Classic fairy tales usually involve a plucky young child taking on something dark and dangerous that represents the unknown and coming out on top. Those tales have been told, retold, and ultimately sanitized over the generations. When you go back to the source, however, a disturbing pattern emerges. While the horrors they face are immense, the fairy tale protagonists turn into horrifying monsters themselves when the tale reaches its conclusion and they embark upon the most satisfying part of their journey: revenge.
The Simple but Significant Plot Shift of In the Heights
The excellent Broadway musical In the Heights received a film adaptation this summer and, like most such adaptations, it went through some changes from stage to screen. Character arcs shifted slightly, some numbers got cut, and a few items got added to make the show more topical. But one particular change left me really thinking, and I feel that it subtly alters the tone of the entire story.
The Sociopolitical Implications of the Mushroom Kingdom
Consider the Mushroom Kingdom, the most common setting of the Super Mario Brothers franchise. Set aside the fact that its main populace consists of anthropomorphic mushrooms and focus instead on the downright bizarre social and political implications presented by Nintendo’s flagship franchise. Now consider how much weirder things get when you expand outward to games like Mario Party and Mario Kart.
This is a kingdom in a state of constant political upheaval, and yet there is no succession plan should the ruler be deposed. It lacks any sort of organized military despite being under constant assault by a literal fire-breathing dragon. The inhabitants show very little prejudice, and yet the social system is filled with incredible amounts of systemic bias.
Clearly, this strange kingdom bears a more thorough investigation.
The Weird and Wild World of Pokémon
Over the past 25 years, Pokémon has gone from a fad to a multimedia juggernaut. Dozens of video games, movies, TV seasons, comics, and more have sprang into existence around the cute little monsters.
These different properties have varied in some respects, but all have helped to apply at least a veneer of continuity on the imaginary world where pocket monsters roam the wild. And, in many ways…what these things show is pretty weird.
I’m not talking about weird as in the obvious, with bizarre creatures that live in tiny Pokéballs. I mean that the world we see in the different franchises, particularly the videogames, has some fascinatingly odd worldbuilding implications. Here are just a few of the things you’d have to contend with if you lived in the world of Pokémon.
American Government in 2021 and Beyond
Yes, I’m about to launch into a talk on politics. If you’re sick of the topic or just don’t care what a nerd on the Internet has to say about the United States government, go ahead and skip this one. I’ll go back to screaming about comic books and role-playing games next time around.
So, here we are at the end of the term of President Donald Trump–three words together that once seemed so far-fetched that they were a joke on The Simpsons. The past four years in the United States have been largely defined by political divisions, racist policies, and a frightening lean into outright fascism. They culminated in an attempted coup at the Capitol Building that claimed lives. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and I’m sad to say it won’t be the last time. But maybe we can prevent it from happening again for a long while. Maybe we can even learn from it as we move forward?
I don’t really feel like trying to prognosticate about the future of the United States and its elected representatives. But January 6, 2021 is going to be a defining moment in American history, as will the immediate aftermath of the insurrection. As the chapter of President Trump comes to an end, I’d like to take a moment to reflect and get my thoughts down. As the incoming President Biden vows a return to normalcy–whatever that means–I think taking a snapshot of this moment in history that I can look back upon will be very useful in the days to come.
My Favorite Panels: Lex’s Realization
Comics are a visual medium, and one panel can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime. With that in mind, I thought I would run through some of my favorite comic book panels of all time.
I begin the journey with one of my favorite comics ever, All Star Superman. I think it’s the best Superman story ever written, and it may be one of the best comics ever. Any given page of this 12-issue series is a work of art, but my favorite panel is rather understated.
The MCU’s Incredible Character Arc for the Hulk (That We Never Got to See)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe marks a remarkable cinematic achievement. Despite a few missteps, the movies accomplished some amazingly in-depth storytelling, stringing together almost two dozen films to tell the stories of dozens of different characters. And for the most part, those characters got a reasonably satisfying conclusion by the end of Avengers: Endgame.
Of course, with so many different characters, the films couldn’t present everybody’s story in a satisfying manner. For example, let’s look at the Hulk. He has one of the longest characters arcs of all the Avengers and changes more than anybody…but none of the interesting stuff happens on-screen.
The Pathfinder Playtest: Changes to Come
We’re less than five months away from the release of Pathfinder 2ndedition. Folks who participated in the playtest saw a notably changed system, and those who kept up on the regular updates saw the game change even more due to player feedback. After all that, what will the final version look like?
Only the designers know for sure, although fans can expect previews as the hype for the new edition builds. But interviews during and after the playtest, not to mention the update documents themselves, already provide some hints as to what’s coming. Here’s a breakdown of the changes we can definitely expect from 2nd edition.
Nitpicking Movies: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Like its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban marked a potentially perilous place for the film franchise. Chris Columbus chose not to return as director. Richard Harris, who had played a perfect Dumbledore, died before filming began. A new director, a new cast, and a new visual style could have sunk the franchise.
Luckily, the third film of the series made very few missteps. While the style was definitely different from its predecessors, audiences largely enjoyed the changes. This not only turned Prisoner of Azkaban into a success, but laid the groundwork to allow new directors to make each future installment their own.
Yes, the Harry Potter movies seemed to turn every potential problem into a resounding victory. And that’s good – otherwise these nitpicks would seem mean-spirited rather than an opportunity to poke fun at a pretty solid film.
Nitpicking Movies: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
After the smashing success of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the franchise needed a strong follow-up. Failure to keep the momentum could have caused the film series to stumble, as happened with Disney’s ill-fated attempt to adapt all seven Chronicles of Narnia. Fortunately, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets did the job well.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets provided a strong second chapter that continued the trend of staying mostly true to the novels that served as source material. It showed that Warner Brothers had struck gold with the casting of Daniel Radcliffe and demonstrated the progressively darker tone that sequels would take.
It also has several things that make me scrunch up my face and go, “Huh?” So, as with its predecessor, I’m going to launch into a series of nitpicks about this film.