I love me some musical theater. So while I had heard from a friend that Dear Evan Hansen had a deeply unpleasant storyline, when my mom offered to buy me and my brother, who was visiting from my hometown, tickets, I figured I’d give the show the chance to prove itself. I headed into the theater last Saturday night knowing none of the music and with only my friend’s brief synopsis of the plot to go on. What followed was two and a half hours of the most disgustingly tasteless story I have had the misfortune to experience in a theater. I spent the entire first act feeling like I was actually going to be sick to my stomach, and found no real solace in the second act, which was frustratingly absent any repercussions for the title character’s reprehensible behavior.
The major point of fantasy novels is, of course, showing a world that is different from ours, where magic is alive and where people have amazing powers. Despite the fact that I read them to escape my mundane life, I’m often annoyed when fantasy books include people experiencing real-life issues, such as trauma, and then gloss over said issues instead of addressing and dealing with them. Other big offenders are the lack of inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and examination of mental illness. Authors and readers seem to think that you cannot address such topics because you cannot use modern-day vocabulary in a fantasy setting. However, once in a while I find a fantasy series which doesn’t shy away from using its medium to examine issues we deal with in real life. As such, today I want to talk about the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore, and in particular its final book—Bitterblue.
Spoilers for the Graceling trilogy below. Also, content warnings for abuse, mental illness, PTSD, and rape.
I wrote a review for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Childrena while back. In it, I went over some of its problems—it panders, has too many characters for its running time, and breaks its suspension of disbelief more than once. I also briefly touched on Cloud’s depression, which I plan to talk about in more detail today. Advent Children has a lot of things wrong with it, and as a whole, the movie simply does not work. Cloud’s character arc is one of those things. The movie doesn’t know how to handle mental health issues, and that makes Advent Children more than a little painful to watch at times. Cloud suffers from depression, but his depression never contributes to his character arc in a way that matters. Advent Children uses it to set up his internal conflict, but it never resolves his issues. Instead, Cloud’s depression is little more than a gimmick, and the way the movie handles it really drags on the story.
The Star Wars universe is no stranger to dark subject matter in both its live-action and animated narratives. Throughout the movies and shows (and I assume the canonical comics and books that I still have not read), the series takes us to some really gruesome places.
One recurring character in both The Clone Wars and Rebels is Rex. A war veteran, Rex is a capable and valuable member of the Rebellion and probably the most well-developed clone in the Star Wars universe. One of the problems with having a story filled with so many characters, though, is that the narrative doesn’t always have time to fully delve into their issues. At the very least, though, Star Wars tries, and while the story occasionally rushes through certain character arcs, its results are not horrible. This is most definitely the case with a recent Rebels episode “The Last Battle”, where we finally get to see more from Rex and his PTSD from fighting in the Clone Wars.
I know that Stephen King is pretty much considered a god in the literary world, but I’ve never been that big a fan. Growing up, I could never quite figure out why that was—I don’t like horror, but with the exception of It, none of his works ever truly scared me. Instead, they were the perfect amount of macabre and creepy that I normally enjoy. The Stand, The Secret Window, and even The Langoliers were all things I loved—they had fun adventures, interesting premises, and neat twists to keep me engaged. I read and watched all three of these, and loved them at the time. But none of his stories truly stuck with me after experiencing them—and the more I thought about it, the more I hated the narratives and the characters.
I think the biggest problem with these works is that they ended up using tropes that really didn’t age well over time. This is especially true for 1995’s The Langoliers—the story has a fascinating premise, but the characters are all walking stereotypes, the worldbuilding is almost non-existent, and the more I thought about the plot, the less it made sense.
Upon finally finishing Mystic Messenger, I’ve come to one conclusion: I’m dead. Emotionally dead. As far as otome games go, Cheritz’s Mystic Messenger has some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, and a plot full of more twists and turns that I would have ever thought possible from a freemium-styled mobile game. While the game does have plenty of cute moments and funny interactions, as well as drama, these are all to be expected. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a deeper look into the tragedy of mental illness, and how even the best intentions can lead to an ultimately harmful ending for more than one person.
Major spoilers for the game, especially both of the secret stories, beneath the cut. Additionally, a trigger warning for mentions of suicide.
Over the years, OCD has more or less become a joke in both the media and public perception, and that can be very harmful for sufferers because it leads people to believe that our metal illness cannot be serious. And when we combine that with the stigma that already surrounds mental illness, for OCD sufferers, sometimes I feel my options are to allow people to laugh at me or treat me like an unstable disease.