7 Religious Characters Who Aren’t Crazy Sep21

7 Religious Characters Who Aren’t Crazy...

Last week, we listed the religious villains who are crazy and terrifying because of their fanaticism. But today, we’re talking about the characters we love who demonstrate a peaceful, loving faith in a deity beyond their understanding. I love it when faith is depicted as something that real, logical, and smart people choose, despite opposition from society. 1. Leliana, Dragon Age As a member of the Chantry and worshiper of the Maker, Leliana is devoted to her faith. In the first game, you have the option to make fun of her faith or support it, but she remains true to her religion whatever you do. She’s also a wise, useful party member and plays a pivotal role in Dragon Age: Inquisition as the Inquisition’s spymaster and adviser. “In the cloister, away from the fuss and the flurry of the cities, I found peace. And in that stillness, I could hear the Maker.” —Leliana 2. Suvi Anwar, Mass Effect: Andromeda Suvi is a scientist and a believer in a higher power, a combination you don’t see often in science fiction. It’s refreshing hearing her describe science as bringer her closer to something greater than herself. She’s willing to logically discuss her faith if you don’t agree with her, and appreciative if you do. “I’ve had to defend what I believe so often and I have to admit, I’m a little tired of it. Whenever I meet someone who feels the same, or just understands, I really appreciate it.” —Suvi 3. Shepherd Book, Firefly Shepherd is a refreshing type of science fiction missionary, because he doesn’t try to force his faith on others and isn’t a fanatic. He’s simply present, caring for the crew as he can, and he even struggles with his faith and morals as the crew of the Serenity encounter...

7 Religious Villains Whose Fanaticism is Terrifying Sep14

7 Religious Villains Whose Fanaticism is Terrifying...

September’s Area of Effect theme is “Religion,” and we asked folks which villains terrify them because of their warped devotion to a religion or specific belief. For some reason, there’s something extra creepy about characters who do horrible things in the name of holiness, or because they believe they’ve become godlike themselves. 1. Caleb, Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Combine priest with serial killer, sociopath, and misogynist—that’s Nathan Fillion’s character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As the physical form of the First Evil with a strength to rival Buffy’s, he’s one of the most unsettling villains I’ve ever seen; the way he presents himself in such a logical, calm manner, even as he’s poking Xander’s eye out, is terrifying. ” —Allison Barron 2. Apocalypse, X-Men: Apocalypse “Since he’s the first of the Mutants, he has nearly infinite powers. And he’s willing to allow practically unlimited collateral damage to take over the world.” —Alex Mellen 3. L’Rell, Star Trek: Discovery “The use of prayer to awaken her lover from within their previously tortured enemy prisoner was really, truly terrifying. And, if I remember correctly, strong hearts are the most important part of Klingon religion, so she thought she was 100% justified in the manner with which she ‘saved’ Voq. The justification of warped theology that leads to further justification of immoral actions in a time of desperation terrifies me.” —Ashley Mowers 4. Brother Justin Crowe, Carnivale “The evil festering in his soul as he draws a huge crowd of the poor and marginalized to follow him for his own selfish reasons [is terrifying].” —Derek White 5. Anubis, Stargate: SG-1 “Anubis is a goa’uld (which are scary enough because they can take over a host body). Anubis did something so horrible the other goa’uld tried to banish and kill...

10 Top Dogs from Fandom Aug31

10 Top Dogs from Fandom

There’s something special about faithful, furry companions in our favourite stories. And how do we make a top ten list when there are so many wonderful canines in geek culture? Let the fans decide! We ran daily “Dog Days of Summer” matchups over August on our Facebook page to make the following countdown. 10. Cosmo Marvel’s spacedog is a liaison to the Guardians of the Galaxy, helping them plan their wild adventures. Former test animal of the Soviet Space Program and current head of security in a city called Knowhere, the talking dog hides the city’s citizens in a dimensional envelope on his collar during the events of Nova comics. Plus, he’s telekinetic and telepathic; as long as his psionic blast isn’t directed at you, you couldn’t ask for a more protective friend. “That does it. That enough. No more Mr. Nice Dog. Now Cosmo will hurt everyone.” —Cosmo 9. Wolf Link All right, all right, he’s not technically a dog, especially since he’s a human in disguise, but we still want him as our best friend. Playable in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wolf Link can also be summoned in Breath of the Wild as a companion for Link. “Wolf Link is summoned from another plane of existence and can’t be seen by other people in this world.” —Breath of the Wild Loading Screen Tip 8. Gromit Wallace’s loveable companion in the Wallace and Gromit movies, Gromit was originally going to be voiced by Peter Hawkins, but that idea was dropped when creators realized how expressive he could be just from his eye movements. Gromit is skeptical of Wallace’s inventions and tends to do most of the work for his bumbling friend. He also reads books, listens to Bach, and is great at solving puzzles. “Er, Gromit, old pal? It happened again. I’ll need assistance.” —Wallace, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 7. Zwei It’s not every day you find a dog that happily fits into a small package along with enough food to last him months. He’s also apparently fireproof and incredibly tough, as seen when he destroys an Atlesian Paladin-290 in “No Brakes.” His name is possibly a reference to Cowboy Bebop‘s Ein, also a Welsh Corgi. Eins is the German word for “one” and Zwei means “two.” “Are you telling me that this mangy… drooling… mutt… is going to wiv with us foweva?” —Weiss 6. Underdog As long as you don’t mind him speaking in rhyming couplets and phone booths exploding after he changes into his superhero outfit,  Underdog seems like a handy canine to have around. Able to move planets and fly, among many other superpowers, there doesn’t seem to be much he can’t do. “There is no need to fear; Underdog is here!” 5. Snowy Tintin’s companion, Snowy sometimes struggles making th e right decision when bones or Loch Lomond whisky are on the line. He originally had a dry, cynical personality to balance Tintin’s positivity, but eventually morphed into light-hearted comic relief. “Tintin! Are you dead? Say yes or no, but answer me!” —Snowy, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets 4. K-9 First appearing with the Fourth Doctor in “The Invisible Enemy,” K-9 is known for his ability to beat the Doctor at chess and as Sarah Jane Smith’s companion. Apparently, the writers originally wanted to name him “Pluto” after the Disney character, but Disney refused permission. They also considered calling him FIDO (“Phenomenal Indication Data Observation”). “Affirmative!” —K-9 3. Huan Given to Celegorm, Feanor’s third son, Huan is as large as a small horse and has special powers granted by the Valar. He took pity on Luthien when she was captured and helped her escape, assisting her in killing Sauron’s werewolves and even winning a battle against Sauron’s wolf-form. A prophesy stated Huan could only be killed by the greatest wolf that ever lived. “Arise! Away! / Put on thy cloak! Before the day / comes over Nargothrond we fly / to Northern perils, thou and...

Quiet Character Appreciation Day Aug29

Quiet Character Appreciation Day...

Quiet characters are often overlooked. The bold, adventurous characters carry most of the drama, captivating audiences with their flashy fighting styles and quirky personalities. Meanwhile, the unassuming characters play support roles at best and are negatively stereotyped at worst. When a well-represented quiet character comes along, I get excited because I’m one of the quiet ones, too. Here are seven favourites who have inspired me. 1. Spock – Star Trek Although he is half-human, Spock chose to follow the Vulcan lifestyle of logic and restraint. He’s so controlled that it’s easy to forget he’s actually the strongest person on the Enterprise. Although some characters don’t trust Spock due to his lack of emotion, he works hard to maintain his quiet nature. On the rare occasions when he loses—or is forced out of—control, it’s clear why he does so. I admire Spock’s wisdom and scientific skill, but mostly I respect his commitment to self-control, even though he could influence others through force instead of logic. 2. Lie Ren – RWBY Upon first acquaintance, it’s easy to overlook Ren in favour of his extremely outgoing friend, Nora Valkyrie. Ren may not attempt Nora’s crazy stunts—like riding a Grimm monster through the forest—but no one can question his skills as a warrior. He fights with the calm finesse of a trained ninja, but his steady nature is his best contribution to his team. Even during the rockiest of times, Ren is a reassurance to his friends; that’s a skill that I strive to have. And, of course, who besides Ren will make the pancakes? 3. Edwin Jarvis – Agent Carter When Edwin Jarvis begins helping Peggy Carter, he has some trouble keeping up. His genteel existence is suddenly interrupted by exploding buildings, interrogations, and a host of other...

8 Characters Who Impact My Faith from Comic Con Christianity Aug24

8 Characters Who Impact My Faith from Comic Con Christianity...

How does geek culture impact faith and vice versa? Geekdom House is all about answering this question, and Comic Con Christianity by Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry contributes wonderfully to the conversation. A Catholic and nerd, Perry connects geek stories to her experience with the Church, and made me think about these characters in a new light. All the quotes below are from her book, and only brush the surface of the hero-inspired journey contained within its pages! 1. The Tick: There’s Space for Everyone The City has tons of heroes to defend it, but they’re constantly “at odds with each other, causing one another to fail.” The Tick sounds kind of insane, but he showed them that they could get things done together instead of wasting time squabbling. This reminds me of the Church—full of really good people, but often too concerned with petty arguments or who they should be shutting out of their doors and not concerned enough about modeling Jesus’ welcoming behaviour. Sometimes I’m ashamed to call myself a Christian because of this public behaviour. “Everyone is necessary. Everyone is welcome. Everyone has a place,” writes Perry. Exactly! “Sometimes, it’s enough to just be willing to step out in faith and show up because something that is whispering in our hearts calls us to be greater.” 2. Aragorn: Jesus is Humble Jesus “was sort of like a Ranger—he was the True King of Israel, but remained incognito until it was time for him to act.” He did miracles of healing but would often tell the healed not to spread word about him, sharing God’s mercy with people who needed to hear it. I think this humility is important for me to model in relationship with others. “It was vital to our understanding of God’s...

8 Anime Characters Who Crush Archetypes Aug17

8 Anime Characters Who Crush Archetypes...

Archetypes are a defining feature of anime. They’re part of what makes the medium familiar to fans and what separates it from western animation. These archetypes include characters, like student council presidents and goth girls, portrayed differently than they might be in American television shows, and chuunibyou, hikikomori, and magical girls playing major roles when they don’t even exist here! But even though fans generally know what to expect of these types, every so often, a character will break from the mold and reveal herself to be deeper—and ultimately more interesting—than what viewers originally expected. These are eight of my favourites. 1. Minori Kushieda, Toradora Archetype: Genki Girl At first, Minori seems to be a typical genki girl, the phrase used to describe a character with never-ending energy and enthusiasm: she captains the softball team, works a half-dozen part-time jobs, and says and does the craziest things. But as the classic romantic comedy, Toradora, progresses, Minori demonstrates that her outward cheerfulness is a veneer. Feeling guilty about an attraction she develops toward her best friend’s love interest, Minori acts out in strange ways, even hurting others as her bitterness and jealousy grows. This unexpected arc helps drive the plot of Toradora forward and, as Minori learns to be more genuine with herself and others, becomes one of the most fulfilling parts of this classic series. 2. Kyubey, Puella Magi Madoka Magica Archetype: Cute Mascot Kyubey looks the role of a traditional magical girl mascot—he’s a little white creature that appears to be a cross between a cat and rabbit, and spouts wisdom while resting on the girls’ laps. But in one of anime’s most surprising twists—spoilers ahead—he reveals himself to be the central villain of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, continuing to look the part...

Cross-Fandom Characters Who’d be Siblings Jul20

Cross-Fandom Characters Who’d be Siblings...

Although each fandom has its share of brothers and sisters, the dividing lines between franchises have prevented many sibling relationships that should have been. Here are some characters that definitely belong in the same family: Wonder Woman and Lady Sif Not only do Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jaimie Alexander’s Lady Sif look like sisters, but they share the same skill on the battlefield and the same passion for protecting other people. They even carry the same weapons: a sword and shield. Westley and Jack Sparrow In The Princess Bride, Westley begins as an unassuming farm boy and ends up taking the mantle of the Dread Pirate Roberts with such gusto, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an actual pirate in the family. Although, Jack would be the awkward brother whom Westley doesn’t talk about, but demonstrates an uncanny habit of showing up at the worst times. Elrond and Spock They may be from totally different times, places, and races, but Elrond and Spock share the same pointed ears, black hair, and affinity for calm logic. Plus, they’re also both downright scary in a fight. Mantis and Odin’s children (Hela, Thor, and Loki) Odin’s bombshell in Thor: Ragnarok—that Thor has an older sister, and she’s intent on conquering the universe—is apt to make anyone a bit paranoid. Many fans have joked that Thor should suspect Mantis of being kin, due to her clothing’s green-and-black color scheme and her horn-like antennae (characteristics shared by Thor’s other siblings, Hela and Loki). Add these hints to Thor’s tendency to adopt everyone—even strange rabbits—and it makes total sense for Mantis to join the family. King Thranduil and Lucius Malfoy Same long blond hair, haughty attitudes, and penchant for strutting around carrying a staff. Definitely related. Amy Pond...

7 Best Sibling Conversations from Geek Culture Jul13

7 Best Sibling Conversations from Geek Culture...

From Luke and Leia to Sansa and Arya, there are some truly captivating sibling relationships in geek culture. Since the family dynamics are different with each of them, I enjoy watching those contrasts play out in banter or discussion with each other. These are some of my favourite conversations between siblings from video games and TV. 1. Firefly Simon: Did you do anything today? River: Played with Kaylee. The sun came out, and I walked on my feet and heard with my ears. I hate the bits, the bits that stay down and I work, I f-function like I’m a girl. I hate it because I know it’ll go away! The sun grows dark and chaos has come again. It’s… fluids. What am I? Simon: You’re still my beautiful sister. River: I threw up in your bed. Simon: Yep, still my sister. 2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi Leia: I know what you’re gonna say… I changed my hair. Luke: It’s nice that way. 3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [After drinking polyjuice potion to look like Harry] “Fred and George turned to each other and said together, ‘Wow, we’re identical!’ ‘I dunno though, I think I’m still better looking,’ said Fred, examining his reflection in the kettle.” 4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Elysia Hughes: [Pointing at Alphonse] Big brother… [pointing at Edward] little brother. Edward: Nice to meet you… My name is Edward Elric… this is my younger brother Alphonse Elric… get that? Youn-ger brot-her…. Elysia: But younger means little. You’re little. Edward: WHERE DO YOU GET OFF CALLING ME LITTLE?! YOU LOOKED IN A MIRROR LATELY?! I’M TALLER THAN YOU ARE! Alphonse: Just let it go, Ed. These people are being nice to let us stay here. 5. Undertale Papyrus’ Note: SANS! PLEASE PICK UP YOUR SOCK! Sans’ Note:...

Siblings We Love from Geek Culture Jul06

Siblings We Love from Geek Culture...

We’re talking a lot about siblings this month in Area of Effect! Here are some of our readers’ and writers’ favourites from geek culture—and most of these relationships are defined by a willingness to support each other and grow, allowing the relationship to change and strengthen as the individuals change. Others, of course, end with one killing the other. 1. River and Simon Tam, Firefly Simon gives up everything for River because of his unconditional love for her. And River, in turn, trusts Simon completely even when nothing else makes sense to her. —Marilyn Rudge 2. The Weasleys, Harry Potter Especially Fred and George. You can just tell they’re a close family, even though Percy leaves for a while (they welcome him back). —Kyla Neufeld 3. Edward and Alphonse Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist Theirs is the kind of relationship I wish I had with my siblings. The age gap and distance between us has prevented the kind of closeness that Ed and Al enjoy. Though the presumptions that lead to conflict in the show are a little too familiar. —Naomi Strain 4. Rodney McKay and Jean Miller, Stargate Atlantis They are so different, but still connected. It’s nice to see someone living their own civilian life, plus the actors are brother and sister so their chemistry is really specific. —Hannah Foulger 5. T’Challa and Shuri, Black Panther They compliment each other so well and encourage each other’s strengths instead of being jealous of each other. Also you can just tell they’re close; they joke a lot, and they really love each other. Reminds me of me and my older brothers. —Caitlin Eha 6. Ruby and Yang, RWBY I love how much Ruby looks up to her sister at first, and how that dynamic shifts as Yang faces the loss...

10 Geeky Television Easter Eggs You May Have Missed Jun29

10 Geeky Television Easter Eggs You May Have Missed...

I love it when a show I enjoy references another show I love, or does something clever and self-aware. My favourite might be #3, because I was the most surprised and delighted by it (plus, I only watched Castle because Nathan Fillion). But here are some references you may have missed. 1. Firefly A figure of Han Solo in carbonite shows up in the background of various scenes on the Serenity. Just because. 2. Andromeda Kevin Sorbo pulls out a blonde wig and sword from his locker in Andromeda, looks at it for a second, then puts it back. 3. Castle Nathan Fillion’s character, Richard Castle, dresses us up as a “space cowboy” in Castle. 4. Doctor Who When the tenth Doctor has a gas mask on, he references the first season’s “Empty Child” episode by saying, “Are you my mummy?” As if we needed reminders of the horrors in that episode. 5. Community When “Beetlejuice” is said for the third time ever in Community, he shows up in the background. 6. Futurama Though he’s not introduced until much later, Nibbler’s shadow can be seen in “Space Pilot 3000,” and is later revealed to be responsible for Fry falling into the cryogenic chamber. 7. Chuck In “Chuck vs. The Third Dimension,” the letters “IG-88” is the name of a grenade, a reference to an bounty hunter droid in Star Wars. This is not the only Star Wars reference in Chuck, of course. 8. The Flash A character on The Flash who has ice powers is named Elsa. When people are already going to be making the connection, you might as well just roll with it. 9. Fringe Each episode included a subtle clue for the next episode, such as an the pilot, where an image of a pen and rose in a newspaper...

The Ultimate Avengers’ Playlist Jun22

The Ultimate Avengers’ Playlist...

The Guardians of the Galaxy have their ’70s tunes, but barring the occasional Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin song, the Avengers are a bit short on theme music. There may not be much time for aesthetics while Thanos threatens the galaxy, but each hero on the team deserves a signature song as unique as they are. Here are some potential theme songs worthy of Earth’s mightiest heroes: 1. Captain America: “Hero,” Kutless We first saw the hero in Steve Rogers when he was the little guy, too weak to win a fight but too brave to run from one. During those rough years when Steve was regularly beat up and bullied, I think he would have found encouragement in this song. 2. Iron Man: “Mr. Roboto,” Styx Tony Stark is known for his bravado, but he also deals with a plethora of fears and insecurities that he doesn’t want anyone to see. His Iron Man suits are a way for him to help other people, but also for him to hide from his own fears, and this song captures that dichotomy. 3. Hulk: “Monster,” Skillet Especially during his early days as an Avenger, Bruce Banner fears his Hulk persona and struggles to keep “the other guy” contained. Because he self-labels himself a monster, I think Bruce would identify with the struggle expressed in this song. 4. Thor: “Thunder,” Imagine Dragons Self-described as a “hotheaded fool,” Thor has always been one to charge into a fight and consider a plan afterwards. This song perfectly suits his power and reckless nature, even mentioning his “quick fuse” that has gotten his enemies in trouble on countless occasions. 5. Black Widow: “Fight Song,” Rachel Platten Natasha Romanoff’s bloody and abusive past can rival the hardships of any of...

10 Best-Kept Character Secrets in Geek Culture Jun15

10 Best-Kept Character Secrets in Geek Culture

I love the reveal of a good character secret—especially those that come out of the blue and involve something integral to that character’s identity. Whether a character was innocent when thought of as guilty, a woman when it was assumed a man, or has a backstory that no one knows about, here are my ten favourite reveals from geek culture. 1. Sirius Black — Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban This is my favourite book from the Harry Potter series, and I remember being completely surprised by the twist ending when I read it for the first time. This murderer, Sirius Black, had been set up as Harry’s worst enemy and then turned out to be a loyal and loving character. Harry realizing he wouldn’t have to live at the Dursleys anymore, followed by Wormtail’s escape, is a heart-wrenching moment that I felt to my core. 2. Samus Aran — Metroid Many gamers were totally floored by the reveal that Samus Aran is female that the end of the original Metroid game (released in 1986). During a time where female characters were often the princesses waiting in castles for rescue, this was a stereotype-blowing move, one that wasn’t even planned at the beginning. Partway through development, one of the developers asked, “Hey, wouldn’t that be kind of cool if it turned out that this person inside the suit was a woman?” And the rest is gaming history. 3. Aragorn – The Lord of the Rings It might be common knowledge now, but Strider’s identity as the king of Gondor is a neat twist in Tolkien’s masterpiece. He may have paved the way for other fantasy characters struggling with their identity as royalty, and his struggle with following in his ancestor’s footsteps, afraid he’ll make the same mistakes, is a real issue many can relate to. 4. Luke & Leia – Star Wars Oh, that awkward kiss. George was certainly determined to keep this one a secret till the last possible moment. I always liked the fact that, though Leia discovers she’s a Skywalker and is Force-sensitive, she doesn’t drop everything to become a Jedi, but continues in her role as leader and diplomat—the things she’s actually passionate about. And thankfully her “romance” with Luke didn’t go past a kiss, which means we didn’t have an angsty “I love you, but you’re my sister” side plot to sit through. 5. Shou Tucker – Fullmetal Alchemist This one should be categorized as “worst-kept secret,” as in the most horrendous, I-want-to-puke-at-how-horrible-you-really-are-when-I-thought-you-were-nice kind of secret. Possibly the most hated person in anime history, the fact that Tucker doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong is what gets me—”I don’t see what you’re so upset about,” he says to Ed. “This is how we progress. Human experimentation is a necessary step.” 6. Merlin – Merlin This whole show revolves around Merlin’s secret identity as a magic user, which creates so many fun scenes and jokes. Merlin constantly has to humble himself and pretend to be stupid and powerless, even though he is always the hero who saves the day. His secret also adds a lot of heartache for Merlin, who believes Arthur will hate him if he discovers the truth. 7. Light – Death Note Another show that revolves around a secret identity, Death Note gives us the perspective of a villain who thinks he’s right. The cat-and-mouse game he plays with L is the reason I kept watching, not because I liked him as a character or thought his secret was worth keeping. 8. The War Doctor – Doctor Who This one came as a surprise to everyone, and I’m still confused about what it means or why they inserted an extra regeneration into the story—as if all the timey-wimey plots weren’t confusing enough! Does it mean THIS doctor is number 9, shifting all the other numbers after? Is he number 8.5? Whatever, John Hurt is cool. 9. Sheik – The Legend of Zelda:...

Registry Open for Secret Keeping 101 Jun08

Registry Open for Secret Keeping 101...

This course is required for all students enrolled in the Fundamentals of Superpowers program. Whether you want to dominate the world or stop someone else from ruling it, these skills are key to your success. (Note: If you’re looking for the “superhero only” track, we suggest you apply to that school in Westchester or go back for remedial instruction at Sky High.) Course Modules Part 1: Secret Identity Have you ever wondered why superheroes try so hard to maintain a secret identity? Guest lecturer Chuck Bartowski will go over the pros and cons, with special emphasis on protecting your family and how to deal with all your relatives turning out to be spies. If you insist on a secret identity, we will devote two class sessions to how to sneak away from a hostage situation so you can put on your superhero costume (or whatever) to save your friends. Part 2: Not-So-Secret-Identity Sometimes everybody thinks they’re keeping your secret from everyone else, and you just have to go along with it. Buffy Summers will guest lecture on her experience of winning the “Class Protector” award and how to misdirect outsiders who ask about the obituaries section in the school newspaper. We’ll analyze various techniques, including “hiding in plain sight” (e.g. the super-secret black SUVs with Torchwood written on the front), “wearing glasses,” and “hopefully no one notices I’m suddenly buff.” Part 3: Secret Facilities Common locations include rundown warehouses, abandoned amusement parks, and spacious sewers. Wealthier aspiring supers may opt for more elaborate facilities such as corporate towers, underwater domes, or volcano bases. We will discuss specialty realtors and contractors who can assist in this endeavor and how to clean up your tracks. Lectures will contrast the new Avengers base (not secret) with Dr....

Where Are the Sick Characters in Pop Culture? May18

Where Are the Sick Characters in Pop Culture?...

As someone who struggles with a chronic illness, I can’t always relate to my fictional superheroes. Thor’s abs and Wonder Woman’s stamina never give up, after all. The heroes are almost always strong, beautiful, and not sick. If a character with an illness or chronic pain does show up, they’re often a weak link for the hero to save; their illness is mentioned once as the butt of a joke; they’re useless until they’re healed; or they’re only there to provide inspiration for the hero’s journey. These tropes are frustrating for those of us who face sickness every day in a society that doesn’t know what to do with us. But sometimes I come across characters who represent accurate struggles of being chronically ill. Here are some of my favourites: 1. Remus Lupin, Harry Potter Lupin doesn’t consider himself a worthwhile member of society because that’s what the world keeps telling him. For example, as soon as word gets out that he’s a werewolf, he has to vacate his position as a Hogwart’s professor in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban because people don’t want him teaching their children, even though he is safe as long as he drinks his potions. J.K. Rowling has stated that Lupin’s condition is meant to mimic the stigma of blood-borne diseases. His fear of accepting love is a very real thing people with chronic conditions face daily. “‘I am not being ridiculous,’ said Lupin steadily. ‘Tonks deserves somebody young and whole.’ . . . ‘But she wants you,’ said Mr. Weasley, with a small smile. ‘And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so.'” —Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince 2. Izumi Curtis, Fullmetal Alchemist Edward and Alphonse’s alchemy teacher, Izumi is a tough, stubborn, ...

Why We Shouldn’t “Hold On” to Loved Ones After They’re Gone Apr11

Why We Shouldn’t “Hold On” to Loved Ones After They’re Gone...

In the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is still a long way from the agile, clever, gun-toting superwoman plumbing the depths of ancient ruins and uncovering supernatural mysteries. In this film, she’s more of an emotionally stunted adrenaline junkie who throws herself into danger with no care for her life or legacy. Lara’s father disappeared several years ago on “business” and she refuses to sign the papers declaring him legally dead. She cannot handle the idea that her dad, her hero, could be gone forever and so she pursues every lead, even spending thousands of dollars, to find out what happened and where he could have gone. Hanging on to hope seems like an endearing quality. Her resistance to giving up on someone is touted as a great asset to Lara, but it ends up costing her a lot. For seven years, she lives in near poverty and makes few contributions to society because her tremendous assets are frozen. She could help people out, create a foundation in memory of her family, or pursue almost anything to work through her grief, but instead, she lives in delusion. We’re afraid letting go means they are somehow less important in our lives. Lara’s refusal to let go of her father puts not only herself, but others in danger as well. People join her on her journey, facing a vicious storm, a murderous militia, and a deadly curse. Their sacrifices don’t return her father to her. I have been fortunate in my life that very few family members have passed away. I know the days are coming when it will happen. And I’ve spent a lot of recent time with those who have lost loved ones; I have seen the grief I will one day...

Reading Ready Player One: Teamwork Mar23

Reading Ready Player One: Teamwork...

Ultimately, the last chapters of Ready Player One contain its strongest message: victory is not only for the strong; it goes to those who maintain hope, those who love, and those who remain faithful to one another, even to the bitter end. Without the hope and tenacity of Parzival/Wade, for example, who was willing to give up his life in the last section to save his friends, and who maintains that mindset until the end, our heroes would never have been able to overthrow their opposition. Without Og’s love for and faith in Halliday, the ephemeral creator of the OASIS, the spirit of the game would have been lost to the greed and divisiveness of the Sixers. And without the faithfulness and teamwork of Shoto, Artemis, and Aech, Wade never could have made it past the Third Gate. The Sixers, on the other hand, though they move as a massive, powerful corporation, make the fatal error of rejecting even the premise of teamwork. At the core of the IOI’s identity is domination, which cannot be present in the loving and unified. Unwilling to work together or sacrifice himself for his “team,” Sorrento views his cronies as expendable; this is clear when his avatar is killed, and Wade imagines him “kicking one of his underlings out of a haptic chair so he could take control of a new avatar.” Nothing is more important to the Sixers than winning the egg, because the egg and its subsequent wealth symbolizes domination for them. For Wade and company, the egg means something quite different. They are each fighting against the powers that be to preserve the value of the individual, the value of the overlooked. When small forces of good join together to fight against daunting forces of...

Reading Ready Player One: Courage Mar16

Reading Ready Player One: Courage...

Wade’s bravery in this section blows my mind; as someone who has historically taken the safe route instead of the sacrificial one, his courage is foreign to me. But Wade puts himself in unimaginable danger almost without a second thought. Though some might see his willing “surrender” to IOI and indentured servitude as reckless, one particular line from Wade makes me think otherwise: “I didn’t test the IOI passwords until the second night of my indenturement. I was understandably anxious, because if it turned out I’d been sold bogus data and none of the passwords worked, I would have sold myself into lifelong slavery.” Wade knows the stakes. At this point, he is no longer simply an avatar, someone who is brave in the OASIS and cowardly in the “real world.” What he has built up in the OASIS has now come to fruition in his being: Parzival’s bravery has become Wade’s. When I step back and consider how Wade is leaving the safety of his lifelong pacifier, the only place where he has ever felt ‘himself,’ I can see how monumental his act of courage is. And though it might seem like his courage initially falters when he is led outside into the pallid desolation of the real world, his fear is not an unexpected thing. And Wade’s fear can exist alongside his courage. His entire identity is in the OASIS, but he is willing to give all that up on the chance that he can infiltrate IOI and save his friends. Though he is tagged like livestock, confined to a jail cell, and forced to work a mind-numbing job, he still sticks to his plan, maintains his humour, and pulls off what can only be considered a great escape. Stepping outside the...

Three Super-Heroines Who Understand the Struggle Mar14

Three Super-Heroines Who Understand the Struggle...

Like most people, I have dozens of responsibilities weighing on me every day. It’s hard to juggle them all, but even harder to feel confident in the process. I wonder, did I do well enough? Did I devote my attention to the best places? When I read comics where superheroes struggle with the same ordinary issues that I do, I feel less alone, and three of these role models stick out to me as women who wrestle with finding balance in their lives. Spider-Gwen: Using Responsibility to Avoid Responsibility After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Gwen Stacy dons a mask and becomes the Spider-Woman of Earth-65 (an alternate reality Earth). When she looks back on this decision, she says, “All I wanted was to be happy. To have fun with my powers.” Gwen’s “fun” turns to tragedy when she fights the Lizard, only to discover the monster is actually her friend, Peter Parker. Peter dies after the fight, and a grief-stricken Gwen realizes that being Spider-Woman is more than just a game. Even after she takes her heroic duties seriously, Gwen struggles to manage responsibility in her regular life. She uses her secret identity to escape from life as Gwen Stacy, who is having issues with her father and her friends. Crime-fighting as Spider-Woman gives Gwen something to run toward, so she can lie to herself about the fact that she’s running at all. It’s Spider-Ham, of all characters, who eventually tells her, “being a super hero is way more than facing bad guys…sometimes you gotta face real life.” One day, to keep from being late for work, Gwen swings through the streets as Spider-Woman, only to encounter the police, who are trying to arrest her. As she flees, Gwen calls her dad,...

Playing the Sidekick: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Humanity Mar12

Playing the Sidekick: Dirk Gently’s Holistic Humanity...

As the word suggests, sidekicks are, by nature, to the side of a story. They’re the Robin to Gotham’s Batman or the Watson to London’s Sherlock, supportive helpers who sometimes need rescuing. Yet being a sidekick is simply a role to be filled, not a fixed status or a title someone is born into. Sidekicks are never just assistants. And in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Gently’s “assistant” is a key player in a (hilarious) drama that isn’t always—or only—about him. In the TV show inspired by the Douglas Adams’ novel, Todd Brotzman is a bellhop with exceedingly bad luck—or is it good luck? Either way, the Universe decides to make Todd a part of its plan by bringing Dirk Gently into his life. From where the audience is sitting, this is Todd’s story; he’s the character we get to know first and we relate to him because he is just as confused about the show’s weirdness as we are. But it isn’t a story about Todd; it’s about the Universe and Dirk’s relationship to it. Dirk constantly reminds us of this by referring to Todd as his “assistant,” a title that brands him as a sidekick even though we see the world through Todd’s eyes. Though Todd finds himself playing the sidekick almost against his will, I often put myself in a similar role on purpose, choosing to support leaders or help others reach their goals in an attempt to avoid the weight of responsibility. But I’m a sidekick with a hero-complex—I want to swoop in and fix the problem or spout the wisdom that saves the day. I doubt I’m alone in this paradox, feeling the tension of not wanting the protagonist’s responsibility but thirsting for the glory of a leading role....

Call for Pitches: Disability and Illness Mar01

Call for Pitches: Disability and Illness

Area of Effect is currently looking for pitches on the theme of Disability and Illness. Pitches must have a strong connection to a sci-fi, fantasy, or comic-based TV show, movie, book, video game, or anime. Deadline Pitches are due March 12. Payment We pay 25 CAD for articles that are accepted and published. Guidelines Send a one-paragraph pitch, NOT the full article. Include links to three samples of your published writing. Keep in mind our audience is an eclectic bunch of geeks with differing perspectives on faith and life. Though our articles are written from a Christian perspective, they invite discussion between people of different beliefs. Read some of the current features on our home page to get a handle on our style. We do not want devotionals, Bible studies, or reviews, but rather articles that analyze, interpret, and discuss fandoms in relation to life, faith, and social justice. Include a two-three sentence bio that clarifies why you are qualified to write on this topic. If your pitch is selected, completed articles should be 700-1000 words. Send your pitch to allison@geekdomhouse.com with the subject line: “AoE Pitch: Disability and...