Magic corrupts. Well, the real saying is “power corrupts”, but in many fantasy settings, having magic is the same as having power, so for our purposes, magic corrupts. Indeed, where would a fantasy villain be without awesome magical powers? And as villains are some of my favorite characters, this is a topic that has fascinated me for ages. Magic + amoral people is a surefire way to make me interested in a story.
Buffy was one of my first fandoms, and I loved it. I also loved Willow Rosenberg, a Jewish witch who’s openly queer and unapologetic about her nerdiness, a great deal. Willow spends most of the series as Buffy’s best friend, constantly ready to help save the day with her powers. Unfortunately for Willow, things take a turn for the worst in Season 6. We learn that magic is addictive, and her powers start controlling her more than she controls them. As Willow loses herself to her magic, she turns to villainy, leaving her at odds with Buffy and the rest of her friends.
Comics and religion don’t often mix, and that’s why it was so surprising when the new Ms. Marvel burst onto the scene and became such a smash hit. Kamala Khan (i.e., the current Ms. Marvel) and her Muslim family and friends provide a respectful, realistic portrayal of a family of faith that anyone from a religious background—especially one grounded in a strong family and ethnic tradition—can relate to. Of course such a story could have been written about any religious family, because the same thing could have come across if the Khans had been Greek Orthodox Christians like my family, or Polish Catholics, or Orthodox Jews, or Indian Hindus, etc. etc. But it’s extremely important that the series instead chooses to normalize a family of darker-skinned Muslims, as they have been such a persecuted group in the Western world lately. Realizing that a group different from your own is, in fact, simply human Just Like You is the first step in encouraging empathy and in changing attitudes, and Ms. Marvel does a great job with that. Now, I’m not Muslim, nor do I know an awful lot about Islam. I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian with a priest for a father, and I grew up hearing some very Islamophobic opinions from him. It took me a long time to get over that, but it wasn’t until reading Ms. Marvel that I realized that Orthodox Christians and Muslims might actually have a lot more in common than I thought. It’s also just lovely to have representation of a religious character in comics, in which faith is organically woven into the story without being preachy or just surface-level!
Note that I’ve only read through the latest trade paperback of the series (Volume 6, up to issue #12 of the current run). But Saika tells me these points still hold for the latest issues. Mild spoilers up to my current stopping point below!
I received Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson for Christmas, but with a TBR list longer than Batman v. Superman, I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until this week, when, filled with Wonder Woman-y vigor, I shifted it to the top of my pile.
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon offers an alternative origin story for our favorite princess from Themyscira, but not one that is particularly inspiring or heroic. Ultimately, the real Greek tragedy here is twofold: one, my mom spent real dollars buying this off my Amazon wishlist, and two, I spent forty-five minutes reading it that I can never get back.
It’s been a while since I played the previous Assassin’s Creed game, so I decided it was high time to continue on with the series. Black Flag was next in the main storyline, so I dove right in and blew my way through it in record time. Once again, my biggest problem with these games is female representation. It’s just… not good, and if there were one thing I wanted the games to improve on, that would be it. As for everything else, sure, it’s not perfect, but like its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed IV is remarkably on point when it comes to race issues, as well as just being a fun gaming experience.
One of my favorite movies when I was a kid was the 2003 Dreamworks movie Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. It didn’t get great reviews and its plot was nothing to write home about, but I loved all the characters, the adventure, and the romance, and I wore out our little VHS tape and annoyed all my family members by watching it over and over. I even bought the video game (side note: wasn’t great, do not recommend). Then I went on to other movies and mostly forgot about Sinbad until I caught a glimpse of it while channel-flipping last month. Fascinated, I watched it all again from the beginning, and then did what I didn’t think about in 2003: I went to research it online. What I found was that Sinbad could have potentially been far more creative and representative than the version that we got.
Spoilers for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas below.
This weekend, I rushed to the theater to see Wonder Woman. I was filled with both hope and fear. I knew that if Wonder Woman did poorly that we might never see a female led superhero movie again, and I knew that so far DC Comics’s movies haveleft a lot to bedesired, but I was hearing good things about the film so I walked in hoping for the best. And praise Hera, I have never been more pleased or satisfied with a superhero film.
With E3 just around the corner, it’s difficult not to get hyped up about the video game industry!
…No, I lied. Given the last couple of years, on the whole E3 has kind of been lacking on what the emerging, diverse gaming populace want to see in their games. Some game companies are trying, like Guerrilla Games and their game Horizon Zero Dawn, but still end up missing the mark; for example, with Horizon, many Native players and onlookers found that their culture was appropriated and misrepresented because there were no actual Native people serving as consultants or even on the writing team. With game companies being so strangely reluctant to actually collaborate with people from the culture their game is going to represent, I found myself keeping away from one game series in particular: Far Cry.
The Far Cry series has been around for more than a decade and the gameplay within its more recent installments (FPS with both action and RPG elements) always attracts praise from critics and players alike. However, what put me off the series is the way it seems to embody the idea that cultures not our own are in some way barbaric and in need of liberation. For instance, 2012’s Far Cry 3 stars Jason Brody—like, seriously, have you heard a more “white guy from Orange County” name in your life?—who is captured by a pirate crew during a party along with his friends and brother on an island in the Indian Ocean, and gets caught up in some slavery ring/drug cartel businessbecause of course that’s what’s happening. 2014’s Far Cry 4 feels like it takes a step in the right direction, having its (still male) protagonist Ajay actually have ties to the Nepalese-inspired culture of Kryat, where the game takes place. However, I can’t find anything that leads me to believe that Ubisoft actually consulted anyone from the Nepal area to help with their worldbuilding, and instead simply sent their team to Nepal to draw their own conclusions.Yet with the upcoming Far Cry5 I can’t help but be excited because for once, the protagonist won’t be restricted to being a dude. Additionally, there’s no uncomfortable feeling of going overseas and bringing American justice to foreign people. Far Cry 5 takes a controversial–or perhaps just controversial given the political climate—look at a villainous group that’s been avoided for far too long in the series: white people.