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Spoilers ahead for Superman: Earth One, Batman: Earth One, and Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I was a major fan of Superman: Earth One when I first read it sometime in 2011. I was such a fan, that when Man of Steel came out in 2013, I immediately recognized the similarities between the two stories (Man of Steel was Based on Superman: Earth One). Much to my delight, DC announced they would be doing Earth One renditions of other DC Superheroes. They released Batman: Earth One, which is currently unfinished with two volumes, and Teen Titans: Earth One, also presently with two volumes. The most recent release was wonder Woman: Earth One (with Aquaman and Flash in production!). I was pretty excited to read Batman: Earth One, and after reading, just had to get my hands on Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I had heard that Wonder Woman was not as good as the other Earth One stories, but I wanted to make that judgement for myself. I ordered it from Amazon (which in itself is ironic) and it arrived this past Sunday with Volume 3 of Superman: Earth One. As I’d been dying to see Earth One Superman face off with Zod, I read that one Sunday night. Last night, when my internet decided to fight with me, I decided to read Wonder Woman.

I was not disappointed. Well, sort of. I was disappointed because, unlike Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman doesn’t really do much in her story. However, what I wasn’t disappointed about was the feminist, queer story that I read. Let me start with the bad of the story. Which really isn’t much, and really is only bad when related to other Earth One stories.

The BAD

Superman: Earth One focuses on Clark Kent, with his amazing abilities, trying to find his place in the world. He’s smarter than the smartest scientists, stronger than the toughest body builders, more deadly than the best trained military – yet he cannot find a place in this world. When an alien menace, Tyrell, arrives, searching for the last Son of Krypton, Clark Kent emerges as Superman to take down the menace (and, in turn, discover his true calling).

Batman: Earth One focuses on a fledgling Dark Knight who is trying to uncover the sleazy underworld of Gotham City and discover who put a hit out on his parents. He’s got his epically savage butler, Alfred, as his partner in crime, who continually urges him to bring guns to gun fights where Bruce Wayne insists on bringing flying razors, even when the guys with guns tend to wallop him. Bruce eventually uncovers who the criminal mastermind is and wins the day!

Wonder Woman: Earth One focuses on Princess Diana, who lives on the feminist island paradise of Paradise Island (was that exposition necessary?). The Amazonian society left “Man’s World” and created their paradise in the Bermuda Triangle after escaping from the slavery of the “man-god” Hercules. The story starts with Diana facing a trial before her mother and other Amazonian sisters. She tells her account of what she did, and the story takes place as each witness tells a part of the story in the trial. Each year, they have a three-day festival to commemorate their liberation from Man’s world. However, Diana is not like her Amazonian sisters and has a whole mess of special powers they do not, because her mother claimed she was a clay statue turned to life by the gods. Anyway, Diana always plays a special role in this ceremony, but this year she stumbled upon Steve Trevor and decided to take him home to help him, since the Amazonian healing technology only works on women. Diana defeats the strongest of her sisters in combat, being named the “Wonder Woman” and claims the invisible jet as her prize. When her mother smells the scent of man on her, she realizes what Diana is going to do and sends a hunting part after her. Diana escapes and manages to bring Steve Trevor to a hospital in the USA. She goes home after seeing how bad the men treat the women in Man’s World. But not before her mother sends Medusa the Gorgon, to turn Steve to Stone so he can never tell of what he knows of the Amazons. In her time in America, Diana saves a bus full of sorority women on their way to spring break and befriends them, eventually being named an “honorary sister.” They pretty much teach Diana all bout feminism in Man’s world. Then Steve gets turned into stone, before Diana even knows the gorgon is there. Then she surrenders to the Amazonian hunting party to stand trial.

 

Do you notice a difference between those three stories, other than the fact that I went into a lot more detail about Wonder Woman than the other stories? Well, the main difference is that while Superman and Batman start their stories taking on supervillains and crime bosses, Diana starts her story convincing her mother to let her go outside and play. Now, the way it is done is good, in my opinion, but it’s still important that Diana’s first step is nowhere near the first steps of her male counterparts. It’s ironic that a story with so much feminism in it fails to so much as show that Diana is a contender. Diana is part of the “Holy Trinity” of DC Comics and should be regarded as one of the ablest and most fearsome women in the world. It’s unfortunate that her first outing into the grittier world of Earth One is barely heroic and barely shows her skills. It’s ironic that it contains its titular character bound and chained for a good portion of the story.

 

The Good

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This is a feminist masterpiece (other than what was mentioned above). It has everything you can think of. Hell, it even has man-hating radical feminists. It talks about body shaming, sexuality, and women’s roles. It puts sorority women in a loving and supportive light.

The most important conflict in this story is between Diana and her mother, Hippolyta. Hippolyta is the woman who killed Hercules and freed the Amazons from slavery. She was enslaved by men. She was used by men like an object. This created her hatred of Man’s World. We even learn that Hippolyta literally created Diana to be her weapon used to destroy Man’s World. Hippolyta is that rad fem most feminists despise being compared to. A lot of other subtle things lead me to identify Hippolyta as the radical feminist here.

Hippolyta has a magic mirror she uses to look at the world. At one point early on in the story, she shows Diana an image of a woman in underwear, wearing a collar and leash held by a clothed man, and sitting over a food dish. She tells Diana that that is how men treat women in Man’s World. Clearly, she is taking a snapshot of a situation and using it to fit her means. Is it possible that woman was actually enslaved into bondage? Yes. But most sex positive people know that sometimes women actively participate in role playing, S&M and bondage activities like that with their lovers. Was the woman Diana was shown a slave or a submissive? We won’t know, and I don’t think Hippolyta cares. Which is ironic, because Hippolyta and the Amazonian culture regularly say that willful submission is a sign of love.

When Diana uses the purple rays to restore Steve Trevor from his stony fate, Hippolyta is shocked that the purple rays worked on him. Diana tells her that she simply re-calibrated it, something Hippolyta never even cared to try doing. And it clearly only took Diana a few moments to do so, as she hadn’t had access to purple rays until just a moment before.

The main conflict between Diana and her mother is that of choice. Diana wishes to choose her role, rather than have it be assigned to her from her mother. Hippolyta believes that women have only one role, and that is to be better than men and to rule.

Diana meets Betty (Earth One’s Etta Candy), one of the sorority sisters she rescues, and Betty is a slightly overweight – but healthy – bisexual woman. Betty is a symbol of modern feminism. When brought before Hippolyta at the trial, Hippolyta and other amazons scorn her for her body. Even Diana makes a comment about it when first meeting her. Betty is always mature yet firm in her response that she loves her body, is healthy, and is happy. Diana accepts that, but Hippolyta does not.

Betty is more than just body positivity;  she is also sex positivity. She talks about her crushes on both men and women, and about how Paradise Island is a kinky lesbian sex island. I can foresee Betty’s character being the most sex positive of all the characters in future volumes.

But that’s not all Betty does. When Hippolyta is using Betty and other women as examples of why Man’s World is cruel to women, Betty fires back. Betty tells Hippolyta that the patriarchy may be bad, but they (women) are fighting against it and trying to make change. Betty uses actual feminist language to counter Hippolyta’s insults. Betty is probably the hero of this story, in terms of theme. (And well, Diana doesn’t really do anything except save Betty’s sorority sisters, so maybe Betty is the bigger hero after all).

Aside from all of that, this is a primarily female story. Steve Trevor and Hercules are the only men who actually have names in the story (there may be a named soldier somewhere but they play no real role in this volume). This story is about women of all different backgrounds. There is Diana, the social outcast who wants to leave home and see the world. There’s Hippolyta, the vengeful, bitter women with a chip on her shoulder. There’s Betty, the young, optimistic, positive and happy one. There is Nubia, Diana’s black Amazonian sister who struggled to understand her then defends her in the end. There are Betty’s sorority sisters who support Betty and Diana equally, even though they are pretty opposite people.

 

But that is not all. This story is also incredibly queer. First, we have both visual and verbal confirmation that Paradise Island is pretty much a lesbian paradise. In one scene, we see the Amazonian women asleep, at different levels of undress, after an insinuated orgy. Diana tells Steve that she left her lover on the island to save him. Betty tells us that she has crushes on men and women. This is such a queer book and I love it.

We have Diana, who at this point has shown no interest in men, and is therefore only confirmed Lesbian. We have the rest of the Amazons, who have had no contact with men for three thousand years and most likely do not lust after them. We have Betty, who is surely bisexual, and will hopefully use that language in the future volumes.

And again we get back to Betty. Betty is the one most interested in the sexual themes of the story. She is the one commenting about the Paradise Island kinky lesbian sex. She is the one talking about her crushes. She is the every-woman, and she is teaching Diana what it is like to be a woman in Man’s World.

 

And if that isn’t enough, Steve Trevor takes the cake. After being saved from stone by Diana, Steve is wrapped in the lasso of truth and asked questions by Hippolyta. When he tells them he lied to his superiors to protect them, Hippolyta assumes it is because he lusts after Diana. He tells her, under the truth of the lasso, that he did it because his ancestors were slaves (Btw, Steve is a pretty badass Black Man) to men who thought they were better than others; men with too much power. And all of a sudden you realize that this story is about so much more than just feminism. Steve says he hid their secret because he understands why they don’t trust man’s world, since he doesn’t, either.

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So the story may not be too epic, but it is still powerful. It makes powerful social commentary – commentary you don’t need to make with a superpowered fight or badass moves. Commentary that I hope we get to see metaphorically in the future of this series, hopefully introducing Cheetah with her own idea of feminism.

This story brings you back to the golden Age Wonder Woman, but takes the terrible tropes and flips them on their head. I strongly recommend it! (even after all these spoilers!)

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Privilege is something that tends to be difficult for those who have it to understand. I never truly understood privilege, being a white, middle class, mostly-heterosexual male with a college education. However, after starting to use my bicycle as my primary means of transportation, I have learned that even the most privileged can be put in a position which educates them about privilege. I do not own a car, so I am literally forced to use my bicycle to go to work or the store or the beach or whatever else I am doing. However, even someone who decides to bike for a week or two will experience what I experience daily and can hopefully begin to understand privilege. Below is a list of ways in which cycling can teach you about privilege.

 

  1. When you are either in a bike lane, or in the road (in a share the road state/city/county/etc), and passing motorists honk or yell at you to get out of the road even though you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. You are just riding along, following the law, and you are being harassed by people who think you are doing something wrong. You are either told to get out of the way, go faster, or get on the sidewalk. People honk at you as if you are in their way. You then, inevitably, feel one of two things – guilt or rage. Guilt for inconveniencing someone, or rage that they are so misinformed that they believe you are doing something wrong.
  2. When you are in the road/bike lane, and people tell you to get on the sidewalk, but when you are on the sidewalk, people tell you to get in the street. There is no way you can ever act in a way that pleases everybody.
  3. When you are on a bike path or other pathway that crosses a street, and you slow down to allow a car to pass, but that car then slows down to let you pass, so you slow down further and the cycle continues until you both end up stopping, wasting everyone’s time. You get frustrated because if the person just kept doing what they were doing, neither of you would have been inconvenienced, but because the person was trying to be helpful, they screwed you both over. You then begin to resent any car that attempts to stop to let you pass, even though it is a kind act.
  4. When you attempt to cross a two lane road, and one lane stops and the other doesn’t. The stopped lane then realizes that you cannot cross and continues. You then feel guilty about them stopping in an attempt to be kind that ended up wasting their time, knowing that it’s possible that person may be less likely to stop the next time they see a cyclist waiting to cross.
  5. When you turn onto a road, or cross a road, and get honked at by a motorist who is nowhere near you and is completely unaffected by your actions. You then get frustrated because any time a car honks at you, it puts your life in danger.
  6. When you are riding up a road or in a bike lane and the vehicles around you act erratically and unpredictably, making you hyper vigilant about your actions and paranoid that you are doing something wrong. You get frustrated because you know they are behaving erratically because they expect you to behave erratically, but you are not doing anything wrong and their erratic behavior is what is most likely to cause you harm.
  7. When you do anything on the road and a motorist honks or yells at you, as if you were unaware that you were on a busy road, or that a vehicle was there. You know that you are significantly more aware of the road than they are and that if they just leave you alone, nothing bad will happen.
  8. When you are on a road and notice every little thing that motorists do wrong due to the fact that a small mistake by a motorist, like driving on the line or not signaling when turning or changing lanes, puts you in extreme danger, though they do not think anything of it.
  9. When you are on a path or sidewalk and a vehicle stopped at a light is stopped in the crosswalk, causing you to go around them often into active traffic. You get put in danger because a motorist could not follow simple road etiquette of stopping behind the line, or because a motorist is in such a rush that they think stopping 5 feet further will affect their travel time.
  10. When you are riding up a one lane road without a bike lane or sidewalk and motorists behind you are going slow and not passing you, even when it is safe to do so. You get frustrated because people are intentionally inconveniencing themselves because they think that going around you will somehow inconvenience you, but instead you feel like they are hovering and you feel trapped until they finally decide to turn or go around you.
  11. When you are riding in a bike lane and motorists are using it as a turning lane or a shoulder. You get frustrated because the lane is specifically designed for you and not motorists, but they still feel like they have the right to utilize it in whichever way they feel necessary.
  12. When motorists assert that because they pay taxes and registration fees for their cars and cyclists do not, that they bicycle should not be allowed on the road with them, when cyclists inevitably learn that roads are paid for by tolls, registration fees, and gas taxes a maximum of 71%, with a national average of about 50% (varied by state), and that most cyclists ALSO own a vehicle, and so have actually paid for the roads and are actually helping to preserve them by not using their vehicle.

How does this knowledge help a person understand privilege? Each example can be compared to real examples of minority groups who are struggling to be understood in the United States, and each example is one that, as a motorist, you never need to think about.

  1. The first example can be compared to affirmative action programs. Privileged people do not understand why these programs exist and believe that it is unfair to give minority groups their own special programs and treatments and believe they need to just fit in with the systems already in place.
  2. This can be applied to pretty much anything. Any time a minority group is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, someone of privilege tells them they are wrong and need to do something else.
  3. Many minorities understand their system and how it works in relation to the larger systems. Sometimes when someone of privilege attempts to be kind and assist a minority group, it actually just ends up inconveniencing both groups and nobody leaves happily. This also reinforces the idea that a minority group does not understand a particular system.
  4. Often times our systems are complicated, and though one part of a system may be willing to assist a minority group, it is only effective if every part of the system does it. Otherwise, it just leaves the part that did try to help feeling bitter and less likely to attempt to assist in the future, which creates systems that do not work with minorities.
  5. Minorities are often targeted by others for no reason and put into dangerous situations through no fault of their own.
  6. People react to their environments, and when minority groups (or any groups) are placed into an erratic, hostile environment, they are more likely to respond in an erratic and hostile manner.
  7. Minorities are often treated as if they are ignoring the majority or other groups, but minorities are often more aware of other groups than those groups are of themselves.
  8. The majority often holds minorities to a higher standard than they hold themselves and do not notice when they do the same bad thing they are calling out a minority for doing, and often identify certain things as wrong when they are actually correct.
  9. Majority groups often make decisions and do things without thinking of how it will affect other groups, and will often blame those other groups for not adjusting properly to said changes.
  10. Many minorities often feel coddled by the majority group, or worse, like they are having their every move watched, making them less likely to behave in an organic and natural manner.
  11. Often times the majority group will attempt to use programs and systems specifically designed for minority groups (or to take resources from that system), without understanding or caring about why the system is in place or how their interaction disrupts the system.
  12. Often times minorities are accused of not being as involved in the country as others, in terms of paying taxes, voting, or other civil duties, when this is simply untrue.

Why Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and other PC culture Encourage Freedom of Speech

 

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If you go to college, have a child who goes to college, know anyone in college, work at a college, live near a college, or watch the news, you will constantly hear people – generally older people and conservatives – decrying the concept of Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and general PC culture. These critics will claim that their freedom of speech is being denied to them. They will claim that college is about the sharing of different points of view and broadening the horizons of students. They will say that if people can’t deal with conflicting ideas and need to be “protected” from them, that they shouldn’t be in college to begin with. This, my friends, is bullshit. You may notice that lately, there have been a lot of conversations going on regarding this topic. Different schools have been “banning” or “speaking against” or “disavowing” these practices much more recently. Even the hit show “South Park” had an episode about safe spaces. Here is why they are all full of shit.

Safe Spaces

Ironically, when these detractors complain about safe spaces, they are showing just how truly ignorant they are. Let me give a brief history of safe spaces. To begin, safe spaces are often associated with minority groups, either Gender and Sexual Minorities (Our LGBTQ+ friends) or Racial groups (Black, Latinx, Muslim, etc). Most of the complaints about safe spaces would center around the idea that they are excluding ideas that are different from theirs. They are blocking out things they do not like because it upsets them. This is far from the truth.

Before safe spaces, do you know how many open and honest conversations were held on college campuses about issues pertinent to the LGBT+ population? Very few. Either people were afraid to express their ideas and opinions, or their ideas and opinions were interrupted, disregarded, and overlooked by the rest of the group. These conversations were just not happening. Have you ever tried to go up to a group of people and tell them about how they were mistreating you? Did they respond very openly and receptively, or were they defensive and dismissive? I’m willing to bet (due to human nature) that it was the latter.

So someone thought up the concept of safe spaces. A place where people can go to have open honest discussions about their lives. They can discuss how they have been mistreated, or ways they are struggling. They can talk with people who understand and respect their struggle and get aid and assistance without worrying that one of those people is going to try to silence them or cause them harm simply for talking about their thoughts or experiences. They know that when they talk, someone is listening.

Safe spaces literally facilitate conversations that were never had on college campuses. It gave those people involved in the safe spaces the language and skills and confidence required to bring those conversations outside of that safe space and into the real world. Safe spaces have literally facilitated greater sharing of ideas on college campuses. It has told a group that their story is relevant, their story is important, and their story needs to be told.

The issue people often seem to have with safe spaces are that certain people are excluded. Straight people are excluded from LGBT+ safe spaces and White people from Black or Latinx spaces. In theory. However, most Safe spaces will allow for others to be in the conversation, so long as they do not act to diminish the power of that space. If a person truly wants to learn and be part of a larger conversation, they are invited to join. Sometimes, there are conversations that can only be had by people of the same identity. A straight person will not be able to identify with many things that a Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual person is discussing. A white person will not be able to identify with everything a Black, Latinx, or other person is discussing. Often Times, Gay men are excluded from Lesbian and Bisexual Groups and vice versa. Black groups do not always interact with Latinx groups. But that does not mean that they do not value those ideas and opinions. It simply means that this particular group needs a space where they can discuss the issues they have and create language and skills to help them better discuss it in the outside world.

Safe spaces allow for people to determine the best way to respond to a homophobic or racial slur. Safe spaces allow people to be on the same page so they are not sending inconsistent messages. Safe spaces allow people to vent frustrations without causing a public uproar. Safe spaces empower our students to lead social movements. It allows them to gather and collaborate and plan. It allows them to express their rights without fear of being disregarded.

Take, for instance, a young gay man who attends many meets at his local safe space. They have strong discussions and he feels confident with his viewpoint. He is in a class one day, and a discussion starts about something related to what he discussed in his safe space. He expresses his viewpoint and has many others who disagree. Because of his safe space, he now has the language and confidence to continue that conversation and introduce a new idea to the others.

Ideas cannot be contained. Information travels. People fear that safe spaces are cutting off communication and the spread of ideas, but they just do not. They facilitate the generation of new ideas and teach people how to spread them.

 

Trigger Warnings

Many people who argue against trigger warnings claim that they somehow fundamentally change conversations. They make people who “don’t want to deal with something” able to leave a conversation and not partake in it. They make it so that people do not learn to deal with their feelings and instead “coddle” and “comfort” students.

I disagree. Triggers warnings do not stifle conversation and coddle students. Trigger warnings allows students to prepare for a conversation. When a rape survivor is told that there will be a discussion of rape in a lecture, this allows them to emotionally prepare for it. This allows the person to think something along the lines of “Ok, we are going to talk about rape. I know I feel X way when rape is brought up, so I can now deal with those feelings and be part of this conversation.”

Does every person respond in such a way? No. Some people are not ready to engage with a particular topic. Allowing that person to leave that conversation before it starts is more conducive to that conversation. Nobody wants someone having a break down or freak out in the middle of a conversation. Nobody wants a veteran with PTSD screaming and running around at the sound of gunfire on a video. Nobody wants a person to have a strong emotional response to something and interrupt the conversation. Trigger warnings literally allow these people to figure out what their role in the conversation is going to be. Are they going to mention their experience, or are they going to be quiet? Are they going to be emotional or logical? Trigger warnings allow more effective lectures and conversations with fewer interruptions and more intellectual discussions.

“Politically Correct” Language

Probably the largest issue most people have is with language. They often find that trigger warnings and safe spaces lead to “PC Language” and contribute to “PC Culture.”  This is true. However, their idea of PC Culture is misinformed and incorrect. Firstly, politically correct means nothing. It’s a phrase that sounds right but has no meaning. We need to stop using and validating the term “Politically Correct” and just start saying “Correct.” Political things can be contested. Correct things cannot.

What people tend not to understand is how language shapes our cultures and our minds. Words carry meaning – much more meaning than a simple definition. Slurs and hate speech carry with them history and experience. Calling someone a fag isn’t just calling them gay. It’s calling them gay and saying that they are worthy of abuse, denigration, and hatred. Calling a Trans* person a “tranny” or a “trap” doesn’t just say they are trans, it says that they are a manipulative joke who is trying to dupe men into believing a lie. This type of language isn’t politically incorrect. It’s just incorrect.

And people do not realize how the words they chose express their own thoughts. People who know that you shouldn’t call gay people fags or black people niggers but chose to anyway are saying that they don’t care about how that language affects that group of people. And there is a common misconception that this language is problematic because it upsets individuals. That is not why that language is problematic. The language is problematic because it reinforces social systems that negatively affect that entire group. These words have negative connotations, and even if you do not fully know what they are, you know they are negative. You then associate those people with negativity and are more likely to identify their negative aspects than their positive ones.

There is a lot of sound psychology that goes into it, which I physically cannot teach people over a blog post. However, this correct language also facilitates conversations. It shows people that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are valued, which makes them more likely to share ideas. It shows people that others are open to change and compromise, making them more likely to listen and share ideas.

There is so much more to it than just that though. People are not one dimensional. They have thoughts and feelings that they do not even understand to know about. A university’s responsibility is to educate all their students, so if a student is subject to language and ideas that make them feel unsafe, they are less likely to utilize the resources there. They are less likely to stay at the university. When they feel safe and supported, they stay and learn.

You do not support free speech and the free spread of ideas by alienating students who have different experiences than the average person.

 

When people fight against Safe Spaces, PC Culture, and Trigger Warnings, they are not thinking of others. They are not worried about the quality of an academic institution. They are simply thinking of themselves and the fact that they may need to actually think before the speak. They do not like that they are being called out for their less than honorable behaviors as it shatters their own self-image. Safe spaces, PC Language, and Trigger warnings force people to evaluate themselves and sometimes they do not like what they might learn, so they fight against it. They do not care that the language people use reinforced decades if not centuries of oppression, hatred and mistreatment. All they see is a bunch of millennials whining about their feelings. It’s simply not true.

 

I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of criticism from people on the Batman vs Superman movie. I hadn’t seen it until last night, so I had stayed out of the conversation until then. Now that I have seen it, I’m reading reviews and think pieces about it. I have realized that there is one completely fundamental thing most people do not realize about this movie, and it’s actually about Man of Steel.

You see, Man of Steel is based on Superman: Earth One. And it’s not just a coincidence. They told the author of Earth One they were using his story. I’m going to give you a quick description of Superman: Earth One. Krypton is destroyed, and Kal-El, son of Jor-El, is sent to earth. He is raised by the Kents to be a fairly good person, but unlike other iterations, he is not inundated with the “great power = great responsibility” shtick.  The Kents in this version tell him that he needs to figure out what he wants to do. He goes off, exploring the world, trying to find out what he wants to do. He tried academia, and doesn’t like it. He tries hard labor, and doesn’t like it. He tried business and doesn’t like it. He tried a whole series of careers and lifestyles that he ends up disliking. He doesn’t want to work at the Daily Planet, because news media is in decline.

But then something happens. An alien armada comes and its captain, Tyrell, hates Kryptonians, and wants to see the last one die. Superman tried to fight them without revealing himself, but realizes he cannot. Superman must decide if he is going to stand up for earth, or run away. In the end, he stands up for and protects Earth from the alien invasion. This makes him a hero to some, and a threat to others. Also, he interviews himself and gets onto the Daily Planet staff, since the Daily Planet was the only news station to get coverage of the invasion, and is therefore  super successful.

Hmm. This story sounds super familiar. Perhaps that is because it is literally the plot of Man of Steel except they replaced Tyrell with Zod. The issue here is that the whole DC cinematic universe is based on this story, and nobody seems to get that. The whole universe is based on this idea that the heroes do not know what they are supposed to do until after they do it.

This is a strong theme in Batman vs Superman, one that is continually being confused for bad writing. This isn’t bad writing. This is brilliant writing, and brilliant use of visual cues to suggest characterization. The tone and imagery in the movie strongly reinforces the central theme that these heroes struggle.

There is a lot of criticism of Batman and his behavior in the movie. But if you think of his characterization at this point, it makes total sense. Batman has been through hell, as suggested by Alfred’s dialogue and the desecrated Robin suit. He’s desperate for answers, and he thinks his previous methods have not worked. That’s why he’s so fast and loose with people, tossing their cars around like basketballs and throwing grenades like free candy at a parade. He’s also terrified of Superman, and thinks that he is the world’s best hope for survival. In many ways, he and the Lex Luthor character are similar.

By the end of the movie, however, we have literal proof that Batman has changed into the batman we know. When he visits Luthor’s cell, he does not brand him. He does not beat him. He just threatens him. He’s the batman we know. And we are informed of that because he did not brand him, like he did the previous criminals. If people cannot understand that, it’s because they do not understand the main theme of the movie – and the main theme of the current DC cinematic universe. That heroes need to make choices.

Let’s explore this more. One of the greatest criticisms of Man of Steel is that people don’t understand why Superman didn’t take the fight with Zod away from metropolis. The simplest answer is that Superman was new at fighting super-powered aliens and didn’t really think about that. He was mostly concerned with staying alive and stopping Zod. However, this time around, what is the first thing superman does when fighting Doomsday? Throws him into space (which, might I add, is a reference to Injustice). And It isn’t like his fight with Zod in space, because rather than grapple with him, he just kept pushing him further out into space. It’s almost like Superman learned from the last time. He made a choice.

Superman also struggles with what happens at the capitol. He knows that every decision he makes could be the difference between life and death. He is strongly aware. People often mistake lack of dialogue for lack of characterization, but there is a lot of it here.

Last I want to discuss Lex Luthor, who is quite the interesting character to me. Lex Luthor, in general, represents the power and influence of corporate greed. He has previously been depicted as a tall, large bald man with a deep voice and refined tastes. This is the archetypal rich business man of the 80’s and 90s. The Lex Luthor in this movie is NOT that Lex Luthor. In fact, there is an offhand reference to his father, another Lex Luthor, who probably fits that exact description. However, let’s take a moment and look at the Lex we are given. He’s young and drives a motorcycle. He doesn’t follow normal formal rules, doesn’t wear suits, and kind of thinks he’s the best thing around. This is a CLEAR and OBVIOUS reference to young, modern CEO’s. The LexCorp campus reads like Google’s campus on steroids. Recreation facilities, food, social gathering areas. LexCorp is a Silicon Valley company in the middle of Metropolis, and Lex is the typically rich millennial. Greedy, selfish corporate assholes no longer look like the Lex Luthor we demand. They now look like Eisenberg’s Luthor. Just look at this list of CEO’s  under 35, and see how many look anything like the Luthor of old. Not many of them. But they all look like the Luthor we see. That’s the more realistic Luthor.

Things That Annoyed me About Daredevil

 

So I, like many people, binge watched Daredevil season 2 this weekend. It was entertaining, but it was certainly not as good as the first season, or as good as Jessica Jones. There were a lot of loose ends and forgotten subplots. Some of these issues may be due to me missing something or forgetting things from the first season (which I didn’t rewatch in anticipation). Also, there are HELLA spoilers here, so if you haven’t watched it and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read! The first few are pretty spoiler light, but it gets more intense. Let me know if there are any explanations or if you agree or disagree!

 

  1. How long has passed?

It isn’t clear how much time has passed from the end of season 1 to the beginning of season 2. It’s also unclear how much time has passed over the course of the season. I know that the court case was only a week after Castle was caught, but how long did the case go for? How long before castle got put in jail? How long before he escaped? Claire says that she was assigned 6 months of night shift after helping Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, so we know it’s been at least 6 months since then, but Jessica Jones isn’t very clear about how long after Daredevil season 1 it was, we just know Daredevil exists. It’s very unclear, and I would like an explanation.

 

  1. Where does this fit in to the MCU?

What has or has not happened so far in the MCU? Did the Civil War happen already? Is it building up to that? Where does Spiderman fit in to this world? He’s another NYC hero, and evidently he’s going to be important in Civil War, so where’s he been? They keep talking about vigilantes but don’t mention the web slinger? Perhaps its rights, but it still annoys me.

 

  1. I really don’t understand the dirt, or the hole.

I realize that it’s very possible that these things were left ambiguous intentionally. But at the very least I want an explanation of the dirt. If they are digging supermassive holes in the city, why are they importing one box car of dirt, and why is that dirt so super secret? I would be completely ok with this being an unresolved issue for the future, but literally once DD and Elektra discover the dirt, they never mention it again. I’m also annoyed that DD could sense the dirt in the boxcar, but couldn’t tell that it was dirt? He’s all like “It’s completely full, filled with uniform items packed tight” but he can’t tell that they’re freaking dirt? That just seems unlikely.

 

  1. Why did the Hand mask their heartbeats?

This could be me forgetting things from season 1, but I’m not quite sure why the Hand would mask their heartbeats. Unless this is a specific countermeasure to Daredevil, this seems like a huge waste of energy and resources. I don’t recall if Nobu knew that Daredevil was blind, but that’s the only reason I would think to do that. Clearly, the understanding was that the Hand knew DD was blind, but I don’t really remember how they knew that. I also think that if they knew he was blind and he tracked sounds, that they’d be smart enough to not use weapons that were so loud. Also, I’m confused as to how the Hand actually masked their heartbeats. They repeatedly say it, so we as an audience just accept it, but how do they do that?

 

  1. What happened to the Hand ninjas who were chasing them from down the stairs?

In the season finale, Elektra and DD are getting chased by a shit-ton of hand members. “Too many to count” in fact. They are in a stairwell and they know that there are a bunch of guys on the roof and a bunch more chasing after them from down below. But when they go onto the roof, there are about 20 hands guys plus Nobu, and the ones from downstairs never arrive. What happened to them?

 

  1. Why bother having the Punisher show up at the end?

It was obvious that Frank was going to come and help them. The whole time I was wondering at what point he would show up to save them, because the last thing we saw him do was turn on his police radio. It was obvious. However, when he finally did show up, he was pretty useless. DD and Elekrtra had just fought the aforementioned 20ish ninjas plus Nobu, and though Elektra died, there were only 4 ninjas left by the time Frank showed up. If DD and Elektra could take on 20 plus Nobu, DD could easily have taken on 4 plus Nobu. It seems that Frank only showed up to remind the audience that he is, indeed a “good guy” in terms of everything.

 

  1. Why did Daredevil stop caring about killing people?

For the entire Punisher situation, DD was adamant about him not killing people. He knocked guns out of his hand and stopped him when he was trying to kill people with his bare hands. When Elektra came on board, he was adamant about her not being allowed to kill anyone. When the Hand attacks them at the pit, she almost dies because he doesn’t want her to kill anyone. Then she leaves after killing the ninja in DD’s house. However, immediately after this, he makes no more mention of killing the Hand. While he and Elektra are fighting them she repeatedly stabs and kills them and he doesn’t even acknowledge it. Then at the end Frank shoots the Hand guys and he just kind of rolls with it. He even throws Nobu off of the building. I know he has some understanding that Nobu has some sort of resilience, but you don’t throw someone off a roof by their neck without expecting them to die. This would all make sense if it was premised with something, but there’s no explanation.

 

  1. What was Elektra’s mission, exactly?

Matt asks Elektra if their meeting was chance, or a mission, and she tells him he was her mission. But what exactly was the point of the mission? Intuitively, it seems she intended to teach him to kill, but that’s never really explicitly stated. And then once he refuses to kill Sweeney she just gives up? He constantly asks her where she goes, and she never answers. We can assume she returns to Stick to tell him about her failure, but we don’t know. It’s not clear, and once she talks about him being a mission, that’s all we see. There’s no further discussion on the topic.

 

  1. Why does Karen never get her conflict resolved?

It is clear to me why Karen identifies with the Punisher so much. It’s because she killed the guy who kidnapped her in season 1, and she want sot feel justified. This is alluded to heavily in the beginning of the season. She feels guilty, and like a bad person for doing so. She thinks that if they can prove the Punisher’s killings were justified, that they also prove that her killing was justified. However, this subplot quickly vanishes into obscurity, never getting fulfilled.

 

  1. Who were the suits that Castle’s nurse mentions?

The nurse mentions that some men in suits came by Castle’s room and he didn’t know who they were. He also said the District Attorney ordered the DNR. Now, it’s possible these “suits” were just the DA’s people, however, when Karen sets off the motion detector in Castle’s house, men in suits arrive. This leads me to believe the suits are more than just the DA’s people. It’s not very clear. It could easily be the DA’s people, but I’d like a little finality to that assertion.

 

  1. Why was nobody watching the Punisher’s house?

So Frank gets arrested, sent to jail, and then escapes. And the first thing he does is return to his house. I’m pretty sure that if a person convicted of 30 murders breaks out of prison, they would have someone watching his house. It’s not like nobody knew about his house. Karen was able to find it pretty easily, and the DA had vast files on Castle. Someone would have known his house was there and checked it out as a possible place he would go. But he just goes back there and settles in nicely, with no issue. We don’t even get a visit from the men in suits that came when Karen set off the motion detector. Why is that? What is the deal with that house?

 

  1. What exactly do the Hand want with Elektra?

We know that Elektra is the Black Sky, this super obscure super weapon that the Hand wants to use to rule the world. However, we never see anything in Elektra that would suggests she is that powerful. It is clear at the end that they didn’t need her alive, and I can only assume that she will be resurrected by the hand to be the Black Sky. However, this leaves me a bit confused. It was clear that in her current iteration she had no special abilities other than combat prowess. Did the Hand need her to die in order to use her as the Black Sky? If so, why did they not kill her when they had her surrounded? Why did they instead bow to her? Perhaps she would be more powerful if she joined them while living, rather than being resurrected, but it’s unclear. We don’t even know what the Black Sky is meant to do. We can assume that whatever they were doing to those people was meant to possibly bring out the Black Sky powers in Elektra by putting her in that pod, but we don’t know. This is certainly something that will probably be clarified in the next season, since it’s so wide open and intentionally unclear.

 

  1. Why did the Blacksmith target Karen, but not Foggy and Matt?

We know that after Punisher escapes, the Blacksmith starts killing people involved in the case. The DA goes down first, and Foggy gets hit, but he clearly wasn’t a target. Then next we see Karen’s apartment get shot up and Punisher saves her. But it’s really not clear why the Blacksmith would target Karen before Matt and Foggy. Perhaps it was due to ease, since Matt was hard to find and Foggy was in the hospital, but it seems pretty odd to me. Karen was a legal assistant and there was no real way for the Blacksmith to know she was important until she showed up to his house.

 

  1. Why would the Punisher slam a pickup truck into a sedan with someone he believed to be innocent in it?

When the Blacksmith takes Karen, The Punisher saves her by ramming the car they are in. This has got to be the biggest mistake of the whole series. They were pulling over. They were getting out of the car, most likely to go into that shed where the Blacksmith kept his stuff. There was no reason that the Punisher should have slammed into the car, risking Karen’s life. It is just counter to his characterization at this point.

 

  1. Why do we never see or hear about Matt working out?

There is only one reference to exercise in the whole show, and that is when Elektra says something about Matt having been working out. But has he been? Sure, he is a vigilante who prowls the streets at night, climbing things and such, but that won’t make him stronger. I suppose you can say that he gets all his exercise from his vigilantism but fighting and climbing things won’t necessarily make someone stronger, just more toned. Not that he’s supposed to be super strong, but it would be more realistic to me if they mentioned him exercising, maybe showed him doing some sit ups or push ups or something. It’s a small thing, but I think would add to his character. At least even a mention of someone asking him how he stays so fit or something.

 

  1. Does injury mean nothing to anyone in this universe?

A lot of people get hurt in this season. First we have Frank, a.k.a. the Punisher. When the Irish mob leader “captures” Frank, he drills a hole in his left foot. With a drill. And electric drill. But the next week he’s walking totally fine. He still has the bruises on his face, but his foot is totally fine. Next we have Elektra, who gets sliced with an acidic blade. Luckily, stick shows up to put together a remedy of common household items that… rapidly heals her? Then Matt gets shot in the shoulder with an arrow and Elektra gives him that same magical remedy. And the next day they are fighting the Hand army. And Foggy also gets shot in the shoulder, but evidently his bullet wound was not that bad and he was only in the hospital overnight. Let’s also not forget that Karen was in a vicious car crash and then the next day seemed totally fine. Injury and trauma seem to have no long term effects on these characters.

 

  1. How does Punisher find out who the Blacksmith is?

Karen goes to the Blacksmiths house and has no idea he is the Blacksmith, but quickly discover it when he… tells her, I guess. He kidnaps her and tries to take her to his cabin thing for some reason, but then Frank shows up. How did he know to do that? I could have completely missed it, but I just don’t remember.

 

  1. Why did Stick kill the Black Sky in season 1, but not Elektra?

In season 1, another Black sky arrives to New York in the form of a young boy. Stick kills this Black Sky and Matt sends him away. In season 2, we discover that Elektra was a Black Sky, and that Stick decided against killing her when she was a child, instead sending her to live with the Nacios family. I’m wondering what prompted Stick to kill the new black sky but not Elektra? This isn’t really a huge issue, as I can see a few different options. Firstly, he was much closer with Elektra by the time he was asked to kill her. However, they knew the whole time she was the Black Sky, so I’m not sure why he bothered doing that at all. Also, Stick didn’t like when people called Elektra it, yet he called the new Black Sky it. Since there was about 15-20 years since Stick and Elektra parted ways, he could have changed much since then, but he is still protective of her. Stick’s characterization is all over the place

 

  1. What information did the Hand want from Stick?

When the Hand it torturing Stick with sticks, they want information. What did they need to know? What were they asking him? Were they looking for Elektra? It’s not really clear.

 

  1. Why didn’t Fisk just kill Matt?

Matt goes to the prison to threaten Fisk, and Fisk grabs him and roughs him up a little bit. I don’t get why Fisk didn’t just kill him. Fisk has the whole entire prison under his control, and it’s not really in his character to let someone who threatens Vanessa live. It would be very easy for all record of Matt’s visit to disappear and Matt to disappear with it. Now, Matt would be able to fight his way out of the prison, most likely, and survive, but Fisk doesn’t know that. All Fisk knows is that this blind lawyer is trying to threaten the woman he loves.

 

  1. Why would Hogarth want to make Foggy a partner?

I know that Foggy is a great lawyer, and I know that Hogarth’s firm is very high profile. I also know that Foggy doesn’t have all that much legal experience. I could understand Hogarth offering Foggy a good position, due to the high profile nature of both his major cases, but Partner?

Bernie or Bust?

I’m a hardcore Bernie sanders fan. I am all about what he’s about. I’m 100% for social programs to help the lower and middle class. I’m all about reigning in Wall Street corruption and reducing the power of the prison industrial complex. I’m a million percent for government funded college tuition. I understand that an economy cannot remain stable without regulation. I understand the need for police reform. I understand that corporate greed and trickle-down economics have failed the common American. Bernie Sanders is a force for great good in our country.

It is no mystery why millions of Americans are clamoring for Bernie Sanders. He’s relatable, sociable, and cares about the things the lower and middle class care about. He supports Black Lives Matter, he supports the decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs, and he supports ending our wars abroad. He really seems to care about the American people.

However, he isn’t the only person aiming for the Democratic nomination. Hilary Clinton started this race with a strong lead over Bernie. Most people didn’t even know who Bernie was. Clinton maintains that lead, though the next two months or so will be the real game changers in that race. The thing is, many Bernie supporters are staunchly opposed to Clinton. Just check out Bernie Sander’s Dank Meme Stash for a plethora of Bernie on Clinton hate. Check out any Pro Hilary or Anti Bernie news article to see myriad comments of Bernie supporters bashing Clinton. Hell, check out pro Bernie articles for the same stuff.

I understand you want your preferred candidate to win the nomination, of course.  You should be like that in defense of your candidate. However, it reaches a dangerous area when you meet the “Bernie or Bust” crowd. These are people who refuse to vote for Clinton, even if she is the democratic nominee. They refuse to vote at all if Bernie isn’t nominated. These are the people who reject the logic that not voting for Clinton is essentially voting for the republican candidate. These are the people who think that voting for Clinton is the same as voting republican. These are the people that absolutely terrify me, and that make me have less and less respect for Bernie and his cause. If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, part of me will blame these zealots for it.

Why? Well, it all began yesterday. I read this article about how Hilary is essentially a Republican. I would call Hilary a moderate Democrat, certainly not a republican, but that’s a matter of personal philosophy. The content wasn’t entirely the issue… except it was. Most of the things on that list were very accurate complaints about Hilary and her similarities to the Republican Party. There was one, however, that made me realize that the person who wrote the article didn’t have the full scope of the issue at hand.

“3) I don’t vote Republican because I’ve always supported gay people’s civil liberties and the Republicans who’ve barely come around to supporting gay marriage this decade are doing so only because the polling now supports it.”

This statement really frustrates me. Why does it frustrate me? Because it’s inaccurate. It is true that Hilary recently changed her opinion on same sex marriage. What’s incorrect is that republicans are also changing their opinions. Every single one of the republican candidates has on their agenda to reverse the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. Every. Single. One. So Hilary may have only recently come around to the idea, but she will not be actively trying to reverse it like Trump or Cruz would.

This shows me one thing: That these Bern or Bust people do not fully understand the magnitude of this election. They do not understand the importance of not allowing a republican candidate into office. They want universal healthcare and free college tuition? Well the GOP candidates want to repeal Obamacare and dismantle the department of Education, which will make insurance prices skyrocket and will certainly make it more difficult and expensive to attend college without federal funding to those schools through the Department of Education. Clinton doesn’t want to do that. The republicans want to “simplify” the tax code and remove the IRS, which would literally put millions of people out of jobs. Clinton may be a “status quo” candidate, but at least the current status is not as horrible as it would be with one of these republican nutjobs.

But that’s the issue. These Bern or Bust people just don’t get it. They just don’t understand the severe magnitude of the situation. I am terrified of a GOP presidency, because I do not want the government to be systematically dismantled by a power hungry fool. Bernie fans are all about their memes and their bashing of Hilary, and it’s quite immature.

We’ve all seen the iconic meme that has an issue as a headline, and an image of Bernie and his position under it, and a picture of Clinton and her position under it. These have been played off to emphasize Clinton’s lack of connection with the people she is trying to represent. But it is incredibly frustrating to me. She doesn’t need to be hip and young to be an effective president. She doesn’t need to agree with hipster college student on everything to be a good democratic candidate. This is an irresponsible and immature sentiment to hold about someone.

And finally, a president is only as effective as their congress. People complain that Obama hasn’t done enough of his promises, but that is due directly to opposition in the House and Senate from GOP lawmakers. Clinton is moderate, so it is easier for her to negotiate with GOP lawmakers. Bernie’s plans are door-in-the-face strategy. Do you really think the Senate will approve all of it? Definitely not. Not in a million years. They will either never see any sort of fruition, or be drastically altered.

But this is only one possibility. Voting gives you the power. You go to vote. You select your president. You select your representative. You select your senator. If you don’t show up, you don’t select anything. Someone else does. If Bernie isn’t selected as the nominee and these people remove themselves from the political process, then Bernie’s adventure would have been a waste. The things he made us realize about our society would be useless information.

So please, vote for Bernie in the primaries, and if he doesn’t get the nomination, please vote for Clinton. Pretty pretty please? Especially if that psychopath Cruz gets the GOP nomination.

If you are a fantasy writer who uses magic in their stories, then you have undoubtedly heard of what is referred to as a “magic system.” A Magic system is a formal structure for your magic. This does not mean that it is specific like a science. It means it is consistent throughout your world. I’ll levy an example.

In the Harry Potter world, magic follows specific rules. The caster must have a wand. They must speak the correct words, in the correct way. They must be strong enough to conjure and control the spell they summon. This is part of the magic system. There are more intricacies, and specified exceptions, but overall, everyone who uses magic must follow those rules. If they do not follow those rules, they once had to follow them and have learned how to circumvent them or have been granted special privileges (such as Dumbledore being the only one able to apparate into and out of Hogwarts).

Harry potter has a very specific magic system. It’s easy to follow and rigid. Not all magic is wands and spoken spells, however. Many stories, such as Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, have more complex magic systems. In the Sword of Truth world, there are two types of magic, Additive and Subtractive. Additive is a type of magic believed to be lost. This involves anything to do with creating. There’s an iconic scene where a character displays his ability to use additive magic by cutting and then re-growing someone’s hair repeatedly.  However, this world, the magic system is very loosely defined. It says “Yes, there are two types of magic that all magic can be classified into… but that’s all we really know about magic.”

That brings me to another point. There are two kinds of magic systems. There are strict systems, and lenient systems. Harry Potter’s magic system is very strict. They can only cast spells they know, with wands that are theirs, if they are powerful enough. They can break these rules at very great cost to themselves or others. The Sword of Truth’s magic system is very lenient. Various types of magic exist, all with different rules of their own. Everything requires different knowledge, skills, and equipment. It’s pretty much a magical free for all.

So why do I mention all of this? What’s the point? Well, if you frequent any fantasy writing advice blogs or forums, you will see a great deal of literature on magic systems. Mostly the idea that you need to have a well thought out magic system for your fantasy story to be good, especially in a sword and sorcery type of setting. The more important magic is in your story, the more flushed out your magic system needs to be.

But I disagree.

These magic systems often represent something else. In a strict world, they represent science. It is very difficult to deviate from the laws of science, as it is difficult to deviate from a strict system. This system has often been studied and standardized. Certain people have expertise in certain areas, and work mostly in those areas. This is a parallel to the science of our world. In a lenient world, they represent social rules and laws. Generally it suggests a grey area, where unpredictable things happen, or where things happen without an easy explanation as to why.

So I say that it really depends on what your magic represents. If it represents or is a replacement to science and technology, then it needs to be well thought out and precise. However, this does not mean that it needs to be accurate. There are quite a lot of scientific ideas that have yet to be proven or studied enough to prove. The same could be said about your magic. Once you realize that not even science always follows its own rules, you realize just how unimportant your fancy magic system needs to be.

If your magic represents social rules, then it needs to reflect the point you are trying to make. Do you think social rules are important and should be followed? Do you think it’s safe to deviate? Is there a minimum safe deviation? Are social rules elitist? Are they pandering? This can be reflected in your fantasy society’s “rules” about magic. Generally, in these stories, either the antagonist or protagonist goes outside of the rules established in the magic system, usually far outside.

However, it seems that regardless of the story, the magic system tends to get some level off deconstruction. If its science, a part of it gets proven wrong. If it’s social, then attitudes change throughout the story. So I say why waste your time creating a fancy magic system when you are going to break all of those rules anyway? As long as whatever is happening in the story is consistent, readers don’t really care how complicated the system is.

I am currently working on a project where the magical character grows up not knowing about the magic system, and just using her magic. When she finally is told about it, she doesn’t understand why she doesn’t fit into the system and neither do others. It creates a dangerous dogma that makes her a target to some. It is in this way that magic systems can be made relevant to your story other than to keep up the suspension of disbelief.

Thanks for reading. How do you feel about magic systems?

The-Night-of-the-Living-Dead

Everyone knows that Night of the Living Dead is an iconic piece of cinema that paralleled the Red Scare and fears of communism slowly surrounding and consuming us. You see, when zombies first arrived, they had meaning. They were a symbol of something truly horrifying. They were a symbol of a threat against the democratic way of life. Let’s explore, briefly, what I mean.

Zombies, or undead – or whatever you decide to call them – began as slow moving and weak reanimations of those we once knew. It was easy to see them coming. It was easy to avoid them. They were very weak, and in order to break through those windows and doors had to repeatedly bang on them, weakening them until they could break through. If you encountered one, it was easy to avoid it, but if you encountered a hundred, it was much more difficult. This mirrored how people felt about communism.

Communism spread through communists. It spread slowly. You could easily identify a communist. Their words were not very strong, but repeatedly hearing them eventually wore down people’s own ideas about the importance of democracy. Communists were not random strangers from other countries, either. No, they were people you knew. They were people like sweet old Mrs. Adelman who feeds the neighborhood cats. They were people like Bill at the auto store. They weren’t exactly the same as before, but you knew them. They were familiar. You had a bond with them in some way. If there was one communist, you could avoid them. One hundred were not so easy to avoid.

I bring this up because zombies once had substance. Zombies once represented a real societal fear in our culture. I implore you to review all the books, movies, and games you have recently played, watched or read which involve zombies. Think of what those zombies represented in those stories. Mostly, the zombies are some overt representation of the Man vs. Nature conflict. They attempt to add a psychological depth to a story where there may be one. After all, how can you logically make a young boy shoot his mother, or a father shoot his only son? How can you stir up those emotions that accompany the struggle of watching a family member succumb to zombieism without zombies? Well, this is my point. It’s always possible to do those things. What zombies do is make it easy to do that.

My point is this: Zombies are LAZY.

Let’s look at some modern examples. The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television right now. Based off of a highly acclaimed comic book serial, the show is loved by all, particularly apocalypse planners and zombie enthusiasts. It depicts a post-apocalyptic world where rival human factions struggle to survive in a world full of “Walkers” – the undead remnants of the past society that make nature suddenly more dangerous. Forget actual nature which, if given the chance to reclaim itself, would be drastically more dangerous. No, humans without minds are the greatest natural threat in the world. That is the message zombies are meant to portray. That is not the message they are often used to portray.

walking dead

In the show (and comic), the zombies serve very specific purposes. They are a constant environmental threat and conflict, of course, but in terms of plot, they serve a few specific functions. One of those functions is to serve as motivation for the characters to keep moving from place to place. If they stay in one place too long, the walkers find them. Another is to prevent them from doing something, or from following a direct path. (The quickest way into the city is through this tunnel? Well, Walkers hang out in tunnels, we can’t go in there. Let’s go all the way around.) And the final purpose they serve is to kill people off. Zombies kill people. That’s kind of their thing.

So why do I care? Well, as I said, zombies are lazy. Zombies also make plot boring. Let’s review the first plot purpose I mentioned: forcing characters to move. Simply saying “there are zombies and they need to avoid them” is simple. There are countless other reasons people could be nomadic. Perhaps there is a nomadic human faction that threatens them? Perhaps they are searching for something specific? Perhaps the rain is poisonous and they need to move away from storm clouds? There are a million possibilities and then a million more.

The issue with all off these options is that each one needs its own explanation. Each one needs a background, each one needs a dynamic story arc of its own. If they are being pursued by an enemy factions, who is leading this faction, why are they pursuing them? Are they going to kill them, torture them, capture them? Why? Is that faction all evil, or does it just have an evil leader(s)?

If they are seeking something then what are they seeking? Why are they seeking it? Where did it come from? Who found out about it? How does each member of the group feel about it? Is anyone else seeking it?

If the rain is poisonous, then what poisoned it? What are the effects of the poison rain? How does it affect the wildlife? What was done to try to fix it? What can save them from the rain’s poison? How do they get clean drinking water?

Now, with zombies, you can have the same questions. Where did the zombies come from? How can they be stopped? What are their main threats? However, you ask these questions once. They apply to every situation. You can’t go through a tunnel because of the zombies? Well, you already know all about the zombies. You can’t stay in one place too long because of the zombies? Doesn’t bring up any new questions. You can’t go through a tunnel because the poisonous rainwater is pooling inside? Or perhaps the poison rainwater has caused poisoned plants/animals to grow in the tunnel. This brings up new questions about why the water is pooling, why the animals are becoming poisonous, etc.

Using zombies is a lazy trick. It makes you complacent to not think of any new or interesting plot points for your story. Let’s look at the popular video game The Last of Us. This game follows a man and a young girl who many believe is the cure for zombieism. The zombies in the game pose a constant environmental hazard, but don’t really add much to the plot. They help drive the plot, because the whole idea is to try to stop the zombie disease, but they themselves aren’t pivotal to the plot. The disease could literally be anything, really.

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In the story you are introduced to three different kinds of zombies, each with different qualities. These zombies are spread out among the abandoned places of the world, and you must make your way through them to safety. However, the zombies don’t add to the plot. What adds to the plot are the gangs and cults you interact with. Sure, the zombies add a scare factor and intensity to the game that the humans may not, but they do not add to the story or the character development. The other human characters do that.

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If you are a young writer and you are thinking of having a zombie story, I urge you to think about why you want it to be a zombie story. Do you like zombies and don’t give a crap about any of this because zombies are cool? If so, go for it. Plenty of people like zombies because they’re zombies. However, if you want a more literary approach, consider replacing your zombies with some more complicated element. Take the time to think about what you want your characters to experience and craft a challenge that will lead them to that result. Don’t just use zombies as the default challenge for your entire book.

da

Literature has been a part of the human experience since humans could first tell stories. It has also shifted greatly throughout the centuries – decades even. What constitutes good literature now may not have been considered good ten years ago, or a hundred years ago. Over time, however, new literary mediums have emerged.

It began with the oral tradition. Then it turned to drawing. A series of images would depict a story. Then it turned to writing and as language developed, words became more complex. Eventually, pictures were strung together and words added to them, creating motion pictures. Soon, these pictures became interactive, responding to inputs by a living person. Video games were born. The war for quality literature only grew more complex.

There is always debate over what constitutes literature. I am of the belief that any genre and any medium is literature. The quality of said literature is always up for debate, but I will not argue that it is not literature. I will, however, say that the different mediums have different goals.

Writing, for instance, serves to make the reader think. They must read the words, understand them, and visualize. They must then be able to figure out what is happening. It is when wording and language are most important and could mean the difference between a dull character and an exciting one; a flat story and a wild ride. Movies are different. They remove the words. They take much of the interpretive work out of the piece. They show you what is happening. Therefore, they can worry less about tiny details and more about the big picture. However, they have a pacing concern. How fast is the story going and is the character and plot development logical at that pace? They also have the issue of logic. It’s easy to just make something happen in a movie without anyone really thinking if it makes sense at the time. A book does not have that luxury. Everything needs to be explained, to some degree, so the reader believes what they are reading.

We also have comics, which are a combination of various forms of media into its own unique area. Comics have the luxury of being both read and looked at. The artist and writer can tell a story with both words and images. Therefore, symbolism in drawing and realism in dialogue are key elements to comic books and graphic novels.

However, the newest medium would certainly be video games. Video games are an interesting collection of the previous mediums in that they can include all of them as well as add another. You can have video games that utilize a lot of still art, comic art, writing, and videos. In the advent of video games, they were not so complex. They were simple ideas and weren’t capable of being very complex. However, now that we have much more complex systems of gaming, games are often discussed by gamers in terms of their story.

Role Playing Games, or RPG’s, are often the most literary of the games. The premise is that the player takes the role of one of the characters in some sort of epic. They see their character develop and change as they react to the things happening around them. More recent games allow the player to make decisions that directly affect what happens in the storyline. This gives the player a more immersed feeling.

But there are people who swear up and down that video games cannot possibly have literary value. I like to disagree. Intensely. I like to begin with the purpose of literature. There are quite a few, depending on how ambitious the creator was. Some literature is meant to teach a lesson. Some is meant to make commentary. Some is meant to make the consumer forget about their world and live in another for a short while. They do these things by utilizing literary elements such as imagery, symbolism, characterization, plot, and others. If you, like I, think that that is the most important part of literature, then you must argue that video games can be literature.

There are, of course, examples of terrible literature in any medium. Video games are no exception.

I just find it baffling when people say video games cannot be literature. Take for instance the Dragon Age series. It is a fantasy story set in a fantasy world. There are some people who claim that Fantasy and Science fiction cannot be literature, but to them I laugh the hardest. (In my humble opinion, Fantasy and Science Fiction are the most capable of being effective literature since there are less boundaries to respect in terms of realism). Good fantasy stories require world-building. A well-built world will parallel our own in many ways. It is what allows the creator to make comments on our world using their work. Dragon Age has one of the most well developed worlds I’ve experienced. It is filled with mystery, political intrigue, and interesting characters. It has a rich and well developed history with diverse cultures, religious beliefs, and political systems. The stories follow the themes we see so regularly in our society, such as political corruption, misdirection, cover ups, and ignorance. They help teach that, though you may be on a specific journey, those you interact with are on their own journeys. You must interact with everyone’s journey, and that may change yours.

How is a story like the Lord of the Rings all that different from the Catcher in the Rye? It really isn’t. We have our main character(s) on a journey to accomplish a task. The tasks may be different, but they are tasks. As they work toward those goals, they interact with other people. Those people either make their quest easier or harder. In the end, there are many failures and successes, and by the time they achieve their goal, they have done it in a way they never thought possible.

My question is: Since the message is the same, why does the packaging really matter? Why does it matter if one is set in an imaginary place while the other is set in a fictionalized American city? It doesn’t.

Now that I’ve gone on a tirade about fantasy being literature, I can return to the topic at hand. Video games clearly share many of the same elements of other forms of media, but add an interactive part that helps consumers to internalize the messages. So, I leave it here for your opinion: Can video games be literature?

supergirl

It’s finally here. Supergirl has seen the silver screen, or at least a taste of it. She’s been picked up by CBS with a “series confirmation.” If this does not make your feminist heart swell up with extreme excitement, you need to think about this a little more. I’m going to go over all of the reasons why this is amazing:

She is Female.

Take a moment and think about all of the superhero movies you have seen in the recent fifteen years. Hell, think of any superhero movie or television show. Aside from the entirely abysmal Catwoman movie (which ended up being about makeup?), and the less than magnificent Elektra, the gender palettes have been entirely monochromatic, at least where protagonists are concerned. We have Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Captain America, Green Lantern, Spiderman, Fantastic 4, X-Men, Daredevil, Smallville, Arrow, Gotham, The Flash, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the rest are all spearheaded by a male lead. He’s the most important one in the movie/show. There are women present, but they are not in charge. They are there, essentially, to serve the protagonists (as any secondary character is). This isn’t a problem, except that the women never take larger roles. Check out Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube channel if you don’t understand what I mean. There are plenty of other blogs, vlogs, and documentaries about female tropes in media, like MissRepresentation. you can find a bunch of different ones. Women’s roles are never center stage. They are always there to support the male protagonist. Having a show where the Superhero is female, and therefore the one who is in charge, the one who is making decisions and being important, is good. Not to say that female characters in these other shows are useless. Chloe Sullivan and Lois Lane in Smallville are often the ones pushing the story forward, while Clark is trying to keep up. But it’s not their story. It’s his.

This will be entirely Kara’s story. If they were going to stick to the comics, she’d have a lot of interaction with her cousin, but the show can have that be distant. He can be like a mentor to her who gives her advice, because essentially he’s got his own stuff to do. The release referred to Superman as her “famous cousin,” which means he is established in this world. It would even be funny if people mistook her for superman sometimes, or asked for her instead of Superman sometimes. Or, if on occasion, he asked for her help, and she just zipped over and solved his problem faster than he could have and then goes home.

She’s not Superman.

Some people will roll their eyes because they think Supergirl is Female Superman. She isn’t. She has similar powers, but varied powers. The main difference is that Kara (Supergirl) grew up on Krypton. She experienced Kryptonian culture and technology. She experienced the destruction of her planet. She experienced the deaths of all the people she ever cared for. You think Batman’s back story is tragic? Get over it. All of her worst fears were realized. In many of the stories, she left Krypton wanting one thing: to find her cousin. And then she got to Earth and it took years to find him. Depending on the iteration you refer to, she has a few different origins. Most of them have her end up in some sort of cryogenic stasis until Cal-El is at least older than her, so when she awakens, she’s looking for her little cousin, and cannot find him, and some man claims that he is the little boy she’s looking for. Crazy stuff, right? What an emotional roller coaster! Another thing about her is that, since she grew up Kryptonian, she identifies as Kryptonian. Therefore, she has full access to all of her Kryptonian abilities. Superman, on the other hand, is limited because he does not Identify as Kryptonian. He identifies as Human. The more he accepts that he isn’t a human, the more powerful he becomes. Kara doesn’t have that issue. Kara doesn’t have any identity issues. Her issue is that she’s a proud Kryptonian and she is trying to find a way to show that.

The Superfamily is All About Culture

As I mentioned, Supergirl is trying to find a way to express Kryptonian heritage in a human world. This is such an important issue. Our country is highly focused on race and culture right now. Supergirl wants to show off everything she can do as a Kryptonian, but its difficult because that makes her not human. That separates her, and it makes her an outcast. Even when she uses her abilities for good, she’s still different. We need a show about someone trying to adjust to our culture. We need a show about culture shock, and how it affects you. We need a show about how amazing it is to learn about and accept another culture, even if you don’t identify with it. This is very important.

There are some things that could go wrong, but this has the potential to be amazing! We’ll have a female lead with most likely female co-leads. This will open the door for other female Superheroes. This could open the eyes of Hollywood and let them know that a well written female protagonist can sell. Please, take some time to support Supergirl if CBS finally airs it. She deserves it. Women deserve it.

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