What’s Happening?

Hey there everyone! Been awhile since I last posted and after my promise to post at least once a month. So what I have been up to? Well when I have not been working at my full-time day job, I have been posting reviews for My Hero Academia Season 2 on Fandom Factory which keeps me busy. Busy enough that I have been neglecting this blog. By this point it may be a hollow promise but I am hoping to have some new posts published soon. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog.

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While We Were Enemies – How Unconditional Love Ultimately Wins

This post is very last minute and considering I did not write a post for March, so I am trying to make up for it by writing one for this month. Since Easter Sunday has already come and gone, I thought it best to reflect on what I have learned through Lent which I decided take an active part in for the first time. For Lent, I decided to give up binge watching Crunchyroll and Funimation as well Netflix (unless I watching it with my Mom) and in turn would give the time over to developing consistency in reading my Bible or other activities that didn’t involve watching a screen. It worked to a degree, however I ended up substituting my craving for video entertainment with Youtube which did have an impact on my intended purpose for Lent. Regardless it still was step in right direction and I learned a few things as I read through my Lent and Easter Reading Plan that I was able to access via BibleGateway.com.

As I read through various scripture passages about the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice, I could not help but compare what I had seen in My Hero Academia. There was a scene that stood out to me as I was watching the first season back the summer of last year which involved the main character Izuku Midoriya and his classmate Katsuki Bakugou. It’s shown to the audience that Bakugou has been bullying and belittling Midoriya for years nicknaming him Deku, an alternate reading of his first name which literally means “one who can’t do anything.” We see that he puts down Midoriya every chance he gets and mocks the very idea that he could ever become a professional hero.

This builds to the moment in the second episode where Midoriya sees Bakugou in the clutches of the fluid villain that All Might rescued him from earlier. When he recognizes that his classmate is in danger, Midoriya’s first instinct was to run in and try to save him. In that instant the insults did not matter, the vandalism of his hero observation notebook did not matter, even the years of verbal and emotional abuse did not matter. What mattered was that Katsuki Bakugou’s life was in the balance and that he had to do something. Izuku Midoriya best illustrates this when he says, “Kacchan, I couldn’t just stand there and watch you die.”

Even though  he had every right to hate Bakugou for terrible things that he did, Midoriya did not want to see him die. In the same way God couldn’t just stand by and watch us die in permanent separation from Him, even if we are at fault. Romans 5:6-8 describes this best:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Like Katsuki Bakugou, we think we were powerful and that we can make it on our own. However, the truth is we are powerless because we are trapped by the suffocating power of sin which also makes us enemies with God. Like Izuku Midoriya, Jesus Christ was willing sacrifice himself so we could be saved from the power of sin if we accept the gift of life that He gives us. That is agape, that is unconditional love.

Love & Protect – Even When It Hurts

Now after much debate about what I should write about in the month of love, I decided on a post that I planned to write during November when Thanksgiving was in full swing. The movie I planned to talk about in this post was Homeward Bound, since it’s ending gives the indiction it was Thanksgiving Day and I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the importance of family given the holiday. As it would turn out, time slipped away that point and I did not finish it then. Upon recent reflection I found the topic of love could also apply and that it would something worth considering Valentine’s Day, which has already come and gone.

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Now while I haven’t watched the film recently, I do remember the basic the premise of two dogs and cat going on a journey through the American wilderness in search of their human family. This was spurred by Shadow the Golden Retriever who’s concerned that something might be wrong with his boy Peter. Chance the American Bulldog who had been stray that was adopted from a pound has a hard time understanding Shadow’s display of love and loyalty since he had been hurt before. Through the course of the movie Chance comes to realize that love and family go hand in hand, and love can be difficult but ultimately worth it. When they believed they lost Sassy the Himalayan Cat over the waterfall, there is a conversation in which Shadow explains to Chance of their responsibility to love and protect:

“I had a responsibility to Sassy, to love her and protect her. The same as I have to you and to Peter. And the same as you have to Jamie.”

 

“But we didn’t ask for this job.”

 

“We didn’t have to.”

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When Shadow was close to giving up when he was stuck in a pit at the railroad yard, it was Chance who steps in and encourages him to keep going, remembering everything they went through to get to that point.  It was also in this moment  that Chance says that he loved Shadow and that he would not allow him to give up. In way I think Chance took Shadow’s words from earlier to heart and decided to accept the responsibility to love and protect just like Shadow did for him.

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This leads to reunion with their human family, each of them going one by one starting with Chance, Sassy and finally Shadow. Given the earlier heartbreaking scene at the railroad yard, it is uncertain at first whether Shadow made it, but when he appears over the ridge and comes running towards Peter, tears of sadness turn to tears of joy. Chance’s last lines of the movie sums up Homeward Bound in a nutshell:

As we turned to go inside the house, a strange new feeling came over me: I had a family. And I found out that sacrifice and friendship and even love were more than just the mushy stuff. At last for the first time in my life I was home.

How easy would it have been for Shadow, Chance and Sassy to forget about returning home and just find a new home accessible to their current circumstances. Chance at the beginning of the movie felt that way, but Shadow showed him there is more to life then just himself and he had a responsibility to love those around him and that he should not be so quick to give up on relationships. In the same way, Christians need to understand not only when to let go, but when to hold on. Our society has a tendency to move so far ahead that it demands we dissolve the bonds we have made with family and friends. Granted there are times where separation cannot be helped, whether by distance or death, but we have the choice to remain connected. Hebrews 10:23-25 presents us with this challenge:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Let us then take on the responsibility to love and protect the people that God has put in our lives and may we then encourage them to same for others.

Quirks VS Mutants – How My Hero Academia Differs From X-Men

I have written a review for season 1 of My Hero Academia on Fandom Factory, but I also wanted to write the supplementary piece on how the world of My Hero Academia is differs from the world of X-Men. On the surface they appear the same, genetically super-powered individuals that fight to save the world and have special schools to help train the next generation how to use their powers. However there are 2 differences that have a major impact on how the world views these superhumans.

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The first difference is the number of people who have powers. Mutants are in the extreme minority; I mean they are minority of minorities. Time to take a page from MatPat’s Film Theory to show just how few mutants there are in the X-Men universe. While very little is mentioned in the comics, cartoons or movies about their population, I was able to get a rough estimation thanks to the numbers mentioned in Sentinel Massacre of the mutant population of Genosha in Earth 616 which was estimated to be between 16 to 17 million. Since the source stated that more than half of the world known mutant population died in the massacre, I calculated that the mutant population at its height should have been at minimum 32 to 34 million.

While this may seem a big number just remember the population of United States alone as of this year (2016) is about 323 million. And when the calculations are all said and done out of the current world population of 7 billion, the mean of the known mutant population of Earth 616 is five hundredths of a percent (0.05%) when rounded up. In contrast in the very first episode of My Hero Academia we are told that quirk users make up 80% of the world’s population; that means 5 to 6 billion people are quirk users. That is a huge majority, in fact with those statistics it is more likely to be quick user in My Hero Academia than it is to be a mutant in X-Men.

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The second difference involves the average age in which an individual whether mutant or quirk user “receives” their powers. Mutants manifest their power during puberty (starting at age 13 or 14); it also can present at birth especially if their mutation has a physical effect on their bodies. Now there has been the stereotype that teenagers are impulsive and rebellious; combine that with superhuman abilities you have a recipe for prejudice and hatred. Teenagers are going through a lot already since they are transitioning to adulthood, but add superhuman abilities, which they don’t fully understand themselves and people persecuting them out of fear of what they could do, let’s just say they got more than they bargained for. The term mutant itself derives a negative connotation have towards individuals that have inhuman abilities (not to be confused with Marvel’s Inhumans…they are completely different from mutants). Needless to say it is not easy being a teenaged mutant in the world of X-Men.

In My Hero Academia it is a totally different story. The average age that a quirk user manifests their quirk is 4 years old or it can be present at birth like with mutants. People are less likely to view a young child with fear (unless they have paedophobia…trust me it’s a real phobia), plus with an 80% chance of them or someone they know developing a superhuman ability, they are not going to look at anyone as a threat much less themselves. Even the term they use to refer to their powers, quirks, signifies the causal acceptance of these unique traits that just so happen to be superpowers. Plus discovering that ability at such a young age gives more time for them to learn more about their quirks and to control them better by the time they reach adolescence.

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In the end those despite the differences that create a world that rejects superhumans and one that embraces them, both worlds still have discrimination. In X-Men, the prejudice is directed towards mutants because they are different from the norm and are feared because the power they have. This much is obvious and very familiar from the ardent comic book reader to the causal moviegoer. However, in My Hero Academia it is those without a quirk or the quirkless, as they are sometimes called, who are viewed in the negative light.

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Based on my observations from the first season, I gathered the main character Izuku Midoriya was teased and bullied in the classroom of a public Japanese middle school just because he didn’t have quirk. While we see no cases outside of Midoriya, from we do see the bullying he experiences by his classmate Katsuki Bakugou goes unchallenged by the other students and more importantly the teachers. Now this could be an isolated occurrence, but even so it gives the impression that bullying of people who are quirkless is condoned at Midoriya’s middle school. Or it could insecure teenagers picking other insecure teenager but instead of picking on them for their height or braces they’re picked on for not having a quirk.

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Whatever the case maybe, no should be treated any lesser just because they are different. As a Christians we are called to love everyone regardless of their appearance or background and there are a number of passages in the Bible that address this. In James 2:1-5, it explains why no one should exhibit favoritism:

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

It is so easy to discriminate, whether be it race, gender, status, weight, height…you name it there is a prejudice for it. It’s because as fallen individuals we feel to need to put others down to make ourselves feel better. We judge people from the outside and forget what is inside. But this is not how God sees the world and this thought elaborated in the Old Testament passage in I Samuel 16:7:

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height for I have rejected them. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ”

Regardless what’s visible on the outside, what ultimately matters in is our hearts. What do our hearts reflect? Is it hatred towards those who we deem different from us, or is it love towards our fellow human beings?

The 3 R’s of Stargate SG-1 – Retribution, Repentance & Reconciliation

For those who thought I was referring to the other 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) I apologize in advance. But seriously at first I was only going to talk about repentance, but then I thought about adding retribution and reconciliation as I went through the researching process. I also was planning to discuss multiple media examples but I found one that was able to exemplify all of the 3 R’s: the show Stargate SG-1 and the episode “Cor-ai.”

For those who are unfamiliar, Stargate SG-1 is a TV series, which was a continuation of the original Stargate movie that aired from 1997 to 2007. It follows the story of SG-1, a team consisting Colonel Jack O’Neill, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Captain Samantha (aka Sam) Carter and Teal’c of Chulak. They serve General George Hammond of Stargate Command and are tasked to defend the earth from a parasitic species known as the Goa’uld by exploring new worlds via the Stargate which creates a wormhole between two points in space. Now with that brief synopsis of the series out of the way, on to the episode discussion and just a warning there will be spoilers ahead.

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Teal’c surrounded by the Byrsa.

“Cor-ai” takes place at the end of the first season, and starts off with SG-1 transporting to a new world. Teal’c recognizes the location from the many visits he made when he was the First Prime of the Goa’uld System Lord Apophis. During the team’s investigation they come across the planet’s inhabitants, the Byrsa, who not so welcoming given their frequent contact with the Goa’uld. O’Neill convinces them they are not their enemies and they mean them no harm. Tensions ease for a bit but not before a young man by the name of Hanno sees Teal’c.

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Hanno in the Past.
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Teal’c in the Past.

 

 

 

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Hanno in the Present.
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Teal’c in the Present
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Let the Cor-ai commence.

It is revealed that Teal’c, during his service to Apophis, had killed Hanno’s crippled father. The young man seeks retribution on Teal’c for killing his father through Cor-ai which is the Byrsa culture’s version of a court trial. However Cor-ai is very different from U.S. court trials we may see both in its fictional and non-fictional forms. First off the notion of innocent until proven guilty does not exist in Byrsa culture and it was explained to SG-1 in the episode, “If there were no guilt there would not be Cor-ai.” Second the victim of an offense has the three roles of judge, jury and executioner, and needless to say this concept doesn’t sit well with O’Neill:

Jack O’Neill: “You can’t be the judge, that’s not fair.”

 

Hanno: “Judge?”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Yeah, the guy who controls the proceedings, decides what happens here.”

 

Hanno: “Why is it not fair?”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Because your are the son of the victim.”

 

Hanno: “Yes.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “The judge has to be impartial.”

 

Hanno: “What does that mean?”

 

Daniel Jackson: “Uh, impartiality would require someone who hasn’t already formed an opinion about Teal’c’s guilt or innocence.”

 

Hanno: “How can there be such a person? Everyone who has a mind has an opinion.”

In a desperate attempt O’Neill tries to appeal the Byrsa elder to have someone else judge the Cor-ai. She responds saying, “Only the person who has suffered understands the pain that been inflicted. Who else can fairly say what the punishment must be?” While Cor-ai seems unfair in light of the American justice system, Hanno is well within his rights to seek retribution in this way (within his culture at least). It’s better than just killing Teal’c right then and there and Hanno even acknowledges at the start of the Cor-ai that he was wrong to let his anger control him in that instance. So despite differences in perspective, Cor-ai serves the same purpose as court trials, to carry out justice and prevent revenge killings.

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Hanno questions Teal’c.
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Jack O’Neill’s conversation with Teal’c.

As the Cor-ai commences and Hanno asks Teal’c if he killed his father he replies, “Yes. I am the one who killed your father.” Admittedly he didn’t want to kill Hanno’s father, in fact it is revealed that he shot him not just to appease Apophis but so that the Byrsa would not be slowed down when they had escape into their hidden caves if the Goa’uld were to return to the planet again. While he had the right to blame it on Apophis, Teal’c acknowledges and accepts responsibility for his actions. This is best exemplified through his conversation with O’Neill (apologies for the length but I thought it would be best to show the entire conversation):

Jack O’Neill: “Teal’c are you trying to commit suicide?”

 

Teal’c: “I do not understand.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Why didn’t you tell me you were guilty? At least before you told a room full of people that wanna see you dead.”

 

Teal’c: “You already knew, only you did not want to hear it. That is why you asked me not to speak.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “What happened?”

 

Teal’c: “Apophis ordered me to kill Hanno’s father.”

Jack O’Neill: “So, you were following orders.

 

Teal’c: “Hanno’s father died by my hand. No one else’s. I am responsible. What I did while serving Apophis, I will not hide from.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Even if the punishment is death?”

 

Teal’c: “Then that is what I deserve.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Teal’c, you sound like you wanna die.”

 

Teal’c: “Colonel O’Neill, have you ever faced the crying eyes of a child whose father you have just murdered?”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Not exactly. Teal’c, there are a lot things we do that we wish we could change and we sure as hell can’t forget, but the whole concept of chain of command undermines the idea of free will. So as soldiers, we have to do some pretty awful stuff. But we’re following orders like we were trained to. It doesn’t make it easier; it certainly doesn’t make it right, but it does put some of the responsibility on the guy giving those orders.”

 

Teal’c: “Then you are saying Apophis is responsible for Hanno’s father’s death.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Yes.”

 

Teal’c: “You are wrong, O’Neill. While in the service of Apophis I did many things. For these deeds, my victims deserve retribution.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Can we focus on this one case only for now please?”

 

Teal’c: “This case represents the many.”

 

Jack O’Neill: “Well it shouldn’t! Why? Why are you doin’ this?”

 

Teal’c: “When I look into Hanno’s eyes, I see the horror on the faces of many others, as their loved ones prepare for Goa’uld absorption. Worse yet is the face of the victims whom I selected as they realize they are about to take their final human breath. Hanno’s father is not the first nor the last of those whose lives I’ve taken. And I have done far worse, O’Neill. I cannot give all of their loved ones retribution, but I can at least give it to this one. I am sorry, O’Neill. I will not run.”

I wouldn’t say that Teal’c is giving up but rather he is letting this Cor-ai give him the chance to repent from all the acts he committed as First Prime of Apophis. Teal’c didn’t deny the crime he committed and I guess that is what stood out to me the most when watching this episode. It is rare especially in our society to see someone who is so repentant that they willing to accept retribution from those they have wronged. Despite SG-1’s best efforts to defend Teal’c, Hanno sentences him to be killed by his own staff weapon.

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Teal’c risks his life to save the Byrsa villagers.

Thankfully the story does not end with Teal’c’s death for Goa’uld decided to show up in the Byrsa village just before Teal’c’s execution. Hanno leaves with the other men to fight them off but instructs a boy to inform those in authority to go through with the execution that if he is killed in battle. Unfortunately despite effort of the Brysa men as well as O’Neill and Carter, the Goa’uld discover the location of the women and children along with Jackson and Teal’c. Thankfully Teal’c is able to cut his bonds thanks to the boy who gave him a knife and put his life on the line to save the women and children from the onslaught of Apophis’ Serpent Guards. After risking his life to save the Byrsa villagers, Teal’c still hands over his staff weapon prepare for his execution by Hanno’s hands. This is the conversation that followed:

Hanno: “You would save those who wish to kill you?”

 

Teal’c: “I would save those who deserve to live.”

 

Hanno: “I have made a mistake. My memory is faulty. You are not the same man as he who murdered my father.”

 

Teal’c: “I am the one.”

 

Hanno: “No that Jaffa is dead…”

In that moment there was reconciliation as Hanno gives Teal’c his staff weapon back and allows him to go back to Earth with SG-1.

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Hanno returns Teal’c’s staff weapon.

In some ways the justice system we see in “Cor-ai” is similar to how God operates. Like Teal’c, we all deserve retribution at the hands of God for all the sins we have committed against Him. We also have the same choice as Teal’c to repent and confess our wrongdoings to God. Finally we all have the ability receive reconciliation from God but unlike Teal’c we don’t need to prove ourselves worthy. Romans 5:6-8 explains:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God has already forgiven us and paid the price for our sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All we need to do is to repent and accept that forgiveness for the wrong we have done and will do. It is only when we do this that true reconciliation is accomplished and the promise from Jeremiah 31:34 is fulfilled:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

In this way we begin life anew and just like Hanno’s words to Teal’c the old self we leave behind is dead. That still doesn’t mean the struggle isn’t over but we live in the knowledge that we are free from the retribution of sin through our act of repentance and our acceptance of God’s reconciliation through His death and resurrection. That leaves only one question: Are you ready to lose your life in order to save it?

Where’s the Post?

Where’s the post? I normally write posts for “What’s In A Story” on the first and third Mondays and “A Few of My Favorite Things” on the second and fourth Wednesdays but the weeks of August this year fell in such a way that we have five Mondays and Wednesdays instead of four. In light of this I am deciding to do something a little different than the usual, an episode review. This will be start of a blog post series which I will continue every two weeks or so. When I finish one show I will start on another one and you guys can make recommendations if you feel so inclined, just don’t be offend if I decide not to continue on from the first few episodes. As for the series I will be reviewing you have to wait and see what it is on Thursday. Yeah I know I am such a tease but I like it to be a surprise. See you then 🙂

Looking Beyond the Surface – Making the Right Media Choices

At sometime in our lives we have probably heard the phrase you can’t judge a book by its cover. Many times it used to express the belief that just because it doesn’t look good on the surface doesn’t mean it’s bad on the inside. But what if the opposite was true? What if the book cover looks perfect but story contained within is awful? Some might think I mean awful in the sense that is not written well, but I am talking about the messages within the story itself.

It is easy to pass this off and say that is just a story; however, any story whether it be found in books, movies or TV shows reflect the beliefs the creators and by extension the culture. However we need to be aware of what we put into our minds, because while it may look good it may not be good for us. Just as the saying goes you are what you eat and those who are health conscience do what they can to watch what they eat, the same is true with what we read and watch.

I find disheartening that there are many who are unaware or apathetic towards state their minds and spirits as they read or watch media that has flawed messages. I don’t expect everyone and everything to be perfect in a story; main characters need to have flaws in order to make them relatable. But what if those same main characters who are displayed as role models are saying or doing something that is wrong? It doesn’t even have to be overt, in fact most times it’s very subtle and there lies the potential danger. If a certain behavior is displayed as normal it conveys the message that it’s acceptable when it is not.

Now I know it is not popular these days to judge media by what it may or may not be implying but if we expect not to be affected by the media we set our minds on then we are sorely mistaken. This reminds me of something I read for my senior seminar paper which addresses this issue. In her book How Fantasy becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence, Karen E. Dills describes,

“…the paradox that we live in a culture where we are powerfully influenced by messages from the mass media but where many of us misread that influence because we think are invulnerable to it. I believe we deny our own vulnerability to media we are actually increasing the degree to which we can be manipulated. If you do not know you are vulnerable – indeed, if you think your are invulnerable – you will not think and act in way that protect you. Two basic errors in judgment that we make are (1) believing that fantasy stories in no way shape our realities and (2) believing that media’s reason for being is to entertain rather than to persuade us.” (p. 9)

We first have to admit the potential influence that media can have over our thoughts and second to take steps to think more critically about what we watch and why we watch it. For Christians a good rule of thumb comes from Scripture in Philippians chapter 4 verse 8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When we set our minds on these things we will reflect it in our lives and verse 9 continues with this thought:

 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

So look beyond the surface and reflect on excellent and praiseworthy media that affirms what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

via Daily Prompt: Surface

Three Month Anniversary Reflection…Plus Updates

It is hard to believe that it has been 3 months since I published my very first blog post. When I first started I wasn’t even sure if I could do even 2 scheduled posts a month but I now I have 4 scheduled posts plus extra when something interesting comes up. I always did enjoy thinking critically about media and blogging has given me the chance to express my thoughts via the written word. I also have learned how to promote myself, setting up a Facebook page and doing what I can to promote upcoming posts so that people will know what is coming. While I hope to see more views and visitors on my stats page, what I desire most is that I can continue to engage in thoughtful discussions of finding the meaning within the stories of our past, present and future.

While I am here I would like to announce a few updates about a couple of different posts I am planning to do in the future alongside or in place of “What’s in a Story” and “A Few of My Favorite Things.” One them is “First Thoughts” which you may have seen already with Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Trailer. For this post category I will post my initial impressions of media I have not seen previously. This can include entire films, books, audios, TV shows, single TV episodes or even the trailers for films and TV shows. Basically if I have not seen, read or heard it before, it is fair game. I know this covers a lot of ground but considering one project I might want to review could be a different stage of production than another, having a wide spectrum is helpful so I can do a film trailer for one and the entire TV season for the other. Another category I have in the wings is one I like to call “Content of Character” in which I will look at a fictional character in depth. I have a few ideas for this but I rather wait until I am ready to share my first post. And finally I have an idea to do category of posts in which I can talk about the people “Behind the Stories” whether they be actors, writers, animators, directors, producers etc.

So as you can see a lot of ideas and hopefully I can have some of them come to fruition. For now though I will say goodbye and thank you for reading!

Are You A Watcher Or A Player? Lessons to be Learned from Nerve

Are you a Watcher or a Player? That is the question that the recently released film Nerve poses to its audience. Before going further I should say once again that I have not watched this movie, and there will be some out there wondering why don’t I talk about media I have seen. I can understand why since I did the same thing with Ghostbusters (2016).

However I argue that both of these posts are springboards for discussions about elements that can be seen within their own trailers which contain snapshots of their themes and ideas. And the main idea that Nerve demonstrates in its very first trailer is the role that augmented reality plays in the everyday life of the modern individual. Augmented reality as it is defined by Merriam-Webster:

An enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overly digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera); also: the technology used to create augmented reality

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…if you dare to complete.

This is the perfect description of the game Nerve for it is presented as an extreme internet version of truth or dare. Bob Hoose from Plugged In Movie Reviews summed it up in this way:

Nerve, based on a 2012 young adult novel by Jeanne Ryan, plays on that love/hate relationship with the Internet. It tells a tale of pretty young things who are willing to risk life and limb for a splash of cash and dash of celebrity in their otherwise ordinary lives. And there’s just enough subtext beneath its kids-on-a-digital-dare veneer to keep watchers of the Watchers involved and hoping for a thought-provoking assessment of these contemporary concerns by film’s end.

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Like so fun to WATCH, but I like would never PLAY.

Given that within this fictional world, this augmented reality internet game show has led people to break the law and risk their own lives for fame and money, I am surprised that the authorities have not even attempted to shut it down because of the danger the participants can pose to themselves as well as others. I guess we have to chalk it up as a forgotten plot-hole.

However Nerve is no longer fiction. Augmented reality has become (pardon the term) a reality. There is an augmented reality game which takes the form of an internet show like Nerve and it is called The Runner. It is airing on the website go90 as I am writing this post and is hosted by a well-known youtuber Matthew Patrick the host of Game Theory and Film Theory youtube channels. In an article it was explained that,

The Runner…is the culmination of a project [Ben] Affleck and [Matt] Damon have been working on for a decade-and-a-half. It will follow its titular runner as he attempts to traverse the United States without being caught by his fellow contestants. On social media, savvy viewers will have opportunities to interpret clues that will help them determine the runner’s current location.

But the most familiar augmented reality game is the recently released and very popular Pokémon Go. And yet within less than a month of its release it has been misused and abused, from leading people to fall off cliffs and causing car accidents to robbery and kidnapping. Granted these are extreme cases, but these outcomes were the result of playing a mobile app that digitally overlays fictional pocket monsters.

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Life both on and off the web.

If anything Nerve is trying to show how augmented reality is effecting our culture and how devastating the consequences can be. In his review of the movie on Plugged In, Bob Hoose writes that,

On one hand, we’ve come to depend upon—and even take for granted—the Internet’s almost magical ability to instantaneously provide virtually any information we’re searching for. And for those who want to leverage this medium into cyber-stardom, the World Wide Web tantalizingly tempts otherwise average folks to believe that they can become household names. All it takes is a properly placed camera, enough eyeballs watching and enough thumbs clicking a “like” button.

The problem however does not lie with technology, but rather the people using the technology. Any and every technology from a simple book to most advanced computer software can be used for evil. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because we who play have a choice to either let this technology consume us or step back remember that life is more than just a game.

This is especially true for those who profess to be Christians. We are called to use what we have for the glory God and that includes game apps. We should use the technology in a way that is pleasing to Him and not let it consume us to the point we can hurt ourselves or others whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. Instead we should view augmented technologies like Pokémon Go as something to enjoy from time to time as well as a tool to reach out to others.

Sources:

“Ben Affleck, Matt Damon’s Go90 Series Be Co-Hosted By Youtube Star Matthew Patrick” by Sam Gutelle

“Nerve Movie Review” by Bob Hoose

“‘Nerve’ Review: It’s ‘Pokemon Go’ as a Gonzo Horror Movie” by Peter Travers

Pokemon Go and The Church: 5 Questions for Christians to Consider

Who Do You Call? Rebooted Franchise…Rebooted Gender

With the recent release of the Ghostbusters reboot starring an all female cast, the internet lite up with critiques and rants, some of them thought out and others…not so much. While there are those who denounce any and all criticism as being misogynic, the real problem for many is that they believe the idea of any reboot is just plain lazy, an excuse for film companies to make a quick buck on an already existing franchise. It is understandable; the movie market has been saturated with reboots as of late.

However that is not only problem I see; I dislike the idea of this movie not only for its unoriginal plot elements, but also for its unoriginal female characters. Granted they have different names and tweaks in personalities, but the female cast of the Ghostbusters reboot serves to replace the original male cast of characters from the original Ghostbusters. Now before I go any further I must explain that I have not watched the original or rebooted Ghostbusters and I have no plans to do so in the near future, although I might breakdown and change my mind.

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Cast of Ghostbusters (2016)

To me the rebooted Ghostbusters is nothing more than a glorified gender-bender fanfiction. I am not downplaying all fanfiction; it is fun to read some of those crazy or not so crazy scenarios from time to time especially if it is written well. But we should recognize it for what it is…fanfiction. Changing the main cast of an existing franchise from three white guys and a black guy to three white girls and a black girl is not innovative film material.

I am concerned that this Ghostbusters reboot will be setting yet another precedent of taking characters from any work of fiction and change them from men to women for the reboots. In the short term it would save the film companies time but in the process prevents them from seeking out original female leads from unadapted stories or making up new female leads for new stories themselves. For all the problems I have with The Force Awakens even I have to admit they came up with their own female character in Rey; I have my problems with her but she was not replacing Luke Skywalker like the female cast of the Ghostbusters (2016) are doing with the male cast of Ghostbusters (1984).

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Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program

I am not denying that there is a sore lack of media with leading female characters, and I do wish that there more fictional women I could relate to. But we need both male and female characters and taking male characters from existing franchises and making them female is not the answer. Instead this should be an opportunity for aspiring filmmakers to tell stories with relatable female characters that exist not to replace men, but to work alongside them and to be respected in their own right.