Why Did Anakin Turn Evil?

I just saw a YouTube video called “The Case Against the Jedi,” which ranted that emotional detachment – apparently the core tenet of the Jedi Order – is the path to the Dark Side. Anakin is denied emotional support, so he is unprepared for one tragedy (his mom’s death) and goes down a very dark path in an attempt to prevent the emotional trauma of a second tragedy (his wife’s death).

I guess I agree that the Star Wars movies needlessly preach macho emotional detachment. But I can’t accept that burying emotions is the reason Anakin becomes Darth Vader. For one thing, Yoda’s teachings about emotions leading to bad things aren’t entirely wrong.
Yoda says, “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” That first step is specifically fear of loss, which suggests you have emotional attachments to people that you’re afraid to lose. To avoid that, the Jedi preach celibacy and detachment from family members. Yes, that part isn’t great here in the real world. But everything else in that “emotional domino effect” is kind of accurate. Fear, anger, and hatred are selfish. Evil is selfish. The connections aren’t hard to make.
Anakin tries to suppress his fear of losing his wife, as the Jedi teach. Then what happens? Does bottling up his emotions lead directly to murdering children and becoming a Sith Lord? No. The video is forgetting one important piece of Anakin’s story: the Evil Emperor’s temptation.
Darth Sidious represents the Dark Side. He goes to Anakin and tells him that the Jedi are wrong, and that there is a way to save the people he’s afraid to lose. All he has to do is murder some children and serve a new tyrannical government. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should. The original Dark Side has been using pretty much the same temptation tactics since Genesis Chapter 3.
Consider how Christians would suggest dealing with fear of loss. We wouldn’t say “stop caring so much.” But we wouldn’t suggest looking to the Dark Side for power, either. We would say, “Have faith that God will take care of your loved ones, and don’t be afraid anymore. Fear and anger are signs of pride, thinking we know better than God, thinking we can protect our loved ones better than He can.”

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Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

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Thoughts from My Bathroom Floor

So here’s how my holiday week went:
I got Turtles All the Way Down by John Green for Christmas. It’s just as good as I expected it to be.

This week I also finished the rough draft of a novelette I’ve been working on, and I announced that to my family at a Christmas party on Saturday.
At that Christmas party, I must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me, because I spent Saturday night depositing everything I’d eaten in the toilet. The uncomfortable way.
Just when I thought I had gotten the whatever-it-was out of my system, I went to bed and promptly had a nightmare about the book I just finished writing. Then I was back in the bathroom.
While I was lying on the bathroom floor, I thought of Turtles All the Way Down. Aza, Green’s protagonist, contemplates the book Ulysses by James Joyce. There’s a scene in that book where someone says “Jamesy let me up out of this,” as if the character realizes they’re fictional and doesn’t like this plot. At a couple points, Aza begs with the unknown entity she’s convinced is running her life (she has some kind of OCD-anxiety mental illness) to stop putting her through this plot. That night, I was having similar thoughts related to the ever-tightening nightmare-toilet-unpleasant sleep-toilet spiral.
That made me think of a book called Truest by Jackie Lea Sommers. The book is inspired by John Green’s work; the main difference is Sommers’ characters look to Christianity for answers to the tough questions in their lives. At one point, a character in Truest who’s also struggling with the ultimate question of “what’s real” says, “What if we’re all characters in a book? That would make the author God.”
It makes me wonder why John Green, who reportedly believes in God, hardly ever writes his characters turning to God for answers. Aza repeatedly refers to her grandmother’s Christian beliefs. But even at her lowest point when she says “let me up out of this,” she apparently doesn’t even consider putting that question to God.
Anyway, on the bathroom floor, I asked God to calm my stomach and my nerves, and then a voice in my head said “in through the nose, out through the mouth, nice and slow.” I did that, and I got better.
Happy 2018, folks. Your now is not your forever.

Did any of you have deep thoughts over the holidays?
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Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

Eat Your Heart Out, Edward

I wrote about Penny Dreadful not too long ago. Since then, I watched Dracula, NBC’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s book. Unlike Penny Dreadful, it focuses on Nosferatu Primo and his cast of characters. And it makes Dracula the good guy.

Yes, that’s Dracula in daylight.

In the late 15th century, Vlad the Impaler made an enemy of this cult called the Order of the Dragon. They’re basically Templars (Assassin’s Creed style), ruling the world through the oil market and sponsoring vampire hunters. After burning Vlad’s wife at the stake, they turned him into a vampire. Why? Um…death was too good for him?
Yeah, making Count Dracula, mass murderer, your protagonist requires some stupid villains. But other than that, this show is okay. All the visuals are great. The dialogue is delightfully clever, full of double meanings and hidden references. Everyone is shown to be as monstrous as Dracula is (apart from the throat-ripping and bodily fluid consumption).
The other requirement when Dracula, immortal superhuman, is the hero is a conflict that he can’t solve with throat-ripping and bodily fluid consumption. So they made him a businessman. He’s not quite as hypnotic as other fictional vampires, so he resorts to cleverness to succeed in the world of economics.
The plot development is fantastic, especially considering how silly the plot really is. Dracula wants to make oil worthless to make the Order of the Dragon broke. His plan is to invent geomagnetic wireless electricity in 1896. How is the king of all Gothic Horror a science fiction genius? Never mind that.
Katie “Morgana Luthor” McGrath plays Mina Murray’s best friend, Lucy. Like Morgan Le Fay and Lena Luthor, Lucy is a well-meaning, back-stabbing, too-capable-for-her-own-good, strong female character. She’s also queer. I haven’t read the original book, so I don’t know how much “subtext” there was between Lucy and Mina. But this is the second adaptation I’ve seen where Lucy’s crushing on Mina.
I’ve mentioned a few times how I feel about queer characters. Orientation-bending in adaptations is even worse, I think, because there are so many ways to diversify a story or make a character interesting besides making them queer. Sexuality isn’t the only spectrum out there. Why can’t more shows use the autism spectrum, for example?
But apart from that point, I rather liked this show. Adult content warning (throat-ripping, sex, etc.), but it’s good fun for literature nerds.

What are some of your favorite adaptations? Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @noahspud and @CorrelationBlog

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

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.

Let’s Connect!
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.

Ummmm…

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
@CorrelationBlog