Episode 122: The Misogynistic Irony of Nerd/Gamer Culture

The prototypical nerd is a surprisingly complex figure. Think of Screech from Saved by the Bell or Steve Urkel in Family Matters. These are the geeks I grew up with (and yes, I know that nerd and geek should not be interchangeable but for sake of simplicity, let’s go with that) and characters I identified with more and more as I entered adolescence. Sure they were smart, creative, and helpful but they are mostly remembered as being scrawny, uncharismatic, and having a terrible time at getting girls to like them (again, something quite relatable for me and many others).  They were put out there as the opposite of the regular male in a complete sense of Otherness. Brain vs brawn, compassion vs aggressiveness, loyal vs player, crafty vs blunt, chivalrous vs misogynist. These and others are the dichotomies of maleness. The second half is expected and the quintessential image of what our mind evokes when we think of the patriarchy and how boys our conditioned into this outdated goal of “manhood”. The other aspects are seen as what a man should be. One might be the expected boyfriend but the other was a proper husband. This was the narrative that television shows, films, video games, and even good old books put forward and I ate it up. Even as I studied about gender roles and feminism evolved, this was still my ideology of the world I lived in. Then I started seeing it from a new perspective in the wake of something terrible.

I was distracted by real life over the last week to put any attention to the Internet or anything happening in the world outside of my very small bubble. By the time I heard about Elliot Rodger the outcries of #YesAllWomen had already peaked as a response. There are a lot of voices from really smart people out there that speak to the idealistic chaos and revisions of our outlook that speak to certain aspects about the tragedy and how they are not an outlier of society but what happens when the beliefs of a patriarchal/misogynistic ideology go way too far. This blog on the importance of feminism for all is pretty cool and I recommend you give it a good look. This other one really spoke to me and helped me refocus the points of the previously mentioned nerd vs jock narrative into something closer to reality. It is from that new perspective that I wish to add my thoughts to the conversation.

From what little I have read about this young man who killed six women and injured many more before taking his own life is that he was seriously messed up. Just a few glances around the many blogs and news sites reporting on him and you can seen that he had major issues long before you hear about the 140 page manifesto on his hatred of all women or other incidents where he was violent to others. The outcry that this was a mental health issue began to take priority and the agency of his cruel act was taken away as the blame was shifted to his parents, teachers, friends, therapists, and others close to him for not controlling him better. As his personal life became more clear the idea that the media, that those narratives I had grown up on, and all those violent video games he virtually killed people in played a role in that deadly day taking place. As the news keeps finding a new place on which to affix its spotlight, the Internet cried out with #YesAllWomen and that his actions were more akin to a hate crime or a terrorist act, as this article claims. As I learn just how deep misogyny goes (and finally learned how to spell it correctly) I see that both sides of the coin of maleness that I mentioned earlier on unfortunately contribute to a mentality and an ideology that will end up hurting more people down the line.

First off, let me clarify that #YesAllWomen and pretty much every non-radical/militant feminist has made it perfectly clear that misogyny is not an issue caused by all men, no one has claimed that from what I know, but even in the supposed harbinger of equality for all that is the USA the system is still pretty bad if you don’t have a Y chromosome. The narrative of nerdiness  is one that has always stated that we geeks respect and treasure women far more than the macho guys who treat girls like crap and yet somehow get to go on dates with pretty ladies all the time. That’s okay because no matter how much the smart, kind, and overall nice guys would get friendzoned somewhere down the line we would earn our just rewards and the girl of our dreams would finally appreciate us. As noble as it may seem, this is actually just another form of misogyny that took me far too long to realize. It fosters a sense of entitlement that patience, kind gestures, and an overly long/complicated plan would get anyone to fall in love with us. Trust me, this was my rationale and modus operandi for pretty much forever. Ask anyone for an interesting Gabe story and you will probably hear about the time there was a pretty girl far out of my league in which it took me months to declare in an overdramatic fashion that I liked her only to get shot down hard. I always envisioned that all I needed to do was keep doing the same thing and the right girl would eventually find my quasi-stalking and hard work to be endearing and love me back. That was the dream and I recently realized that it wasn’t exactly a noble endeavor.

When I read about how the world has now marked Elliot Rodger as the “Virgin Killer” because he still had not crossed that threshold of manliness at the young age of 22 I almost felt sympathy for him (“almost” being the operative word). At that age, a third date for me would be a miracle and the dark corners of my mind would utter some of the hateful BS that this deranged young man said. Or course, when I thought to myself that X girl would regret not liking me back, I put it into the context of that she would end up with some dude who wouldn’t treat her right, never in a super villain style “rue the day” soliloquy. The narrative that as women mature they will favor intelligence over strength and wisdom over charisma is something that gives nerdkind hope but it’s just not true. With what little relationship experience I have I know that this it is something that will always be complicated regardless of the circumstances to start and maintain. The only exception I could think of is an arranged marriage where both partners are pretty much perfect for each other from the get go but I can’t imagine them not arguing even once. Hell, Marshall and Lilly from How I Met Your Mother, are considered to be the perfect couple and were lucky enough to have found each other at the start of college but they still worked hard to keep their relationship alive. Starting a relationship, for someone who barely has the courage to talk other people much less ask one out on a date, seems pretty much impossible and daunting. If rejection comes even after months of “hard work” part of you gets jilted and the inward depression of not being good enough starts to turn into outward conceit that no one deserves you. Again, I am not condoning or excusing Rodger’s horrible actions but it hurts to admit that I and maybe a lot of nerdy folks like me have entertained the thought for a millisecond or two before being disgusted.

I have spent a lot of time thinking and metathinking towards my thoughts on relationships and a perceived correspondence to hard work. This is where the gamer factor kicks in. No matter what kind of game you play, there is an expected level of return on investment for time and energy that we translate to other parts of life. Spend 100 hours in an RPG level grinding and you can defeat the greatest of monsters. Practice combos for days on end in a fighting game and you can go up against champions. Construct the perfect strategy and you could conquer the world. Memorize every detail of a level and you could beat it in record time. This mentality makes sense to a degree in a lot of other facets of reality. Taking good notes + reading the material = good grades. Practice a musical instrument and you get pretty good at it. Perform a particular skill long enough and you become a natural at it. Even something as terrifying for nerds as doing exercise turns into actual results of getting in better shape. Telling someone you think he/she is pretty and learning everything about him/her does not translate into that person fawning all over you. In everything except interpersonal relationships there is a pretty well-defined system of cause and effect. We feel frustrated when our emotions aren’t reciprocated but after putting so much effort into something happening only for an awkward sigh and a pitiful “no” just makes it feel that there isn’t just something wrong with you, but that there is something wrong with the world.

I focus on an entirely male heteronormative perspective because this is what I know. While my story and feelings are not a reflection of masculinity as a whole, from my experiences I see that these cases are more common than not. I honestly have very little experience with this from a female perspective or through any spectrum of LGBTQQness but I’m sure they go at similar levels. I hate to oversimplify gender norms but I honestly feel that my case is not an outlier. Any nerdy guys out there who want to prove me wrong I invite to add your voice to the conversation come on by. Hell, let’s get the rest of the population involved. For now, let me wrap up a few more thoughts on the subject.

I like to think that nerds like myself are more respectful of women but deep down I came to realize that this is more based on a fear of rejection than anything else. I had a particular form of pride in the fact that I would not touch a female (outside of a standard greeting/goodbye hug plus cheek kiss as is customary in my land) without some expressed form of consent. I considered myself quite the feminist for not holding or potentially groping anyone at any time because I placed that tactile distance as a form of respect. Then it came to me that it was more lack of confidence than anything else that kept me from doing any kind of “moves”. I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever get that kind of confidence or just be slightly less awkward but I know that I still wouldn’t do something in that particular moveset. Not because I’m afraid of rejection or of someone classifying me on the other side of the manliness dichotomy but because it’s the right thing to do. There is a certain “go until she says no” mentality that I believe exemplifies the misogynistic ideology that pervades society on all sides. Pretty much it means  that she is “asking for it” until she says no and you can get her to change her mind. Nonverbal signals of advancement are pretty hard to read, especially for the nerds like me who are illiterate in womanese, but complexity is no excuse for advancing beyond anyone’s comfort levels.

It would be easy for me to say to girls that “nerds are weird but will treat you right” like the narrative that the media has pervaded for years so let me take the hard route instead. Nerds, we need to get off our high horses that we are better than jocks at not objectifying women. In fact, we might be even worse at it because we believe that sex or even a relationship is something that we earn and are entitled to. We cry “friendzone” when emotions are not reciprocated and juvenilize women because they “don’t realize what a great catch we are.” Getting a date is hard, I know the feeling all too well, but rejection from a single girl doesn’t mean that all females are typical shallow stereotypes. People might change their minds as to whether they like you or not but this is not permission to pine over someone for years and just make them feel terrible after a polite but firm “no” has been declared. Keep being you but don’t settle on being “just you”. Think of Kung Fu Panda, a film that clearly states that Po didn’t have to change but that he could be better with the right training and determination. Level yourself up not for a girl you like (though it is quite the motivation) but because you want to be better. Invest in yourself, try new things, and maybe you’ll find the right person. Or maybe you won’t. We keep insisting that having a girlfriend is a mark of success and manliness but solitude should not be overcome just to attain a new achievement in life. It’s not easy and for the ones that make it look that way it isn’t either. Misogyny has crept into us because we grew up thinking that saving the world means that the princess would love us automatically. We might not notice it, but as we place women on a pedestal we turn them into trophies and rewards. Girls are people too and they are just as weirded out by the complexities of relationships as you are. Even jocks have it hard too so don’t think yourself better or worse than anyone.

Oh and this stick figure webcomic has a pretty cool moment where they explain the basics of relationships. Learn and grow people.

Girls aren’t DCs to be overcome, they are people so stop trying to add circumstance modifiers because asking someone out on a date is not a diplomacy check.

 

G

 

Episode 121: The Final Finale and the Scrubs Ending

As I sit here waiting for my flight back to my homeland, I reminisce about the good times and not so good that I had back in Rhode Island. The focus then shifts unto Puerto Rico as past and future seem to merge. In this transition, I remember an online conversation with a pretty cool lady from my old “Mangle Mamposteado” days during undergrad that spurred some of the posts for finale week. And so I end finale week with what may potentially be the greatest ending in tv history according to both of us Scrubs.

Fair warning, I am completely and purposefully ignoring the spinoffish extra season that came post finale with Dr. Cox working with med students. That has been retconned out of existence by the general collective mindset of the fandom. For years we saw JD bumble through the ins and outs of being a medical doctor and advancing through the ranks of the hospital. Alongside him was “chocolate bear” Turk, a best friend who has made every bromance in the history of the world pale in comparison. His on again off again love interest of Elliot, the maternal care that Carla had for him, a reluctant mentor in Dr. Cox, and a crazy rivalry with a man only known as The Janitor. For eight seasons (again the ninth doesn’t exist), these relationships flourished and while each person retained their original flair and essence, they grew and mature in their own way. It all came to its conclusion in the final double episode, titled “My Finale.”

There are too many feels that go throughout the episode as JD the character says goodbye to his friends and surrogate home of the hospital. His farewell reflects that of the fans towards not just the rest of the characters but to the actors as well. Luckily, the full episode is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzpOj0KVnD8

The first scene is a flashback to the first episode, a must have for all finales so that you can properly show just how much growth has taken place between then and now. Each interaction throughout the rest of the episode provides a conclusion towards the fans expectations. Perhaps the coolest moment for me is the finale part itself. It’s a shame that I can’t find the original comment thread where I wrote some pretty cool stuff so time to mentally reconstruct the analysis of said sequence. First the hallway/monologue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLsyUZ2nGbo

Walking through an all familiar series of hallways within the hospital, JD reflects on his life and what has transpired in his time as a doctor and how he has affected people over the years. The empty halls come to life with characters from the past as a cavalcade of guest stars come by for one line or two from their most memorable moments on the show. Even characters who had died appear once again to provide a kind of blessing to validate JD’s work and give him another boost on his way out. I’m kind of glad they decided to not include JD’s dad in the scene via animatronic Tupac hologram or shot entirely from the back, since John Ritter (the actor who played him) had died and Dr. Cox was his true father figure for this moment in life. Those who had come and gone show up in what is perhaps JD’s most coherent fantastic train of thought depiction. As he comes to the end of that hallway he looks back and it is again empty. JD is not living the past anymore and he is ready to move on. Now comes the trippy montage part.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=War9m52LrV4

As the doors open, JD now has glimpses of the future that expects him outside the story that has taken place so far. He finally marries Elliot, has a child with her, continues to share his life with those closest to him, and even squees out with Turk as they see that their respective children are going to get married. The montage signifies beyond anything else love and its growth as life goes on. More importantly, that love is something to be shared forever. And as the life that could/should be is projected unto him, the screen which is actually the back of the giant goodbye poster for JD is torn down. Once the farewells are over, the only thing left to do is leave. He takes one last look back as the familiar theme of “I’m No Superman” plays in the background. And that is how you end a show and as such, how you end finale week.

Eagle!!!!!!

G

Episode 120: The Feeny Finale

A previous online discussion about the nature of finales sparked the memory of one of my favorite shows and hence, one of the better finales out there. If you are not a fan of Boy Meets World well you are missing out on great stuff and we can no longer be friends. Cory, Shawn, Topanga, Eric, and good old Mr. Feeny helped teach me a lot about life and love. Over the years of seeing it as it aired and the subsequent reruns I have seen since then, the characters were always relatable, the lessons applicable, and the shenanigans were still funny. About a month ago a very special tribute by one Samuel L. Jackson (the “L” stands for mother******) where he performed a slam poem about the show that sparked a collective nostalgia at a pretty huge level. Check it out here for yourself.

A previous post of mine discussed at length the relationship aspect between Cory and Topanga so I’m going to focus on the final few episodes. As one relationship is forced to take a pause when Angela leaves to be with her dad, Shawn is distraught but Cory says that he will always be there for him. And then Topanga comes in to say that she got a prestigious internship in New York City so they need to move. Right after this revelation we get the two parter finale. Strewn through every scene is a montage of flashbacks that harken back to similar moments throughout the years. Asking Mr. Feeny for advice recalls all the previous questions and Feeny call montage is hilarious. The reflections of the past show how much things have changed and also how they have stayed the same while providing some fan service to classic scenes.

The decision to move to New York summons a new journey for our protagonists but it also means leaving behind family and loved ones. We see that the farewells are not as tragic as once believed since Eric and Shawn are coming with them. Plus, Jack and Rachel are off to join the Peace Corps so new adventures for everyone. Two characters (re)appear to truly show the aspects of past and future giving their blessing towards this ending and new beginning. The first is Chet Hunter (in invisible to everyone else ghost mode) who comes to be together with his sons one last time as they may not see each other for who knows how long and tell how proud he is of their accomplishments. Jack even refuses his step father’s money following his late father’s example that “money doesn’t make you rich. Life makes you rich.” The future is show via Joshua Gabriel Matthews, the youngest of Allan and Amy’s kids who was almost lost after being born. Cory says goodbye to his little brother and imparts some words of wisdom that probably go over the three year old’s head.  And in the ultimate call back, Cory says the name of the show and declares “now I get it.” But before they leave, there is one final goodbye that needs to be done.

The four go to the classroom one last time and Mr. Feeny is there awaiting them ready to impart just one more lesson. “Do good.” And they each say their goodbyes and hugs while thanking their mentor for helping them become the people they are today. As they depart, Feeny stares at his empty classroom and finally says: “I love you all…. Class dismissed.” It’s a beautiful poignant moment where real tears are shed by actor, character, and viewer alike. And so they go on, some leave while others stay while all are hesitant to take this action but know in their hearts that it is the right decision. The boy has met the world, and it is now time for the man to continue this endeavor. Reflections of a life once lived continue to be a part of their present and future. For even more feels, consider watching this compilation video I found of all the things that happened in the finale. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILY1vX2Pzv8 This will probably make onions be magically cut around you, fair warning.

Episode 119: Web Crawling Finales

One of my favorite cartoons from the 90s was Spiderman. Peter Parker’s troubles as a college student who was constantly retaught the lesson that with great power comes great responsibility provided me with amazing Saturday mornings. For me and a lot of people in my generation it was this and the X-Men cartoon that led our journey down the Marvel rabbit hole long before I ever picked up a comic book. The cameos of various characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Blade, Punisher, the Fantastic Four, and all the X-Men (I believe) helped set up foundation for what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would come to be. In this edition of finale week I want to talk about the final season of Spiderman and the craziness that ensues.

The fifth and final season starts with is normally an ending scenario. Peter Parker and Mary Jane are finally married. THey had an interesting engagement as he revealed his arachnid alter ego but all was going well. A long time ago, Mary Jane had disappeared through a wormhole thing machine but now she was back and things are going good. A ton of villains try to interrupt the festivities but other heroes step up and save the day so that a big reveal to everyone is avoided. Immediately after that we go into an interesting story arc regarding six warriors that teamed up with Captain America back in the day but are now, you know old. Someone is looking for them, as they apparently have the keys to a doomsday machine made by the Red Skull but that Cap and the rest stopped. The machine, and the super patriots were trapped in some kind of force field time stasis. All the geriatric heroes suit up once again and over a few episodes they stop the machine but create Electro, who is never seen again. After that, Mary Jane and Peter go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon but they face off against an old enemy called Hydroman. In the fight, Peter saved when it is revealed that Mary Jane has hydropowers too. Turns out she is actually clone made with water by some crazy scientist but she was too unstable and dies. On that note: Spiderman is immediately whisked away by the supernatural mentor known as Madame Web. Now things get interesting.

Madame Web reveals that she is the student of The Beyonder, a guy with reality bending everything who decides to make a test. Take a far off planet that is a utopia. Send several super villains out there and fast forward a year. Spiderman go to the now ravaged planet and save the people, you get to pick a few superheroes to help you out. For three episodes this team of almost Avengers fought the Secret Wars and it was awesome, But that was also a test. Spiderman is brought back to Madame Web and Beyonder and there are other Spidermen there. One has six arms, another Doctor Octopus cyber limbs, a clone known as the Scarlet Spider, and a pompous rich one that is very Tony Starkish. Oh and one has no powers at all. Turns out that another Spiderman, from the clone’s universe, bonded with Carnage, went ultra insane and set off a chain of events that destroyed every universe ever. THe Secret Wars were a test to prepare each Spiderman but our Spidey was the best so he was leader. Unfortunately, Youtube only give me the penultimate episode of what happened so here goes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEkxTWFN0ic

The next episode has the remaining heroes almost save the day but Spider Carnage is about to try again in rich boy’s universe. Our Peter Parker is sent to stop him. He is too powerful to beat in a straight fight so he decides to attack him with feels. Spidey surmised that in this universe, Peter Parker was a pompous jerk because he had never felt failure. Which means only one thing: Uncle Ben is still alive! He finds him and brings him over to Spider Carnage who regains enough sanity and emotions to sacrifice himself before the symbiote took control again and launched himself into black hole machine, never to return. Madame Web congratulates Peter on a job well done and gives him his well deserved reward as he takes him to find the real Mary Jane. Ending credits roll.

The final season decided to really downplay the actual Spidey mythos and plot. It was a cavalcade of guest stars as the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny kept taking place. Spiderman was still at the center of it all but it was other characters’ stories. It was a lof fanservice and I loved every second of it. I feel that the narrative could have been extended a bit more but I’m glad that it ended on a good note of awesomeness. Maybe it lost the focus on the protagonist but it delivered some crazy scenarios that seemed more inline with a what if story. There are a lot of other Spiderman cartoons before and since then but this one I believe to be most iconic and the lens through which all others will be measured.

Don’t get web in your eyes,

G

Episode 118: Video Game Finale Medley

Rain cut campfire preparation short so might as well get an early blog post out and about. This time I want to talk about video games and how their particular brand of serialization affects their method for designing an actual conclusion. If there were ever a medium that got the short end of the stick for storytelling fanciness, video games would be at the top of the list. Back in the old 8 bit days of Nintendo your basic form of storytelling was walls of text in between the actual gaming and completing your objective. Some games like, like any of the Mario spin off games aren’t so much a story as they are a premise. Characters from the Mushroom Kingdom come together to play a sport, race, or just have a frustratingly weird party. Others gave you a quick intro of storytelling before going straight into the action. Perhaps the most famous of this is the game Bad Dudes which perfectly summed it up by stating: “The President has been kidnapped by ninjas. Go rescue the President.” That’s it. No more. Intros are not great but necessary. Finales on the other hand for most of the more difficult games was rarely achieved by the player and was sometimes rushed so you more often than not saw something half assed. Brentalfloss explained this way better than I ever could in the following song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coglCRr77aA

Serialization of games and a definitive ending is even harder to fully define. Games will keep happening and companies will keep making sequels at a nearly yearly basis. Sports games get a pass because they are supposed to be an updated roster with improved graphics and mechanics. FPS games get a lot of flack for doing the same thing and focusing on a purely brotastic audience but their actual campaign mode has a decent Tom Clancy style story that follows proper serial storytelling. Final Fantasy games technically have nothing to do with each other (unless specifically stated like with X-2 *shudder*) but have common overlapping elements like Bahamut and Chocobos. From here on out let me talk about different game series, many of which I have played completely throughout, and how their official endings modify the story.

Every fighting game ever

This genre normally has you choosing a character from any of the available fighters. Should you win, then you get that characters ending. Rinse and repeat with everyone else if you want to find out what happened. The sequel will have an official winner from the previous one that will define how the story goes from thereon out. Your choice of playing in previous games technically does not alter the narrative as opposed to other characters where it is implied that because you saved the day with the hero, the world needs saving later on. The final Mortal Kombat game (not including the vs DC game crossover game though it had a similar style) had the story mode going through prechosen characters for you. The players choice is removed from the equation and game mastery over a variety of characters throughout the game (not all of which you get to play as) allows for a more concrete and defined narrative to be told. However, this really instigates the narratology versus ludology debate. The final game retells the story of all the previous (official) storylines of the previous games so there is a good balance of nostalgia through replaying and some decent character development. However, it pretty much erases the need for the previous games in the first place.

Megaman

Not counting the X, NT Warrior, the Gameboy games, or some of the other spinoffs, there are ten official Megaman games. 9 is basically seen as a retro sequel focused entirely on nostalgia for classic “jump and shoot man” gameplay. 10 was the thing as they say the cash cow had not run completely dry. The closest to an actual finale came in Megaman 8 for the SNES which wasn’t all that good. The finale as always had the evil Dr. Willy cowering and pleading for mercy after being soundly beaten once again. At this time, the hero would normally just accept his surrender and take him to jail. In 8 however, our hero contemplates just ending the problem right then and there and just kill Willy. 9 played with this idea to show just how pathetic Willy was but never even tried to go with it. 8 seemed convinced that he was going to do it had a minor deus ex machine not saved him. This video talks about the psychological undertones of declaring that Megaman can break Asimov’s laws because he is “more than just a robot” so give it a looksee if you are interested in the topic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT23zdgwNSk

Metal Gear

Again, too many spin offs to have an official timeline so I’m going with the classic sequence of Solid, Sons of Liberty, Snake Eater, and Guns of the Patriots, ie 1-4. The last of these was amazing in that there was so much continuity and callbacks to all the other titles, so much so that the developers are believed to engage in “continuity porn”. Four however was far more movie like than the other ones. Things were happening to you, rather than you as a player having control over the actions. Lots of reveals are awesome throughout but only if you have played through the previous three games and at least acknowledge the existence of the spinoffs and the original Nintendo games. I know more games are being done and an official Metal Gear 5 is coming soon but 4 played all the right notes when it came to finales, especially with the reunion between Snake and Big Boss in an eye patch off at the end.

Mass Effect

To be honest I’ve never actually played any game in the trilogy. However, the finale of the third installment made Gaming news through its infamously bad finale. Fan outcry and criticism was so bad that the developers had to make a patch to the game with a new and improved ending. Video games are a bit more concrete when it comes to production and reception in that you can’t really alter the content once it is published, which is what happens with all the not new media. Digital connectivity now makes it so that games are far more fluid through downloadable content (DLC) which can forever keep altering the game as the developers see fit within the official storyline mechanics.

There are certainly a ton more games out there worth talking about but I will let other voices handle that one.

Here’s to not running out of continues,

G

 

Episode 117: Harry Potter Epilogue

Finale week on the blog coincides with farewell to Gabe week around here so posts will probably come late as friends gather to say their goodbyes. I was going to do a long rant on the Harry Potter series and the entirety of Deathly Hallows as an ending but that could span almost a full length book chapter. So let me skip over the multitude of character deaths and reveals and just focus on the final chapter/epilogue for the book and the heptology (fancy word for thing with seven parts).

Years after the battle at Hogwarts between the essences of good and evil, the heroes gather once again at Platform 9 3/4 and await a very familiar train. The Hogwarts Express continues to take the next generation of mages towards the school of wizardry. Our protagonists and several other characters now send off their own children for another year of schoolwork. Harry Ginny’s three kids, Ron and Hermione’s kids, even Draco’s kid is around. The sense of confusion the Chosen One felt so long ago before his journey into the magical world is no more as there is a hefty familiarity with the children now having the basic knowledge of all things Hogwarts. Albus Severus Potter, the second son is concerned about the sorting process and what would happen if he is not Gryffindor, or worse a Slytherin. His father explains that there is nothing to worry about as they say goodbye towards one more school year. The famous line at the end where it is declared that Harry’s scar did not hurt in all those years or that never hurt from there on out effectively creates a very final conclusion in which any conflict of the epic ominous variety is no longer a factor and thus that the story of adventure has been over.

Of course, the story is not technically over since JK Rowling continues to add more information about what went on in interviews and whatnot. She says how Harry and pals become aurors, that Hermione actually finished her seventh year at Hogwarts, and even some ship sinking as she states that Neville and Luna did not end up together. These are facts delivered by the author. She also does some emotional ret cons when she declares that maybe it should have been Harry and Hermione that should have gotten their “happily ever after” together. This is an authorial performance I explain in greater detail where this is what I call an authorial performance wherein she continues to extend the story by providing specifics to satiate the curiosity of the readership of things that were not said outright.

Also, let me just quickly talk about the fan theory that states that Harry might be immortal. It makes its way around the Internet in various formats but this is the first link I found so let’s go with that one. http://imgur.com/QsXxDWg

It’s a very Tolkienesque reading that bases that death is something that becomes sacrificed for the point of greater good. With death being the ultimate ending/new beginning/transition there is no way to achieve a conclusion, you keep going even as the natural order is for things to decline and for new life to emerge. Immortality is only cool until you realize that after the golden years it means that the lives of everyone else will pass you by as you remain almost stationary within the grander scheme of things. I remember a conversation with a friend of mine on super heroes where we made the point that Wolverine needs to have amnesia periodically in order to better cope with his extended lifespan of maybe centuries depending on the version. The first Highlander movie explains the emotional ramifications pretty well but ignore the rest of that film series if you value your cinematographic tastes.

May we all find our endings only once the stories are over,

G

 

Episode 116: Revisionist Ending of Return of the Jedi

I’ve decides to turn this into finale week and keep going with some of the more interesting endings to movies, TV shows, and other serialized texts. Today I want to expand upon Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi. I know what you are thinking, it’s not technically the ending to anything since the prequels were done like 20 years later and Episode VII is on the foreseeable horizon. For some of the purists there is only one trilogy and that’s the original one. It also makes sense within the context that if you look at the episodic chronology of the films, 6 is still technically the end, notwithstanding the new upcoming ones. So let’s revisit a story from a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Let’s set the stage: Han, Chewie, Leia, and a hundred or so Ewoks are battling stormtroopers trying to infiltrate the shield generator base. Out in space we have Lando Calrissian and a Rebel fleet being almost destroyed by a new Death Star that is fully operational though still under construction. Inside we have Luke and Darth Vader facing off to the Emperor’s delight. Should Vader win then one of the single most powerful threats to his power will be destroyed and he can further guilt his apprentice into undying loyalty. Should Luke win then he would only do so by giving into the hate and the Dark Side so brand new apprentice without the asthmatic cyborg look. The son defeats the father but decides to follow the light, much to the Emperor’s dismay so Force lightning until Vader’s sacrifice throws the old space wizard down the shaft of planet destroyer. In the ensuing chaos of everything blowing up, Luke must drags his redeemed father who has died in his arms unto a ship and an escape. As the action finally wades down and we are reaching the conclusion, a funeral pyre is lit right after the sun sets on the forest moon of Endor.

Funeral pyres in literature are pretty epic for a lot of cool reasons. First off, we are 100% sure the character can’t be revived beyond this point. It’s a more satisfying moment than just falling down a pit never to be seen again or caught in an explosion. It means something when you get to have a moment with a fallen character and be able to provide a proper ceremony/ritual to mourn their passing. Burial evokes a sense of ending but goes with the image of descent, not to mention that there is a chance that someone could desecrate the body or undead issues. The funeral pyre shows just as much work without the idea of things getting muddy/dirty. The body is consumed by the flames and the energy ascends with the smoke. When Luke did this it seemed appropriate at so many levels but then we see that in Episode 1 the same thing is done for Qui Gon Jinn so maybe this is the official Jedi funeral ceremony (which then raises the question as to whether this was a coincidence or if Toda’s training was far more extent than we thought.) Luke is visibly conflicted the entire time as a whirlwind of motions runs through his mind. His father saved him, and in doing so found his way back to the Light side, but he could not save him. His greatest enemies are destroyed and he has helped usher in an era of peace but only through the destruction and death of so many. The war is now over and the only girl who has ever kissed him is actually his sister. And yet, as he stares into the flames his own problems start to be consumed away as the nearby celebrations call to him to be happy once again.

Now we get to the controversial part below is the ending you will find if you do a standard search online of if you happen to own any of the recent versions of the film. Right after the funeral pyre scene we have a small montage of celebrations going on in various locales across the Star Wars planetary system. Naboo, Coruscant, Cloud City, and even Tatooine are shown in celebration that the Empire is no more. If you hear close enough, you can almost make out Jar Jar declaring that “Wesa free!”. From the dramatic change in lighting and overall new tech, you can easily assume that these scenes were digitally added in. As bad as they may be, they help tie in the prequel trilogy to the overarching ending of this moment. However the one part that really got everyone mad is that they replaced old Anakin hologram ghost with Hayden Christensen and completely left out Qui Gon (who kind of invented the whole, giving your spirit to the Force before dying, which is why his voice comes in at some points during 2 and 3). Urgh still mad at this one.

Below here is the link to the original ending as I saw it, and by I saw it I mean in an old VHS a decade after it came out and then in the only slightly upgraded theatrical release in the mid 90s. No extras, just Ewoks and the rest of our heroes hanging out and dancing. No camo or uniforms, just fancy clothes and smiles as people finally have a moment to celebrate as the memorable score by John Williams again gives us a nice tune that makes your head waddle. The central cast comes together one last time and then bang, roll credits. Bittersweet resolutions plus a reunion after all the main conflicts have been resolved equals a proper ending in my book.

May the Force be with you,

G