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The Last Jedi is the A Feast for Crows of Star Wars

Kylie

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This piece contains FULL spoilers for The Last Jedi

It’s been a week since The Last Jedi came out. There are petitions on Change.org to have it stricken from canon and to have Rian Johnson issue a formal apology for it. The Rotten Tomatoes differential between the critic and audience score is a mind-boggling 38 points. Fandom dialogue, even for this one, is at its most heightened state yet. And I don’t understand a word of it.

I sat in the theaters on Saturday morning with my breakfast popcorn and a huge smile on my face. This was a perfect movie. The character arcs were tight and meaningful, the setup was perfectly logical and focused, the force mythos was expanded upon, and the themes toyed with were thoughtful and uplifting. This was exactly what I wanted in a Star Wars film, and I couldn’t wait to revel in that excitement with everyone else.

Only it wasn’t there.

Now, I want to say right here that I’m not taking aim at all criticisms. For instance, as a white woman, I lack the background and experience where, say, the imagery of Finn being tazed would be viscerally upsetting. There’s a fair bit of discomfort being expressed at the treatment of POC in the film—from feeling like Finn and Poe were sidelined, to Rose/Finn dipping into tokenism territory, to Poe’s writing being stereotypical and formulaic. These are unfortunate implications, whatever Johnson’s intentions, and it’s important that we leverage voices of marginalized viewers so that this kind of stuff gets addressed. Or at the least, so Abrams feels a bit more compelled to have a diverse writers’ room with Episode IX.

It’s also not like there’s only some valid criticisms. At the end of the day, there’s no accounting for taste; if people felt the writing was bad, the characterizations were poor, or the story was uncompelling, then that’s the way of it. It’s just that when those are the types of complaints, I can usually at least understand where it’s coming from. Legend of Korra is a perfect show to me, but I know it’s also a hot mess and I get why people pan on it.

So I did what I always do; I tried to dig into these complaints and really come out on the other side of hearing it. I guess Luke’s scripting could be seen as sitting in contention with his attitude in Return of the Jedi. (Even if to me, his success in “redeeming” Vader set UP these events, and if he saw the horrible pain and suffering at the hand of Ben that was basically inevitable in his mind, then his instinct wasn’t exactly unreasonable, especially since it also meant the protection of his other students.) I guess Finn and Rose’s subplot technically wasn’t necessary. (Even if it was the thematic center of the entire movie.) I guess we needed more answers as about the politics behind the First Order and who Snoke was. (Even if these were problems Abrams introduced with The Force Awakens, and it’s simply not the focal point of this story, just like Palpatine’s backstory hadn’t been in the original trilogy.)

I just couldn’t do it! I can’t even write a paragraph out explaining the complaints without adding my own justifications. And to make matters worse, the longer I’ve thought about this movie, the deeper it gets, and the more I like it.

I have no clue what these “twists” are that people keep referring to; there was a deconstruction of standard Star Wars storytelling conventions, but everything was born from the characters, and it came together with a message that was complete in-line with the originals. I understand not connecting with Rose the way I did, or wishing Luke had been more optimistic, or wanting Kylo and Rey’s dynamic to be painted in a different light, truly. But the virulent hatred is not something I understand at all.

Until it hit me: I’ve seen this before. A piece of hotly-anticipated media that subverted expectations and broke down the core of the story being told? That forced the audience to pull back and consider foundations, while focusing on character arcs that parallel and complement each other with remarkable cohesion? A story that the more you think about, the more there is?

Just imagine a fathier

Yeah, that’s A Feast for Crows from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. You know, the “boring book” in the series that is usually cited as the worst one, again, to the confusion of me.

Now look: I don’t want to pretend Abrams or Johnson are even half the worldbuilders that Martin is. I also don’t want to pretend there aren’t flaws in Martin’s writing, or that The Last Jedi couldn’t have done with tweaks. But I do think the strong reaction against the newest Star Wars film bears a striking similarity to Feast’s polarized reception as well, and for many more reasons than the fact that there is a polarized reception in the first place. So let’s dig into Johnson’s work.

Focus on Themes over Plot

I’ll be honest here—the talk about all the “plot holes” in The Last Jedi really confused me. There was a bit of an inconsistent timeline (nowhere near the full-blown wonkiness of Empire Strikes Back), but otherwise we were looking at a bottle episode. The Resistance was on the run from the First Order. There were specific logistics with their ships that prevented them from escaping. To escape, they had to disable the First Order’s tracking. This went poorly, so they took a Plan B (or C or D maybe) and made to hide on a planet.

The worst that can be said about this movie’s plot was that it’s not incredibly interesting, though in my opinion, these types of movies are when characters are able to shine. Kind of like how they did in Empire, with the main plot being “Leia and Han crash on a friend’s couch.”

No, the creative energy was not spent solving J.J. Abrams’s annoying mystery box for him. It was spent instead on delivering us one of the most thematically packed Star Wars movies to date.

Some bash you over the head. “Failure is the best teacher.” Yes, there’s a lot of failure in this movie. Finn and Rose’s “heist” doesn’t work, Poe’s mission to take down the dreadnaught leaves the Resistance exposed, Holdo’s transport strategy was found out, and oh yeah…Luke couldn’t save his nephew, or the entire concept of the Jedi Order.

Sure do hope nothing happens to these books.

Interestingly, I’d argue that Rey doesn’t exactly fail, unless you consider it her role to redeem Kylo. I suspect many do (let’s not), and that is ironically everything Kylo’s scripting takes a shot at, given that he’s a not-at-all-subtle embodiment of white, male entitlement.

It is likely for this reason that the movie also hammers home the idea that it’s our choices and actions that have consequences, regardless of intent. Luke’s internalized guilt over “failing” Ben was part of this; it didn’t matter why he ignited his lightsaber, but he did that thing and it brought everything down. Poe and Finn both learned that good intentions can result in people getting hurt, though from opposite angles. Even Kylo’s “kill the past” drives home the idea that he’s sticking to his choices.

We’ve also got the good ol’ balancing of the personal and political, which is a particular favorite of George R.R. Martin’s. Finn’s focus went from being entirely about protecting Rey, to seeing the systemic injustice and willingly putting himself in front of the barrel of that gun, only for Rose to show him the balanced path, as Gretchen pointed out in her review of Cobalt Squadron—fight for those you love, and inherently consider yourself. Poe’s arc handled the topic in a similar way, though he had started out all guns blazing against the First Order, without a focus on the individuals. Holdo’s course of action was more “do what you can to fight another day,” but she ultimately threw herself into the fight to allow others that opportunity. Luke had to grapple with the personal grief within his family to show Rey a path.

And Rey, our main protagonist, was in the center of all of this, struggling to understand who she was and her origins to find some place in all of this.

Parallels on top of Parallels on top of Foils

I actually have to stop myself here from getting too deep in discussing the themes, because they are so intimately and thoroughly linked to character journeys and overall messaging that I’m more or less in danger of upstreaming my own points.

Like A Feast for Crows, most of The Last Jedi deals with identity. This is most explicitly Rey’s journey, since she literally stumbles into a vision centered around that question, but it is present in every facet of this movie. And like A Feast for Crows, she is hardly alone in this.

Poe and Finn are the Jaime and Brienne of the tale in terms of how closely they mirror one another. It’s true that neither could be considered to have a slow-paced travelogue; as described above, they came from opposite angles of how to view the Resistance and their place in it, ultimately to settle into a point of balance that took the big picture in mind, over their impulses. Finn, being a former stormtrooper still coming out of conditioning, has an opening mentality that feels better-seeded than Poe’s. However, I do struggle with claims of Poe being “out of character” when the man was more or less a complete MacGuffin in The Force Awakens. And in the case of the narrative, it is the whole and not the sum of the parts where the takeaway can be found.

This is where Rose steps in. Her line, “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love!”, is the moral center of The Last Jedi, and really the original trilogy, when you think about it. However, Rose is not merely a font of thematic wisdom; she has her own arc that solidifies this. We’re shown how she feels about Canto Bight. How her own deeply felt sense of loss—raw from her sister’s death—makes her want to “put her fist through this beautiful city.”

The fathier race through the city does cause damage, and we see her enjoying it, but the moment she cites as making their (failed) excursion worthwhile was when she freed the fathier she and Finn rode. It’s about empathy and love, not fleeting revenge (however justified), which both Finn and Poe fell into. DJ is the one who allows Rose to put it into words in the end, since he breaks down the illusion of “sides” being the all important dialectic.

Foils on a trip together!

All of this, of course, is exactly what Rey and Luke grapple with. Luke fears her going “straight to the dark” when she first reaches out with the force, but yet the absolutes he held dear quite literally went up in flames. Rey, meanwhile, embraces the darkness as a quest for answers, yet stays committed to an empathetic course of action. That’s the goodness. That’s the only “side” worth fighting for. It’s the side that makes her believe Ben could turn away from the pain and destruction he’s caused, and the same side that makes her immediately rebuke him when it’s clear that he’s still committed to it. Luke sees that this new path Rey carves out is the one of the future, and ultimately sacrifices himself to see that through, saving his sister in the process.

Holdo is seemingly the odd-man-out in this tale, but she parallels Rose and Leia and Rey in finding that middle balance between intention and action. At the same time, she, Leia, and Luke all redefined what success was for the Resistance and adapted to the new situations. Yeah, they were so badly beaten that they all fit on the Millennium Falcon; but hope, centered around caring and balance, lived on. And it loops back to Canto Bight, where the poorly treated stable boy, inspired by Finn and Rose, has that same drive for justice and same commitment to empathy that keeps the resistance alive, no matter how many die. Oh and he also has force powers.

(As a side note, this is why I have extreme confusion about people who consider The Last Jedi to be depressing in its message, just as I believe there’s a romanticism and faith in humanity underlying A Feast for Crows.)

The only person you could say doesn’t have a character arc is DJ, but he is most decidedly a character to frame this message, in the same way the Elder Brother frames Brienne’s journey. Simply put: in a Martin-esque novelization, he’s not a PoV character. Neither are Hux, Snoke, Phasma, BB-8, or Billie Lourd (was she named yet?).

Kylo Ren is though, and to equate him to Cersei Lannister would frankly be an insult to her character. However, there’s one commonalty they share: they are foils to literally everyone.

See that’s the thing: Kylo Ren is our antagonist. I’m firmly of the belief that this story should not head towards a redemption for him, which I’ll elaborate on a bit more below. But he’s a brilliant antagonist for the precise reason that he is a foil. There’s the obvious way in which he acts out of revenge over compassion. He’s also the “opposite” of Rey in terms of background and view of his role in this narrative. He tells Rey she has no place in it, while he is the one who claimed to be entitled to Luke’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens, for instance.

And who does Star Wars belong to, I wonder…

All failure on the part of the characters in this resulted in a readjustment or reframing of the issue…except for Kylo, who doubled down. He learned Snoke had been pulling strings to make him believe he could “turn” Rey, but after cutting down Snoke, merely took his place. Shockingly, Rey was less than wooed.

The Last Jedi’s tension was really just every character defining who they were to themselves and what their place was in this. Seriously, every character. Kylo chose who that was for him, and of course in true poetic justice, his desire to free himself of the past (double parental issues!) more or less guaranteed it would always haunt him and likely lead to his downfall. “See you around, kid.”

He’s a self-made villain in a Cersei-ish way, and as the audience we are invited to understand what that battle within him looked like. It’s just that unlike Cersei, he’s also the embodiment of entitlement. Luke is too, on a narrative and meta-textual level. But Luke’s arc had that readjustment; he changed with the times and redefined the Jedi Order, as well as his own narrative participation, by what was now needed.

Women Take the Reins

This movie is just…very relevant to our times. And apparently Rian Johnson got the memo that “the future is female,” though without the usual Hollywood infantilization that accompanies it. Or perhaps, “a woman’s place is in the Resistance” is more on the nose.

Commodification of political activism notwithstanding, The Last Jedi had absolutely no chill about women driving not only the plot, but the solutions.

Rey’s approach to being mentored by Luke was more or less her going, “That’s interesting, but I’m not going to listen to you at all because you have weird absolutist views on this stuff as a result of your own baggage.” Rose saved Finn with the decided message of “you matter,” because she had been able to redefine what success and justice looked like for her. Leia literally stun-gunned Poe and yelled at him until he got a similar message, which was validated by Holdo’s sacrifice. (This is not doing anything to prevent me from running away with Leia/Poe headcanons, I should note.)

That’s to say nothing of these headcanons…

Perhaps the best bit is Rey’s own refusal to engage with Kylo. She was primed to take Luke’s place as the one to drive a redemption, only to realize that it wasn’t her burden or role, and that if he was going to choose to be an asshole, then she was going to quite literally shut the door in his face to any further interaction. His “you don’t matter except to me” attitude was fully rejected. She knew she had a place in it, one that she chose and earned, and that will become her story.

I don’t want to belabor this point, especially since it bleeds into the next one. Also it’s been rather obvious from the get-go that Rey is our central figure in the trilogy. I suspect some of the push-back may be due to this fact, in the same way it’s hard for me to ignore that 57% of the chapters A Feast for Crows are a female PoV.

However, while that might be a shade to dialogue about both pieces of media, I believe it’s more a case of…

Deconstruction of the Rules of the Universe and Subverted Genre Expectations

We’ve discussed before how A Feast for Crows sort of switched genres on the reader. Granted, the A Song of Ice and Fire series is all about a subversion of genre expectations. But the fourth book was also the one where we were forced to sit with the fundamental nature of fantasy stories and truly crack into what it meant. As I wrote:

“Through broken characters and a broken landscape, Martin was able to hold a light up to the inherently unsustainable nature of the feudal order. Violence wasn’t worshipped, and pacifism was often far more daring.” —AFFC is the Best of ASOIAF and I’m That Person

This was always the case in A Song of Ice and Fire, though the lens was not held up explicitly until the “action-packed” first chapter (the War of Five Kings) concluded. Here, book readers were not able to escape the fact that this series—which could easily be read as awesome twists and messed up moments in a quasi-medieval setting—was created to take aim at all of those moments. Or, they did escape it by focusing on the lack of action, instead of what was now filling the page.

(Despite what it might seem like, I’m not judging anyone with this reaction; I too found Feast dull on my first read through, and didn’t really “get” it, or really the series, until my reread.)

I suspect strongly that opinions on The Last Jedi will warm with multiple viewings. Because it did break the paradigm of this franchise. Kylo Ren won’t be redeemed (or, if he is, it will sit in contention with everything this movie introduced, and the new trilogy will end up being the most fascinating game of tug-of-war between Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams). Skywalkers aren’t the center of this story, and nobodies earn their place as the heroes through actions. Yoda lights the old ways of the Jedi Order on fire, and tells Luke to get over it because times change. Luke chucks his lightsaber over his shoulder and refuses to take part as the mentor.

On a Doylist-level, the two white men hand off the narrative. Luke does so willingly and sacrificially, while Kylo takes himself out of the running as a hero. This is a story that belongs to women and POC, our decided heroes, with an East Asian woman explicating the thematic core to the audience.

That “paradigm breaking” stance

“It’s Star Wars! It’s about how nobody is a lost cause and anybody can be redeemed!” Is that the case? Because as Gretchen so eloquently stated to me, redemption as a foregone conclusion can’t actually be a redemption. Star Wars has really been about giving people the opportunity to change, and Rey did that here. Hell, she assumed the same thing as Star Wars fans; the Skywalker gets redeemed. It was going to be like poetry and rhyme.

So yes, it was a rug pulled out from under the feet of some viewers. But it really isn’t counter to Star Wars ethos. Instead, it was a deconstruction of what this really means, and a bit of a spiritual successor, like Legend of Korra was to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Once again, it was Gretchen who put into words exactly what was discovered: “hope is communal, not individual.” Yup, that’s the core of this franchise.

Maybe I’m incredibly wrong about where Kylo is headed. It is clear, however, that The Last Jedi took aim at the Skywalker legacy with an assertion that this story didn’t belong to them. Rey had a place in it, whatever Kylo told her about her parents. The fact that they’re morally bankrupt nobodies? Even better. It also took an even stronger aim at the “chosen one” trope. Yeah, that was what the original trilogy was structured around. But was it necessary?

If anything, Luke’s headspace and guilt shows the damaging results of buying into it. He was “Luke Skywalker,” so of course he was going to restore the Jedi and be the perfect instructor. His success in Vader’s redemption juxtaposed with his failure to save Ben sets up his alienation. And the fact that he finds hope not in perfectly correcting mistakes, but in learning from them, growing, and adjusting? That’s the point.

The world doesn’t need Luke Skywalker, because there can’t be a chosen one with that burden on them. It’s not sustainable or healthy. Instead, the world needs those who will fight for justice when the time comes, and who place empathy in the center of their morality.

The now-stricken EU had historically painted Luke in a different light, as more of a classic action hero. But that was never him. He was always a bit of a trope-buster, and the absolute perfect person through whom the paradigm could be deconstructed. Just like Rey, the nobody from nowhere who hadn’t wanted to leave for an adventure at all, became the perfect person to embody the change.

Everything you just said is wrong.

If you didn’t like The Last Jedi, try rewatching it. You still might not enjoy it, or you might see better potential in other directions. That’s perfectly fine. But I highly encourage trying to engage with its thematic core. I promise, that extraneous Canto Bight theater is suddenly going to start looking very relevant.


Images courtesy of Disney

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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Analysis

Are We Ready to Admit that Thor: Ragnarok was a Hot Mess?

Kylie

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I didn’t watch Thor: Ragnarok in theaters. Actually, I hadn’t seen anything post-Ultron and was fine being free of the MCU for a few years. Then Black Panther came along and I found it so compelling that it washed away any Marvel fatigue I had been feeling. When the opportunity arose to watch the third Thor movie on an airplane, I hit the play button with genuine excitement.

Going into this, I had heard almost all positive things. I knew there were some similarities to Black Panther in the central themes, I knew Jeremiah gave it a glowing review, and I knew it was supposed to be exceedingly funny.

I was also no stranger to the Thor standalones. I felt his introductory movie was a bit silly, but did what it could with a superhero that well…lends himself to silliness. It’s a Norse god in a contemporary setting, after all. The result was a slightly boisterous fish-out-of-water tale with compact development and a pretty solid foundation on which we could understand his character. Thor 2: Dark World was absolutely odious as an artform, but I loved it anyway, much for the same reason Attack of the Clones is my favorite prequel. It was ironic enjoyment, but if you can’t be enthused by Natalie Portman running around in squeaky rainboots with her Science Machine™, then I can’t help you. Plus, it was Thorested Development.

Was I expecting some gaps in my knowledge given me sleeping on Civil Wars? Yes. Granted, those same gaps existed for Black Panther, and shockingly I was still able to fully understand his father’s death, as well as what Agent Ross meant to T’Challa and what their relationship was like. But I promise, I turned on Thor 3 with all the right intentions, and what I consider to be fairly measured expectations.

I turned it off wondering if I had a fundamental misunderstanding about the concept of a movie.

Two Plots, No Payoff

If I had watched Thor: Ragnarok on VHS in the 90s, I probably would have begun to wonder if someone taped over the entire middle portion with a completely different Thor film. Because it’s not just that there were two major plot threads, it’s that there were two different tones. Hell, there were almost two different genres when you get down to it.

The first is what I have to assume is the “main plot,” since it’s what the movie sets up in the first acts, and closes in the third. This is the story about Asgard’s legacy and reckoning against the threat of Hela, the Goddess of Death.

Thor is told by some demon guy that his dad isn’t at home anymore, so he goes back to Asgard find Loki pretending to be Odin. Then a random wizard tells them both that their dad is in Norway (yes, I know it’s Doctor Strange, but I’m talking about this movie on its own merits). They go there, but Odin is all sad and about to die, which means that his true heir—his firstborn daughter Hela—will escape from the prison he set up for her. You see, she’s the Goddess of Death and had been the leader of Asgard’s armies for Odin when he apparently conquered the Nine Realms, but she became too ambitious for his taste. What, a tenth was a bridge too far for Daddy Imperialist?

Whatever, he dies.

Thor and Loki go to confront the now-released Hela, she breaks Thor’s hammer, they get chased off, she takes over Asgard with the intention of more conquering, most people think she sucks so she raises dead zombies and a giant wolf to fight for her instead, and then Thor and some random friends come back to fight her again. He realizes he can only save his people, but he can’t save Asgard itself from Hela since she’s too powerful. He evacuates everyone, mainly with Heimdall and Loki’s help. Hela stabs Thor’s eye out and Thor levels up his lightning powers, but it’s still not enough to do anything about her, so he summons that demon guy from the beginning to have him destroy Hela…and all of Asgard. But it’s fine; he’s the King because Asgard is a people and not a place. Odin even pops in a vision at some point to tell him that.

This is a fine story. There’s things in it that could be explored, especially Thor reconciling with Odin’s savage, imperialistic legacy. It’s a bit hamstrung by Odin himself pooping out of the narrative entirely after dropping the plot bomb into Thor’s lap (seriously, am I alone in thinking this is one of the least effective death scenes in movie history? Certainly in MCU history?), and it’s a bit formulaic in the sense that the “bad guy” is more the concept of implacable evil.

I personally struggle with the messaging and execution of it. It’s not that coming to terms with the fallibility of your Kingly father and his decisions made while ruling your country is a weak narrative choice. That, you know, was the entirety of Black Panther, and what made it significant was the way in which T’Challa defined his duty on the throne in a way that made sense for himself and the changed context of the world. It was a meaningful shedding of idealization while coming into his own as a ruler.

This movie should have been that for Thor, but his realization about “Asgard is a people” was just sort of beamed into his head by Odin. Literally, Hela was choking him out, and he flashes to a vision of Odin telling him what to think of Asgard as well as his own powers. 

Then, what does that say if it’s Odin’s words Thor’s living by? That he does still respect this guy and want to follow in his footsteps, despite learning that he was a literal conqueror? That even asshole imperialists can have some good points? (Why does this keep happening?) Or was that Odin coming to the realization when he came to Thor, and he had reached this epiphany off-screen in the afterlife? It was like, “Oh hey I didn’t need to do all that conquering, because my duty was to my people and not the glory of this place.” 

It didn’t even seem like Thor came to the conclusion that destroying physical Asgard was a necessary thing given the place’s legacy and bloody history—just given the situation and how there was some lady with a dead army they couldn’t beat. It was a decision made in the heat of battle when the day was lost, but now he’s got his eyepatch and his people and a spaceship, so he’s ready to fill Odin’s shoes. You know…the shoes that we learned shouldn’t have been worn in the first place. Because imperialism. 

Also the requisite, “crazy over-ambitious woman couldn’t listen to her father when to chill with all the killing” complaint. Cate Blanchett saves it a little, but it’s there.

So yes, for all the weighty subjects floated in this plotline, none of them were actually given significant narrative weight, or exploration, or anything really. I suppose Hela’s claim to the throne and history with Asgard made her more of a meaningful threat; she was a monster of Asgard’s making, not to yet again call back to the film that pulled off all these concepts with actual dexterity and significance. But even with that, she was just evil. She didn’t have any nuanced points, or any compelling reason for anyone to follow her. Just that Odin had once been cool with her, but that stopped.

There was also nothing remotely familial or personal about her dynamic with Thor or Loki since she didn’t actually know them or seem to care about their general existence, and her abilities were never well-conveyed to even give the fight might grounding. We may as well have had Mjolnir shooting through multiple portals again.

That’s not to say these things couldn’t have been done or executed well. This was a long movie and whole lot of time to flesh out Hela’s relationship to our protagonist, or Thor’s relationship to his conception of governance and his home, or the Asgardian commoner point of view, or even to seed the demon guy that eventually brought the cataclysm just a wee bit better than the opening joke did.

No, it was far better we spent it with Thor rolling his eyes and debating the semantics of “crown”

It’s just that instead, the movie spent the bulk of its time seemingly uninterested in the main plot. Because there was ~junk planet antics~ to be had.

And yup, there’s plotline #2: Thor is in yet another wacky weekend adventure that he has to get out of! Which I don’t hate as a concept. I will happily pop some corn kernels and plop down with either of the Thor standalones, because they’re somewhat doofy fun. Just don’t stick me in the middle of this thing after setting up something rather serious and weighty. (And maybe don’t set up that serious, weighty thing by having a wizard warp two main characters to Norway.)

As a brief, brief summary, after Hela throws Thor and Loki out of Asgard, he finds himself alone on a junk planet called Sakaar. He’s captured by some lush played by Tessa Thompson who just so happens to be a former Valkyrie, a member of an Asgardian all-female elite warrior group that had fought Hela before her imprisonment. She sells him to Jeff Goldblum, who rules (?) Sakaar. So Thor is enslaved, literally has a controlling device thing in his neck, and is forced to fight in a gladiator ring. The ultimate Sakaar champion he goes up against is…the Hulk, who has somewhat-permanently hulked out. They fight and Jeff Goldblum cheats to let the Hulk win, which isn’t really worth talking about, though it takes up about ten minutes of screentime so it must be important to someone. Oh, and Loki’s there and Jeff Goldblum’s friend because it’s working to his favor at the moment.

After the fight, Thor quasi-escapes to the ship the Hulk arrived on, there’s some recording of Natasha on it that de-Hulks Bruce Banner. At some point Loki forces Valkyrie to see a vision of her past trauma (her fellow soldiers dying to Hela) so she decides she wants to help Thor get back to Asgard, and then everyone escapes Sakaar by inciting a slave uprising and stealing one of Jeff Goldblum’s ships.

I have spent longer than I care to admit trying to figure out how this possibly relates to the rest of the movie. And I should note, Sakaar takes up well over half the runtime, so it’s not like it can be dismissed as this ancillary plot cul de sac necessity to get Thor and Bruce to run into one another. Like, this had to have meant something, right? Was Jeff Goldblum meant to be contrasted with Odin? Was this system of injustice that Thor witnessed supposed to be the reason why he summoned the destruction of Asgard in the end, and the writers simply never felt the need to explicate this in any way?

I can’t get there. Even the very minor twist of “Loki almost betrayed Thor at the end of the Sakaar sequence, but then comes back and saves Asgard” did not need to be rooted in this setting, nor was it even particularly necessary to the overall story or relationship of the brothers. Thor caught onto Loki at the beginning of the movie when he called him out as fake!Odin—we can see he already learned from Dark World. Loki is the God of Mischief, but that doesn’t mean his usage should be God of False Narrative Conflict In A Desperate Attempt To Inject Last Minute Tension. Because that’s a mouth full.

Maybe it’s my own problem that I was waiting to get back to the plot of the movie during every Sakaar scene instead of realizing this is the plot now. It’s just that normally when movies have a lengthy and pointless side-mission, especially one that cannibalizes this percentage of the runtime, they’re not viewed particularly favorably.

But hey, at least Thor wasn’t learning about systemic injustice and the strength of compassion on a casino planet that tied immaculately into the thematic thrust; that would have ruined everything.

Character Arrested Development

I couldn’t help myself with The Last Jedi fandom dialogue shade. But I do think that’s actually somewhat relevant here. Because I don’t really care that ~not enough happened~ overall or that Finn and Rose had a “pointless” (it was really more fruitless, and that was the point) side-mission. What I cared about was that what happened on our screen worked together towards a meaning, and that characters grew as a result of them. The Last Jedi may not have thought through implications perfectly, or executed things in as refreshing or satisfying a way as possible, but it’s exceedingly hard to argue anything was ancillary given how every single damned character had pretty tight and clear growth.

Thor: Ragnarok had barely anything.

If I could be really generous with Thor himself, he accepted the leadership of Asgard in a way he rejected it from the first movie. But also, his dad’s dead, so necessity makes for strange kings, you know? There’s also nothing that occurs within this movie that particularly leads to him wanting to take on that mantle. At best, it’s that he learns his power isn’t derived from his hammer, but controlled through it, though he learns that through Divine Daddy Almost-Death Vision. So he kind of starts off thinking he’s this awesome lightning god, and ends the movie thinking the same thing, but for slightly different reasons and with means that might look different in a fight.

I mean, I guess leveling up is technically character growth…

There’s also Thor abandoning Asgard, but nothing to indicate it has anything to do with him being upset about Odin’s imperialist rule. If that was meant to be the framing, there’s just nothing that occurs onscreen to back it up. Loki complains that Hela is growing stronger every minute she’s in Asgard and Thor repeats Divine Daddy Vision point #2 as justification. Hell, when Hela and Thor meet for their final fight, Thor quotes Odin while sitting on his throne.

It should be noted that Divine Daddy Vision was the final push Thor needs to overcome the antagonist.

Odin (still in Norway, or King’s Cross Station, or something): Asgard is not a place. Never was. This could be Asgard. Asgard is where our people stand. Even now, right now, those people need your help.

Thor: I’m not as strong as you.

Odin: No… You’re stronger.

Does Thor seem like someone who’s having trouble reconciling his father’s legacy, or is it someone who’s still taking advice from the guy, but oh yeah that murdery spree he went on a while ago was unfortunate? And again, what Thor says about Asgard’s destruction has diddly squat to do with its legacy:

“Surtur destroys Asgard, he destroys Hela, so that our people may live. But we need to let him finish the job…”

I had to look up what the prophecy specifically was, since it was told to us by Surtur (the demon) in a very jokey early sequence that Thor didn’t even bother taking seriously, so why were we supposed to have? It’s just that Surtur will lay waste to Thor’s home. No motivation or anything.

My point is, Thor doesn’t really come to any realization about himself, or Asgard, or even Odin. He learns things, he likes Odin’s pithy governance lesson, but he doesn’t contextualize anything for himself or really grow because of it. He just figures out battle odds and gets a haircut. That’s his arc.

There’s the vague character growth that Thor doesn’t let Loki trick him again, again, again, so I can give him that. I don’t believe this is the context it needed to happen in, or that Thor’s way of exposing Loki at the start would have been too little to that thread, but okay. That continued.

Meanwhile, Loki has absolutely become the Game of Thrones Littlefinger of this universe. He instills chaos in his own plans for chaos’s sake (that is his thing), and how convenient that it lines up to plot demands. Thor kind of calls out this character stagnation to him, ironically ignoring his own:

“Oh, dear brother, you’re becoming predictable. I trust you, you betray me. Round and round in circles we go. See, Loki, life is about… It’s about growth. It’s about change. But you seem to just wanna stay the same. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ll always be the God of Mischief, but you could be more.”

So I guess it’s a sign of growth that Loki does go back and try to save Asgard with Thor. Even in the very end, Thor mentions how he believes Loki’s presence to be a trick, but Loki is actually there, physically. Maybe he’s…“not so bad.”

Hero shot!

It’s just, this guy’s scripting has been all over the place, and there’s no particular reason to believe his decision is the sign of any lasting change. He teamed up with the prisoners to get out of Sakaar in what’s most easily read as self-preservation, and even when he returned to Asgard, he was calling himself the “savior” and trying to milk his contribution. Maybe, just maybe Loki grew in this movie for the sole reason that he got sad when Thor called him the “God of Mischief.” Because that’s all that would have spurred this. Not the stakes of the situation, not Loki’s own guilt over Odin’s death, and not even Loki wishing he could rectify his poor public image on Asgard. Just, his brother is very disappointed in him.

Yeah, that could be an arc. Though I can’t call it one that’s particularly well-done.

The one that is executed best is probably Valkyrie’s. She’s hiding from her past, clearly both traumatized and guilty over how the fight with Hela turned out. It’s strongly implied someone took a mortal wound for her (no clue how she got away herself), and she’s now got this despicable job where she’s miserable and drinking herself into a stupor. Thor himself showing up clearly affects her and makes her squirm, but it’s not until Loki forces her to relive that trauma that she has a full change of heart.

“Look, I’ve spent years in a haze, trying to forget my past. Sakaar seemed like the best place to drink and forget, and to die one day.

…But I don’t wanna forget. I can’t turn away anymore, so if I’m gonna die, well, it may as well be driving my sword through the heart of that murderous hag.”

This tracks just fine. Loki’s memory home video powers are convenient, but definitely within the framework, and it makes sense that thinking back to that could instill some sense of duty, or passion in her, especially given that Thor is literally trying to get back to Asgard to save it.

The only issue with this is that it’s completely disconnected from the thematic thrust. This was actually pointed out to me as an anonymous message on social media (I may have been ranting), but doesn’t her arc do the opposite of what this movie purports to do with Asgard and its legacy? She’s been a slaver for years, which isn’t even given the space to be hand-waved—it’s just not addressed. Then she gets all back in touch with being a Valkyrie, and re-donning that great Asgardian armor, and having a resurgence of love for her home where she can talk about how much she hates the prophecy about its destruction and everything.

This is fine in its own right, but didn’t we just find out Asgard has been an imperialist superpower? It’s good that someone with clear PTSD is trying to sort through her trauma and reclaim a sense of identity that she’s tried to dismiss for years, but it simply doesn’t fit with what we learned about Odin, which is what calls forth this entire conflict. If it were some more abstract external threat to Asgard, then sure a kind of “I’ll fight until it’s rubble” attitude would have some impact. But Asgard was built on a whole lot of blood and Odin was an active revisionist who covered up artwork depicting that. It’s an odd choice for her, let’s just leave it at that.

I’m trying to think if anyone else grew through the course of this movie. Heimdall stays as prescient and morally upright as ever. Bruce Banner gets de-Hulked, which is important to the MCU I’m sure, but it’s via a recording of someone not in this film, based on a relationship not in this film, so it’s kind of hard to argue there’s an arc here. It’s more that we learn how the Hulk is comfortable spending his free time. And truthfully without having seen Civil War, I can’t tell you whether his sacrificing of Banner to free the Hulk at the end was character growth, or just situational necessity again.

I guess Skurge has a character arc. He goes from being self-preservationist to finally hitting a breaking point with Hela and sacrificing himself for Asgard. Frankly he’s a delight any time he’s on the screen, so even though it’s admittedly thin and formulaic, I’ll give that all the points.

Really, what my main issue comes down to is that it’s blindingly obvious what character these stakes should have instilled growth in, and that’s Odin. Except he’s dead, so he never has to reconcile with anything. Hela has no relationship to Thor or Loki (she doesn’t even know about them), but she does to Odin, and frankly as the dude that imprisoned her, he’s kind of the one that should be going face-to-face in some capacity. What makes a family drama compelling is the fact that the family has a history together, after all.

Now, in Black Panther it was T’Chaka’s crappy decision that sort of “created” Killmonger, a decision that T’Challa hates and feels is wrong at his core, and cannot rest until it is righted. So it was the protagonist’s father’s actions that created the situation with a family member he didn’t know at all. It worked in that movie, so why not here?

Well, probably because Thor didn’t really react to learning that Odin had conquered the other realms. So it just made an already emptyish dynamic between Hela and Thor feel even weaker, since the one thin thread that connected them—Odin and their feelings about him—were only half-explored. Hela felt rejected by Odin and pissed off about that, while Thor felt…not as powerful as him? Happy to quote him?

Maybe I’d have fewer issues if Odin hadn’t just been like, “I’m in Norway now, so that means I’m dying. Bye and have fun with your sister you never knew about!” It’s just that his death was so unceremonious, that the mess of his damn making felt out of the blue and sort of incidental. Then, we cut back and forth from the Goddess of Death taking over Asgard to Thor trying to ignore how big the Hulk’s penis is. Seriously.

And that brings us to our final problem.

That’s not how jokes work

Humor is subjective. Napoleon Dynamite is so hideously unfunny to me that it used to make me angry.

I will say right now that I don’t know if it was the plane flight, I don’t know if it was my mood, or I don’t know if it’s the underlying type of comedy here, but I did not once crack a smile at Jeff Goldblum in this movie. I’ve liked him as a comedian before, and I’m sure I will again. I did not like him here.

I also did not enjoy Valkyrie’s played-for-laughs alcoholism. That trope is pretty grating to me at this point, and even though they kind of painted it as tragic, they also…didn’t. She was quirky and fun because she could down a bottle before Thor finished talking, and when Thor actually suggested drinking heavily might be bad for her, we were supposed to laugh at her telling him she wasn’t going to stop. It’s nothing against Tessa Thompson’s performance, who frankly stole every scene she was in. But that’s just how I reacted to the character.

I did massively like Taika Waititi as Korg, Karl Urban’s Skurge was wonderful (especially opposite to Kate Blanchett chewing the scenery), and there were times that Thor and the Hulk’s back and forths were amusing. So it’s not like I found nothing funny here. But to be sure, a lot of the comedic thrust didn’t land for me, and if it had, maybe I’d have a very different reaction to this film.

That said, the humor of this movie is really the best praise I hear about it. I’m just not entirely sure why that’s a good thing. I’m all for a boisterous, fun Thor romp, but if that’s what this was supposed to be, then why the hell even introduce Odin’s imperialism in it? Why have Thor’s best friends murdered here?

Levity can be powerful in dramas. There were jokes in Black Panther, not to beat this already dead horse, but it didn’t make for a full tonal clash. When M’Baku said his people are vegetarian, it was a great way to cut the tension of the moment and further characterize him. However, we never cut back and forth from Killmonger murdering Andy Serkis to T’Challa doing something ~wacky~. The more jovial scenes, like Shuri’s lab, were before the plot really picked up, and the humor that took place during serious scenes (the car chase, for instance) was sparing.

The stakes of Thor: Ragnarok are literally the destruction of the world. And also the destruction of Asgard’s connection to the other realms. The central conflict is born out of an imperfect, revisionist colonist ruler who is the protagonist’s dad. How are we supposed to be treating this with any kind of seriousness when the own narrative can’t even manage to give as much focus on Asgardians fleeing to their Helm’s Deep as it does to Thor’s haircut?

All the humor (or attempted humor in my case) managed to do was heavily undercut the dramatic tension. Even if I had been in stitches during Sakaar, it wouldn’t have helped me get more engaged with the central conflict. It just might have made my flight go faster. And if the central conflict was not as interesting to the writers as the jokes, then fine, maybe this isn’t the movie for that. But for god’s sake, don’t float that giant imperialism matzo ball if you’re not going to be able to actually do anything with it. Was it just there for color? Odin’s not perfect, ya know…now here’s the Hulk!

Stuff Happens, Don’t Question It!

It’s no secret if you’ve read any of my previous articles that I’m not the best at enjoying fun, colorful action sequences for the sake of fun, colorful action sequences. That is, unless I know it is pure silliness, like with Thor: Dark World. It’s ironic enjoyment, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less real. If I had gone in with that attitude for Thor: Ragnarok, I think I would have liked the ride.

But frankly, that’s not the attitude anyone seems to be holding about this movie. Maybe it was the counterweight to Civil War that the MCU needed, maybe if I had watched it before Black Panther I’d have a more favorable view…maybe it’s that elevated an experience in theaters. For me, I can only see two half-completed scripts stitched together, resulting in a whole that’s weaker than the sum of its parts. It’s fine to celebrate it as a joyous romp for those that felt joy and romped, but I can’t call it a good movie. A good viewing experience maybe, but not a good narrative.

In other words, it’s a Thor movie. Wow. I guess maybe my expectations had been too high.


Images courtesy of Marvel

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Analysis

Fandom Meme Disease, and What Should We Do With It?

Angelina

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A fandom meme disease is this thing that happens when creators absorb fandom-born memes and integrate them into their work.

(And so, first things first: sorry that for the duration of this article I’ll use “meme” as if this were a legit term.  It is controversial to say the least, but it is shorter to say “meme” than “any idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.)

I’m not implying that the creators who do this are somehow bad, or that fandom is somehow bad. Moreover, I don’t believe that fandom-creator interaction is bad. What is bad, then? Let me explain how I see it.

Fandom Meme Creation

Any given fandom is, in my opinion, born when some people contact any given media and start using it as a source of inspiration. Not just a purely artistic inspiration; people may be inspired to write meta-analysis, or to engage in discussions, or to wage a flame war against opponents. All this is normal human reaction on something inspirational. Even flame wars are somewhat natural (still wicked, though; human nature can be wicked, too).

And while acting on their inspiration, people deconstruct the original source and use its metaphorical bricks to build their own work, be it a meta, a fic or an art. The result may be perfectly in line with the original, but usually it is not. It resembles the original, that’s true—but as it went through processing in one’s creative imagination it came out a bit different. Thus, fandom meme is born.

There are millions of those floating on the Internet’s vast expanses. Some of them are soon forgotten even by those who first gave life to them. Some are more resilient than others, so they spread and multiply their kind. Those memes become known as fanon. Other fandom memes stay in this gray area between a headcanon and “this weird idea I share with some friends”. Still, all those are memes.

But I digress.

 How The Internet Changed Things

Nowadays the creators have a unique opportunity to exchange views with the fandom. Not that it was not possible before; the letters existed, the fanmail was a really important thing, and the conventions started long before the advent of Internet, but still the scale was different.
What’s more important, the speed was different.
Back then the creator had to wait for quite a time to get a sufficient amount of feedback from, well, fandom. Now a minute past the release there is a ton of articles, metas, fanart, fanfiction—etc. There is fanart and fanfiction about characters who are announced only/had a brief screen moment in trailers or even teasers. There are metas about them, too!

And all this is actually great. But any great thing has a flip side.

In this case, it is this little fact that on average, an interested person is much more exposed to fandom memes than to canon memes. Because the original version is a meme, too—but a meme that is spread and multiplied on much lower rate than fandom memes are. And the thing with memes is, more exposure usually means more absorption.

The sad truth is, creators are interested persons, too.

When Creators Absorb Fandom Memes

Basically what happens is, being constantly exposed to very bustling fandom life, the creators not only have an influence on it, but are influenced by it. This influence may be different.

While there are certainly those who treat fandom memes as a discussion point only, they are not the only ones. Some creators consciously decide to follow a fanon as a means of pandering to their fandom. Other creators use their work to basically say “your fanon is wrong, don’t follow it”. And then there are some creators who genuinely absorb the meme and spread it in good faith. The latter thing is especially typical for multi-author franchises.

Thus it happens that when a next installment is out, it suffers from fandom meme disease.

What Is Not a Fandom Meme Disease?

  • FlanderizationIt shares one notable similarity with fandom meme disease—namely the fact that a character or event becomes increasingly simplified and defined by their/its most obvious trait, and it happens as the franchise or series progresses. But the difference is that the fandom has no part in this creative decision, just some lazy writing. FMD is not a sign of deterioration—it can happen with something that is otherwise pretty good and very much alive and thriving—while Flanderization is usually a red flag signalling that this media is dying.
  • Retcon. It is, again, very similar to FMD in effect (something or someone is no more the one it once was) and timing (also occurs with some new installment), but the key difference is, retcon acknowledges that something has in fact changed, it just asks us to pretend it hasn’t. FMD doesn’t acknowledge any change and acts as if things were always this way.
  • Any other case of real or perceived OOC. It can be a case of fandom meme disease only if the sudden shift in the original is consistent with the fanon or directly opposes it, but contradicts the earlier version.

Notable Victims

fandom meme disease

Not pictired: a badass warrior who overthrew a whole patriarchal system to learn how to fight

Yeah. I really hate what the otherwise pretty good Legend of Korra did with Katara. A decent half of her personality suddenly disappeared in the thin air, leaving us with the fanon Mommy Healer Katara whose only life goal is to care for her child-husband Aang and bear children for him. Sure, that was a widespread enough idea (and pretty sexist, too), but did the creators forget that they themselves wrote her as very proactive and never content with staying away from action?

Not pictured: a traumatised child-soldier, deeply anxious about her underperformance in all things “feminine”, haunted by things she had to do yet always caring and empathetic towards others

I had a tough time picking a poster person for the very…peculiar way in which Game of Thrones treats George R. R. Martin’s characters. The problem is, only some of them suffer from FMD; others are rewritten to fit into D&D’s own narrative.

The thing with Arya (and Sansa; and Sandor) is that sometimes it is not hard to point directly towards those fan discussions that were a basis for the creative decisions turning the original character into something very, very different.

If I could pick an event to illustrate the FMD…Game of Thrones would never disappoint! Do you remember that Robert’s Rebellion was built on lies? That’s the most blatant case of FMD I’ve ever met. It is ripped from fanfiction and wishful-thinking style metas and even the idea that Robert’s Rebellion is all about Rhaegar and Lyanna is pure fandom meme!

fandom meme disease

Not pictured: a tormented soul, devoid of all emotion due to being consumed by Dark Side, a sorry creature that is ever a puppet of his masters

See, this one is tricky. FMD mostly tortured Vader back in the old EU, but I think Kieron Gillen’s comics are not free from its fair share of Over Powerful Unstoppable Cool Awesome Guy Vader We All Adore. He has his good moments when he actually catches the other part of being a Sith, but mostly it is right here. This Vader is really cool, he is fun to watch, he is wisecracking, he is never truly challenged and never has to doubt himself. He beat the ancient dark Jedi without breaking a sweat, for good’s sake. That’s really too much.

The ultimate Manly Man of the franchise—though of course Rogue One gave us an even more blatant example of purest fanon possible on big screen.

And There Are More

I didn’t want to use Hermione Granger from Cursed Child because it may cause misunderstanding, but what about the movies? What about Princess Leia and her sorry fate throughout the old EU? What about loads of characters I don’t know, but you certainly do?

And what about sexism that is suspiciously ever present in any case of fandom meme disease?

Girls and women are pigeonholed by their tomboyish/feminine attitude, with tomboys stripped off all feminine traits, while girly girls devoid of all courage, right to be angry and right to be rational, as those things are associated with masculinity.

All the while “cool” male characters are carefully stripped off any sign of human nature, emotion or just simply weakness. Tell me it happens by pure chance.

So… What Can We Do?

We can talk about it. Raise awareness. Point out the bad tendency of sexist fanons to creep on big screen and on book and comic book pages.

If this exists, it can be beaten, after all.


Images courtesy of HBO, Viacom, Disney

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Gaming

Keeping Kosher In Monster Hunter World

David

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Monster Hunter World is the best selling game in its series, with over 7.5 million units shipped. There are many reasons for this: The game is more accessible for new players, it’s not just on a handheld console anymore, there was actually some marketing push for this game…the list goes on.

However, I personally think one of the reasons the game is so popular is its food eating cutscenes. Before you go on a hunt, you can eat a meal at a canteen that gives you buffs. You’re also treated to an adorable and very tasty looking cutscene of the Palicoes (a cat like race that helps you hunt monsters) making your meal. The details are so lavish and the end product looks so good I couldn’t help thinking about it off and on for weeks. And one question that kept recurring was, “Would any of this food be Kosher?”

Kosher foods, for those of you who may not know, are foods that conform to the Jewish kashrut (dietary law). The word treif describes any food that does not abide by this law. Determining what foods are Kosher or not can get complicated since different groups of animals have different rules. At its most basic though, there are three groups of animals: land, flying, and fish (invertebrates as a rule are treif). Conveniently enough, most monsters in Monster Hunter World could fit under the same categories. We’ll go through each category and examine a few monsters from the game to decide if any (or all) of them can be Kosher.

Before we begin though, I’d like to give major props to one of our editors, Gretchen. Before I wrote this article, I knew next to nothing about what makes a food Kosher or not. Gretchen not only educated me, but did a lot of the heavy lifting, and for that I am grateful.

By Land

The first monster up for discussion is called Uragaan. Uragaan lives mostly in volcanic regions and is identifiable its large chin, its shiny, lustrous golden hide, and the spikes along its back. It consumes mostly bedrock and those large spikes on its back are actually crystals. It produces a sticky, tar like substance on its stomach, which it uses to attach explosive rocks to itself as a means of defense. If someone were to knock down or kill Uragaan, they’d be able to mine the vast mineral wealth on it’s back…but they wouldn’t be able to eat it, as Uragaan isn’t Kosher.

Not Kosher

In order for a land animal to be Kosher, it has to meet three basic requirements. First, it can not be a carnivore or a scavenger. It can not eat meat. Second, it must have a split hoof. Horses aren’t Kosher, but animals like cattle and sheep are. Finally, the animal must chew its cud. Pigs have split hooves, but they don’t chew their cud and thus are not Kosher. Uragaan meets the first rule, but fails with the second and third. As such, Uragaan can never be Kosher.

The next monster up is Kirin. Kirin resembles a unicorn or (more accurately) a Chinese Qilin. It has a single large horn growing out of its head, with a white mane and tail that seem to stand on end from static electricity. It’s body appears to have fur, but those actually are scales. Kirin also seems to crackle with electricity as it walks. Looking at the picture we can see clearly that it has a split hoof. The game doesn’t tell us what it eats or if it chews its cud, but if we extrapolate what it looks like and compare to say, an antelope or a deer (both of which are Kosher) we can safely assume that Kirin is Kosher as well, right? Wrong.

Also Not Kosher

Kirin fails to be Kosher not by the quality of the animal, but by the quality of its behavior. You see, Kirin belongs to a group of monsters called Elder Dragons and these monsters, in addition to being tougher the ordinary monsters, are immune to traps and tranqs unlike other monsters. This presents a problem, as in order for meat be Kosher, the butchering must happen in one swift action using a sharp knife. Shooting the creature with an automatic repeating crossbow is not the way to do it. Kirin, unfortunately, is not Kosher for this reason.

We come now to the last land based monster in this article: The Kelbi. Kelbi, unlike the monsters mentioned thus far, are not aggressive. They are small, and the males are usually green in color while the females and juveniles are blue. Males also have large, prominent horns while female horns are smaller. In-game, Kelbi horns are medicinal, and players make potions out of them. I’m also happy to report that Kelbi might be our first (possibly) Kosher monster.

Kosher! (maybe)

Like Kirin, Kelbi has a split hoof. We also know that Kelbi are herbivores, but it is unknown whether or not Kelbi chew their cud. Extrapolating and comparing them to real world deer and goats though, we can have more confidence that Kelbi are, in fact, Kosher.

By Air

Now we will discuss birds. According to Jewish tradition, animals that fly and are not insects are birds. Thus animals such as bats are ‘birds’ in regards to Kosher rules. The rules for birds themselves are fairly simple. They can’t be predatory or scavengers. This rule immediately rules out the next monster on the list: Rathalos.

Not Kosher

Rathalos is known as the “King of the Sky” and is the male counterpart to Rathian, another flying monster.  Rathalos are bipedal wyverns, primarily red in color, with sharp, poisonous claws that they use to hunt with. In addition to that, they have a flame sac that they use to produce flaming projectiles from, and their long thick tail has a club at the end of it. But as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, no birds of prey can be Kosher.

The next monster on the list is one of the oddest in the game. Pukei-Pukei resembles at first glance a giant chameleon with frog like eyes, wings, and green scales covering its body everywhere except around its wings and neck, where it has feathers. The Pukei-Pukei is an herbivore and it will eat poisonous plants so it can produce a poison to defend itself. Despite all of these peculiar traits, Pukei-Pukei appears to be Kosher.

Kosher! (Surprisingly!)

I was surprised to hear Gretchen tell me this, as I thought there would be no way a monster as weird as Pukei-Pukei could be considered Kosher. But as she laid the case out it began to make more sense. Despite some reptilian traits, Pukei-Pukei has more avian traits, and that classifies it as a creature of the air under the kashrut. As a creature of the air, it has to meat a few specifications. It does not scavenge like a vulture, nor does it hunt like a bird of prey. Thus, Pukei-Pukei meets the requirements.

And By Sea

There aren’t very many sea monsters in Monster Hunter World sadly. Only one of them really seems like it would count. And this one is Jyuratodus. Jyuratodus resembles nothing more than a bipedal coelacanth fish. It has two dorsal fins, two pectoral fins, two pelvic fins, and a long, thick tail that it can use to defend itself. It also covers itself in mud and other ooze, to act as another layer of defense and to possibly keep its gills and scales damp. Fortunately for us, practically the only water based monster in this game is also Kosher.

Kosher, and think of all the sushi.

For a sea animal to be considered Kosher, it must have fins and scales that can be removed. This generally means that the stereotypical fish is allowed, but not animals such as eel, lobster, squid or crab. Jyuratodus, despite its size and aggression does have fins and scales and would be Kosher.

The Hunt Goes On…

So what are we left with from this list? Two monsters that could be considered Kosher, three that are not, and one that might be, if it chews cud. And this is only a small sample of the monsters in the game. Not only that, but Capcom has plans to release more monsters as free DLC over the upcoming months. When the PC version of the game is out, I might revisit this article and expand on it. Until then though, happy hunting and bon appétit!


Images Courtesy of Capcom

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