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Pride and Prejudice: A Definitive Guide to Adaptations

Julia

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Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of the most beloved and widely read novels in the English language. Everyone knows Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and their love overcoming all odds. Everyone loves to adapt it. You sometimes get the impression that whenever writers have no clue what to do next, they say, “let’s just adapt Pride and Prejudice!”

And this text is so well known that straight adaptations are no longer necessary. You can have Pride and Prejudice in another time and place, from India to Utah. You can have time-travelling Pride and Prejudice; you can have Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.


And then, apparently, you can adapt that into a film. And they have. It comes out today, in fact. Stay tuned for my thoughts on it. But in order to prepare for what I’m sure will be a great intellectual challenge, I made the rather rash decision to provide the world with a definitive guide to all the adaptations of this novel made in English. (This means I won’t be watching the K-Drama. Sorry.)

These adaptations have come early and often since the invention of film, though many of the earlier examples are impossible to find, if they survive at all. There have also been quite a few works that were clearly very directly inspired by the novel even if there’s no Hertfordshire.  

All you need to two hot people and a swooning romance, right?

Except no. Jane Austen didn’t write a swooning romance. Jane Austen wrote a morality story about what she felt was the ideal marriage: an arrangement arrived at by two rational people based on the intersection of affection, practicality, spiritually duty, and compatibility.

Pride and Prejudice (P&P), an understanding of this theme is what I look for most. There are six “touchstones,” as I call them, that help focus this. How these elements are adapted makes the difference between a good adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and a generic romance movie.

  1. Elizabeth – This young woman is intelligent, opinionated, independently minded, and yeah, kind of proud. However, she is also a product of her time. She doesn’t think she’ll ever marry because she knows few men are really her intellectual or moral superior. And a husband must always be his wife’s superior.
  2. Darcy – Dude, your privilege is showing. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a hot brooding guy, and that makes him super sexy, but it’s because he’s an entitled snob. He suffers when Elizabeth rejects him, but make no mistake, he went in there with no doubt that she would accept him because, you know, he’s Mr. Darcy. He’s essentially a good person, which is why he’s able to learn to be less of a jerk by the end, but he was simply not the aggrieved party here.
  3. Mr. Wickham and Lydia – This one is tricky. Because in today’s world, when a man in his late twenties runs off with a sixteen-year-old our first thought usually isn’t “oh no! her reputation!” But we’re supposed to feel sorry for Lydia, because she wasn’t raised right, but also think that she’s damn lucky Mr. Darcy got that sweet deal for her so that she wouldn’t have to be a street walker. Wickham is the cautionary tale that all the young female readers should watch out for.
  4. Charlotte Lucas – She is meant to be the opposite of Lydia. Marrying for purely pragmatic reasons is just as bad as marrying because you can’t keep it in your pants.
  5. Mary – Back in the early nineteenth century, a woman trying to be an intellectual was seen as, like, funny. I don’t think we’re supposed to be all “yay, go book snob!” This often ends up in a narrative that is rather cruel to poor Mary, but that’s what the text is. Her complete rejection of social interactions in favour of “contemplation and reflection” is not praiseworthy, it’s ridiculous.
  6. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet – Mrs. Bennet is really dumb and shallow, but Mr. Bennet is a complete jerk. His duty is to provide for his family, to make sure his daughters are taken care of, but he doesn’t. He just locks himself up in his room and laughs at them, and encourages Elizabeth to do the same. He’s redeemable because he’s clearly loves Elizabeth, but he is not an unproblematic fave.

This not to say that a film that is a “poor” adaptation of the novel is necessarily a bad movie, or that a good adaptation is necessarily an excellent television show, but adaptations are kinda my thing, so that’s the angle that I’ll be taking.

 

Direct Adaptations

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

So one of the maxims of adaptation, as articulated by David Selznick, is to not presume to “fix” what you see as structural flaws in the source material. Wouldn’t it be better if Darcy was actually a great guy who made, like, one rude comment once but was otherwise perfectly nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if Elizabeth immediately fell in love with him after hearing his sob story because… um, pity? He’s so Nice™? Wouldn’t it make more sense if Lady Catherine gave her blessing in the end?

No, it wouldn’t.

I feel bad being hard on this movie, since it’s so old. But there’s something about it that’s so pandering to sentiment. Like, everyone’s exaggerated curtseying when they danced. And there’s the “funny” little moments where the Bennet sisters were literally indistinguishable from a flock of noisy hens. Maybe it’s just a product of its age, but in that case, it aged very badly.

Elizabeth seems more rude than anything. This is mostly a consequence of the Tyrion-esque whitewashing of Darcy. He made one rude comment, then immediately tried to make up for it by asking her to dance, and she was all “nope!” then went to dance with someone else. After that, he was nothing but trying to be pleasant for the rest of the movie, while she was just constantly telling everyone how much he sucks and being passive agressive. We’re told that he’s proud, but he hardly acts like it. This is a story about how Elizabeth was an idiot and a bad judge of character.

Lydia and Wickham were okay, I guess. It was mostly used to make jokes about how they have to move or something. Charlotte’s marriage was glossed over, and so was Mr. Bennet. He complained about noise once. Mary, was Mary-like, I suppose.

It feels rather like this is only incidentally Pride and Prejudice; like someone wanted to make a silly romance film rather than an adaptation. I can’t really recommend it as either.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

This movie is a really good movie. Even if Jane Austen were never born, I would recommend everyone see this movie. The camera work was just… those tracking shots… The direction in general is exceptional. And Keira Knightley deserved that Oscar.

As an adaptation, I find this movie rather difficult to discuss, because it got many things quite wrong—significant things—but it is Pride and Prejudice, in its essence. Though I have trouble explaining how. So, even though most of the things I will discuss are rather negative, it’s still a good adaptation. Especially considering this movie is barely two hours long. They did read their Selznick.

As I’ve already mentioned, Keira Knightley’s performance deserves all the praise. She’s almost always the smartest person in the room, but she’s not a jerk about that. There’s nothing particularly Darcy-esque about Darcy though. He’s not enough of a jerk to really justify Elizabeth’s dislike. So the story becomes more about her learning how awesome he is, rather than him learning not to be a jerk and her learning that people are complicated.

This was rather aggressively brought home in the last few minutes of the movie when Elizabeth states “He’s not proud. I was wrong, entirely wrong about him.” No, she wasn’t. He was proud. And also prejudiced. And so was she. But this Mr. Darcy wouldn’t let that happen.

And in general, their relationship was rather over-romanticized. This is exemplified by Darcy’s flowery pronouncement of love towards the end. I was not of fan of this.

Much of the Wickham and Lydia material is fairly glossed over, but considering the length of the movie, I won’t fault them for that. The essentials were there. Mary was wonderful. She didn’t have much in common with Mary, but Talulah Riley stole every scene she was in with her background eye rolling. I think Mary was drunk at the ball in the beginning? Charlotte Lucas’s content is all there, and in-tact. My complaint is that it’s all rather spoonfed. We didn’t need to be told so explicitly about her motives for marrying Mr. Collins.

Mr. Bennet is more or less completely white-washed. Apart from one passing comment about how he puts “peace and quiet” above everything, he’s a really nice guy. And a good husband and father. And he’s really concerned with porcine husbandry.

And yeah, the pig balls.

I think the production design was going for a “gritty and realistic” look, so there’s mud everywhere and people have messy hair sometimes. This is fine in principle, but it leads to two things. Firstly, it makes the Bennets seem a lot less well off then they clearly are in the text, and secondly, it leads to behaviour that seems rather anachronistic. Like Elizabeth walking from Pemberley to the inn. In the dark. It’s a little distracting.

There are a few other little things, like the random line assignments that always drive me nuts, but I think the merits of this film as a film allow me to overlook a great deal.

Pride and Prejudice: The Lost Series (1952, 1958, 1967)

All Doctor Who fans can understand the pain of wanting to see an old piece of television and not being able to find it, possibly because it no longer exists. I’m not sure if these three series have gone the way of The Power of the Daleks, or if they’re just sitting somewhere waiting to be released one day, but I was unable to find any of them.

There is a very low quality copy of one half-hour episode of the 1967 series on YouTube that suggests that it’s watchable, if oddly paced, and some stills that can give you a very rough idea of the others.

It is really too bad, because the idea of Grand Moff Tarkin as Mr. Darcy is a very exciting one to me.

1952:

1958:

67:

Pride and Prejudice (1980)

There’s a point where funny things aren’t funny because they’re actually humorous, but because they’re so camp.The distinction is sometimes a little ineffable, but I think in this case, the campiness of this particular five-part miniseries can be put down to a lack of naturalism.

This series is a successful adaptation; you can tell it gets to source material, but it’s not nearly as enjoyable to watch as some other versions. Not that it’s bad exactly…

The acting in this work is rather distracting. It’s got this exaggerated quality that never lets you forget for one second that you’re watching people act instead of real people. And the scripting was perhaps not the best. There was a determination to stick in as many bits from the novel’s narration into the dialogue as possible. Unfortunately, many of those lines are narration rather than dialogue for a reason. And characters randomly get each other’s lines. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s quite distracting when you know a text as well as I know Pride and Prejudice.

The characters were sometimes more like caricatures. The one that stands out the most in this regard is Lady Catherine DeBourgh, whose fondness for giving unsolicited advice now extends to actually going to the butcher and changing people’s orders. And an inflatable top-hat. (No, really.)

Elizabeth is quite good. Darcy is a little too stiff throughout. I’m still not sure why she would be into him by the end. Lydia’s post-marriage silliness is very silly, but it’s meant to be.

Then there is Mary. I’m not sure what they were going for with her. She has the inept attempts at booksmarts, but also an obsession with gossip that rivals Lydia. I think maybe she’s supposed to be a hypocrite? In any case she’s more a clown than a buttmonkey.

Mr. Bennet is not at all white-washed. I would consider this a good thing. He is often downright cruel to Mrs. Bennet and the younger daughters. He literally hides in the library. The only complaint I have about it is that it may be a caricature as well, and a tad spoonfed. But this is a general problem with the fact that there is use of inner-monologue voiceover to express Elizabeth’s feelings about things. And inner-monologue voiceover is always a mistake.

I’m making this series sound worse than it was; it had a lot going for it. It didn’t try to “improve” the source material to be more in keeping with contemporary sensibilities, which is good. Most of the performances are fine. And there’s little details that amuse me. Like, how derpy the dancing is. They obviously didn’t spend hours rehearsing, which is a nice realistic touch, even if that sounds strange when juxtaposed with the performances. And all the women are constantly sewing, which was a thing in the days when all clothes were made by hand.

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

It will probably not shock anyone that this is by far my favourite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, it may be one of my favourite adaptation of anything, as well as one of my favourite pieces of television.

This production had a lot of things stacked in its favour: excellent casting, the budget for meticulously accurate costumes and sets, access to perfect locations. But it’s the writing that makes it so wonderful.

Yes, it’s more or less a dramatic reading of the book, and a television mini-series lets you do that in ways a movie does not, but that’s not as easy as it looks. Books and tv shows have different beats they have to hit; TV has episodes that also need to have beginnings, middles, and ends. But this is also good TV. It’s just good.

As for the touchstones, this version is also the best. The patriarchal view of marriage is a tad deemphasized. Mr. Bennet’s comment about how Elizabeth could only marry a man who is her superior is one of the few bits of interaction between them that’s entirely omitted. In general, however, the moderation in Elizabeth’s character (“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure. I am not a great reader, and take pleasure in many things.”) is very well portrayed.

Colin Firth’s Darcy has become a sex-symbol, though your fave is problematic, ladies and gentleman. But he’s also quite likable by the end and his contrition and rather desperate attempts to please Elizabeth when she shows up at Pemberly are adorable. I approve.

Charlotte is perfect, and the additional material with Lydia and Wickham, where she’s giddy about having sex before any of her sisters, is very appropriate and effective. Mary ends up being a buttmonkey, but like I say, this is not inappropriate from an adaptational perspective; her performance of being an “intellectual” is supposed to be laughed at. The added bits about her fruitless attempts to get Mr. Collins’s attention seem very natural. Fans have been saying for two hundred years how those two are perfect for each other.

Mr. Bennet is the best, though. It’s very hard for us to really understand how few options “respectable” women had outside of marriage in this period. And for women like the Bennet sisters who have no money of their own (a circumstance that’s entirely Mr. Bennet’s fault. He never bothered to save anything for them.) Mr. Bennet’s refusal to play the marriage-hunt game is neglect. Pure and simple. Dude locks himself in his library and laughs at everyone when he’s supposed to be worrying about the future. This adaptation makes that clear, without spoonfeeding it in the manner of the 1980 version.

Looser Adaptations

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Now that I’ve seen this movie again, (I haven’t seen it in many years) I’m a little confused as to why it’s on this list, even as a “loose” adaptation. Apart from the obvious conscious references to Pride and Prejudice, I don’t see what it and Bridget Jones’s Diary particularly have in common.

Really, I’m only including it because people will yell at me if I don’t. Character is the most important element when making an adaptation, especially with an “alternative universe” adaptation, and since that’s entirely absent, there’s very little to talk about.

Bridget and Elizabeth are both English and cis-women but other than that… Elizabeth has a self-confidence in herself and her values that Bridget simply doesn’t. Bridget is just a desperately unhappy person who seems to really hate herself and everything about her life. I don’t get why anyone would like her, let alone why a sexy human-rights lawyer would fall in love with her.

I’m not saying that shallow, unpleasant people with limited intelligence don’t deserve to find love and be happy, but how many movies do I have to watch about it?

Bad first impressions and the two bottom points of a love triangle having a past are necessary elements of P&P, but they are hardly sufficient.

As for this film as a film… Wasn’t this super popular when it came out? Did it just age very badly? I mean, this is about a woman who seems financially independent, has supportive friends, a BMI in the healthy range, and a career that finally is going somewhere. But she is miserable because she ain’t got no man.

Oh, and the amount of sexual harassment and casual homophobia is a tad shocking.

Is Bridget supposed to be a villain protagonist? Are single women in their thirties supposed to be able to relate to her?

In any case, I’ll pass.

Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (2003)

Modern AU fan fiction is a thing, and someone decided to make a movie out of it. And make it Mormon?

This is a strange movie, and it might be more constructive to see it as a low-budget independent comedy from a subsection of religious cinema than an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but they gave it the name they did, so here we are.

In an odd way, the LDS (Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons) elements only help this movie. It’s a good way to explain why all these young twenty-somethings are all looking for spouses instead of just humping like bunnies. But there was this whole idea throughout that women can be trusted with their own chastity, which I think Austen would appreciate.

Most of the things that seem uncomfortably sexist were not strictly necessary from an adaptational perspective, like Caroline Bingley and her last minute cat-fight and marriage to a septuagenarian. (She was forced to have his babies! Ha!) And let’s not discuss how Jane is now a sexy (for a Mormon) Latina and Flamenco music plays whenever she and Bingley make eye-contact.

Elizabeth is as Elizabeth-like as anyone in a Modern AU can be, I think. She’s independently minded and opinionated, but her values are, at heart, quite traditional. But she has this one moment of supreme immaturity that really rubbed me the wrong way. If you watch the film, you will probably know what moment I mean immediately.

Darcy, is not Darcy in any way, except that he was rude at a party once. He’s really more of a generic Rom-Com guy. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are omitted, and Charlotte is a cameo by an American Idol contestant. Oh, and Mary is a super religious frumpy girl who ends up with Mr. Collins. Once she gets a makeover. Very Empowering.

The Lydia/Wickham thing gets something done with it, even though you would think it would be the hardest thing to adapt. Lydia herself was brought forward in an odd way. She reads a self-help book about dating.

In summary, not a good movie, but a decent adaptation, given what it had to work with. The LDS elements allowed the themes of the source material to actually be present. Sort of. If you squint.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Bollywood Pride and Prejudice? I know how it sounds, but hear me out.

This movie just fills me with nothing but positive emotions. It’s so obviously made with the best intentions, and everyone involved is clearly having fun. Like, I challenge anyone to watch this and not grin like an idiot.

As an adaptation, there are some problems, but considering the fact that this movie is under two hours, and how well they translated the major characters and themes, I just can’t help but forgive everything.

Lalita is very Elizabeth-like: she knows what she wants out of life and she’s not going to compromise on it. She not afraid to express her opinion, but she clearly belongs to her time and place. Darcy’s classism is translated more into an imperialist chauvinism but, again, it works. And I liked Maya’s Cobra Dance.

The whole thing with Lakhi and Wickham was less successful. It was rushed and, like, had no consequences whatsoever. I’m quite sure someone actually says, “It’s fine, she’s back now.” It was a flaw. A rather glaring one, but it didn’t break the movie. Mrs. Bakshi is… well, she’s Mrs. Bennet with an account on an online matchmaking service.

This film also makes liberal use of Selznick’s third maxim by rearranging the order of events, and compressing some things. But the resulting story is coherent and easy enough to follow, so again, it’s not a really a “problem”.

And yes, I do know this is technically not Bollywood, just “Bollywood Style.” I still like it. If your mood ever needs a boost you should check this movie out.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012–2013)

So, a lot had changed in the last two hundred years. The expectations women have for ourselves and our lives are just unrecognizable. The way we see romantic relationships is just night and day.

For that reason, I really have no idea why anyone would want to do a “Modern AU” of Pride and Prejudice, but, if you must, this is how you should. I guess.

Lizzie isn’t THE Elizabeth Bennet. How could she be? As we discussed, Elizabeth was a product of her time, but I can believe that Elizabeth would be like this if she lived in Southern California in 2012. She craves independence, is committed to her family, sometimes gets a little too caught up in her own cleverness, and can be judgemental. Darcy is Darcy in the same way. As much as the character can exist in this setting, he does.

The more I think about it, the more I like what they did with Lydia. The character was unbearably annoying for most of the series, but I ended up feeling a great deal of sympathy for her. Obviously, the circumstances and outcome of her sexual indiscretions are very different, and she’s “redeemed” in a way the Lydia of P&P never could be, but given the setting, they could hardly have played it straight.

The solution they came up with to adapt Charlotte was also rather clever. (Mr. Collins is this idiot who owns a New Media start-up. He offers Lizzie a job, which she refuses. Then Charlotte snaps it up.) Though Mary was a little whatever. The anachronism of Mrs. Bennet’s obsession with her daughters’ marital status is repeatedly lampshaded. Mr. Bennet is, however, portrayed in a very positive light, even if his financial ineptitude is mentioned more than once.

I had serious complaints when I started to watch the series about some sexism, like Lizzie calling Lydia “a whorey slut” or telling Bing (Bing Lee, clever!) that they’ll revoke his “man-card” if he buys a chick flick for Jane. But either the people behind the show responded to criticism and corrected this as the show went on, or Lizzie’s shedding of these attitudes was always supposed to be part of her development. Either way, I can only approve.

The acting can be a little cheesy, the tone a little dramatic, and the editing a little annoying in its attempts to be “cute”, but all-in-all I think this was well done, both as an adaptation, and a web series.

Fan Fiction

Some readers may raise their eyebrows at the term “fan fiction” to describe these derivative works, but face it, that is what they are. The writers of these works are fans who wrote original material about the characters and world that Jane Austen created.

Lost in Austen (2008)

I’m apparently making a career out of talking about how things are stupid, so when I say that something is stupid you can probably trust me.

This is stupid.

This is the worst kind of pandering to the worst kind of stereotype of a Jane Austen fan. You know, the kind that claims to be so into it, but then you get to talking to them and you suspect they really knows nothing about her or her work, and are really more a fan of Colin Firth in a wet linen shirt.

This will be a familiar refrain to those of you who have been reading me for a while, but this mini-series is a gilded turd. The production values are exceptional, (someone involved knows about the Regency…) and the acting is good to excellent (Alex Kingston is a Mrs. Bennet I can get behind). But the problem is, wait for it, the writing.

The Protagonist is a complete moron. The plot could not have happened but for her overwhelming imbecility and lack of thought. And I don’t like to throw the term “Mary Sue” around, but four men fall in love with her. And everyone else puts up with her bullshit for no reason at all. The contrivances are so extraordinary that they beggar belief, and the lack of understanding of the characters and themes of the source material is just…. putting Wickham in leather pants? Really? This along with the casual use of homosexuality as a punchline honestly made me recheck to see who the writers on this thing were.

So avoid this work. It’s not good as an adaptation; it’s not good as TV.

Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

If our previous selection is the worst Jane Austen fan fic has to offer, this is surely some of the best. This sequel to the novel could easily stand on its own as a decent historical murder mystery, but the addition of the beloved characters does add a good deal.

We see Elizabeth and Darcy several years into their marriage, and Lydia and Wickham several years into theirs. Elizabeth remains opinionated and independent, though more than capable of ordinary social interaction. Darcy remains a tad introverted, though his soft spot for his wife, and his respect for her advice are all very much in character.

What they did with Lydia and her marriage interested me. I seem to like it when something is done with this character. Wickham is certainly not whitewashed; his actions in this work are a good deal more dickish than anything he did in Pride and Prejudice, but he is humanized in a way that is very engaging.

There are some characterization decisions that are not the ones I would have made, Colonel Fitzwilliam rather gets the Ron the Death Eater treatment, but even these are handled quite well, and plausibly.

The casting and acting are all excellent, the production value is high, and the writing is more than up to the challenge. This one is recommended.


So there it is; the only guide to P&P on film you will ever need. I’m sure Pride & Prejudice & Zombies will do full credit to the source material and join this illustrious company with its head held high.

Julia is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals with far too many hobbies and complex emotions. She may or may not be an actual Martell.

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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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