RWBY Chibi and Escaping into Fiction Jul24

RWBY Chibi and Escaping into Fiction...

When I became a fan of the show RWBY, I couldn’t get enough of the characters, their hilarious one-liners, and their epic fight sequences. So, like other RWBY fans, I was delighted last year when a spin-off series, RWBY Chibi, hit the web. Full of goofy scenarios, lots of laughs, and more screen time for the characters I love, RWBY Chibi became a favourite of mine and I eagerly awaited its new season this summer. One of the best parts of the spin-off is that it reverses some of the heartbreak that occurs in the original show. In Chibi, the characters are still attending school at Beacon (which remains standing), the few enemies that appear are easily and comically thwarted, and even characters that perished in RWBY reappear in Chibi. The episode “The Vacuum” includes my favourite example of “character resurrection.” The JNPR team reintroduces Pyrrha, their fallen comrade, whose tragic end in Volume Three of RWBY caused a lot of trauma for fans. When Pyrrha walks onto the scene in this episode, the members of Team RWBY are shocked and start to question her presence. But Nora, a member of JNPR, shouts down any insinuations about Pyrrha’s death, emphatically stating, “NOPE! Never happened! . . . Everything’s fine. Pyrrha is fine. Nothing bad ever happened. EVER.” If I allow myself to become addicted to escapism, I miss all the beauty and adventure that real life has to offer. While the reappearance of Pyrrha and other departed characters is a wonderful element of Chibi, I find myself wishing these unrealistic resolutions occurred in the regular RWBY show, too. Although good stories can’t occur without conflict, I’m the type of fan who wants everything to turn out perfectly at the end. I want the rosy, Disney-princess...

Why Severus Snape Would Make a Great Therapist Jul07

Why Severus Snape Would Make a Great Therapist...

Ol’ Severus gets a bit of a bad rap in the Harry Potter books. Maybe it’s the way he bullies any student who’s not in Slytherin, or his former status as a Death Eater, or just his scathingly sarcastic personality. However, there’s far more to Severus Snape than first appears. While Snape may not have the sensitive bedside manner of most professional counselors, he does have many other qualities that suit him for such a role. Here are 10 reasons why Sev would make a fantastic therapist: 1. He’s not afraid to tell you the hard truths: “It may have escaped your notice, but life isn’t fair.” —Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) 2. As an accomplished Potions master, he’s sure to have something helpful. Need a little Veritaserum to fix compulsory lying? Maybe Draught of Living Death to cure some insomnia? Snape’s got you covered. 3. Snape sympathizes with your problems, even if he can’t fix them. “Unless you wish to poison him—and I assure you, I would have the greatest sympathy if you did—I cannot help you.” —Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) 4. His speeches, especially to first-year students, have been known to inspire greatness. “Hermione Granger was on the edge of her seat and looked desperate to start proving that she wasn’t a dunderhead.” —Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book) 5. Snape gets what it’s like to have a rough past. Former Death Eater? Lost the love of your life? Sev knows the struggle. 6. Sev will push you until you get it right, even if he has to use Legilimens a million times. “Control your emotions. Discipline your mind.” —Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) 7. He’s uncannily good...

The Selfish Games of Littlefinger Jul05

The Selfish Games of Littlefinger...

From the Night King to Gregor Clegane, there’s no shortage of physically intimidating characters in Game of Thrones, but the ones that are most terrifying aren’t the biggest, strongest, or most brutish – they are the those like Tyrion, Varys, and Cersei, who connive and maneuver themselves into positions of authority, often with ruinous effect on those they perceive as enemies. Perhaps the most dangerous of these thinkers is Petyr Baelish, better known as Littlefinger, a master puppeteer who is always several steps ahead of even the most intelligent and powerful players; he manipulates and eliminates “pieces,” as he calls them, on his path toward the throne. When we first meet him, we realize there’s more to Littlefinger than meets the eye. There has to be. He’s a slight man with only a low noble background, but has risen to an important rank as Master of Coin in the small council. As the series progresses, we see that Baelish is involved, sometimes as the mastermind, in so many of the major events, including the deaths of Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, and King Joffrey. He later takes Sansa under his wing, demonstrating to her how he manipulates people and proceedings by issuing bribes, placing his people in positions where they can influence outcomes, and even making “moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you” for a greater purpose. I don’t particularly like Littlefinger, and I know exactly why. He reminds me too much of myself. During my adolescence and into college, I was constantly scheming to figure out how I could use people to get ahead. Like a high school version of Game of Thrones, I plotted and used friends, family, teachers, and acquaintances to gain popularity, increase finances, and achieve...

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster Jun28

RWBY’s Yang: Shaping Identity from Disaster

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

The Gift of Story May31

The Gift of Story

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

The Mothers Grimm May26

The Mothers Grimm

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

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

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

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

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...