One definition of evil is acting in your own self-interest at the expense of the interests and well-being of others. The most popular villains in fandom history challenge this definition or take it to new and interesting places. I’ve discussed the Master and Lex Luthor. Today I want to talk about the Joker.

I’ll focus on Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. This version of the character is up there with Darth Vader as one of the most popular movie villains of all time. He has some great lines that explain his outlook on the world. He’s an “agent of chaos” and his whole thing is shaking up the system in Gotham City, trying to prove that the system doesn’t work.
There’s a theory on the Internet that the Joker is actually a hero in The Dark Knight because he’s “saving” the people from the corruption of Gotham. Respectfully…no. No-no-no-no-no-no-no! To be a hero he would need to care about people. He’s definitely evil because he acts for entirely selfish reasons.
In every incarnation, the Joker is a nihilist. He believes that the world is pointless, all life is meaningless, and the so-called system of order doesn’t work. He chooses to interpret it all as a joke. Most fans understand this. But here’s the other thing: the Joker just wants someone else to get the joke.
Ideally, he gets all of Gotham City to think the way he does. At the end of The Dark Knight, only Batman and Commissioner Jim Gordon understand his way of thinking. But that still counts as a victory for Joker.
The Killing Joke, that R-rated cartoon, is also about the Joker trying to make Batman and Jim Gordon see things his way. The Arkham video game series and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker are pretty much the same thing.
Suicide Squad is – well, barely about the Joker, but it’s about Harley Quinn. The great tragedy of Harley is she’s probably the closest canon-Joker has gotten to making someone see things his way. But she’s also in love with him, which doesn’t gel with nihilism. Neither of them are going to get what they want.
Hopefully the Joker isn’t as relatable to you as Lex Luthor is to me, but they both represent interesting ideas. If evil is just selfishness, it should be clear – Christian worldview or not – that we all have the potential to be like these famous villains.

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Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog


When the Master Met Missy

I finally thought of something to say about the Doctor Who Season 10 finale, “The Doctor Falls.” It’s the show’s first multi-Master story, which is a big deal.

The Daleks may be the Doctor’s greatest foe, but the Master is the Doctor’s greatest foil. They used to be friends a long time ago (kudos if a certain theme song is playing in your head right now). But then the Master went crazy and the Doctor went a different kind of crazy. They ended up with very different views on the universe.
In the first part of the Season 10 finale, the Doctor explained that the Master is the only person he’s ever met who’s like him. Even if they’re not the only two Time Lords left, he would like them to be friends, or at least on the same side.
The Master feels the same frustration, but his/her reaction is a bit more antagonistic. They take every opportunity they get to mess with the Doctor and the people he cares about. This continues even after the Sound of Drums is gone. The drums are part of what caused their separation, and after the Master turned into Missy, she became obsessed with convincing the Doctor that they’re not so different after all.
The influence of this idea spread throughout the Moffat era (thanks to time travel). If it wasn’t for Maisie Williams’ lecture in Season 9, the Doctor probably would have gone off the deep end. But in Season 10, he managed to get Missy into therapy and tried to convince her that they wouldn’t have to be on opposing sides if she came over to his way of thinking.
In “The Doctor Falls,” the younger Master didn’t seem overly upset that Missy was becoming a good person without the Drums. His main concern was that she was friends with the Doctor. That weird little idea was the driving force in the finale. And for old times’ sake I won’t spoil the resolution.
The moral is we shouldn’t be like the Master. If we disagree with someone, we shouldn’t try to make things difficult for them. We should just lock them in a box until they start to agree with us. No wait. Maybe we shouldn’t follow the Doctor’s example either.
So there’s not much of a moral this time. I just wanted to talk about Doctor Who.

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Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

How To Win An Action Scene

I’m no action scene aficionado. I don’t know if I would recognize a bad action scene if I saw it, but I know good action when I see it. Jake Jarvi – the guy who made THIS – taught me that a good action scene includes plenty of things going on in the same place and happening very quickly, but the audience doesn’t lose track.
A good way to make sure that happens is to follow the hero and make sure he isn’t losing track of the action. That’s how most heroes win their action scenes, really. When a fight is evenly matched or even more often when the bad guy has an advantage over the good guy, the good guy wins through situational awareness.
What with the Defenders hype, I’ve had Iron Fist on the brain lately. The show had problems, but it had good parts too. One of my favorite good parts was a moment in Episode 4.
The stakes: Danny Rand needs to save his friend Joy from some Asian dudes in nice suits. If they get her down the hallway and into the elevator, they’ll probably get away. But even before that, they might hurt her. So Danny needs to work fast.
The twist: the Asian dudes pull out hatchets. Yeah. Hatchets.
Danny’s doing his Kung-Fu Fighting routine. It’s not as cool as Daredevil’s long-shot hallway scene, but it’s not bad. One guy throws a hatchet at Danny’s face and he dodges it in slow motion. As you do. Then the guy who is now without a hatchet goes into this midair tornado kick thing. And Danny kicks him in the shin. The Asian guy falls down and Danny moves on.
I rewound and replayed that moment a couple times when I first saw it. It seemed too epic for the show to move past it so quickly. The buildup…and then one kick to the shin and it’s over. Considering all the awesome martial arts we see Danny do, including the Saitama move, shutting someone down completely by kicking them in the shin seems pretty simple. But it only works because Danny knows where to kick him and knows that it will work.
The moral of the story is just what I said earlier. The good guy almost never wins by being the strongest or the most violent. He wins by paying attention.

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Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

The Tricky Thing about Polytheism

Last time I mentioned Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I said that it contained wise insights about faith and metaphysics if they’re kept in context. That was weeks ago, before I had seen the episode about Jesus. I think the topic bears revisiting.
In the Gaiman-verse, there’s more than one Jesus. There’s only one Son of God, but he has at least a dozen individual bodies. Each manifestation is a different ethnicity. Mr. Wednesday’s explanation is, “There’s a lot of need for Jesus, so there’s a lot of Jesus.”

See, most of the others gods on the show manifest as a nationality that matches the majority of their followers. Jesus came to save all of humanity, so the show suggests that he looks like all of humanity simultaneously. That’s theologically incorrect, but I still like what the show does with the Jesi.
Traditional-looking Jesus talks to Shadow, the protagonist, and in that conversation he is portrayed differently than any other god. He’s not lording over the mere mortals, but he doesn’t act like a weird foreigner either. He casually sits on the surface of a swimming pool, and he calmly and sagely helps Shadow through a personal struggle. I enjoyed that scene.
At one point, Mr. Wednesday points out that Jesus replaced the pagan gods that used to dominate Saturnalia and the Spring Equinox Festival (which actually exist in this universe), and Jesus acts like he didn’t realize that. And he acts guilty about it. And he doesn’t seem to recognize what guilt is, as if he’d never felt that feeling before.


An incarnation of Jesus would be capable of guilt, like any human. And if it ever happened, it would be a new experience for him. And in a universe where there are multiple gods that spend most of their time competing with each other for dominance, that’s what the Jesus situation would look like. So it makes sense in the fictional context.

The same episode also features this conversation: “So he messed with me just to mess with me?”
“What do you think gods do?”
That’s the other thing about a world like the Gaiman-verse. Making multiple quasi-deities means omnipotence must be divided among them, and that means some of them are going to do questionable things just because they have the power. I appreciate how this show pointed that out.

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Twitter: @noahspud

A “Live” Doctor Who Review

I forgot to watch Doctor Who until tonight (Monday), so I’m changing things up. Rather than spending time in reflection, I’m writing this “live” while I watch the episode. So here are my disjointed but spoiler-free thoughts on “The Eaters of Light.”

I’ve said it before: this season is really good at episode openers.
Bill has graduated to “thinking she knows more than the Doctor about something.” This is significant but appropriate progress for her character.
Random druid-barbarian princess. Talking crows. Last week’s episode seemed very British; this one’s very Scottish. I like it.
Bill is such a nerd; she’s a fangirl, I just realized. Love of learning new things. Clever as a whip. Gay. All she needs is a Tumblr.
Another parallel to last week: deserters from the Roman legion. The difference is these so-called cowards turn back into noble heroes when there’s a girl to protect.
Bill finally got her big “separated from the Doctor” plot. The Doctor went MIA a couple episodes ago, but at least Bill was at home on Earth. This is an important step for her.
2nd-century Romans are just as quick to accept LGBTQWXYZ+’s as 21st-century guys. Good from a secular perspective; not-so-good from a Christian perspective. I’ve said that before too.
Believing in the Doctor wholeheartedly means Bill can give a heck of a speech based on him and his philosophies, kind of like Martha Jones at the end of Season 3.
Also, Bill is more accepting of the fact that where the Doctor goes, there is trouble, and where there is trouble, people die. That’s more character development.
The Doctor slowly getting better at interacting with humans has meant less applying his own inner darkness to the fights around him, either as a weapon or a tool. The 12th Doctor is especially good at that; remember That Speech in the Zygon episode? This episode gives him another chance to be inspiring yet terrifying as only the Doctor can.
I still love Missy’s therapy. The Doctor says her problem is, despite her understanding of the universe, she can’t hear the music. That was the fault of the Drums, until recently. Now I really believe there’s hope for her. Of course, the thing with feathers was never guaranteed a long life.
9 out of 10 exploding bags of popcorn.

Didn’t have time to reflect on a Christian moral this time. Anyone else notice one? Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

First Person Shooters and the Bible

“What are your thoughts on whether first person shooter games are good or bad biblically, in regards to shooting people and seeing blood (this happened over CSGO)?” – elliot5445
Thank you for your question! I think my co-blogger is better qualified to discuss video games (and you’re welcome to weigh in, Isaac), but I’ll give it a…shot.

As I’ve mentioned once before, video games – especially first-person shooters – aren’t really my thing, not because I have problem with them as a Christian, just because I’m bad at them. As a result, this post required research, both into what CSGO is (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive), and what conclusions we can draw from the Bible about seeing blood and shooting people.
Guns are, of course, not mentioned in the Bible, but killing is. God told people to kill people quite a lot, especially when His people were trying to get into the land God had promised them. He actually said “Don’t leave anyone alive, or else they’ll lead you astray with their pagan ways.”
Many first-person shooters are about war. War is the sort of killing that God is usually okay with; senseless murder is the problem. The key is context. In the fictional universe inside your video game cartridge, God doesn’t exist and therefore doesn’t have an opinion on whether a line of code should go to fake war and kill fake people. It’s up to you to determine if the killing is senseless.
The next issue is blood, gore, and the realism of the violence. Even from a non-Christian standpoint, the worry is that real people will act out the realistic violence they are making fake but realistic people do to fake but realistic people.
We’re not supposed to set vile things before our eyes (Psalm 101:3). Do you define a fake soldier shooting a fake enemy soldier as “vile”? If you or the people you trust say yes, then sure, stay away. But do you consider a woman putting a tent spike through an enemy’s head as “vile?” How about a guy’s long hair becoming a makeshift gallows? How about someone being whipped repeatedly, wearing a crown made of thorns, and getting nails through his hands and ankles? The Bible includes realistic and vivid imagery of death. Something to think about.
Those are my thoughts, disjointed though they may be. Again, Isaac, feel free to comment if you like.

Ask us more questions and they will be answered. Let’s Connect!

Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

The Other Other Comic Book God Among Men

(Part 3 of the mini-series on gods and their myths)
Superman is infamous for being too powerful to be relatable. But there’s a comic book character who is actually worse, and not even one of those obscure, comedic parodies. It’s Dr. Manhattan, the atomic powerhouse of “Watchmen.”

In an alternate universe where masked vigilantes are an integral part of American history, Dr. Manhattan is the only superhero with actual superpowers. The Manhattan project accidentally turned a human into a quasi-deity with total control of matter. He teleports and incinerates things and people, sees the future, and creates things out of almost nothing. I’d say he’s even more powerful than Superman.
The graphic novel and movie don’t even try to make Dr. Manhattan relatable in a human way. They focus on his nigh-godhood and how hard it is for him to protect humanity when he feels so separate from them. In that respect, he’s a better character. The thing that messes him up is everyone else’s reactions to his existence.
The actual line is “There is a god. And he is American.” The entire country loves Dr. Manhattan simply because he was an American citizen before his nuclear ascension. Many experts believe that the Cold War is a non-issue because Dr. Manhattan can stop a nuclear war before it starts. No one seems to realize that he could also be a one-man nuclear war, end the entire world in a few seconds, and probably restart the human race with his power. He nearly does that at one point.
In DC, some people, evil and otherwise, don’t trust Superman. In Watchmen, only one person in the entire world figures out that Dr. Manhattan might be a threat, and he’s *Incoming Spoiler* literally “the smartest man in the world” and the villain. His master plan is to make everyone afraid of the atomic god, not even to hurt him.
Then again, “Watchmen” is described as “post-modern.” Maybe the point was exaggerating hero worship to the point of widespread stupidity to suggest people shouldn’t put so much trust in heroes like Superman either. “Watchmen” was trying to warn us about stories like “Injustice” before they happen.
I’ve said it before: altruism isn’t all that realistic, and superpowers are more likely to super-corrupt. God-like superheroes don’t have the love and benevolence of the real God. So be extra careful who you admire as a super role model.
Do you know of any other gods among men we could talk about? Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog