Since I started watching Critical Role a few months ago, I have become quite obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons. I quickly realized that while playing D&D is a lot of fun, what I really wanted to be is a Dungeon Master. It unites some of my favorite creative outlets: writing, drawing, acting, and directing. Despite my enthusiasm, it seemed quite daunting at first because there appeared to be so many aspects to it, so I started reading the source books and searching the internet for tips and advice. There is a lot of great stuff out there, so this might become a series of sorts, and I want to start today by talking about one of my more obscure finds—a series of YouTube videos titled Dungeon Master 101 by Acreletae. She has a lot of great advice on the basics of DMing: from organizing your notes and planning strategies for sessions and campaigns to creating non-player characters and cities.
The major point of fantasy novels is, of course, showing a world that is different from ours, where magic is alive and where people have amazing powers. Despite the fact that I read them to escape my mundane life, I’m often annoyed when fantasy books include people experiencing real-life issues, such as trauma, and then gloss over said issues instead of addressing and dealing with them. Other big offenders are the lack of inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and examination of mental illness. Authors and readers seem to think that you cannot address such topics because you cannot use modern-day vocabulary in a fantasy setting. However, once in a while I find a fantasy series which doesn’t shy away from using its medium to examine issues we deal with in real life. As such, today I want to talk about the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore, and in particular its final book—Bitterblue.
Spoilers for the Graceling trilogy below. Also, content warnings for abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and rape.
I’ll be honest, I’m kind of tired of gay coming out arcs on TV by now. The angst, the panic, and the not knowing how their family and friends will react to the gay character aren’t really appealing to me anymore (I’ve had enough of that in my own life). I want to see LGBTQ+ characters living their lives, working, dating, asserting their identities, and standing up to bigotry. However, coming out remains an experience most of us, LGBTQ+ folks, share. And even though representation on mainstream media is disappointing more often than not, it seems that once in a while it’s still possible to be pleasantly surprised and moved to tears by a character figuring out their sexuality on a superhero show, of all places. I am talking, as you can tell by the title, about Alex Danvers—one of the main characters on Supergirl—and her character arc in the first half of the second season.
Spoilers for the Supergirl TV show below.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten really into Dungeons & Dragons, a role-playing and story-telling game that relies on improvisation and dice. A game of D&D is led by a Dungeon Master who provides a fantasy world for the players to interact with, and together, they build a story. I discovered D&D through Critical Role, which is a weekly livestream showing a group of people playing the game. It’s quite unlike any other media content I consume, as it doesn’t have a team of writers and is largely improvised. Moreover, it started as a private home game, so it wasn’t even initially created with an audience in mind (although the players did make the decision to continue their game instead of starting a new one for the broadcast).
However, since it started streaming two years ago, it has become quite a phenomenon, inspiring people to play D&D and to create. I wrote about the show several weeks ago while I was still frantically trying to catch up and as such didn’t really stop to think much about anything. I was very excited, for instance, about the mere fact that the show includes LGBTQ+ representation. Since then, I’ve finished catching up and had time to reflect on and look at this representation a little more critically. While Critical Role does have characters of differing gender identities and sexualities who are portrayed with care and respect, some of the actions of the players show a lack of consideration towards the LGBTQ+ characters and the people they represent.
Some spoilers below.
I must say that, after reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I found that I didn’t totally love it. It didn’t leave me as bursting with excitement about the upcoming TV adaptation as I had hoped. However, I decided to check out the trailer anyway, and it actually got me pretty pumped for the show!
I’m not generally a fan of horror, and while Neil Gaiman perhaps isn’t specifically writing horror, his fantastical worlds are often quite scary. However, I love literary explorations of mythology, faith, life, and death, and most of his writing, from The Sandman to The Graveyard Book, deals with these themes in one way or another. As such, I’ve been meaning to read American Gods for a rather long time. With the TV adaptation of this book fast approaching, I finally picked it up. Gaiman succeeds, as always, at setting the perfect atmosphere and at creating mysterious characters. However, although I love the exploration of mythological and religious themes, there are also a couple of things that prevented me from completely falling in love with this book. I will delve into all of it below.
Spoilers for American Gods (the author’s preferred text version) to follow.
A few years ago I went through an old movie phase where I watched a bunch of classic movies like Casablanca, Some Like It Hot, and so on. I enjoyed some more than others, but I did not expect to find a movie that would became one of my all-time favorites and one of my go-to choices for when I need a comfort movie to watch. And so today, I want to throw way back to 1952 and talk about Singin’ in the Rain, a hilarious musical whose portrayal of Hollywood and the movie business holds up even today.