All’s Fair in Love and War

A few nights ago I was sitting down a hot cup of tea and lovely slice of homemade chocolate cake with some friends. We were talking about some of the movies we had all seen this last summer: Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, The Big Sick, and Spider Man: Homecoming. As we pivoted to talking about the action-packed superhero movies, I expressed one of things that grinds my gears about Spider Man: Homecoming, the role of all the women as love interests for the male protagonist.

My roommates and I are all avid Harry Potter fans, and one of the things about the series that we all love is how the women are presented in this series. Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley (book only): they’re all strong, complex characters with believable personalities and two of these women are never considered to be love interests for our hero, Harry. These women are integral to the story and as powerful and capable as their male counterparts. This series doesn’t limit its demographic to a single gender. It’s something for all of us to enjoy.

On the other hand, we have series like The Hunger Games, which I would consider to be targeted towards a female audience. It’s not because the protagonist is a young woman. Instead, it’s because her romantic life dictates a majority of the story and that the two main males essentially exist to only serve as her love interests. Like how in much of old media women were mostly there to be the hero’s lovers, now The Hunger Games is doing the same thing to these men. Maybe this is some commentary on how women can be objectified in the action/adventure genre, but I don’t think this series is clever enough for that.

Now we have Spider Man: Homecoming, the newest addition to the MCU. I actually enjoyed the movie: the effects were nice, Tom Holland did a great job, and it brought that same thrill and excitement that I felt when watching Toby McGuire don the spidey suit back in 2000. Initially, I didn’t have a huge problem with the role of the women in this movie because while Liz was the obvious love interest for Peter, Michelle was just his quirky friend. That was, until the end of the movie when Liz moves away and Michelle reveals that her friends often refer to her as MJ. Is it THE MJ? I hope not, but who else can it be? That one revelation is what prevented me from enjoying the movie in its entirety. For me, it ultimately broke the non-gendered quality of the film as the only other prominent female character, other than Aunt May, may now be in the running to win Peter’s heart. There’s value in portraying Michelle as just a friend of Peter and nothing more than that; if anything it’s realistic. Additionally, it can portray mutual respect between a man and a woman without the need for either to exist solely to be the love interest.

I won’t start hating Homecoming because of this. However, in the sequels that are to come, I at least hope that we will get to see more capable women interact with Peter and maybe even help stop a baddie or two. I’m still hoping that one Asian girl on the decathalon team will turn out to be a certain Korean web-slinger.

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You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

This past week SNL uploaded their Summer Weekend Update on YouTube, which was chock full of surprise guests, workout tips, the Trump brothers, and probably the most talked about segment, Tina Fey’s reaction to the Charlottesville rally.

For those of you who don’t know, on August 12th, there was a so called “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia. Essentially, a large group of white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate army general, Robert E. Lee, who led Southern US forces that wanted to enslave former black slaves during the Civil War. Needless to say, POC were quite happy that he would no longer be immortalized. However, many white nationalists saw this as a threat to their people and to US history. Soon enough, they rallied on the streets of Charlottesville with their dollar store Tiki torches, only to be met with counter protesters. After news broke out about the rally, many other protests emerged throughout the country, some of which turned violent and even caused the death of counter protester, Heather Heyer.

Fey, whose political and ideological views are more liberal, appeared as a guest on Weekend Update, where she divulged the best way to counteract these Neo-Nazis white supremacists: eating cake. With every bite of sweet, vanilla sorrow, Fey lamented of recent events in the US: peaceful protesters at Standing Rock Reservation being shot at with rubber bullets while Neo-Nazis roam the streets with torches and cars, Republican senators staying silent despite their affirmations of America being a country for all, etc. For her final thoughts, Fey pleaded for all to not show up to these rallies and to let the white supremacists scream into the void.

While Fey’s bit was intended to support all that were targeted by these rallies, the response to it was not amicable. Many criticized her for her message of staying silent in the face of danger, and that her privilege as a well-off, white woman allows her to stay in and eat cake while POC, Jews and immigrants are left to be eaten by the wolves. I understand the criticism behind it. It emulates ideas similar to those of white feminism, where women of color are often excluded by white women despite fighting for the same rights, and some white women don’t acknowledge their racial privilege because they turn their attention to their discrimination as women.

However, these very ideas are what I believe Fey was mocking. To me, she was saying that you can cry into the biggest sheet cake in the world, but don’t let that be the only thing you do. Support POC like buying a cake from a Jewish run bakery or an African-American run bakery, don’t be afraid to challenge those who favor Alt-Right ideas, march and remind all those who threaten the very people who built the foundation of this country that this is our home as well and we are here to stay.

Additionally, what I empathized the most with this sketch was that feeling of futility of being a POC in today’s political climate. On election night, when the results were finalized, I thought “Of course. Why was I stupid enough to hope that things could be different this time?” Both my parents messaged me in an effort to calm me down, but all I could think was that there is no reason to hope because so many people in this country will always hate people like us. They’ll always see us as job thieves, as non-English speakers who have no right to be here. However, these last few months I’ve been trying to fight that feeling of helplessness, to realize that there are people who care and will even risk their lives. As Fey listed all of these tragedies that have inflicted minorities in this country, while stabbing her fork into the layers of frosting, it served as another reminder of just how much work there is left to be done.

Could she have executed the message better? Probably. However, Fey’s sketch reminded me that it’s okay to just scream into cake every once in a while. Then you can have a healthy discussion with someone who disagrees with your political ideologies. Sometimes you just need release with buttercream frosting on top.

Back Into the Grind

I’m alive! Sort of. Finals are almost upon me so I’ll be busy studying for those exams. Woo….

Once this semester ends I’ll thankfully have time to write more blog posts, reviews, etc. on this site.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing any writing this whole time! This past semester I’ve been working as an editorial intern at this lovely site called ComicsVerse. It’s essentially a hub for all comic book/gaming/TV/movie enthusiasts who want to read news, analyses and reviews about their favorite comic books, shows and video games. There are also podcasts and interviews from a bunch of talented creators. While I’ve mainly been working behind the scenes, editing a bunch of articles submitted by the writers, there’s been some really great stuff that our dedicated team of writers and editors have published! Definitely check it out!

In the meantime, I’ve  got plenty to talk about in the future. So this is just a quick update about where I am. I’ll be back soon!

The First Knight (King’s Quest 2015)

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King’s Quest 2015

Daventry, a kingdom with zany knights, vicious badgers and a magical mirror, ruled by King Graham the Brave, or the Wise, or the Compassionate, depending on the player who affects his life from his teenage years as a knight to his golden years as a king.

King’s Quest 2015 is a game created by Sierra Entertainment and The Odd Gentleman, based on the original series from 1983 to 1998. It’s a 5 part, episodic adventure that follows the life of our hero, Graham, from the beginning of his knighthood in the Kingdom of Daventry to his reign as the king. The game is a narrated by an elderly King Graham, voiced by Christopher Llyod, who is telling his life’s story to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, with the help of a magic mirror that shows them the events of his past.

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Mountain View from King’s Quest Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember

One of the first things to notice about this game is the stunning artwork. The environments are beautifully painted with soft shades, a vibrant color palette and layers of shadows and light. In fact, the artists hand paint the textures that are eventually applied to all the 3D models. The characters are designed in a wonderfully whimsical and cartoonish style, and each has a unique silhouette and color palette that convey his/her personality. The swift and haughty knight W.H.I.S.P.E.R, or Walter Harry Ignatius Sally Percival Eduardo Ramon Jr. the Third of Modesto, is adorned with the shiniest armor, a long orange cape, and a matching mane. His top-heavy torso and lean legs emphasize the long hours of training and grooming that eventually turned him into the swiftest and nimblest knight in the kingdom, if not the most narcissistic. The wise, eccentric Hobblepots are an elderly couple and master alchemists, adorned with layers of beads and robes with monochromatic color schemes. They are both quite short and hunched over, but Muriel’s figure is engulfed by layers of lavender robes and jewelry while Chester’s thin arms can be seen under his worn-out, tan cloak.

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The Hobblepotts and Hopeful Knight Graham

As for actual gameplay, KQ 2015 is essentially a point-and-click adventure in a colorful, atmospheric world. Since there are multiple endings, the game can differ depending on whichever attribute the player wishes to bestow onto Graham (Courage, Wisdom or Compassion). Choices do matter, and they not only affect the values and the relationships of Graham but also the kind of person Gwendolyn becomes in the future. The puzzles are not too difficult, but they require quite a bit of traveling throughout the gigantic world. For me, being able to find them was the biggest challenge. I spent hours observing every clickable item even if it was just there for decoration or for a quick laugh. King Graham LOVES using puns much to Gwendolyn’s dismay.

One of the main faults is that there isn’t an option to skip cutscenes or dialogue. For more antsy players such as myself, this can be quite tedious, especially when it takes a lot of time just to travel to different locations. From the story’s perspective, this game is an elderly man’s recollection of his life and skipping dialogue or cutscenes could take away from that vision. However, for those playing the same chapter whether, for fun or to try out a different route, it can be very tedious to rewatch the same scenes. Even Gwendolyn remarks at this, asking her grandfather if she has “to hear the story about how you [Graham] took forever to tiptoe across that tree? Again?” to which he replies “No. I guess not.”

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An elderly King Graham and Gwendolyn

Nevertheless, the quirky charm and whimsical beauty of KQ 2015 makes this game worth playing. The first chapter itself has great replay value and is free on Steam. It’s up to the player whether he/she wants to outwit enemies or to kill them with kindness. Whether to bake a pie the size of a horse or to fight a dragon. King’s Quest 2015’s beautiful world, light-hearted humor and zany characters make it a great game and a fantastic introduction to a classic series to younger gamers.

Summer Update: 7/21/2016

Earlier this summer I made a list of goals that I would like to accomplish (here), and with a little over a month of vacation left, I thought I’d see how I was doing.

Following the order of my previous list:

  1. Getting in shape and being healthy: I’ve been doing fairly well with this. I’ve been trying to eat much healthier than before and walking more so that I can not only do some exercise, but also explore the city and catch Pokemon. I do feel better than I did and others are noticing the results. I’m fairly happy with my diet, but I would like to do more exercise instead of just walking a lot.
  2. Portfolio Dev: I’ve been working on some projects with friends and doing some personal work little by little. I’ve also been searching for potential opportunities and workshops and watching more tutorials on YouTube so I can continue to build up my portfolio and improve my skills. I may start trying to teach myself Maya or other 3D programs, and I’ve been considering designing some shirts to upload onto TeePublic so I can make some extra cash.
  3. Post-college plans: I’ve been doing a little research about my options after college. I think I’m pretty set on my decision to at least wait a year or 2 before I start applying to art programs. That way I can work to save up some money and do some more portfolio dev.
  4. Studying: Still haven’t done this yet hehe. I’ll try to find some books online and try to read ahead once the textbook lists have been uploaded.
  5. Friends: I’ve been spending some quality time with my friends, and we’ve shared some pretty fun days and nights out. Soon I’ll have to say my goodbyes to the ones that have graduated, but at least they’ll be back for the holidays.
  6. Mental Health: It’s been a slow process. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting, writing down some of the things I deduced from these ideas. I do feel a bit better than before, but I know I should start searching for professional help.

Some progress has been made, and looking at all these updates I do feel somewhat accomplished. I’m not satisfied with all I’ve done so far, and I hope that I can manage to do more in the next month. I’ve even added a couple of more goals, but these will extend past the summer.

7. Make money: I’d like to go on a solo backpacking trip over winter break for a couple of weeks, which is not going to be cheap. Hopefully I can find a job next semester to help pay for it. I’ve even signed up for some psych experiments and am looking to sell some of my things in order to make a quick buck. I hope that I can start creating paid commissions sometime soon.

8. Finish up my script: I’ve been working on this short series for a little over a year now. I’ve pretty much finalized the concept art, but I’ve been writing and revising the script for months and I’ve been stuck on the same few chapters. I would like to launch this project within the next year, so hopefully I’ll be able to finalize my script soon.

More goals, more things to do, and less time to do them. Hopefully I can accomplish most of these by the time senior year starts. Well, back to work.

The Safest Space

Everyday on the TV or on a Facebook wall, we see images of flaring sirens with a bold, black headline plastered at the bottom of the screen. A name along with a cause of death is displayed for a few fleeting seconds before it fades. That person may have been woken up to a normal day: taking a walk around the neighborhood, going out dancing or going to school. Yet in that one moment, someone was unkind and normal eventually became a nightmare. These places that we deemed safe become minefields, and the imaginary barriers that we thought protected us crack. So what happens when they completely shatter?

There appears to be this popular decision to stay silent, and to just keep going. Why is that? Maybe we’re still in a period of mourning. Maybe the situation is just too complicated to be solved within a few days or even weeks. Maybe we only want to remember the good as a way to give us hope to keep going.

But is that really okay?

The more we avoid discussing these issues, the more we become desensitized to them. The more tolerable they become until one day they become apart of our everyday lives. Are we so uncomfortable with sadness and tragedy that we’re okay with pretending it doesn’t exist? Do we really want to be so content with the way things are, that whenever something unexpected occurs, we do our best cover it up in order to continue our lives?

Sure, change isn’t convenient or comfortable most of the time. It requires us to step out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. It brings up topics that we don’t usually talk about, or ideas that we don’t usually think about. Of course it’s a risk to be ignorant, to be unaware of what we may face ahead. It can be scary enough to coerce us to run back into the force field that claims to guard us from these threats.

But what are we going to do when those dangers start hunting us? What do we do when the body count rises? What do we do when we grow more afraid of what used to be normal? It’s not the time to be complacent, it never was. When we debate about anything, be it guns, immigration or national security, we must start talking and start thinking about things we wouldn’t normally discuss.

Sometimes I feel afraid just walking outside, because what if I suddenly hear a few bangs and then I become a name displayed on a TV screen for 2 seconds? Sometimes I put my guard up around non-Asians because my family and I have been discriminated for the way we look. Even so, that doesn’t mean I should ignore these nerves or these fears and continue on.

We should mourn for those we lost, but we should also talk about why these things happen. What do we need to do in order to prevent them from happening again? Who do we need to contact and what do we need to say to implement these much needed changes? I believe that we highly underestimate the power of language. Our ideas need to be turned into words in order to be heard, and then those words need to turn into action. How many more people need to die before any change is made? How many more names need to show up on the screens? We can do better than this. We need to do better than this.

SAO: The Abridged Series

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SAO Abridged by Something Witty Entertainment

As an avid anime watcher for the past 8+ years of my life, I know that every year there’s one show that explodes across the anime community and becomes the number one show of the year. Back in 2012, the breakout anime of the year was Sword Art Online or SAO. Initially considered to be this somewhat revolutionary anime that portrayed the beauty of the virtual world and of the simplicities of life, SAO eventually lost some steam as more and more people fell out of their initial excitement and began to recognize this anime’s flaws. Soon it became the show that everyone loved to hate, but that’s not what I’ll be doing for this post. Instead, I’d like to turn everyone’s attention to some of the great satirizations that have risen from the ashes of SAO, one in particular called SAO Abridged Parody.

For those of you who don’t know, SAO follows Kirito, who along with 10,000 others, is trapped in the world’s first Virtual Reality MMO. Players must clear all 100 floors of the game to escape, but if a player dies in-game then he/she dies in real life. Early on Kirito meets another talented player named Asuna, and together they battle bosses, fall in love and break the barrier between fantasy and reality by realizing that despite being trapped in an artificial world, the lives and the relationships they build in the game are real.

The show does have some great themes and meaningful lessons to teach to its audience. However, the execution does not meet its potential. Some of the main failures of the show lie in the sporadic character development of Kirito and Asuna. Kirito’s initially as a cocky, self-centered solo player who believes that others would only hold him back. He does join a guild, but his arrogance causes the deaths of its members, including a shy player named Sachi, whom he felt very protective of. This initiates his character development by igniting his empathy towards others. However, the plot rushes his development with an awkward time skip, which completely shifts its focus to the love story between him and Asuna.

SAO juggles a lot of different plot elements: dozens of minor characters with their own backstories, multiple story arcs, the theme of reality vs fantasy and the love story. Seamlessly fitting all these components in just 14 episodes is a challenge, and unfortunately, it’s quite messy. Some arcs are irrelevant, some minor characters receive screen time that could’ve been used to develop the two leads, and even the theme is lost among everything else. The plot just seems confused, not knowing what to focus on and when. At most this show seems to be popular because a majority of the anime community also consists of gamers; Wish-fulfillment at its finest.

Luckily, the wonderful team of Something Witty Entertainment managed to condense the story enough to maintain the plot while emphasizing the themes of the show and the character development of Kirito and Asuna. Behold, SAO Abridged Parody.

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Something Witty Entertainment

This series started about 3 years ago, and recent episodes have been released this past year. Though satirical at its core, SAO Abridged manages to highlight the depth and the potential of Kirito and Asuna’s characters. The original show catalyzed Kirito’s character development after his guild’s death, but then didn’t really explore the effects of that incident. The Abridged Series expresses his vulnerability, trauma and repressed guilt with his random cries of “SACHI!” While it hyperbolizes his arrogant nature, it also exposes his regrets and insecurities while staying true to his character, and not just for conveniently moving the plot along.

Even Asuna’s character is much more explored. Her development in the original felt quite sudden;  She transforms from this stern, aggressive warrior into a relaxed, compassionate person in just a couple of episodes. What’s worse is that she doesn’t receive much screen time in the beginning, thanks to some of the supporting characters, and so we don’t get to see much of her until the 4th episode. Her character in the abridged series seems to be much more believable; she shows some growth but occasionally retracts to her old ways whether out of habit or denial. The show emphasizes that she is indeed a horrible person but has room to grow because of that. It’s much more realistic and above all relatable.

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Asuna and Lisbeth having a chat

Since the abridged series is a satire, I can’t say that it really delves deep into the themes and the essence of the original, and it doesn’t really want to. It’s meant to exaggerate the characters and make a somewhat dramatic show more lighthearted. Yet the character development should not go unnoticed, as it is well-executed and believable.

Single and Ready to Mi-ldly Freak Out

With online dating becoming more and more commonplace, and with my love life being completely non-existent for the past 3 years or so, I decided to test the waters and join a dating app.

At first I was highly reluctant. I consider myself to be quite introverted and shy, and starting conversations with complete strangers has always been a challenge. In addition, being a young woman and exposing myself to an entire city full of single guys sounded not only intimidating, but also dangerous. Hundreds of questions crowded my mind: What if he just likes every girl he sees? What if he’s a stalker? Or a serial killer? Or both? But the most important question I asked myself:

“Am I ready for this?”

As someone who’s extremely introverted, online dating had never crossed my mind. If anything, I stigmatized it. The idea of just meeting someone through an app instead of meeting them in person seemed so foreign, and a little sketchy. When you meet in person it’s easier to notice details like how they carry themselves or how they act around you and others. Five photos are less don’t have the same effect. Not to mention that many apps are generally used for one night stands and casual flings.

Needless to say, it took a lot of time until I finally decided to take the chance. I had already asked some friends about their opinions on online dating, and most of them said that it doesn’t hurt to try. Awkwardness wouldn’t be a huge problem, especially when living in NYC where the likelihood of running into someone after a disaster date is slim to none. There also aren’t any great expectations of commitment since the other person is just a stranger.

Nevertheless, it IS an intimidating process. In the first 3 minutes of my online dating adventure I started freaking out and proceeded to swipe left for every single guy I saw, even the ones I was mildly attracted to. My newfound courage was immediately replaced with regret, and I kept telling myself that this was a mistake.

But then that regret was replaced by nerves and excitement as I started getting a few matches and even received a message, which led to a casual but pleasant conversation. Though my fears and concerns were not completely eradicated, I was at least calmer than before. And with some more time I became more comfortable with the idea of putting myself out there.

I can’t say that I’m 100% comfortable with dating apps, as it is still a very new experience for me. However, I can say that my initial perceptions of it have changed. Instead of seeing them as tools that simply feed our hookup culture and kill “true love,” I try to view them as love adapting into our era. Some may want one night of intimacy while others may want a long-term relationship. No matter what it is users may want, these apps provide them opportunities for companionship and maybe even “finding the one.” Like anything it’s mostly what you make of it. So if you have been thinking about trying out a dating app but are uncertain, all I can say is be safe about it, but don’t be afraid to take the chance.

New Ideas

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to write about in this blog.

So far I’ve been kind of/sort of documenting some of the happenings of my life, which isn’t particularly interesting. Also I consider myself to be a very private person, so to even write about what I had for breakfast on a certain day can be too much information to divulge to the public.

So, I’ve been considering writing some fun, casual reviews of shows, movies, videogames, etc. I do watch a lot (maybe too much) TV and play games. Plus I’d like to continue to improve my analytical writing, so why not analyze the things I love? I’m not entirely sure how often I would write these. For now maybe a biweekly basis. I think I’d like to keep this as its own, separate series as well.

Yup, that’s the great, new idea I had. Anticlimactic? Probably. Like I said, my life isn’t a particularly interesting one.

Now What?

 

Apologies for not posting anything for the last 2 weeks. Finals week kept me preoccupied for a while and once they were over I took a few days to hibernate in my room, finishing some shows on Netflix and playing those untouched games in my Steam library. Two of my good friends also graduated so I spent some time celebrating with them as well. Now the summer has started, but school hasn’t ended since I recently registered for a summer class. Huzzah. On the bright side it’s not a tough class and it’ll definitely keep me productive, starting with getting me out of bed before 10 AM.

A few weeks ago I decided to compile a list of “Summer Goals” to accomplish before my final fall semester. In no particular order:

  1. Get in shape and be healthy: This is something I’ve been neglecting for far too long. This semester was pretty difficult for many reasons, so my health was one of the last things on my mind. However, for a long time I’ve been looking at mirrors and have been feeling unsatisfied with what I see. My health is one of the few things in life that I know I have a lot of control over, so this summer I’d like to improve it as possible.
  2. Work on projects/Portfolio Dev: I’ve had many artistic projects in the works that I’ve also been ignoring. Some I thought of not too long ago, others that have been spanning for a couple of years now. If art is something I’d like to pursue as a career one day, it’s important that I put all my effort into all of my work.
  3. Research grad schools/careers: With graduation inching closer and closer, the time to research grad schools and careers starts now. I’ve been interested in applying to an MFA program for a while, though I’m not completely set on which schools to apply to yet. I’m also unsure if I want to attend school directly after graduation or take a gap year to polish my portfolio and explore art careers with actual jobs. As of now I’m leaning more towards to latter.
  4. Study: I’ll thank myself in the fall if I try to get ahead with classes beforehand, especially with Algebra and Ordinary Differential Equations.
  5. Enjoy the time I’ve got left with friends: One of my friends who graduated is actually someone I’ve known since my junior year of high school, so he’s pretty much been at my side for my entire college experience. He’s going to grad school all the way in the Midwest so, unfortunately, we won’t be able to hang out like we used to. My other friend is also going to grad school in the Midwest, and leaving relatively early. Not to mention with my senior year sneaking up on me, the days I have left with friends I made freshman year are dwindling. Soon I’ll have start all over again. It’ll be an adjustment, a big adjustment, but until then I’d like to enjoy the time I have with them no matter how limited it may be.
  6. Be more proactive about my mental health: This is quite a long and complicated story, but to summarize, I’ve been neglecting my mental health for a long time and for the past couple of years it’s been taking its toll on me. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to be motivated and it’s been affecting many things from school to relationships. This summer I’d like to actually be more active with addressing it, starting with finding a therapist in the city.

I think that’s everything for now. Maybe I’ll add more small stuff later, but these are the big 6 goals I would like to accomplish. Hopefully I can. I guess all I can do now is just work at it a little each day.