Sunday, June 27, 2010

Scar: Rebel Against Fate

“Oh no, Mufasa. Perhaps you shouldn't turn your back on me.”-Scar

As the standings of the Disney villains go, a hierarchy has arisen to rank these animated antagonists, a Legion of Doom all of their own. The Evil Queen (of Snow White fame) usually leads them, due to seniority. Following her is usually the great sorceress Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty’s tormentor), a second in command who at times can usurp the leadership position herself. Yet among a group of spellcasters and royals, a lowly lion stands out: Scar, the designated villain of The Lion King. Scar has no fantastic powers, only a forked tongue and an unmatched cunning. With those limited attributes, he conquers a kingdom and more importantly, corrects what he believes is a ghastly wrong against him.

As The Lion King is clearly derived from Hamlet, the murderous Uncle Claudius finds his modern, animated counterpart in Scar. Both are brothers to kings, and by extension, uncles to the protagonists of their respective works. Both also commit stealthy fratricide to assume the thrones of their domains, before later being dethroned themselves by their nephews. The two share a sharp mind and cunning, and to an extent, are portrayed as cowards.

Spinelessness seems to be something one would immediately ascribe to Scar’s actions, as he very sneakily murdered his brother and used deceit and lies to maintain his regime until its fiery end. Yet, why does cunning and strategy indicate cowardice? Scar himself points out the differences between he and his burly brother Mufasa, saying to him, “Well as far as brains go I got the lion's share but when it comes to brute strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool.” The two brothers have their attributes: strength vs. smarts, brains vs. brawn. A ‘brave’ fight, to some, would be a no-holds barred brawl between the two, which Scar would of course lose.

So he attacks through his own element, setting a deadly trap to bring about Mufasa’s demise through causing a wildebeest stampede. Again, some would call this a cowardly plot, but why can’t it be seen as a fair move? A physical confrontation would be an unfair to Scar, he is clearly outmatched by his brother’s physicality. Stealth attacks are a thinking warrior’s way to even the scales against a stronger foe, and his plot was just that. The question then becomes, why does Scar need to have this fight with Mufasa at all? Why does he need to try to assume the throne, shouldn’t he let the rightful king pass the kingdom onto the rightful prince?

One would point out his status as the film’s villain. He is the designated evil character, so some assume a black heart is the reason he feels entitled to the throne. Envy is his sin. And yet, is it so evil to feel jealous of his brother, who was given their entire realm for no other reason than being born first?
This now becomes a question of fate. Scar laments in the first spoken lines of the movie to a caught mouse, “Life's not fair, is it? You see, I... well, I shall never be king.” Mufasa is deemed the rightful leader of the Pride Lands, presumably for being the first-born. Mufasa and his descendants receive everything for no other reason than being born first. Scar, on the other hand, gets nothing. The difference between receiving everything and nothing is nothing more than a matter of birth order.

Do Scar’s feelings of jealousy begin to make logical sense? Imagine growing up, never escaping the shadow of your older brother. Imagine being the frail younger brother, constantly compared to the stronger older son who has been hyped as the one to inherit everything. Imagine never being able to accomplish anything that can top what he has earned, through no effort of his own. One could either sorrowfully accept such a life, or try to act against the injustice.

And act Scar does. He was not content to accept the half-hearted decrees of fate and resign himself to a life in the shadow of Mufasa, and later Simba, he acts. He sees the ownership of the kingdom as a grave injustice, and he makes his bid for the throne. It almost comes off as a dark interpretation of the famous Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change Scar desires is a wrong corrected, and he takes the action to correct it. A true coward would be afraid to try, but Scar skillfully executes his plan fearlessly.

And so I have come to view Scar as a heroic character. He is not a sniveling coward in the shadows, but a cunning freedom fighter. He was denied something for an inane reason, and fought against the forces saying he should accept life as it is. Are we not told to take action when injustice presents itself? Scar took action, instead of complaining. Even if in the end his reign was spoiled by the returning forces of the establishment, he still held the world in his paw for a time, correcting the wrongs that he had suffered in life.

“Fate is for those too weak to determine their own destiny.”-Kamran Hamid

Nice Guy Paradox

It’s a paradox, made of two clichés with their backs to each other. They each complain about the other, yet make no attempts to change or move forward. Does anyone remember the Dr. Seuss story The Zax? Two of the titular species, a Zax heading North and a Zax heading south, meet at a crossroads and refuse to step out of the other’s way, and they’re locked in a standstill until, of all things, a highway is built. That’s what this reminds me of.
What are these two clichés coming together to form the elephant in the room?

Two philosophies in dating, one held by men and one held by women. You’ve heard them both a million times: “Nice guys finish last” and “The good men have all gone.”

Sounds a bit contradictory, does it not? It’s like one group of people advocating a fox hunt, while another frantically claims they love foxes yet can never find one. Of course, that analogy is flawed and I very well know it, but I wanted to illustrate how ridiculous these two ideas are, because in fact, both of the two are self fulfilling prophecies, claimed to be hated by those who hold them and yet perpetuated by the same people.

Now, before I continue, I’ll make a bit of a disclaimer: I’m not writing this to bash women, nor to hate on my own gender. I’m saying we’re both wrong. It’s not discrimination when everyone is bashed on, so keep that in mind.

To start with the guys, the aforementioned statement about the good fellows finishing in last place is a very, very self-defeating thought to have. To a degree, the girls are right, nice guys are not particularly common. But we are by no means Shiny Pidgeys, we’re simply uncommon. I know plenty of decent, generous guys. However, there are also a good number of wolves in sheep’s clothing among them.

There are two varieties of these ‘wolves’. First, there is the less dangerous average frustrated guy, who hides behind the nice guy banner when he loses, yet isn’t a particularly decent fellow himself. They fail with their attempted conquests, and look for something to blame. ‘I’m just a nice guy’ is an easy scapegoat, and at the same time vilifies their rivals. Really they are not real nice guys, only men with bad qualities who have trouble attracting women.

Then there is the more dangerous variation: the benevolent wolf, the deceiver. He is a man who pretends to be nice and caring yet at the same time holding some of the charm and appeal of the bad boy. He’s nice at first, drawing women in with his charm, yet soon he reveals his fangs. The nice guy she met at the party slowly morphs into a man who only cares for sex, or becomes angry and lashes out at her for no reason. These men contribute to the thought that there are no decent men left, but it must be remembered that these are impostors, and not the real thing.

Perhaps ‘nice guy’ isn’t what should be aspired for. I think a more apt goal is ‘good man’ There is more to being a good man than many realize. One does not deserve the title for holding doors or giving a girl a complement. Actions are hollow without the proper mindset behind them. First of all, if you expect to open a few doors and bed a woman by the end of the night, you’re already in the wrong mindset. Men who sit around talking about ‘bitches’ and which ones they’d want to have sex with are objectifying women. A good man does no such thing. A good man respects women, and treats them as fellow human beings instead of sex objects, treats a girl as his equal. Yet also at the same time, a good man is not a pushover. He does not throw himself to the ground as a carpet for her to walk on. A good man respects himself as well, and a good woman would not expect that of him in the first place.

And now for the other side of this coin: the women. As I’ve said before, many women claim there are no nice guys or good men left, or that they are few and far between. But just as I questioned the men who claim to be nice guys, I must also question the women who claim to look for them.

This criticism I have to specifically level at the girls my own age. Girls will meet guys at parties, and then be disappointed when they turn out to be terrible boyfriends or not want relationships at all. Why does this perplex girls when this happens? First of all consider the environment: alcohol in everyone’s systems, music blaring, and drunken idiots hitting on random women hoping to score and then cheering over a win in beer pong. Where is the sentimentality in any of that? To me it sounds akin to finding diamonds in a coal mine, possible, but rare. Try looking in other places, such as libraries, movie theaters, or clubs you may be involved in.
Quick disclaimer: If you met your significant other at a party and they turned out to be wonderful, then I’m happy for you but I’m simply talking about things in general, please don’t take it as a stab at your own relationship.

This may sound sharp-tongued, but I also have to say this: you cannot change the bad boys. They are the way they are, and people never fundamentally change. A person’s base personality is established by age 7, and if they’ve turned into a narcissistic egotist by the time they have seven candles on the birthday cake, it will never change, and there’s little that can be done about it by you. You are only setting yourselves up for a fall by believing otherwise. This further perpetuates the ‘nice guys finish last’ stereotype when women waste their effort on these fellows, making them believe they have to become like these rogues to succeed, and then in turn, the ‘no good men’ stereotype gets furthered as well.

Then there are the games. First I’ll state guys are just as guilty about this as well and this could easily have been put into the above section as well. Everyone’s heard of playing ‘hard to get’ or other mindgames that are played with someone who you may have an interest in, then the justification is that “It’s more satisfying when you’ve worked hard to get them”. Why must there be this bullshit in-between? If you like someone, the both of you should be honest about it. I can wager you won’t care about them any less than if you had to banter back and forth for weeks with mindgames.

So I end this saying one thing: to search for the good and the pure. Search for people who are good, and recognize the good in you as well. Do not worry about those who would expect you to be something you’re not if they are to ‘love’ you, for if you have to change who you are, the love would never be true.

I think I’ll close with a quote that I like to remember about this subject, by Oivd: “If you want to be loved, be lovable.” Don’t act like a egotistical jerk or a flighty temptress, those are not lovable. Be the match for the person that you dream of, make that your aspiration.

On Thinking

I was writing in my journal today, some musings about perspective and how to approach life. Yes, very vague I know. When I finished, I said to myself, “I like to think.” Then I immediately thought of people who would say they don’t like thinking, or “think too much”. I know several people who have trouble getting to sleep at night because they have too many things on their minds. Yet I find thinking to be very relaxing and enjoyable. So, let’s ask the question, what is thinking, and why would some people dislike it and others enjoy it?

At its most basic definition, thinking is the brain processing information. Feeling hungry, making decisions, and watching a movie are all forms of thinking. The verb “think” can encompass so many actions by the brain. Worrying is not the same as pondering, and imagining is not the same as deducing. So those who don’t like to think, maybe you and I are doing different kinds of thinking?

In school, the type of thinking most commonly seen is deduction. We’re taught logic, to take varying items of information and come to conclusions based on what was presented. Yet, I don’t find this type of thinking to be that enjoyable, and while I’ll admit I know many people who love to reason, I find it stiff and boring. So, in this capacity, I do not like to think.

Then there is imagining. When we imagine, we picture situations without foundation in reality. This is completely different from reasoning, which is based in reality. Imagination is anything but. It can be something as light as fantasizing about a new car, to a fantastic daydream on an alien planet or a mythic land. In this capacity, I like to think.

The worst kind of thinking is worrying, constantly relaying unpleasant thoughts and information through our minds. This is why I believe some people don’t like to think. Their minds insist on constantly thinking unpleasant thoughts and remind them of things they dislike, and yet worrying offers no solutions to these problems, only reminders of them. In this capacity, I do not like to think.

Lastly, I want to talk about pondering. It’s like a Captain Planet combination of these previous three: it has the flexibility of imagination, the deductive power or reasoning, and the power to solve what we worry about. Pondering is the reflection of how things are, but at the same time, we apply the whimsy and possibility of imagination to our reality. Pondering overcomes problems, we think of new ways to look at the problems we face, and find hope where there once was despair. This is the kind of thinking that I love to do.

The next time you face a problem, remember there are different ways to think about it. Instead of worrying about it, try pondering instead. Think of new ways to overcome the mountain, think of new opportunities you didn’t notice before, just think.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Looking Forward: Generational Rot

Looking Forward: Generational Rot
Editorial by Pat Hessman
Details on the 5th generation of Pokémon have leaked out at a steady pace ever since Pokémon Black and White versions were announced in April. We’ve been titillated with the promise of a new region, revamping the in-game battle displays, new options for trading and battling other plays online, and graphical advances unlike anything seen before in the handheld main series.
Yes, I didn’t mention the obvious one.
Anyone who doesn’t assume the single most anticipated aspect of a new generation is the new monsters is delusional. Pokémon has been and always will be about the titular creatures, they are the first and last 493 (a number about to dramatically increase) words in the franchise. Settings, forms of media, and presentation all change; but it will always be recognizable as Pokémon if the pocket monsters are present.
This brings me to my point: judgment of the newly revealed Generation V Pokémon as they slowly are revealed and how it’s often unfair.
I’ve been a lifelong fan of this franchise, ever since the days of Red, Blue, and Yellow. When Gold and Silver loomed overhead, most diehards rejoiced. The incredible collection of 151 was getting a 100-monster expansion, new things to train, new things to conquer, and new things to collect.
For us, it was a godsend, but to outsiders, it was something that started as ridiculously large getting more ludicrous. My stepsister told me at the time, “There’ll be 500 before you know it.” Generation II came and went and we all loved the Johto Pokémon.
Then the divisions began. Ruby and Sapphire versions were released, and 251 swelled to 386. Some loved the 135 Hoenn Pokémon, while other fans began criticizing the designs as either unoriginal or becoming too extreme compared to the simplistic designs of Generation I. At the same time, the natures of the Legendary Pokémon were elevating as well. No longer were they simply exceptionally rare and powerful creatures, we were now approaching deity status with gods of Land, Sea, and Air who supposedly shaped the Earth eons ago. One of my friends, in regards to Duskull, said they were now coming to resemble the gritty and extreme designs of Digimon. Even to this day the Generation III Pokémon still have left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth of gamers, as any mention of Ruby and Sapphire on a forum will still ignite flamewars.
Diamond and Pearl versions increased the number to a whopping 493 species, and brought more controversy over designs, and more debate about the ‘best’ generation. The monster designs were getting as complex as ever, and in the eyes of some, a creative low point (look no further than the endless bile streamed by the fans at Bidoof). Criticism was directed at complex Starter Pokémon families (all of them having unique typing, Infernape aside), seemingly lazy/unnecessary additions to evolution families (Porygon-Z, Probopass), and legendary Pokémon that now ruled Time and Space, even having the Creator of the Universe being something you can catch. We cried they went too far and ran out of new ideas, and we wondered how they’d go from there.
Enter the 14 revealed Generation V Pokémon. Aside from the legends and starters, we’ve seen a chinchilla, a pair of gears, an electric zebra, a strange sand crocodile, and a mad fire gorilla. Already some people hate the new designs, and some love them. Some love Zoroark; some consider him a lame, dark Lucario. The bile cannon have been aimed at the starters, too. One poster I saw was horrified at the thought of starting his Pokémon journey with a pig, while others (including myself) embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Some think the sea otter Mijimaru is adorable, while others roll out the oil spill jokes. And don’t even get me started on that smug snake Tsutarja. As for the Legendary Pokémon Reshiram and Zekrom, they seem to have a Yin and Yang theme. Are they going to be above Arceus somehow? Some fans love their unique typing, while one commented that Pokémon had “broken the Yu-Gi-Oh barrier” with the design of these two.
Personally, I always welcome more species of Pokémon. Each region makes the world larger, and the Pokémon residing there characterize them more than any cities or people. If Pokémon are supposed to be the game world’s equivalent of animals in our world, wouldn’t it be logical for there to be possibly even thousands of species of them in the entire world?
As the months draw closer to Black and White’s releases in Japan, more and more new Pokémon will be revealed. No matter how original or terrible the new monsters will be in the end, there will always be those who claim this newest batch is the worst. There will always be the haters; there will always be those who join Facebook groups loudly proclaiming there are only 151 Pokémon. Decide for yourself what you think of them.

Creative Commons License
Looking Forward: Generational Rot by Patrick Hessman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at