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Analysis

Light in the Grimdark

Normally, we at The Fandomentals resolve to keep our site focused on the media we love to consume like the nerdist horde we are and to leave politics at the door. After all, we’re a media critique destination first and foremost. We want to talk about our undying disdain for what happens on Game of Thrones, or how the soundtrack to Netflix’s Luke Cage added years onto our lives. About how animated, anthropomorphic space rocks love and fight and squabble and fuse together. (We’re talking about Steven Universe if you didn’t get that reference.)

That’s our jam. That’s what we’ve brought to the table since our site first launched. However, in light of recent events (read, the United States presidential election results from November 8) trying to ignore the giant white elephant in the room would be absurd, irresponsible, and almost insulting to our readers.

See, that’s the thing about media. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Media helps to shape our public consciousness. Current events, in turn, help shape our media. It’s a cycle of giving and taking, and right now, current events are taking a lion-sized portion. So yes. This time, Fandomentals is getting political.

Just not in the way you’re thinking.

Look, we can wax poetic for days about the causes and consequences of this round of political elections. You don’t have a site like ours without having some serious policy wonks on staff. It would be easy to focus on what looks like our world going to heck in a flaming picnic basket. Or to point fingers and cast blame and then bury our heads in the sand and try to disengage.

We don’t think that’s the right approach. Our Editor-in-Chief spent, like many of you, last night awake, unable to sleep. Some of our writers did the same. We’d resolved ourselves to turning inward and doing whatever we could to hemorrhage the hurt from last night. And then we started looking for distractions. Where else? Media. That’s when it clicked.

People look to media for escapism. When whatever is going on in our lives is either too dull, too painful, too tedious, too much, we look to our media for a break. So we can have those few minutes or hours outside of our heads and our lives, to just be. It’s not selfishness, it’s preservation.

So what happens, then, when so many of our current media darlings are mired in grimdark and acedia? Make no mistake; media is transformative. We react to what we consume. Look no further than Glee. Before the musical dramedy debuted on FOX, LGBTQIA rights in the United States were taking a severe beating. Same-sex marriage seemed like it would take decades to inch to fruition, and LGBTQ people were silently bullied and abused with no real attention paid to them.

Then, Kurt Hummel, Blaine Anderson, and Santana Lopez sang their way onto the nation’s television screens. Glee, for all of its many, many faults, did something no other show or talking piece had done before it. It gave LGBTQIA persons their reality, mirrored to them on the screen. It normalized sexuality by being part of the cultural zeitgeist and showing these characters week in and week out on television screens of LGBTQ and heterosexual people across the country. It stripped away the “other” and gave people a name.

In the same way, shows that focus on the grimdark shows that sow acedia also impacts us. They also normalize thought patterns and attitudes. These shows can lead to cynicism, distrust, and in some cases, a very bleak outlook that things will ever get better. After all, what is there to do in a zombie post-apocalypse but wait for the end? How do we move forward when we’re punished for caring?

Look. People can be cruel. People can do terrible things and not stop to give a thought to the wreckage their actions leave in their wake. We tend to become tribalistic, isolationist, and paranoid. Value the individual over the community, and reflect the glimpses of every grimdark piece of media we consume, because the world is pretty much screwed, and we have to live with it, right? Play with the terrible cards we’ve been given, like Walter White.

But.

We also have the capacity for endless compassion, and hope, and kindness. The burning desire to do the right thing, to want justice given, and our faith proved right. Play with the cards we’ve been given, to make it, so others after us have a better hand, like Luke Cage.

We are our media, and our media is us. In times like this, people need stories. They need those moments of escapism to cope with what goes on in their lives. And so often, the type of media they consume will color how they react.

This morning we woke up, defeated, scared, anxious. Then someone linked us to a scene from Supergirl of all things. Kara Zor-El’s speech about hope from the appropriately entitled season finale, “Better Angels.” And that was exactly what we needed to hear today.

We hope that you will look at recent events and bounce back, determined. That instead of allowing cynicism and acedia to take root, you’ll stand up, and dust yourselves off. Throw your head back and say “what next?” instead of conceding that the end is nigh.

“We’re going on a bit too fast. You and I, Sam, are still stuck in the worst places of the story, and it is all too likely that some will say at this point: ‘Shut the book now, dad; we don’t want to read any more.’
‘Maybe,’ said Sam, ‘but I wouldn’t be one to say that. Things done and over and made into part of the great tales are different.'” —The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

That one of you is going to scream into the void that the chips are down, the buffalo is empty, but you’re going to start using them as fuel. We also hope that you keep that sense of humor, because while we don’t always get it, we need it regardless.

The tales of grimdark are out there, less than a stone’s throw away. But so are the stories of hope. And there may be a tide shifting that brings them in excess. We’re seeing the signs already. And it’s something you can throw yourself into.

We know you’ve been burned. We’ve been here as you were. But we also know the power in our voices, in our narratives. They are ones of resistance and they have a cultural meaning.

“Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel, you can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving, you will come to a better place.” —Avatar: the Last Airbender

This is us, asking you to choose that hope instead of cynicism. Choose kindness instead of bleakness. We’re going to be here, analyzing and discussing the media you consume, calling out the grimdark and applauding the light, and we’d love for you to join us.


 

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