Two broken hearts: the vulnerability of Doctor Who Jun29

Two broken hearts: the vulnerability of Doctor Who...

I first encountered Doctor Who when I was a child visiting my grandparents. Their TV was on in the background, featuring a cast of accented actors. One man stood out, with wildly curly hair and an over-long scarf of various colours. However, it was when the characters crowded into what looked like a tiny blue phone booth, only to be welcomed into a large, technologically advanced interior, that my attention was firmly captured.  And so was born my future as a Whovian (i.e. Doctor Who fan). For more than half a century, Doctor Who, an alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, has been traveling time and space in his stolen Time and Relative Dimension in Space—better known to all as his TARDIS, which is stuck in the exterior form of a blue British Police box (not phone booth). His unique alien physiology (which includes two hearts) gives him the power, when old or mortally injured, to transform into a new body with a slightly altered personality. All of this, combined with his vast knowledge of science, history (both past and future) and unique technology (namely his sonic screwdriver) make for one impressive time-travelling adventurer. What makes the Doctor’s journeys so compelling to follow is his choice of companion (usually human) to share his adventures with. As viewers, we share the same sense of wonder that these companions experience, vicariously boarding the TARDIS ourselves. Doctor Who is at his best when he is vulnerable, facing the fear of death. Yet, all too often these same companions thrust the Doctor into danger. His deep affection for these people make him vulnerable in many ways, like the countless times a companion has been captured as a means to coerce the Doctor to do the villain’s will....

Don’t bounce Burgundy Jun22

Don’t bounce Burgundy...

Burgundy. This word could refer to a few different things: a dark red that is one of my favourite colours; a fictional news anchor by the name of Ron who is kind of a big deal; or a region in France, known for its wine and mustard. The latter Burgundy was also the place Nazi Germany dreamed of using as their base for western expansion. Those dreams are the reason many a Diplomacy player has ordered a bounce by sending two units to Burgundy with the sole purpose of keeping Germany out. Diplomacy is a game that has been around for years, existing on the fringes of board gaming culture since 1959. It differentiates itself from other war-based games with its intense periods of negotiation and an absence of dice. To win a game of Diplomacy, a player has to control eighteen of the thirty-four supply centres. Working together with other players is necessary in order to expand. Negotiation and trust are critical to success. People might break that trust, but the alternative is far more terrifying. The thing is: trusting someone in Diplomacy can be very hard to do. If you ever leave yourself vulnerable, you’re suddenly open to an unexpected attack from someone you thought was an ally. And that’s why, when playing France, no matter what Germany says, the possibility of Munich-Burgundy is a very real threat to start the game. So then, the question remains: given that threat, what should France do? And many players default to the defensive option: self-bounce to keep Burgundy open. But playing on the defensive means you don’t move anywhere and your progress is delayed. If you ask me, in order to get anywhere in Diplomacy, you have to trust someone and as an extension...

The secret of Merlin Jun16

The secret of Merlin

If you’ve ever seen BBC’s Merlin, you’ll know it’s all about keeping secrets. One secret in particular, actually: Merlin’s ability to use magic. In the show, Merlin and Arthur are both young adults, and they become best friends (though it can be hard to tell because Arthur treats Merlin like a lowly manservant most of the time). Magic has been forbidden by Arthur’s father, Uther; it is considered evil. Thus, Merlin continually struggles with his secret: that he is the most powerful wizard alive. He wants to tell Arthur (not only to let him know that he’s saved Arthur’s life countless times without Arthur realizing it, but because keeping a secret from his best friend is hard), but he’s afraid. He knows Arthur, having been taught that magic is evil, might not understand, that he might send Merlin away or even have him killed. “I want you to always be you.” But I think what really scares Merlin the most is that Arthur might not accept him for who he is. Magic is a part of him, and if Arthur can’t accept that, he’d be rejecting Merlin as a person. Sound familiar? I think hiding part of ourselves in order to be accepted is a common reflex, especially when we’re younger; though even I as an adult find myself automatically doing it sometimes. If I think I’m not going to be accepted, if I think I’m going to be laughed at or looked down upon, I am going to want to hide that part of myself. If I’m talking to an acquaintance who thinks video games are a waste of time, do I mention that I played them all day yesterday? Probably not. If it’s because we’re talking about something else and the subject just doesn’t come...

Why the knight stays dark Jun11

Why the knight stays dark...

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? This question is the engine that drives the battle between Batman and his arch-est of arch nemeses, the Joker. Batman’s story is one of tragedy. Bruce Wayne was a boy when his parents were shot and killed in front of him. They were the victims of a desperate criminal in a desperate city. Wayne is an orphan left in the care of the family butler, and he is heir to Wayne Enterprises and its massive fortune. He decides that as long as he draws breath, he will do whatever he can to make sure no one else has to feel that pain and loss. He decides to become a symbol. He decides to become Batman. Wayne spends the rest of his life training every part of himself to fight against injustice and those who would prey on the vulnerable. He closes himself off to everyone but a handful of people whom he trusts with the hope that no one will ever get hurt because of his actions. The knight stays in the darkness so others don’t have to. Over a long period of time, Batman starts to make a positive change in Gotham City. Crime is lowered and the streets are safer. Batman even takes in a protégé to ensure that his legacy of protection will not end with him. Things are looking up until a criminal shows up on the Gotham scene with seemingly no regard for human life. The word on the street was this guy called himself the Joker. Batman had dealt with all sorts of dangerous criminals in the past, but this one is different. The Joker is the human embodiment of madness. He has no cause. He has no vendetta. He acts as an agent of pure chaos....

Forcing vulnerability Jun10

Forcing vulnerability...

Truth serum is a good idea in theory, I suppose, but Tris Prior would tell you otherwise. In the movie Insurgent, Tris is forced to take truth serum on trial so that the Candor can validate her story about Jeanine’s betrayal. Tris is adamant about not wanting to take it, but Four convinces her to do it, as it’s the only way to prove their innocence. It’s obvious Tris has been hiding something from Four. She’s been having nightmares, but she hasn’t talked to him about them. She isn’t ready to open up. The truth serum forces her to admit what she’s feeling: guilt for shooting one of her best friends, Will. She might have shot him in self defense, but that doesn’t change the fact that she shot him. When I’m struggling with something, I need to feel ready to talk about it. Opening up about your feelings is good, right? It’s important in relationships to be honest. So that means this should help her relationship with Four and assist her in getting over the trauma, right? Wrong. I can imagine exactly how Tris was feeling, shutting away her emotions so she didn’t have to deal with them. I do this all the time (I’m not saying it’s healthy, but it’s often how my brain deals with things). And it sure doesn’t help when someone, even a friend, tries to dig those emotions out of me. In fact, that just makes me shut down and I am more likely to retreat from that person, not open up more. Unfortunately for Tris, she didn’t have the luxury of retreating. Tris didn’t have the luxury of retreating. The scene where she admits to killing Will in tears to a huge crowd of Candor people is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve ever...

I don’t want to be upgraded Jun08

I don’t want to be upgraded

Humans are funny. On one hand, we want to avoid any kind of vulnerability at all costs.  We don’t like to fail, be judged, or show any imperfection. We guard our appearance because we don’t want to look old, or fat, or out of style.  Consider the amount of makeup ladies wear; consider Spanks or Just For Men hair coloring.  And that’s just physical vulnerability—when we mess up, we immediately look for excuses—someone or something else to blame. We will go through all kinds of elaborate schemes to avoid feeling uncomfortable, uncertain or hurt. On the other hand, we would fight to the death for our right to be imperfect, vulnerable and broken. We do it in personal relationships and as a species. And, as is reflected in our preference for stories that support and identify with our ways of thinking and feeling—we love stories where we are victorious over those who would take away our individuality, diversity, autonomy—our right to make our own mistakes and be vulnerable. I wonder, would I be willing to sacrifice myself for someone else? Most superhero stories have this element.  There’s often some alien race that wants to take over the world and make us conform to their ways—and it frequently means that they want to take away the things that make us weak—like feelings—so that we will be obedient.  Doctor Who has many examples of this: The Cybermen (who call it “upgrading”) and the Daleks to name a couple; Star Trek has the Borg who want to make everyone part of the Collective; Falling Skies has the Overlords who want to turn the kids into Skitters… We also have stories of humans trying to “improve” their own kind, like in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. There was talk a couple of years ago of scientists being able to remove bad memories from people’s brains—even my 12 year old thought that was a bad idea. And then, Gravity Falls had an episode all about it—and cartoon children came to the conclusion that there is value in vulnerability. A story that has stuck with me is about Batman’s Mr. Freeze, who tried so hard to avoid the vulnerability of grief that he went to extreme measures; he tried to save his wife through cryogenics and wound up turning himself into a villain. Avoiding emotion never ends well—you are always going to turn into a supervillain if you try not to feel. Whether we have superheroes come to the rescue or a rag-tag fugitive fleet saves the day; a remnant few will stand up for our right to be the small, broken, hot mess that humanity is. Someone will be there to resist—even when resistance seems futile. In fact, in most TV shows and movies, the little group of heroes will inevitably have a conversation like, “What are the chances of success?”  “Slim to none.”  “Let’s do this.” We would fight to the death for our right to be imperfect, vulnerable and broken. In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis illustrates the power of vulnerability as salvific. Aslan offers his own life to save the life of Edmund—a traitor. By sacrificing himself, not only does Aslan save Edmund, he brings out the “deeper magic” that saves everyone and takes down the evil Witch who was oppressing Narnia. Aslan’s vulnerability changed from apparent weakness to the ultimate strength—and that’s why we are so willing to fight for it—vulnerability embraced becomes unfathomable strength. Vulnerability is literally the banner of Christianity—the cross.  I’m challenged every day to step outside of my comfort zone to serve others, to see and acknowledge my failings and shortcomings. And, contrary to what many think about Christianity, valuing vulnerability doesn’t mean I’m an obedient drone. I wear my brokenness like a badge. I follow the example of a God who came to the world in the form of...

The deep dark of Daredevil Jun02

The deep dark of Daredevil...

Daredevil is one of Marvel’s darker heroes because he is ultimately not defined by his superhuman ability to sense the world around him without seeing it. With Daredevil, Marvel took a chance on a new kind of character by painting a darker picture than they ever have before. Daredevil is the guardian of Hell’s Kitchen: a hero who fights street-level crime. While Spider-Man and The Avengers are off challenging supervillains, aliens, or angry celestial beings, Daredevil stalks the rooftops between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River, fighting drug dealers, human traffickers, and angry crime bosses. Unlike many superheroes, Daredevil never feels invincible. Whether he’s fighting  a powerhouse enemy like Nobu, or a hallway of nameless thugs, I’m never sure Daredevil is going to walk away the victor. And win or lose, he ends up bloody and bruised far more often than not. “You have to feel for what’s not there as much as what is.” His vulnerability increases when Daredevil takes off his mask and tries to go about his day job as the lawyer Matt Murdock. Murdock is possibly even a more interesting character than Daredevil—if you can separate the two. His job in the courtroom is a stark contrast from his evening gig. His struggle to appease his Catholic guilt, his desire to see justice done and his feeling of responsibility to use his abilities for good are far more complex emotions than most heroes deal with. While he’s learning to read braille, Matt Murdock tells his father, “you have to feel for what’s not there as much as what is.” Daredevil doesn’t wrestle with his code of not murdering criminals. He struggles with himself when he knows he really wants to kill one. What he’s not doing tells us a lot more about him than what...

The vulnerability of Isaac’s binding...

Have you played The Binding of Isaac yet? Admittedly, I have this weird obsession with stories that invoke Biblical mythology from a less than sensitive perspective. I find it intriguing to witness how a narrative I believe is perceived from an outsider looking in. What are the things they notice? What pleases them? What offends them? How do they define the concepts they encounter? Concepts like, in this case, vulnerability. The Binding of Isaac is a game that clearly echoes the Biblical account of God asking Abraham to bind and sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen 22). In the Biblical narrative, Abraham obeys and moments before he is about to kill his son, God tells him to stop and provides a lamb for the sacrifice instead. This is one of those Biblical stories that has always bothered me. Sure, God knew of the lamb he would eventually provide, but how could a loving God even ask that of a follower? As a father of a three year old, if God were to ask that of me—I cannot possibly fathom ever saying yes. Vulnerability is not something to be overcome. In the game’s story, Isaac’s mother—who watches Christian television broadcasts—hears the voice of God telling her to separate her son from sin. Eventually she is told the only real way to succeed is to cut her son off from the mortal world, so she locks him in his room. Then she hears the voice telling her to end his life. Isaac, through a crack in his door, hears this and sees his mother carrying a knife and coming towards his room. He finds a trap door to the basement hidden under his rug and jumps down just in time. There, Isaac faces an onslaught of monsters....