Robots, Sex and Adolescence (Darling in the FranXX: Light Thoughts on Sex and Sexual Repression)

20170628_001052-1Mecha anime and I have a tenuous relationship with one another: I love the ideas, concepts and designs behind the mech suits, the technological infusions into more mundane aspects of coming of age stories and sometimes bleak social commentaries about the constraints that the modern world places on the youth to not only magically solve all the problems that they had created in their back-handed, self-serving drive to maintain the status quo, but also to create an ideal future for those self-same power brokers and all at a profitable margin. However, the general tone behind the narrative, the “you possess true, unique power that is a cut above everyone else because = reasons” and general obsession/fetishization of wanton destruction and a death-count for civilians that can rival the first five minutes of most Hollywood natural-disaster/youth-dystopian-sci-fi/Marvel films (not mutually exclusive from one another, but both impart the same sensation of digestive issues but, like, for my brain) is a surprisingly powerful turn-off for me.darling-in-the-franxx-episode-3-image-6

Side note: that whole paragraph is two sentences. Holy hell: actors everywhere should be glad I don’t write scripts for people more often.

Back to the topic at hand, many who follow anime trends fairly closely know about the big advertised anime series for the season: Darling in the FranXX, an oddly named anime with some oddly named everything. Example: Klaxosaurs. It’s just a weird word. I’m still not sure what the writers were thinking with that word. Klax-o-saurs. Just weird.

My interests in pulling apart this anime today stem not from the usual trends: I’m not going to laud the art style, the interesting designs, the flashy fight sequences, et cetera. I’d like to discuss, more so, a common trend I had noticed in some commentaries and criticisms about the show, and what that can potentially mean to our society as a whole.

imagesSurprisingly, the anime almost seems to revel in its own fan-service, but with a certain degree of cynicism added to it that makes the effort more aware than simply trying to pander to the lowest-common denominator. Generally, public commentary about the series I hear is summarized as, “This show is great, but it could do with less sexualisation/fan-service/weird words to describe things” (that last point being broken down further into two schools of thought: weird words like Klaxosaurs, and weird words with perhaps uncomfortable sexual connotations like ‘stamen’).

I find the whole thing curious, to be honest: perhaps one of the biggest criticisms about western culture in general is the abundance of sex and sexualisation in many aspects of our media and consumerism. Yet, when presented with something that is built upon the foundations of trying to understand or express that sexualisation, there is an inherent backlash from the populace at large. In reference to Darling in the FranXX, specifically, we’re being presented with a anime that is not only forcing its characters to come to terms with the literal aspects of sexuality, but the audience to understand all the metaphorical aspects of sex that, maybe three quarters of the time, we blatantly ignore.

I’m sure near anyone can see the face-value sexuality of the show without too much effort: the way the mecha suits are piloted, the tongue-in-cheek rebranding of romantic implications into basic mechanical functions of civilization, the general tone of repressed desire and emotion as expressed by not only the children of the show, but by the very nature of how the adults dress, behave and interact with their world (sterilized white environments, complete enshrouding of personal identity to the point of being entirely indistinguishable from one another, but the general focus on controlling the lives of children by means of forced partnership/mathematical metrics to measure things such as compatibility and mental aptitude), there’s really a lot to pull from what this show is trying to say.

Now, I will say this as a disclaimer: many of the social commentaries the show has better reflect the more hierarchical nature of Japanese society and culture than it does western society, but there are still many lessons to be pulled from it. Most notably, and I feel like I’ve pretty well been harping on this the whole time building up to the primary point: adults controlling the sex and relationship lives of children.

Outside of the realm of arranged marriages, something we don’t hear of too often in Canada (and, presumably, the US, but I don’t live down there and pay only marginal attention these days to the hot mess devolving south of our border), the idea of adults telling kids who they can and can’t date/be with might seem a little unusual. After all, most parents don’t typically set up an exact parameter of traits and conditions for courtship of their offspring. Typically, anyway.

download.jpgCaveat, however: I’m certain you’ve seen various posts online, or hear people parrot, general sentiments of “dating my daughter”. I even, just as typing that last sentence, input “dating my daughter meme” into Google to pull up some specific examples to relate, but the sheer degree of options to choose from kind of reinforces my point. Most of them generally boil down to “I will control what you can and can’t do around her” or “I liek gunz”. In many regards, this reinforces the general sentiment as expressed by DitFXX (double ‘x’ included deliberately to maximize my Scrabble score) of adults controlling the sex lives of children by saying “yeah, there isn’t one”.

Papa-head-of-APENeed some more proof? Take a look at the current and sometimes volatile arguments/debates/witch-hunts involving sex-ed in schools. In many regards, parents are the ones acting in outrage over what lessons children should, or more accurately, should not be being taught. The rationalization for these fears, groundless or otherwise, stem from everything from religion, personal opinion, tv show doctor pseudo-science and online fear-mongering. Regardless of reason, in many cases, parents are generally of the mindset that the best thing we can tell them is very little to nothing.

Of course, even a brief mental exercise to plumb this process to its logical ends has so many dangerous potentials that it makes the whole thing more daunting. Add the wild west of information, the Internet, to that mix, and who knows what, exactly, it is people should believe. Regardless of whatever opinion you possess, you’ll find no shortage of people who think you should be ashamed, in the most mild of cases, of what you think.

If you’ve managed to read between the lines thus far, I’m certain you can deduce where I stand on the issue at hand. In most cases, I’m of firm belief of a more open, thoughtful and acceptable level of sexual discussion. It’s something of an outdated model that we view the whole thing with a level of sanitization that even hypochondriacs would find impressive; more so that we have countless silent methods of reinforcing these beliefs and penalizing people who stray too far down a path that, as a collective, we’ve agreed yet disagreed to adhere to.

Where we go from here is a tremendously complicated question: not in sense of where we should be headed but rather how we should be going about it. Of course, dismantling that topic could take me several hours to research so that I can present it in an at least marginally coherent means, so that won’t be today.

maxresdefaultAt the very least, if you’ve not watched DitFXX, I’d recommend watching it to try to see some of the motifs as mentioned above; and if you have watched it, think on what sort of message the show is trying to convey in its premise. Personally, I’d rather not live in an environment where sex has lost the power to connect peoples in ways that many other forms of communication cannot; nor would I want to live in a world where it is by the decisions of emotionally removed peoples to decide how and where younger generations explore those connections themselves.

30e985543e979ab572aac8912f32686bAs a general aside: Kokoro and Ichigo are best girls in that show; I’ve started wars over less.


Seven Years of Antics

20180226_120515[1]My mind works in a never-ending parade of fascinations and borderline-obsessions: for several months I’ll be fixated on my miniature painting, then I’ll switch over to being engrossed with fiction writing, after a half year of that I’ll surround myself with gaming as the thing I cannot stop thinking about, et alia. I’ve been like this pretty well my whole life, and I’m not entirely certain if it’s a by-product of my ADD, or just a peculiar quirk I personally possess.

Up until quite recently, anime had been my mind-engrossing obsession, as anyone who’s been reading this blog for the past few months can attest as at least half my material has been anime centric in some way, shape or form. And while anime is still a focused point of my life these days, my mind has been priming itself for my new fixation: the world of Live Action Role-Play. To anyone not familiar: Google it. I’m sure you’ll turn up something that’ll explain it succinctly in some way, shape or form.

For myself, LARP has always been a degree of freedom and/or challenges that has forced my own psyche to change, for better or worse. I’ve been LARPing now some ought seven years this coming summer, and at least six and a half of that has been in the realm of playing my particular character: “the Grinning Fox, Yuurri, the World’s Most Dashing Rogue (in Training, of Course)”.

Yuurri Forest

This picture is really old; from either my second or third event as this character

Normally, I wouldn’t spend much time reminiscing about the ebb and flow of this character’s interactions in game, since he’s been an oddly stabilizing, if erratic, presence within my particular LARP chapter’s world. He’s outlasted wars between infernal and celestial hosts, a conspiracy of lycanthropes and the crown, the rise and fall of entire noble houses, as well as skirted the fringes of not one, but two wars.

For anyone whose LARPed themselves before, it’s actually a pretty standard resume for the average adventurer, (in the classic Fantasy-genre sense, at least). But due to recent events, Yuurri’s ambitions have lead him to stand opposed to those he used to stand shoulder to shoulder with, and it’s been cause for some reflection on my part.

Most predominantly on my mind has become the mortality and life this character I’ve come to be associated with. In its own surreal way, the character has become just as real and alive as I, myself, am. Within particular circles, my character has a lasting impression that I could never hope to possess myself, due entirely to his actions, choices and, most notably, personality. Yuurri would be able to handle himself in situations I could never confidently navigate, whereas the opposite is just as true.

Evil LingersBut, the very real possibility is that this character, this alter-ego of mine, might very well find himself put to the executioner’s axe and his story to come to a close. That looming sense of finality is oddly compelling: what awaits beyond in my own life without that personality I’ve come to be known as, and similarly, what will become of the world he’d be leaving behind in his death?

While there are entire branches of philosophy dedicated to such questions, yet it’s quite difficult to explore in the world surrounding since, pending either very elaborate social experiments or research methods actually involving someone’s death, there are few ways to explore this possibility on a personal level. And despite not being able to call this a perfect analogy, it still bears enough similarities to operate as a jump-off point for further mental musings.

After all, this character, persona even, has been a part of my life for just shy of a quarter of my existence on this mortal coil. Anyone thinking on it might be able to draw parallels to similar occasions where something, or someone, who had been a part of their life for just as long and was removed from contact by one means or another: the missing piece is notable to say the least. I’ve been through a lot of changing experiences with this persona as a fall-back point, almost a grounding point, to keep some form of continuity in my own life.

AN Yuurri 1It’ll be interesting to see what transpires next: whether by choices I make or consequences outside of my control that this character, this part of me, comes to a conclusion. And more importantly, it’ll be interesting to see how it affects not only myself, but those around. How often, after all, does one get to attend their own funeral?

A Curveball, a Rollercoaster, a Paradigm Shift

20170816_150524I think it’s safe to say that, at one point or another, we’ve been there: on a course or path that we’ve chosen and with full confidence in where we’re headed. The mile-markers (or would kilometer markers be more appropriate?) have been tacked and, not to belabor the metaphor, the destination in mind. There’s a particular comfort in a certainty in this idea. A kind of determination that helps keep the darker days more manageable and give credit to the idea that I am moving forward in life as opposed to stagnation.

As a brief aside, a small note about the feeling of stagnation to those not acclimatized to depression or those who suffer it. We live in a world where there are very clearly defined parameters of what we should be doing and by when. If you think on it for a moment or two, I’m sure you can do up your own little list: go to school, go to high school, work a crappy part-time job, go to post-secondary, meet someone there and fall into step with them, work a crappy full time job, start a family, begin career, reproduce, then watch your offspring repeat your steps. This is heavily ingrained into our culture and reflects every aspect of western life.

When you live with depression, everything takes more effort and takes longer, it would seem. I’m a ripping 27 years old, and I’m still far from where I thought I would be ten years ago. Is ripping a good descriptive word to use before age? I dunno, but we’ll stick with it for now. On multiple occasions over my life, especially in these past three or four years, I’ve felt a particular unease about where I am in life. The lack of going somewhere or being something by this age is something I’m acutely aware of, and reminders of how far “behind” I am are everywhere.

In moments, I’ll begin resuming what most would consider “forward momentum” in my life: either attending to some form of education or settling into what I would expect to be a long-term job. Hells, this blog started as an effort to start hammering together something of a long-term career for myself as a self-made author. Before that, I was settling into that aforementioned long-term job in an environment I seemed to do well in. Before that, I was attending courses at the Adult Learning Center nearby (this last point is quite relevant).

Once again, I was at this ALC trying to get my high school mark upgraded. I had survived my first two terms, passing three courses (one of which was the source of a great deal of grief in years past when I was at this center before) and was saddling up for my last three courses. Beyond the half-way point, let’s do this thing.

I was hesitant and apprehensive, as these last three courses I was being faced with were math classes. Math and I have a very specific understanding of one another: mutual distrust and hatred, among other things. Well, if I want to go to university for psychology, I need to do this thing: let’s do the thing!

That was the beginning of January. As of a week and a half ago now, I had dropped out of the program and was, once again, stuck in stagnation. My mental health had collapsed (as it has done many times before and will invariably do many times again in my life), I was thoroughly disheartened with how poorly I was doing in the only course I had this term (university level, grade 11 Functions), and I was struggling with reconciling who I was trying to be and what I was trying to accomplish.

Now, when you’re faced with an impasse, it’s important to carefully plan your next move. I could stay in math and try to bludgeon out something resembling a passing mark: it wouldn’t be a great mark, but it’d earn me the credit. The problem with this was that I barely, if at all, understood the material, and the two courses I had to take next were much more advanced and required a complete understanding of these “basics”. Odds were not in my favour there.

I could drop out of the course. Not a great plan, as I had already dropped a few hundred dollars on university applications and was pulling in very close to deadlines for re-applying to programs; but it would save me a great deal of stress and alleviate a lot of burden from my mind. From there, it would be a matter of deciding where to go from there: pursue different education avenues or re-evaluate life direction.

Sufficed to say, dropping the course was simply the better choice. True, it screwed me out of many opportunities I had struggled to achieve for the four months prior, but I was very likely setting myself up for brutal failure or disappointment with my current trajectory. Don’t misunderstand, though: it was still a hard, and very upsetting decision. I was defeated, once again, by the education system that I needed in order to accomplish my goals in life.

Then, cue the follow-up punch to the jab I had just been served: I was summarily laid off my job. Recent economic changes in our province’s employment policies has created a great deal of uncertainty in business owners about viability, and I’d heard a statistic on the radio that the month of January had seen the largest increase in unemployment in over three decades (I’ll not claim this as fact as I do not recall the source cited by the report, so take this with a grain of salt. Or several). More importantly, I had failed in the courses I was taking, I had lost my job, and was being met with a plethora of mixed emotions with other news.

Many of my closest friends have been in stable relationships for a long time, and of them, perhaps close to half are presently or shortly to be engaged/married. Try to suspend your disbelief, but I am shockingly single, and haven’t been on anything resembling a date in the past two or three years. And as anyone who contends with depression can attest: it’s easy to feel alone when your brain is working against you; doubly so when you see things you wish you could have but, for one reason or another, cannot attain.

In fairly nearly everything I had been pursuing these past several months, everything had failed. I was, once again, locked in a state of stagnation: not moving forward, not moving backward. Simply not moving.

An odd thing has transpired, though. Despite all these set-backs, these severe blows to my confidence and life direction, I’m not broken by it. Not irreparably so, at least. In fact, I still trudge forward. The feeling is queer to me, I promise you that: logically speaking these set-backs should almost cripple my ability to do very nearly anything, but this time has not.

I’d share my secret if I knew it, but there are still too many x-variables I need to mull through. Perhaps it’s a change in medication on my end, perhaps it’s the rolling of the calendar and re-focusing on direction, perhaps something in my brain has finally started to tick properly. I don’t know.

But if anything, I’m still moving. Perhaps not forward, and not in the same direction that our western culture has dictated I should, but its motion. I haven’t the foggiest where my future is going to be, but I plan on getting there one way or another.

Preferably with a slightly more consistent upload schedule. Sorry again about not keeping to that :/

So Why, Exactly, Did it Work?

20180110_174945It’s unusual for me to go out of my way to see a new movie in theaters. Even more-so after I’ve gotten home once already and I’ve decided that I have no interest in leaving my household ever again #introvertlife

However, my friend and I had finished getting caught up on some of the new anime that had grabbed my interest this season (disclaimer: one really good one, one mediocre one and one mostly satisfactory one. More on those another time), and we had decided to sit down for a nice quiet evening of Minecraft. That motivation lasted for all of 5 minutes before the two of us got incredibly bored. Then, a thought struck me.

The new Jumanji movie had come out a couple weeks back and I had heard from two other friends that the movie was exceedingly good. With little else to do, we packed up and shipped out to the big city to go see the movie.

If this were to be a review piece, I’d now tease you, reader, relentlessly for about half a dozen paragraphs about whether or not I liked the movie while picking it apart on a cinematographic level and quoting some needlessly inane metaphors to make my opinion sound more trustworthy. However, this is not a review, and I’ll save my inane metaphors for my typical nerd-tastic anime reviews another time (I did say more on the three anime later, didn’t I?). Instead, all you really need to know is that I fucking loved the new Jumanji movie.

JUMANJI_LIGHT_PANEL_2_1_1Going into the movie, I was already rather confident I’d enjoy it thoroughly. My friend, however, was much more skeptical. Most of his skepticism was born out of cautious interest in anything resembling a two-decade later reboot (actually, 22 years later, but that’s neither here nor there) of a franchise that was solid in its inception with a good ending (well, good in an enjoyment sense anyway) and nothing much left to say. We’d both seen the trailers for the movie and knew about the same amount going into it.

Moreover, much of my friend’s worries stemmed from the casting choice of having Jack Black playing a 16~ year old girl trapped in an “overweight, middle-aged man’s” body. I can most certainly see where his worries would come from in that sense: we’ve all seen that trope used before and become an exercise in patience rather than good joke material. To cut to the chase on that matter, that role was played surprisingly well: Black played the girly-ness often enough to just remind the audience in who he was on the inside, but not to the extent that it was painfully in-your-face the whole time.

By end of the movie, both my friend and I agreed that the movie was amazing, the casting choices were solid, and that we’d both be willing to see it again in theatres. This, of course, brings us to the main question of this article: why, exactly, did it work?


Funny thing is: only about half the audience will actively remember a time when 4 controllers had to be plugged into the same console…

For starters, we’ll poke at the whole premise of the movie. I was similarly worried about how the idea of Video Game Jumanji would have come into existence: neatly answered by the fact that the game is sentient-enough to understand its audience (or victim, depending on wordage) and change itself into an Atari game to better work for the times. This does raise several questions that are not answered by the movie itself: why does this game seek to bring people into itself, does it feed on human souls or something, why is the game (which clearly has no regard for whom might be harmed in its playing) so strict on following its own rule set and giving the players a reasonable chance to win?

I’m not answering those today, but you get the point.

Once inside the world of Jumanji, you see the story really come into its own. It’s not a remake/reboot of the previous movie. It did not awkwardly try to tie in references to the past movie, or call on mindless star-power to sell its tickets. It also had, much like in the first movie, a core message it was trying to relate. A moral to the story, as it were.

In the first movie, the main moral was that the cowardly Alan Parrish needed to learn how to face his fears and stop running from his enemies and/or consequences. This was reinforced by the various trials and tribulations that Alan, and his unlucky companions, were forced to overcome. Specifically, in the form of Van Pelt in the first movie’s iteration: ironically played by the same actor who played Alan’s father. In the beginnings, we see how Alan’s father is hard on the boy and how he is almost portrayed as harsh and unforgiving, controlling his life and direction. Take that to the extreme where Van Pelt, same actor, is actively trying to hunt Alan and is, in many senses, the final battle.


Classic Van Pelt: stereotypical British Colonialism at its finest! Except with a German name…

In the new movie, the main message is learning about yourself: who it is you want to be. It’s a message that most assuredly resonates with younger audiences today than the previous message would: high school is a sick sort of jungle on its own where the student body almost dons personalities and become artificial characters in the interest of fitting in. I could go into much more detail, but I feel many of you folks could start filling in the blanks yourself. In this iteration, Van Pelt does not serve as a literal antagonist much like he did in the previous movie.


Updated Van Pelt: what happens when Nathan Drake becomes a possessed evil bug-monster thing.

In actuality, his presence is significantly less important to the heroes to overcome than it is themselves that pose the greatest threat to their own survival. Overcoming their own personal biases, insecurities and shedding their artificial personas to find who, it is, they really want to be. The changes in these four Breakfast Club contenders from Jumanji entry and exeunt are small, but significant.

Besides the significance of the character dynamics and developments, the setting of immersion in a game world is much more relevant to facing challenges in the real world to my, and younger, generations. In many regards, the youth of today do most of their self-exploration and development in a digital format: translating that into video game terms might actually have been the only way the game of Jumanji itself would have had any sort of impact on the movies’ audience. Gaming is a very common pastime, and no longer just for the declared “nerd” culture.


While board games are making a come-back in Western Culture, they’re still somewhat an archaic form of entertainment.

By extension, this makes the intended audience much more literate in the short-hand gaming terms that are used in the movie; almost to an extent that the included dialogue used for explaining certain game functions (cutscenes, NPCs, etc.) to really be for the purpose of older audiences who were fans of the original movie and wanted to see where they’d go with the new one.

And, of course, you have all the staples on modern action-film cinematography: lots of explosions, an injection of womanly sexual push, big-name cast, more explosions, a few penis jokes… (I never claimed this was a very forward-thinking movie, just a good one) When brought together, you are presented with a very tight and well received movie but audiences at large. It really comes as no major surprise that audiences love this movie as much as they do; even if they might not understand all the details as to why it works.

The Conclusion of a Habit

20170816_150524November was an exceedingly busy month for me. I had finished a very taxing Chemistry class and had moved right along to a double-feature of English and Biology for the next term of my lessons. English wasn’t going to be terribly difficult for me, but I was anticipating it to be very heavy on homework and assignments (of which it ended up being), which Biology would be a class I could do rather well at, but it also turned out to be very much saturated with assignments and homework (most predominantly of that is memorizing terms and orders of operations).

On its own, these two things should have been more than enough to keep my brain fully occupied; coupled with pressure to get a paying part-time job since my writing habits earn me no income (perhaps one day that’ll change), as well as the desire to not live my life in a basement at a computer screen typing away for the remainder of the autumn season. And, to top it all off, my Minecraft cycle kicked in again, forcing me to reboot my village and begin the project once again from the ground up. And that goes without mentioning that I had every desire to get back into my weekly blogging and vlogging pastimes.

Understandably, some of these things don’t much seem like reasonable distractions, but fight me: I am very proud of how my new village is coming along. Now if only I could turn up some diamonds…

All in all, very busy month ahead of me. Then a friend of mine, my literary rival (though she frequently assures me that it’s a one-sided contest) informed me of a little ditty called NaNoWriMo. Some might have no idea what that is; while some, like myself, had only a vauge inkling as to what it was. I had heard it being mentioned once or twice in a Vlogbrothers video, but that was some years ago and I had fully forgotten about it. For those not in the know, a brief summary:

Shield-Nano-Side-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiResNaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in full, is a month where authors and writers world-wide are challenged to concoct, write and complete a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. This pans out to an ambitious almost seventeen-hundred words per day of writing. This is a very ambitious undertaking for pretty much anyone I know, but when you’ve been saddled with an academic workload like I had been, the smart thing to do it not take on such a maddening extra task.

I’ve never been accused of being smart, though; you can probably assume what I did.

Now, the real humour comes from my starting time for this. Instead of starting on November first, like a sane person might, I came into the game late on November 4. So instead of having to write seventeen hundred words like everyone else per-day, I instead got to look forward to two-thousand words per day. This would be very easily achievable, were it not for the aforementioned mountain of homework I had before me.

When it came down to choose what to write about, I had initially intended to work on my current novel in progress to actual get some make some head-way on that. However, I was jokingly teased that a good writer would start something new and do that instead: I caved and pulled a pet-project idea out of the back of my mind to work on.

Years and years ago, I had concocted a small novel-worth of plot for my Dungeons and Dragons character, but I wasn’t sure if it would be a worthwhile story to put into formal print. Besides, I was just finishing writing what would become my first published novel, and I felt guilty about working on something else while that one was what I was most passionate about. In the end, I put the idea aside as a fun project I might work on when I finished with my current writing series.

Figuring this would be a good time to just have fun with writing, something that I had been struggling with since the publication of my first book and the crippling anxiety and stress of writing a better sequel (a whole blog topic all of its own), I decided that I was going to bring this pet project to light and just prod my way through it. It had no great ambitions, it had no great morals, or anything to that extent.

At first.

The introduction very nearly wrote itself, I found; moreover, the story had taken on this riveting and exciting life of its own. The focus changed from the very basic roots of what the foundationary material had been into something that I was earnestly excited to work on. I genuinely looked forward to when classes would finish so I could keep working on it; and in a way, it almost became a little obsession of mine.

As with any obsession, however, it started to become all consuming. Initially, I wrote off working on any blog or vlog material until the end of the month; people had been willing to wait this long (or had just moved on, either or), so it wouldn’t be too much of an issue if they waited a month longer. Then came my decrease in seeing friends as often as I should. I needed time to write, after all; I was plenty behind as things were. Then came the crowning achievement: writing my project during class while trying to multi-task learning the material.

Academics: begin your frustrated temple-rubbing.

In the end, though: I do not regret this decision. In fact, this amusing little pet-project had awakened a genuine pride in writing that I had long since lost. Excitement to see where a story took me and to what fantastical adventures lay in the next, blank page (digital page, though). By the end of the month, I had achieved the 50,000 word destination. But now I was met with a new problem.

shrunken-manuscript-1024x574At final count, my story was 50,026 words long, the last hundred or so words being hastily slammed together to meet the deadline more than much else. However, the story wasn’t finished. Like with most of my plans: my ambition outweighed the practicality of the situation. I had started working on what could only be called an epic, and I was very nearly at the half-way point with it.

“Screw it,” I thought to myself, “I’m just going to keep going on this.” But first, I had to finish the term of classes I was in. My marks had dipped a bit in Biology, English was a non-issue though. I determined to resume working on it after the term had ended, and aim to finish the story.

About a week ago, though: I caved and spent an hour clacking away at my keyboard to keep going on the tale. Should have been working on homework, but this was still forefront on my mind. Just needed to hammer off another page or two…

In the end, I finally acknowledge something my literary rival had mentioned in a blog that she wrote about NaNoWriMo. Roughly quoted: “It’s not about writing something good so much as it’s about writing something. Anything. Building that habit to write, even when you don’t feel like it.”

I had built that habit, and something else. I had built my next project; this silly little pet-project has grown into something I am both unreasonably excited for, and very proud of. With every intention of publication of this, I will continue writing this silly little novel that had taken me by surprise.

There’s a few morals to this tale, as it goes. Many different conclusions that can be drawn, and I’ll not beat your brow with how important these morals might be. Though they are very important to me and helped me reconcile something that had been an issue for a long time, these might be of little to no consequence to you, reader-type person.

But if nothing else, I wish to iterate this one point: I now consider myself a writer. For months, I had been writing, but never considered it to be a key aspect of my life. Now, however, I do declare myself a writer.

4051009161_8f543d2d90My pen is mighty indeed; though I’d still default to a sword if my life depended on it…

But Did it Make a Difference?

20170808_201604By now, everyone and their dog is aware of the particular little catchphrase that gets slapped across the title of a video or within the first sentence or two of an article. We call it out to each other during conversations and, lest we not forget that some online forums even have programs in place to protect their reader’s eyes from the unholy machinations of the careless or compassionless. It’s become iconic of our culture and, frankly, an odd component of our modern world.

By now, you’ve probably been able to put two and two together and arrive at a shortlist of such possible phrases. To my mind, based on my own descriptor above, I can think of only two examples: Trigger Warnings, and Spoiler Alerts. And while both relatively recent additions to our modern colloquialisms are the subject of some contentions, I’m choosing to focus my attention to the latter one.

Spoiler Alerts: we read about them in titles, they precede virtually every discussion on any work of fiction and, in ironic cases, any work of non-fiction. They’re found in professional reviews, editorial articles, and quite often even on our own tongues as we discuss things with our friends. In fact, the term gets so thrown around that is rivals even the number of times one Canadian might ask “Hey, how’s it going?” to a complete stranger (as a personal aside, I probably ask that question somewhere around a dozen times per day to people I have never talked to before or since).

headerThis of course raises the question of why? Why do we feel that such a disclaimer before we discuss any piece of fiction, new or otherwise, and feel terrible backlash or verbal abuse should we, writer speaker or otherwise, fail to mention it?

Understanding, of course, that the phrase “Spoiler Alert” to as early as 1982: it’s been circulating around internet-based vocabulary for over thirty years now. As a disclaimer: that’s older than I am. I am being outdone by a concept (yes, I may, perhaps, be a little salty). When a concept has been ingrained into a populace for any prolonged matter of time, it will invariably be an unshakable truth in how we view things and the world around us. For example: the idea that an average work-week is Monday to Friday, eight to five is a dated concept going back over centuries now. And I’d be willing to hazard that most people interviewed would explain that as typical business hours.

This is part of a larger issue at play, but not the focus of today’s dissection. Yes: I wrote dissection there. And then a second time; repetition is key, I’m lead to believe.

I’d read a few articles and listened to a few opinions over different channels over this whole Spoiler Alert issue; and generally I find there are two primary ideas behind the feeling in favour towards it:

  1. That is primes someone’s awareness towards avoiding reading/watching/hearing something if they wish to maintain a degree of ignorance on a topic
  2. That the spoiling of particular plot points or “big reveals” in many fiction pieces can eliminate the enjoyment of a particular story

It’s a little harder to argue against the first mentioned idea since it’s very subjectively minded and, frankly, pretty logical. After all, who am I to determine that someone would or would not enjoy something more if they didn’t know a key story detail? It is, however, closely tied in to the second point, which many might actually include as part of the first point and, by extension, omit all together.

The second point is where I start asking questions. What is the purpose of enjoying a story (regardless of media)? Is a story defined by its plot twists or surprise developments? Does the knowing of a surprise detail automatically reduce or eliminate the impact of a tale’s completion?

Things get muddled in that second idea, I find. Since so much of this seems tied to opinion and to the first idea, it is also very subjective. But I’d like to challenge a few of those points, see if I can’t bring some different light to your way of thinking about it.

For starters, we need to address why, specifically, we read/watch/listen to any sort of fiction. Depending on which particular school of philosophy you subscribe to will drastically change your views on things. The main reasons that I am aware of, however, are distraction, escapism, comprehension and/or enlightenment.

Listed in no particular order; probably should have prefaced with that…

However, these tend to be the primary reasons people partake in fiction in any of its form. Notably, half of those are for purposes of entertainment or stress reduction, the others might be to broaden your mind in either spiritual or mental endeavors. Maybe even physical if you consider it an eyeball workout.

Seeing as my primary experience is as a writer of fiction, it will skew my views on the matter slightly. After all, one thing I always strive towards is that impossible idea of creating the perfect story for people to read. And in doing so, I’ve read many different views and lessons on how to compose a story. What I’ve noticed, however, is that there seems to be a bit of a divide in mentality there.

You’re perhaps of the mind that there is no such thing as a new story and that everything has already been written; sometimes with different skins and to different degrees of quality, but otherwise it has already been done. Of that mindset, would that not negate the need to warn people of spoilers? If everything is already written, then the consumer would, either on a conscious or sub-conscious level, already know of the major plot developments as well as have a good comprehension of what the likely twists and turns will be.

Or, if not for that reason, perhaps then it’s for the simple enjoyment of the story as it’s written. For the pure satisfaction of the prose, of the dialogue or of the descriptions of peoples, places and things. In that regard, there is little to no reason for spoiler warnings considering that the only thing to be ruined for someone to discover is a particularly well-composed sentence (we’ve all read sentences that just hit that sweet spot in us when we read it), and even then the only thing to be ruined is that self-gratifying sense of discovery.

There is, of course, mention of the third component to this and that it is possible to write something in such a way that it truly shocks and surprises your audience with the big reveal or the sudden plot twist. This seems to, in actuality, the common belief of most consumers of fiction; and it’s not a viewpoint I particularly subscribe to. For myself, it has more to do with that previously mentioned point.

The specifics of the “what happens” is significantly less important to me than the way it happens. The inflection in the words of the actor, the particulars of the dialogue or descriptions within the text or even in still images. The enjoyment for me isn’t in the big surprise, so much as it is in the reveal of the surprise. Very seldom am I able to not predict what’s going to happen next, and because of that logic, I should have stopped enjoying fiction quite some time ago.

when-you-see-a-car-with-a-big-spoiler-snape-kills-dumbledoreAnd yet, I can still harken back to when Half-Blood Prince was published and the stories floating around that the “Dumbledore had been killed by Snape” spoiler had been belted out to crowds of people buying the book. There was genuine outrage from patrons. I had heard this story when I was only one chapter into the book, and yet, it did not kill for me the joy of reading the story. When the big scene came along, it was fairly apparent that the death of Dumbledore was eminent, regardless of spoilers.

Though I’m still not entirely convinced that Dumbledore is actually dead in that series; just comatose. But that’s a different article for a different day.

In essence, I can’t help but ask to what purpose do we, as people, need shielding from plot twists and sudden developments. In our exceedingly interconnected digital world, it’s become more and more difficult to “protect” ourselves from being exposed to story-ruining elements. Personally, I feel no inclination towards the inclusion of spoiler warnings and alerts in my works, but I also acknowledge that it is a personal decision that is, by no means, reflective of the mentality of the public on a whole. At the very least, I hope this has given you some different ways to look at the topic at hand.

Writing convention now dictates I should shoe-horn in some cheeky “spoiler warning” joke; but I’m better than that. Instead, I’ll just end it with an unexpected

In my World Without Heroes

20170913_110023_HDRIn simplest terms, Shonen style anime and I do not get along; but I’ve recently made an exception in the form of Boku no Hero Academia, one hell of a good ride that plays with the tropes and ideas of contemporary superhero genres and tropes. And while I have a couple of ideas for topics that have resulted from my watching this series, today I want to discuss something that was rather integral for the first couple of episodes: the concept of what it meant to be someone’s hero.

Now, I mean this in the less than spectacular sense. Not what it means to be a hero in tights and a cape, or a super high-tech battle suit or whatever the hell is going on with He-man. Rather, what it means to be someone’s role model. The person they look up to and someone who inspires you to do your best in every capacity you push yourself towards.

Young_Izuku's_faceIn the first couple of episodes, it is made abundantly clear that young Izuku “Deku” Midoriya’s hero is All Might: the physical embodiment of all that it means to be just, courageous and all around swell. This idolization is what pushes Midoriya to work his hardest to become a superhero himself and, regardless of how daunting or impossible the odds, to try his darndest!

Now, for someone like myself, I have a hard time understanding, or rather sympathize with the character. When I was growing up, I never really had anyone I considered to be my hero, my role model. This probably strikes you as a little odd; after all, in western culture, it’s pretty normal for young boys to idolize their fathers or even their father-like figures. As the years go on, it becomes normal to find role models in celebrities, teachers or elder peers in clubs or school.

This was, obviously, not the case for myself.

Instead, I viewed it very differently from even as young an age as I can recall (and I can recall some rather vivid memories from as far back as kindergarten, perhaps even earlier). I was very steadfast in my belief that I didn’t want a role-model, or someone I looked up to. After all, to do so was to deny the unique nature of who you were, instead to just aspire to be a copy of someone else.

In essence: yes, I was a hipster long before I even had any semblance of an idea of what societal norms were.

Now, while I’m not going to pretend that my philosophies were anything remotely close to well founded, I do still adhere to a semblance of this ideology to this day. Of course, it’s not to say that I think that having a role-model inherently makes you out to be their clone in the making. On the contrary, as I grew older, I began to understand the fundamentals behind role-models in ways that encourage positive growth in a developing mind.

Going back to young Midoriya momentarily to paint a clearer picture: he used the ideologies of what All Might represented to the world on a symbolic level as a measure of what he should strive to be like in his own personal life. Even when All Might himself confessed to having lost many of those ideologies in the bustle of celebrity life, Midoriya stayed true to those initial ideas; pushing those around him to greater heights as a result. Okay, maybe not everyone, but close enough…331ff58b020f6f01ac119a0d8ea71cc2

In many regards, this is a healthy idolization. To embrace the ideas of what a person represents or teaches to improve not only ourselves, but those around us and at large. A lesson that I feel I might have missed in my developmental years that will undoubtedly stunt my character to some extent or another. Though, this might also be a blessing in and of itself, as the opposite extreme can be exceedingly dangerous as well.

And this is where I introduce you to the unintended brilliance of my earlier philosophy: not striving to be a clone of someone else. Instead of idolization, worship or obsession of a person. To erase aspects of yourself in favour of being just like this character you hold in high regard. And in some cases that I am familiar with, it can often be just that: characters. Personalities as represented in film, imagination or literature. A character as represented in our real world as well: the facade of who a person is in the presence of the public.


We all adopt a mask… though maybe not this one…

Let’s look at that in a little greater depth, shall we? Indeed, there are many people out there who don a particular persona when they are in the presence of others. It should come as no surprise that many celebrities are nothing like who they portray on the stage or before the camera; or if they are, are at least notably different than who they initially appear. But it’s not just celebrities who do this, but us as well.

When we go out into public, we all adopt some form of a personality to present to the world we meet. To the degree of this facade will depend on where we are, or our own personal limitations. Speaking from experience, I can say with confidence that who I appear to people as when I’m at conventions doing vlogging work (a great example of this is in this video) is greatly different than who I am around my closest circle of friends, which is again quite different from who I truly identify myself as in real life.

This is a part deliberate, part sub-conscious decision that people make on a large scale basis. If you really want to see a significant difference: talk to anyone working in the service industry. I would gamble not insignificant money on the fact that, with very rare exception, every one of them adopts a sort of “alternative identity” in their line of work.

Note: talk to them when they’re not at work. Obviously, they will deny it on the clock, as doing so will likely result in greater difficulty for themselves at work. Further discussion on the constraints on the individual in the face of the “professional” world is a very complicated and long topic that I shall not dive into here. Because this is a blog. Not a thesis.

Returning to the point prior: the degree of idolization and obsession that can stem from it. While I certainly lack any sort of empirical data to back this up, I have a hypothesis that the generations of my own and the one following it are most prone to having large issues with identity and sense of self. From what little observation I’ve made, these generations are the ones more prone to an unhealthy degree of idolization of particular personas, even more so in those who are socially ostracized.  I tend to see this mostly in environments where the “nerdy” tend to thrive; the more fringe members of that circle tend to not only hold particular fictitious characters in high esteem, rather they go so far as to emulate or mimic their actions and mannerisms in their entirety.

Disclaimer: I don’t pretend that this is an issue that is limited to nerd culture, rather it’s the circle I’m most exposed to and most inclined to see these trends. I am quite confident that someone who buys every poster and jersey of a particular sports figure could potentially take such a fascination too far, though I’ve personally yet to see it. Again, not for lack of there being people, so much as for my lack of exposure.

This does raise the question, however, as to what is a healthy degree of idolization? At what point does it stop being a positive influence and become a corrupting source? I can’t say for certain. I imagine there are social psychologists who have worked, or are working, on exploring this particular topic, but I’ve yet to see a study that I can accept as a good model.

In the meantime, I will leave this topic off with a couple of final thoughts on this. To what extent is having heroes and role-models beneficial? Greatly! Can the idolization be taken too far and into the realm of obsession? Absolutely! Is it good to not have role-models? Well, it’s not bad, I suppose.

And, at the end of the day: is All Might a good hero?screen-shot-2016-05-08-at-7-18-01-am

Yeah, he’s pretty okay.