Ms. Marvel Defines How to Be Yourself Aug23

Ms. Marvel Defines How to Be Yourself...

Nerds may not be the long-suffering social group they used to be, but I still don’t feel like I fit in any place where Star Wars isn’t a useful conversation starter. Hanging out at a bar isn’t fun for me. Fashion doesn’t intrigue me. I get more excited about a new superhero movie than a famous singer coming to town. I find working out boring, and I don’t even like the taste of coffee! But if I think I stick out at Starbucks with my hot chocolate and Boba Fett hat, I need to remember Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel, and how drastically different she feels from everyone around her. Kamala is a second-generation Pakistani Muslim teen living in Jersey City. Sometimes her heritage isn’t a big deal, but as a 16-year-old, she’s fed up with restrictions. Her religion means she eats different foods, dresses modestly, and celebrates holidays most people are unfamiliar with. Her parents want to keep her away from boys and wild parties, but she claims they won’t let her out because she’s a girl. Plus, her nerdy interests distance her from her straight-laced family and draw ridicule. She spends her time drooling over bacon sandwiches, writing superhero fan fiction, and questioning traditions at her mosque—such as why women have to sit separately from men. She imagines that if she became a hero, she’d take a page from her role model—Ms. Marvel, now rebranded as Captain Marvel: “I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.” It’s fun to spend a few hours pretending to be someone vastly different from me. Whether I’m cosplaying or playing a roleplaying game, I get to put on a mask and act in ways I otherwise wouldn’t. I...

With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography Aug07

With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography...

“I’m offended.” This phrase has become emotionally laden, and all too often used in North American culture to gain unearned power over whatever or whomever has caused the “offense.” But if I’m offended by someone, does that give me special rights? If anything, being offended confers responsibility: responsibility to address the source of offense, to explain my point of view, and, perhaps most importantly, to listen to the other perspective. That’s a lot of work, however; no wonder the path of least resistance leads to Internet trolling and flaming tweets instead. So, here am I; I’m offended. I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming in theaters and loved its portrayal of a kid struggling to understand what it means to be a hero. The next day, I read a review by Ben Kayser, Managing Editor of Movieguide, the self-described “Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment,” which not only described the film as poorly written and badly directed, but also took issue with a single line that the headline claimed “might have ruined” the entire film. Kayser took offense at the line “I was… looking at… porn?” Peter Parker’s friend Ned says this during the climactic battle when he’s providing logistical support in the school’s computer lab. Doing his best to assist his buddy as “the guy in the chair,” Ned gets busted by a teacher who demands to know what Ned is doing. Not wanting to betray Peter’s secret identity, Ned offers this plausible but shameful excuse.  Kayser found this “irresponsible and frustrating,” believing the line to be an attempt to render porn consumption “normal and acceptable.” I stewed over this for a couple of days before I finally worked out why I was irked: Kayser was offended.  Reading his article and review, I realized that he was offended that Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t measure up to his values. This is illogical because the only way to ensure that any artistic endeavour measures up to your values is to produce it yourself, by yourself. As any artist will attest, the moment another person becomes involved in your project, compromise begins. I don’t agree with Kayser that people of faith have to compromise anything in watching this film. Despite Kayser’s offense, porn consumption is normal, or at least it has become so in our society. Most famously, Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal had to restructure his  study comparing men who consumed porn with those who hadn’t because he couldn’t find any control subject in their twenties who had never consumed porn. On this point, I agree with Kayser: this is not acceptable, for a variety of reasons. I don’t agree, however, that it’s a cause for hand-wringing and finger-pointing, or throwing rotten tomatoes at an amazing film. I suggest, rather, that this is an opportunity, a chance to have a discussion. Porn users are not a proud bunch. We might be willing to acknowledge and detail usage in an anonymous Internet survey, but none of us are going to list it as an accomplishment on our curriculum vitae. There won’t be any “Porn Pride Parades” coming to your community anytime soon. You might know someone who is upfront and casual about using porn, but for the rest of us, it’s a source of shame and we are only as healthy as our darkest secrets. If nothing else, Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. I took my eleven-year-old son to this movie, and I will be using this moment to have a frank and open discussion with him about pornography; where Kayser takes offense, I see opportunity. My son wants to be like me; I want him to be better. Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. Kayser also doesn’t seem to understand that acknowledging that something is occurring is not the same thing as condoning it. If...

Accepting Weakness in Thor Jul26

Accepting Weakness in Thor...

I’ve heard it said that your greatest weakness is your greatest strength pushed too far. There’s some truth to this, because it’s easy to become so reliant on the things we’re good at that we don’t notice when exercising those traits has become counterproductive. In the first Thor movie, we see the titular hero fall victim to this exact phenomenon. A small squadron of Frost Giants have infiltrated his home world, and despite their quick and trivial defeat, Thor prepares a counterassault to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Despite being the most foolish thing he does in the movie, this process clearly shows Thor’s strengths; his charisma, his passion, and his courage enable him to rally his friends and reach Jotunheim to confront the Frost King. Superhero stories are not about demonstrations of power; they’re about learning to confront weakness. Once he achieves his desired battle with the Frost Giants, of course, his plan falls apart. Rather than subduing them, as Thor had hoped, his attack only encourages them to begin a new war. While Thor’s abilities allow him to accomplish as much as he does, his over-reliance on them also leads to his fundamental flaws. He can’t see past his own sense of power to realize that brute force is useless in controlling the Giants. On top of that, he even becomes judgmental, rebuking Odin for taking a calmer, more rational approach to dealing with the situation. While I’m the polar opposite of Thor personality-wise, I’ve recently become aware of that same type of judgmental attitude in my own life. For example, I tend to be an extremely cautious person. I like to gather as much information as possible and plan ahead before I say or do anything, and this...

Losing Your Self-Worth to a Suit Jul17

Losing Your Self-Worth to a Suit...

When Tony Stark gives Peter Parker an upgraded suit and recruits him for the Avengers’ Civil War, Peter is ecstatic, thinking he’s about to become a member of the team. But Tony has other plans. Although he lets Peter keep the suit, Tony sends Peter back to his old, ordinary life in Queens, telling the super-teen that he’ll call him when there’s a new mission. That call never comes, and Peter grows increasingly frustrated. Isn’t the guy who snatched Captain America’s shield ready for more challenging tasks than giving directions to old ladies? “Can’t you just be a friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man?” Tony suggests when Peter seeks out more dangerous adventures. But in the course of protecting his neighbourhood, Peter finds a gang of arms dealers selling weapons enhanced with remnant Chitauri parts, leftover Ultron tech, and other exotic wreckage. Although he tells Tony about the threat, Peter is not content to sit on the sidelines and decides to investigate for himself. Peter is everything you’d expect from a teenaged superhero—he’s gifted, but also clumsy, inexperienced, and still learning that actions have consequences. On top of that, he’s enthralled with his new suit. Thinking the suit holds the key to being a better superhero, Peter disables the “Training Wheels Protocol” Tony added to the software, and suddenly he’s got a mind-blowing amount of tech at his disposal (though he has no idea how to use it). Wanting to be worthy of the Avengers, Peter relied on his suit to make him a hero and ended up losing confidence in himself. When I thought about Peter’s attachment to his suit, I realized that most people rely on some kind of “super-suit” to create a “better” version of themselves, to function in areas where they feel deficient....

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...

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...

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...

Fear Not Love: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Rejection May19

Fear Not Love: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Rejection...

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...

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?...