She-Ra and Catra: An Evolved Hero-Villain Relationship

This article contains mild spoilers.

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Noelle Stevenson understands characterization.

Last year, I discovered Nimona, an Eisner-nomated webcomic-turned-novel written by Stevenson about a whimsical, enigmatic shapeshifter who befriends an evil figure with an ultimately good heart. I found Nimona at a secondhand bookstore—the kind of store filled with spine-damaged books sporting dogeared pages—and I was surprised by the pristine condition of the copy I found. As I flipped through the beginning of the graphic novel, I saw a collection of glossy, well-preserved, wrinkle-free images.

Then I got to a page featuring a profoundly tense moment between Nimona, the shapeshifter, and Lord Ballister Blackheart, the semi-benevolent villain. The white border of the page was filled with scrapbook-style stars and bold exclamation points apparently drawn by the book’s previous owner.

Later, when I read that page—a page filled with genuine heartache and refreshingly nuanced character interactions—I added a couple exclamation points of my own.

Noelle Stevenson understands characterization, and that storytelling skill is evident in her latest creation, Netflix’s 2018 She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Continue reading

How Indie Video Games Depict Depression, Anxiety, and Grief

Links and videos of several indie games are posted below the article.

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Consider author Tom Bissell’s experience with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as described in his book, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter:

Oblivion is less a game than a world that best rewards full citizenship, and for a while I lived there and claimed it. At the time I was residing in Rome on a highly coveted literary fellowship, surrounded by interesting and brilliant people, and quite naturally mired in a lagoon of depression more dreadfully lush than any before or since. I would be lying if I said Oblivion did not, in some ways, aggravate my depression, but it also gave me something with which to fill my days other than piranhic self-hatred. It was an extra life; I am grateful to have it.

I read those words years ago while eating subpar noodles in a building that used to be a Blockbuster Video. The dim restaurant lights shielded me well enough from the gaggle of suburban families that surrounded me, so I hunched my back and unashamedly swallowed Bissell’s words. As a post-college, pre-career teacher wannabe, the 200-plus-page book about the artistry of video games perfectly quenched both my thirst for entertainment and my need to be perceived as an intellectual. But, more importantly, Bissell’s novel, including the excerpt above, connected with a part of me that I did not yet acknowledge: my depression and my (sometimes subconscious) attempts to deal with it. Continue reading

Cinema Sins, BobVids, and a Culture of Discontent

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If you have ever tried to explain your deep appreciation of a piece of art anywhere on the internet, you likely understand how much amateur criticism and intense posturing exists online.

At best, this negativity is an aggravating byproduct of crowdsourcing artistic validation. At worst, this persistent and indiscriminate criticism is a symptom of a relatively new and alarmingly widespread brand of groupthink. One that is unquestioningly unimpressed—always.

Either way, we seem to be entering a modern era of discontent, and this problem is worth dissecting.

With that in mind, meet a proud part of the problem: Cinema Sins. Continue reading

Top 30 Superhero Films (1989-2018), Ranked by Big B

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“What is your favorite superhero film?”

Seemed like a simple question. Easy enough to answer.

Then I began to compile a list of all of the superhero movies I’ve seen. And when that list grew larger than 90 movies (watched over many, many years), I panicked. “Damn. What is my favorite superhero film? Could I even narrow it down to a top ten?” Continue reading

Top Movies of 2017: Big B’s Picks

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These are Big B’s top ten films of 2017.

10) I Am Evidence – directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Trish Adlesic

I Am Evidence is a clear, poignant exploration of an issue that needs more attention: the epidemic of untested rape kits in American cities. Most importantly, I Am Evidence focuses on specific steps that cities can take to resolve this problem. This documentary tries hard to make itself unnecessary by aggressively targeting sensible solutions to the problems highlighted during the documentary’s opening moments. I Am Evidence is concerned with progress, not proceeds—but I hope it gets both.

Continue reading

Justice League is the Movie We Need Right Now

This article contains spoilers.

We are defeated. On a good day, we can ignore that fact. But it is still true. The good team lost.

That is the spirit of Justice League‘s opening scenes. Norwegian singer and songwriter Sigrid sings a more earnest, mournful version of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” as audiences view a melancholic montage of troublesome images, beginning with Superman’s funeral and progressing through scenes of realistic social injustice. A white man harasses Muslim shopkeepers, and a homeless man sits quietly behind a small sign that reads “I tried.” Sigrid’s smooth voice bellows over haunting, repetitive piano riffs: “Everybody knows the fight was fixed / The poor stay poor, the rich get rich / That’s how it goes / Everybody knows.” This glossy, semi-grayscale, post-Superman world is bitter and scared. As a reporter notes, “The world remains in mourning . . .” Continue reading

The Gaming Community, the E3 Missing Person Fiasco, and Double-edged Social Media Groupthink

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Warning: Article contains links to pages that contain profanity and offensive content.

At 7:45 PM on June 15th, Twitch streamer and Twitter user Ashley “ashleeeeean” Leann posted this tweet:

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The Twitch mixer was a get-together on Wednesday, June 14th for Twitch streamers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), a gathering of gamers and game developers in Los Angeles. Around 20 hours had passed since friends, family, and social media followers had heard from Twitch streamer and GEXCon host Tia “LauraLania” Zimmer, so ashleeeeean decided, as she described in a video on Twitter, to use “my platform and my following to be able to get the word out there.”

“I did not expect it to blow up as much as it did,” she added. Continue reading

Teacher Appreciation Week: A Quick Note for Teachers

roarLike a birthday spent at the dentist’s office, this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week exists amid a surge of legislative halitosis and biting commentary designed to undermine teachers, and I believe, fellow teachers, that it is our right—even our obligation—to reclaim Teacher Appreciation Week by brushing off this orange plaque with a bit of bristly, humility-trumping candor. Continue reading