Magical Mondays: A Journey Inside the Mind with Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers

Have you ever wondered exactly what’s going on inside your friends’ heads? Of course you have. Have you ever wanted to take a surreal and frightening journey inside the physical manifestation of your friends’ thoughts, feelings, and worries? Maybe? No? Well, in these two series, you can!

Fiction provides us with a unique opportunity to see into the minds of others, in that we get to live out other people’s stories and lives and see the world through their point of view for a time. Fantasy and sci-fi elements that allow us to literally see into and interact with the minds of characters, such as the dream-diving in Paprika and Inception, take this a step further. Through literally venturing into a physical manifestation of another character’s mind, you can learn a lot about them that they may not show you on the surface, such as hidden insecurities and secret memories. And sure, as a writer you could get the same information across in a dream sequence that lets the audience see inside that character’s mind for a scene, but the act of physically entering someone else’s mental landscape is what I want to talk about today. It lets the other characters, rather than solely the audience, learn what’s going on in the subject character’s head, and does so in a way that also moves the plot forward and provides a physical adventure at the same time.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Flip Flappers are two series that, via magic, give their characters the opportunity to explore their co-cast members’ inner worlds, sending them all down a proverbial rabbit hole into surreal, symbolism-heavy, and often frightening landscapes that teach them (and the audience) something about their peers that they couldn’t have known before. The two series use a lot of the same tools, artistically speaking, but the consequences and emotional outcome of their heroes’ journeys into each other’s mindscapes is very different in each case. Heavy spoilers for both shows beyond the jump!

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Why Is There So Much Slash Fic?: Some Analysis of the AO3 Census

harry and dracoIf it exists, there’s porn of it—no exceptions. That’s actually a rule of the internet. But most often, when we talk about fanfiction, we’re talking about a relationship between two guys. This is commonly known as “slash” (accordingly, a relationship between two girls is “femslash”, etc). It’s hard to explain this phenomenon to those outside fandom: the usual explanation runs something along the lines of, “Well, there are a lot of straight girls in fandom, and they like reading about two guys together… what?” I’ve used that explanation myself when trying to explain to my brother why, upon ascending to the internet, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy can no longer keep their hands off each other. (To be fair, it was a much better explanation than the first one that popped into my head, which ran something along the lines of, “Because… shh”.) Now, however, there’s some legit data on the inner workings of fandom, and it means we might do well to rethink the assumptions that lead to this explanation.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Limbo: I’ll just… wait here, then.

You’re probably aware of the idea of Limbo. No, not the party trick. The concept of a place of eternal waiting. Not very good, not very bad. Just… not much of anything, forever. Here’s the technical religious definition:

Limbo, which comes from the Latin word meaning “border” or “edge,” was considered by medieval theologians to be a state or place reserved for the unbaptized dead, including good people who lived before the coming of Christ. (source)

Limbo has never been part of any official Catholic doctrine, although it’s been taught to Catholics for centuries. I first learned about it from Dante, who visits Limbo (located outside the gates of hell) in the Inferno. Dante places well-known, respected historical pagans like Socrates and Plato in Limbo, but argues that righteous Biblical figures like Abraham were plucked from their eternal condition by Christ when he descended into hell following the crucifixion.

"Whatchu doing, guys?" "Not much, just chillin' under this rock in Limbo."

“Whatchu doing, guys?” “Shh, the Nazgul are coming!”

The existence of Limbo has been pretty thoroughly nixed in recent years; Catholics from the pope downward basically agreed that Limbo didn’t exactly mesh with the idea of a loving God, since the aforementioned unbaptized dead included the souls of children with no personal sin. Although it wasn’t entirely ruled out, a Church document released a few years ago points out that “People find it increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness, whether they are Christian or non-Christian.” (source)

Regardless of whether Limbo exists or not, or who is or isn’t in it, the concept has meshed itself into pop-culture enough that even a non-religious person will know what you mean if you say that something is “in limbo”.

Inception_Limbo-500x5001_2164292Inception’s worldbuilding focused heavily on the concept of Limbo, actually including a final dream-level called Limbo as a major plot point. This realm is a universal location into which any dreamer who goes too deep or dies in the dream gets funneled. Once there, time moves infinitely faster than it does in the waking world. It’s hard to keep hold of yourself, and without outside interference, you can grow old and die without ever waking up from the dream. This isn’t a remotely religious limbo, but hey—they could have called it anything. Calling it Limbo was an intentional and evocative choice, because it carries cultural significance.

And that’s just the most specific example I can think of. There are plenty of value-neutral post-death waiting places in pop culture. There is the waiting room (and really most of the afterlife) in Beetlejuice. In Marvel comics, Limbo is a plane outside time, ruled over by a future version of Kang the Conqueror called Immortus. Harry’s post-death King’s Cross in Harry Potter has elements of Limbo, as does the Void space in Doctor Who.

tumblr_li371iqnaQ1qgl8g0o1_500Limbo isn’t an official Catholic doctrine, and it never really was. But it’s fascinating to see how far reaching a religious concept can be—especially to the point where it has basically lost its religious connotations and is understood by pretty much anyone you talk to, regardless of affiliation or belief.