‘To All of You’

I didn’t want to make a habit of using song lyrics as my titles but it felt fitting as it feautres on the Life is Strange soundtrack, I am discussing the role of music in the game, and also it is my last blog post to everyone!

I found one of the most enjoyable elements of Life is Strange is how perfectly the soundtrack complements the game. It plays an integral role in helping us form attachments to the characters, world, and story of LiS despite a relatively short playtime. I sometimes have an issue with game soundtracks with as intense a plot as LiS when it overwhelms or detracts from a story rather than moving along and supporting the gameplay. In LiS the music is often combined with prolonged cinematic cutscenes or in places where Max can sit or lay about in an area for as long as the player wishes to. In doing so I found the emotional involvement of the scenes increase. It creates a immersive or reflective moment, providing time to pause in Max’s life, particularly when the game becomes overwhleming. I think this is most pertinent in Max’s interactions with Chloe where extended cut scenes, day-to-day scenes of life, and the soundtrack work together to strengthen the connection between Max and Chloe. The pair have a pre-existing connection (albeit one that needs repairing) but the player does not instantly feel this connection so somehow the game needs to make us feel emotionally invested in them as individuals and as a duo (and quickly) which it does so using the soundtrack.

lishandshake

 

The question of whether their friendship is a healthy or toxic representation of female friendship is a difficult one to answer. The context of their friendship is fractious due to the prolonged absence of Max, but their genuine support and dedication to eachother in the end shows real growth and portrays both as emotionally complex characters. Roxane Gay was mentioned in class in relation to this topic so I thought I would add in one of her quotes on female frienships:

“Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses – pretty, but designed to SLOW women down.”

When thinking about LiS in the context of this quote I believe Max and Chloe’s relationship is an OK representation of a female friendship. The basis of their friendship is neither competition nor toxicity. To have a healthy female friendship it doesn’t need to be smooth sailing the whole time. At points it is necessary for there to be friction between Chloe and Max as they have an extensive history and need to learn what form their relationship is going to take in light of how eachother has changed. Where I do take issue in their relationship is how codependent the pair become so quickly, something that feels a little overdone or dramatized in teen/young adult friendships portrayed in wider media in general. Additionally, having Victoria play the stereotypical mean girl felt a little Regina George-esque but I understand they needed a foil for Max that was easily identifiable and relatable within a school context.

Mental Health Discussion

I just wanted to add that I really appreciated the constructive and open discussion we had in class surrounding mental health. I think the game, and again this was picked up on in class, really emphasized the importance of checking in on people and how small actions can influence those around us in both negative and positive ways. The game was definitely a change to the style I am used to playing and it was a very heavy/emotional plot at times but I will always be on board with a game that encourages empathy and practising kindness.

being-nice-is-cool-motivational-space-message-stars-13929199570

 

~I have really enjoyed reading all the blog posts everyone has written throughout the term, I am going to miss having weekly comic-related discussions! I hope the end of the term goes smoothly for all 🙂 ~

 

 

“Blue are the streets and all the trees are too”

(Couldn’t help but think how fitting the lyrical genius of Eiffel 65’s ‘Blue’ fit with Enid and the Ghost World she lives in)
ghost20

In class we discussed the use of the mint blue colour throughout Ghost World and what it represents in the moments when Enid is alone. The colour was interpreted to signify a “transitory space” and “form affective attachments”. I also believe it serves as a freeze frame for Enid, a snapshot of her most vulnerable moments that isolate her from the future and connect her to the past. The future is used to drive a lot of the angst within Enid as well as between her and Becky. By removing her surroundings and presenting her alone with her toy, painted in this blue light, we see possibly the most honest representation of who Enid is at this moment in time away from her unease of the future. Additionally, it could present a moment of peace for Enid in this moment of isolation. The entire plot follows Enid’s ego-centricity and the impacts on those around her but here we see Enid alone and there is a comfort she finds from the toy but also in being able to express herself free from judgement.

Also, I loved the comparison that was made of Ghost World to Lady Bird! The relationship Enid has to her father, sometimes self-destructive behaviours, and friendship with Becky in many ways mirror Lady Bird and her parental relationships, her self-imposed isolation, and her friendship with Julie. Both capture the same tone of an angsty teen transitioning to young adulthood and the implications of that on those around them.

A little bit about Hawkeye #19

I really enjoyed re-reading this issue after Dr. Gibbon’s lecture, paying closer attention to the grammar of facial expressions and having a better understanding of the signs used in the comic gave me a new perspective of both the plot and how disability structured the comic. One thing that surprised me (and my limited finger spelling knowledge of British Sign Language) about Hawkeye #19 was how different ASL and BSL are. As the finger spelling alphabets are so different I thought it would be interesting  for you all to see Hawkeye spelt in BSL:

hsignlanguageasignlanguagewsignlanugageksignlanguageesignlaguageysignlanguageesignlaguage

(these are all right-handed signs, source: https://www.british-sign.co.uk/)

Week 7: It’s not all Doom and Gloom

Doom Patrol has been without a doubt my favourite comic we have studied to date. For me it felt like a totally new reading experience with the jarring plot changes/interlinks set in such a vibrant world with an ultimately feel-good message of self-acceptance. I wasn’t aware until the bin exploaded that there was actually another world within the burrito – so cool! I thought at first it was just non-sequitur or scene-to-scene transitions to another place irrelevant to the burrito.  What isn’t exciting about a fictional universe where worlds can exist inside a burrito?! The plot possibilities this sets up are so wild I find it super exciting!

We noted in class that a lot of the comics we have studied have been about self-acceptance and I think Doom Patrol takes this to another, more literal level. In Doom Patrol they don’t really ever define a normal, from the get-go with Terry None nonchalantly killing Casey’s roomate Doom Patrol asks the reader to accept and not question the parameters of normal. Although, there is definitely a difference between not questioning what normal is for the comic to being critical or questioning of characters/plots/motives etc. In fact, I think the pace of this first volume is greatly driven by the ambiguity and questioning of the world and Danny. If we compare this to comics such as Ms Marvel, the protagonist’s percieved norm is presented to us in the form of Zoe and then throughout the volume that Kamala rejects and redefines normal for herself (or that there is ‘no normal’). In Doom Patrol we see some but less explicit attention drawn to the strangeness of the world in which this is placed and as a result we get to see self-acceptance within and between multiple characters with a greater emphasis on the individuals journey to defining and accepting themselves.

Overall, I am really on board with the message of this comic and the expansiveness of this universe. In a similar way to Planetary I think it makes for a more immersive read when throwing us straight into the universe without a lot of set up – then revealing the origin stories as the plot progresses rather than separately publishing them. Doom patrol incorporates a lot of important messages in a way that is quite touching – I felt Jane’s acceptance of her mental health and admission that ‘healing is a collaborative act, not a relationship of control’ was particularly well done. I look forward to reading more of this series!

>> As a side note, is Doom Patrol just another comic in the original series of comics about Casey where she discovers she is a comic as part of the plot? – does that make sense as a question? <<

Week 6, Planetary: My brain hurts.

I would be lying if i said I didnt feel overwhelmed reading Volume 1 of Planetary for the first time…. or the second…. or the third. Reading Planetary forced me to pause after each issue and seriously think about what was happening and what it was representing (assisted by going down extensive internet rabbit holes – turns out there are some m a j o r Snow stans out there).

over my headGif of me entering my fifth message board to work out all the references in Planetary.

BUT once I had got to grips with Planetary and the characters I realised I loved the plots being contained to their own issue. It was refreshing to dive straight into the work of Planetary as an organisation and who the characters are, with my perspective of them being isolated in the present. Unlike with Black Panther where I felt like I needed to learn the rich backstory of Wakanda and T’Challa, Planetary is set up in a way that this isn’t necessary.

After the first unit of this module I thought I had a pretty good idea of how I defined ‘Superhero’ and had definitely broadened my definition from when I started this course. However, reading Planetary has made me re-assess this definition all over again. Yes, they have super-powered enemies (The Four), their overall goal is to help the Earth, protect it, and enlighten its citizens to some of the wonders of the universe(s). However, as Snow critiques, they don’t really do much to stop these bad things from happening in the first place…. and despite criticising The Four for hiding things from the world we never actually see Planetary share anything with the world either (although correct me if my memory is wrong here- a very likely possibility). I understand they are a secret organisation, and that to be a superhero you don’t have to recieve recognition to validate the goodness of your deeds. Furthermore, following the consequences of Planetary’s actions on the everyday world would not fit into the single plotline per issue criteria but I can’t help but feel like I need more context to the implications of their actions for the ‘greater good’ in order to be able classify them as superheroes. I’m sure the answers to many of my musings regarding their superhero status lies in reading the rest of Planetary… for now I’m content sitting on the fence of this Superhero debate and reading all your blog posts to help me!

Week 4 World of Wakanda: A Continued Critique of Coates’ Critics

In class we reviewed how aspects of Black Panther acts as a response from Ta-Nehisi Coates to the criticism he receives as a writer. I thought it would be interesting to see if any of these themes are present in ‘The World of Wakanda’ authored by Roxane Gay, assisted by Coates.

Phil pulled out 3 critiques that Coates is often called out on:

  1. Too much pessimism.
  2. Shows no way out.
  3. Privileges personal struggles over collective action.

Some of the ways in which ‘Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet’ responds to these criticisms:

The contrasting ways in which Tetu and T’Challa go about asserting power or regaining control/peace within the kingdom can be seen as Coates showing a more optimistic view and a critique of current political systems. On one hand, Tetu seeks to manipulate and capitalise on the rage of the people in order to overthrow power. Whereas, T’Challa opts to grow personally to have a more transparent and open leadership in order to listen to the will of his people. It is sending the message that there are viable and hopeful agents of change and ways to improve political systems but it is the choice of the people to enact them (people including those who enter into power). In some ways we can see this as a critique on Tr*mp’s campaign where he preyed on hatred and anger, anything that would provoke an outraged response to gain votes over a hopeful message.

As was pointed out in class the title being ‘Black Panther’ focuses on the individual but the story focuses greatly on the people of Wakanda. In doing so we see Coates acknowledging the personal struggles, in a leadership that exists in an initially centralised bubble, within the context of a collective. It simultaneously centralises and decentralises T’Challa as a leader and titular character. I agree to a large extent with Coates that it is important to tell the individual’s story and struggles within a collective, it is both the story of the individual and the collective that make for an interesting, grounded, and well-paced plot, particularly in the case of BP.

Ways in which Black Panther: World of Wakanda responds to these criticisms:

** I just want to write a quick disclaimer that having read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay over 3 years ago and only starting to read Hunger a few days ago I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to pick up on critiques of her writing. However, something that she acknowledges herself in a few interviews/Twitter feed that isn’t necessarily a critique but more of a common theme in her writing is that she often has a lot of contradictions from ideals she holds vs how she feels/acts (mainly towards herself)**

Within the first few pages we see evidence of Gay’s theme of ideals vs actions, as Aneka goes to punish Ayo for her bragging/speaking-ill of the training facility. It is revealed that Aneka once too began her journey in the Dora Milaje as a more rebellious member despite now acting to punish Ayo and her out-spoken nature, we see throughout the entire series that Aneka increasing agrees with Ayo’s critical lens.

Additionally, I think the early-stage arguments and power struggle between Ayo and Aneka reflect the conflict of Coates dealing with the criticism of needing to show a way out VS pessmistic resistance. For example, Aneka ends her plan for the Dora Milaje on pg. 35 with “the better things will be” (i.e. follow this plan and we can find a way out) but Ayo responds with “I do not share such confidence” mirroring the pessimism that Coates places in much of A Nation Under Our Feet. In this instance Ayo is serving the purpose of echoing the opinion of the wider Wakandan people and their waning faith in T’Challa.

Later in the series Aneka accepts T’Challa’s decisions regarding Namor and the consequences of his flood because it is her duty, yet Ayo is heavily critical of this. We see that Aneka is priviledging the struggles of the individual (of both T’Challa and herself as she struggles with her loyalties) but believes she is acting in the best of the collective. This exchange amplifies the difficulties at the intersection of the 3 critiques of Coates when placed in the context of Black Panther. As the story revolves around a monarch, providing a solution or way out from an authoritative power is going to be based on the struggle of an individual (T’Challa) but that is inevitably going to evoke a pessimistic response from those that are critical of this single ruler system- which as it turns out most of Wakanda is or at least starting to become. The three are difficult to balance and throughout Coates’ Black Panther there is often compromise between the critiques in the plotlines that are chosen.

Overall, within the dialogue between Ayo and Aneka, coupled with the regret they feel in the latter stages of the story (trying to avoid any major spoilers… but I guess as it is a prequel it doesn’t really matter) from taking time for themselves outside of Wakanda, Gay explores how actions for the good of the individual(s) can be percieved or lead to guilt when they result in a failure for the collective. This is a parallel to T’Challa who is acting in what he believes is best for himself and his sister but is having a harmful effect on Wakanda. The difference being the ultimate power that T’Challa has and also the resolution in these separate character arcs. In the case of Ayo and Aneka they eventually reject the will of the monarchy whereas T’Challa begins to change within it to correct the wrongs he has neglected or (unintentionally) perpetuated in Wakanda.

I really enjoyed World of Wakanda, it is always nice to see more of secondary characters and be given more context to stories, particularly with a plot as detailed as Black Panther!

Week 3: Millennials are not Ruining Everything

Technopoly is frequently used as a plot device in Superhero comics and popular media, it is most often wielded as a critique on younger generations and their supposed co-dependency on the digital world. However, what I enjoyed most about Ms Marvel is how it flipped this on its head. Sure, it still used technology as a fear-mongering tool, but the outcome was not one that resulted in a far too familiar ‘gah, the youth today-eh?’ rhetoric. Instead, The Inventor was used to represent the underestimation of millennials who have become a go-to punching bag for older generations and their shortcomings.

The Inventor turning millennials into batteries was an enjoyable storyline to read based in the reality of how society exploits younger generations to fuel the needs -or greed- of their predecessors. We see it as a systemic problem that worsens over time, institutions make it harder and harder to enter into the workforce in any capacity or to be useful (as so many of the teenagers that had volunteered to be batteries claimed). We have a huge demand for work experience that overwhelmingly presents itself in unpaid internships and a multitude of forms of playbor that take advantage of a generation trying to get started in life. By including the millennial struggle through an intersectional lens Ms Marvel opened a more hopeful and inclusive dialogue on the prospects of youth in today’s climate.

Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed the similarities and contrasts of the villain and hero in these issues of Ms Marvel. Both have a goal that is for the good of society but there is a juxtaposition of scales. On the one hand you see an environmentalist with a goal of changing an entire system for the better but with corrupt means. On the other we see someone who is working to establish herself in her own community and do good on a local scale. In some ways this serves the America-centric Marvel universe but by having a female, young, and Muslim superhero they are at least taking a step in the right direction of better representing their diverse readership (I should note that I believe this change does need to continue and at a faster rate that it has before or is currently occuring).

Asides from class discussions…

I wrote down some quotes about Kamala that were said in class and one that stuck out to me was a character flaw that she is “dumb”. I feel like this is an unfair assessment of her, I would argue that instead of being “dumb” she is, on occasion, irrational in her decision making. This again feeds into societal criticisms of younger generations where inexperience is often equated to a lack of intelligence. Kamala exhibits a lot of intelligence and intuition as Ms Marvel; her spontaneous problem solving and ability to switch her logic from the massive to the microscopic (when she shrunk to destroy the wiring of The Inventor’s machines) is awesome! I think it shows a lot more intellect than what we see from other ‘pro’ superheroes like The Avengers who often manipulate The Hulk to go around smashing everything in order to solve an issue that maybe didn’t require so much destruction (a tactic Kamala could deploy with her capacity for embiggening but choses not to).

Secondly, I just wanted to add that I really enjoy G. Willow Wilson’s deconstruction of what it means to be normal and how Kamala struggles with defining her own normal. It is relatable to almost everyone as at some point in our lives most us feel abnormal. In reality, normal is subjective and an individual ideal. So often we see Superheroes perpetuating very narrow ideals of normality when in fact, there is ‘no normal’.

 

 

Week 2: Superman the Self(ish)less

Superman is an idealist, guided by morals that he owes in part to his adopted human father Jonathan Kent. As part of this idealism some may also attribute altruism to Superman’s adventures, that he acts with the selfless object of helping others (i.e. humanity).  However, in the moments that this altruism lapses we discover a more complex, human, and relatable character. For Superman his agenda behind certain decisions may not be nefarious but they are not always altruistic and at times selfish.

I want to focus on a specific plotline from All-Star Superman Vol.1. when he gifts Lois his abilities for 24 hours. I believe this act can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly, it is, to a very large extent and most likely intended to be, a generous act that highlights a moment of vulnerability where he opens up to Lois and shares his world with her. However, in many ways this can also be seen to be a selfish act. Regardless of Superman’s intent and whether or not he has the ability to create longer lasting superpowers by giving Lois them for a temporary 24 hours reinforces the biggest gap within their relationship; his super powers/her lack of super powers. Furthermore, it goes on to reinforce the distance between Superman and his readers. It serves as a way of making him simultaneously more relatable (via the vulnerability of giving the gift) whilst making him more different (by reminding us that he is superhuman). In many ways it echoes the impact of Episode 1’s cover where he sits thoughtfully overlooking the world on top of a cloud, amplifying his superpowers but increasing the connection to the reader by repeatedley showing vulnerability.

Week 1: Introduction

In the first class we were asked who our favourite superhero is, a question I found pretty hard to answer. My knee-jerk response to this question is Wonder Woman, she is one of the more recent, badass, superheroes I have loved so this answer isn’t a lie. However, I also love many others; Spiderman, Hulk, Batman, and TMNT (according to many, many, many debate boards online the ninja turtles don’t count as superheroes… but I am going to leave them in my list anyway) to name but a few.

In creating this blog, and picking a name, I started thinking about when I was first exposed to superheroes. As far as I can recall, and I think this answer is common for a lot of people my age, my earliest memory of superheros was at the age of 7 watching The Incredibles. The film reminded me of one of the things I love most about superheroes and the worlds they exist in; background characters or heroes used as world building tools that could exist in their own right, but are instead used at maximum for a line of dialogue to provide context to the world of the titular characters. In the case of the The Incredibles Stratogale is mentioned for approximately 3 seconds, but she has a minor back story of her own including the ability to talk to birds (which, as an ecology major, I find pretty cool)!

I haven’t read comics in a while, recently my main form of superhero consumption is in videogames or film so I am excited to delve deeper into the world of a variety of superheroes from a more critical approach.