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...

Where the Sea Meets the Land: Ego the Living Planet, Iron Man, and the Power of Relationship May29

Where the Sea Meets the Land: Ego the Living Planet, Iron Man, and the Power of Relationship...

Brandy, you’re a fine girl, What a good wife you would be But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea. “We’re the sailor in that song,” Ego tells Peter in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. “There are fine girls out there, but they aren’t for us. We’re made for bigger things.” And by “bigger things,” Ego meant taking over the universe. When Ego first discovered life elsewhere in the universe, it disappointed him. It wasn’t as powerful, as strong, or as perfect as he was. So he began a plan to terraform (Egoform?) every planet, replacing all known life with himself. Nothing else, not even the love of an earth-born River Lily, was worth putting aside this meaning Ego had found for his life. This plan of expansion was Ego’s sea—his life and his love. Nothing on shore could compare to it, and to him, it was worth destroying the distraction Meredith Quill posed to him. Ego’s story reminds me of another sailor in the Marvel universe—Tony Stark. Being Iron Man is Tony’s life, his sea. Building the suits and coming up with better ways to protect the world have become so much a part of who he is that he can’t stop, can’t slow down, not even for Pepper. At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony blows up the Iron Legion, effectively promising Pepper that she’s his priority, and that he’ll do better for her. But by The Avengers: Age of Ultron he’s already in over his head trying to save the world, and by Captain America: Civil War, he’s spent so much time on the sea, there’s no one left for him on land. I can understand where both Ego and Tony come from. Though I’m not all-powerful or a genius, I have a bit of the sailor in myself as well. As a creative from birth, when I don’t get the time to work on any of my many projects, I end up feeling purposeless, like a sailor on land. I miss my sea of hobbies, and sometimes it does seems like the people on land are distractions. And sometimes, even though I want to focus on the people around me, I am drawn back into my projects, ignoring the people I love even while I’m with them. But what happens when I get so lost in my accomplishments and in the purpose I’ve created for myself? What happens when I reach my goal and then move on to the next, and then the next, and then the next, because I need that purpose to survive? What happens after Ego conquers the universe, after every planet is part of him? His purpose, the meaning he’d created for his life, would be accomplished, and he would be alone forever—and for real this time. What happens if Tony devotes his entire life to creating inventions that protect the world? He won’t be able to protect mankind from itself, and will inevitably run himself to the ground trying to. What happens when I focus all my time and effort on making, building, creating? The frustrations I encounter while designing will build up, and begin to outweigh the joy I find in creating, especially as the things I create continually fail to match the perfect expectations I hold in my head. The sea is beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with loving it. Having a purpose, finding meaning for your life, is essential. But when you lose the context of relationship, and set sail never to return to land, it’s easy for the meaning to warp and mutate into something far less beautiful. Ego found life that existed outside of himself, and was disappointed by it. But rather than using his power for the benefit of others, he decided that greatness lay in replacement rather than cooperation. Had he gone back to Meredith, he might have...

Bad Blood in Captain America: Civil War Mar22

Bad Blood in Captain America: Civil War...

Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted. Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted. In early 2016, somebody remixed the Captain America: Civil War trailer with Taylor Swift’s song “Bad Blood.” The result was amazingly effective and highlighted the film’s central theme—it’s easier than you think for good friends to turn into bitter enemies. The Avengers have fought side-by-side through two films; stopping the Chitauri invasion and defeating Ultron. Not that they always got along; Tony Stark and Steve Rogers clearly favoured different ways of doing things. When all was said and done, though, they set aside those differences and stood together against a common enemy. That camaraderie ended in Civil War. After a mission goes sideways in Lagos and several humanitarian workers from Wakanda die as collateral damage, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross tells the team that they can no longer act independently. The forthcoming Sokovia Accords will place the team under direct UN control. Tony and Steve suddenly find themselves in conflict. The hard choice is to value the relationship over “winning” the argument. “We need to be put in check! And whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re boundaryless, we’re no better than the bad guys,” Tony argues. Steve counters, “If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.” Just like that, two friends—or at least colleagues—pull away from each other and start staking out territory as enemies. I’d like to think that I’m...

Fear of the Other: Luke Cage, Racism, and Prejudice Nov21

Fear of the Other: Luke Cage, Racism, and Prejudice...

Since finishing the first season of Luke Cage, the latest in a series of Marvel/Netflix co-productions, I’ve been thinking about the various ways fear works within the show. It’s mostly used as a motivating factor for various characters, notably Luke. But it also works as a subtextual social commentary—fear of those who are different; fears of increasing crime and escalating violence in cities; the African American community’s fear of police victimization and violence. The nearly indestructible protagonist, like Cage, complicates an audience’s responses of sympathy or concern—it’s hard to worry about a bulletproof hero who can punch holes through walls. Although Cage does eventually face a physical threat late in the season, the show builds sympathy through Cage’s emotional fears, fears of stepping into the spotlight and of being known. Though Luke gets drawn into the violence on Harlem streets, and has the abilities to protect people (like his Asian landlords who, despite having lived and worked in Harlem for decades are treated as outsiders), he doesn’t want to get involved. After the events of Jessica Jones, Cage lives a below-the-radar existence in Harlem, working (for cash under the table) in the kitchen at Cottonmouth’s club and sweeping up hair at Pops’ Barber Shop. When Pops, who knows about his powers, challenges Luke to use his abilities to help his community, Cage admits the source of his reluctance: fear of public recognition, the fear of stepping into the spotlight. He may be able to survive buildings falling on his head, but he doesn’t want people to know about it. It is only after a particularly troubling death that Cage steps into the public spotlight—eulogizing his fallen friend and calling out his friend’s killer in one powerful speech about community. It’s hard to put yourself...

A Lannister is Forgiven Sep07

A Lannister is Forgiven...

I found myself falling for Game of Thrones right from the start. And “falling” really is the appropriate word, because my addiction began right when Bran was thrown out of the window by all-world dirtbag Jaime Lannister, who in that moment instituted himself as the central foe in the television series. Or so I thought. Part of the beauty of Game of Thrones is that almost nothing is as it initially seems. By the time Brandon hit the ground, I had Jaime pegged as an antagonist because by that point he’d already established himself as a (literal) backstabber, regicide, incestuous adulterer, and as far as I knew, a child murderer. However, three seasons later I was openly rooting for Jaime. He became a redemption project, proof that there’s hope for even those who do the vilest deeds. Still, it’s not roses and daises in Westeros for Jaime. He’s incurred so many debts due to his past treachery that it’s a wonder he’s still alive (especially without the protection of his fighting hand). More frustrating is that Jaime’s course through the show hasn’t been linear. It isn’t until after he starts down the road of repentance that he rapes his sister. It’s after he’s become a better man that he breathes murderous threats at Edmure Tully while declaring his love for Cersei. Just when you think he has it figured out, Jaime retreats back to being the villain he once was. Watching Jaime transition from bad guy to good guy to bad guy again doesn’t just exasperate me—it makes me uncomfortable. Because in Jaime, I see more than a fictional character on screen and page. I see myself. Why bother trying to be a “good person” when it’s so difficult and I make so many...

Be thou my Vision May20

Be thou my Vision

There’s nothing science fiction loves more than a saviour. All our favourite stories seem to depend on the chosen one who will come and defy the otherwise unconquerable odds, leading the good guys to a lasting victory against the dark and sinister group against whom they fight. Never tell me the odds. Sometimes these saviours are unlikely heroes, thrust into the spotlight, left to rely on a colourful cast of friends to survive the first two acts before discovering who they were meant to be all along. Sometimes they emerge from the womb a certified badass and leave a trail of blood, brass and bodies behind them on their way into the heart of darkness. No saviour ever made a difference without giving their life, literally or figuratively. But every once in a while, a saviour is born into a story as an unexpected hero. A saviour like Vision. Whether you believe the stories about him are true or not, Jesus—as a character—was the perfect and archetypical saviour. A poor child born connected to the king’s bloodline, but with no money or political power. He was nothing like the priests of the time wanted or expected, and in fact, Jesus basically told them they were doing everything wrong. Replace first century Jerusalem with twenty-first century New York City, and Jewish priests with a murderous, all-knowing artificial intelligence, and Vision is Jesus. He is created as a combination of the pinnacle of technological achievement, and the closest thing Tony Stark has to a son, Jarvis. Ultron’s dream for Vision was as his right hand—a sword of judgement to be wielded from the throne over the world. But when Vision awoke as the very embodiment of an Infinity Gem, he was something else entirely. He was the...