The Assassin’s Creed Movie Sure Does Exist

(via gameranx)

(via gameranx)

I was excited for the Assassin’s Creed movie and had made plans to see it the day after it came out. Unfortunately, due to our scheduling around the holiday, I’ve only been able to get to this review now, weeks after its release. I think I can safely say that the Assassin’s Creed movie wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t very good either. I really wanted this movie to do well, and it had a lot going for it, but it just fell flat in too many places. Thankfully, it didn’t pander to preexisting fans and turn every scene into a pointless Easter egg hunt. Unfortunately, part of me suspects that’s because the people who made the movie don’t know all that much about the games in the first place, and not because of any considered storytelling decisions. On the whole, though, the movie suffered from poor characterization and worldbuilding.

Spoilers for the movie below the jump.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: The Legacy of Christian Paternalism in the Harry Potter Universe

As long as there has been racism, people have been trying to justify it to themselves and others. Unfortunately, all too commonly, religion has been a prime factor in these justifications. While the Atlantic slave trade was just beginning, before slavery was made hereditary, slavery was justified by the simple fact that slaves weren’t Christian. Worse—they didn’t even know about Christianity! It was obviously necessary to capture them all and take them under the loving wing of white overseers in order to educate them about the Lord and Savior, right? Jesus did say to go and make disciples of all men! And otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get into heaven! And Christian salvation was just the first perk in a long line of awesome things slaves got for being slaves!

Yeah, that was my sarcasm voice.

Slavery is rampant in the Bible. The Hebrews were God’s chosen people, and they had slaves. Not only did they have slaves, but God must have approved of them doing it, because He gave them specific rules in Deuteronomy and Leviticus on how to do slavery the Yahweh way. In the New Testament, in St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, Paul doesn’t so much reject the idea of slavery as he recommends that slaves and their masters maintain an imbalanced system of mutual respect, e.g. slaves should be obedient to their masters, and masters should repay that obedience with compassionate lordship. (Sounds a lot like what he had to say about marriage, so, uh, yikes on that one, dude.)

In the beginning, God created a bunch of stuff, including Adam. In both of the Creation stories included in Genesis, part of the myth involves God granting dominion over the earth and all the creatures He created to Adam, to hold in stewardship. As nonwhite peoples, in particular Black Africans and brown Native Americans, were seen as lesser, subhuman, and savage by white colonialists, it was easy to argue that this sense of God-given stewardship, this paternalism by divine right, should extend to include these other races. (The troubling principles of social Darwinism later lent pseudo-scientific credence to these arguments.) Instances of cultural genocide like the Trail of Tears, the doctrine of manifest destiny, and the Indian Residential School System were all in some way justified by the God-given belief that the white man had authority over how these “lesser races” should be living their lives.

Now, this is all horrifying and unpleasant to say the least, but what does it have to do with geeky stuff? Well, this Christian paternalist mentality is front and center in the Harry Potter universe, with the serial numbers filed off just enough to make it kind of secular.

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House Elves & Racism or Discussing Racism, but Not Really

So I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I was probably more critical of this movie than most other movies I’ve seen recently. I tend to hold the Harry Potter franchise to a higher standard because I love it so much. In essence, the Harry Potter franchise, like many others, has always been incredibly problematic; I was just too young and privileged to notice this when I first started reading the books. I’m now an adult watching Fantastic Beasts, and there are still aspects in the worldbuilding that we at this blog have criticized before and that others have criticized as well, so it’s a wonder that J.K. Rowling—or even Warner Bros—hasn’t attempted to fix some of these issues yet.

There is plenty to discuss about the recent movie, but today I want to focus on the house elves and how they were a stand-in for the period-era racism that Black people faced (but, you know, there weren’t actually any Black people in the movie). Once again, the Harry Potter franchise finds itself discussing racism without actually discussing racism.

jazz-singer-house-elf-fantastci-beasts

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Magical Mondays: Avatar and the Unknown Key to Eternal Life

James Cameron’s Avatar disappoints me as a movie. Without a doubt, it’s a beautiful film that a lot of time and effort went into, but despite all that, the story falls flat in so many other areas. In terms of worldbuilding, the movie’s biggest crime is that none of the characters seem to realize that they’ve discovered the key to eternal life.

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Entertained by Marginalized Characters, but Not Empathizing with Them

A few weeks ago, vice president-elect Mike Pence went to see Hamilton and the internet got into big fights over it. No surprise there. While there is no need to retread the controversy itself, or get into political debate, Pence and his party’s politics are well known. This event got me thinking, though, why would he want to see that musical? Was Pence unaware of the racial and social issues inherent in the musical? Maybe. Surprisingly enough, this made me think of many online multiplayer games in which we can see the same phenomenon happening. In games like Overwatch, people sometimes behave in a racist or sexist manner even while playing with a very diverse cast of characters. But I started to notice that this behavior is more prevalent when characters’ identities aren’t reflected in stories.

(via USA Today)

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Trailer Tuesdays: Kong: Skull Island

Hey, look at that: they’re making another King Kong movie. At first I thought that Kong: Skull Island was a sequel to the 2005 King Kong, but the two movies apparently have nothing to do with each other. Instead, Skull Island takes place in the same world as the 2014 Godzilla movie, but back during the 70s, as part of a rebooted Godzilla vs King Kong franchise.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Gender Dichotomy

jessica-jones-luke-cagePlenty has already been said about heroes and anti-heroes. Superman was created over seventy-five years ago, and yet America today prefers its heroes to have a bit more grit, like Tony Stark. What’s undeniable is that a dichotomy exists between light heroes and dark heroes. It’s a way of looking at protagonists that has ancient roots, but manifests differently in male and female characters.

The light and dark dichotomy is very old and very ingrained in our storytelling traditions. On the surface, “light” stereotypes give the character traits that are traditionally associated with positive ideas and symbolism. More often than not these characters will wear white or light colors, have light skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. “Dark” characters tend to have dark hair, skin, eyes, and clothing. This color dichotomy is associated with good and evil, for religious and historical reasons. If you don’t have electricity you can be more productive when the sun’s out, while it’s easier for robbers and rule-breakers to hide in the cover of night. White is associated with purity and goodness, especially in Christianity, while black is associated with evil and the consequences of evil (like sin and death).

While light heroes cling to a traditional morality, dark heroes have a more subversive attitude. There’s something bad or wrong or broken with a dark character, which is usually the source of their darkness. Men tend to be gallant, chivalrous heroes or troubled rogues, while women tend to be virginal maidens or seductive vamps. It’s taken generations to move beyond this rigid dichotomy, giving the light and dark new and interesting implications. But if we really care about smashing gender stereotypes, we need to move beyond the light and dark gender axis. Both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones from Marvel’s respective Netflix series take the light and dark dichotomies and smash them to bits.

Spoilers for all of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones below.

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