Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Shintoism, Death Spirits, & Totoro

my-neighbor-totoro-respect-camphor-tree1Lady Geek Girl: My Neighbor Totoro is nothing more than a fun family movie produced by Studio Ghibli, right? Well, not according to some people. One popular fan theory says that My Neighbor Totoro is not the happy movie that we thought it was. Rather, it’s a story about death, and Totoro is actually a god of death or death spirit. As such, the theory goes that the two girls, Mei and Satsuki, can only see Totoro because they are about to die, and at the end of the film Mei runs off and accidentally drowns. When their neighbors find a sandal in the pond, Satsuki claims it’s not Mei’s, but the theory continues that Satsuki was so distraught and in denial about her sister’s death that she lied about the sandal. Satsuki runs to Totoro and he opens up the realm of the dead by calling Catbus, who transports spirits, so she can find Mei. Then, Catbus takes the two girls to visit their mother at the hospital. Their mother sees them because she too is close to death. At the end of the movie Mei and Satsuki also don’t have any shadows, further indicating that they are dead. Studio Ghibli has denied this theory, but nevertheless, it persists among fans. But are there any connections between the Shinto themes of the movie and this theory?

Trigger warning for mention of suicide after the jump.

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Stargate SG-1, Clones, and Villains

It’s no secret that I love Stargate SG-1—it’s got aliens, mythology, and some kickass female characters. Unfortunately, Stargate still has a lot of failings, and watching Orphan Black has brought to my attention at least one more thing that Stargate has done wrong. About halfway through the show, we meet the System Lord Ba’al. Like other Goa’uld, he’s a parasitic creature that has taken over an innocent person’s body called a symbiote. Eventually, when the Goa’uld start losing power, Ba’al tries hiding out on Earth for a bit. While there, he gets the bright idea to clone himself, and the entire storyline never sat well with me.

Ba'alClonesTo start, the whole cloning thing just seemed like a cheap copout to have our villain be in multiple places at once and allow our heroes to kill him over and over and over again without actually getting rid of his character. When I was younger, I also had some concerns for how the show handled this from a more moralistic point of view, and as I said, it wasn’t until watching Orphan Black that I realized exactly what was so wrong with this storyline. For a show that’s so focused on bodily autonomy, I don’t think anyone really thought through the implications of having one of their villains clone himself.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Raised Female Killers and Pursuit of Autonomy

A while ago we had a post discussing female protagonists who are being watched over/controlled by men/patriarchal organizations. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Orphan Black were primary examples. Today, I would like to expand on the ideas of that post and talk about a subset of this type of female characters—female characters who are not only overseen by men/organizations (often patriarchal, though perhaps not always) but are also raised to be killers and assassins against their will. I’m a bit torn when it comes to this type of character. On one hand, these women are complex and their tragic backstories allow for character development and growth. But on the other hand, the misogynistic undertones in their arcs are troubling.

women-weaponsSpoilers for Orphan Black, Killjoys, Firefly, and Doctor Who below the jump. Also, trigger warning for child abuse and self-harm.

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No Really, Trust Me: Pan’s Review of Loki: Agent of Asgard #17

Well, true believers, we’ve reached the seventeenth and final issue of Loki: Agent of Asgard, and in spite of the many annoyances up to this point, Ewing has done a pretty swell job of wrapping things up in a positive and meaningful way. The issue focuses on emotional resolutions more than tangible ones, which helps to clarify what Loki’s underlying character is really like after his several deaths and rebirths. As universe-ending cataclysms go, this one turned out minimally cliché and we finally seem to have gotten back to the series actually being about Loki—now that it’s over, of course.

Why do they all have beards, what is it with gods and beards?

Why do they all have beards? What is it with gods and beards?

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Fanfiction Fridays: Those walls I built didn’t even put up a fight by Azalee

The_heroes_of_OlympusA note before we get started: this post (and the fic I’m reccing in it) contain massive spoilers up through the final pages of the final book in the Heroes of Olympus series, aka the second set of Percy Jackson books. Please consider yourself spoiler-warned.

Last time we talked, I’d just finished rereading the first quintet of Percy Jackson books. The last time I’d read them, the Heroes of Olympus series didn’t even exist, and now it’s completed, so imagine my excitement at being able to jump right in and tear through the next five. I finished The Blood of Olympus on Monday, and, while relatively satisfied with the ending, I had a particular itch that needed scratching, and fanfiction was the only cure.

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Note to Disney: Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Disney has a lot of problems. At this point, I doubt anyone’s going to argue with this. While ranging from the topics within their films (such as the possible glorification of Stockholm syndrome in Beauty and the Beast) to issues spanning across many films (most notably the fact that characters of color end up spending a majority of their movies in animal form), many have come to understand that big name animation studios are not infallible, no matter how many wishes on a star they make. Recently, Disney has come under well-deserved scrutiny once more as more information comes to light on their upcoming movies, Coco and Moana. While there are many who are rightfully excited to see Disney branch out, adding a more diverse cast of characters to their repertoire, the machinations behind the scene paint a much more problematic picture—one that they themselves need to take a step back from and recognize is kind of fucked up.

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Throwback Thursdays: Disney’s Hercules

Hercules movie posterAh, 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!

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