Invading Worlds in Zootopia Apr14

Invading Worlds in Zootopia...

When you’re a little mammal, the world can be a big and scary place. Stu and Bonnie Hopps know this and go out of their way to emphasize the danger to their daughter, Judy. For her part, Judy courageously leaves the small town of Bunnyburrow for the big city of Zootopia. She’s convinced that she’s going to make her mark on the world as a police officer, despite her parents’ inhibitions. She plans to conquer the world by doing good deeds. As it turns out, there are a LOT of worlds for her to conquer. The boroughs of Zootopia include a variety of cultures and biomes, and each has a distinct vibe and a unique climate. Judy learns to handle the physical challenges during her time at the police academy, but learning to connect with the different species takes a little longer. Her first attempt at being a “do-gooder” doesn’t work out as expected. She encounters a fox by the name of Nick Wilde. It seems like he and his son are being discriminated against in an elephant neighborhood. Judy steps in, asserts her authority, and goes away feeling pretty good about herself. Except the good feeling fades away when she realizes that Nick is a smooth-talking con-man, his “son” is an adult, and the two of them are running a just-barely-legal scam to turn a quick buck. Staying in my own world and refusing to step into others is a challenge. Judy is furious at Nick for hustling her and at herself for falling for it. She had made one of the classic mistakes of a would-be hero; she invaded Nick’s world instead of entering it. I’m often guilty of the same thing. I reach out to help someone, but I don’t take...

From Hogwarts to Heaven Apr12

From Hogwarts to Heaven

You’ve probably seen a post like this one on social media: “Which fictional world would you want to live in?” Answers abound, from a galaxy far, far away to Middle-earth, from the Enterprise to Hyrule. Hogwarts seems like a pretty common answer. Butterbeer-flavoured drinks abound, and Facebook filters let us proudly display our house affiliations—Gryffindor for me. Part of what makes Hogwarts so appealing is how much Harry loves it. I’ll never forget the image in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone of Harry jumping for joy and swatting at flying envelopes as they fill his living room—and he doesn’t even know their significance yet. Even small glimpses of magic are better than his dull, miserable days with the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia pretend he doesn’t exist, Dudley picks on him, he lives in a closet under the stairs, and people think he’s a freak when magical things happen to him. When he was younger, he “had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away,” but after he receives his letter, his wildest dreams come to life. Being unable to imagine Heaven’s perfection is the point. As a fantasy writer myself, I pondered J.K. Rowling’s choice to give her protagonist such a terrible childhood. Attending Hogwarts is not a trial he has to overcome; his parents left him both his magical gifting and the funds to afford Hogwarts. And why keep any knowledge of the magical world away from him for eleven years? I realized the answer was simple: to make the magic in her books even more magical—both for Harry and for us. If Harry’s life had been easier, if Harry had loving parents, nice siblings, and hadn’t experienced embarrassing magical accidents, then Hogwarts and everything with it—leaving home, meeting new people, confronting a mortal enemy, and intense schooling—would have been an everyday matter. But to Harry-who-lived-under-the-stairs, Hogwarts is a blessing and an escape. Hogwarts represents so many amazing things to Harry—making friends, gaining wisdom from caring teachers, learning astounding skills, discovering his parents, having a house to belong to, and being treated as an equal. A giant, soft, four-poster bed awaits him every night. The food appears out of nowhere, never runs out, and disappears without leaving dirty dishes behind. Harry could never have imagined somewhere so wonderful. The mystery and magic of a place like Hogwarts make me wonder if there are similar surprises for me in the afterlife. I believe I’ll go to Heaven after I die because of my faith in Christ, but I don’t exactly know what to expect. I know a few things. There will be no pain, no crying, no shame, no death, no evil, no deceit, no darkness, and life forever, for starters (Revelation chapters 21 and 22 discuss that). Why keep any knowledge of the magical world away from Harry for eleven years? To make the magic in her books even more magical. How can I even imagine something that perfect? The answer is: I can’t. And it’s hard to get excited about it when I can’t picture it. Instead, I seek the things this life offers. I have a job, an apartment, a car, plenty of food, a loving family, and more books than I know what to do with. I have my friends, my passions, my hobbies. I don’t want to miss out on life’s experiences, because they’re all I know. Heaven is going to be great, but it feels so abstract. Picturing sitting on clouds and strumming a harp is easier than trying to grasp the truth. But if I believe it exists, shouldn’t that knowledge affect my life somehow? How do I live like Heaven is all I’ve ever dreamed of and more? I think being unable to imagine its perfection is the point. I have to act on my faith, not on what I can see now. I...

When Life Begins with Fear Apr07

When Life Begins with Fear...

My comfort zone is my safety zone, and it’s my favorite place to be. I have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, in order to do something outside of it. I’m not a risk-taker. I like playing it safe. I hate the idea of gambling, because there’s such a big risk of losing. I like staying in my own little world with my laptop and the internet where my life is unexciting most of the time. It’s where I’m comfortable. When I saw Tangled for the first time in theaters, I immediately related to Rapunzel. She’s a girl with many talents and interests I share, including art and cooking. We both have long hair. Mine’s not that long, but still. And we both really like our comfort zones. Rapunzel longed to leave the tower and see the lights on her birthday. Anytime in her eighteen years, she could have left on her own to see them. Mother Gothel persuaded her to stay by telling her about all of the scary things beyond the tower, but she still had a choice. She chose to listen to fear. There are so many things I want to do in life, but often fear holds me back. There are so many things I want to do in life, but often fear holds me back. Whether it’s fear of a new job, talking to someone I’ve never met at a party, or even trying a new ride at an amusement park, it keeps me from doing things I want to do. When Flynn arrives, Rapunzel gains the courage to leave her home and see the world. At times she regrets leaving the tower, because doing so made herself vulnerable and she gets hurt. But if she hadn’t stepped out,...

Trollhunters and Two Worlds Apr05

Trollhunters and Two Worlds...

Jim Lake is an unremarkable teenager living in Arcadia Oaks, an equally unremarkable town (despite it’s cool name). There wouldn’t be much left to say about this character or setting if they weren’t the subject of Guillermo Del Toro’s colourful Trollhunters. As it is, adventure is afoot. Right under Jim’s feet, actually. As the story opens, Jim’s 15-year-old problems appear unremarkable. He wishes he owned a cooler ride, hopes he won’t get detention, and finds it easier to stare at his crush than speak to her. Things get complicated—and more dangerous—when the magical amulet of the fallen Trollhunter calls out to Jim and pulls him into inescapable peril. Jim’s adventure straddles two worlds and brings to mind my own engagement with other worlds. Although the ones I escape to are found in books, TV and film, and video games rather than a kingdom under my feet, their effect on me is no less real. Once I see the truth in a work of fiction, it’s hard to un-know it. Fans of fantasy are familiar with the charge of escapism. It’s “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy,” and can become a bad habit if abused. Fortunately, enjoying other worlds doesn’t need to be escapism; other worlds can help prepare us for the things we face in this world. Rule number one of being the Trollhunter is to never be afraid; rule number two is fight to the death. When Jim faces his first real challenge in the Troll world, he has trouble getting past rule one.  A sparring match with disappointed Trollhunter-hopeful Draal ends in an embarrassing loss which prompts Jim to abandon the “sacred obligation” of being the Trollhunter. However, he quite...

Adulting After Narnia Apr03

Adulting After Narnia...

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was grow up so I could make my own decisions and start having some fun, already… geez. Adults had it all. They had money and cars, got to choose what they would be, where they lived, and how they were going to spend their time. Of course, if I had paid even a little bit of attention, I would have seen that my dad’s sometimes two and a half hour commute to and from New York, the work phone calls he got during dinner, and my mom’s exhaustion from dealing with five unruly and needy (and sometimes ungrateful) children, I might have noticed that the adults in my life weren’t really choosing very much in their lives at all. They did what they had to do to make life safe and comfortable for us children, catching only moments where they could actually do what they wanted; and even then, what they “wanted” was limited by what was best for the family. As the millennials would say, adulting is hard. And they’re right. The first inkling I had of this (remember, I completely ignored what my parents were experiencing) was the time that Peter and Susan had aged outside of Narnia. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—they were the High King and Queen of Narnia—how do you age out of that? And yet, Aslan said that they couldn’t come back. They were too old. When you’re an adult, certain things that are available to you as a kid are no longer available. Now, the Toys “R” Us commercial whose jingle included, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toy’s R Us kid…” and a song by The Ramones called, “I Don’t Wanna...

The Paris of My Childhood Mar24

The Paris of My Childhood...

The live action version of Beauty and the Beast does character backstory well. One subplot concerns what happened to Belle’s mother and why she had to move to this “poor provincial town.” In this version, the Beast has a magical map that can take people to the place they truly want to go. He allows Belle to use this item to take the two of them to a windmill attic on the outskirts of Paris where Belle was born. Belle remembers this place with fondness because this is where her family was together and happy. This is the Paris of my childhood These were the borders of my life In this crumbling dusty attic Where an artist loved his wife Easy to remember, harder to move on Knowing the Paris of my childhood is gone. In this simple song, I felt Belle’s yearning for wholeness in her life, especially as she discovers the true reason why her father fled Paris and had to leave his dear wife behind. When I think of the home I grew up in before my parents’ divorce, I tend to elevate that place. I remember days in my childhood when drama between my parents and how I’m going to pay my bills weren’t at the forefront of my mind. Like Belle, I also left my home abruptly without the chance to say goodbye when my parents separated. I suppose we both needed closure. Home doesn’t necessarily mean the four walls around me. When Belle returns to the crumbling attic, devoid of life only filled with shadows of what once was, she realizes that this home she had in her head, the place she wanted to go back to for years, is no longer her home. She makes this clear...

Out for Blood in Kong: Skull Island Mar17

Out for Blood in Kong: Skull Island...

Be ye warned: spoilers ahead. Fear is an effective motivator. The problem is that it doesn’t always motivate us toward what is right. In Kong: Skull Island, a very fearful man, Bill Randa, leads a federally funded “mapping expedition” just as the Vietnam War is wrapping up to a previously unknown island that he claims the Russians are about to get to. He’s granted a science team, military escort, and photographer, and hires an ex-British Special Forces tracker as well. Almost everyone on the expedition believes that they’re there to map and explore the island for the benefit of humanity. But, it’s later revealed that Randa’s true purpose is to hunt down and kill a monster, one that he suspected was living on the island. I openly defy anyone who would dare call King Kong a monster—he is a good, kind, very large ape who has made it his life’s work to protect the people of his island. Naturally, he’s feared because he’s big—but anyone who would take the time to observe his behaviour would see immediately that he’s all about protecting the weak. The first time we see Kong, he appears in front of two World War II pilots, born into nations at war with each other, who have crash landed on Skull Island and are facing off on a precipice. They are each trying to kill the other when Kong suddenly appears, towering over them. We don’t know exactly what happened next, but their encounter with Kong, who had no intention of harming them, made them brothers, and afterwards they found a new community to care for them in the native inhabitants of the island. They were placed in safety, while Kong kept every danger, in the form of vicious monsters who...

Curses of Blood in The Lord of the Rings Mar08

Curses of Blood in The Lord of the Rings...

Middle-earth is a bloody place. The generational struggles of elves in the First Age, the War of the Ring, and even the adventures of a certain handkerchief-less burglar are all bloody stuff. Blood isn’t just for wetting swords, though; blood tells us something about who we are. But it doesn’t have the final word on who we’ll be. Middle-earth holds two tales that reveal the powerful pull of blood. In the First Age of Middle-earth, the elven prince Fëanor created jewels of unsurpassed beauty called the Silmarils. Fëanor was the greatest of the elves; he was exceedingly beautiful and unsurpassed in skill and understanding—he knew it, too. It was his pride that drove him to swear an irrational oath of vengeance against anyone who withheld the Silmarils from him after Morgoth, the dark enemy of the elves, stole the Silmarils and murdered Fëanor’s father. But the burden of blood tends to outlive its source; Fëanor’s sons nursed their own pride and took up the oath as the mantle of their house, following their father to war: “They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Ilúvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not . . . vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.” (The Quenta Silmarillion.) Pride was the weakness in Fëanor’s blood, first exploited by the subtleties of Morgoth and then passed on to Fëanor’s sons. When pride demands its right and blood is spilled, a...

I May Fall: RWBY and Isolation Mar06

I May Fall: RWBY and Isolation...

At times I fall apart. Sometimes I feel so beat down by life I just want to curl up in a ball and cry “a million tears.” Just like the lyrics from the RWBY soundtrack (“I May Fall,” sung by Casey Lee Williams), the “skies rain blood”, “the moon is gone,” and the “sun won’t rise.” Creatures of darkness seem to triumph in my life, taking the form of doubt, worry, and fear; my shields are shattered in the fight against them. Sometimes they all seem to beat me down and I “succumb to fear.” I feel like “help won’t arrive” to mend a problem that seems unfixable. Ruby, Yang, Blake, and Weiss reach many low points during their adventures. When Beacon Academy is destroyed, instead of leaning on each other, the girls separate. Yang loses her arm, Weiss’s father forces her to return to a toxic family life, Blake runs back to her home, and Ruby travels with another team, feeling shunned by her sister. Team RWBY has spent three seasons nigh inseparable, doing everything together. They’d survived many rough times, but this one finally broke the camel’s back. Instead of coming together, team RWBY races apart. When we lose our faith and forsake our friends, the song lyrics say. Funny how those two actions can go hand in hand. Instead of coming together, team RWBY races apart. Yang suffers from depression because of the loss of her arm. She feels so down that she even rejects a very expensive replacement her father found for her. Blake rejects help from Sun as he tries to be there for her as she adjusts to being with her family again and feeling ashamed about the loss of Beacon. I know I’ve reached low points where...

Danger is Part of the Journey Feb24

Danger is Part of the Journey...

In the restaurant of life, the main dish of parenthood comes with a huge side order of worry. You are also served anxiety sauce and nervous seasoning. Every time your child makes a decision, you wonder about the consequences. And when your child doesn’t listen to your wise counsel, you realize that you’ve raised someone who is headstrong and foolish. Certainly Chief Tui felt that way about Moana. She was his daughter, the light of his life, and the next chief of Motunui. She was his hope for the future of his people. All she had to do was follow the path he’d laid out for her—follow the rules, learn from him, and take over when her time came. What he didn’t realize was that his plan depended on an unchanging world. As long as everything stayed more-or-less as it always had, Moana and the people of Motunui would be fine. Things don’t stay the same, though. Centuries before Moana’s time, the demi-god Maui had stolen the heart of the goddess Te Fiti. He intended to give it to humanity as a gift to earn their love. He lost it in the sea and the world began a slow collapse. Islands died, their vegetation turning black and lifeless, and the fish became scarce. I probably advise my children out of fear. Motunui was a long way from the destruction, so the people of Chief Tui’s tribe didn’t notice that the world was changing. The destruction was spreading, though. They couldn’t escape it forever. The ocean chose Moana as its champion to return the heart. Soon after, the darkness began to touch Motunui. Vegetation died and the fish vanished. Moana suggested sailing beyond the reef, but her father forbade it. The island supplied all their...

Corruption Everywhere but Within Feb22

Corruption Everywhere but Within...

“He saw corruption everywhere, but within,” sings Clopin as he introduces Claude Frollo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This line particularly stands out to me because Frollo is a villain who believes he’s right in every way. He believes his treatment of Quasimodo is just, he believes the gypsies should be dealt with revilement, and he believes he must shepherd others in his professed righteousness. He sings: You know I am a righteous man Of my virtue I am justly proud You know I’m so much purer than The common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd. Since Frollo gives to the poor, takes in a scorned and ugly “monster,” pursues injustice, prays, and attends mass, he believes he’s doing good. He thinks God and the saints should be pleased with him, because he’s checked all the boxes. But he fails to notice all the virtues he’s neglecting—mercy, compassion, and love, for starters. Claude Frollo is abusive, cruel, and above all arrogant. In trying to become a better person, there’s always the danger of pride. Pursuing virtue is a noble endeavor; I believe kindness, selflessness, charity, patience, love, and honesty should be encouraged. But I know I must keep in mind the danger of being so caught up in the right that I stop recognizing when I’m wrong. Many people in the film such as Esmeralda, Phoebus, and the Archdeacon recognize Frollo’s wrong actions and they even call him out on it. However, whenever Frollo is confronted, he gives excuses and tries to justify himself. Archdeacon: See there the innocent blood you have spilt on the steps of Notre Dame. Frollo: I am guiltless. She ran. I pursued. Archdeacon: Now you would add this child’s blood to your guilt on the steps of Notre Dame....

I Want it to be Over: Suffering and A Monster Calls Feb03

I Want it to be Over: Suffering and A Monster Calls...

Suffering makes me so tired; lugging physical and emotional burdens is draining. It makes happiness hard to feel and strains relationships. It makes me feel heavy, even on days when I’m not distracted by work or projects. Or perhaps especially on those days. “Pain is the gift that nobody wants.” That’s what Philip Yancey writes in his book, Where is God When it Hurts? He’s talking about the fact that pain keeps us safe; it warns us not to keep our hand in a fire and tells us when there’s something wrong with our minds or bodies. But it’s hard to see it as a gift when that pain becomes unbearable. Conor O’Malley is a twelve-year-old boy who watches his mother’s life drain out of her due to cancer. For over a year, he’s witnessed a vibrant, hopeful woman wither into an emaciated, fragile shadow of her old self. Anger and fear consume him, and that comes out in how he interacts at school and with family. It is human for us to want suffering to end, even at the expense of others. Conor’s negative emotions also manifest in a reoccurring nightmare. In it, he sees his mother falling off a cliff. He races to grab her hand and catches it before she plummets into an abyss. For a long time he grips her wrist with all of his might. She yells his name and for him not to let go. But every night he lets her fingers slip out of his, and she falls into a pit of darkness. He claims he could have held on longer, but lets go instead. Why would he give up? Why would he let go? Why wouldn’t he fight for her? When a great monster comes walking,...

The Upside-Down Villainy of Nimona Jan25

The Upside-Down Villainy of Nimona...

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! These are all things that make up Noelle Stevenson’s web-comic-turned-graphic-novel, Nimona, a silly but poignant story about heroes and villains. The twist in this tale? In Nimona, the villains aren’t really villains and the heroes aren’t really heroes. This is a story in which a kingdom has a Champion (the “good guy,”) and a Villain (the “bad guy”) who follow a routine: the Villain, Lord Ballister Blackheart, makes some mischief, and the Champion, Ambrosius Goldenloin, fights him off, Ballister goes home and comes up with his next plan, repeat. That all changes when Nimona, a young shapeshifting girl, shows up. As her story unfolds, the deeper question that arises is “what, exactly, makes a villain?” Villains on the surface The two surface villains in this story are Ballister, who wants to bring down the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, and his sidekick Nimona, who just wants to blow things up and cause general chaos. But we soon learn that Ballister has a deeper reason for his actions: he has a grudge against the Institution, which raised him to be Champion and then threw him out after he lost his arm in a joust with Ambrosius, who was his best friend. And, while Ambrosius always maintained that his injury was an accident, Ballister never believed him. Nimona’s origin story is more ambiguous. She can take any form she wants and heals incredibly quickly. Who is she? From where does she come? Those questions aren’t really answered, but there are clues scattered throughout the story: when Ballister wants to learn more about her powers and suggests running some tests on her in his lab, she reacts violently; in a battle with the Institution, she takes the shape of a scaly beast...

Remember the Duel with Westley Jan16

Remember the Duel with Westley...

“You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. You’ve been chasing me your whole life only to fail now? I think that’s about the worst thing I’ve ever heard. How marvelous.” Count Rugen’s response to an injured Inigo Montoya, the swordsman looking to avenge his father’s death in The Princess Bride, pained me when I first heard it as a child. Would this horrible man kill Inigo, just as the swordsman was close to achieving his lifelong goal? How unjust! It was difficult for me to watch Inigo, my favourite character in the movie, get stabbed repeatedly by Rugen, the one I most despised. It’s strange for me to think, but I identify quite strongly with Count Rugen. Not the sadistic, child-scarring, torture-inventing aspects to him, but the “Oh, I can’t believe I had such an impact on you” part. Just as Rugen is surprised by discovering that his foe is the boy he “taught a lesson to all those years ago,” I’ve been realizing lately that we all leave impressions—some profoundly strong—on people all around us, whether we intend to or not. The truth is, I have no idea how my words and actions will impact those around me. Unfortunately, just as with Rugen, some of those impacts I’ve made are through actions that are regrettable. As a teenager, I was a relentless bully. I thrived when I could generate laughs at the expense of others, particularly at an overweight classmate. Day after day I would make fat jokes, pushing him down to puff myself up. He and I eventually went to different schools, and when I next saw him, he had lost significant weight. He was also bitter and unwilling to talk to me...

Seeing with the Heart in The Little Prince Jan06

Seeing with the Heart in The Little Prince...

Netflix recently released a film version of The Little Prince, one of my favourite books. They placed the story in the context of a meeting between the author and a little girl who really needed to hear the tale. This little girl was being forced to grow up way before her time; she had loss upon loss heaped upon her without any acknowledgment or assistance in processing it. She lost her father’s presence in her life through divorce, with snow globes he would send from his travels as a poor substitute. Her decisions for her life were replaced by her mother’s vision of life—a barren calendar packed with busy tasks but perfectly empty of meaning or joy. The collapse of the mother’s hopes for her own life made her so fearful for her daughter’s future that she controlled every aspect of it that she could. At one point, the stress of future success was so burdensome that the little girl fainted. Her world had become so small and so focused that there was no room for error, no room for failure, and no time for fun, friends, or rest. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” When a life becomes so narrow and so devoid of hope or joy, it can become something of a mini-apocalypse. Here’s a funny thing about that word apocalypse; although the current cultural meaning of it has become “a great calamity” or “disaster,” the true meaning is “revelation.” The association with disaster comes from the Book of Revelation, whose title in Greek is Apocalypse (interpreting it as a disaster is very unfair, but that’s another story for another time). What is more interesting is that when disaster strikes in our lives, it is an amazing...

A Biased Father and His Not-So-Cursed Child Dec21

A Biased Father and His Not-So-Cursed Child...

In the first seven Harry Potter books, sometimes I forget I’m in Harry’s head and can only see things through his perspective. Reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play written by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, causes me to question just how much bias colours Harry’s outlook. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child takes place 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and his friends are grown up with children, and his son, Albus, is one of the main characters. Unlike its predecessors, the play spans several years, highlighting the life of a Potter who is placed in Slytherin instead of Gryffindor. To Harry’s dismay, Albus becomes best friends with Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, who—despite the fact that he’s a sweetheart—many despise simply because of his heritage. As it is not told through the lens of a single character, the play provides a more objective look into the wizarding world than the seven novels detailing Harry’s childhood. It addresses some of the bias I didn’t even realize was happening in the original series. Harry vs. Slytherin Harry’s prejudice against Slytherin started to bother me when I re-read the Harry Potter books as an adult; I realized that there couldn’t possibly be a house that only churned out evil witches and wizards. The world isn’t black and white; it’s a whole lot of grey that can be tricky to navigate. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Hagrid says, “There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad that wasn’t in Slytherin.” This has to be an exaggeration, and one that Harry takes to heart. As Hagrid is his first guide to the wizarding world, Harry has no reason to doubt the statement. He learns later on that Hagrid isn’t...

Understanding Mental Illness: My Journey with Effie Trinket Oct26

Understanding Mental Illness: My Journey with Effie Trinket...

Ignorance is bliss—but only for those who are ignorant. I’m a strongly opinionated person. When I believe something is right, it’s hard for me to consider the other side. Only when I am confronted by hard evidence will I believe a new truth, especially when it’s a fundamental truth, something that’s part of my moral standpoint. At times, accepting the truth takes me a long time, just like it does with Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games series. In the first film, we meet Effie as she is traipsing down a dirt road in District 12, wearing a pink dress and high heels. Her lips are pursed in distaste and her eyes coated in mascara. When she conducts the reaping, she does her job with a cheery flair, despite her obvious discomfort at her surroundings. It’s apparent she doesn’t care anything about this district or its citizens and regrets being assigned there. She’s apathetic to their poverty and the brutality of the games, and she doesn’t seem to clue in to the hardships the tributes are going to endure. The changes I go through help me to understand others. Effie’s behaviour reminds me of my younger self. Her attitude towards the tributes reminds me of my attitude towards mental illness. I saw commercials that warned of their seriousness, but I ignored them. I thought things like depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress were all imaginary. I believed it was the sufferer’s own fault for not being strong enough to conquer too much sadness or shifting moods. Effie’s opinion changes after she gets to know Katniss and Peeta. Training them is all duty, but after the two win the games, she begins to care for them. They’ve won, after all, therefore she can become emotionally attached. In Catching Fire, when President Snow announces that the new tributes are to be reaped from the existing victors, she realizes this isn’t a game anymore. As she reaches for the paper with Katniss’s name on it—the single piece of parchment lying at the bottom of the jar mocking the “randomness” of the selection—tears glisten in her eyes. Effie realizes that the Games aren’t fair or right. This time, she is even more committed to her team (to Effie, this means colouring her hair gold and buying trinkets for the others). This time, she’s emotionally invested in her tributes. This time, she hopes and prays that they will win. Ignorance is bliss—but only for those who are ignorant. Though it may seem like a shallow difference in her behaviour, what’s being triggered inside Effie is real change. By Mockingjay, she joins the rebels and wholeheartedly involves herself in the fight for Katniss and Peeta. She becomes a completely different woman. In the past five years, I’ve struggled with my own mental illness. I was confronted by the reality of depression and I felt weak, hopeless, and beyond repair. I came to realize the emotions I saw people deal with in the commercials were real. I can’t say I enjoyed having my eyes opened in that manner, but now I understand. Now I can relate to friends who have dealt or are dealing with depression. I’ve been able to encourage them. I’ve been able to ask for help when I’m struggling myself. Like Effie, my view of a subject was completely changed and it didn’t happen overnight, but gradually. Effie was the comedic relief at first. She was snooty and cared only about fashion and gossip. Though her love for clothes and quick wit didn’t change, her passions did. She gained compassion for others and that enriched her life. I’m glad I’m not that ignorant person anymore when it comes to mental illness, because I think if I had stayed that way, I could have hurt many people with my misinformed opinion. Sometimes change happens quickly, other times it happens gradually, but if the changes I go through help me to...

Standing Out in a Pack of Wolves Oct19

Standing Out in a Pack of Wolves...

I grew up in a land of extroverted sports fans. As an introverted geek, I didn’t fit in. My love of writing, drawing, fangirling, reading encyclopedias, and spending the day engrossed in fantasy novels didn’t score me a lot of friends. Growing up, many of my friends and family told me my interests were weird and pushed me to like other things. I felt like an outcast, much like Mowgli  in the 2016 movie, The Jungle Book. Mowgli is a man-cub living among wolves. He has a talent for creating things from the materials around him (he makes ropes from vines, a pail from a turtle shell, and a knife from broken rocks, among other things). Bagheera and the pack urge him to desert his “tricks” and be more like a wolf, forcing Mowgli to suppress his interests. He does his best to try to conform, but it just isn’t natural for him. I listened to the Bagheeras around me and tried pursuing different interests. I attempted to be a veterinarian assistant, a skeet shooter, and a softball player, but they just weren’t me. They didn’t feel natural. In fact, the more I looked into them, the more they felt like the opposite of who I am. It’s hard feeling like the only man-cub in a pack of wolves that are telling me I need to be more like them. I have a friend who is the only writer among a family of sports players. It took her years to convince them that writing is a worthwhile career. I lived with a father who didn’t like reading at all. To this day, he still doesn’t understand my passion for writing. Since I’ve started pursuing writing as a career, hearing phrases like “Are you still writing?”...

Fairy Tales are for Grown-Ups Sep28

Fairy Tales are for Grown-Ups...

“Without the dark parts it’s just some silly f—” Chronicler froze halfway through the word, eyes darting nervously to the side. Bast grinned like a child catching a priest midcurse. “Go on,” he urged, his eyes were delighted, and hard, and terrible. “Say it.” “Like some silly faerie story,” Chronicler finished, his voice thin and pale as paper. Bast smiled a wide smile. “You know nothing of the Fae, if you think our stories lack their darker sides.” Not long ago, I was reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, and I stumbled upon this quote. A rush of mischievous emotion washed over me, and I caught myself cracking a wide smile. Two things dawned on me that day, which I swear I’ve known and forgotten a thousand times: 1) I was reading a fairy tale, and 2) Fairy tales are not just for children. My favourite half-memories are from when I was a child visiting a carnival. The world was new to me then, and I was just beginning to develop an understanding of its shape and turnings. There was not yet enough room in my expanding imagination for things so alien, exotic, and joyful. Flashes of neon illuminating the dusky dark; the atmosphere of popcorn and hot dogs; the Ferris Wheel under starlight; the taste of danger and adrenaline on the roller coaster. I don’t see this as running away from real life, but rather deepening my appreciation for it. This was a time and a place where the barriers between the worlds of child and adult were thin. The giddy anticipation and the thrill of discovery were electric, euphoric. The English language does not seem to have a word to fully capture what it was like, although “nostalgia” comes...

A Lannister is Forgiven Sep07

A Lannister is Forgiven...

I found myself falling for Game of Thrones right from the start. And “falling” really is the appropriate word, because my addiction began right when Bran was thrown out of the window by all-world dirtbag Jaime Lannister, who in that moment instituted himself as the central foe in the television series. Or so I thought. Part of the beauty of Game of Thrones is that almost nothing is as it initially seems. By the time Brandon hit the ground, I had Jaime pegged as an antagonist because by that point he’d already established himself as a (literal) backstabber, regicide, incestuous adulterer, and as far as I knew, a child murderer. However, three seasons later I was openly rooting for Jaime. He became a redemption project, proof that there’s hope for even those who do the vilest deeds. Still, it’s not roses and daises in Westeros for Jaime. He’s incurred so many debts due to his past treachery that it’s a wonder he’s still alive (especially without the protection of his fighting hand). More frustrating is that Jaime’s course through the show hasn’t been linear. It isn’t until after he starts down the road of repentance that he rapes his sister. It’s after he’s become a better man that he breathes murderous threats at Edmure Tully while declaring his love for Cersei. Just when you think he has it figured out, Jaime retreats back to being the villain he once was. Watching Jaime transition from bad guy to good guy to bad guy again doesn’t just exasperate me—it makes me uncomfortable. Because in Jaime, I see more than a fictional character on screen and page. I see myself. Why bother trying to be a “good person” when it’s so difficult and I make so many...