An Open Letter to the Mouse That Has Hopefully Left My Apartment

Greetings, tiny rodent invader.

You probably have no concept of me though I am acutely aware of you. From what I’ve been able to gather, you’ve done most of your running around while I sleep or am away at work. You’ve had quite the little run, haven’t you? You’ve eaten the finest packages of egg noodles and forgotten bottom of the pantry Doritos. You have ruined a perfectly good stash of plastic bags. You’ve invaded my home. You have pricked up my anxiety. You have chewed through my property.

You, small field mouse, have been a real pain in my side.

But I pen this letter to you not to gloat. No no, for you see, I have won. All the traps I laid have been successful and the entryway you had to my tiny apartment has be sealed off.

You, dear mouse, are not welcome here.

However, I’ve done enough gloating, the battle is over but the war is far from done. I’m here to simply say thank you. I want to thank you for forcing me to cope with my anxiety rather than just run from it, though I have done plenty of that already. Thank you for reminding me how wonderful it is to have friends who will stay on the phone with you until you can sleep and will bravely go into battle with brooms and mops against your villainy. I want to thank you for reminding me to clean everything, not just the things I use the most. I want to thank you for making me uncomfortable but in that discomfort to find strength. Thank you for forcing me to feel once more at home while at home.

I want to thank you for reminding me that I am literally and figuratively bigger than a mouse.

I hope your stay in my apartment was at least comfortable, as I am a good Southern hostess. But I hope you and your kind never return to my small domicile.

Sincerely,

A.

 

Tonal Dissonance and You

“Don't look at me in that tone of voice.” Dorothy Parker.png

I’m of the very proud and polarizing Disney generation. The renaissance of Disney films were ones I saw in theaters, owned at home and could recite as a child (Hell, still can for most of them) and while many did not age well for me, I’ve found that several actually mean even more to me now as an adult than they ever did when I was a bright, strange child. A common complaint that film critics now have of those 90s era Disney movies is that they have a “tone” problem.

That’s a bit reductive, isn’t it?

Just blanketly saying something has a tone problem doesn’t explain why, how or what to do about it and makes the reviewer (often one of the Youtube variety) seem like an expert without necessarily being an expert. So let’s talk about tone, tonal dissonance, Disney movies and what it means to really have a tone problem.

I come at this from two angles: one of them being a comic book fan and the other being an anime fan. Tonal dissonance is abundant in both of those genres. FLCL naturally flows between nihilistic angst and bright rock music. Cowboy Bebop can in one scene talk about the existential misery of being alive and knowing you will one day die alone and pair it with a corgi high on mushrooms. Neither of those undercut the pathos or emotion of the prior scene but because of genre and style, we accept that the tone can abruptly change. Comic books also often change the tone on a dime from serious death scenes cut in between the normal pageantry of daily life for the rest of the citizens of a named non-descript city.

Now, I won’t defend all Disney movies of this era. Some do have a serious tone problem (Lookin’ at you, Hercules.). But many are firstly a product of their time (the 90s) and they were also fundamentally a children’s movie. Instead of simply writing some of these movies off as having tone problems, perhaps it’s better to admit some of the daring steps they made despite being a kid’s movie.

Let’s take my favorite Disney movie: The Hunchback of Notre Dame as an example.

This movie…it’s a doozy. It does have some serious tone issues in the form of three obnoxious dated no longer relevant celebrity voiced gargoyles. But the rest of the film, the rest of this wonderfully animated and voice acted and paced movie is just a brilliant example of what this movie could have been. Hunchback is a dark movie for a Disney film. The main character is deformed, the main antagonist is the literal embodiment of people’s fear of the Catholic church and Catholic guilt in general. It created in Esmeralda one of the most active agents of her own free will Disney will make until the post-renaissance and later characters like Elsa and Moana.  The music could easily be its own blog post featuring some of my favorite songs in all of Disney discography.  And the animation was some of the best of its era.

But that tone problem. Those gargoyles. The Goofy yell in the middle of a literal siege in the thrilling climax of the movie. All of it for some is just too much and it makes it difficult to see that underneath all of that is a movie that is fundamentally different from others of its kind. Think about it, it’s adapted from a novel that is by far not safe for children. And while the movie takes plenty of liberties from the novel, I think it actually does a few things better than the novel. The movie paints Frollo as almost a sympathetic man, truly just one haunted by his repressed sexuality and the immense pressure under him and the threat of eternal damnation. As someone who was raised Roman Catholic, I can vouch that the Hellfire sequence is the literal manifestation of Catholic guilt. Esmeralda’s scene in the cathedral to the tune of God Help the Outcast is one of the most famous Disney songs around. But for the chances the movie tried to take, some things had to remain the same. This is a Disney picture, after all. It has to have an animal sidekick of some kind. The good normal looking heteronormative person has to fall in love with the princess/gypsy dancer. It has to have an uncomplicated unilaterally happy ending. That’s how Disney’s made their money for decade and a story about a church official and his…wants aren’t gonna stop the Disney cash cow from doing what it does best.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind this was the 90s. It was a different time. Everything was strange when it came to tone. A normal 90s kid like me juggled between the dark oppression of Batman the Animated Series to the fun camp of Looney Toons. As children, we didn’t mind the tonal issues. We laughed at the fart jokes, singing animals and stupid side plots. They’re insufferable now that many of us are adults with educations and have now read more than one book. But if you held most things to that standard, they’d simply fall apart. Now, I’m one of the last to use “It’s a kid’s movie” as a blanket excuse. I’m an anime fan. Plenty of the anime and animated movies from Japan that I watched were meant for kids but had deeper plot points than some American serialized television shows. I don’t say that to excuse the faults of any movie, Disney or otherwise, just to help frame the issue a little more.

But being older really helps frame many of these movies better. Hunchback becomes less and less about the weird diegetic gargoyle singing and more about a struggle between the sacred and the profane. In Hunchback I see a man struggle between his faith, his desires and his position of power. I see a character with the purest of hearts but unfortunately cursed with a face that the rest of the world finds detestable. I find comfort in music that is wonderful and Latin verses that I had to sing and chant in mass with my family. I see Paris in a way that many young kids have never seen before. I see imagery that to anyone who has read another book would instantly be impressed with. I see so many other things than just a really strange joke that tried to insinuate a gargoyle is attracted to a goat.

Mulan has one of the best most jarring tonal shifts of all from the bright, very misogynistic A Girl Worth Fighting For to the literal scorched Earth and destruction left behind by the Huns. Pocahontas has plenty of strange tone shifts between loving the Earth and nature, respecting native cultures and the relative similarity and mirroring from each side of an argument or conflict to jokes about food and cute animal distractions.

So what is there to be done about tonal dissonance? I admit now, if I want to watch Hunchback I skip around a lot. I hit the list of things I want to see like the subtle tone and key shift from Heaven’s Light to Hellfire. The Court of Miracles scene is a must if I have a copy that kept that scene in. God Help the Outcast is beautifully animated and I mostly just ignore anything involving Captain Phoebus and his rushed romance with Esmeralda. If the tone problem bothers you, I can totally respect that. It irks the hell out of me, too. But I won’t deny what these movies did. I still sing these songs. My friends and I can still recite the movies. This was our childhood. This was my childhood and even if it was tonally off, that’s okay.

I’ll keep singing The Bells of Notre Dame.

 

Timing is Everything

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new. Henry David ThoreauRead more at- https-%2F%2Fwww.brainyquote.com%2Fquotes%2Fquotes%2Fh%2Fhenrydavid118152.html-src=t_generation.png

I’m always fascinated by the fact that I was born in 1990. Think of all the things I got to grow up with. Think of all the things I got to experience because I was born in such a fateful time for humanity. And that’s not me being my usual millennial self that likes to glorify the 90s as a halcyon era. Some of the best entertainment, media, music and novels came out during the 90s and early 2000s but because of that perspective, it’s actually created a rather interesting phenomena in me. I got some of the best of the best when it comes to depictions of some of my favorite franchises. But because of that, such timing has locked in several canonical depictions in my head. And with that, let’s talk about the burden of greatness, accepting crappy prequels and nerd rage.

Batman The Animated Series was one of the most important artifacts of my childhood. Really, most superhero animated shows were. Except for Static Shock but we’ve already talked about why. Batman The Animated Series could have its own blog post on how it impacted an entire generation of fans but it certainly meant the world to me. That was the best Joker, Robin, Batman, Alfred and really, just most of the cast. It was so influential that it even changes the canon of the comic book! What animated series gets to claim that it changed the lore of the comic it’s based off of?

So when The Dark Knight trilogy came out, imagine my surprise when the movies were a mix-matched chimeric creature of canon, lore and source material. To the point that it actually ruined The Dark Knight for me. Heath Ledger’s a damn talented actor but c’mon, guys. Mark Hamil’s Joker is phenomenal. And the points that irked me about the movie’s depiction were to someone who grew up with the animated show and Bruce Timm/ Alan Moore/Paul Dini-verse. I wasn’t used to a Joker who wore makeup or was that disorganized and chaotic. My Joker had always been sickeningly charming, a bit neurotic and was not painted like a clown: that was just his face. And my movie canon for Batman at the time included the Tim Burton sojourn through Gotham. Not that I have anything negative to say about the world Nolan created, just that version of the Joker really threw me for a loop.

Let’s take a more hot button issue. Star Wars. I love Star Wars. It’s one of those instances much like Harry Potter for me where I am way more interested with the lore and the world than I am with most of the main cast of characters. But I was not born in the 70s. I was born in the 90s. I grew up with the prequels. I actually still have my movie ticket to Revenge of the Sith. I saw that movie in theaters at the tender age of 16 and I loved it. I loved the action, fight scenes, music and set pieces. I thought it was great. In hindsight, I realize that it isn’t a great movie. None of the prequels are. Attack of the Clones is way worse, though. But when I went back to watch the original Star Wars trilogy, I had a difficult time with it as a teen. The effects were dated, the fight scenes were limited to the technology of the time and while the acting was good it wasn’t to me at the time on a much higher level than Natalie Portman giggling while pregnant in a silk nightgown.

Another great example is actually a topic close to my heart: Dr. Seuss movies. The first book I ever checked out from the library back home was The Lorax. It’s probably one of my favorite books and has such an important message that really should be read by everyone. Needless to say, I adore the work of Dr. Seuss and in fact one of my favorite Christmas movies is the Chuck Jones animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My little cousin is a hilarious 12 years younger than me and when he saw me during the Christmas season watching the old animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas he had the audacity to say “I prefer the live action version better.” If only there was a sound to describe how my hair contorted and twisted to stare him down for his disrespect and ignorance. The live action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is an abomination. A sin. A miserable heartless cash grab. But because he was born when that version was “popular” and the 60s Chuck Jones version was nearly as old as his mother, that version is his version while the animated for me was a timeless classic even in the 90s.

This really can be said about anything generational. My views on RuPaul’s Drag Race are colored by the fact that my history with LGBT and Drag Culture are very 90s pageant and early 2000s club scene. So the idea of a drag queen that doesn’t pad or doesn’t know how to sew was damn near offensive but these are slowly becoming outdated ideas about what drag is. (That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. Lookin’ at you, Naomi Smalls. +_+).

But that’s just the thing when it comes to times and generations. I’m sure to my seniors the Batman and Superman I grew up with were nothing like the unilaterally good guys they were in the Golden and Silver Age. But really, timing is everything. When something hits you, it hits you. When it helps form and shape who you are, that’s all about being in the right time in the right place.

What’s In a Name?

There's the private persona and the public persona and the two shall never meet. Liev SchreiberRead more at- https-%2F%2Fwww.brainyquote.com%2Fquotes%2Fquotes%2Fl%2Flievschrei184607.html (1).png

I’m fortunate enough to have come up in the Internet generation. I grew up in chat rooms, forums and made lifelong friends that I have never met in person. And coming up in the Internet of things; I like many of my contemporaries, I have a ton of screen names. It’s always a little weird introducing myself as a stage or screen name. I have plenty of people who never call me by my human name. So I wanted to go over a few of the names I use and what they mean and by proxy, what they mean to me.

AichiYume

This is my panelist/cosplay name! I also used to use it on deviantArt when I was there…I’m not there anymore. I’m a little too old for that, aren’t I? AichiYume is a combining of several screen names I’ve used across the internet for years. AichiYume is like the manic pixie dream girl of the anime world. Opinionated, knowledgeable and funny (most of the time). It’s the name you’ll see me use as a panelist and as a person who posts videos and such. You can use any combination of the name: Aichi, Aichi Yume, or Yume; all of those are acceptable and I’ll answer to them. Why did I choose the name AichiYume? Because I’m melodramatic and an otaku.

Nai

Back in the early days of the Internet, I made my home on a little site called Gendou. Gendou was a site for anime music and it also featured a chat room. Nai is the name of a character I made forever ago to a series that will never see the light of day because I wrote it when I was 15 and angsty. Gendou became my home. Gendou was my family when my own failed me. My friends when I needed them and I have made lifelong friends all from a chat room online. If you see me on stage with Carlos (a friend from Gendou that I’ve met now in real life) he’ll still call me Nai sometimes.

RawrAmandaRawr

That’s my Twitter name! So I made a Twitter account several years ago for school. I essentially had to have one for my journalism class. (Yes, I was one of the last StMU students to take print journalism rather than digital communications). I never thought I’d stick with it after college but over 17,000 Tweets later…clearly, I’m in it to win it.

Amanda.Actually

The name I use on this blog! This is the more human version of me. Still a comic book, anime/manga fan but a little more cultured. A little more mature. A little more well-rounded as a person. It is, as it says, The Actual Amanda. Amanda’s my human name. The one I was given as a child. The one I refuse to have shortened to “Mandy”. Amanda is me. I am Amanda. I’m more personal on my blog, my open, more willing to talk about things that aren’t just comic books.

This post is short and different, isn’t it? I’ve never really felt like any one side of the names I use are characters. They’re all just a part of me. They’re all valid. They’re all the whole that makes up the wonderfully complex person I am today. But it does a bit go in line with the last post about persona, censorship and which Amanda is the real Amanda.

 

If you ever hear me go by a different name, I hope this guide is helpful!

Thoughts from the Heart of the Revolution

-Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.- Sam Houston.png

On another adventure over a day, Amber and I visited Seguin and Gonzales. Gonzales is famously really where the Texas Revolution started. When the Mexican Army demanded that Texans disarm themselves and give up their cannons, the Texans famously said “Come and take it.”

This defiance, strict independence and rebellion shaped Texas as a state and our identity. But there’s a difficulty in accepting that a valid part of our state’s history is the right to own slaves. There is always a cultural dissonance between being a proud Texan but also being African-American.

Here are the thoughts I had from my trip to Gonzales and Seguin.

  • I recently picked up a CD copy of the best themes from Inuyasha. We did not regret this as our music choice though it is a fantastic time capsule into whatever we called music back then.
    • Really, this anime did not deserve the soundtrack it had.
  • Gonzales is a strange place that is really known for just being the seat of the revolution and the “Come and take it” has really become a polarizing symbol across the state and nation, really.
  • If you see the actual “Come and take it” cannon, it’s surprisingly small.
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Seriously, this is it. The mount is a reproduction. Hence why it looks so silly.
  • The monument Texas built to the revolution is pretty elaborate but is pretty awesome.

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  • Gonzales has a beautiful very haunted jail. Which means it’s story time, folks.
    • So Amber and I went to the Gonzales County Jail. It was built in the 1800s. We were excited because most jails that are that old are recreations. This one? Nope. The first thing our tour guide said was that all the wood, steel and fixtures were original. Same steel. Same wood. Same bars. All the same. Our blood briefly ran cold as this statement was made. We were shown the sheriff’s quarters. Holding cells and administrative offices.And then we went to the second floor. The second floor held petty criminals. Those who let horses die in the streets. Those whole stole livestock and those who stole small amounts of money. The cells were large and open considering and then to the right was maximum security. 4 giant metal doors. Loud clanking noises. If the sound of freedom escaping could be created, it was the sound of those doors opening and closing. And as Amber and I were swept up in the feeling of being behind cell bars, we looked to the front towards the wall only to find 10 foot gallows. It’s called The Green Monster. It’s bright green and still has a noose attached to it. The jail historian said The Green Monster claimed at least 3 people and that it was placed in front of the petty criminals to discourage further crimes. We were stunned. The wood was the same, just reformatted to discourage people from climbing on it. It still looked as it would have to a prisoner. It was haunting. It’s also probably very haunted. We agreed not to take any photos while in the jail. Part out of respect for those who lived and died there and part for fear that we’d capture proof of a ghost.
  • Mead is indeed the drink of the gods and Amber and I learned that after a much needed winery and meadery visit post incredibly haunted jail visit.
    • I can see why Odin and Thor like mead so much.
  • Seguin is an interesting town that feels at the same time too big and too small for what it is.
  • I get one Gravitation song per road trip. I chose Sleepless Beauty.
  • Fried green tomatoes are overrated. I’m sorry, Amber. They’re gross and taste like outdated modes of thinking and plantation back porches.
  • The look on my face over being served a drink in a pitcher is hilarious.
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Please ignore how awful my hair is. It was windy. 
  • Jokes aside, The Dixie Grille in Seguin is probably some of the best food I’ve had in awhile. Even if the drinks are served in a stupid way.

I think it’s interesting to think of the revolution. At the end of the day, even if the battle started over slavery, it ended with the concept of freedom. The Texans wanted freedom. They wanted to be able to do as they saw fit. It was at the time terrible but during this time of…turmoil, it is interesting to think of what it means to stand for what you believe in. Unless what you believe in is slavery. Then you are wrong. You are still very wrong.

And if you want to disrespectfully disagree with me and attempt to take down the cannon of my morals, values and beliefs?

Come and take it.

 

 

 

When an Adaptation is Just an Adaption

“Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out” ― Martin Scorsese.png

I love comic books, movies, anime and manga but I am a writer first. And as a writer, I’m always curious about what says as sacred canon and what gets changed in the process of taking something from page to film or to stage. Let’s talk about adaptations: when a cut’s right and when it ruins the entire soup.

When I was a young lass in the early days of anime serialization and broadcasting, I picked up Fullmetal Alchemist as an anime. I immediately fell in love with the characters, music and animation and have called it one of my favorites of all time on more than one occasion.. So like the good girl I was, I picked up the manga. Now, many of you may know that the anime and the manga split off dramatically from Funimation’s cut of the anime due to a rush to finish the anime and well, money. The anime broke off from the manga around volume 7. I continued with the anime and fell off with the manga because buying manga was out of the question and anime was (mostly) free and I could catch up weekly on Adult Swim. The anime’s narrative of two brothers determined to fix a mortal wrong and its relative low amount of romance and high amount of drama and science/magic was perfect for me. By the time I got the manga after the place it split: I was crestfallen. The manga more heavily focused on building up relationships and took the focus away from Edward and Alphonse and made it about literally everyone else and thus the anime adaption of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood also followed the manga’s journey to the letter. But, from fans, I get a lot of criticism for saying I prefer Funimation’s run of the original anime more than the one done by the creator of the work.

Let’s take an opposite approach to this but we’ll switch it up with comic books. Captain America: Civil War was a very popular Marvel movie. It was also a mostly offensive fanfiction that absolutely neutered the ethos, paranoia and allegories to real social and sociopolitical events in the Civil War I and II. I loved the mystery, complex morals and ambiguous questions in the first Civil War comic series and I loathed the fact that the movie chose to make the central conflict two grown men fighting over the affection and attention of another grown man. But many saw the movie as a more than acceptable part of the MCU while more than one comic book fan found themselves disappointed and angered by the choices to take down one of the most powerful storylines in Marvel history.

But let’s be honest, plenty of things that happen in books, comics and manga just…cannot be brought to the big or little screen. Let’s take a hot button issue to task: whitewashing and when it’s not actually an issue of whitewashing. Dr. Strange is another comic book and now popular movie that was written…well, in a different time. The titular character actually morphed into an “Oriental” man in the earliest run of the comic. So when the movie came out, there was a lot of criticism over the changes made in adapting from a psychedelic orientalism-centric comic book to a modern cinematic creative venture. The biggest criticism in Dr.Strange was the casting of Tilda Swinton as “The Ancient One”. Now, for those of you who have not read a comic book, The Ancient One was…made in a different time. He’s a grand Tibetan magic man with a long stereotypical moustache and speaks in a way that is…well, offensive. So the casting of Swinton and adjusting her version of The Ancient One to a Celtic magic user or great power, it actually made more sense. It wasn’t an issue of whitewashing: if the original version of The Ancient One had run, good heavens, I think that would be even more offensive. Real whitewashing comes in the form of choosing to cast American actors when there are viable options for actors of a certain race are available. Take the movie Aloha. That movie is set in Hawaii, films in Hawaii and has many characters that are said to be half-Asian. There is not a single native Hawaiian, Asian or Asian-American actor or actress in the movie. The main character is said to be half-Asian, and I can assure you, she is not. I’ve been to Hawaii, and it does not look lily white like Aloha would like moviegoers to believe. An issue of whitewashing that also took the world by storm was Iron Fist. The comic book turned Netflix series received lots of backlash over being whitewashed but while being influenced by the magical Orientalism of the 60s, the main character (or at least the main continuity’s character) has been a white man since the comic’s inception.

Censorship is another common influence when it comes to losing something in an adaptation. Gravitation is probably one of my favorite manga. It has an anime. An anime fangirls don’t like to talk about because of terrible 90s American dubbing, weird animation and clothing including shoulder pads oh and the fact that the anime completely makes a straw man out of the main issues of the manga. The themes of sexual abuse, trauma, time, mortality and mental illness are downplayed because frankly, it’s difficult to read sometimes. The panels of Yuki Eiri saying he wanted nothing more than to be as dead as his sensei are painful but when you remove all the trauma and hurt and darkness: you’re left with a saccharine sweet series that was never meant to be. It also turns complex characters into hollow shells: Yuki’s just a jerk when you don’t know all of the past events that made him the man he was. Ryuichi is just an odd fellow when you write out that he battles with mental illness and is strictly under Tohma’s control. It doesn’t rationalize or take away how awful these characters can be but it certainly helps frame the series a little better. You don’t forgive Yuki for being emotionally abusive but you can at least get what made this man the way he is.

Speaking of censorship. Should we adapt scenes that make us uncomfortable? Watchmen is a brilliantly nuanced graphic novel about what it means to be human, free will and what it really means to be a hero. The movie of the same title directed by someone I don’t want to give much credit to deals with a few of the same themes…just differently. But Watchmen has more than one uncomfortable scene that’s lifted from the pages of the graphic novel. Out of all the things that were cut because reasons: why keep the ultra-violence or almost rape scene? Why keep all of that in? I think the vitriol around those scenes was that it didn’t add anything to the narrative of the movie. It added a lot to the graphic novel and built tension, characters and helped cement storylines. While on the other hand Teen Titans: Judas Contract’s animated movie to a rather uncomfortable scene from the comics, updated it and through its clever adaptation added something that satisfied comic book fans who were aware of the scene in question while simultaneously not totally unnerving the lay comic book fan who has seen lots of comic book movies without touching a lot of actual comic books.

So when is an adaptation just an adaptation? There are plenty of movies I can say are good fun even if they violently ignore the original source material. The Spirit is a fantastically fun movie even if it looks and sounds nothing like the original comics. Grendel is one of my favorite novels (probably says a lot about me) and it couldn’t give two hoots about its original source material. Sweeney Todd was fantastically reimagined by Tim Burton and it actually made the source material dare I say, better. I think the issue is when something is lost in adapting from page to film. When Civil War was neutered for the sake of shoehorning in a subplot about how Tony Stark is secretly jealous that Steve Rogers is spending more time with his lifelong best friend. When the ethos of the source material is cut because movie directors and studios assume it won’t make money, that’s when adaptation is sick and terrible and makes me so so very angry.

So what’s your favorite adaptation? Did I leave anything out? Comment below!