Big Hero 6 and Fred’s Private Pain

In Big Hero 6, the titular team is united over Tadashi (and his subsequent death). We know that they all mourned his loss, and that Hiro took it the hardest. But I have a suspicion that one of the characters who also took it very hard but didn’t show it was Fred.

Out of the adult teammates (Fred, Gogo, Wasabi, and Honey Lemon), Fred is the one who has the most backstory. We know that he is filthy stinking rich (but not spoiled and is actually very discreet about his wealth), that his father is Stan Lee (who also happens to be a superhero), has a loyal butler, is a huge comic book enthusiast and very genre savvy, and is the main benefactor of the team.

Recently, people have developed a theory that Fred had an unhappy childhood. His parents were always away and he was often alone, with only Healthcliff for company. That could be true (even if I hope it isn’t, I hate the idea of Stan Lee being a neglectful parent), but I think Fred does have his own personal grief: he is also reeling over the death of Tadashi.

While the gang all loves each other, Fred has been seen by the others as sometimes weird and gross. But not Tadashi, who complemented Fred’s laundry habit as being “both disgusting AND awesome”. They also seem to be the most physically close:

For the first act he is very expressive and frenetic and happy, but extremely subdued at the funeral:

For the rest of the movie, Fred is cheerful and positive, but there are definite moments when he looks really upset, more so than the others.

Note how this is when Honey Lemon says “no, don’t push us away Hiro, we’re here for you”.

Fred perks up considerably when Baymax suggests that they talk about their feelings. Fred is the first to volunteer, saying that is has been thirty days since his last…something before the villain appears. That line is funny, but when you think about how Tadashi was probably dead for that amount of time (in the Cinemastory comic, apparently Tadashi had been dead for three months) suddenly that line might suggest he had a serious drinking or drug binge to deal with his grief (it is implied that Fred is a stoner).

Later, this is his face when Tadashi’s killer is revealed to be none other than their trusted professor:

Fred’s reaction is not quite the same shock as the others.

And then there’s this face Fred makes in the aftermath of Callaghan’s escape and Hiro’s rage:

That is a face of pure and utter distress.

When the team reunites with Hiro, he has a sort of calm but sad look, like he just calmed down from crying:

And then there’s the part where Baymax is lost in the portal. We get shots of Wasabi’s, Gogo’s, and Honey Lemon’s reactions, but interestingly, not Fred’s. Perhaps because he was absolutely devastated to hear that the last thing his friend made is gone.

Given how much detail went into this movie, I’m pretty sure this is intentional and is telling a secret story within the main one. You can tell that Fred does have a hidden pain that only reveals himself at the mention of Tadashi. Considering how he leapt at the opportunity to talk about his feelings, it’s very likely that, given how he comes from a rich and upper-class environment, he had been encouraged to be discreet and private in his affairs. That would explain why, even though he looks visibly distraught at several points, he doesn’t get to cry like Hiro does.

Seeing as how he likely closest to Tadashi and has the biggest role after Hiro and Baymax, I think this is setting up his own major character arc that will be shown in either a sequel or the series. I think we’re going to find out how he real feels about Tadashi and how badly his death affected him. And how Hiro and Baymax will help him recover from it. I certainly hope so.

 

The New Planet of the Apes is a Modern Exodus Story

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Spoilers!

The new Planet of the Apes prequels are some of the most intelligent, thrilling, and emotional blockbusters I have seen in recent years. While I can never see the original 1968 film a second time (the first viewing just disturbed me too much), I can enjoy the new movies thanks in large part to the character of Caesar. He is one of the most compelling characters of all time, brought beautifully to life by the great Andy Serkis. And one thing I couldn’t help but notice immediate after watching War for the Planet of the Apes is that Caesar’s life has a lot of parallels to that of the Biblical Moses.

The first movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, parallels the origins of Moses. Both he and Caesar have tragic beginnings: they were born into slavery and would face certain death if it had not been for their mothers’ love. They are raised by their captors and live a very happy life for a long time. But then, the protagonists commit a crime to protect another, and are both exiled for it. It is during their exile that they discover their destiny to free their respective peoples, unleashing a plague upon their captors in the process.

The second movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, references the Hebrew’s newly found freedom. They escape to greener pastures and build their own communities, with the law of ‘do not kill’. But conflict within the community rises (in this movie and in some film versions of the the Exodus story, it is stirred by a specific opponent) and the teachings of Caesar and Moses are rejected, and blood must ultimately be shed. The quest for true freedom for the apes and Hebrews are thus prolonged.

War for the Planet of the Apes has the most direct parallels. You see the apes being whipped and imprisoned and forced to work hard for their captors, building a stone monument. Caesar routinely begs for his people’s freedom, but the Colonel (Pharaoh) refuses, mocking him, instead increasing the workload of the slaves. The apes escape and the captors and would-be captors are wiped out by an avalanche, which echoes the scene of the Egyptian soldiers being wiped out by the Red Sea. Freed, the Hebrews and Apes both cross a desert to safety, to a Promised Land. In the end, both Caesar and Moses die atop a high place overlooking their people, knowing they are free. It all makes for a very intense story that kept me glued to the screen from start to finish.

Do you think this was intentional or just a coincidence? Did you spot any more parallels? Feel free to let me know!

Why I’m Okay With Ralph Getting a Love Interest

This past weekend, the D23 Expo took place, allowing Disney fans to take an exclusive look at all the upcoming projects. One project that got a particular amount of hype (after the Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer) was an exclusive look at Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.

From what we know so far (and keep in mind things can and will change), a wifi router is plugged into the arcade to boost attendance, and something breaks in the Sugar Rush game. Vanellope and Ralph go to the internet to find something to fix it, and meet a wide array of new worlds and characters. One major character they meet is an algorithm from a Buzzfeed knockoff site called Yesss, who guides them around the strange new world. There’s also a potential plot point of Vanellope meeting the Disney Princesses on the Disney fan website, OhMyDisney, and revealing that she feels a little overshadowed by Ralph.

A lot of people are hyped, but also nervous as hell. I get a little annoyed that some people are already expecting the worst when they haven’t even seen anything yet, but one thing that makes me really agitated is the revulsion people have towards Ralph and Yesss potentially becoming a couple (people who went to the expo report that Ralph was clearly in awe of her).

Why am I upset?

Because Yesss is extremely likely going to be a black woman.

She has been described as having an afro, and is voiced by Taraji P. Henson, a black woman. Given how the first WIR film got criticisms for being overwhelmingly white, it is extremely likely Yesss is either going to be black or black-coded.

When was the last time you saw a lot of good black female characters in animation? With natural hair? Who weren’t just aggressive and sassy? And who was able to have a proper romance that didn’t either dissolve or was pushed aside for the main white couple? In Disney’s history, they’ve only really had Tiana, and that isn’t enough, especially with her being a frog for most of the movie.

You can see how her being in a romance with Ralph is going to be important. Seeing a black woman be loved in a interracial relationship in a major Disney movie is going to have a HUGE impact.

But apparently for some people that’s not good enough. “Ralph doesn’t need a love interest” or “he should be with a man” or “Ralph being with a woman of colour is acceptable but not good”.

Can you see how that might be an issue I have?

Now, we don’t know for sure that this couple will be endgame. Ralph could fall in love with her and she could reject him and they’d still be friends, or she might be the main villain. We don’t know. But if she IS going to get together with Ralph, it’s kind of shitty to get angry over it.

The most important thing is that Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship will get stronger as a result no matter what happens. Until then, let’s wait until we get more information to pass judgement.

PS

The opening title for Big Hero 6: The Series dropped and it looks AWESOME. But people still want a sequel, so, hop to that, Disney. Watch it here:

Zootopia (Alternative Version)

When Zootopia first came out, everyone loved it, praising it for its timely message on bias and prejudice. But some people have pointed out that the theme of predators vs prey doesn’t really hold up as an allegory for modern racism.

A good video that discusses the problems can be seen here:

Basically, if this movie was just about prejudice in general, that would be one thing, but the problem is that it tries too hard to mimic real world racial dynamics in modern America and it doesn’t work because sometimes the predators look like the marginalized group, other times it’s the prey, and the prey technically have a right to be afraid of the predators. What makes this worse is that, in the early drafts of the movie, it hit much closer to home: predators were definitely a stand in for minority groups, had almost no rights, and were forced to wear shock collars. This was cut because this would’ve made the story and setting too unlikable, but you can tell that they were originally going to go all the way with this.

I think to myself, you know what could have made the allegory a lot more apparent and have a bigger impact without being too depressing?

Add bats.

Think about it. Bats are often depicted as freaky and scary. They’re mammals and can resemble foxes and rats, but they have wings. Some bats eat meat, others don’t. They can be both predator and prey. Some are nocturnal, others are not. They’re, quite literally, freaks of nature. In a world like Zootopia, where there’s already bias, how do you think the other animals would feel about bats?

So instead of trying to be about predators vs prey, which is way too broad to be made into an allegory, have both groups harbor a common prejudice for bats. That way, you can have a clearer, more accurate metaphor for an oppressed group.

The hero would also have a bigger incentive for being a police officer and getting so involved with the case. In the original, I think that while Judy does have good intentions, I feel that her main motive for becoming a cop (as opposed to say, a social worker or a relief worker, jobs that actually do make the world a better place) is so that she can have a stronger sense of power in control in her life, what with her being a bunny with so many siblings being heckled by foxes. In this version, our protagonist, a bat, wants to become a cop so she can actively help and protect bats being discriminated against.

In this version you could have the missing mammals all be bats too. To be honest, I never liked the villain or thought her plot would hold up. Okay, so she hates her boss, so she wants to get him fired by…drugging every predator? So she can…stay in power and let prey become the dominant species? Um, you do realize that you can and will be voted out of office, right? This also underscores how messy the metaphor really is because, again, who is the discriminated species in this world? Because at first it looks like prey and small animals, and suddenly it’s predators. But in this version, you can have the villain be someone who actively hates and is trying to scapegoat bats. Maybe they’re angry at the fact that a bat got an important job in the city. This also makes the police’s chief disdain in letting the protagonist take on the case make more sense and make the protagonist’s stakes higher.

Zootopia definitely has good intentions, but because the metaphor is so messy, it didn’t have the impact on audiences as much as the creators would’ve hoped, as racial tensions in the states just got even worse as 2016 rolled on, and now nobody really talks about the movie that much. It’s hard to tell if Zootopia featuring bats as an oppressed group would’ve been as successful as the original, but I think it would have left a bigger impact on audiences, for better or for worse.

The Overwatch Character We Need

Like a lot (and I mean a LOT) of people, I really love Overwatch. The major reason being the diverse and unique array of characters. Some of my faves include Symmetra (no surprise there), D.Va, Sombra, Widowmaker, Zarya, Lucio, Junkrat and Roadhog. I also have a soft spot for the Shimada brothers (I don’t really like Hanzo but I hope he and Genji get to reconcile) and Pharah.

Overwatch’s ever expanding lore takes the time to include more characters, with recent additions including Sombra, Ana (Pharah’s mother), and Orisa, and it looks like Doomfist is going to be next in line.

But I feel like there’s a major character who really needs to be introduced, both as a playable character and a significant member of the lore. Who would that be?

Pharah’s father.

When the game first came out, Pharah, an Egyptian character, had some Legendary Skins clearly inspired by the First Nations people of Canada’s Pacific Northwest:

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Cultural appropriation? A lot of people certainly thought so, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.

According to THIS post from someone who is actually a Native Canadian from the Pacific Northwest (Eyak to be precise), it is actually not a bad idea at all to appropriate this particular culture. Why? Because Eyak and other Native cultures in that area are in extreme danger of dying off. What better way to keep the culture alive than by featuring it in such a popular game?

Nevertheless, there was enough of an uproar for Blizzard to try to rectify this situation. So they revealed Pharah’s father…sort of. We don’t know his name, his relationship with her or Ana, or how he fits into the Overwatch lore, but we do know that he is Native Canadian, making Pharah Métis.

Related image (note the Canadian flag on the TV screen in the background)

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Now, I think it’s really cool that Pharah is mixed race with Canadian heritage! As a Canadian myself, I was so happy to hear that! However, it can be easy to see how making her father Native without actually including him can be seen as a get out of jail free card, especially since Pharah’s native heritage isn’t always explored and we only know about Ana, who is full-blooded Egyptian as far as we know.

So, why not make him part of the game and give him a bigger role in the lore? Let’s see him interact with the other characters. Let’s see how he feels about Ana being MIA for so long. Let’s see him bond with his daughter more. Let’s see what his relationship with Gabriel, Jack, and Reinhardt is like. You could definitely delve into some truly interesting and compelling lore of how Pharah, her father, and Ana are connected.

And of course, let’s give more visibility to Canada’s First Nations people. Recently, Canada just celebrated its 150 anniversary as a united sovereign country, but a lot of our Indigenous community called attention to the cultural and literal genocide they have faced in those years (just look up residential schools and the 60’s scoop to get a general, horrible idea). You can see how a Native Canadian character can do some good, especially when you consider the positive impact of Pharah’s skins on some people.

Overwatch is not going away any time soon, so there’s plenty of time for him to show up. When (hopefully not if) he shows up, I will be very excited to see his impact on the world of Overwatch and Native Canadian cultures.