“Excuse me, who are you?” Perfect Blue/Legend of Korra Parallels

Perfect Blue is widely hailed as one of the greatest and most influential anime films of all time. You can actually read about the influence it (and other Satoshi Kon films) had in Hollywood HERE, but I think there’s another piece of media Perfect Blue had an impact on: The Legend of Korra.

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(Source: korra.avatarspirit.net)

PB is about a young woman, Mima, who decides to give up being a pop idol and instead become an actress in a rather seedy production. The stress and pressure of the new part (including a part where she has to film a rape scene and it feels TOO real) begins to wear on her, and the ghosts of her past eat away at her. Most notably, she keeps seeing a vision of her old self, who routinely taunts and haunts her. Mima begins to lose her grip on reality and then shit hits the fan. I can’t really explain the film because it’s so off the wall, but I think I got the basic gist of it.

I think something really similar happens in Korra; at the beginning of the fourth season, Korra is still reeling from a traumatic incident (also akin to a rape scene). She gives up being the Avatar (like Mima gave up on being a pop idol) and is trying to pursue her own path, but every time she tries to move on, she’s visited by the ghost of HER past; a dark version of herself, when she was poisoned and tried to kill her attacker.

This apparition (like in PB, it’s not clear if it’s real, or if it’s in the character’s head, or something else entirely) also taunts and haunts Korra, relentlessly following her and preventing her from getting better. It drives Korra over the edge and nearly kills her. Both Mima and Korra have to fight against this new apparition, even when it takes the form of someone they know who has a personal grudge against them.

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These women tell the main character that she is worthless and not needed anymore and essentially not REAL, and they can be replaced. Ultimately, the heroines decide to save/spare the lives of their enemies, stop hallucinating, and are very confident in their identities (at least for Korra; Mima’s case is a little more ambiguous).

It’s a little hard to make a written comparison since most of the parallels are more visual (and there are probably other parallels I missed), so I recommend watching the first few episodes of the fourth season of Legend of Korra and Perfect Blue to see for yourself.

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Rant: Stop Seeing Scraps as Representation

So even though the movie hasn’t even been released, a lot of people are speculating that maybe, just maybe, there’s a lesbian couple in the latest Finding Dory trailer.

Skip to 1:08 to see it.

And of course, people are losing their collective shit over it. There are lots of clickbait articles asking “is this Pixar’s first LGBT couple?” or outright saying “it’s Pixar’s first LGBT couple!” And some people are praising Pixar already. Of course you have people being angry and homophobic, but we’re not going to focus on them (they can go to hell for all I care anyway).

Here’s my question, though.

Why are we so effing excited to see a split second, not important, maybe lesbian couple and see that as so progressive and revolutionary?

Here’s the thing. We are living in a world where we already have explicit, onscreen gay and lesbian relationships in children and family media. Steven Universe‘s Ruby and Sapphire are two non-binary lesbians who love each other very very much and can’t bear to be apart, forming into one person. And I can’t say anything due to spoilers, but let’s just say, the upcoming SU episode this week should dispel any gossip of them just being ‘friends’.

Yet no one seems to care. When we have onscreen representation right in front of us, there’s no major media hype or praising the show to high heaven or giving it mainstream media attention.

Because media seems to care more about POTENTIAL LGBT relationships then they do ACTUAL LGBT relationships. Implicit, offscreen, and/or minor relationships get more hype and praise than the opposite. There was a lot of buzz over a character in ParaNorman saying he’s gay (but we don’t see his lover) but whenever the relationship is RIGHT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, IS CLEAR AND EXPLICIT AND MAKES UP A GOOD CHUNK OF THE STORY, there’s no hype.

So, forgive me if people making a fuss over a potential lesbian couple that’s not even integral to the story of Finding Dory grinds my gears. I don’t want to give Pixar any credit for reserving their representation to background characters. I want them to have MAIN LGBT characters in relationships. They can do it. Pixar is a rich and powerful enough company to handle any backlash, and I’m sure lots of fans will flock to theaters to support it. Plus, you know, they’re Pixar, a company praised for being so original and unique. You’d think they’d do something truly creative and make a family friendly movie about an LGBT couple with as much fun and adventure as any straight character in their films would.

EDIT: I originally included Korra and Asami as an example of a couple people were buzzing over, but after going back and thinking about it, the relationship does kind of deserve the hype it got, even if it wasn’t as explicit as it could’ve been.

Thoughts on the Disney Princesses

I have a lot of love for the Disney Princesses individually (though I feel like Merida doesn’t really belong in the lineup, since she’s Pixar [not from the Disney Animated Canon like the others are] and pretty much the antithesis of a Disney Princess), but I never really liked how they were marketed. When I was a child, I remember clearly that, for most of their merchandise, all they’d really do is pose and look pretty and wear glittery dresses and smile. They weren’t shown to really do much, besides get dressed (I remember distinctly going to the Disney Princess site and all you could do with the Princesses was dress them up), do a few innocuous and feminine activities, and be kind.

Now it’s slowly starting to change. If you go to their updated site, they emphasis the Disney Princesses not as delicate maidens modelling clothes, but as determined dreamers who can do anything. Real role models for young girls, if you know what I mean. And honestly? It’s really refreshing. It’s a vast improvement over having them just be pretty and act out of character. I also like in some of the tie in books and shows they’re giving more personality to some of the older princesses, but there still needs to be more for the non-white princesses, particularly Mulan and Pocahontas. I’m kind of surprised Disney hasn’t made a TV show exclusively about the Disney Princesses interacting and going on adventures, can you imagine how much little girls would love that? Can you imagine how much older fans would love to see that? After all, Disney DID do a show called House of Mouse that had all the Disney Characters coexist in the same world, so I don’t see why they can’t do something similar just for the Princesses.

But I still feel like there can be more.

I feel like, in addition to showing girls they can do anything, they can also apply their skills and dreams and experiences to improving the world around them.

Give me a Snow White who makes sure every child has a loving home. Give me a Cinderella who opens up women’s shelters and provides resources for domestic abuse survivors. Give me an Aurora who holds charity events where absolutely EVERYONE is invited. Give me an Ariel who encourages ocean conservation and peaceful relations between nations. Give me a Belle who opens up schools and makes sure everyone is able to read and write. Give me a Jasmine who works to reduce or even eliminate poverty. Give me more of a Pocahontas who is an anti-war, anti-racism, and a pro-environmental activist like she is in the movie. Give me a Mulan who stands up for LGBT and women’s rights. Give me a Tiana who makes sure no one goes hungry and stands for black rights. Give me a Rapunzel who encourages the arts and provides resources for emotional abuse survivors. And give me more of a Merida as a diplomat.

I understand that all those are probably longshots that aren’t going to happen anytime soon, but I still feel it could add a lot of depth and substance to them. The Disney Princesses get a lot of criticism, some of them just, others not, but I feel like if you actually had them get together to do good things, you could give them a lot more credibility and respect. That’s just how I feel at least. But I am glad that they’re gradually moving away from them just being pretty. I just wish they’d let Mulan wear her blue dress and for Tiana to let down her hair every once in awhile.

The Dangers of the Charming Villain

You know him (because it’s always a him). He’s the antagonist of a show or movie. He’s white, young, good-looking, and has a sob story. He’s also ruthless, a murderer, and sometimes a fascist or even full on Nazi. They’re meant to show that evil isn’t always apparent on the outside; they’re a warning of how even the most charming person can be dangerous.

Yet unfortunately, not a lot of people seem to get this message. Instead, the villain is often adored by fandom, his bad deeds glossed over or even made to look not bad, and in some cases, the main hero gets the scorn instead.

While there is nothing wrong with liking a villain, it is a serious problem when the villain is made to look better than they actually are. This is especially grim in the cases of the villain being a full on fascist. A lot of the time, people look at a character who is very clearly a bigot and mirrors a legitimate real life threat and go “but he’s not THAT bad!”

This isn’t necessarily the case ALL the time, but it occurs more often than it should. And I think the biggest reason why this occurs, beyond the good looks, is the sob story. I remember, very clearly, a lot of people were quick to put King Candy (from Wreck-It Ralph) on a high pedestal, excuse or downplay his bad deeds, and in some extreme cases, make Vanellope look like the real villain. A similar thing happened with Hans from Frozen, who a lot of people were quick to gush over (apparently some people wanted him to punch Anna at the end instead of the other way around). This sort of died with Callaghan from Big Hero 6 (who is probably less popular because he killed the fandom darling, Tadashi), but there are a still a few people who think he wasn’t entirely to blame, even though he goes on about how precious his daughter is and how bad it was that she got ‘taken’ from him but has no qualms telling the brother of a man he indirectly killed that it was ‘his mistake’.

The worst offender, in my opinion (and from what I’ve seen, apparently there are worse), is Kylo Ren from the latest Star Wars film. He killed his father, tortured people, and was responsible for the death of millions, yet people still think he’s wonderful and should get together with Rey (even though he abused her physically, mentally, and emotionally).

If I were perfectly honest, I kind of want the case of the charming/sympathetic villain to go away because right now people clearly aren’t getting the message. You don’t need to give the villain a tragic backstory all the time, and you especially don’t need to make him attractive. Give me a villain (especially a fascist/murderer) who is absolutely disgusting. Give me someone with no redeeming qualities, who has no likable characteristics, and would actively repel audiences. Because until we reach an age when everyone realizes backstories and good looks don’t excuse your bad behaviour, we’re going to have to reinforce the idea that evil really is ugly (though I wouldn’t want to reinforce tropes on how fat, non-white/Semitic, and disabled people are inherently evil and ugly, of course). It’s upsetting, but unfortunately, that’s probably the only way we’ll be able to prevent people from latching onto dangerous ideas and characters.

Alternatives To Marvel

Marvel dominates the superhero scene, so for people who are looking for something different (or are in no rush to support a company with lots of whitewashing/racism, sexism, and Hydra Captain America), here are some other superheroes you can check out.

HELLBOY

Based on the Dark Horse Comics (which I think they’re easier to get into since it’s one continuing series by the same author/artist, Mike Mignola), Hellboy is an intelligent, thought-provoking series, rich in religious and mythological symbolism and themes and a rather unique hero.

Brought to Earth by the Nazis with the purpose to bring about the Apocalypse but raised by a loving American father, Hellboy longs to be free from confinement, to mingle with people, and to be with his lover, Liz, but can’t be accepted by the world due to his appearance and questionable acts. While he’s rough around the edges, he has a good heart, and his love for Liz is pure. I strongly recommend supporting the two movies since a third Hellboy movie is having trouble seeing the light of day, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy what’s happening so far.

CYBERSIX

Based on an Argentinian comic, Cybersix is a moody,  haunting, atmospheric, and beautiful animated series. It’s about a creation who is struggling to be human, falling in love, making friends, and fighting the evils of her creator. She’s also a great example of a female superhero that is sexy without being sexualized and is actually in control of her sexuality. The show lasted only thirteen episodes but every episode is solid. Please give it a watch. It’s very dear to my heart.

MEGAMIND

A DreamWorks film that starts out as a parody/deconstruction of the superhero movie but becomes a superhero film in its own right. Megamind, an alien who feels that he HAS to be the bad guy because people treat him as such, learns that being good is worth it and that he is about to be a hero despite all odds. While not spectacular, it’s still very enjoyable, and worth a watch at least once.

THE INCREDIBLES

This movie pulls absolutely no punches. It’s very intense, very action packed, and even very adult at times, but the bond between the family and their struggles is what makes the film really good. I’m not sure if there’s much I can say that others haven’t, but, well, this movie is…incredible.

Teen Titans, the DCAU, and other DC properties

DC can be as problematic as Marvel at time, but I can say that these two properites are solid. Teen Titans is a perfect balance of comedy and drama, with lots of character development. Batman: The Animated Series is a classic, but other shows in the DCAU (especially Justice League/Justice League: Unlimited) also hold up really well. They are full of brilliant animation, gripping stories, and compelling characters. DC has also made a lot of animated movies, all of them varying in quality. From what I’ve seen, the better animated DC films are Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: Assault on Arkham, Supermna/Batman: Apocalypse, and Wonder Woman. There’s also independent superhero titles such as Watchmen. DC is very big so you’ll probably have to look around for stuff (and yeah, there are some gross/problematic DC properties) but those that are worth it are REALLY worth it.

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS

The Powerpuff Girls – Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup

And I’m referring to the original show (from the first four seasons at least; I don’t think the last two seasons are very good) and NOT the reboot. It’s definitely a classic. It’s funny and clever with memorable characters. My favourite episodes are “Knock It Off” and “Members Only”, which are some of the greatest moments in TV.

Big Hero 6

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No surprise here. While it has it’s ROOTS in Marvel history, it has become it’s own unique identity (and its production had absolutely nothing to do with Marvel, and any continuing products will not have Marvel’s involvement either). You can look through my Big Hero 6 category to get a good idea of why this film is worth it. Just watch it!

There are plenty of others out there that I know of (Spawn, Miraculous Ladybug, One Punch Man, to name a few). I haven’t seen them so I can’t really recommend them, but you can definitely take a look for yourself. You can start HERE to continue looking.

Here’s just a small list of Marvel alternatives. If you have more, feel free to mention them in the comments!

Love and Death with The Book of Life and Big Hero 6

If you’ve been following me, you know that my fave movie is Big Hero 6. You may or may not also know that one of my fave animated movies is The Book of Life. While I have some problems with Maria’s design (the huge head, hair, and eyes on a really skinny body are really distracting) and I cringe at an Aztec-coded character routinely being called a savage, The Book of Life is still a beautiful film with amazing visuals (some of the best for a low budget animated film not made by Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks), an exciting story, great songs, and I just admire how much love and pride the makers have in their country and culture.

What I find interesting is that both movies came out not too far apart from each other (BH6 was released on November 7, 2014; TBOL was released on October 17, 2014) and they both have one similar, recurring theme: they both deal with death.

I recommend you watch both movies before reading this post in order for you to fully understand this post, but basically, BH6 is about dealing with loss and grief after the death of a loved one, whilst TBOL revolves around Day of the Dead and touches on loss and grief a little bit, but mostly focuses on a man who has died but needs to come back to life in order to save his town. (It’s…not an easy plot for me to describe. Again, please go see the movie. It’s really good.)

What I find interesting is that TBOL offers a rather religious/spiritual view of dealing with death, but BH6 offers an atheistic view of such.

In TBOL, there’s no question. Those who are dead are not gone at all; their spirits are very real. Their presence is felt very strongly on Day of the Dead. Those who are remembered live in a lush, wonderful, festive land, while those who are forgotten are stuck in a frozen, barren wasteland. They even show up in the world of the living for a single day! The movie is deeply rooted in Mexican culture and spirituality, with its own version of heaven, hell, and resurrection. BH6 takes a different approach. We never see Tadashi’s ghost, or where he is in death, or any talk of how his spirit is watching over them or if his presence can be felt. What’s more, in TBOL remembering dead loved ones is very important, but in BH6, simply remembering Tadashi isn’t enough.

What I find interesting is that both main characters (Hiro and Manolo) don’t fully know how to deal with the death of their loved ones initially and move past it in their own way.

For Hiro, he becomes depressed and withdrawn, and later vengeful. But with the help and love of his friends, he learns violence is not the answer, that Tadashi will always be in his heart, and he will do good things in his name. For Manolo, we don’t see him get as upset, and he is able to deal with the deaths of his family members very well, but is unable to handle the supposed death of his love interest, Maria (who was just in a trance). Wracked with guilt, he decides to commit suicide in order to be with her, but realizes that it was in vain. On his quest to go back to the living, he learns the value of life, and when it looks like he’s going to die for real, he also learns the value of remembering loved ones and tells Maria to do the same. He survives, and lives happily ever after.

Both movies offer their own idea on how to deal with death. BH6 tells the audience to reach out to people, to seek help and comfort, and to do what the loved one would have wanted along with your own pursuits and that they’ll always be with them, even if you don’t know what happened to their spirit in death. As an atheist, that resonates with me pretty strongly. TBOL, with the help of Mexican spirituality, tells the audience to remember and cherish your loved ones, but to also live life to the fullest while you can (in other words, don’t kill yourself in order to be with your loved ones before your time), which is something I can still admire and appreciate. Both movies, ultimately, tell the audience that those who are gone aren’t really gone, and how precious life is.

I just find it nice how, after so many animated movies that sort of brush aside the death of loved ones, having the main character get over it quickly or not truly deal with it properly, or even have a “oh you thought they were dead well THEY’RE NOT” moment, it’s nice to see not one but two animated movies to come out in such a short amount of time that actually take the subject matter seriously and respectfully. I also like how it gives people who are dealing with the passings of their own loved ones different ways of processing the grief.

In short, BH6 and TBOL are both wonderful movies that will reinvigorate your lust for life and bring you closer to your friends and those you love, living or dead.

Beauty and the Beast Teaser Thoughts

Disney live action remakes tend to be either really great or really, well, not great, so I’m a little nervous how they’re going to handle the remake for one of my all time fave movies. With the teaser trailer we get a sneak peek of what’s to come, but we probably won’t get more info until either later this year or next year.

What do I think of what we’ve got so far?

Well, I love he music. I love how it’s almost the same from the original. It gives me the impression that this movie is going to be (mostly) loyal to it. The music also adds a nice atmosphere to the trailer.

I’m not sure how I feel about the casting. I like Ian McKellan as Cogsworth, but I’m not sure how I like Ewan McGregor as Lumiere. I feel like they should have cast Patrick Stewart, since he and McKellan do have a history of acting brilliantly alongside each other and could pull off Lumiere and Cogsworth’s relationship. Ewan seems too young to be Lumiere, and his French accent is terrible, sorry. As for Emma Watson, I’m sure she can convey Belle’s personality, but I don’t think she really LOOKS the part of Belle? I’ll have to see before I pass a major judgement on that though.

I know I might get flack for this, but I REALLY don’t like the colour scheme. With the exception of the rose, everything is this bland blue and orange palette used in every trailer nowadays and I’m worried that’s the final look they’re going for. The original movie had deep, lush purples and golds and reds and blues and was overall a visual feast but this movie doesn’t have that. And the set pieces we’re shown so far aren’t given a lot of character either.

I guess basically my ears are liking it (except for Lumiere’s new voice), but my eyes are not. I just hope the CGI used on the Beast and other characters (because let’s face it there’s probably not going to be a lot of makeup and prosthetics) will fit in seamlessly (like in The Jungle Book) and not stand out.

I think it goes without saying that I REALLY hope that it’s going to be completely faithful to the first movie. Please be more like The Jungle Book and less like Alice in Wonderland.

Overall, am I excited? Not yet. But hopefully that will change soon enough.