Magical Mondays: Using Magic to Make Drama

Pretty much all shows have some drama, because drama means conflict, and conflict means an interesting story, but drama for the sake of drama aggravates me. For example, if you kill a character and give them a big emotional send off that makes sense with the plot, then great. However, if you then somehow magically bring that character back so that the other characters have to go through the drama of killing them again, that is just drama for the sake of drama and it’s pretty stupid.

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Heroes Reborn: Season Premiere Review or How to Make a Good Show That Went Bad Even Worse

Heroes RebornSo Heroes Reborn was pretty much how I thought it was going to be from the trailer. The focus was largely on the white characters and there were many plot elements that didn’t make any sense. It might be enjoyable for someone who didn’t watch Heroes, but for someone who did, Heroes Reborn already seems confusing.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Heroes Reborn

Heroes… Oh, Heroes! I used to adore this show. I loved it. I tried to get everyone I knew to watch it; I was obsessed. The first season was amazing, but then the second season was just… okay. The third and fourth seasons were almost laughably bad. It became pretty sad, eventually. Sometimes your favorite characters were killed off and other times they lived, but either way, the writers ruined their storyline. I loved the characters so much that I kept watching just to see what would happen to them, but by the end I was glad it was over because I just didn’t want my once good show to continue embarrassing itself.

Originally, the show had a ton of minority characters, from women, to people of color, to people with disabilities. Yet, by the end of the show in Season 4, the story almost entirely focused on two white male characters, Peter and Sylar, who were two of the most powerful, and a white female character named Claire. All that diversity eventually disappeared—minority characters were either killed off, simply not shown anymore, or their characters were just so ruined by poor writing that eventually even the writers themselves stopped putting them in the show often. Mohinder was one example of this. He starts off as a non-powered scientist who ends up being the leading scientist who understands these evolved humans, but at the end of the show he injects himself with a serum to give himself powers and turns into some creepy lizard bug man. He develops scales and starts kidnapping people and spinning webs around them. It was an extremely disappointing twist.

Needless to say, I was actually kind of hoping that Heroes would never come back, so I am extremely hesitant about Heroes Reborn. But I can already feel myself getting sucked back in.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Science-Minded Characters & Religion

Many of you probably think of religion and science as always constantly at odds. And while it’s true that religion and science often disagree with each other, many of you probably don’t realize that devoutly religious people have contributed to science. Catholic Jean-Baptiste Lamarck developed the theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics (a sort of early theory of evolution). Fr. Georges Lemaître was a cosmologist and Catholic priest, and is the father of the Big Bang theory. Of course Catholics aren’t the only religious people to contribute to science. Obviously, Albert Einstein, one of the most famous and influential scientists in history, was Jewish and was agnostic but strongly identified with his Jewish heritage, and Judaism was a major influence on his life. Jonas Salk was devout in his Jewish faith (and often seemed annoyed by the religion vs. science debates) and a medical researcher. He is famous for developing the first polio vaccineJābir ibn Hayyān is both Muslim and the father of chemistry. Abdus Salam, another practitioner of Islam, won the Nobel Prize in physics for his electroweak interaction theory. In fact, it’s because of his faith that Salam pursued science. He said:

The Holy Qur’an enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.

So there are a lot of scientists throughout history who contributed greatly to their field and still loved and professed their faith. But you wouldn’t know that if you looked at our pop culture. Almost every science-minded character is an atheist. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of characters be scientists and atheist or agnostics (in fact, it’s important to have characters like that), but I worry that if every science-minded character is an atheist or agnostic, we end up perpetuating the conflict between religion and science.

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In Brightest Day: Mental Hospitals and Abuse in Pop Culture

batman-arkham-asylum-courtyardWay back in 1962, Ken Kesey published One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Over ten years later, it was adapted into a movie by the same name. One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest isn’t in our wheelhouse, but its portrayal of mental hospitals is certainly worth mentioning. Both the novel and the movie came out at a time when mental hospitals had a lot more problems than they do now, especially in terms of how patients are treated and handled. As such, the story ended up being a social commentary on those institutions at the time.

This is a marvelous thing, as there were certainly issues that needed to be addressed. And while I wouldn’t give One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all the credit for addressing those issues, thankfully nowadays, mental hospitals are a lot better than they used to be. That’s not to say that they don’t still have problems, because they do. Unfortunately, when we see mental institutions represented in pop culture today, those problems are highlighted to an unusual degree, normally to turn mental hospitals into a thing of horror.

This does a great disservice to both the people who actually need help and the people who genuinely want to help them. When we constantly present mental hospitals as horrible places designed to harm patients under the false pretense of actual psychiatric care and further demonize the staff who work there, people with actual mental disorders who need help are less likely to seek out that help. We internalize the messages that popular culture teaches us, regardless of whether or not they’re true—and one of those messages is unfortunately that mental hospitals are horrible places that should be avoided at all costs.

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Double the Fun, Half the Character? A Critical Look at Twins in Pop Culture

In the last few days of the star sign Gemini, I wanted to talk a bit about twins in pop culture. I think television writers struggle with how to portray twins, and that’s putting it lightly. Identical twins seem to be the ones featured most prominently—why bother making two characters twins if they don’t look alike? Never mind the hundreds of fraternal twins actually out there who get less representation on TV because they’re less of a curiosity. Identical twins tend to be used as visually striking additions to TV shows, typically in sort of a gimmicky way: “oh look how kewl, they look exactly like each other!” However, the line between novelty and fetishizing, and even dehumanizing, is terribly thin. It contributes to what is honestly a freak show mentality, which leads to poor writing, poor character development, and overall less than ideal portrayals of twins. Spoiler alerts for Teen Wolf Season 3 and Heroes Season 2 below.

Identically adorable.

Identically adorable.

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If Cartoons Can Do It, Why Can’t You?

Recently I have been thinking about two shows in particular, Venture Bros. and Adventure Time, and how these two TV shows, despite being “just cartoons”, have infinitely better writing than most live action shows currently on television.

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Antagonists vs. Villains vs. Anti-Villains

les-miserables-movies-russellRecently, I’ve been on a bit of a Les Misérables binge, and as I unfortunately don’t have time to go back and reread the book, I’ve taken to reading its wiki page and fanfiction instead. In my search through the internet, I came across a term that I had never heard before in reference to the character Javert: anti-villain.

From Wikipedia:

Unlike other villains in classic literature such as Iago of Othello, Javert is portrayed as a somewhat sympathetic antagonist with noble goals and viewpoints, arguably an anti-villain.

Until this point in time I had only thought about and been aware of the differences between an antagonist and a villain. I had never even considered a term like anti-villain, even though I’ve often thought about the differences between protagonists, heroes, and anti-heroes. All things considered, it makes sense that if anti-heroes can exist, there should also be room for anti-villains as well.

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The Fanfic Was Better: Is Fanfiction Making Writing More Difficult for Authors?

tumblr_muzljqG8bL1rua3qvo1_500“I can’t believe this is the direction they are taking this show. Seriously, I’ve read fanfiction better than this.”

“This pairing in the show makes no sense. I mean in fanfiction authors would write novel-length fic developing their characters’ relationships, but the actual show just randomly hooks them with no development. It makes no sense.”

“Wow, this fanfic is amazing. The studio should hire this author to write for the actual show. It would be ten times better then.”

Chances are you’ve heard people say things like this, or maybe you’ve even said them yourself. I know I have.

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Legitimate Reasons to Not Like the Girlfriend Character

cnsmovie_indianajones_temple_05In fandom, there is a lot of hate for the “girlfriend” character. I have discussed this before in a post I did on sexism in Supernatural, where I criticized fans for hating on female characters because they get between their favorite male/male ship, or because they somehow think that the actor or (weirdly) the character belongs to them, the fans. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: hating female characters because of a ship, or because you think you are this actor’s/character’s “true love”, is just silly.

I can’t preach on this topic enough, and I often get annoyed with other fans for immediately hating on a female character after one episode. That being said, sometimes it is okay to be wary of or dislike the girlfriend character.

Let me explain.

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