So I watched Encanto…

One of the unsung perks of babysitting in this country is that you get to use people’s streaming accounts even if you don’t have them. I’ve watched a crap ton of Netflix and Disney Plus because of babysitting.

That’s how I watched Vivo…which is a better movie than Encanto, bite me.

Funny because Lin Manuel Miranda worked on both, I just think Vivo’s plot and themes suited his talents better than a Disney Girl musical (since now we aren’t even pretending they’re princesses…although this movie might as well have been about a princess.)

I’m not going to hate on Encanto, it was an enjoyable ride, but after watching it, I do think it is inferior to its predecessors.

I’m sure all of you are too nice to hate on me for saying that, but if I went on a different platform, I think I’d start a riot. Everyone seems to love this movie.

Well, it’s mediocre, sorry, not sorry.

I won’t deny the animation was gorgeous, a joy to watch. The songs were…predictable. The only one I thought really stood out as creative lyrically was the “Pressure” one. Then, Imperfect was okay, and “WE Don’t talk about Bruno” was impressive editing-wise, but lyrics were a little weird, I thought.

But I’m not much for modern musical movies, to be fair. I like old ones better.

i have before unashamedly said that I like Disney movies–some of them–and that Frozen is actually my favorite movie, for personal reasons. See: Why a DP movie is my favorite. Why a DP movie is my favorite part 2. I don’t think it’s the most amazing movie ever made, but it stands out form other Disney films, I’m not the only one who thought it has a different vibe, wrapped up in a Disney package, it still somehow felt unique. Thought he haters will never admit it.

Encanto is a beautiful mess, that is my honest opinion. I was interested in the plot while watching it, and the 3 year old I was watching it with loved the music. But I kept waiting for the movie to make its point…and by the end I was just…non plussed.

Encanto basically has two or three over arching themes, and it tries to bring all of them together at the end, but it doesn’t finish any of them. The ending was one of the most rushed I’ve seen in a Disney film, and the characters were not well flushed out. We only get depth on Luisa and Isabel, and it’s dropped after one song.

Abuela’s character being the cause of the magic disappearing was predictable, I called it form the beginning. But that wouldn’t have been bad. I thought it actually added to the idea that families often miss the obvious when it comes to their problems. It’s true in my family, for sure.

I actually thought they were going to do a Brave thing, and make it both the older and younger women had pride and selfishness, and that was the cause of the rift. And the magic of the family was tied to their unity.

The movie implies this, but doesn’t say it.

I could put that down to a wish for subtlety, except every other theme in this movie is blatant and shoved in your face, as with most kids’ movies, so why they would hesitated to spell it out for us, if they actually intended it, I don’t know.

I don’t necessarily mind blatant messages, I think kids need things to be spelled out for them, and adults who watch kid content should be prepared for that. But I think you can do it tastefully and creatively. Just singing it to save time is not tasteful.

The imagery in this movie is probably its best feature. The lights, the candle, the sand, the cracks.

I kind of thought Bruno’s character was less impressive than he could have been, he was exactly what I expected, and the goofy, kooky character seeing the future and then hiding…well, it’s a little old. But it’s not bad, so it’s more of a personal wish than a criticism.

What actually made me mad about this movie was the ending. The first half was quite good, but it was like they ran out of run time. Isabel and Mirabel get over 20 years of disagreeing, (or 18, or whatever it was) and it takes 2 minute of one song for them to suddenly understand each other?

I was the scapegoat and my sister was the golden child, it took us months of disagreeing, and years of tension before that, to work out our differences. Especially when our dad poured gasoline on the fire.

And another thing, I found it stupid that only Mirabel was yelling at Abuela at the end. If Luisa and Isabel were really that miserable, seeing Mirabel do that should have just burst the dam. Especially for Isabel.

Also the magic was so poorly explained.

I know that magic does not always need to be explained in a story, I actually don’t like it when it is, like, We didn’t need an explanation for Elsa’s magic–and the one we got made no sense.

But in this movie, the magic disappearing is the whole point, so that is the time to explain how it works, the entire point of most of the film is Mirabel trying to understand the magic, so explaining it was totally necessary.

And what is explained…nothing!

I mean, I guess the magic relies on the family’s…bond? But then why doesn’t it crack every time one of them fights? The one lady with the weather powers should be having cracks every 10 minutes. Isabel and Mirabel should have been causing issues all along. Then Abuela’s obsession with perfection might actually make more sense.

Or how about this, make the fact that Abuela herself actually has no gift, and just guards the candle and house the reason she doesn’t like Mirabel. Mirabel reminds her of her own mortality, and humanness, and we tend to project our insecurities onto other people. So when she’s yelling at Mirabel, she’s really upset at herself. And Mirabel annoys her by not being as stressed about it as she is. I’ve known that to happen to many people in real life, myself included. Misery loves company.

This is almost implied in the movie…but never enough to be sure it’s actually what it’s saying.

Also, the conflict of this movie is set up poorly.

We’re supposed to be wonder why Mirabel has no gift, right? Well that question is never answered. Ever.

Then we’re supposed to wonder if the gift is becoming a curse…

But the thing is, Mirabel’s mom is a really nice lady, and supportive of all her daughters, and so is their father. Isabel is so driven to be perfect…why?

I can’t recall her ever actually being told she was doing something wrong. Maybe she just wanted to avoid it ever happening, but most people aren’t afraid to fail until they have failed in a painful way, and we never see her do that. Perfectionism comes from not being able to control things when you were a kid, but we get no such story with Isabel.

We never see Luisa told it would be selfish to take a break. She just assumes it.

We’re meant to think Abuela made them think this way just by her example…but even if that is true, no one ever questioned it before? And why do none of the men feel this way? They seem carefree, and happy-go-lucky. No pressure there.

And while the townspeople take advantage of the family’s gifts, they aren’t ever pushy about it.

So why are these two girls so driven? Isabel says she was going to marry the guy for the family…but they never push her to do it, they just assume she wants to marry him. If she’d ever spoken up about it, I’m sure they’d have been happy to push Dolores forward instead. Why does it need to be Isabel?

And by the way, Dolores character had the potential to be so much more compelling. Imagine if you could hear everything? Everything anyone ever said about you? That sounds like a curse to me. Maybe that’s why she tries to be invisible, so people won’t talk bad about her.

Would make relationships difficult, and relaxing. She’s shown to be jumpy, but she doesn’t get her own song, and she doesn’t ever get a moment to explain it. A total waste of potential. I’d say her life is way harder than Isabel’s.

I mean, when the main conflict of your story is your MC just isn’t special enough….what the heck movie? Is that what counts as drama these days? Her family loves her, and the one person who actually is hostile to her, Isabel, is not even in most of the movie, and resolves the conflict in 3 minutes…yay!

Mirabel is all like “I can’t embrace Isabel!” and then 5 minutes later “Oh my gosh, I was so wrong about her!”

Uh…you weren’t really, you just didn’t know why she acted that way, she still acted like a b-word. And perfectionism is no excuse to bully your sister, Isabel. How about an apology?

Nope…nothing.

I mean Isabel could have said she envied Mirabel her freedom to do whatever she wants. Built on the trapped by your gift thing…but nope.

And another thing, if Isabel is so stuck…why doesn’t she want to try something other than growing flowers? Her whole rebellion is spraying herself with colors and growing cacti…who in the heck said she couldn’t grow cacti? Cacti are useful, heck her mom could use aloe to cure people, everyone would be all over that. And she has a whole room to experience with crazy flowers in, and no one else seems to care…what exactly is holding her back?

I mean, Abuela only cares when it becomes convenient for the plot, she never reprimands Isabel before then.

Movie, stop expecting me to assume domestic abuse, actually show it if you want to use it, you coward!

You now that just ticks me off about this film, and every other kids’ media I watch these days. Domestic problems are assumed. No on’es family is actually good, no one is actually happy, it all hast o be fake. You can bet if I see a nice character, I’m going to find out they have skeletons in their closet later in the story.

And while no human is perfect, not all of us are as royally fricked up as the movies imply. Sometimes we just get frustrated once in a while, and guess what, we move on! Some of us actually deal with it in a healthy way. Geez! What is the problem Hollywood?

I think it’s on purpose, the idea of contentment just doesn’t sell, so every character has to have a dark side.

Frozen kicked off this trend–but you know how Frozen made it work?

Because we actually see Elsa’s powers backfire, we see her parents tell her bad advice, we see her fear of herself grow–the movie accomplishes this in 10 minutes. We all perfectly understand why Elsa is afraid, how it affects her, and that Anna is unaware of it.

Then when Elsa goes berserk, we know why. It’s not random, we see the causes.

And her problems instead of being over in 5 minutes, take a whole movie to work through. And are revisited in the shorts and the sequel–which are not great, but at least they aren’t delusional enough to say Elsa is never going to doubt again. Of course she will, but she now lets herself be helped, that was the difference.

Where is this in Encanto? Or should I say Donde esta en la cinema Encanto? (Pretty sure I said that wrong, but my Spanish is not great, and the constant switch in the movie was not as charming as they thought it was. I was just left feeling like the whole thing should have been in Spanish, or English, pick one.)

Nada! Nunca! It’s not there. You won’t find any deepening, or further introspection of any of these characters. One song, that’s it.

That’s one of my problems with the movie.

The other one is the Magic itself, and the Miracle. It’s never explained.

And why Mirabel does not have a gift. She wanted to know.

I think the movie’s biggest mistake here was that when Mirabel went to get her gift, the door began to form…but then it stopped.

If she was truly just not meant to have one, fine. But then why did she start to get it and then it stopped? The candle changed its mind? Hmm?

Sure seems like something went wrong, not looking at Bruno’s excommunication or anything.

And if the family splitting is what lead to the magic cracking, than it would have made perfect sense that Mirabel’s lack of gift was because it weakened after they sent Bruno packing. Like, it literally seems like that’s what they are implying.

Mirabel even sees the same cracks as Bruno. Which could have been taken as maybe she was going to have the same gift as him, because he wasn’t around, but because he still is, she couldn’t get it, and it broke.

Then restoring Bruno the family, and fixing the house should have fixed her problem. But she still has no gift at the end…even though she restore the magic, so she has magic, but no gift….because logic….

You have all the set up to make this make sense…but no pay off? Nothing.

Because oh she’s just special enough without a gift…

(How can not being special be what makes you special? It’s a logical fallacy.)

Well if that’s true, why restore the gifts at all. If it really had become a burden, then just let it go, accept change.

Wasn’t that the message? If you hold onto the past too tightly it crushes the very people you were trying to protect…I thought that’s what they were saying.

But I mean, i’s Disney, so of course the Magic shouldn’t have disappeared at the end…but Mirabel still can’t have a gift because reasons.

Even though it clearly show she didn’t get a gift because something went wrong, setting it right doesn’t give her one…why? She doesn’t want one anymore?

I fail to understand you movie.

I thought they all should have either lost their gifts for good, or never lost them at all. Maybe they just could have corrupted, been twisted, like in Frozen. Because they were used wrong. That’s more true to real life anyway. We don’t lose our talents because of stress, but they do become less pure.

So in the end, this movie has two messages. Or three really. 1. You don’t need a gift to be special, because not being special is what makes you special. (Cure the Incredibles rant about celebrating mediocrity) 2. If you put yourself into one box, it will crush your spirit, it’s okay to have more than one interest and to take a break. 3. Holding onto the past is bad. Embrace the future. (As long as you do it by not forgetting what made your family special in the past and reigniting that flame….get it? Because it’s a candle, we’re so clever).

How did anyone like this movie’s ending? I get liking the songs and story, but the ending? It makes no sense. None few these three messages is finished. Nothing is explained, and there is no truth. Everything goes back to being exactly how it was, except that Isabel goes disco tech, Luisa takes naps, and Dolores gets with the guy who’s about as deep as a kiddie pool.

Mirabel is not a different person than before. And the town is the same…so yeah…

I really thought there could have been something really good there. Heck, even all three of those message together would have been okay, if they were finished. But they aren’t. There is no point of resolution.

An apology is not a resolution if the problem is that complex. That worked in Brave because the mother -daughter conflict is present in the whole movie, shown to be the core of its problems, and is explained as the way to resolve them. Merida humbling herself makes sense, because Pride was her problem.

But the whole family conflict in this movie is so shaky. Not everyone is unhappy. The problem are so minor that literally two conversations fixed them, and Bruno comes back with no fanfare whatsoever, and Mirabel isn’t even the reason.

Mirabel was actually mostly useless, she spends most of the movie making the problem worse, and in the end is the reason the magic goes out…so way to defy negative expectations there, movie.

Guess she really was the bug in the system…and maybe it deserved to crash and burn…so show that. Don’t just make it all go away because apologies!

Ugh…

Perhaps I am oversimplifying. But it was still poorly done.

Encanto is, in my opinion, a product of our culture.

Fewer and fewer movies and show have any definite meaning now. And fewer and fewer people seem to notice it. We are becoming incapable of discerning structure and payoff in a story.

As long as the label diversity is stamped on something, we swallow any amount of lazy writing, and Hollywood knows we will.

Encanto is a badly written movie that would not have stacked up to a 90s Disney Movie, and they have very weak conflicts usually, but at least hey are clear. Ariel may be kind of a bratty teen, but at least I know why. I know why Aladdin wants to be a prince, even if he’s a liar. I know why Mulan is going to war ( and that is one of the best Disney movies there is).

I don’t know that with Encanto. It would have taken like 1 extra song, and 5 minutes to explain, but it’s not there. They could have cut the unnecessary songs and put in actual story, they could have not rehashed the begging like 3 times for padding. It was fixable. How did someone not say “Uh guys, we didn’t answer any of our own questions in this script…can we like…fix that?”

But no one cars, becuase diversity!

I can’t say I see what a magic house really has to do with Columbian culture. Or how themes that are so clearly modern are really representing what makes it special. Kind of the running joke of representation in Disney is that it’s…you know, based in fictional countries, so you can’t really represent real ethnic groups…

I mean, people complain about how all the old movies had white characters…but they were stories form Europe, of course they could have white characters. Whenever the movie were set in other countries, they changed the ethnicity…I never really saw the issue. People just like to complain.

And I don’t mind if a movie is set in a Mexican, or Colombian culture, if it’s good. I enjoy movies like that.

But I won’t approve bad writing just because it was packaged in a nice look, and fun songs.

I’m sure it would be fun to watch Encanto, but it has no meaning. It is gutless, it doesn’t commit to any one message, because it doesn’t have to to be liked, and the creators knew that.

But I think this in underminding our chilrend’s abilty to tell when there even is a emssage in osmeitng.

Implied messages that are not stated are usually called propaganda. Subtle, but propaganda. When a message is boldly stated, it opens itself up to criticism.

But if it’s vague, you can’t really criticize it. So it is gutless, but the implicates are enough to squeeze it by the virtue signalling SJWS, so they think it has meaning.

If you still think I’m being too harsh, I challenge you to take Encanto, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Moana, take a pen, and write down each main element of those movies. each character’s conflict…and then how the movie resolved it.

I defy you to find a way it really was fleshed out. It’s implied, that’s all. Implications don’t help us in real life. People need actual ideas if they will change.

But if you can feed yourself with colorful, but empty visions of meaning, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re being cultured, but you are really being conditioned.

Encanto is not evil or bad in of itself, so much as it is just lazy, but what scare me is it never would have been praise so much a few decades ago, and now it’s haled as top tier.

A Goofy Movie did family conflict better, sue me.

Well, I think I have ranted enough, this movie is not horrible to watch, but I can’t endorse anything it says, as it says nothing whatsoever. That’s my verdict. Watch it for a good time, but don’t expect any substance, and you’ll be fine.

Try Brave or Frozen if you want the exact same message but with an actual message. Or any of the renaissance era movies.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Better Off Alone?

You know that moment when you’re reading a comment thread and you think to yourself “50% of this is talking more about the cute couples then the message.”

I’ve written about shipping recently, and defended certain kinds of ships as enhancing the story, but I didn’t really talk about the question of whether or not shipping should even exist.

I figured, it’s not like it’s going anywhere, but I’ve been seeing a few people saying they are so done with it. They are sick of all the arguing. It’s funny how seriously people take it too, I won’t argue that. Especially the most unrealistic ones.

This burn out on shipping has more, I believe, to do with a very real question, wrapped up in a lot of fictional characters: The question of whether anyone needs a significant other to be a full, functional human being.

A lot of romantic songs dwell on needing another person. Old movies are mocked for their inclusion of female leads who sing about how they need a man to be happy.

Even Disney’s Hercules, which many people like because the female lead was NOT looking for love, has a whole song devoted to making it clear she still wanted it, and denied her feelings out of fear.

I’m sure I could fine more mainstream adult movies with examples of a similar thing.

IT doesn’t matter how seemingly self-sufficient your female lead is, she’ll end up with a man 99.9% of the time.

And you know if she doesn’t, it’ll be discussed in the movie.

I could call out the serious double standard here, since it’s more common for the male lead to stay alone, especially in older movies, or to get the girl as some kind of prize.

Actually what really bothers me is how often the woman was a total idiot. Like in Crocodile Dundee, ick.

The same is true of old books, in fact, it might be more true of books than movies, which have more pressure to be “progressive.”

But the solution I see younger people falling back on, and feminists push them to do it, is to simply say “Well, a woman doesn’t need a man to be happy.” It’s usually a woman do, the man clearly needs someone to balance him out.

And hey, I won’t argue with that. But I think the portrayal of women has gotten to be a little unfair.

They tend to be shown as these top-notch, independent, brave, and above all tough and emo-like characters. I could just use kids movies, and I’ll find you that character in almost any of them. From The LEGO Movie, to Big Hero 6, to The Avengers, (in fact, every single female lead in the Avengers was basically the same character for quite a while.)

Why would a character like this need a man?

Especially when their male companion is usually goofy, clueless, and hot headed? Or a wimp.

You can feel, even if it’s never said, that the woman is just basically putting up  with his nonsense because he’s cute.

Talk about a role reversal.

Now, as true as that might be to real life, is it any less true that men have to do the same thing with women?

And the girls I know, though I can’t speak for anyone else, are not anywhere near being as put together as these feminist archetypes.

The truth is, both the old way men were portrayed and the way women are portrayed now, involves a suspension of reality. They are shown as unbreakable, because society tends to worship the unbreakable, we don’t always care whether it’s a him or her, so long as the right qualities are there.

And the real situation is that the qualities I listed above are far more likely to be shared between two above average people in a relationship, then found exclusively in one of them.

And it’s because of that unrealistic portrayal that people are able to say “Well she doesn’t need a man,”

Let me speak some truth sister, (or brother), if they were shown how they really are, how you really are, you’d be more likely to wonder if they deserved a man, let alone if they needed one.

If you on your worst day is not a fate you wish to spare people, then you aren’t honest with yourself. We do stuff that drives people crazy.

However, I’m not saying we should think that we are better off alone because we suck. Other people do things that suck too. The idea of being together, is that we are better together, the sum of our good becomes our new identity.

That is actually what marriage is supposed to be, and by extension, a dating relationship should be growing toward that ideal.

Way back in Genesis 2, God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” The Bible goes on in other books to say that two are better than one, and that we need tor ely on each other.

It’s not hard to figure out, if you read the bible, that God is in favor of relationships.

So it is the height of pride to claim we do not need each other.

Not everyone is meant to get married, it’s true. But I think most people are, because we were designed for that.

We should not be voting for people, real or imaginary, to be single. Because it ignores the truth that we are not good alone. It’s deceiving ourselves to tell ourselves that.

Being alone is freaking hard, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am not alone in my house, but I still feel lonely. I’m old enough to be dating or getting married. And I’m not ashamed to admit that’s a need.

The question is of timing, not of necessity.

I would not be good alone for very long.

Anyway, I think this all goes back to humility. Letting go of our obsession with the unbreakable human being stereotype. If you are unbreakable, you’re as cold and hard as rock.

Or, you’re too soft to break. Like clay. Humility is what gets us there. And relationships are what get us humility. Unless you know another way…

Until next time–Natasha.

My sister found this hilarious song/clip about relational expectations, check it out for a good laugh at yourself:

The effect of LGBT and Darkness in fiction.

Hello everyone! School is OVER! Yay…maybe now I can post more often.

Thanks for hanging in there, now, for the nitty gritty:

Let’s talk about storytelling again. In my mind the two biggest problems with modern storytelling, particularly fiction, are it’s obsession with darkness, and the homosexuality progressive push.

As controversial as the second one sounds, it’s not just about not liking homosexuality, it’s about what effect the subject has on a story. I’ll explain this one first.

Okay, so you’re cruising along, watching your favorite show or movie, and then boom! Someone on it is gay. It happens with book series too. There’s one book series I really liked, The Heroes of OLYMPUS (it was a phase) and up till book 4, it was pretty good, and then book 4 came along and a kid who’d been normal, even heterosexual up till that point, up and comes out…ugh…

But okay, fine, it’s something real people deal with right? I can’t say it’s wrong to put that in your story, right? However, the catch is, this character already had a lot of emotional issues, ones that desperately needed to be resolved; and guess how they all were resolved? He gets a lust interest at the end of the last book…and that’s it. He’s FINE. Abandonment issues? Grief? Antisocial behavior? Not a problem, not now that he’s embraced being gay…???

I wish I could say that was an isolated example, but it happens all the time. Whether it’s the producers, publishers, or public opinion, a writer feels pressured to be “progressive” so they pick whatever character they think can afford it, and sacrifice them on the altar of LGBT. And that is it, that is the last of their character development. Never mind if they were complex before that, and had a way more interesting emotional arc, it’s all gone. Guess what, it won’t even be talked about anymore. Not in the material, and not by the fans, all anyone cares about is they are LGBT. People worship that label, as if it’s the most important thing about the character, and somehow legitimizes the whole story. Never mind whether it was any good or not.

And can I just say, having an LGBT character does not automatically make your story good…Disney, and Hollywood.

AS I’ve shated before, I personally believe homosexuality is wrong, and unnatural, but even if I didn’t, this is still very bad storytelling. It’s on par with trashy romance novels where the climax of the story is the characters having sex. They rarely get much development or depth outside of that. And most people agree that that is trash, you read it recognizing that, if you read it at all, and you admit your motives are less than pure.

But with LGBT stuff, sex is somehow treated like an honor, even when it is moral-less. The characters often are not any more good than anyone else, and their sexuality shouldn’t earn them the title of brave just because it used to be looked down on. I’m sick of Hollywood waiting till something becomes popular and then riding the wave while marketing it as doing something daring, if it was a real risk, very few studios would do it. Unless we think they actually care about social justice.

The sad thing is, independent enterprises now feel, thanks to very shortsighted fans, that they must include these characters to do their part. It’s like how you can’t make anything without black characters now. It would probably be acceptable to make something without white characters, but you know…equality.

Anyone else get tired of this hypocrisy?

If homosexuals want to find someone who really cares about them, don’t turn to people who are using their lifestyle for a cash grab…just saying.

And speaking of cash grabs, what about obsession with darkness? Storytime:

For a year I was part of an online writers workshop for Christian teens, and I got to read some other people’s works, and I can tell you 8 out of 10 times, it was dystopian, or some kind of personal angst story. From Christians…they were all the same. They sounded like clones of each other.

Of course that is popular, and what kids read now. Today I watched the second Hunger Games movie for the first time ever…and I looked away at some moments. I still can’t bear to see some stuff played out in front of me. There are those who eat it up. And those who don’t care. I was just amazed anyone could come up with something that sadistic and twisted. For fiction.

Usually when I hear about stuff that terrible, it really happened, and you an put it down to people being sick enough not to feel it was wrong. But to put it up for moral consideration implies you know it was twisted…and what gives?

I have to ask the ever unpopular question, do we need stories like the Hunger Games? It has some social commentary, but by the second movie, the layer of belief that this could happen starts to war real thin. I know that historically, such things have happened, so we could get to that point again, but if you’re comparing to our society, we have many issues, but we’re not that far gone yet. You expect me to believe people would see this kind of torture, and cheer for it, if they cared about the people playing even in the slightest?…maybe. But we are not quite there yet.

And the question also is, are these violent movies pushing us toward that frame of mind? Even if they are  doing it to supposedly point out the problem, these ideas are left in people’s heads.

And horror has an unfortunate effect on people, they try to inoculate themselves. That’s why people read and watch Horror, many of them are riddled with fears of their own, the fear they find in the stories they feel they are in control of, and they want to be inoculated to their horrors. To become unmoved by it. Because then they feel tougher. They can shrug and say “I’ve seen way scarier stuff…”

When I’m horrified, I also have a tenancy to try to find a way to think of it that makes it less terrible. But apathy, and indifference, they won’t drive away fear. Only love can cast out fear.

Beyond fear, hate, rage, PTSD, and jealously feature greatly in our fiction. Brokenness, revenge, justice that is not justice, it all plays in. People justify it in the name of that being the more realistic reaction. Not the RIGHT reaction, just the realistic, one, because producers and writers know, the real reaction could never be the right one! Who’d believe that?

Funny how with parables, proverbs, and fables, the conclusion always turns on doing the right thing or failing to do it. No one found those stories too unreal at the time they were told. In fact, I’d argue that Jesus’ parables can be all too real for comfort.

I am not hear to discourage people from writing stories, but I think we need to reach higher than this crap.

I know many people will defend it to the very end, and I’m not likely to unconvince them, which is kind of unhealthy in of itself. I have stories I believe firmly are good, but if someone argues, I’m not going to attack them for it, I’d probably drop the conversation.

The point is, do we want to write well? Do we want to write stories that can change people, that can give them hope, and that can represent the best of us, our hopes, our dreams, and do we want that to be more than darkness and cheap nods to a movement most writers aren’t even actively part of? Do we want this to be what we tell our audience we think humanity is made of? Is it all about our angst? Is it about sex? Or is there more to life than all that?

Can we write about higher things? Beautiful things? If you cannot write about those as well as the darkness, you’ve got no business writing. You have to have an answer if you intend to raise a rhetorical question.

That said, until next time–Natasha.

The Resurrection Arc.

Hey fiction buffs! You’ve heard of character arcs before, but did you know there’s different kinds?

Yeah, probably if you read or watch any TV show that’s fictional, you knew that. I’m simply being dramatic.

You might know of arcs (and for you non-buffs, an arc is how a character or plot develops from one point, usually an immature one, to another, usually a better, wiser one. Typically the arc is what shows us the point of the whole story, but there are negative arcs that show one good guy turning bad, or a good guy slowly giving up on their cause. These are the bad example arcs that are meant to be a warning.) But have you heard of a Resurrection Arc?

Most arcs follow a pattern and this one does too. It’s actually pretty widely used, but since it is often misused, and people are now knocking it, I thought I’d write a defense of it.

All arcs are meant to change the characters and show them something they did not see before. Some arcs are a part of the plot and the characters learn by dealing with the challenges of that part. That’s what category I put a resurrection arc into.

A lot of things kick off arcs. The most famous is getting a challenge like being chosen for something, or the sadder common catalyst is a character losing someone close to them. Sometimes just witnessing a tragedy is enough to do it, other times the character has to lose their soulmate for their arc to begin.

However, there’s another really cool thing that kicks of some arcs. And it’s a resurrection. A resurrection can happen one of two ways. Either it’s a character literally coming back from the dead, or from being almost dead, or they just thought they were and it turns out they weren’t; or something else can be restored to a character that they felt they lost. In fiction especially this can mean a gift or power, or it can mean a belief in something they had lost faith in. It’s popular now for a memory to also be something that helps a character in this way.

In older stories resurrection is often just straight up someone’s coming back to life. This theme appears in fairy tales way more that we realize. Often it’s intertwined with redemption. Many of Anderson’s lesser known stories involve resurrection, and even his most famous ones that have had those elements removed in the retelling.

In modern fiction Death has an oddly compelling presence. Take “The Fault in Our Stars,” or almost any dystopia fiction now. Death is everywhere, often very young people are obsessed with it. (Funny that it’s often older people writing this stuff.) I always loved life, I was happy when nobody died. I considered “The Lion King” a sad movie, (and that part still is.) But of course, Mufasa isn’t really gone, and that can be part of a resurrection arc. Realizing that death isn’t so powerful. It’s why you won’t see this arc in the death-shadowed stories I just mentioned, unless it’s in some twisted, unholy way. Frankenstein’s monster is no example of resurrection, just to be clear.

Life wins out in the end, and love. That’s the message of resurrection arcs in a nutshell. But the complaint, which I’m sick of hearing, is that they don’t create lasting stakes.

Since the Avengers franchise took off, fans have been growing dissatisfied with happy, everyone’s alive, stories (like they don’t all hate it when their friendly neighborhood Spiderman gets knocked off, please.) While I find the constant whining about it to be stupid, I do note that there’s something to be said for making things a bit more realistic.

It’s not that no one dies that really bugs me, it’s that no one gets hurt for very long, no one loses anything in their lives, and no one seems to be affected for longer than two films by any traumatic experience. Also I fail to see character growth even when they are.

In truth, whether characters live or die has nothing to do with depth. Action flicks that kill off henchmen by the dozens aren’t known for being deep. And Chick flicks that don’t kill anyone, or else do it in a more drawn out, romantic way, aren’t necessarily shallow. The Notebook is dumb for most of the movie, but the ending always gets to me because it is saying something profound about love.

That said, I think people who knock resurrection arcs are missing their potential. It’s not always a cheap cop-out to have a character not stay dead. In fact, often it’s a very good catalyst for growth in both them, and everyone else.

When a characters is resurrected, everyone has to reconsider what life and death means to them. They have to ask themselves what they are willing to sacrifice, and what they aren’t. But most of all, it changes the dynamics of how they see the antagonists. Maybe there are things more powerful than whatever the evil stands for.

As for the character who comes back themselves, they get a chance to change things about their lives that maybe only losing them gave them the clarity to do. Or they impart some wisdom on the other characters that they couldn’t before. Resurrection means restoration.

If we no longer like that, it is because we have grown more hopeless. It’s more cool now to just accept the crap in you life and deal with it, then it is to hope for a change. People encourage you to give up on hoping for others to change, for things to turn around. Be the force, they say. Well, that’s fine in its place. But what about when your force isn’t enough?

What about when all the kick-rear skills in the world won’t save you? What about when you’re losing heart and nothing else will help? What about when someone simply can’t save themselves?

Resurrection is what solves this, and nothing else can. It’s a restoring of life and hope and faith to someone who had lost heart. It’s the only thing that makes redemption fully possible. Because though a death may redeem someone, it only sticks if life comes out of it.

Resurrection, in the end, is what breeds humility. What engraves the inevitability of our own need for someone to intervene on our behalf into our souls. By overcoming mortality, it reminds us of it.

It’s not cheap. It’s often the hardest thing to do well.

I for one will never get tired of this arc, until next time–Natasha.

The Incredibles 2

Whew! I’m sorry I haven’t posted, I’ve been working on a different project and there’s only so much screen time my eyes can take per day.

But I had to get this out, late as it is, but I have finally gotten to see The Incredibles 2!

I know I’m tardy, but hey, I can’t afford movie tickets, my dad took us. I know that some people may still have not seen it, so I’ll warn you there will be spoilers in this review.

But my overall impression was that the movie surprised me. Given the kind of sub-par Disney and Dreamworks sequels we’ve gotten over the past five years or so, (with how to Train your Dragon being an exception) and the reboots of old Disney Classics that did not go over well, it would have been hard not to be skeptical, add that to the fact that The Incredibles is one of the most brilliant superhero movies or kids movies ever made, and who was not cynical about it’s prospects. Everyone I heard was.

And we were partly right, the movie is not as good as the original, but strangely enough, it’s not a bad movie either. It’s actually above what’s come to be average.

What did I not like?

There’s plenty to not like in the film, mostly int he first 40 minutes or so. The movie had a bad case of the 15 year later addition loss of personality syndrome. Even Toy Story 3 lost a little, though I still think that movie is freaking amazing and it makes me cry, and the characters didn’t change much in it. But you can’t say that in this case, Mr. Incredible,or Bob, is the most notable example. On the surface he has the same issues of wanting to be superhero as he did before, but they really ignored all his vies on mediocrity and his concern about helping people. The mediocrity stint comes in a little bit but the focus was more on how unfair the law was. More on that later.

Dash also got hit hard, it wasn’t so much that he lost his personality as that he was barely in the movie at all except as a background character. Somehow the first one managed to give even the characters with no lines, like Jack-Jack, or minimal lines, like Violet, a lot of personality. And Dash just seems…out of it. He was still fun for what he did do, but I miss the kid who just loved using his powers.

The biggest thing not to like however was how they dumped on poor Tony Ryanger. What happened to him was completely unnecessary. The movie opens up with his perspective, which is an interesting idea that I would normally like. What does it look like to a normal kid to see a super villain shoot up out of the ground near his school? Him seeing Violet without her mask might have been interesting too. But then he gets his memory of her erased…and never gets it back. If you knew me and how many times I’ve ranted about this very thing in shows, and I watch so much super-related stuff that you can guess I’ve seen it quite a few times. It’s a common action theme also. Suffice to say, I didn’t like it in X-Men first class, I didn’t like it in Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension, I don’t like it any other time it pops up. Even Barbie has done it. My reasons are: First of all, memory erasing is unethical, and it’s always good guys who are doing it, usually the government. Which is disturbing on so may levels. Second of all: It’s unfair. Often the character never even gets a chance to be found trustworthy or mature, which happened in this case, they get their free will removed by the event. Third: This is the least wrong thing, but it is just lazy writing. You get someone to forget and you don’t have to deal with the far reaching effects of the dumb idea. Like, it was dumb to do it in the first place if it couldn’t be resolved any other way…which it could have!

I really was almost ready to cry for poor Violet, she’s always been my favorite character and I completely felt her pain. What teenager doesn’t know the frustration of your crush not even knowing you exist!…this time literally.

And Tony, who I also liked as much as he was in it, never gets his memory back, which seems just too unfair. Why should someone’s mind be able to be messed with that much?

Anyway, that was the bad, and it did leave a sour taste in my mouth even at the end of the movie, so that’s a big problem. But now for the not bad.

Though this will depend on your point of view, because the villain in this movie was full on Scary. And I mean that I started getting a Matrix/horror film vibes during one part. It was like a much more mature movie. Now I know a lot of my shortsighted peers are gong to think that’s a good thing, but as someone who works with kids and still remembers what it was like a thing movies like that when I was younger, I cans ya I’m not sure I would show this to my seven year old. Maybe it would go over their heads, but it’s pretty interest. The hypnotism, seeing the heroes you loved being mind controlled into doing evil, and it was scary. They were more terrifying then Baymax going all hulk like for a few seconds in Big Hero 6. No one would have a hard time empathizing with Violet and Dash when first their parents and then their Uncle Lucius end up controlled by the Screen Slaver.

However, because the movie does turn serious rather suddenly, it did have a compelling message. Unfortunately, the compelling one was the villain’s. The Screenslaver calls out our society for being very much like the one in Farenheit 451 (which I just recently read) how we like everything packaged to us, deliver to us in a safe format that we can process. Our danger come s via screens, our talks shows substitute for talking to each other, and we prefer to let superhero take care of a our problem while we watch form a distance, safe. Which is exactly what happens in Farenheit 451, only the problem the police are taking care of is actually the worlds’ salvation. It would be easy enough to see how the Screenslaver would put themself in that position Especially since that protagonist murdered and framed people also to ensure his escape. It’s not the happiest book.

The things is, as the villain points out at the end of the movie to Mrs Incredible. “Just because you saved me doesn’t mean I’m wrong.” And it doesn’t. However well-intentioned Mrs. Incredible might be, she cannot really disprove the villain’s points because by nature she is outside regular society. She has to be. Supers can’t afford to be lazy and indolent.

I love good characters, and I hate it when people say the villain was them more interesting one. And I won’t say she was more interesting, but in a very Marvel like fashion, this movie makes the villain’s case and fails to make the heroes.

My family and I discussed how in real life when disaster strikes, you do see ordinary people coming to the rescue. My dad pointed out that it happen during 911 on the planes, where passengers stopped the terrorist. It happened at the shooting at Columbine high school. It’s happened recently. In fact disaster brings out the best and worst in people. Humans who have some mettle in them rise to the occasion. It is because we have such boring lives that most of us are neither bad nor good. And it is also why Moral Relativism can be so popular. Frankly, only a bored and lazy society could even buy into it. Disaster forces you to pick a right or wrong, you have no choice.

That said, the villain’s professed intent is to scare people into waking up to how fake their society is by using that against them. However the movie show no ordinary people coming to help the Incredibles. In fact the ordinary people are either fired, taken out, or have their freaking memory erased. Anyone who might’ve disproved her point is removed from the equation and no one else is provided. Unlike in Spiderman where the New Yorkers were inspired by his heroism to stand up to the Goblin and Doctor Octopus.

It may be true that many of us here in the real world prefer to watch superhero movies because of escapism. But some of us, like me, are looking for inspiration. Looking for an example to be held up somewhere for us to follow. Oddly enough, in the first movie, Buddy gets this. Though he gets it in an obsessive way.

I call it Marvel Syndrome, the disappointing fact that a movie can explain the villains perspective and even back it up with its own fictitious events, but not do the same for the hero. And that’ a problem. because words have power, and people will remember them. I see the disrespect for human beings spreading in these movies. And though we give lip service to the heroes, we are are sympathizing a lot more with the villains because it seems like they are right. I have endless examples of this just form Marvel. Thankfully at leas Wonder Woman did not fall into this trap. She rocks.

Anyway, despite all the time I jsut spent on what eas wiehter bad or problematice, there is a lot of good in this movie.

I loved having Violet being the smart, take charge character that she became in the fist movie. She didn’t lose that, and that was huge since a lot of the other characters suffered set backs in their personalities. Even though Violet gets burned by being different more than anyone except her dad, she was still willing to don her suit and jump in as soon as she realized what was going on. and she’s definitely the one who can think, she figured out the villain’s plan, how to save the ship, and creative ways to fight the bad guys. She and Dash still have their funny brother-sister exchange.

Dash’es one real charcter moment was usning the incrdibile. Taht was funny. And a good chekovs’s ugn pay off.

And I’ll give Helen this much, she does get fleshed out more. We come to see why she loved being a super hero. And we know she gave that up more willingly then Bob, but she gets to rediscover why she was all “Hey, we’re not letting the men do all the saving. I’m at the top of my game!” And though Bob of course originally was the one who wanted to settle down she was the one who made it work, and she still keeps her family at the top of her priority list even in the midst of chasing down a train. It was great to Helen have her time to shine, yet to be honest, I came to the movie for the family. And we do get it for the last 20 minutes, similarly to the first one.

Now the final battle was not quite as climatic. A ship crashing into a city jsut doens’ thave the smae irng to it as a giant Robot wrecking havoc. But it was dramitc enough to give everyoen time to shine. wE get to see FRozone do a lto more and be a lot mro powerful, which was cool. No pun intended. Mrs. Incrdibles’ fake out to get eh villains’ guard down was clever, had me going almost. I kind of missed Bob having a more cirtical role, but fair enough, he got the winning shot int he last movie. It’s not all about him.

Now to talk about the other message of this movie. There’s a few different one.s One is that people who are true heroes will rise both the family and to hero work equally. Both Bob and Helen have to do this. And so do Vi and Dash, by keeping an eye on Jack-Jack even while rescuing their parents.

But I think there’s a more interesting message. No counter point is ever made to the villain, except just once, when Helen points out that she at least has core values, even if the villain thinks they are stupid.

And that is the hypocrisy of the villain’s plan, claiming you are trying to help, but being wiling to sacrifice other people to get your way and ave your own skin. That’s not heroism.

But even more than that the overall attitude that the law has in this movie, that supers are too dangerous to have around. And yeah, that’ about as original as capes and cowls by now, but the movie approaches it a little differently. The idea being that people are afraid of people who are special. That’s in the fist movie more, but if you take that foundation, then this movie makes more sense. It’s kind of like the whole anti-gun movement. Something is powerful, it’s dangerous, so that automatically makes it bad unless the government controls it. (Ri-ight.)

It’s too risky. But the movie shows that when we remove something good just because it has dangerous potential, we shoot ourselves in the foot. Because danger is what protects us as well as threatens us. Just like we need germs to have a strong immune system, we need danger in order to not be taken out by it.

Superheroes are like that. It’s not only unfair to outlaw them, but it is  unwise. Threats arise, and accidents happen because of them. But how much more could and would happen if they weren’t there? The villain could have hated people just as much without the added motivation of hating supers. And then who would have stopped her?

Eden if supers are not strictly necessary, they have gifts and they should use them for good. It goes back to being special. The question might be do we need exceptional people to keep moving us froward in order to survive? Maybe not, but we need them for other reasons. We have to have leaders, we have to have heroes. They remind us to not just subsist, but to do good.

And that’s what I’m leaving you with. Until next time–Natasha.

The Genius of Phineas and Ferb.

So here’s a home-schooled joke, Phineas and Ferb are actually our Math and Science Teachers

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The implication being we’re smart enough to figure out both those things by watching Phineas and Ferb work. Not quite.

But I do think I have one thing in common with Phineas and Ferb, I love to imagine things beyond possible.

Maybe not like them, not now that I got old and realistic and boring. But I still have a very active imagination.

The whole premise of the show could basically being able to do whatever you can imagine doing, every kid’s dream, that you could never get in trouble for it. And you would never get hurt.

Sign me up for that.

What I think really made the show genius though was the combination of blatant mocking and on point subtly.

The show makes fun of everyone. The people on it, the people watching it, the thins we do as a society, the things we used to do. This it does obviously. Almost too on the nose sometimes, you do kind of wince. And roll your eyes.

The subtlety comes in with the characters themselves. Before I watched all the episodes I thought the characters were cut and dried, they were two dimensional, right? (Ha Ha.)

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I was wrong. Overtime the writers developed these characters. The beauty of it was the characters are still basically ordinary people. The dull and boring adults, the anger mismanaged bully, the school obsessed nerd. (Me–just kidding.) The older sister who just wants her brothers to be normal. And Phineas and Ferb themselves are just too little boys doing what they love and bringing their friends along for the ride.

Isabella, the girl with a major crush on Phineas is a normal girl too. Vanessa, my personal favorite, is a moody teenager but with a good heart.

And they all are these average things, but the show makes those things out to be special in of themselves. It may be normal for little boys to have bid imaginations and big dreams, but isn’t that also a astounding thing?

Candace is a  tempestuous teenager, but she can also do amazing things when she’s motivated and proves herself to be dependable where it counts.

Buford is a bully, but he changes under the influence of good clean fun with his new friends, who go from being his victims to being his best buddies over the course of the Summer.

Baljeet becomes less wimpy and more adventurous after hanging out with the others.

Isabella is very girly, but it doesn’t make her any less cool. She does incredible things just like the boys, but owns being a girl the whole time. Unashamedly wearing pink jumpers, hair bows, and going for sparkles and butterflies and hearts.

Vanessa is shown to be able to do any number of cool things, and despite being the moody one, proves to be the most emotionally intelligent person on the show. (Possibly one of the most intelligent period.) and though she seems to have a dark side, int he end she convinces her dad to be a good guy.

My favorite thing about Phineas and Ferb is how they nail touching moments, even while being silly and nonsensical, simply because they themselves are good people, not perfect, but good. Guys you’d want to be friends with.

I also, as a writer and actor, have to appreciate that Jeff and Swampy (the writers) got to let their imaginations go, make fun of everyone, reference all their favorite science fiction/adventure shows and movies, and write songs about stuff no one else thinks is worth singing about in all genres of the spectrum…and get paid for it for 8 years! Then asked to come back for another show.

I want a job like that, man.

Unlike other Disney channel and kids’ network show characters, who constantly disappoint you with making stupid, cruel, or irresponsible decisions. Phineas and Ferb tend to come through for people on the moral crisises, and do it in a fun way.

Sure, it runs a little too far off the deep end sometimes. Sometimes the mockery is too much. But nobody is perfect.

What I think matters is that this show gives you ideas and sparks creativity. And in its own toned down way, it makes me feel more kindly toward the people around me by reminding me that even when they are ordinary, they can be extraordinary.

Which may sound like sap, but it’s really true when you think about it. People around you tend to surprise you.

It’d be a faithful saying that if you’re a optimist about human nature, human nature will prove you wrong; and if you’re cynical about human nature, human nature will still prove you wrong.

My dad likes to harp on how millennials are stupid and flaky, then he is surprise a lot when he finds one who isn’t.

If you were convinced all young people were brilliant, as some people are, I’m afraid you need to meet some of the ones I know…sorry, we’re not all brilliant. I am, but not all of us. (wink.)

But as Phineas and Ferb shows us, even in stupid people there are flashes of brilliance. Or there may be hidden genius no one ever taught them to use. And int he smartest people there can be total cluelessness. And in humble people just there to help, the truest character can be found. (Isabella being my example here.)

Isabella

I read a book expounding on how the Peanuts could be telling us the message of the Gospel. Phineas and Ferb is very similar to a newer, animated version oft he Peanuts, with less pessimism from the main characters. While I won’t make the claim that Phineas and Ferb was in any way a Christian show, I will say that it had some solid values and I definitely hope to share it with my kids some day.

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That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

[All photos are from Google and I am in no way claiming them to be my own or using them for monetary gain.]