren’t “real” women because they don’t display traditionally “feminine” characteristics. These writers bemoan the fact that strong female characters don’t follow their male counterparts’ leads or accept their femininity by embracing their nurturing sides (and, in doing so, completely ignore that these characters often do act out of love for their family, like Katniss sacrificing herself for her sister). They insist that it’s unrealistic for female characters...

Understanding the World through Star Trek Jun19

Understanding the World through Star Trek...

Star Trek debuted on television two years after I was born. I never knew a world without it and, in a lot of ways, the series and I grew up together. My father served in the U.S. Air Force and we moved frequently during my childhood. Dad’s postings took us from Nevada to the United Kingdom and back across the Atlantic to Idaho and Texas. Through all of that, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest of the Enterprise crew were the fixed stars in my universe. Because I was young when I first saw the series, my limited vocabulary led me to the conclusion that the series was called Star Truck and that the Enterprise was their “truck” for space travel. When we left the U.S. for the U.K. I remember watching episodes with my babysitter. At least until we saw What Are Little Girls Made Of? and the idea of human-seeming androids scared me so badly I stayed away from the show for a while, at least until my return to the U.S. when I bonded with some local Idaho geeks over our shared love of the series. From the beginning, I loved Star Trek because of the “cool” factor. I’d watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, so it wasn’t hard to believe that we’d have crews out exploring the galaxy before long. The series opened the door for me to understand an exciting future world. It also helped me understand my own world. When I realized that I could apply the show to my life, it opened a new world of ideas for me. Growing up in a military household has its own unique challenges. The frequent moves, the possibility that the active duty parent might be sent around the world...

10 Classic Video Games Still Worth Playing...

We talk fondly about the classic video games from our childhood, but which ones, if we pick them up for the first time without all the warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, are still worth playing today? The Area of Effect staff has weighed in with their thoughts to give you this exhaustive and entirely probably not very unbiased list. 1. Chrono Trigger (1995) At it’s prime, there were numerous other JRPG games available, but Chrono Trigger clearly rose to the top to be among (if not the) best of the bunch. So much of the game itself is iconic; the story, the gameplay, even the music all culminates into something that, ironically, maintains greatness outside of time. Each character has a unique and interesting story, none of them are red shirts or hold some “mysterious past” that you never get to see, hear, or feel. Combined with a near infinite amount of duo and trio skills, your party shines. To say it simply, Chrono Trigger a story about time travel that truly remains timeless. —Kyle 2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) If you’re wondering whether it’s still worth playing this game that everyone talks about from their childhood—it is. The first Legend of Zelda game with 3D graphics is all puzzle-solving, dungeon-exploring, item-finding fun. Plus you could play the remake for 3DS, which has prettier graphics and rearranged dungeons. —Allison 3. Secret of Mana (1993) Plucky characters, a magic sword, a quest to save the world! It’s the classic tale of a boy in the wrong place at the right time who receives an old, rusty sword and a quest. Only in this case, the boy is joined by a strangle little sprite and a lovely young woman who is less a romantic interest and...

Chrono Trigger and a Green Legacy...

In How I Met Your Mother, there’s a system by which Ted and Marshal defer difficult, painful or boring decisions and tasks: they leave it to future Ted or future Marshal. I have adopted this language in my own life. Sometimes when someone asks why I’m just watching TV rather than cleaning up and I say, “that’s future Dustin’s problem.” It’s also future Dustin’s problem when I choose to see a late-night movie but have to get up early, when I buy something with credit, or when I leave sermon-writing to the last minute. And then future Dustin shakes his fist in the air and curses past Dustin for putting me in this situation. It’s often difficult to make choices with the future in mind. Our society prioritizes immediate gratification. We buy for the feeling now regardless of the payment plan. We build things to maximize profit without thought of sustainability. We make things to be discarded without considering the waste it will create. That’s ‘future humanity’s’ problem. As a Millennial, it’s easy to see the extreme housing costs, exorbitant grocery prices, mediocre job prospects, asbestos, and coal powerplants, shaking our fists at ‘past humanity’ for putting us in this situation. It would be nice to go back there and slap those people. We are going to have to stop dumping things in “future humanity’s” lap and make changes now. In Chrono Trigger, you have a chance to do that. The future is a bleak landscape of starving people who are sustained through technology. The sky is polluted and the world is a wasteland, deserted and lifeless. But you can travel back and forth in time. You can go back and smack the people of the past and tell them to stop killing all...

Moving through the Pain of the Past Jun12

Moving through the Pain of the Past...

“Look at my eyes, Faye. One of them is a fake cause I lost it in an accident. Since then, I’ve been seeing the past in one eye, and the present in the other, so I thought I could only see patches of reality, never the whole picture.” Spike Spiegel, the protagonist of the classic sci-fi anime, Cowboy Bebop, spends the series living in the present but fighting with his past. Formerly a violent member of a crime syndicate, Spike reinvented himself as a bounty hunter, partnering with Jet Black, a former cop, and picking up other crew along the way. And while almost every episode of the series focuses on the present and how the crew of the Cowboy Bebop try to attain bounties, certain episodes are directed toward the past, with a finale that brings Spike into a collision course with his former life. Spike hasn’t been running away from the past, per se; he just hasn’t been dealing with it. Why would he? As dangerous as his life is as a bounty hunter, it’s still calmer than what he had in the syndicate, and Spike seems to feel that he’s risen from the dead for a reason (certainly not to become a gangster again). But Spike’s past keeps drawing him in. The same can be said with the others on crew, but there’s a difference, as each is able to resolve his or her past: Jet moves on from his former love once and for all; Ed and Ein find a permanent home; and Faye accepts that her younger life has passed her by. In some cases, as with Faye, I might not like the answers I find. Faye’s story may be the most intriguing among the crew. She was involved...

Life Lessons I Learned from a Cosplayer Jun09

Life Lessons I Learned from a Cosplayer...

A short video popped up on my newsfeed today and I’m glad I decided to watch it. Yaya Han, a professional cosplayer, shares her journey “from amateur to cosplay queen”. As a cosplayer myself, I found Yaya Han’s story inspiring. Here’s a few things I picked up from her video. 1. Be dedicated It has taken her a very long time and lots of dedication to get where she is now. It did not happen overnight and It means that I can take a breath and go at my own pace. Like any sort of art form, cosplay takes time and practice to get good at and there’s always room for learning and improvement. 2. Do it because you love it We are so used to instant gratification that I often find myself getting impatient with my own lack of “cosplay fame.” I can get discouraged when only a few people like or comment on a new photo I post, or when no one asks to take my photo at an event. I compare my creations to the professionals and feel inadequate or that I can never measure up. Yaya’s story reassures me that cosplay is a journey just like anything else worthwhile in life. I don’t have to produce super-intricate folding wings, light-up helmets, or doorway-defying ballgowns in order to be a good cosplayer. I don’t need 5,000 likes and my own YouTube channel. I just need to love what I do and have patience. 3. Find confidence in who you are I can identify with Yaya’s story of growing up an outcast and finding cosplay as a safe place to express herself and build confidence. Yaya says, “I can dress up as a character that is stronger than me, that is more...

My Neighbor Totoro and Exchanging Fear for Wonder Jun07

My Neighbor Totoro and Exchanging Fear for Wonder...

Fear is one of the most difficult things to unlearn. We begin to learn fear at a very young age, but there is a sweet period before children learn to fear. Many little kids have a sense of innocence, curiosity, and fearlessness that’s often lost in adults as our years on this earth teach us to be afraid. During my recent rewatch of My Neighbor Totoro, I was especially enraptured by the fearlessness of Mei. When the little totoros lead her into the tunnel of trees, she follows without hesitation. When she sees the big Totoro, she is only curious. When he roars so loudly at her that her hair blows, she screams in delight at this new marvel. This is a very different reaction than Satsuki’s when she first encounters the great fantastical beast. When she first sees Totoro by a bus stop on a dark rainy night, she’s a little nervous. Despite being a child, she’s still afraid of the unknown. Fearlessness or Foolishness? I also admire Mei’s effort to take her ear of corn to her sick mother. Yes, it was foolish, but the fact that a four-year-old girl would even think to undertake the journey in an attempt to help heal her mother is commendable. She was brave enough to try and that counts for something. To a child, many simple things in life seem absolutely extraordinary. Fearlessness can often be equivocated as foolishness, because children can often stumble into trouble due to their curiosity. But children also see the world through a unique perspective because of it. Instead of seeing the world through a lens of fear, they see it through a lens of wonder and possibility. In my adult life, I could use some of that childlike fearlessness. Fear...

The Freedom of Failure in Ender’s Shadow Jun05

The Freedom of Failure in Ender’s Shadow...

After reading the novel Ender’s Game, I discovered Ender’s Shadow, a parallel story about Bean’s journey through Battle School and the war against the Formix. There was a surprising lack of repetition for two novels that covered the same events; the protagonists had such different backgrounds, attitudes, and personality that each novel told a very different story. And I was surprised to realize that the story I preferred was Bean’s. I think the main reason for my preference is that if I had to choose to be one of the two characters, I’d pick Bean. For one thing, Bean’s story has an upward arc that ends with him gaining a family, while Ender’s continually dips down in fits of despair, and he is finally banished from Earth and his family; for another, Bean shows mercy to his enemies whereas Ender destroys them; and though Bean struggles with acceptance, he eventually becomes part of a team, while Ender is continually isolated. When there’s no way to win, Ender stops; only way not to lose is not to play. But the biggest reason I’d rather be in Bean’s tiny shoes is because unlike Ender, who must never lose, he has the freedom to fail. This is drawn into sharpest relief when Ender confides to Bean his struggle to remain undefeated. Bean asks him why it matters if he loses one game, and Ender’s reply speaks of desperation: “That’s the worst that could happen. I can’t lose any games. Because if I lose any—” We, along with Bean, are left to speculate what the consequences could be. In Ender’s Shadow, we see Bean wonder if Ender fears the loss of his reputation as the perfect soldier, of the confidence his army has in him, or of the confidence...

7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity Jun02

7 Anime Characters You Never Knew Were Influenced by Christianity...

Fun fact: Only 0.1% of Japan’s population practices Christianity… which makes anime’s fascination with messianic imagery (Evangelion), creepy-cool crosses (Death Note), and kick-butt clergy (Trigun) a bit of a head-scratcher. Though often used as symbolic short-hand or “occult” aesthetic, Christianity’s influence on anime characters sometimes runs deeper than wearing a cross or practicing a pseudo-fantasy variant of the real-world religion (that probably involves vampire-hunting). Looking beyond the obvious examples (such as Kirei Kotomine from Fate/Zero and Rosette Christopher from Chrono Crusade), here are seven anime and manga characters you didn’t know were directly influenced by Christianity during development (and beyond). 1. Mihael “Mello” Keehl, Death Note Bearing a Slavic name synonymous with the archangel Michael’s, Mello decks out his attire (gun included) with crosses, wears a rosary, and keeps statues of Mary and Christ in his hideout (but only in the original manga, where his implied Catholic faith went uncensored). What truly sets Mello apart, however, is the stubborn distinction he makes between the “Almighty” Christian God and shinigami “gods” amidst a nihilistic narrative where most don’t believe his God exists. This insight deepens Mello’s characterization as a rebel determined to spite the ways of the world—far past the point of reason. “I hardly need to remind the reader about the epic battle between the century’s greatest detective, L, and that grotesque murderer, Kira. Looking back, I can only surmise that the gods [shinigami] smiled on Kira for their own vain amusement. Perhaps these gods actually wanted a blood-soaked world of betrayal and false accusation. Perhaps the entire episode exists as a lesson to teach us the difference between the Almighty and the shinigami.” – Mello, in his self-authored light novel, Death Note: Another Note 2. Rin Tohsaka, Fate/Stay Night At a glance, the...

The Gift of Story May31

The Gift of Story

Sometimes it can seem like moms are made for missing. Any child who has ever lost their mom in the mall knows this; those who have lived through the death of a mother are also familiar with that feeling. While I’ve tearfully lived the former experience and it’s unlikely I’ll avoid the latter, The Song of the Sea reminds me of the hope I share with my mom, a gift she gave me through story. Come away, oh human child to the waters and the wild with a faerie hand in hand for the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. The Song of the Sea tells the story of Ben, a young boy who must deal with the loss of his mother. Ben is the son of Conor, a soft-spoken lighthouse keeper, and the storyteller, Bronagh. She paints stories of selkie and the giant Mac Lir on the nursery walls Ben will soon share with his sister. Bronagh is also a singer of songs and she introduces him to the song of the sea on their last night together, playing it on a seashell horn. Ben cherishes the horn and guards it jealously after Bronagh’s death giving birth to Ben’s baby sister, Saoirse. Bedtime was actually one of my favourite times growing up. I remember the stories and the songs—and I hope my mom does too. This nightly ritual of storytelling lasted through several Harry Potter books, and even though I could’ve read them myself they were something we enjoyed sharing. We visited enchanted lands, invented voices, and turned pages with anticipation. And whenever I was scared or sad, she had a song and a prayer ready for me. I can’t claim to understand a loss like Ben’s, but by experiencing...

Where the Sea Meets the Land: Ego the Living Planet, Iron Man, and the Power of Relationship May29

Where the Sea Meets the Land: Ego the Living Planet, Iron Man, and the Power of Relationship...

Brandy, you’re a fine girl, What a good wife you would be But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea. “We’re the sailor in that song,” Ego tells Peter in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. “There are fine girls out there, but they aren’t for us. We’re made for bigger things.” And by “bigger things,” Ego meant taking over the universe. When Ego first discovered life elsewhere in the universe, it disappointed him. It wasn’t as powerful, as strong, or as perfect as he was. So he began a plan to terraform (Egoform?) every planet, replacing all known life with himself. Nothing else, not even the love of an earth-born River Lily, was worth putting aside this meaning Ego had found for his life. This plan of expansion was Ego’s sea—his life and his love. Nothing on shore could compare to it, and to him, it was worth destroying the distraction Meredith Quill posed to him. Ego’s story reminds me of another sailor in the Marvel universe—Tony Stark. Being Iron Man is Tony’s life, his sea. Building the suits and coming up with better ways to protect the world have become so much a part of who he is that he can’t stop, can’t slow down, not even for Pepper. At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony blows up the Iron Legion, effectively promising Pepper that she’s his priority, and that he’ll do better for her. But by The Avengers: Age of Ultron he’s already in over his head trying to save the world, and by Captain America: Civil War, he’s spent so much time on the sea, there’s no one left for him on land. I can understand where both Ego and Tony come from. Though I’m not all-powerful or a genius, I have a bit of the sailor in myself as well. As a creative from birth, when I don’t get the time to work on any of my many projects, I end up feeling purposeless, like a sailor on land. I miss my sea of hobbies, and sometimes it does seems like the people on land are distractions. And sometimes, even though I want to focus on the people around me, I am drawn back into my projects, ignoring the people I love even while I’m with them. But what happens when I get so lost in my accomplishments and in the purpose I’ve created for myself? What happens when I reach my goal and then move on to the next, and then the next, and then the next, because I need that purpose to survive? What happens after Ego conquers the universe, after every planet is part of him? His purpose, the meaning he’d created for his life, would be accomplished, and he would be alone forever—and for real this time. What happens if Tony devotes his entire life to creating inventions that protect the world? He won’t be able to protect mankind from itself, and will inevitably run himself to the ground trying to. What happens when I focus all my time and effort on making, building, creating? The frustrations I encounter while designing will build up, and begin to outweigh the joy I find in creating, especially as the things I create continually fail to match the perfect expectations I hold in my head. The sea is beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with loving it. Having a purpose, finding meaning for your life, is essential. But when you lose the context of relationship, and set sail never to return to land, it’s easy for the meaning to warp and mutate into something far less beautiful. Ego found life that existed outside of himself, and was disappointed by it. But rather than using his power for the benefit of others, he decided that greatness lay in replacement rather than cooperation. Had he gone back to Meredith, he might have...

The Mothers Grimm May26

The Mothers Grimm

I have heard it said many times that, until you become a mother, you can’t imagine the love that you are capable of for your child. Sure, you love your spouse a ton—obviously enough to decide to spend the rest of your lives together, but the love a mother has for her child is fierce. Fierce because of the intensity, fierce because it changes who you are and the way you experience the world, and fierce because you would do anything to protect that little thing even if you had to face the very gates of hell to do it. And speaking of the very gates of hell… the TV series, Grimm, just had its finale a few weeks ago. True to what the name suggests, the show’s faerie tales are dark, gruesome, and highly entertaining. The premise of Grimm is that the creatures from the faerie stories we all love are real—and they live among us. We’re talking werewolves, talking foxes, mice, lizard creatures, the Krampus—all manner of “monsters.” They’re called Wesen. Most of the time, they look like us, but when they become frightened, or angry, or want to be in their natural element they “woge,” and take on their animalistic appearance. The Grimm family has, for centuries, been hunting, killing and recording the stories of these creatures. From the moment pregnancy takes hold, our bodies become something of a living sacrifice. The finale revolves around a Portland police detective named Nick Burkhardt and he only discovered that he was a Grimm in his adulthood. It had been hidden from him for his own protection. Unlike many others, Nick’s more open to judging Wesen by their actions rather than by their genetics. He befriends several Wesen, and seeks justice for and protects good ones....

Alien: Covenant and the Significance of Sacrificial Love May24

Alien: Covenant and the Significance of Sacrificial Love...

The Alien films are all about the coldness of space with an emphasis on mechanics ahead of humans, the quietness in the vastness of the universe, and the xenomorphs that hunt humans without relent. So it feels strange, at first, that in Alien: Covenant the vessel is led by a crew consisting largely of married couples, carrying in the warmth of love to this callous environment. Unlike in many horror films, the couples don’t turn on each other. Their love is real and deep; they are strong, solid, and supportive. It’s no wonder these pairs were specifically selected for the Covenant’s colonization mission, as they have the responsibility of guiding a ship carrying thousands of humans and additional embryos to a new planet. The crew is also friendly, and despite arguments and missteps, genuinely want the best for one another. And yet, despite its promising beginning, lots of people die. The crew of the Covenant fights against the furious predators, the coldness of space, and evils of sin and humanity. This is no touchy-feely universe. Love doesn’t stand a chance. Living a life separated in every way from the frightening fiction of the Aliens franchise, I’m much more optimistic about love. I believe that my friends will reach out to me when I’m hurting. I believe that I’ll be gracious to those who injure me. I believe that my church community will love the downtrodden and the cast aside. Many times, my expectations are met; but more than I’d like to admit to myself, they are not. It doesn’t take a monster to destroy love; humans can do that just fine on their own. In the midst of Alien: Covenant’s chaotic action, the film manages to stress that dilemma. Battles take place within the...

Why Superman Never Gets his Deepest Wish May22

Why Superman Never Gets his Deepest Wish...

What would you do in a world where all your dreams came true? In the 1985 Superman story, “For the Man Who Has Everything,” Alan Moore (legendary author of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, etc.) asks just that. The tale begins at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, where Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman arrive to celebrate Superman’s birthday. As they walk through the Fortress’s entrance, Batman comments on how hard it is getting Superman good gifts. He then shows Wonder Woman his present, a one-of-a-kind rose, called the Krypton, that he hired an expert to breed. “I’m pretty certain no one else will have got him flowers,” Batman jokes. “Uh, Bruce,” Robin says, looking ahead at something outside the comic book panel. “Maybe it’s not too late to change it for something else.” Batman and Wonder Woman stop, seeing Superman standing in the next room, still as a statue with eyes wide open. We can’t even tell if he’s breathing. A gift-wrapped box lies open at Superman’s feet and an alien plant is latched onto his chest. Someone has found a way to neutralize the Man of Steel. Perhaps the traumatic times in life are more than just moments of pain. The heroes haven’t spent much time examining Superman before Mongul, a big yellow alien with Bond-villain arrogance, appears. He explains the alien plant is called the Black Mercy and gives victims visions of their deepest desires. Victims can release it, but don’t want to. It’s tempting to consider what my life would be like without past struggles. My life took a difficult turn when I was 11 years old and my family moved back to America after eight years overseas. Being a socially awkward kid who hated change, I didn’t have an easy time adjusting...

Come and Get Your Love May19

Come and Get Your Love...

There is no bigger jerk in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 than the loud-mouthed, quick-to-anger, genetically-modified and mechanically-inclined Rocket Raccoon. He steals from the Guardians’ clients, making enemies where they could have had allies; he pushes his friends away when they try to talk to him; he retreats into loneliness against all common sense. “Are you trying to make everyone hate you? Because you’re doing it perfectly,” Peter Quill says to him. And Quill’s right—Rocket seems to be doing everything to reject the ragtag family he’s become a part of, a family who accepts him for who he is. Why? Why would someone throw away love and companionship when it’s offered to them? The answer resonates with me deeply—it’s fear. Rocket is the only one of his kind and his life has been filled with loneliness as a result. He’s gotten used to fending for himself. He’s become accustomed to the isolation. Now suddenly he is surrounded by people who care about him and the fear sets in; the fear that they will change their minds and reject him, the fear that he’s not worth being accepted for who he is. This kind of anxiety can overwhelm all logic. His actions—his seeming desire to make every situation worse and get under his companions’ skin—don’t make sense. But the fear is strong with this one. It drives him to extremely illogical decisions. It takes two to tango. Though irrational, I understand Rocket’s feelings perfectly. The very beginning of a new relationship, either romantic or platonic, is new and exciting. It’s fun getting to know the other person and surprising them with your own quirks and personality. It’s when a few weeks or months have passed—when the relationship is formed but still growing—that I start...

True Villainy in Once Upon a Time: Captain Hook vs. Rumpelstiltskin May17

True Villainy in Once Upon a Time: Captain Hook vs. Rumpelstiltskin...

Of all the fights, feuds, and fisticuffs in ABC’s hit show Once Upon a Time, the private war between Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin is the stuff of vengeance legend—and just as remarkable as their quest to destroy one another is the blame-game they play while doing it. Their troubles begin in the Enchanted Forest, when Rumpelstiltskin is no more than the crippled village coward. When the dashing pirate, Killian Jones—later known as Captain Hook—passes through town, he takes Rumple’s wife, Milah, away to his ship. Desperate to retrieve Milah for their son’s sake, Rumple limps his way to Killian’s ship to beg for her return. Killian agrees—if Rumple can best him in a duel. Rumple, unable to handle a sword or even walk unaided, is forced to return home without his wife. Years later, Rumple gets the chance to face his enemy again, this time with the deck stacked in his favour. During those years, Rumpelstiltskin became the Dark One, an incredibly powerful sorcerer. He originally sought the dark magic to protect his son, but over time he became obsessed with his own power. After all those years of being called a weakling, he loves feeling unstoppable. I have been blessed with plenty of my own talents, but physical strength is not one of them. The thought of being able to defend myself when I feel wronged is alluring. Rumple thought his dark power would defend him and his son, but it became a disguise for his cowardice, a mask that made him a worse monster than those he fought. Sometimes, I let pain turn me into a villain, and I hurt the people around me. Had Rumple been truly brave, he would have let Killian go when he encountered him again. Instead, he...

Wolf Children and a Mother’s Sacrifice May15

Wolf Children and a Mother’s Sacrifice...

Hana from Wolf Children is the ultimate mother. After unexpectedly becoming a single parent, she gives up everything to take care of her two babies, Ame and Yuki. She gives up university, living in the convenience of the city, and the entire direction of her life to ensure that her children grow up healthy and happy. Her sacrifice and perseverance touches me deeply and I can’t help being reminded of my own mother. My mom took care of my sister and me while she was in an unhappy marriage so we could grow up with a father in our lives. To me, that sacrifice is as big as raising us as a single mom. She chose to live unhappily so her children could live happily. When Ame and Yuki were babies, Hana barely had time to sleep or eat or do anything for herself while she took care of them. She too lived unhappily for a time for the sake of her children. To give us more freedom in our education, my mom homeschooled us. Much of the research she did herself to provide the best education she could while also letting us grow up with plenty of extracurricular activities and time for fun. Similarly (somewhat), Hana researched everything she could to ensure she could raise Ame and Yuki as both humans and wolves. She wanted to give them the freedom to choose which path they wanted. Both of these mothers gave their children the freedom to choose their future paths and did so without judgement. When my sister and I grew into our teenage years, our relationship with our dad became strained to the point my mom felt like we should leave him. In a matter of days, she packed up everything and moved...