The Fundamentalism of the Jedi Order and Christianity Sep17

The Fundamentalism of the Jedi Order and Christianity...

Though the Jedi Council might frown on questioning their faith, Ahsoka Tano has no problem examining it (or anything else that piques her curiosity). If you’re a Star Wars fan, but you’re wondering who Ahsoka Tano is, that’s okay! Many die-hard fans of the series have yet to be introduced to some of its animated components, including the critically-acclaimed Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Chronologically, The Clone Wars takes place between Episodes II and III, featuring the adventures of the Clone Troopers, the Separatists, and the Jedi—namely, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and his padawan, Ahsoka Tano. Ahsoka is a Togruta who is introduced to us as a young girl. Not unlike her master, she is headstrong, defiant, and spunky, though she does have a side that is both cleverer and softer than Anakin. She is overwhelmingly compassionate and savvy, brought to life by the amazing voice of Ashley Eckstein. Ahsoka’s storyline is complex, and to some degree, she was always an outlier while training to be a Jedi Knight. Though she is obedient and strongly trusts in the Force, Ahsoka is never afraid to ask questions, which sometimes appears impertinent to her superiors. She questions motives, desires, and even her faith. In fact, in a climactic moment in The Clone Wars, Ahsoka is framed for a murder, and when she seeks help from the Jedi, they do not advocate for her innocence. Feeling forced to run, Ahsoka escapes the authorities’ grasp, but after her name is cleared, she is left with great doubts about the Jedi Order. I was taught not to question, to obey blindly, and thought that by performing, by being “good,” that I could earn approval. But Ahsoka doesn’t forget the Force, never confusing its solemn power with those who use it, and though...

Where is Hope for the Abused in Solo? Jun06

Where is Hope for the Abused in Solo?...

Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story below. When we first meet Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story, she is virtually a slave, running tricks in “these mean streets” for the crimelady Proxima. Qi’ra comes from a nebulous background, but despite having a rough life thus far, she is resourceful and markedly full of hope, a fitting companion for a youthful Han Solo. In the initial scenes of the film, Qi’ra and Han run together in Romeo and Juliet fashion, dodging danger and dreaming of escaping together into a better life. They’re playful and brave, but reckless, fueled by adolescent love. Trouble is never far behind these two: upon a bold attempt to flee their home planet of Corellia, Han escapes and Qi’ra does not. This event seems to become a turning point in Qi’ra’s life, or perhaps, merely a confirmation of what she has always believed about the world and her basic value as a person. Does Qi’ra, like many manipulated, fractured women, believe that she is irredeemable. The next time Han sees Qi’ra, she is on Dryden Vos’s yacht. Everything from her appearance to demeanor has changed. Where she once was an edgy adolescent, brimming with hope, Qi’ra is now poised, worldly, and reticent. Han’s hope hasn’t dimmed, even after years of near-death encounters; but Qi’ra’s life has been harsh in other ways, and it shows. The most poignant, heartbreaking aspect of Qi’ra’s evolution is her confession to Han: “I’ve done terrible things.” And she considers herself worthless because of them. Even when, during a scene inside Lando’s superfluous closet of capes, Han tries to convince her that they can finally run off together, she refuses—not because she doesn’t see the good in him, but because she has lost the ability...

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...

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...

Dealing with Dementors and Depression Jan08

Dealing with Dementors and Depression...

J.K. Rowling’s dementors, first introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban, are a frightening, visceral force of evil, serving both as a villainous power and a major plot point. But these cloaked and hooded minions are more than just another antagonist that Harry must defeat; they are reminiscent of a stigmatized, fundamentally human struggle: mental illness and depression. Rowling herself has confirmed that the dementors represent the horrors of depression, and if we take a closer look at these frightening creatures, similarities between their impact on the characters and the realities of mental illness abound. In both the Harry Potter books and their on-screen counterparts, dementors cause a creeping sense of dread, a tangible coldness in the air, and a dredging-up of horrible memories. The longer a character is in the presence of a dementor, whose very name suggests “mental demons,” the worse these symptoms become. Harry hears his mother screaming, feels a numbing cold, and eventually, unable to cope with the horror, passes out. These symptoms are similar to clinical depression—a darkness, an almost existential dread, and claustrophobic, tunnel-like enclosing, which leaves the one suffering in a state of suspended numbness and despair. Though hope may exist outside of the dementors’ range, that hope is inaccessible; it might as well be non-existent to those suffering. Lupin affirms that the amplified reaction Harry has to dementors is not because there’s something wrong with him. The first time Harry experiences the terrifying effects of the dementors, he is ashamed and embarrassed in the aftermath. Though Hermione and Ron are also horrified, they do not respond nearly as viscerally as he does. Indeed, Harry is frequently mocked by his arch-enemy, Draco Malfoy, because of how strongly he responds to the dementors. Lucky for Harry, though, he is...

Samwise and Bob: Pages in a Greater Story Dec06

Samwise and Bob: Pages in a Greater Story...

From the moment I met Samwise Gamgee on the big screen, he has been beloved to me. Seeing Sean Astin bring one of my favourite Tolkien characters to life made the actor inextricable from Sam in my child’s mind. And through the years, as I have grown older and more aware of the beauties and horrors of the world around me, the roles which Sean Astin has played have stood the test of time, largely due to their redemptive qualities. So, when I saw that Astin would be playing Bob Newby in Stranger Things 2, I was sure that I’d find something to love about him. Both Bob the Brain and Sam Gamgee are vehicles for a universal truth, helping to show that there is in fact, “light and high beauty forever beyond” like Sam notices in The Return of the King. This hope is beyond the reach of the dark, even when the characters themselves seem fairly insignificant in their respective worlds. Bob and Sam are aware that they are in a larger narrative, that their role in their worlds and their small acts of goodness can reverberate through eternity. Sam’s revelation comes in the latter chapters of The Two Towers: Sam acknowledges that the truest and most memorable tales include some suffering, some sacrifice, and a heap of courage. “The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, the...