The Pocahontas Paradox

Earlier this month, the full length trailer for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck It Ralph 2 was released.

I’m excited as hell for Ralph and Vanellope being on another adventure together, as well as how the new character of Yesss will affect their relationships. So, I was pretty peeved when the trailer seemed to focus more on the Disney crossover material, with an extended scene of Vanellope meeting the Disney Princesses.

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Why? Because instead of people talking about the original character coming back, they’re obsessed with the princesses. More specifically, how the princesses look. And there’s a LOT of angry discourse which is honestly tiring to me at this point (again, it doesn’t matter what your personality or role in the story you have, it’s all about how you look).

But, there is one issue that seems to come up. The fact that Pocahontas appears to be considerably lighter in her new design.

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(Image via Digital Spy)

It seems odd that the other Princesses of Color would have accurate skin tones while Pocahontas is a lot lighter. Is it a result of lighting, or has Pocahontas been whitewashed?

Digital Spy covered it extensively HERE, but there is one part that does catch my attention:

In the original movie she was way too copper toned they might as well have made her skin red it just felt like a perpetuation of us being “redskins” so I’m glad they changed her pigment and portraits of Matoaka don’t portray her as darker skinned native she was a more light beige.

Wow, that’s a very good point. (In THIS source of what the real Pocahontas most likely looked like, she does look a lot paler than the Disney version.) Another commentator pointed out that Natives tan, too. But, unless Disney comes out and says that Pocahontas’s skin looks lighter in order to be more accurate, there’s no way to know for sure, and the whitewashing argument still holds water.

However, what does bother me is that some people act like Pocahontas’s skin tone in the new movie is the only issue.

Look at those vacant eyes. Those porn star lips. The nonexistent nose. She also has ample breasts, long bare legs, and a cinched in waist. She’s also a lot more stoic than the other Disney Princesses. Jeffrey Katzenberg told Glen Keane to make her “The finest creature the human race has to offer”.

She was ten years old when she first met John Smith in real life.

You can tell already how sexualizing a Native women who was a child when the event happened (and would suffer sexual abuse later in life by the colonizers) would make a lot of Natives hate this movie.

Now, here’s Pocahontas in Wreck It Ralph 2:

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Look at that sweet face. Look at the distinct nose, the expressive eyes, the rosy cheeks, the SMILE! But, the skin is still a lot lighter, and unless Disney did change it to make her look less ‘red’, it’s one step forward, one step back.

The point is, Disney should never have made a movie about Pocahontas in the first place (it is NOT a happy story), but they did, and turned her into a stoic pinup. No matter what Disney does with this character, it’s going to be problematic at best, racist as worst. Some Natives have pointed out other issues with Pocahontas in the new movie (such as how a white woman is touching her hair), and some argue that including her in the first place is too much of a disrespect. It’s kind of disingenuous for some people to act like her looking lighter is the ONLY problem here; you can’t talk about how Pocahontas looks in CGI without acknowledging how her conception from the ground up is rooted in racist ideas.

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The Key(s) To Overwatch’s Success

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When Overwatch first came out I was immediately drawn to it because of the colorful cast of characters and rich world. Now that I have actually been able to play the game I love it more than ever (the fact that it’s going to help me pass the time until I get a job probably helps a lot). And I’m not alone; this game is a worldwide phenomenon, with fans and players from all over the world, tons of merchandise, and an entire spectacle of the Overwatch League for pro gamers.

After playing the game, I think I’ve discovered two reasons why it’s so special:

  • Simple, Accessible, and Absorbing Gameplay 

I have never played a First Person Shooter in my life, but it wasn’t hard to get into the game very quickly. There are training games where you can practice each character before you find a perfect fit, and the goals of each match are very simple: defend or attack a landmark, or escort or block a payload before time runs out, shooting at your enemy. There are no overly complicated goals or movements. And man, once you get the hang of it it’s very fun. Time literally does fly when I play it, that’s for sure! There are also plenty of other games within the game that you can play through the Arcade or through Custom Games. This makes the game easy for people of different ages and abilities, as well as interests, to get invested in.

  • A Diverse Cast of Characters

I know talks about diversity and representation are VERY hot button issues, but in terms of selling a product to a global audience, it works heavily in your favour. You got characters of different genders, ages, abilities (many of the characters have visible physical disabilities), races, and (most importantly), nationalities. D.Va has become an icon for Korean women, especially Korean female gamers in a heavily male-dominated area, inspiring the National D.Va Association. The female characters are all beautiful without being overly sexualized, too. And of course each character is unique in terms of play, so you can find out which one you are good at, whether you are a grizzled soldier, a robot, or a teenage girl riding a Mecha.

Those two factors, I believe, are why the game has found so much success around the world, and why people want to explore the world of Overwatch and it’s characters (I personally hope they make an animated series at some point).

Before you play, here’s some tips and tricks I learned:

  • ALWAYS stick together as a team. It will be easier to fight back the enemy team if you remain and play together as a team, making sure your shields and heals are close by.
  • The best team always has two of everything: two damages, two tanks, and two support. Having two supports is crucial because it can be very stressful being the one having to heal your teammates all the time. Orisa and Mercy are optimal characters to have on your team because Orisa can deploy shields to get behind (while still being able to shoot herself) and Mercy can revive you so you don’t have to go back to start.
  • It’s okay if you mostly play Vs. AI training games, where you can set your difficulty and can predict your enemy movements. The game should be fun first and foremost, and you still get the experience of playing WITH others and working as a team.
  • With that in mind, if you do play in the game, watch out for doubles. Not a lot of people like seeing the enemy team have the same characters. Also Roadhog is a VERY hard character to play against so make sure you’re not the only one up against him.
  • Some characters are harder to play as than others, so make sure you practice in Vs. AI before you play it for real.
  • Don’t buy any Loot Boxes. Just don’t. Never pay for any in-game purchases. Just let them happen as rewards for achievements. Your wallet will thank you.
  • The Uprising and Retribution events are intense and thrilling to play, make sure you play them when you can (but practice plenty beforehand first).
  • And have fun!

Overall, I am so glad I purchased this game and I can’t wait to get better and better at it.

Thanos, Pink Diamond, and How To Do A Complex Villain Right

This post contains major spoilers for Steven Universe and Avengers: Infinity War. You have been warned. 

For a long time, my interest in Steven Universe and the MCU had gone down significantly. SU was marred by countless filler episodes stretched across endless hiatuses, and I found a lot of the recent MCU films unpleasant to watch. I did end up seeing Thor Ragnarok and Black Panther, enjoying both, but not enough to feel like I could be a Marvel fan again.

But this May has been different, thanks to the release of Avengers: Infinity War and “A Single Pale Rose”. They are huge game changers that managed to make me FEEL for both series again. Why? Mostly because of two major characters: Thanos and Pink Diamond.

Spoilers and analysis below.

Continue reading “Thanos, Pink Diamond, and How To Do A Complex Villain Right”

Aggretsuko: A Breath of Fresh Air

It’s hard for me to get into anime these days. The reason being is, honestly, the lack of positive representation of female characters. I couldn’t get into One Punch Man because the cast was so male dominated, and I wanted to get into My Hero Academia but when the very first female character of the very first episode said, and I quote, “Nice to meet your ASSquaintance” I backed the hell away. My opinion on anime television in general has soured a lot because so many of them sexualize their female characters. I can’t even look at Sailor Moon as fondly as before because of the way the fourteen year old characters are dressed and how the camera ogles at them.

So at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see Aggretsuko until a family member recommended it to me. And holy shit, what a breath of fresh air. This is one of the most female friendly pieces of media I have ever seen.

In all of ten episodes, we not only got so many prominent female characters, but not one of them are sexualized at any point in the story. After getting used to even the most innocuous anime objectifying women in some way, I was legit blown away. We could just focus on the female characters as characters instead of eye candy. And I got to be invested in the show.

The story is about a female red panda, Retsuko, who has a terrible office job with a terrible, sexist boss. She is able to express herself through the awesome art of karaoke death metal. She thinks the only way to get out of her job is to get married and be a housewife (a common societal expectation among women). It is through the help of her female friends, including two powerful women (the secretary of the company president and the director of marketing) that she is able to navigate her way through a complicated work and love life and what she really needs.

The first season is only 10 episodes long but is able to get you hooked in with relatable, layered characters. You don’t have to be Japanese to relate to Retsuko’s struggle of working a difficult job and trouble with money, or how love and infatuation can be blurred.

The English voice cast is excellent, the death metal scenes are always fun, and it’s a refreshingly modern romantic comedy that doesn’t rely on sexist tropes. My fave character, Haida, has a crush on Retsuko but does not feel entitled to her, respects her boundaries, and makes it clear that he wants to get to know the real her more, not just the one he knows from the office, and there is no use of stalking either.

Give the show a watch for yourself. It’s available in its entirety on Netflix. After you finish you can look at more ways on how this show is refreshing and modern below:

Overall, this show is awesome and I’m glad I gave it a watch and I look forward to more episodes!

 

Is ‘Autism’ Too Broad?

Well it’s Autism Acceptance Month (not ‘awareness’ because people already know we exist, they just need to stop treating us like shit) and I feel like now I should probably reflect a little. Mainly, why I like the term Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD/being ‘on the spectrum’, but have gotten a little uncomfortable with the term ‘autism’.

Now, when I was growing up in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s nobody realized the autism spectrum was a thing. It was either distinctly Asperger’s or stereotypical autism. This was a bit of a problem for me. When I was two years old, it was clear something was not quite normal about me. I was speech-delayed. I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), and because of my speech delay I could not be diagnosed with Asperger’s (the type of autism that describes me most accurately) on a technicality. So for the longest time I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t have a word to describe it. You can tell how growing up would’ve been difficult.

Things have definitely gotten a lot better now that I can be described with the autism SPECTRUM definition. But I feel like because of the term ‘autistic’ I am still subject to a lot of discrimination in the world of post-secondary education.

See, when most people think of autistic people, they think of those who have less capabilities/more difficulties than most people. While it is true I need some accommodations, for the most part I’m not really ‘disabled’. I’m just differently abled. This is one reason why I’m starting to switch to the Asperger’s label, which I’ll get to in a minute. But, basically, when people learn that I am ‘autistic’ but am actually very smart and capable (except when I’m not), they don’t know how to react. Sometimes they’ll have trouble understanding why I have difficulty with group work and can’t (or won’t) accommodate me, sometimes they’ll tell me to my face I’m not ready for work only to deny it when I confront them about it later, sometimes they’ll go behind my back and say I’m not ready for college level education because I’m not performing to a certain, impossibly high standard, and other times they’ll try to push me to my limits in a very condescending and harsh tone because I’ve made it so far. And don’t think of expressing your feelings and explaining how you feel you’ve been treated because they won’t sympathize with you.

This is one reason I actually like functioning labels because it can help both the ASD person and the people around them gauge what they are capable of and what they need help with. Just saying ‘autistic’ can mean anything. But because there will always be some people who use these labels to discriminate further (denying lower functioning people agency and higher functioning people accessibility) a lot of people on the spectrum don’t like using them and just say ‘autistic’.

I feel the term ‘autistic’ has become too broad, not helpful, and in some cases, harmful. My main reason for saying this is because far too often, I see people from all over the spectrum with different interests, skills, and challenges all lumped together in the same support group in the hope that we’ll all get along, have fun, and learn the same thing. No one autism spectrum person is the same, and I feel like saying we’re all united because we can describe ourselves as ‘autistic’ is untrue. We all face discrimination and ableism, and we may have similar quirks, but we don’t all have the same experiences or are affected by our neurotype the same way.

But the worst thing is that I can’t help but feel that a lot of people who are profoundly NOT on the spectrum are using the autism label because they are just a little bit different/have some problems (when something like ADHD or OCD might be a more accurate and helpful label). Why do I say this? Because when I see someone describe themselves as autistic but behaves like a complete bigot and asshole, I get the impression that they’re lying and/or using it as an excuse for shitty behaviour. There’s an entire group of aphobes (people who treat asexual people like shit and think they’re all straight for some reason) with a lot of members calling themselves autistic and it’s VERY suspicious.

So because of all this, while I am proud to say I am on the autism spectrum, I’m starting to call myself an Aspie (person with Asperger’s) than just ‘autistic’. Asperger’s is the most accurate place on the spectrum I belong to and it’s honestly kind of empowering for me, letting people know I am capable but just need my own space.

This is all how I feel, of course, and I’m not forcing other people on the spectrum to change their label or feel differently. ASD rights have come a long way, but work still needs to be done. We need allistic people to realize autism is not always a one-size-fits-all definition, realize we all have our strengths and limits, and be willing to work with us to accommodate us, rather than just make assumptions based on how we usually work and then get confused and angry when they get overwhelmed or need help. I won’t be surprised if having more descriptions for autism might be necessary.

Final Thoughts (for now): Big Hero 6 The Series

Warning: Spoilers. 

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Thanks to the UK getting the series release early, I have managed to see the first five episodes of Big Hero 6: The Series. What did I think?

Well first off, my initial guess of the series probably being filler has been pretty much correct. A lot of it is just random, lighthearted adventures of our beloved heroes. The only episode that seems to actually add anything to the movie’s lore is Fred’s Bro-Tillion, which gives us more of Fred’s family.

I will admit, Fred’s Bro-Tillion and another episode, Food Fight, which is a Cass-centric episode, were actually very enjoyable and fun. After Issue 188 (the one that introduced the new, unappealing character of Karmi) left a bad taste in my mouth and Big Roommates (that had Honey move in with Gogo) ended up being mostly boring, those episodes did actually make me smile and keep me invested. Food Fight was a fun episode that gave us more of Cass, her interests outside of Hiro and the cafe, and a legitimately cool villain (and Gordon Fucking Ramsay makes a cameo) and Fred’s Bro-Tillion had a lot of great jokes and Stan Lee is awesome. Those episodes were genuinely good (not great, but good and fun). It does give me some hope that the show might not be a total garbage fire. But the show still pales in comparison to what it could have been.

I’m starting to suspect that budget is a huge issue with the show. The animation is just so stiff and clunky and the style has been polarizing for a lot of people. I know I can’t expect movie quality animation, but there are other Disney shows that have fluid, beautiful animation. Just compare it to the Tangled series and there’s a huge difference. The writing is also hugely hit or miss. I can’t say it’s because Disney had no faith in the project since they’ve already renewed it for a second season, but I have a feeling there’s a low morale among the crew. I mean if you ask people if they want a proper BH6 sequel or a lower budget cartoon follow up made for kids, they’ll probably go for the sequel.

While it’s still a little too early to tell, it doesn’t look like the characters are getting the development everyone was asking for. Wasabi in particular is kind of getting the short end of the stick, behaving more cowardly and anal than he was in the movie. Baymax is mostly used for comic relief and getting his mechanisms messed with than being the heart and soul of the team he actually is. The only character who seems to be actually getting anything consistently is Fred. In fact the show seems to focus more on Hiro’s relationship with Fred than anyone else. At least Honey and Gogo are badass female characters are usual.

A lot of the villains are more like comic relief than actual threats. I know there’s supposed to be a Big Bad that’s actually intimidating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have villains with some credibility. I also find if baffling there are a few instances where our heroes just…let the villains get away. Like you’re not even going to try to stop them? That kind of cements the fact that the villains aren’t a real threat. If you put any of them in the same room as Yokai he’d kick their asses.

But I think the major problem with the show–as someone else pointed out–is the lack of real HEART. The original movie had everything: exciting action, clever comedy, layered characters, a chilling villain, but, most of all, an emotional core about love, loss, forgiveness and healing. The show, on the other hand, is mostly just comedy. Baymax Returns touched on the heart a little, but didn’t have the same emotional impact as the first movie. The fact that we don’t see Hiro and Baymax interact as much in the series when they were practically inseparable in the first movie says a lot.

So yeah, unless there’s a major twist for the season finale, I don’t think the show is going to be anything really special. The show will probably get better, but it already made it clear it’s mostly just a kid’s comedy rather than a legit continuation of the first movie.

And with that, I think I’ve gotten everything I feel about the series out of the way. Now I can focus on my other interests before the actual sequel eventually comes out.

Cuphead: A New Canadian Classic

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Chad and Jared Muldenhauer, two brothers from Oakville, Ontario, Canada (which is basically next door to the city I live) had a dream: make their own video game. In 2013, they set out to make their dream a reality by working on a new and original video game  that had the aesthetic and charm of a classic 1930’s cartoon. After a few delays to perfect the project, Cuphead was released in 2017 to rave reviews.

Like a lot of people, I was drawn to it by the design and style. It was so refreshing to see traditional hand drawn animation (and beautiful, well done animation for that matter) on a video game format, and the characters looked like a lot of fun. Finally, this year, for my birthday, I got it as a present. And after over a month, I have completed it! (On Normal of course, I’ll get to the expert mode soon.)

What are my thoughts?

Well, I will say that those delays paid off because there’s so much DETAIL in this game. Like the animation of course is a real gem, but the music is excellent and there’s all sorts of hidden achievements and surprises. You can tell Studio MDHR went all out on this game. There’s definitely enough things to keep you interested in playing.

While the gameplay is hard, it also helps you learn how to be a better player. You have to form strategies on how to beat the enemy and advance. Try this charm here, try this super there. The bosses are actually a lot of fun, and I would always throw up my arms and shout “YES!” whenever I beat them. And for the most part I didn’t find them TOO hard. The only boss that really and truly frustrated me, oddly enough, was Beppi the Clown. But even the toughest boss feels so rewarding when you are able to beat them. I was able to pass with the lowest grade of B- and was even able to get a few A+ grades!

The platforming/run n gun levels (where you collect coins) I found more difficult and less enjoyable to be honest. Mainly because even though they’re short, there is just so much stuff thrown at you. I was honestly stuck on the run n gun levels of Inkwell Isle Three for over a week, that was how bad it got (I was able to beat the infamous Dr. Kahl’s Robot before those levels). They’re less fun and rewarding than the bosses, that’s for sure.

Despite the platforming, the bosses, challenging but engaging gameplay, and overall beauty of the game kept me interested and makes it one of my faves. But most of all, as a fellow Canadian, I feel a great sense of pride that an independent studio from my country can achieve worldwide fame and acclaim.

If you are interested in this game, please buy it legally from Steam and the Windows store. The creators had to quit their jobs and remortgage their houses to make the game possible. Luckily it paid off since the game has sold over 2 million copies, but still, they’re not exactly a big conglomerate corporation that won’t hurt over a few pirates. (I find it interesting that they had to go that route. I’m sure they could have put it on a crowdfunding website and it would have had the same success, but then again, maybe they didn’t want to potentially screw people over if the game didn’t succeed. Either way, it’s a rare risk that paid off.)

Here are some tips I have to help you win the game:

  • Don’t be afraid to look for help. If you are stuck, you can look up tutorials on YouTube on how to get ahead/look for secrets. The game should be fun most of all.
  • Similarly, don’t be afraid if it takes you a long time to finish the game. Again, the game should be fun, and you should be able to finish it at your own pace. Take your time if you need to.
  • The P Sugar charm is your friend. Use it as much as you can, especially on levels that require a lot of parrying.
  • The Chaser weapon is a good weapon to get you started, but be warned, it does not do a lot of damage. I recommend the Roundabout since it has a wide range (can hit more targets) and does a great deal of damage. The Lobber weapon is great if you have to shoot down at a target; I used it to beat the Dragon boss, Grim Matchstick.
  • I recommend using the Heart and Twin Heart Charms for the airplane levels since there’s a LOT of stuff that will be thrown your way. I don’t recommend them for other levels because they decrease your attack power and will draw out the level.
  • When you do the Pacifist mode for the Run and Gun Levels the Smoke Bomb charm will help you a lot.
  • Otherwise, keep firing. Fire fire fire. Use the Supers to your heart’s content.
  • Maneuverability is a HUGE asset to the game. This is something I admittedly lack since I kept dying a lot in the game. If you need to, you can go on simple mode to practice before using regular.
  • When you’re on King Dice’s level, use the P Sugar charm to help you with the dice because there will definitely be some mini bosses you will not like. Carefully determine which bosses you can handle and try to land on their number. Remember, if you lose to a mini boss you have to start the level all over again.
  • Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP! You will beat the game, I promise. There were times when I thought I was going to be stuck for good but I got through it. You can do it too.

I’ll probably add some more when I beat the game on Expert, but overall, this should help you get started.

Finally, I should mention my fave characters. The bosses I found most fun to play were Werner Werman, Phantom Express, and Hilda Berg. The easiest were Goopy Le Grande and The Root Pack. In terms of characters I like on a personal or aesthetic level, my faves are Cagney Carnation (very original, I know), Baroness von Bon Bon, Cala Maria, and the Devil. I honestly love this game’s interpretation of the Devil. I love his overall design, the different forms he can shapeshift into, the attacks he can use, the animation on him, and how he’s just chilling on some random isle running his own casino. I also love the animation on King Dice.

Overall, this game was a blast and I’m really excited to see more adventures of these characters and more games from Studio MDHR.