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, ...

My Soul for a Suit of Armour: A Supernatural Response to Grief Mar07

My Soul for a Suit of Armour: A Supernatural Response to Grief...

Grief is debilitating. It clouds my judgement. It breaks me, tearing off pieces of my heart and revisiting after I hoped it had left for good. Staying at my grandparents’ house recently, I was overcome by emotions because of my grandpa’s death. He died a year ago, and I miss him. If I could do something to get him back, I would. If I could hear his voice again and it would ease the pain, even for a second, I would jump into the TARDIS to do so; I’m not sure even the threat of tearing time apart would stop me. People respond to the death of loved ones differently. Some seek retribution out of anger. Like Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride, they dedicate their lives to hurting the one who hurt them. Others try to force the grief away. Like Rose Tyler from Doctor Who, who attempts to reverse her father’s death, they’d do anything to get a happy ending. Characters who deny their grief often end up paying horrible prices. Just ask Edward and Alphonse Elric from the Fullmetal Alchemist (and the more faithful to the manga, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) anime series. At a young age, Ed and Al lose their mother. In desperation, the two boys attempt to resurrect her with a forbidden alchemic spell. As a result, Ed loses an arm and a leg, and Al loses his entire body. Ed manages to attach his brother’s soul to a suit of armour, and they are left to deal with the consequences of meddling with death—their losses only compounded by the contorted corpse of the woman they love. The brothers wanted a fast way to solve their problems. They knew they felt sad—sad to the breaking point—and they wanted the horrifying emotion to go away. Who doesn’t? Grieving is a process, and at such a young age, they may not have understood that. Many adults don’t, either. There is arrogance in the brothers’ actions—they thought they could cheat grief and death when no one else had ever done so—but they were ignorant as well. On the other hand, Dean Winchester from Supernatural knows exactly what he’s doing when he makes a similar decision. He’s dealt with crossroad demons before and knows the price of striking a deal with one, but does so anyway because he wants to save his brother, Sam. His motives are similar to those of the Elric brothers; he’s acting out of intense grief, love for the deceased, and the fear of being alone in the world. Several times, Dean has lost Sam. Each time has been as devastating as the next to him as he can’t bear the thought of being without his little brother. He makes so many deals with demons and other supernatural beings, that he actually becomes blackballed from ever making such deals again. With each deal he strikes, the cost is high. He constantly puts his own life and humanity on the line, which may mend the problem of losing Sam, but causes more grief than good to Dean, Sam, and those around them. To respond irrationally to grief, to run away from horrifying feelings, is to be human. No one wants to feel unhappy. No one wants to miss someone so much that their chests hurt and they have trouble breathing. However, how we respond to loss impacts our mental health and influences how we react to others experiencing similar situations in the future. Ed and Al learn from their mistake—from attempting to bypass the grieving process—and when they encounter a young woman who has lost her lover, they understand why she wants to bring him back from the dead. When she sees that Al doesn’t have a body, Al says, “This is my punishment for setting foot on holy ground where mortals are forbidden. We made a mistake, Rose. And we’re paying for it.” When she...

Hymns and Heroes: 10 Matches Made in Heaven Oct07

Hymns and Heroes: 10 Matches Made in Heaven...

Not many fictional characters stumble into church (except to set the existential mood), and even fewer actually practice Christianity, unless we’re talking Nightcrawler or Nicholas D. Wolfwood. (No, Sephiroth, being a Jenova’s Witness doesn’t count.) But imagine if our favourite characters were—for no particular reason—suddenly forced to choose their epic theme songs from a hymn book (or else face cricket-chirping silence during their otherwise awesome advents). We’ve got a hunch that these 10 hymn-meets-hero mashups might, literally, be matches made in heaven: 1. Obi Wan Kenobi —”Higher Ground” He takes “plant my feet on higher ground” literally. Maybe if Anakin had given this hymn (or, y’know, his Jedi Counselors) a listen, he’d have fewer artificial limbs. 2. Prince Zuko — “Thine Honor Save” Change thy haircut whilst thou art at it. 3. Aerith Gainsborough — “Holy, Holy, Holy” That was the plan. To her credit, the evilest seraphim did eventually “fall down before her.” 4. Light Yagami — “Is My Name Written There?” You’ll know in about 40 seconds. 5. The Night Guard (Five Nights at Freddy’s) — “I’ll Stand By Until the Morning” …if I’m lucky. 6. Edward Elric — “Small Things Count” Except Ed isn’t “small”—he’s fun-sized. I hear arms and legs count, too. 7. Gandalf — “He Lives” And now he comes in more colours. 8. Link — “Must I Go, and Empty-Handed?” (1) Yes, though it is dangerous. (2) No, take this! 9. Goku — “Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand” 100,000,000. Now that’s a power level. 10. Ned Stark — “Winter is Coming” Yes, this is an actual hymn, though it’s more about ice than...

Playing God Till You Run Out of Cake Aug24

Playing God Till You Run Out of Cake...

Scientific advancement is the entire backstory of the video games Portal and Portal 2. You play as Chell, a woman awakened from her Relaxation Vault in Aperture Science’s enrichment center, forced to go through a series of tests by the direction of an artificial intelligence named GLaDOS. Portal takes humanity’s tendency toward advancement beyond all logic (and that’s what makes it hilarious). Not only is the entire lab run by a robot determined to put Chell through her paces and then destroy her, but the tests themselves don’t serve much purpose. Aperture’s founder, Cave Johnson, doesn’t seem to have any morals when it comes to science. In one of his speeches to the test subjects, Cave says flat-out that they have no idea what they’re doing and they’re “throwing science at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Aperture’s motto, “We do what we must because we can,” seems completely ridiculous in light of the Portal universe (because there’s just something ridiculous about a robot chucking heart-labeled companion cubes at you and degrading you for not solving the puzzle faster). However, I find the game an ironic insight into the human mind. . . . Read the whole article from Christ and Pop...

In sickness and unhealth Oct16

In sickness and unhealth...

Being sick sucks. There, I said it. And though I suspect this is pretty obvious, I still think it’s worth saying and perhaps even repeating. Being sick sucks. It is the general consensus that if you are sick, you should be coddled, babied, taken care of, and in some cases even pitied. This is hardly the state we expect a hero to be in. When we doodle Superman on our fourth-grade notebooks (or for some of us, on the edges of the manuscripts we are currently editing), we don’t depict him in bed hugging a blanket with a bucket close at hand. We like our heroes to be strong, and how are they supposed to be powerful if they are suffering from an unbearable illness? Okay, some notable heroes catch the odd bug, like when Lucy comes down with a cold in Fairy Tail and Natsu makes it his mission to help her feel better, or when Buffy passes out because of the flu while fighting a vampire, but those are all short-term. I’m talking about the long-term, chronic, debilitating kind of sickness that seriously sucks and all of us dread. Sometimes we have to give up our independence and ask others to carry us when we can’t crawl any more (flans, unite). The truth is, we don’t see a lot of heroes suffering from this type of disease, and for good reason. It’s hard to write around if it isn’t the main focus of the story or episode. Also, psychological disorders and pain seem to be more romantic or something (Batman, Wolverine, or Deadpool anyone?); so you will probably notice characters thus afflicted a lot more frequently. But when I do see a character fighting a long-term physical illness, I love it. I love seeing that particular battle because the...

Overcoming envy Jun18

Overcoming envy

It’s not often that I turn on the news to watch an uplifting story. It’s usually about death, or pain, or hunger, or taxes, or, you know, sports… Unfortunately, the world is just an overwhelmingly negative place. As humans, our greed and blindness to consequence leads to war, poverty, and the slow death of our planet. Even in our personal lives, people are always talking about how things were better “back in the day.” Countless explanations for the cause of such a decline could be brought up, but the way I see it, they all boil down to one answer: sin. Evil exists because we are capable of it and we, more often than not, take advantage of that. Far on the other end of the spectrum of my television-watching experience lies Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a brilliantly-written and gorgeously-presented anime series that seamlessly blends the themes of physical science and the supernatural. Envy is a terrifying and seemingly unbeatable foe.I am often reminded of this series when I think about examples of sin, because the seven deadly sins are personified as physical characters in the show’s universe. These antagonistic beings each possess characteristics and powers associated with their respective vice. Among the most terrifying of these beings is Envy, whose ability to shapeshift allows him to effortlessly infiltrate any group and place the blame for his actions on whomever he chooses. He has a deep love for human violence, and at one point even started a massive war by disguising himself as a soldier and shooting a foreign child for the sake of nothing more than his own enjoyment. And if that isn’t scary enough, his inherent form is a huge dragon-like beast (though trust me, it’s much creepier than a dragon). Due to...

Anime themes that rock May29

Anime themes that rock

Since May is our music-themed month, we will be regaling you with fun playlists every Friday. These are the anime theme songs that make us wish we spoke Japanese (except in the case of the Pokemon theme; we can sing along with that one, and frequently do). Pokemon It’s the very best, like no theme ever was. Attack on Titan We will keel all ze titans. Fairy Tail Yes, it’s SUPPOSED to be “tail.” Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood That armor must’ve cost Al an arm and a leg. Sword Art Online This theme reminds us we want to take sword lessons and develop...

A heart made fullmetal Apr22

A heart made fullmetal...

Burning down your house might seem like a crazy thing to do, but for Edward and Alphonse Elric, it symbolizes their determination to never turn back and to start over. They had made a horrible mistake and they resolve to never do it again, and never let others follow the terrifying path they went down. As young boys with the gift of alchemy, a grieving Ed and Al try to resurrect their mother using their powers, and they fail miserably. Not only does their attempt create a monstrous shell of nothing like their mother, but it completely obliterates Al’s body and destroys Ed’s left leg. They had made an enormous mistake and they had to pay a terrible price, but Ed refuses to lose his little brother: “There’s no such thing as a painless lesson.” “No, dammit. You won’t take him too. Give him back! He’s my brother! Take my leg. Take my arm! Take my heart, ANYTHING, YOU CAN HAVE IT! Just give him back! He’s my little brother, he’s all I have left!” Ed sacrifices his right arm to bring his brother’s soul back and attaches it to a nearby suit of armour using alchemy. The two are then left to face the consequences of their actions with the realization of why resurrection is taboo to alchemists. Humans are not meant to have that kind of power. What I find amazing about Ed and Al’s story is their acceptance of their own sin and their willingness to suffer, not as self-inflicted punishment for what they did, but simply as an acceptance of the consequences. They choose not to ignore or forget the lesson they learned, but fight against others who are trying to abuse alchemy in a similar way. They also suffer a hell of a lot for each other along...

Characters who should have died but didn’t Mar13

Characters who should have died but didn’t

There will always be characters who just aren’t that interesting but are required to help drive the story along. Then there are the characters who do their best to burn the story to the ground. Here are our ten. 1. Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix We’re pretty sure she was more evil than Voldemort. 2. Dawn Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer It was always me me me me. Sure fine she was abandoned (in Joss’s words) by “about six parental figures” but whiny is whiny. 3. The entire Lannister line except Tyrion from Song of Ice and Fire ‘Cept we kinda like Jaime too. 4. Harry Kim from Star Trek: Voyager He’s kind of the Dawn Summers of the Star Trek universe. 5. Navi from Ocarina of Time “Hey, listen!” “You’re dead to me.” 6. The dog from Duck Hunt And now in Super Smash Bros. Wii U, he CAN die! 7. Willie Scott from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom This. 8. Slippy from StarFox Really? You’re in trouble AGAIN!? You need my help AGAIN!? How about no? 9. Rose Thomas from Fullmetal Alchemist Dress up in a frog costume and fly a space-ship already. 10. Jar Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace We made him last so you can channel all your hate there. Okay, so who’d we...

Unlikely Friendships that Should Have Been Feb05

Unlikely Friendships that Should Have Been

We all know (and love) the many friendships that are exhibited within a variety of shows: Han and Chewy, Frodo and Sam, Mega Man and Rocket, Blanka and your face, you get the idea. But sometimes those friendships are just not enough and we need to reach outside their respective genres for the friendship matches made in heaven. Here are our top 10: Calvin & Chewbacca “You know, Chewy, some days even my lucky Millenium Falcon underpants don’t help.” Hermione Granger & Twilight Sparkle They’ll form a group called S.B.E.W. (Society for the Bookworms of Equestria and the World). Edward Elric & Gimli Sometimes dynamite comes in small packages and can explode at anytime, especially if you mention anything about being short. Tony Stark & Tali-Zorah “Testing rocket boots, Day 11, Test 37, Configuration 2.0. For lack of a better option, Tali is still on fire safety.” Arya Stark & Toph Beifong We just want to see these two take on an army together. Master Chief (John-117) & John the Baptist “But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, one who wears the spartan helmet of salvation and wields the energy sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Sephiroth and Scar Scar would get some much needed perspective—“You wanna be king of a rock? Well I wanna destroy the world with a giant meteor”—and Sephiroth can stop being jealous that he doesn’t have a pet lion like the other side. Mal Reynolds & Doctor Horrible So Doctor Horrible can’t be friends with Captain Hammer, but he can darn sure be friends with Captain Tightpants! Caprica Six & Seven of Nine Separated from the hive collective with a strong desire to gain some form of humanity. It’s kind of true for both. Although Seven of Nine definitely has better taste in men. Jayne Cobb & John Casey “Do you know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I go and get to beat you with until you buy this washing machine.” Certainly we missed a bunch. Which unlikely friendships would you...