The Stigma of Jupiter’s Red Spot Mar27

The Stigma of Jupiter’s Red Spot...

The plot hole that bothers me the most in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the lack of health care. No, I’m not kidding. Bear with me. I recently read this fantastic article, “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?” that suggests most, if not all, of Anakin’s fear for Padmé’s life could have been avoided if she had seen an obstetrician. For those of you who have no desire to relive the prequels, here’s a refresher: Anakin has a dream in which Padmé dies from childbirth. In an effort to save her life, he turns to Emperor Palpatine, all but solidifying his move to the Dark Side. How do I know Padmé didn’t receive any prenatal health care? When she confronts Anakin towards the end of the movie, she asks him to help her raise their “child” ‒  not their “children.” Padmé doesn’t know she’s going to have twins, which means she didn’t get so much as an ultrasound. How is it possible that Anakin lives after losing three limbs and nearly burning to death, while his wife dies from childbirth? (And, please, read the article mentioned above before you bring up how Padmé simply lost the will to live.) How is it possible that the Star Wars universe, which is scientifically advanced, doesn’t have proper reproductive health care? Anakin’s fear for Padmé’s life could have been avoided if she had seen an obstetrician. In this case, I don’t think it’s a problem of the Star Wars universe itself, but rather an oversight by the movie’s creators that resulted in lazy writing. When it comes to fantasy and sci-fi, female characters are often still an after-thought. I’m sure proper reproductive care wasn’t even on the radar when the writers thought out...

Arriving at Regret Mar15

Arriving at Regret

It’s easy to dwell on regret. “If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?” Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist charged with communicating with visiting aliens in the science fiction film Arrival, asks. In times of reflection, I all too often dismiss that question. It feels too banal, too much like it’s part of the plot for a Disney channel movie. And my answer would inevitably be something similar to the response Jeremy Renner’s character gives: “Maybe I’d say what I felt more often. I don’t know.” I would probably change a few minor things here and there, rework some regrettable moments, but live my life generally as it has been, and how it will be, because I wouldn’t want to miss the moments I treasure; I wouldn’t want to lose my connections to people that are in my life now and in the future. Basically, I would just live my current life, but leveled up. But after seeing Arrival, my answer doesn’t feel like enough. What moved me profoundly in the movie was how it caused me to dig deeper and think about what I would do if I could feel all the pain of the past and all the pain to come, including the tragedy that befalls us when relationships are broken forever by death. If I knew all that, and I could change the ending, then would I really do things more or less the same, or would I veer hard left, wholly altering the route of my life? Would I make the selfish choices for my own happiness, even if it meant passing my burdens onto others and causing them pain and grief? Would I miss out on my precious moments in lieu of...

The Problem with Time Loops Mar10

The Problem with Time Loops...

One of my favourite movies from the last few years is Edge of Tomorrow, the Tom Cruise vehicle that had him repeating the same day over and over again as he fought against alien beings. Marketed with the tagline, “Live. Die. Repeat.”, the film really fed my love for the concept of time loops. The idea that we can relive the same past until we get it right holds a strong appeal for me. Comics, anime, and movies that show time loops often present them as a curse, but I see them more as a superpower. With this ability, what could I do better with the time I’m given? How could I improve my situation? Could I do something to help the people around me that I didn’t do the first time? Steins;gate, an anime about a pair of scientists and their cohorts who find themselves intertwined in conspiracies and plots involving time travel, emphasizes further complexities regarding time loops. At first, Rintaro Okabe, a peculiar college student and self-described mad scientist, is satisfied living an eccentric life, visiting his wide array of friends, and conducting unusual experiments involving bananas in his home laboratory. But as his conspiracy theories start to tap into truth, Okabe and his partners discover that time travel research has come at a great cost, and that the organization that has conducted it is willing to kill to hide and preserve their findings. Okabe encounters a time loop as he travels to the past incessantly in an attempt to save someone very important to him. Although it’s a loop that Okabe can exit, it has no less effect on him than one in which he would be helpless to break. Okabe witnesses the brutal death of a dear friend over...

Losing Star Wars to Legend Feb08

Losing Star Wars to Legend...

Picture this scene: a short, scrawny Korean boy with glasses sitting on a bench in a middle school locker room, talking nerd stuff with a tall, gangly, bushy-haired classmate. Day after day, we’d broach topics like Japanese film adaptations of fighting games, whether dinosaurs really could be made from mosquitos trapped in amber, and how there was this great game called Doom, but it required a boot disc. Of all these conversations, though, the most significant one to me was when my friend told me there was an “expanded universe” to Star Wars, novels that pushed the stories of our heroes further. I swore to myself that he was lying. He had to be, right? There couldn’t be more Star Wars, could there? Of course, there was more. So much more. I asked my parents to take me to a local bookstore and bought the very first novel I ever read for personal reasons, Heir to the Empire. That book, and the rest of Timothy Zahn’s trilogy, blew my mind. And that was that—my love for reading and my obsession over Star Wars was sealed. What I grew up loving was no longer canon, no longer true. So you might understand why I felt like I was being tortured by force lightning when Lucasfilm announced that the EU would now be called “Legends.” Legendary stories are those relegated to myth and folk tales, to narratives that might have been true but probably weren’t, or else were so mutated over the years that they only match the historical fact in bare bones. No longer was there a Mara Jade Skywalker, nor the Solo twins. Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned through Rebels, but doesn’t bring with him ysalamir or the clone C’Baoth.  And Chewbacca didn’t die;...

Passengers and Big Dreams Feb01

Passengers and Big Dreams...

Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for Passengers. I like to dream big. I’m not content reaching only one person with a project; I want thousands to admire my ambition, the project’s goals, and the passion behind it! I want it larger, grander, more memorable! And that doesn’t just go for decisions here and there—it’s how I try to steer the course of my entire life, for better or for worse. I relate well to Aurora Lane, a colonist who wakes too early from hibernation aboard the Avalon, a ship taking her to a distant planet. There’s a scene in the film, Passengers, where she watches a video of her friends wishing her farewell. They are in their twenties at the time of recording, but because she’s been in hibernation for 30 years, she probably wouldn’t recognize them if she saw them now. She’s passed them by, a reality Aurora knew would happen, and one she’s embraced. As a journalist looking to spread her wings, Aurora paused her life, leaving behind all she knew in pursuit of the big story. Her friends hope that she’ll find happiness in becoming the first reporter to document the tale of being a space colonist, but at least one of them suspects that she would find greater joy in a simple relationship. I can hear how Aurora might have answered because it’s the same as I would respond: “Not likely.” Aurora decides that love isn’t so mundane after all. When I was younger, influenced by Tom Clancey novels and the movies based on them, I intended to become a government analyst. Top secret clearance, the ability to influence international affairs, the significance of doing something that affects people and nations—that sounded important, and worth striving for. So...

Questing for Deus Ex Machina Jan30

Questing for Deus Ex Machina...

Deus ex machina, literally translates from Latin as God from the machine, is used to describe a magical or technological intervention of the Divine that saves the day, generally in an implausible way. In the plays of the Greeks, deus ex machina was actually a machine (often a crane) that lowered a saviour into the midst of trouble to rescue the hero. One could, for example, describe the many appearances of the giant eagles in The Lord of the Rings as deus ex machina because it is a contrivance which conveniently rescues hapless heroes from fates like lava, fire, or tall towers. In addition, the well-written, but implausibly “magical” endings to most of the Harry Potter books make J.K. Rowling a master of deus ex machina. It has been postulated that the appearance of a phoenix with healing tears carrying a magical sword hidden in a hat is the best example of a deus ex machina in the Harry Potter universe. How do I find hope despite all the chaos that comes with the machines crumbling around me? While we can scoff endlessly at these contrivances in ancient literature and as they pervade current popular culture, it is impossible to live in the real world without wanting, even questing after deus ex machina moments. If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we are desperate for these events to happen. We come to the end of our money and we yearn for someone to rescue us from financial ruin by being lowered from the rigging above. Our son, our daughter, friend, or lover lays in the hospital, dying from accident or disease. And we weep at the end of the bed, desperate for an encounter with the “god from the machine.” Every so often, we...

Can We Forgive Rogue One’s Heroes? Jan18

Can We Forgive Rogue One’s Heroes?...

In a film about good intentions, heavy consciences, and tainted legacies (also, lasers), the cry for redemption is what stood out to me the most. The line between scoundrel and hero is blurred in Rogue One. Galen Erso, the lead scientist behind the construction of the Death Star, wonders if history will remember him as one of the Galaxy’s greatest villains. Unwilling to die like his wife (who makes a stand rather than be a slave to the machinations of the Empire), he makes a deal to help complete the Death Star, believing his actions will be justified by adding a kill switch in secret. Guilt, when faced head on, transforms its subject into a willing sacrifice for good. Captain Cassian has compromised so much of his conscience as a saboteur, and he wonders if there will ever be a momentous enough victory to justify those actions. If he kills for the ideal of freedom that never appears, is he no different than an empire filled with men following violent orders in the name of a peace that is never established? Saw Gerrera, a fanatic, leads a militant terrorist-like group in the face of the Empire. Gerrera has fought too long, making too many compromises to feel like a hero. When in possession of a turncoat Imperial pilot who brings news of the Death Star’s flaw, Gerrera tortures him. While he saved Jyn Erso as a child, he abandons her when she comes of age in a perhaps misguided effort to keep her identity hidden. It’s another difficult choice to weigh heavy on his conscience, but made with good intentions. Desperate circumstances have led these men to embrace disgraceful methods, and they are all of them ashamed. The Turning Point Galen Erso, Cassian Andor, Saw Gerrera, and many of the Rebels...

When You Treat People as Things Jan09

When You Treat People as Things...

There wasn’t supposed to be a war that day. Captain Jankowski of the Earth Alliance cruiser Prometheus was exploring to expand Earth’s territory. He never expected to come nose-to-nose with a flotilla of Minbari warships. For their part, the Minbari hadn’t been expecting a war either. Theirs was an errand of investigation, an attempt to confirm recent sightings of a feared and ancient enemy, the dreaded Shadows. But naturally, when they encountered Captain Jankowski’s ship, they offered a greeting of respect as their tradition demanded: they opened their gunports. As a warrior and a man given to quick judgements, Captain Jankowski misinterpreted the intent of the Minbari and fired. He couldn’t have known that the ship he attacked contained the Grey Council—the ruling body of the Minbar Federation. Dukhat, a beloved leader, was killed in the attack and the council reacted with instant hatred. In a unanimous vote, they declared war upon the Earth Alliance. This battle and the ones that followed formed an important part of the backstory for Michael J. Straczynski’s series Babylon 5. A misunderstanding sent two races stumbling toward Armageddon. We mentally classify people, neatly sorting them into the boxes we have in our minds. This story isn’t the first tale of interstellar conflict born from misunderstanding. When Ender’s Game opens, humanity has survived two major wars with the alien Buggers. In the most recent engagement, the hero Mazer Rackham defeated them when he realized that they operate as a hive mind. Fearing a third invasion, the governments of Earth built an international fleet headquartered on the asteroid Eros. The stated purpose of the fleet was to defend Earth from a third invasion. In truth, the governments of Earth were preparing to end the war permanently by taking the fight...

Mara Jade, a Redeemed Villain Jan04

Mara Jade, a Redeemed Villain...

There was a time when Mara Jade had it all. She was a favoured agent of Emperor Palpatine, called by the title “Emperor’s Hand.” She enjoyed a life of privilege, which included a personal starship, a droid companion, and private quarters on Coruscant. All she had to do was carry out the Emperor’s will. Acting on Palpatine’s behalf, she eliminated corrupt Imperial officials, Jedi who survived Order 66, and anyone else the Emperor deemed worthy of death. Although few in the Empire knew about her, they would have been jealous of her if they had. She was, after all, advancing the Empire’s interests. Then Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance ruined everything. When Palpatine died at the Battle of Endor, Mara’s life crumbled. She blamed Skywalker and made it her life’s ambition to kill him. It seemed like the right thing to do. Not only is she flawed and human, but she also finds redemption. When Timothy Zahn first introduced Mara Jade in Heir to the Empire in 1991, he could not have foreseen her popularity. She has become a fan favourite and has appeared in novels and comics well beyond what Zahn originally intended. Her backstory—which he sketched out in his novels—has been extensively documented in other stories. Ask any group of fans about her and one or two of them will likely say, “Mara Jade? She’s awesome! I love her.” Really? Why? She was an assassin; a tool the emperor used to destroy his enemies. That hardly qualifies her for “role model” status. I think part of the appeal is that she is a strong, complex character. We can identify with her struggles. She commits evil acts, but her heart sometimes betrays her and she is drawn toward the light. In other...

A Princess to Follow Dec28

A Princess to Follow

When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be the helpless princess in a tower waiting for someone to come rescue me. I wasn’t the Maid Marion or Snow White type. You’d never catch me in the forest chillin’ with the animals and singing “someday my prince will come.” Well, actually I did do that once, but it was straight parody. I wanted to be Robin Hood—or at the very least one of the Merry Men, the knight slaying the dragon, the spy defeating the despot, the rebel saving the galaxy from the Empire. I don’t meant to say that I wanted to be a dude—that was never the case. I grew up with brothers and cousins and now I have sons, and I am more convinced than ever that boys have cooties. But, in my mind, I could be a girl and a hero. I credit this sensibility to my healthy diet of stories with strong female characters. For every helpless Disney princess, there was Eowyn, Wonder Woman, Joan of Arc, or Judith (who lobbed off Holofernes’ head in the Bible). Plus, God made man and woman equal, both in God’s image and likeness, and there were tons of kick-butt heroines in the Bible. Every little girl who has the heart of a warrior will have a place to draw inspiration from. The Star Wars franchise portrays strong women in various ways throughout their movies. I particularly appreciated the roles of the Rogue One ladies. Lyra Erso was a wife and mother who believed deeply in the Force and tried to prepare her daughter for the likely return of Imperial baddies. When Director Krennic came and threatened her family, she didn’t cower. She died trying to protect her husband and daughter. Mon...

Apocalypse? We’ve All Been There Dec26

Apocalypse? We’ve All Been There...

Maybe it’s the recent American election, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the end of the world. This is not the first time in my life that my thoughts have been preoccupied with this. I recall when I was young, maybe 12 or 13, hearing about some preacher in the US who had proclaimed that the world was going to end. I remember my father, who was travelling on that appointed day, telling me, “I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but if Jesus comes know I love you.” This incident only occasionally comes up in therapy. As someone who grew up at the tail end of the Hal Lindsay, Thief in the Night brand of evangelicalism, I certainly remember an apocalyptic tone to some of the sermons I heard, but that was the only time I can recall, as an impressionable teenager, wondering, “is this it? Is the world as I know it going to end?” Since then, various prophecies about the coming apocalypse have come and gone. Some people were sure it was going to happen in 2000 and stockpiled food and supplies. More recently, California-based minister Harold Camping predicted the world would end in 2011 (first in May, then revised to October). I have also learned about the long eschatological tradition within Christianity—starting from the early Apostles, to the end-of-the-world cults pre-1000, to the Seventh-Day Adventists—that certain groups of Christians have been wholly preoccupied with figuring out the details. The apocalypse is not the sort of thing we should spend all our time worried about. Knowing something of this long tradition of apocalyptic thought in Christianity has not made me feel less uneasy when these “prophetic” messages make the news. In fact, it’s usually embarrassing. Some group...

Fear: The Demogorgon Dec02

Fear: The Demogorgon

Fear prevents us from letting go of something that makes us bitter. Fear of losing someone else or of being inadequate makes us jealous. Fear is something that threatens to tear apart the friendship of four middle school boys and a mysterious telekinetic girl in Stranger Things. Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will have been friends for years. They go to school together in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. In their free time, they love experimenting with science-projects and playing Dungeons and Dragons. They’ve had years of experience in cultivating friendships. On the other side of the scale, Eleven has lived in near isolation her entire life, never knowing what having a friend feels like. She has only experienced abuse under scientists in a top secret government lab. When Will disappears, the boys unite to save their friend. However, after El escapes the lab and comes into their lives, the boys’ friendship is shaken by fear of who or what she is. But Mike wants Eleven to be accepted into the group. He teaches her in the best way he can how to be a friend. Eleven hurts their fragile friendship because she is afraid of telling the boys the truth about the origins of the Demogorgon and of herself. Lucas becomes jealous of Mike when he sees that Mike is paying more attention to Eleven than him. This fear strains their friendship. I’ve always been afraid of saying the wrong thing that would chase a friend away. I’ve definitely experienced fear like this in my relationships. I don’t have many friends because I struggle with being vulnerable. I’ve always been afraid of saying the wrong thing that would finally chase them away, of sharing secrets or feelings with them. Scared I will ruin...

I Ain’t Afraid of No Truth Nov23

I Ain’t Afraid of No Truth...

Erin Gilbert is a woman with a problem; she’s afraid of the truth. As a young girl, the Ghostbusters heroine had an extraordinary experience that left her with a strong conviction about the true nature of reality. Even though she was mocked by kids at school, she held to her belief. Everything in the world told her she was wrong, but she found another true believer in her friend Abby Yates. Together they wrote a book promoting their ideas and set off toward a future of investigating the paranormal. Except their plans fell apart. Erin went off to college to get educated and lost herself in the process. She gained the world, but lost touch with that special truth which had sustained her for so many years. As Ghostbusters opens, she’s on the cusp of becoming a tenured professor at Columbia University and is terrified of anything that might interfere with her goal. In other words, she’s all grown up. As a geek and a Catholic, I identify with Erin’s dilemma. My obsession with Star Wars started when I was thirteen, the year A New Hope released. Although the film (and its two sequels) filled theaters to capacity, being a committed Star Wars fan left me on the fringes of high school society. Maybe it’s not quite on par with Erin’s belief in the supernatural, but nobody was interested in hearing about how the film made a huge difference in my life. I had to choose between sharing my excitement or fitting in. She doesn’t give up even as she’s being dragged out bodily by the mayor’s security detail. More often than I care to remember, I kept my enthusiasm to myself. Star Wars became a secret passion until I met other similarly-obsessed fans...

“Are you alive?” Cylons, Consciousness  and Humanity in Battlestar Galactica Oct24

“Are you alive?” Cylons, Consciousness and Humanity in Battlestar Galactica...

Though the Cylons haven’t been seen in over forty years, a representative from the Twelve Colonies annually visits a space station to maintain diplomatic relations. This is the first scene of the Battlestar Galactica TV movie reboot. Sitting at a desk, a human representative thumbs through a file on the Cylons, the drawings depicting the familiar “toasters” of the original series. When the doors at the other end of the room open, much to this man’s surprise, two new Cylons enter. They’re different than the drawing—bigger, sleeker, their hands alternating between guns and fingers—but their shape is recognizably machine. The two Cylons take position on either side of the door as a third figure enters: a statuesque blond woman in a red dress. She walks over to the startled envoy, sits down on the table in front of him, leans in close to his ear and asks, “Are you alive?” This question serves as the lynch pin for the thematic aspects of the show. We learn that some Cylons have evolved beyond metal and circuitry; thirteen replicated humanoid forms that have infiltrated the Colonies and are virtually indistinguishable from humans. The revelation of who these humanoid Cylons are makes up much of the series’ storylines as many aren’t aware of their own identities as Cylons. Some, upon discovering their true origin, attack their former friends; others, most notably Athena—a version of Cylon Eight who is aware of her Cylon nature but exercises free will—choose to live as human. Athene even takes a human partner and gives birth to child.  In defying her “programming” and deciding her own course of action, Athena is “alive,” which is most clearly evident by her giving birth. And this all speaks to the most remarkable aspects of Battlestar Galactica:...

I’m Only Humanoid Oct12

I’m Only Humanoid...

I do not trust robots, least of all robots with artificial intelligence. There are a million examples from science fiction (which is obviously the most reliable source for determining the future of Earth) why robots with artificial intelligence are a terrible idea—the Terminator, Cybermen, Hal, Ultron, and the Matrix, to name a few. Despite the decades of fictional warnings, there are companies currently creating actual, functioning robots with artificial intelligence who, when interviewed, have expressed their analysis of humanity as inferior and worthy of either destruction  or placement in zoos. The idea of robots reasoning on their own scares the crap out of me. It frightens me because compassion and empathy cannot be programmed; reason without those qualities is, as the books and movies warn us, dangerous. It cannot see the whole picture, and decisions made without all of the pertinent information (which AI always assumes it has), are not usually helpful. When you have a unit that believes it has access to all information, is convinced of its own superiority and infallibility, and does not have emotions like fear or sympathy to keep it in check, I can only see one of two futures; either it runs for president on a platform of racism and terror, or it takes over and destroys the world. Because that’s the only logical conclusion to the mess we’ve made of our planet. Failure is, arguably, one of the most important human experiences. But then there’s Data. Data is the Spock of Star Trek: Next Generation. He’s also an android. Like Spock, Data finds humans fascinating. His fascination, however, is not a curiosity like Spock’s is, but is desirous of true understanding. He wants to be human. And he sees us in a unique way—through the lens of an...

Artificial Intelligence is Not Enough Oct05

Artificial Intelligence is Not Enough

A quick survey of artificial intelligences in fiction turns up a surprising number of psychopathic machines. A few are content with trying to control their human creators, but most are willing to kill to achieve their ends. Homicidal Machines GLaDOS from the Portal games is a prime example. Imbued by her creators with intelligence and singlemindedness, she relentlessly tests the player. Even her compliments are barbed and dripping with poison: “Very Impressive. Because this message is pre-recorded, any comments we may make about your success are speculation on our part. Please disregard any undeserved compliments.” She follows up cheery bon mots like that with potentially lethal puzzles and direct death threats. She delights in the prospect of the player’s painful demise. With all of that intelligence, you’d think she could find better ways to pass the time. You’d think she’d see the value of other lives. Or perhaps intelligence is not a factor here, and what she is missing is something else. GLaDOS is not alone in her murderous monomania. In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, “The Ultimate Computer,” the Enterprise is tasked with testing a new machine intelligence intended as a replacement for fallible human crew. Spock points out that computers make decisions logically, which clearly makes them superior to biological lifeforms. Intelligence which cannot see other points of view can easily become arrogance. Predictably, things don’t work out as planned. By the mid-episode commercial break, the computer has gone out of its way to destroy an unmanned freighter and has taken control of the Enterprise. Before the episode ends, the computer has killed dozens of people, all in the name of fulfilling its purpose. Just another crazy artificial intelligence, but why? Why do so many writers predict that machines, if granted sentience, will turn on their makers? Maybe the answer lies with the granddaddy of all homicidal robots. In his 1966 novel Colossus, D.F. Jones weaves a tale about a self-aware defense computer that joins with its Soviet counterpart to take over the world. Efforts to block the computers are met with nuclear detonations that kill thousands. In the end, the scientist who created Colossus begs the machine to kill him. Colossus spares him, noting that one day the man will learn to love his new master. My question is: Does intelligence always equal a cold disregard for life? Shouldn’t a learning machine learn the value of life?  Skynet, HAL 9000, SHODAN, XANA, Samaritan… the list of deadly AIs is distressingly long. Can’t we—humans and machines—all just get along? Robots with Promise Not all fiction is hopeless. There are a few imaginary AIs which do learn. Even a few which are heroic. The WOPR computer (aka “Joshua”) in the 1983 film WarGames is designed to (again) replace humans. Joshua is put in control of the US nuclear arsenal. A hacker starts a simulated war with Joshua, but the computer can’t tell the difference between the simulation and genuine combat. In a nail-biting climax, the hacker and Joshua’s creator invite the computer to play all possible permutations of tic-tac-toe against itself. Joshua realizes that tic-tac-toe is a game which cannot be won and then stretches that generalization to nuclear war. Getting the computer to look at things from a different point-of-view saved the world. A similar conversion occurs in Pixar’s WALL-E, where the heroic robot is left alone on a wasted Earth with the task of cleaning the place up. Despite the solitude, WALL-E keeps at his task, doggedly collecting trash. He’s gone a bit mad in his decades alone and has begun to collect some of the more interesting bits he finds among the rubbish. He also watches the film Hello Dolly and clearly wishes he could live among the humans. His dreams come true (in a manner of speaking) when he finds a live plant and the sleek robot EVE comes to collect it....

Duped by Davros Oct03

Duped by Davros

Most of the time, when I’m watching a movie or TV show, I can see right through the plot twists. I catch the foreshadowing and can predict what’s coming (and sometimes dialogue—which means that it must be pretty poorly written). I like to think that I can see a lie coming from a mile away because I have worked in pastoral ministry for almost 20 years. But the episode of Doctor Who, “The Witch’s Familiar,” had my poor brain in a tizzy. I should have seen through Davros’ act—he even gave himself away early in the conversation when he called the Daleks’ compassion a “defect.” He told the Doctor that compassion “grows strong and fierce in you like a cancer” and that it “will kill you in the end,” to which the Doctor replied, “I wouldn’t die of anything else.” I mean, he completely laid his evilness out there. He said it flat out. Could he have been more obvious?! But, I got sucked in to his tears. I got sucked into his apparent remorse right along with the Doctor. He’s Davros—he’s pure evil! But, I’m Catholic! No one is pure evil—everyone can be redeemed! Initially, using a tactic that would have worked on himself at one time, Davros tried to tempt the Doctor to touch the cables that would suck his regenerative power out of him by making him think that he could wipe out all of the Daleks. The Doctor didn’t succumb. So, when that didn’t work, like the super-evil villain that he is, Davros changed gears and went for what he sees as the Doctor’s greatest weakness (and just went on and on about it!)—his compassion. Davros cried. He asked to look into his face like a dying family member would request. He asked if...

Stranger Things: The Villains in Authority Sep23

Stranger Things: The Villains in Authority...

While many nerds were losing their collective minds over whether or not Suicide Squad would be any good, Stranger Things slipped in and caught people off guard with its interesting cast of lesser known child actors, 80s nostalgia, and a contemporary view on conspiracy and power. One of the reason Stranger Things resonates with contemporary audiences is because the real villain of the show is not the unnamed monster from the Upside Down, but the nefarious government officials who run the Hawkins Laboratory, conducting the secret experiments that release the Upside Down monster into our world, and indiscriminately eliminating innocent people to prevent those secrets from getting out. Sure, the monster is scary and dangerous… but not as dangerous as the people, hidden in plain sight, whose unchecked authority and power make them untouchable. Most of the accolades for Stranger Things have focused on the show’s recreation of the look and tone of the 80s. The show is a loving homage to films like E.T., Stand By Me, and Firestarter. In fact, Wil Wheaton, former child actor and ubernerd, has declared that Stranger Things might be this generation’s Stand By Me. And while Stranger Things captures the look and feel of those films, its depiction of clandestine agents and corrupt government officials is more a product of our 21st century mindset. The films that inspired Stranger Things rarely depict authority as dangerous or malevolent.  In E.T., when the government takes the alien for testing and observation, they do so with the best intentions based on what they know. Though their methods seem barbaric, particularly to the children, the government officials are actually trying to understand an alien creature that, for all they know, could be dangerous. At best, the authorities are reactionary and unimaginative. Similarly,...

The Dawn of Star Trek Villains Sep14

The Dawn of Star Trek Villains...

Since its debut as a TV series in 1966, Star Trek has a been inventive, iconic, engaging, and at times hilarious. Characters, catch phrases and creatures have stolen a permanent spot in our cultural landscape. Even non-nerds know that redshirts will die—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t have a frame of reference for a prolonged yelling of “Kaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhnnnnnnn!” Over the years, Star Trek has served as an entertaining way to challenge my assumptions, beliefs, and conscience on many moral topics—from the development of technology, to politics, to intercultural relations, to policies on war and peace, to racism—the list is as long as the number of episodes that span the different branches of the television and movie franchise. So, it’s not surprising that the last couple of movies they turned out, Into Darkness and Beyond also tackled issues that had me leaving the theatre with so many more thoughts then when I entered. Both of these movies tackle one large issue (with nuances thrown in, of course)—the development of villains. Into Darkness offers the backstory of one the most important villains ever—Kahn.  Beyond introduces us to Krull. Both of these personalities are, in part, the result of actions taken by members of Star Fleet and the Federation. We see a level of responsibility in the creation of villains that belongs to the cultures, organizations, lawmakers, and citizens. Kahn, who becomes a mortal foe of Star Fleet, and more personally, Captain James T. Kirk, was literally created to be a fighting machine. After the danger of his ability was discovered, he was placed in suspended animation and awakened centuries later by a war-hungry Admiral of Starfleet (Admiral Marcus) who forced Kahn to develop horrific weapons so that he could start a war...

No More Jurassic World Domination Aug29

No More Jurassic World Domination...

I like being in control. This doesn’t necessarily mean I want world domination (that’s only every other day), but I do desire to control my future, my schedule, and sometimes even other people. I feel like life would be easier if I could dictate everything that happens in it. I’m not sure if this is just because I’m a detail-oriented person, or if everyone feels this way. I tend to make goals every New Year’s Day, plan out each week on the weekend, make lists and schedules. I even make contingency plans in case something goes wrong. Unexpected events that come my way, such as sickness or other emergencies, can throw me off balance. It’s hard to accept that I can’t control unforeseen circumstances. The staff of Jurassic World also have this desire for control, especially Claire Dearing. She likes to predict future events, schedule her life, and do everything she can to steer the company into a profitable direction. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, however, her endeavors often cost spending time with the people she cares about, hurting her family life and her love life. Owen: It’s all about control with you. I don’t control the Raptors. It’s a relationship. It’s based on mutual respect. That’s why you and I never had a second date. I feel like life would be easier if I could dictate everything that happens in it. Because of Claire’s obsession with control, she loses respect for the people around her and even for the animals in the park. She treats everyone like the means to an end and not like they have lives and feelings. And does her success in making other people do what she wants make her happy? No, she is always...