Bad Blood in Captain America: Civil War Mar22

Bad Blood in Captain America: Civil War...

Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted. Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted. In early 2016, somebody remixed the Captain America: Civil War trailer with Taylor Swift’s song “Bad Blood.” The result was amazingly effective and highlighted the film’s central theme—it’s easier than you think for good friends to turn into bitter enemies. The Avengers have fought side-by-side through two films; stopping the Chitauri invasion and defeating Ultron. Not that they always got along; Tony Stark and Steve Rogers clearly favoured different ways of doing things. When all was said and done, though, they set aside those differences and stood together against a common enemy. That camaraderie ended in Civil War. After a mission goes sideways in Lagos and several humanitarian workers from Wakanda die as collateral damage, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross tells the team that they can no longer act independently. The forthcoming Sokovia Accords will place the team under direct UN control. Tony and Steve suddenly find themselves in conflict. The hard choice is to value the relationship over “winning” the argument. “We need to be put in check! And whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re boundaryless, we’re no better than the bad guys,” Tony argues. Steve counters, “If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.” Just like that, two friends—or at least colleagues—pull away from each other and start staking out territory as enemies. I’d like to think that I’m...

Logan and Overcoming Rage Mar13

Logan and Overcoming Rage...

For Wolverine, denying his rage is like denying breath. Wolverine is characterized by his berserker fury and Logan holds nothing back when it comes to it. He rips, slashes, maims and destroys. He cannot control his anger and knows it. It’s why he warns people they don’t want to mess with him because they will die. But in the film Logan, all that rage has taken a toll on his mind. I can understand where he’s coming from because I have not always been in control of my anger. There have been times when I have lashed out and caused harm to people and things. While the people who have been hurt can forgive me and eventually forget about it, the fact that I’ve hurt them stays with me much longer. Many years later I can still remember hurt that I’ve caused to others because I couldn’t control how I reacted to anger. While I am troubled by the hurt I’ve caused, Wolverine has maimed and killed hundreds of people and while I have moments of remembering and feeling sad, he has outright nightmares. When Logan wakes up from one of these nightmares, Laura tells him that she has nightmares too because people have done bad things to her. Logan confesses that his nightmares are because he has done bad things to people. Giving into rage and lashing out leaves emotional trauma that may never fade. All you can do is try and figure out how to live with it. When Laura, Logan’s daughter, admits that she has done bad things to people too, but justifies it because they were bad people, Logan tells her that the impact of uncontrolled anger hurts you no matter how much the other person deserved it. Logan tries...

No Batman is an Island Feb27

No Batman is an Island...

Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for The LEGO Batman Movie. Batman is a loner. He’s the Dark Knight, moving through the shadows and being a vigilante all over the place. Even when the Justice League was formed (partly by his design), he didn’t want to be tied down by the responsibility of belonging. The LEGO Batman Movie is a hilarious and exciting exploration of Batman’s desire for solitude and his need for companionship. In his famous poem, John Donne said, “No man is an island.” Batman, as Alfred points out, not only lives on an island, but has formed himself into an island by pushing everyone away. But, human beings need relationship, were even specifically created for it, and so in his attempt to be entirely self-sufficient, he makes his Siri-like supercomputer into somewhat of a friend. He chats with it as he’s fighting crime—mostly giving directions—and then it chats with him upon his return to the Bat Cave. The computer is sort of like his “Wilson” from the movie Castaway—Batman doesn’t realize it, of course, but he built himself a companion that cannot die and that he can control to suit his desired level of intimacy. Batman built himself a companion that cannot die and that he can control to suit his desired level of intimacy. Any Batman fan knows that the root of his desire to be alone is the tragic loss of his parents; they were murdered in front of him as he helplessly stood by. That’s the root of all that he does and all that he is. When he saves the city from pretty much every single member of the Rogues Gallery in an opening scene, he retreats to his island and ponders the last family photo...

Deadpool’s Unlikely, Perfect Love Jan11

Deadpool’s Unlikely, Perfect Love...

Usually a movie lets you know very quickly who the hero and villain are, painting the hero in the best possible light. Sometimes that hero is a brooding, troubled stranger in need of love or a reluctant, gruff, loner who is forced to become the hero we know he can be. Every now and then, the hero is just a regular person who must face impossible odds and overcome—regardless of the circumstances, the hero ends up being good and the movie lets us know it. Even in a movie like Suicide Squad, where the protagonists are villains, we are constantly shown that there are other ‘bad guys’ because they keep doing good things. We can’t help but tell stories where our heroes are good, and even if the hero is doing questionable things (Captain America: Civil War, anybody?) they still have good intentions. But that isn’t the case with Deadpool. Right from the beginning, he lets you know that he is “no hero” and then spends the rest of the movie being his brutal, crude, and disgusting self. The good guys—Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead—make it very clear that he is not really on their side, although they leave room for hope; the bad guys make it clear he isn’t on their team either, although you wouldn’t know it based on most of his actions. Rather than knowing exactly where he fits, you have to decide if Deadpool is hero, villain, or something in between. Right from the beginning he lets you know that he is “no hero.” Wade Wilson, a.k.a. Deadpool, is not a good guy. He’s a dishonourably discharged black-ops soldier with several confirmed kills and a bad habit of using his considerable repertoire of vulgar and disgusting language to offend those around him. Now...

A Tale of Two Martians Dec09

A Tale of Two Martians...

The character trope of “being the last of one’s kind” is a popular one in geek culture. Whether a hero has lost his entire race, like Aang and the Doctor, or simply her family members, like Rey, many of our favourite characters are alone in the world. One of my favourites is J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, member of the Justice League and the last son of Mars. In the CW’s new show, Supergirl, J’onn is the last Green Martian, whose family and people have been wiped out by the White Martians. Under the guise of Hank Henshaw, he works as the director of the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (D.E.O) with Kara Zor-El and Alex Danvers, Kara’s adoptive sister, to protect the Earth from malicious alien life. In Season Two, which is currently airing, J’onn meets another Martian, M’gann M’orzz, who is more hardened than her Young Justice counterpart. Their differing responses to the war on Mars is central to Episode Four, “Survivors” (spoilers ahead). The past is over and done. What matters is what happens now. The episode begins with J’onn questioning M’gann on how she escaped Mars. She tells him that she was in an interment camp and that a White Martian broke a kill order and smuggled her out. And when J’onn calls her a survivor, M’gann says, “I am whatever I need to be to get by.” J’onn then asks if she will take the bond with him, but M’gann evades him by saying that she has customers. Meanwhile, Alex and Kara are investigating a secret alien fight club, which Alex infiltrates. She discovers that it is being run by a woman named Roulette and that the reining champion is Miss Martian, M’gann M’orzz herself. She tells J’onn, who confronts M’gann,...

A Cure for Fear: Scarecrow and Personal Freedom Nov30

A Cure for Fear: Scarecrow and Personal Freedom...

Sometimes I’m more interested in the development of the villains than the heroes. Watching little Bruce Wayne in Gotham is great, but then there’s Scarecrow. I remember the first episode Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow, showed up. He’s super creepy. And on that night, while I was watching the show, I unintentionally did something super creepy myself. I frequently text myself ideas that I might use at a later date. That night, I typed on my phone these lines from the show, “Imagine the thing you fear most in the world.  Imagine that’s all you see.  Every waking hour.”  The text was sent, but it did not go to me.  It went to the grandfather of one of my kid’s friends—whom I had only met once. When I realized what I had done—a full day later!—I texted a frantic apology. He was very nice about it, but I suspect he thought there was something seriously wrong with me. The reason I wrote down that quote was because Scarecrow illustrates (on an exaggerated, supervillain-sized scale) what sort of evil can happen when one has little to no personal freedom. Being free to make choices is part of what makes us human. Personal freedom is vital on a lot of levels. It’s also an important idea to me because of my belief that human beings are made in the likeness of God. I have lots of personal freedom because my needs have always been met; I have been well-educated, I live in a pretty safe place, and I have opportunities to succeed. I am very aware of the difference between right and wrong and have been brought up with the ability to discern and make choices that are life-giving and wholesome—or not.  And yet, I can...

Iron Suit, Human Man: Abandoning Tony Stark Nov28

Iron Suit, Human Man: Abandoning Tony Stark...

As much as I like Pepper Potts for her stubbornness and her willingness to stand up for herself, I was shocked at her treatment of Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. She wakes him up because he is literally shaking from a nightmare, and then—understandably, I’ll admit—almost has a heart attack when one of his armored suits appears at the foot of their bed. But after that she storms off, saying she’ll “sleep downstairs.” I can’t help but put myself in Tony’s shoes, trying hard to protect the one I love most and that same person pushes me away. Having the one person I needed to be there leave me in disgust, not understanding what I’m going through, not eventrying to understand. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on Pepper, though, for I know something that she does not. Tony is going through post-traumatic stress. It’s not something we often think our favorite superheroes are experiencing, but Stark’s PTSD actually paves the way for many of the plot points in the later movies. He becomes obsessed with protecting the world, which results in Ultron’s creation in Avengers: Age of Ultron. By Captain America: Civil War, he is even more anxious and sleep-deprived. Many fans were also heartbroken to find out that Pepper had left him at this point. . . . This post was originally published on Christ and Pop Culture. Read the full article...

Fear of the Other: Luke Cage, Racism, and Prejudice Nov21

Fear of the Other: Luke Cage, Racism, and Prejudice...

Since finishing the first season of Luke Cage, the latest in a series of Marvel/Netflix co-productions, I’ve been thinking about the various ways fear works within the show. It’s mostly used as a motivating factor for various characters, notably Luke. But it also works as a subtextual social commentary—fear of those who are different; fears of increasing crime and escalating violence in cities; the African American community’s fear of police victimization and violence. The nearly indestructible protagonist, like Cage, complicates an audience’s responses of sympathy or concern—it’s hard to worry about a bulletproof hero who can punch holes through walls. Although Cage does eventually face a physical threat late in the season, the show builds sympathy through Cage’s emotional fears, fears of stepping into the spotlight and of being known. Though Luke gets drawn into the violence on Harlem streets, and has the abilities to protect people (like his Asian landlords who, despite having lived and worked in Harlem for decades are treated as outsiders), he doesn’t want to get involved. After the events of Jessica Jones, Cage lives a below-the-radar existence in Harlem, working (for cash under the table) in the kitchen at Cottonmouth’s club and sweeping up hair at Pops’ Barber Shop. When Pops, who knows about his powers, challenges Luke to use his abilities to help his community, Cage admits the source of his reluctance: fear of public recognition, the fear of stepping into the spotlight. He may be able to survive buildings falling on his head, but he doesn’t want people to know about it. It is only after a particularly troubling death that Cage steps into the public spotlight—eulogizing his fallen friend and calling out his friend’s killer in one powerful speech about community. It’s hard to put yourself...

A Vision of Loyalty Nov16

A Vision of Loyalty

Is there ever a time when loyalty could hurt? Loyalty the glue that bonds relationships together. Without loyalty it is difficult to have a friendship at all. Many of the Avengers are profoundly loyal to each other. Steve Rogers and Bucky come to mind as prime examples. But as for Vision and Tony Stark—I believe their loyalty to each other is dangerous. Vision is a mix of human and machine, the body made by Ultron and the consciousness created by Tony Stark. Vision is loyal to Tony, mostly since half of his identity is made from Jarvis, Tony’s artificial intelligence butler. In Captain America: Civil War, he sides with Tony, not necessarily because he believes that what Tony believes is right, but because of loyalty. He does what Tony wants because they’re friends. There’s an ongoing saying that we become who we spend time with. We tend to pick up our friends’ character traits—from their way of speaking to their morals. But loyalty shouldn’t mean conformity. Our friends shouldn’t define our beliefs. After Bucky was turned into the Winter Soldier, he completely changed from the loyal best friend of Steve Rogers to a cold-hearted killer. If it wasn’t for Cap’s loyalty and perseverance in their friendship, he probably would have continued down a dark path. One of the most powerful scenes in Civil War for me was when Cap grabbed onto the helicopter and pulled it back onto the landing pad. He was not going to let Bucky go. He was not going to give up on him, and in the end, his influence won Bucky over. I want to be liked. I want to please. Therefore, when I’m around other people I try to fit in. Throughout my life, I have let my...

Losing to Win: Doctor Strange and Fear Nov09

Losing to Win: Doctor Strange and Fear...

I despise losing at important things in life. I hate failing people, failing at jobs, failing to follow certain rules that end up getting me in trouble, and especially failing myself. Sometimes I am my worst enemy. I kick myself far worse and far longer than any outside consequence or berating. When I went to the movie theater to see Doctor Strange last weekend, I expected another typical superhero film focusing on the final battle between the villain and hero, not in a bad way at all, but that’s how most superhero films tend to go. Instead, I left the theater recognizing how crippling my fear of failure has been this past year. Doctor Strange didn’t focus on the epic battles between a villain and the hero, it focused on the battle between the hero and his own inner demons. Sometimes you have to lose in order to win. Stephen Strange was an excellent, albeit prodigy, surgeon. He succeeded with every patient he accepted, and this fueled his ambition and arrogance. Despite this exterior, he still refused patients, ones that weren’t challenging enough and ones he thought were unfixable. The latter surprised me because refusing patients seemed contradictory to his utter confidence in his abilities. Ironically, after looking away from the road for but a few seconds, Doctor Strange becomes the unfixable. The devastating accident robs him of his steady hands, ending his career as a surgeon. Doctor Strange completely falls apart. Desperately, he spends his savings trying procedure after procedure to regain full mobility. Every effort fails, leaving him with incurable tremors. During a physical therapy session, he hears about a patient who miraculously recovered from paralysis—by unconventional methods. As a final resort, Strange spends the last of his money to travel to...

One Lantern, Two Lantern, Green Lantern, Blue Lantern Nov02

One Lantern, Two Lantern, Green Lantern, Blue Lantern...

I’m a big fan of the Green Lantern. If I was going to be a superhero, that’s who I’d want to be. Also, the Lanterns remind me of the Catholic Church—they choose people from among the community and assign them to care for the people in that place, they have councils and a hierarchy, they make fabulously horrible mistakes with galactic repercussions and, ultimately, their objective is to bring justice and peace. I like the Green Lanterns in particular because their thing is Will. The Will is one of the most amazing attributes of humanity. We are each given our own, we’re free to use it as we like, and when we use it the right way, it makes us more divine. Will is the strongest aspect of my faith. I’m not a real “feely” person, so for me, faith isn’t about warm fuzzies. I don’t spend a lot of time feeling God’s presence. Instead, I do a lot of being bossy in my prayer time; telling God what I need, what my friends need, and asking Him to help me make good choices. Feelings can be misleading and sometimes misplaced. I prefer what I can see, comprehend and manipulate (not in a bad way). I try to be attentive to other people’s feelings by listening carefully, but my approach has a tendency to be a little clinical. So, my faith is mostly an act of the will. For me, faith isn’t about warm fuzzies. At my new parish, I met a guy who was telling me about the Blue Lanterns; they are all about Hope. Hope is great, if you have it. I think of it (maybe wrongly) as being in the realm of feelings—because you feel hope, right? I believe in God. I believe...

I Have Strings Sep19

I Have Strings

Before Age of Ultron released, I never noticed much depth in the song “I’ve Got No Strings.” I thought it was just another silly Disney song. However, when I heard the eerie version in context of Age of Ultron’s trailer, it gained an entire new meaning. For both Pinocchio and for Ultron, this innocent-sounding piece is a song of rebellion, of throwing off strings of control and conformity. “I’ve got no strings to hold me down. To make me fret to make me frown. I had strings but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.” Our society often encourages me to yank off the strings of how we’ve done things in the past, to embrace new ideas and desert traditions. This is evident in new political movements, shifting of media, and changes in lifestyle. Sometimes this is a good thing. Society is moving away from racism, poverty, and recognizing things that were swept under the rug, like the sex industry or mental illnesses. However, in exchange for our newfound enlightenment, traditional values of basic morality are dying. What wasn’t okay a hundred years ago is commonly accepted now. This is evident in nearly any TV show or movie or even the news. Once upon a time, commonly relationships were kept chaste until marriage, now it’s common to be sexually active whether you’re in a relationship or just having a one-night stand. Swearing used to be considered lower class, but now it is common. Crude humour was considered impertinent and vulgar; now it’s in every sitcom. With this cultural shift, I’m prompted to join the masses and conform. I don’t want to feel excluded; I don’t want to be left behind. But are these strings that tie me to tradition and the old-fashioned bad?...

One of Your Many Toys Sep16

One of Your Many Toys...

“You don’t own me, I’m not just one of your many toys… don’t tell me what to do and don’t tell me what to say and when I go out with you, don’t put me on display. These are the lyrics for the song playing when the infamous Harley Quinn is introduced for the first time. She’s hanging from the bars of a cell in the center of a room and surrounded by several guards. “I sleep where I want and with who I want” she states to the head guard. She’s a take-no-crap, hard-as-nails, super woman who will put anyone into the hospital for coming near her. Not only is she tough, but she is smokin’ hot and we are reminded that over and over, between almost every male’s comments and her strutting her stuff in short shorts and a tight tee. But with every remark on her beauty, there is also a statement about how crazy she is. And it’s the crazy that is her ticket to the party that is the Suicide Squad. Each person on the squad has a special set of skills and a particular destructive bent that brings them to the squad, but Harley is unique. Where each other member has an internal system of morals or ethics, a thieves’ code if you will, Harley has none because Harley isn’t a villain by choice, she’s a villain by design. No amount of obsession can resolve an evil heart. Deadshot doesn’t kill women or children, Croc only eats people who get in his way, Captain Boomerang is a thief but far from a soulless killer, and Diablo is a pacifist recognizing that his anger cost him everything. Harley is a creature broken, damaged, and destroyed. She is the product...

Superman, Nakama, and Me Aug17

Superman, Nakama, and Me...

The last person I thought I would be able to relate to is the Man of Steel. I’m not inhumanly strong, nor fast as a speeding bullet, nor have I x-ray vision or super hearing. For the longest time I didn’t care much for Superman. When my sister and I were kids, my parents bought us a DVD containing a bunch of vintage cartoons, including the original 1940s Superman. Even from a young age, I recognized that he was overpowered and always won the day with barely any opposition. Years later, I watched the show Smallville, a program that focused on his growing up with an adopted family and learning about his Kryptonian origins. However, not until the release of Man of Steel did I truly care for Superman, mostly because of his parents. I am adopted. Though my birth mother is living, my birth father passed away shortly after I was born, just like Superman’s. My adopted parents couldn’t have children, just like the Kents. Growing up, many people have asked if I knew my “real parents.” I don’t like that question, because it undervalues the ones who raised me. My adopted parents are my real parents. Just because I don’t share blood with them doesn’t mean they’re not as important as my genetic mother and father. My adopted parents are my “real parents” because they shaped me. Like Clark, I sometimes felt like an alien among my family. I could never relate to my friends when they spoke about how they inherited their parents’ features or quirks or when their mothers spoke about their pregnancies. Often I kept the fact that I’m adopted hidden until someone asked why I didn’t look like my younger sister or my dad. My birth father’s life was...

Living with a Bullet Wound Jul15

Living with a Bullet Wound...

Occasionally, I play a little game in the back of my mind where I imagine I go back in time and change something. Sometimes I go back and slap past me in the face right before I was going to do something stupid. Sometimes I go back and warn myself about a danger that is ahead. Every now and then I go back and change someone else’s actions—sometimes drastically—so I don’t have to suffer today for what they did back then. I play this game when I’m frustrated that I don’t have enough money to do what I want or when I’m feeling annoyed that I have to deal with an obnoxious family dynamic. But most of the time I play this game because I’m feeling depressed and want that feeling of hopelessness to go away. That’s when I imagine I could go back and somehow change an abusive childhood, a system of emotional damage or that one event that still haunts me… things that would take away the pain that I live with every day. So when Barry Allen sat on the porch experiencing the deep mourning that comes from watching his parents die right before him, giving up the perfect life with Iris to save Joe and knowing that not one but two mentors he trusted and loved turned out to be vicious and destructive forces he’d have to battle with, I felt his pain. And when he tells Iris that he can’t figure out how to engage in a relationship with her even though this is something he’s been dreaming about for years, his pain is heart breaking. Barry’s biggest problem is that he continues to live in the past and doesn’t look to the future. Iris leaves him, saying she’ll...

X-Men Apocalypse Isn’t About the End of the World Jul11

X-Men Apocalypse Isn’t About the End of the World...

One of my favourite parts of X-Men: Apocalypse is the scene toward the end of the movie, when various mutants pool their abilities together to rebuild Xavier’s mansion. Jean Gray hoists stones and beams with her telekinesis near a floating Magneto in plainclothes; Storm, who with Magneto had been under Apocalypse’s thrall, stands among the group as well. It’s a fitting picture of the possibility of renewal after and amid brokenness—the literal rebuilding of the mansion parallels the rebuilding of the X-Men team and the possibility that Xavier’s strained relationships with Magneto and Mystique can also be rebuilt. It’s also a very familiar type of scene. I’m hard-pressed to think of a single superhero movie that doesn’t end with an explosive (literally), destructive climax, followed by either a subsequent rebuilding, or at least the acknowledgement that a loss has been suffered. The rebuilding generally represents some restoration—whether it’s of a team, of an individual body, or of a literal building like the mansion. X2: X-Men United, for example, also involves an invaded and destroyed mansion that must be rebuilt. The Avengers leaves us with the sense that they have finally assembled. Groot sacrifices himself for his friends but, rather than being gone, regrows as a tiny shoot with a penchant for the Jackson 5. At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman’s infamous reputation is further disgraced, and viewers mourn the injustice of it, because we crave public, positive acknowledgement of his crusade. Disaster, in X-Men: Apocalypse, isn’t only something that can be overcome—it’s something that was defeated before some of us were born. This trope of costly destruction followed either by rebuilding, or the longing for renewal kept just out of reach, isn’t limited to superhero stories, of course, but superhero stories tend...

Mutually Assured Punishment Jun24

Mutually Assured Punishment...

There are two things the Punisher doesn’t waste: words and bullets. “Bang.” The Punisher’s first and only word in his Daredevil debut tells me everything I need to know about him. He’s already blown away a bar full of Irish mobsters and most of a hospital security team, barely pausing to reload, and now I know he doesn’t blink in the face of a superhero. While the Punisher lives in a world full of heroes with colourful costumes and catchphrases—do-gooders who want to save the world—the dark paladin pretty much has one solution to any problem: murder it. And it’s when he and Daredevil start trading blows that things get really interesting. Daredevil is steeped in a Catholic ideology of law and order—he refuses to kill because he believes that judgment is better left to God or the law. The Punisher sees the broken system laid out before him and decides his justice is better than none, so he will be judge, jury, and—most notably—executioner. The Punisher subscribes to a theology of redemptive violence. He doesn’t believe what he’s doing is “good” or “right,” only that it is necessary. When Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson lead the Punisher’s defense in court, they try to leverage his military service to the jury and explain his murderous rampages as a form of PTSD, but the Punisher wants no part in it. The idea of taking justice into your own hands and righting wrongs on your terms is very attractive. He has no delusions about what he’s doing. He tells Daredevil, “You hit them and they get back up; I hit them and they stay down.” Daredevil believes if he takes the high road long enough, the world will take notice and shape up. It’s a fairly...

Atomic Robo and Choosing Joy Jun22

Atomic Robo and Choosing Joy...

“Darkness! No Parents!” Batman sings after rescuing the hero of The Lego Movie. “Batman’s a true artist,” his girlfriend adds. “Dark and brooding.” I love that moment because it skewers the mopey, self-absorbed, grim stories we’ve been dealing with since the dark age of comics in the 80s. Atomic Robo is a comic series created intentionally to reject the angst of many superhero stories. Developed by the team of Brian Clevinger (writer) and Scott Wegner (artist), Atomic Robo is built on a five-point pledge which starts with “No Angst.” Through the ten collected volumes of the series so far, the story has more than lived up to its promise. The title character is an atomic-powered, self-aware robot built by Nikolai Tesla in the early 1900s. The Robot’s lifetime is presented in a non-chronological fashion, a kaleidoscope of stories that include saving the world from mobile pyramids, Nazi brains-in-jars, and otherworldly horrors from beyond time. Robo faces every challenge with courage and humour. In the face of hardship, it is so simple to shut down, snipe from the sidelines, and refuse to fight back.   In one story, he and his team of scientists are called upon to defend the city of Reno from an invasion of giant ants. While Robo is on the ground battling the ants, his team hovers overhead in a chopper debating exactly how such insects could even exist. Frustrated both by his team’s lack of focus and his inability to defeat the ants, Robo says, “Guys, can we concentrate? Guns aren’t working.” The team answers back that the only way to defeat the bugs to is understand how they came to be. While they keep arguing, Robo grabs a handy Buick and smashes the nearest ant to jelly. “Automobiles have been the...

Taking Off the Masks Jun20

Taking Off the Masks

Glasses on, he’s a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet. Glasses off, he’s a Son of Krypton, ready to save the universe. Glasses on, she’s Diana Prince—a sweet, unassuming officer in the US military. Glasses off, she’s Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazonians. Their glasses serve as masks to hide their secret identities. I love that, for at least these two, the disguises they wear are in their “regular” lives—they take off their “masks” to be the hero that is natural to them, instead of putting one on to become something “other.” Many superheroes wear masks that are important to their survival. Masks allow them to function in regular society so that they can have something of a normal life, gather intel, and protect their loved ones from villains who might seek to hurt or control them. Masks offer protection, boundaries, and retreat. In The Princess Bride, when asked by Fezzik why he wore a mask, Wesley replied, “It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” His answer is a flippant comment to dodge the question, but it is also a truth. Masks are terribly comfortable. Let’s face it (see what I did there?)—we all portray to the world the image that we want seen, the person that we want to be perceived as. Social media makes it so much easier than it used to be… I can create the mask of whatever reality I want to all of my “friends” through pictures, memes, and text, and I never have to step outside or run into another human being to do it. If I wear masks too much, I run the risk of forgetting who I am. Technology has created a myriad of ways for me to mask myself.  I can post things that make me look good, but leave off the things that pain or embarrass me. With online gaming, I can engage people around the world, creating a sense of camaraderie without the necessity of intimacy. With online shopping, I can order everything I need to survive and have it delivered without speaking to a single person. All of these things are amazing and awesome, and to an introvert like myself, really a dream come true!  I can live in almost complete anonymity if I want to. The art of social interaction is dying in many places. People’s feelings are neglected; the consequences of words and actions are  forgotten. People have a tendency to be less concerned about hurting other’s feelings when not communicating face to face. But even after stepping outside to deal with other human beings face-to-face—which I actually do for a living—I continue to wear masks. Sometimes it’s necessary; in dealing with other people’s feelings and grief, I often have to mask mine so I can focus on their pain. When I’m talking with a family who has lost a loved one, or a person suffering with addiction, homelessness, or abuse, I have to keep a strong face on so that I don’t turn into an empathetic puddle next to them. If my child is sick or hurt and I’m worried, I need to hide my fear so that theirs isn’t magnified. There are times when wearing a mask is for the good of others. But, there are also times that I wear one to protect myself. When I choose not to make myself vulnerable, when I don’t like who I am and wish I was someone different, when I don’t feel like I’m good enough, or if I’m afraid of not being accepted in a particular circumstance, I put on that comfortable thing, the face that I am willing to present. Sometimes that mask is self-deprecation—I’m going to make myself a joke before you do. It might look like apathy or laughing off a hurtful comment. I might wear the mask of self-righteousness or defense if...

It’s Not You, It’s My Enemies Jun03

It’s Not You, It’s My Enemies...

There are many good reasons for superheroes to keep their identities secret. However, there’s one not-so-great reason. In particular, it seems to be a favourite of Superman’s, Batman’s, Spider-man’s, and countless others’. It’s what TV Tropes calls “It’s not You, It’s My Enemies,” where the superhero does not reveal his identity to his love interest in order to protect her from his adversaries. While I understand the need to keep loved ones out of danger, I think this particular trope is one that we need to stop using. In CW’s show The Flash, Barry Allen is a CSI for the Central City Police Department. When he was 11 years old, his mother was murdered by mysterious red and yellow lighting, and his father went to prison for the crime; Barry has been trying to make sense of the event and prove his father’s innocence ever since. In the pilot episode, Barry is struck by lightning at the same time the S.T.A.R Labs particle accelerator explodes, sending out a wave of dark matter. Nine months later he wakes up at S.T.A.R Labs from a coma and discovers that he has super speed. He shows his new powers to the three scientists who work there—Dr. Harrison Wells, Dr. Caitlin Snow, and Cisco Ramon—and they team up to help him learn about his new abilities. One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s only the male superheroes who use this excuse. At the same time, Barry’s adoptive father, Detective Joe West, is hunting down a criminal with the supposed ability to control the weather, Clyde Mardon. This causes Barry and the others to realize that others were also affected by the dark matter, and Barry decides to go up against Clyde with his speed. The episode culminates in...