There are many, many things I love to see in literature and narrative universes of any form of media. One of the things I’m particularly fond of is taking ancient mythology and giving it a fresh twist. To the detriment of Western media consumers, most of this mythology is largely coming from the Greek/Roman pantheon. While I would really love to see more influence from, say, African and Indian mythos, for example, because knowledge of the Greek and Roman pantheon is so prevalent, this mythology is easier to market. (Again, a flaw of over-saturation in the market.) Due to this, when Borderlands gives me a group of people called “sirens”, I automatically start filling in some of the blanks. But, thinking about it a little more closely, how similar are the sirens in the Borderlands universe to the songstresses from ye olde legends and myths? Spoiler warning for both Borderlands games under the cut.
Positive racial representation is so, so important in our popular media. This is not news—it’s something we talk about at least weekly on this site. But what about situations where a character’s race is never stated? Some media, by their nature, don’t include physical descriptors of their characters: what, if anything, can these raceless characters do for racial representation?
Theoretically, leaving a character’s racial identity open to fan interpretation should allow fans to invent a diverse variety of different designs for that character. It should be a goldmine of racial representation, because leaving a character raceless should allow people of any race to identify with that character. The truth of it is, though, that characters with no assigned race often end up white in the majority of fan renderings. Much like the heterosexist idea that everyone is straight until proven otherwise, when a character’s race is not explicitly stated, the bulk of a fandom will fall back on the idea that white is the default, “normal” race and assign whiteness to the character or characters in question.
White privilege is present in every part of our lives, and part of that privilege is seeing oneself in media without ever having to look. In fact, people are so socialized into believing that all main characters are white people that we often visualize characters as white even when they’re not described as such. For example, did you know that Harry Potter is never assigned a race in the books? He’s got messy black hair and great skin, but the actual color of his skin is never brought up. And yet it’s only recently that I’ve seen people making an active effort to introduce biracial Harry headcanons into the fandom. We do this because we’ve been taught over and over again that white is the norm. While it’s not wrong to imagine a character as white, it is something to be aware of, and to challenge in ourselves as critical consumers of media. What subconciously led us to whiteness, and why did we choose that over a PoC design?
I’ve been reading Marvel’s Thor comics since long before the movie came out. I think I was immediately captured by Thor’s and Loki’s stories since I viewed them as an opportunity to learn more about Norse mythology. After reading the comics for a few years and then finally seeing the first live-action film, I started picking up books on actual Norse mythology and even read the Edda at one point.
It was then that I realized that my original assumption—that I could learn about Norse mythology through Marvel’s Thor—was not the best assumption to make. There are still many things about the comics that are in line with actual mythology, and before studying the Edda I did know that there would be some differences between the two narratives. After all, I didn’t think it was quite a big deal that Marvel made Thor blond instead of redheaded.
However, it didn’t occur to me before reading the Edda just how vastly different they would both be. Marvel even went so far as to change Asgardian culture to reflect beauty standards today, with very little regard to actual Norse ideals, especially when it comes to gender roles.
Before we get into this, I should point out that reading about Norse mythology and the Edda by no means makes me an expert on the subject. So please feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong.
In The Flesh is very important to me (you can read an introductory review of Season 1 by Ace here), and Kieren Walker, in particular, is very important to me. He’s an artist. He doesn’t want to stand out but at the same time he stands up for the mistreated. He spends a lot of time wanting to run away from everything but when it counts he decides to stay. He has a history of depression. He is also a LGBTQ+ character, which is one of his defining characteristics but not the defining character feature. The way Kieren’s sexuality is portrayed on the show and talked about by the creators isn’t perfect, but it is also extraordinarily positive in quite a few ways.
Trigger warnings for brief mentions of suicide and depression below. Also mild spoilers concerning Kieren’s character development and relationships.
A little more than a month ago, I brought to light my dislike for the white mage trope in RPGs and my wishes that such lazy tropes would be re-worked into more dynamic characters in the future. I still very much think this, but in writing said article I made myself consider the white mages that I had already come across in my gaming life. Unsurprisingly, the character that I automatically think of when considering this trope is not, in fact, Yuna from FFX, but Colette from Tales of Symphonia.
This is an obvious choice in my case because, while my brother certainly is a fan of the Final Fantasy series, I never really got into it until X-2 and honestly, I’m still not really into the series beyond that specific game. Instead, my first true foray into the JRPG scene, and probably the RPG scene as a whole, was Tales of Symphonia. Its story focuses on a religion that has been perverted to the point of sacrificing someone in waking up the goddess that will bring mana back to the world, and it just so happens to be Colette that has been chosen to—rather, has been bred to—become this sacrifice. However, most people aren’t aware that this ‘chosen’ will end up giving their life, and instead believe that they will become an angel. As such, it makes sense for Colette to carry the typical angelic-healer looks and personality: blonde hair, blue eyes, white clothes, and a sense of self-sacrifice that could make anyone around her feel ashamed.
Yet Colette isn’t the healer/white mage of the group. In fact, Colette gets no healing abilities and is actually more aggressive in her play style. The healer in Symphonia is Raine Sage, a somewhat bitter half-elf who has more fondness for ruins than for the people around her. I bring these two up not because Colette is exempt from the white mage trope due to her lack of healing skills (she’s still a “white mage” in terms of motivation), but because the game actively presents opportunities in which the audience can re-evaluate the inherent tropiness of having someone be a “white mage” in the first place.
Someone is building machines that look and act like people.
Meanwhile, the Winter Soldier tries to be Bucky Barnes.
A couple months ago, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out, and suddenly the casual Tumblrite couldn’t walk two virtual steps without getting hit in the face by Sebastian Stan. There were so many gifs, theories, and emotions about the movie that I briefly considered blocking any mention of Sebastian and his character, the Winter Soldier, but as that would actually mean blocking the majority of content on my dashboard, I refrained. And somewhere within the deluge of feels, I found this amazing fic. So all in all, I’m pretty glad I didn’t block anything.
Other than Studio Ghibli’s films, it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched anime. Though I enjoy the occasional manga, it’s not something that I go out of my way to consume. This is probably because I’m not the biggest fan of either shounen or shoujo. I personally find both these genres much more structured than I would like. All too often, one shounen will feel too much like another, and that goes for me and shoujo as well.
But despite my feelings against this kind of narrative formula, there still remain some aspects of the shounen genre that I really do love. And if there was one shounen that I knew I wouldn’t mind sitting down and rewatching, it was, without a doubt, Bleach.