On The Bright Sessions: Superpowers Can’t Cure Loneliness May23

On The Bright Sessions: Superpowers Can’t Cure Loneliness...

In the podcast The Bright Sessions, a scripted serialized drama about a group of misfits with superhuman abilities called Atypicals, characters explore a broader story of social isolation and the deep-seated desire for community. Writer and director Lauren Shippen surprised me by resisting clichés and overused tropes, taking The Bright Sessions to unique creative territory. Currently in its fourth season, it’s no wonder this show will have a series of YA novels published in the next year and is in development for television. Each Atypical patient describes the pain of feeling unconnected—the loneliness and isolation of feeling like they don’t belong. Each episode of the podcast’s first season is presented as a recorded therapy session between Dr. Joan Bright and one of her several Atypical patients. They have a lot to talk about as the patients try to understand how to cope with their developing abilities. While they have different and varied experiences with their abilities, they all struggle with social isolation: Caleb, an empath, can’t connect with his fellow high school students because he’s overwhelmed by their emotions; Sam, an orphaned time traveler, shuns other people for fear of hurting them; Chloe, a telepath, finds it difficult to be around others. Other superhuman characters occupy the margins of these episodes, suggesting similar frustrations: Frank, a homeless ex-marine, has PTSD and some Atypical abilities; Damien, an anti-social Atypical, can influence people to do his will. Each character expresses the pain of being alone, of not feeling connected to a larger group of family or friends. Shippen’s world is populated with people desperate to connect but unable to do so. Many of the characters use aliases to enforce their social isolation, deflecting personal and familial associations. Damien, for instance, uses his alias to project an...

Westworld and Basing Our Identity on Others May21

Westworld and Basing Our Identity on Others...

Spoiler Alert: This article contains details from Season One of Westworld. For the artificial hosts of the TV series Westworld’s resort, life is a daily invitation to be lied to, cheated, shot, or assaulted—all in the service of letting humans have a good time. In the first episode of Westworld, I wondered if the hosts had unexplored potential. Bernard (the lead designer of the hosts’ behavioural algorithms) is interviewing a host named Dolores. While she sits unblinking, he asks, “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” Author and mystic Thomas Merton writes, “Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self . . . My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.” Living with humility is the hard work of pushing through the self-image I’ve created and deciding who I really am. In essence, when I define myself by outside forces, my “false self” conforms to other people’s ideas. The hosts of Westworld exist solely to prop up other people’s illusory selves. Similarly, we often do what we think other people want us to and let our actions define our identity. Fortunately for us, Merton suggests a way to shed the illusion and own the truth about ourselves; his solution is humility. If we are open to the circumstances of our own lives, pay attention to what really matters, and avoiding the temptation to feed our ego by imitating or placating others, we may find a more substantial basis for our identities. Living with humility is the hard work of pushing through the self-image I’ve created and deciding who I...

Why Choose Reality When We Could Live in the Matrix? May09

Why Choose Reality When We Could Live in the Matrix?...

Which would you take—the red pill or the blue pill? The question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. The red pill represents the full picture of reality—truth and all it entails. Your eyes are opened, but in that freedom you will find struggle, even overwhelming hardship. The blue pill, on the other hand, allows you to live happily unaware. You’ll be able to live the way you always have, remaining blind to harsh reality. As Cypher notes in The Matrix, “Ignorance is bliss.” The red and blue pill metaphor has become entrenched in our culture as a reality check. After all, I never wondered if Neo made the right decision to gulp down the red pill and battle against alien machines; I just cheered him on as he did. And I became angry with Cypher when he took the blue pill and jeopardized the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar. But I have to admit, the choice is tempting; the reality of the Matrix is ugly and dangerous, and that steak that Cypher is eating as he contemplates his decision looks really delicious. I like to think that I would never pick the blue pill like he did, but I’m not sure the choice is that simple, especially when the truth can be unpleasant. Why would you swap comfort for cold fact? Real life is a little more complicated than red and blue pills. Although I want to be like Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus—not only perceiving reality but fighting against the very things that enslave them—I often live the way Cypher wants to, blissfully enjoying my ignorance. I distinctly remember in seventh grade, I tried reentering my school building from the courtyard during lunch break, which was against the rules, and a teacher...

Expecting People to Conform is Not Love May02

Expecting People to Conform is Not Love...

Over the course of my life, I’ve developed a mold in my head for the ideal way to live. I often think I know better than others, with opinions about how they should act, what job they should have, etc. When someone doesn’t fit into this mold, I’ve disassociated with them or tried to cram them into it. Subconsciously, I’ve thought of these people as “uglies”—a term from the YouTube dystopian short film by David Armsby called Being Pretty. Being Pretty is a three-minute video that’s gained over three million views. In the video, “pretty” doesn’t mean physically attractive, but refers to conformity into the artificial intelligence-controlled city of Autodale. The first half of the short is a public service announcement, given by a Handyman (a robotic sentinel), explaining to children that their dad is “pretty” because he reads the newspaper, kicks his feet up after a hard day’s work, and provides for his family; their mom is “pretty” because her cooking is great, she keeps the house clean, and reads them bedtime stories. The Handyman tells the children they will grow up to be “just like” one of their parents and reminds them to “stay pretty.” Perhaps people I think are “ugly” just aren’t like me. In Autodale, anyone who doesn’t conform is considered “ugly.” The second half of the film reveals that “uglies” include anyone old, gay, crippled, sterile, disfigured, fat, or even those who suffer from depression—and the Handymen brutally discard them like trash. This chilling tale made me think, “Do I see people as ‘uglies’ and discard them out of my life?” If we consider beauty as something more than physical appearance, the phrase “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” takes on new meaning. Someone I consider “pretty”...

Ready Player One and Forging Real Relationships Apr13

Ready Player One and Forging Real Relationships...

One of the first things you learn from the book-turned-movie Ready Player One is that once you log in to the OASIS, you can look, sound, and act however you want. The opening of the film pans around a number of different scenarios—an old woman wearing a VR visor boxing an invisible foe, a young girl playing piano through her haptic gloves, and a woman pole-dancing for an audience we can’t see—all of them doing something in the real world that looks very different in the OASIS. That’s the tantalizing point of a digital world; when you’re unhappy with how you look, just log in and change it. We even see our hero, Parzival (the OASIS avatar of the real-life Wade Watts), turn on the “wind effect” to his anime-styled hair because he thinks it will look cool. Parzival’s heroic journey requires sifting through a library’s worth of obscure pop culture knowledge to solve a set of complex riddles. Before long, an evil corporation takes notice of his success, and the hunt to save the (digital) world is on. Parvial’s closest in-game allies are Aech and Art3mis, his best friend and love interest respectively. Parzival treats these relationships very differently. Art3mis is the clumsily-written caricature of a “cool gamer chick” who earns Parzival’s naive trust and affection because she’s (almost) as good at clue hunting as he is. After a handful of interactions, Parzival decides he’s in love with her. She rightfully rejects the idea, telling him he doesn’t know anything about her other than what she wants him to know. Parzival has only ever known the extreme version of the “first date” self she’s chosen to show him and he can’t possibly know her well enough to truly love her. In the book,...

Reading Ready Player One: Friendship Mar09

Reading Ready Player One: Friendship...

What’s worth more than seven billion dollars? Wade can’t think of anything. He believes his chance of winning Halliday’s Easter egg is gone when Sorrento and the Sixers are the first to clear the Second Gate, and he doesn’t see much point in living in a world that IOI controls. But then he gets a visit from Shoto that changes his perspective. Daito and Shoto, or “Daisho,” are one of the great duos in nerd culture, in my opinion—up there with Fred and George Weasley, or Han Solo and Chewbacca. You don’t find one without the other. They proclaim themselves brothers, even though they’d never met in person. Though only one person can win Halliday’s prize, Daito gives up his opportunity to collect the Jade Key to protect Shoto. These displays of friendship make Daito’s real-world death heartbreaking, and I bet Shoto feels at least partly responsible, since their team-up is what helped them stay at the top of the leaderboard. Maybe he’s wondering if their friendship was worth pursuing when it ended in tragedy. Maybe he’s tempted to shut himself off from the world again, like he did before meeting Daito. But he makes a different choice. Shoto doesn’t meet Wade to tell the story of Daito’s death just to warn him about IOI and its real-world reach; he could’ve sent him a video or an email to accomplish that. He also didn’t need to tell Wade his real name, which not even Daito knew. But something about this tragedy made Shoto reach out. For some reason, he is completely honest with Wade, and a bond is forged. IOI’s challenge is a personal one, now, and perhaps Shoto’s vulnerability and honesty—something none of the hunters have attempted with each other until this point—will...

Reading Ready Player One: Loneliness Mar02

Reading Ready Player One: Loneliness...

Everything falls out beneath him after Wade confesses his love to Art3mis. Art3mis, full of concern about the basis of their relationship and desiring to put the contest for the egg as her focus again, ends all connections with him. Heartbroken, Wade retreats into frustration and sadness before diving headlong back into the contest. He buys state of the art equipment, shaves every inch of hair off his body (don’t ask), and spends day and night trying to decipher the clues that will lead him to the next piece of the puzzle, the jade key. But even with a singular focus in his life again, Wade doesn’t seem any happier. He longs for something more, something beyond what he can disguise under an avatar and username. Virtual reality can only provide him so much; it doesn’t cover the dissatisfaction Wade feels with who he is outside of the OASIS: “In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified video game.” Before he met Art3mis, Wade seemed content with living a life focused on his desires and wishes. What changed? Wade’s obsession with the hunt for the egg is understandable. Who doesn’t want to play endless video games and watch your favorite pieces of media day in and day out, with only yourself to worry about? A hedonistic lifestyle is all about pleasure; why worry about others when you can live in self-indulgence? Living for you brings elation in the moment, but it’s what happens afterwards that sucks, when you feel a sense of emptiness, when all that energy you poured...

Reading Ready Player One: Trust Feb23

Reading Ready Player One: Trust...

Life is lonely when you trust no one. When Wade enters a chat room with Nolan Sorrento, the Head of Operations at IOI, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Sorrento is hungry for power and will stop at nothing to get the Egg. But I was surprised to see a similarity between him and Wade—neither of them trusts anybody, and nobody trusts them. Sorrento’s relationship with IOI is made clear when Wade “agrees” to work for the IOI as long as they fire Sorrento: “‘I don’t want to be second-in-command,’ I said. ‘I want your job, Sorrento. I want to be in charge of the whole shebang. Chief of operations. El numero Uno. Oh, and I want everyone to have to call me El Numero Uno, too. Is that possible?'” Although Wade is just asking to make a point, the IOI agrees with his demands. Surprisingly, Sorrento doesn’t sound that upset when he relays their agreement to Wade’s terms; I’m not sure if it’s because he knows Wade is playing with them, or if it’s because he knows his relationship with the company is about power and usefulness, not about trust. It’s later, when Wade meets with the High Five, that I notice Wade’s situation isn’t all that dissimilar to Sorrento’s; he has no one on his side. The Five aren’t willing to work together—even though a unified force stands a better chance against the IOI—because of distrust and greed. Wade isn’t even willing to share information with Aech, his best friend. As Daito says, “Only one person can be the first to find the egg and win the prize.” Discussion Questions Why do you think Sorrento isn’t upset when the IOI agrees to fire him? Would you propose an alliance if you were Wade? Are you afraid...

Reading Ready Player One: Hope Feb16

Reading Ready Player One: Hope...

The pessimism in me says solving world hunger is a fool’s dream. And yet that’s what Art3mis plans to do if she finds Halliday’s Easter egg. “Once we tackle world hunger, then we can figure out how to fix the environment and solve the energy crisis,” she says to Wade when they first meet. Wade’s plan makes more sense to me: “I’d have a nuclear-powered interstellar spacecraft constructed in Earth’s orbit . . . Then I’d invite a few of my closest friends to come aboard, along with a team of doctors and scientists, and we’d all get the hell out of Dodge. Leave the solar system and start looking for an extrasolar Earthlike planet.” There’s no hope for this planet or the people on it—especially in Ready Player One’s scenario where the Earth is basically dying—so we might as well give up and start over, right? Yet, I wonder if Art3mis’s plan is the wiser of the two. Wade’s idea is to give up, but Art3mis’s is to repair what is broken. If we translated this to a current-day issue—should we nuke the Middle East and build new cities without strife or should we work to make peace amidst people who may never agree? Or even something simpler—should we give up on a friendship or marriage because it gets difficult, or work through the strife to strengthen the relationship? Is Wade’s solution really a solution at all? Won’t starting over eventually bring the same problems he is facing now? Perhaps attempting to renew what is broken without tossing everything out really is the better course of action. I might want to start over, like resetting a video game where I’ve made too many mistakes, but if I work with what I’ve got maybe hope will...

Reading Ready Player One: Society Feb09

Reading Ready Player One: Society...

Reality often sucks. For many, just attempting to make a living takes more effort than they can muster, and most countries have a very clear upper and lower class. In North America, where the middle class is still a dream we are attempting to keep, it gets harder and harder to maintain hope that things will improve. Poverty increases, debt is at an all-time high, and if we don’t run out of fossil fuels soon, their use will probably ruin our climate to the point that we can’t live like we do anyway. Ready Player One depicts a world in the not-too-distant future that attempts to answer the question: what will North America be like if we don’t change anything? “At a time of drastic social and cultural upheaval, when most of the world’s population longed for an escape from reality, the OASIS provided it, in a way that was cheap, legal, safe and not technically addictive.” The OASIS provides the escape from the brutal reality of life. For the rich, it’s a place to fulfill the desires that reality can’t or won’t offer, and for the poor it’s a chance to be an ideal version of yourself. How do you escape uncomfortable realities? The OASIS is a chance to travel, to adventure, and to escape drudgery. It’s a place where the obvious hopelessness of poverty can be circumnavigated through questing and avatar apparel. It’s such a successful escape, that even the in-game currency is more stable than anything else in the world. But not only does it offer an escape from reality, but an enticing puzzle as well; when its founder, James Halliday, died, he left controlling interest in the OASIS and his billions of dollars to the player who finds an easter...

Reading Ready Player One: Identity Feb02

Reading Ready Player One: Identity...

Though Ready Player One will soon be released as a movie, the novel has biting social and political commentary, tropes that have come to be expected in science fiction. It also focuses heavily on the individual in a world where people’s importance has been snuffed out by corporate greed. Because each player in the OASIS, an immersive, mega-internet experience, must create an avatar in order to interact in that virtual world—taste, preference, and representation are key plot points in the novel. The first chapters introduce us to Wade, the novel’s protagonist, who attends a virtual school. Though students are limited to human avatars, “no giant, two-headed hermaphrodite demon unicorn avatars,” they have relative freedom a far as body type, hair colour, and dress. Wade himself chooses an avatar which he dubs “Parzival” that is not so dissimilar from his corporeal self: “My avatar had a slightly smaller nose than me, and he was taller. And thinner. And more muscular. And he didn’t have any teenage acne. But aside from these minor details, we looked more or less identical.” Wade modifies himself in this virtual world so that he looks more “desirable,” but ultimately does not choose an entirely different form. Other characters choose to mask, hide, or completely change their identities via their OASIS avatars. Our narrator writes, “People rarely used their real names online. Anonymity was one of the major perks of the OASIS. Inside the simulation, no one knew who you really were, unless you wanted them to. Much of the OASIS’s popularity and culture were built around this fact.” If I had the power to be seen and heard in any manifestation I desired, what might I choose? Students in Wade’s school are even able to turn off the “real-time emotion...

Star Trek and Managing Stress Jan31

Star Trek and Managing Stress...

I wish I could respond to stressful situations the way the characters in Star Trek do. Spock weighs his options before acting during even the most pressing danger, and the bridge crew calmly carries out orders in the heat of battle. My responses, on the other hand, are rushed, unplanned, “fight or flight” reactions that cause more problems than resolutions. In the Star Trek original series episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” a new crew member, Lieutenant Bailey, panics when the Enterprise encounters a rainbow cube floating in space that’s blocking their way. Bailey shouts out in fear when he sees it, which earns a reprimand from Spock. Later, still feeling embarrassed, he interrupts Spock and defends his outburst by noting that he, like all humans, has an adrenaline gland. Spock replies, “That sounds most inconvenient. Have you considered having it removed?” I can’t control what I feel. But I can control how I act. When Kirk and Spock begin analyzing the situation, attempting to communicate with the cube and planning a strategy, Bailey presses them to shoot first, before the cube has a chance to attack. But since it hasn’t threatened them, they observe it for eighteen hours before proceeding. And even after Kirk declares, “It’s time for action,” he orders special maneuvers to try to lose the cube as it follows them—to Bailey’s chagrin, since he jumped the gun on Kirk’s command and began issuing orders to the weapons crew instead of navigation. When the cube does attack, and later, when the cube’s commander, Balok, addresses the Enterprise and decrees he will kill everyone, Bailey hesitates to respond, too overwhelmed by the situation to function. Several times, Sulu leans over and does Bailey’s job for him. Finally, the stress is too much for the...

The Best Superpower: ReBoot demonstrates Reconciliation Jan24

The Best Superpower: ReBoot demonstrates Reconciliation...

Forget flight, invisibility, or super speed—the best superpower is the ability to adapt to any situation. It would be awesome to know that whatever came my way, I could just activate my power and be ready to handle it. Sort of like what happens in the TV series ReBoot. In case you missed it, ReBoot was a Canadian TV show set inside a computer called Mainframe. Rendered in glorious low-poly CG, the show followed the adventures of a guardian sprite named Bob along with his friends Dot, Enzo, and Phong. Together they battled various evils, including Megabyte and his vicious sister Hexadecimal. In pretty much every episode, the “user” loaded a game in Mainframe and the characters found themselves compelled to win or be nullified. When a game launched, they double-tapped the icons on their chests, shouted “Reboot!” and turned into game sprites. If it was a fantasy game, they were equipped with chainmail. If it was a space adventure, they were in spacesuits. If it was racing, they sported helmets and fire suits. If you know that forgiveness isn’t going to make you feel better, why bother? Double-click and instant change! I kind of wish forgiveness worked like that. As a Catholic, I partake in the sacrament of reconciliation, where I tell God what I’ve done wrong, express my remorse and resolve to avoid sin in the future. Theologically, the sacrament removes the sin from my soul. What it doesn’t do is take away the real-world consequences. If I have wronged a friend, that hurt doesn’t go away. I might have spiritually rebooted with the intent to be a better person, but I still have to figure out how to deal with the damage I’ve done. Maybe rebooting isn’t quite the superpower I...

Why We Need Adversity to Reboot Jan17

Why We Need Adversity to Reboot...

Every now and then, an event so personally significant comes along that redefines you. Not that you completely lose who you already are, but it may give you a new lens to look at the world through—and it might even be a new lens from which the world looks at you. I’ve found this to be true several times throughout my life—when I got married, had children, and changed jobs. Even my children experiencing a trauma redefines me. Those events require a new set of skills and new strength to make me useful. Each new challenge broadens and shapes me. Each challenge is an opportunity to reboot—to keep what’s useful, and to let go of things that no longer serve me. Adventure starts with adversity, and growth often takes root in discomfort. In the first episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender, we meet a young cadet name Pidge; but Pidge isn’t what he seems. In episode six, “Taking Flight,” we learn that Pidge is, in fact, a girl. When her brother and father were lost on a Galaxy Garrison mission, she went in search of them. Having been caught hacking the Garrison computer as her true identity, Katie Holt, she needed to redefine herself in order to gain access to the computer without being discovered. Katie cut her hair, dressed like a boy and presented herself as Pidge Gunderson; a cadet in the Galaxy Garrison. Fate assigned her to a team with Hunk and Lance, and she ultimately becomes the Paladin of the Green Lion. Not long after the Voltron crew members begin to trust each other, Pidge reveals to her new friends that she is a girl. All but one of them respond with little or no surprise. Lance, who is always slow on...

Resisting Temptation Like Luke and Rey Dec22

Resisting Temptation Like Luke and Rey...

The Last Jedi spoilers below. Temptation is where selfish desire and short-sightedness meet. When our inmost longings are within our reach but will surely come at a terrible cost, our convictions are tested. Luke Skywalker faces this struggle in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader reveals himself as Luke’s father. Vader immediately presents Luke with a temptation: “Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny! Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son! Come with me. It is the only way.” Vader offers victory for the rebellion, purpose, and family (not to mention escaping almost certain death). Luke wants all these things and, on the surface, they’re worthy of wanting. But Luke is also aware of the cost of accepting Vader’s offer—the death of his friends and the surrender of his ideals. In The Last Jedi, Kylo mirrors Vader’s offer by asking Rey to join him. But the stakes are even higher because Kylo is now first in command. He is offering Rey ultimate power, where she would have to answer to no one. The decision is less black-and-white than Vader’s proposition to Luke, because the connection between Kylo and Rey has revealed their hopes and fears to each other. Rey knows that Kylo is also Ben Solo, and believes he isn’t utterly evil, but his ambition has gone unchecked. No matter what decision Rey makes, she will have to bear the weight of what might’ve been. Kylo offers her a place in his new kingdom, a pitch difficult for Rey to resist. “It’s time to let old things die, Rey. I want you to join me; we can bring a new order to the galaxy, let go! […] You have no...

The Danger of Denying Rey’s Past Dec20

The Danger of Denying Rey’s Past...

*The Last Jedi spoilers below. You’ve been warned.* The Last Jedi is a bit of a misleading title in that the Jedi aren’t going to end. Yet it is a movie that asks questions about facing the past. Each of the main characters deals with the past in a specific way. Kylo shoves it aside, destroying memories in the attempt to escape previous attachments; Luke hides from it; Poe repeats it with an initial unwillingness to admit his mistakes; and Rey denies her past because she wants so badly to belong. Rey’s past was shrouded in mystery in The Force Awakens. Most assumed she had significant parents (I was hoping she’d be Obi-Wan’s granddaughter). And yet, in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren taunts her with the knowledge that her parents are nobodies. She’s known all along that they abandoned her and were never coming back. She has no legacy of greatness like Luke, no secret royalty like Leia, and wasn’t conceived from midichlorians (thank the Maker). But she wants to be a hero. She wants to be loved. She wants to matter. So, she denies her past, convincing herself that her parents are out there looking for her, and will someday return. Setting aside the familiar and letting go can be frightening, strange, and uncomfortable. Of all the characters’ responses to their past, Rey’s is perhaps the most dangerous. She has created a false hope, and has to stay in denial to keep it. Facing the past would mean losing that hope. It is impossible to make peace with a past that you don’t admit exists. It’s impossible to move forward when you are constantly dodging the shadow in your periphery, refusing to look at it and pretending it isn’t there. When we deny...

Your Time Travel Pre-Flight Briefing Dec01

Your Time Travel Pre-Flight Briefing...

*Bing Bong* Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Captain Preston, your timepilot. On behalf of myself and first officer Logan, I’d like to welcome you aboard Wells Timeways flight number ∞. If you’ll direct your attention to the front of the craft, our chief flight attendant Sarah will give you a brief safety … um … briefing. *Bing Bong* Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for travelling with us today… and tomorrow and tomorrow and all our yesterdays. For those of you who are new to time travel, please pay close attention. For those of you who have travelled with us before, you already know what I’m going to say—but bear with me. Before we begin, ensure that your carry-on luggage is safely stowed in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. Whether you’ve brought along your twelve monkeys, your source code, a ticking clock or a triangle please make certain you keep the safely stowed. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, nothing will drop from the ceiling. This timecraft is a Hartdegen 7{x}{y} and it has several built-in safety features. Chief among these is your 12-point restraint harness. You can fasten the harness by pulling the upper straps over your shoulders, wrapping the lower straps around your waist and putting the belt low and across your lap. Connect the harness by fastening tabs A, B, C, D, and F into buckles G, H, I, J, and L. Your cabin crew will be by to connect tabs E and K to ensure you won’t be able to get up without assistance. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, nothing will drop from the ceiling. You’ll all be pulled irrevocably into the timeline, so there’s no point...

When Warped Community Feels Right Nov15

When Warped Community Feels Right...

There’s wisdom in seeking counsel from those who are older and wiser than me, from friends who can view my situation from an unbiased perspective. Any time I have to make a big decision, I consult those close to me. However, advice still needs to be taken with careful consideration. A solution that worked for someone else in a similar situation may not work for me—it might not even be the wisest thing for me to do. In Stranger Things 2, Eleven meets Kali (another girl with superpowers). She finds safety and belonging with someone who can empathize with her troubles. Kali gives her advice on how to harness her power and tries to coax her into seeking revenge against the people who hurt her. But Kali tempts Eleven to the dark side of the Force—I mean, convinces her to do more harm than good. She advises Eleven to use anger to fuel her abilities and be unmerciful to those who have hurt her. Eleven chose the more difficult path—one where she had to face her ultimate fear and reconcile with people who’ve hurt her. Kali’s advice isn’t malicious; she genuinely wants to help Eleven. But Eleven comes to realize that Kali’s life is dark and bitter; and Kali is surrounded by friends who let her thrive in her depravity. Eleven soon realizes Kali’s life is not something she wants to aspire to. Kali tries to convince her to kill a man who abused Kali and hurt Eleven’s mama. When Kali tries to kill the man herself, Eleven stops her and Kali responds by saying, “If you want to show mercy, that is your choice, but don’t you ever take away mine. Ever.” Kali respects Eleven to make the decision to show mercy, proving...

Race and Gender: A Timeless Issue Nov08

Race and Gender: A Timeless Issue...

I expect a show about time travel to ask difficult questions like: “How much do we alter history?”, “Should we let people die just because they’re already dead in the future?”, and “Why can’t we kill Hitler? What I appreciate most about NBC’s Timeless is that it doesn’t shy away from dealing with the awful way women and people of colour have been treated throughout history. The premise of the show is pretty simple: a terrorist, Garcia Flynn, hijacks a newly-made time machine from Mason Industries and attempts to alter certain events in American history. In response, Homeland Security tasks the show’s three protagonists—history professor Lucy Preston, Master Sergeant Wyatt Logan, and engineer Rufus Carlin—with following Flynn in a second time machine to preserve history and take him down. In the first episode, Rufus is adamant that he doesn’t want to go, and tells his boss, “There is literally no place in American history that will be awesome for me.” Every one of us wishes we had the freedom to tell off our harassers like Lucy does. As a black man, Rufus is all too aware of how he will be perceived if he goes back in time, but as the only pilot trained to handle the time machine, he is required to go. The show is peppered with humorous quips (“The back of the bus was amazing!”says Rufus in 1937) and more poignant moments in which Rufus deals with a legacy of racism and marginalization. In “The Murder of Jesse James,” Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus track down the famous outlaw, who has been recruited by Flynn. To do so, they team up with Bass Reeves, the first black deputy U.S. Marshal. Reeves is thought to be the inspiration for the popular character the Lone Ranger,...

Finding Hope the Replicant Way Nov06

Finding Hope the Replicant Way...

In Blade Runner’s world, the only thing darker than the City of Angels is the hearts of the people who live there. As imagined by Ridley Scott, the Los Angeles of 2019 is a dismal, rainy place. Unnamed environmental catastrophes have poisoned the Earth to the point that the best option—as announced by the ever-present advertising blimps—is to get off the planet. The streets are a neon-lit warren of storefronts and stalls where vendors compete for the money and attention of a perpetually weary populace.  Life seems to be a grim march toward a lonely death. It is a world devoid of joy and hope. This cold, wet hellscape is ground zero in a battle which asks what it really means to be human. As the opening text scroll explains, the Tyrell Corporation has created genetically-engineered robots (called replicants) which are virtually indistinguishable from humans. Replicants are slave labour; tasked with the most difficult and dangerous jobs and forbidden from living on Earth. Furthermore, to keep them in check, they are engineered with a four-year lifespan. They are considered mere machines to be used and discarded at the whim of their human creators. How do I hope for change in a dark world? Rick Deckard is the Blade Runner—a policeman who has the task of identifying and killing replicants who make it to Earth. Like the other humans in the film, he views the replicants as mere mechanisms. In an early conversation with Rachel, he says, “Replicants are like any other machine—they’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” He hunts and kills them with uncaring efficiency; the way a programmer might hunt down and eliminate errors in a block of code. More disturbingly, he later orders...