When I was a child, like many of you, I was obsessed with Harry Potter. But unlike many of you, the fanfics I entertained in my mind (though I didn’t yet know they were called that) were not about the canonical characters, but all about an American Muggle-born witch OC who looked up her magical “symptoms” online and ended up finding the “Worldwide Wizarding Web”. Even back then, when I was as young as a first-year, I thought it was ridiculous that the wizarding world hadn’t yet entered the 21st century at all, and I decided to rectify the situation.
Well, imagine my satisfaction when, fifteen years later, Hogwarts finally “hopped aboard the Information Technology train” and hired an IT staff to deal with the Wizarding Web and all the Muggle-borns and half-bloods who refused to give up their smartphones when they went off to school! The Setup Wizard is a fan blog that posts daily updates on these IT adventures at Hogwarts, and oh my gosh, it is so much fun.
Saika: It’s been about a month now, and it’s still hard for me to believe that Homestuck is over. I came to the fandom in 2013, when the story was already deep in the throes of Act 6 and its multiple sub- and sub-sub-acts, but it feels like I’ve been part of this wacky and oft-maligned group for longer than that. However, the fact stands that Homestuck has ended, so Syng and I have teamed up to hit you with our thoughts on said ending.
Syng: In this retrospective, we’re going to look back on both of our journeys with Homestuck, as well as reflect on the end of the story and what it means for us as fans moving forward. Spoilers for all of Homestuck (since we now have all of it; this is so weird) below!
Most religious people believe in a god or gods that exist independently of humans, and that do not need anything in particular from humans in order to keep on existing. Some people believe their god or gods predate the existence of sentient life, or even of the universe itself. Neil Gaiman likes to play around with this idea of belief in deities. In particular, in his comic series The Sandman and in his book American Gods, he posits a surprising (to people of faith) scenario: what if gods exist only because people believe in them?
This has some fascinating implications for human (and, in Sandman, other sentient being) agency. It essentially grants superhuman strength to human belief, empowering us to control our own destinies. On the other hand, this premise also opens a whole bunch of cans of worms. It directly contradicts many faiths’ theology and causes issues with causality. Perhaps most chillingly, however, it introduces a degree of moral relativism that could (and in the stories, does) lead to unjust consequences.
Mild spoilers for the Sandman series and American Gods below.
Ever since The Force Awakens came out, fans all across the internet have been making fun of its villain, Kylo Ren, for his whininess (here’s my favorite: Emo Kylo Ren). A new Darth Vader, he definitely is not. And you know what? That’s the point.
This movie has shaken the foundations of the kinds of people who we expect to see as heroes in a Star Wars movie, and it is incredibly significant that the only white male in the new main cast (Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe, is Guatemalan-American) is the villain. And not even a very competent villain. In comparison with the other, more diverse characters, and taking everyone’s actions into account, Kylo Ren really does seem like those entitled white, male geeks who are trying to “preserve” geekdom for others like themselves. And just like them, he is going to fail. He is already well on his way to failing.
Major spoilers beneath the cut, in case you’re one of the two or three people left who haven’t yet seen Episode VII!
Since this is our last post before Christmas (we’ll be back January 6th), I have a Christmas present for you all: a new awesome YA series for you to check out! I’ve been dying to write about The Lunar Chronicles for months, and now that my semester has finally ended, I can! Be ready for a barrage of Lunar Chronicles posts from me over the next few months.
Many fantasy series use fantastical or sci-fi aspects as a commentary on issues relevant to the society in which the books were published. For instance, in the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling attempted to use lycanthropy as an allegory for AIDS. The Lunar Chronicles, a quartet of cyberpunk fairy tale retellings by Marissa Meyer, similarly uses werewolves to get a point across. But in this case, the “werewolves” are genetically modified human soldiers, forced to fight for an oppressive regime, just like other indoctrinated soldiers throughout real history.
Spoilers for the second and fourth books in the series, Scarlet and Winter, below.
The Christianization of pagan stories is nothing new. To convince the locals to convert to Christianity, missionaries would often turn local myths and gods into saints instead so the locals could convert but still keep their folk traditions. For instance, some argue that St. Brigid of Ireland was in fact a Christianization of the Celtic goddess of the same name, and rituals surrounding the goddess Eostre were incorporated into the Christian celebration of Easter. This is a form of syncretism (thoroughly explained by Lady Geek Girl here) that was used consciously and deliberately to erase pagan beliefs and traditions and replace them with Christian ones instead. The case of the Disney movie Hercules, though, is a little different. Its Christianization was likely not deliberate, but it ends up reinforcing the hegemony of Christian narratives in our culture anyway.
Disney’s Hercules vastly revised the ancient Greek myth of Heracles to make it more “child-friendly” and more palatable to Western audiences. The resulting story, though, positions Hercules as a Christ figure—probably accidentally. This seems to imply that only stories with Christian morals and understandings of the world are acceptable as kids’ stories, and also shows how Christian influence seeps into everything in our pop culture narratives, whether we intend it to or not.
Find out more after the break! Spoilers for all of Hercules ahead.
Ah, Hercules. If Harry Potter was my older childhood, then Disney’s Hercules was my younger childhood, as it came out in 1997. It was one of the few new movies that I didn’t have to wait for my local Blockbuster to catch up on (unlike The Last Unicorn). I was super hyped about it from the moment I first heard it was coming out. Why? Because it was full of Greek people—just like me! See, representation matters!
My parents encouraged this, because even though modern Greeks share hardly anything culturally or religiously with ancient Greeks anymore, they are very proud of their classical heritage. Most Greek kids learn a ton about ancient Greek history and mythology from their families. So my parents had no problem letting me see this movie in theaters and watching it again and again once it came out on video. It’s the story of, well, Hercules, a super-strong son of Zeus raised on Earth who seeks to become a True Hero, and must fight against the evil Hades, god of the Underworld. It’s going to be hard to take off my nostalgia glasses for this one, but I’ll give it a shot in my spoilerific review below!
When I was a kid, the popularity of a children’s movie among my friends had very little to do with current attractions, and everything to do with what was available at the local Blockbuster. When one kid discovered a video there, all the other kids had to rush to go see it as soon as the previous one had returned the video. That’s how I watched The Last Unicorn for the first time at the age of 8 or so, even though it had come out years earlier in 1982. It was different from any “kids’ movie” I had ever seen before; more somber and arty. It made a distinct impression on me, and (in case you couldn’t tell from my WordPress profile picture) I’ve been obsessed with unicorns ever since.
The Last Unicorn tells the tale of a unicorn who is seemingly the last of her kind, and leaves her forest to find where all the other unicorns went. How does it hold up to an adult viewing? Having seen it twice as an adult, and having read the book upon which it was based, I can tell you that even though it’s not as phenomenal as I remember it being, it’s well worth seeing and I will always keep it close to my heart. It’s also become a bit of a cult classic, so it’s not just me who likes it. More below, including spoilers!
At long last, after a five-month wait (they’re certainly taking their time with this series), The Sandman: Overture #5 has arrived! Despite this being the penultimate issue in this six-part prequel, this issue again brings up more questions than it answers (Author Neil Gaiman really needs to stop doing that. He’s running out of time!). We—Syng and Mikely—are reviewing it jointly again. Join us for spoilers, summary, and analysis after the break, as we delve into darkness with Dream!
You may have heard of Questionable Content, a popular slice-of-life webcomic by Jeph Jacques. But today I’m not talking about Questionable Content. Jeph Jacques started a new webcomic last September called Alice Grove. And now that it’s far enough along that we can see what it’s actually about, I think it’s time to recommend it! Alice Grove is a sci-fi story involving humans that look and act like aliens, biotechnology, and of course, our protagonist, Alice the witch.