Category Archives: Pop Culture Ponderings

It’s a Metaphor, Max: Time Travel

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Back in the day when we were first picking Life is Strange apart (you know me, if I enjoy something, it’s going to end up in pieces on the floor), WB came up with a theory that kind of solved everything: the game is being literary, and anything that can’t be explained or doesn’t seem to make much sense is there as a metaphor. The tornado? A metaphor for the encroaching storm of maturity, the climax of a story that has been all about Max growing from child into young adult. Time powers that came out of thin air? A symbolic tool to help Max learn that actions have consequences in the real world and she should embrace this. The reoccurring deer? Well, they tried to explain that away with the concept of spirit animals, but that filled up with casual racism pretty fast; so let’s say the deer instead represents Max’s youthful Bambi-like innocence, hence why they disappear from her shirts by the end of the game.

Let’s zero in on the never-explained time travel powers for today. The Butterfly Effect doesn’t actually mean “shit happens” and Warren’s declaration of Max being a wizard adds nothing, so let’s run with the idea that the time powers aren’t actually trying (and failing) to be a logical plot device but are in fact symbolism for Max and her character growth. Continue reading

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The Strange Case of Spoilers

[This is a post about spoilers. It will contain spoilers]

Remember when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince first came out, and yelling “Snape kills Dumbledore!” being something like an evil meme? Something you would yell to ruin people’s lives, an attack reserved for the most devious of tricksters or most obnoxious of bullies? Wasn’t that a wild time? Do we still, collectively, feel that way about the tricky and weird business of “spoilers”? Continue reading

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“Lilibet” vs “Gloriana”: Fun with Duality in The Crown

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All hail sage Lady, whom a grateful Isle hath blessed. Not moving, not breathing. Our very own goddess. Glorious Gloriana. Forgetting Elizabeth Windsor now. Now only Elizabeth Regina.

[Contains spoilers for Netflix’s The Crown. Also spoilers for British royal history]

Much in the same way Bruce Wayne and Batman can be considered different characters, the woman nicknamed Lilibet and the monarch dubbed Elizabeth II could be considered different identities. Much like being Batman, stepping into the role of queen involves cloaking yourself in a persona that is largely based on symbolism and what the people need to see, and also much like being Batman, it involves swallowing a lot of tragedy and ignoring affection because that is what a hero/flawless leader does. The Crown quietly toys with this concept of dual identity and how it tears a person up inside, or at least, it quietly toys with it until it all comes to a head in the series’ final episode and everything is absolutely the worst. Continue reading

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Choosing What To Leave Behind: Oxenfree and Grief

oxenfree

[Ahoy mateys, spoilers abound!]

The Dead Big Brother trope is the logical opposite of the Dead Little Sister—where a DLS often kicks off manpain of some variety it also symbolises a death of innocence, as these characters are very rarely to blame for their death and their adorable, pure spectre haunts the protagonist for the rest of the story. A DBB more often symbolises a death of stability, the loss of a protective anchor that makes the world without it scary, unpredictable, and raw. This is definitely the case for the heroine of Oxenfree, Alex, whose older brother drowned some time before the game’s story begins, leaving a gaping emotional gap in her—and others’—lives. It’s awful. Alas, if only we could go back in time and stop that fatal accident from happening… Continue reading

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Firewatch, A Game About Avoiding Your Problems Until They Burn Everything Down

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There are few things louder than silence. If you want to drown out guilt, grief, responsibility and other uncomfortable emotions that demand your attention and threaten to take over your life, your best bet is a trip away from society and industry where your only company is a really big forest. Forests don’t judge and demand nothing from you but mutual peace and quiet, and that quiet will form walls that keep out those pesky, hard-to-deal-with feelings. This is part of Henry’s logic, anyway, when he takes a job as a fire lookout in the Middle of Nowhere National Park, Wyoming, following his wife’s decline into early onset dementia and his inability to cope with this. He soon finds, though, that the silence of the forest is not as welcoming as it might have once seemed. Continue reading

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Who Won the “Civil War”?

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Who indeed? Though I myself am still firmly on Team Cap, I discuss the narrative’s deliberate ambiguity in a piece written for Popgates. Read the whole thing here!

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Strange, Norrell, Magic and Morality

Ep4

“Can a magician kill someone with magic?”
“A magician might,” he had replied. “But a gentleman never could.”

[Spoilers ahead for the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell]

I’m packing in my writing degree and starting a study of Theoretical Magic. I can’t say imaginary academia has ever captured my interest as much as the detailed footnotes and references to books and accounts on magic that help build the world of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Susanna Clarke’s vividly woven alternate history is a fascinating study in slow-burn but effective worldbuilding, but I can gush about that another day—magic has come back to England, and just as it’s blurred the boundaries between wholesome human Earth and the bizarre, terrible nooks and crannies of Faerie, it’s made the nation’s morality a little grey. Or has it?

To backpedal: it’s 1806, and despite once being full of magic-practicing folks—largely due to the country being ruled by a magician king and his fairy army for three centuries—England is now dry of spells and enchantments. Studying the history and theory of magic in England is, however, as much a gentlemanly pursuit as the study of Classical Greece and ballroom dancing. No practical magicians remain… except for Gilbert Norrell, who appears out of the woodwork, slam dunks an entire Society of Learned Magicians into the trash, and makes his way to London to Begin a New Era in English Magic.

He’s a finicky, nervous, haughty and vindictive little bugger, and is keen that he should be the only magician around, and that everyone who wishes to continue studying magic should do it as he directs. When a talented novice named Jonathan Strange approaches, however, Norrell is delighted to have a pupil… though due to Strange being blasé, brave, and equally arrogant and spiteful as his tutor, and with a thirst for a different kind of magic to the one he’s teaching to boot, naturally the two butt heads and end up in a catfight, as well as at opposite ends of a spectrum of magic attitude. Continue reading

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