Sunday, December 25, 2016

Harry Potter and the Case for Israel

Before I begin, a small disclaimer: I don’t think the original article, aka this, is badly written or ill-advised. The true nature of art is to communicate an idea, and it stands to reason that something like Harry Potter would warrant analysis. The post, about how Harry Potter’s world is subtly homophobic, is another attempt at that, and one not unwelcome in a world currently fractured by the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States of America being a bigot himself. So I implore my readers to check this woman’s dissertation out for themselves.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Now, I, like the author of the post, am an avid Harry Potter fan. I’m not crazy enough about it to get a tattoo, but it’s safe to say that Harry Potter has shaped my development. It encouraged my vocabulary, to start binge-reading books, and it remains the only series to make me cry over a character’s death…twice. The books are some of my all-time favourites, right next to 1984 and The Hobbit, and the movies are the epitome of fun (especially the last entry, which remains one of the three entries in my holy-action trifecta that includes The Avengers and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.) I also went to see Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them in theatres, and, despite its flaws, it remains the only example so far of an MCU world-building knock-off that works.

So yes, I love Harry Potter. Which makes it all-the-more troubling that, as was suggested, the world is littered with homophobic subtext, a fact made more-disturbing by Johnny Depp, a man who abused his ex-wife for being bisexual, being cast in the most-recent film spin-offs penned by JK Rowling. As much as his short-lived cameo in the film was well-acted, he disgusts me and makes me wish abusive men didn’t still get work in Hollywood films. Also, the man has made a resurgence as villainous characters starting with Black Mass, so this makes me feel guilty that I was rooting for him to have a comeback. Double shame goes to Rowling for being excited to work with him.

However, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Ignoring that art is human, and human beings teeter on the verge of awfulness because of their selfish nature, I don’t want to discredit this writer’s concerns and desire to boycott future Harry Potter projects. What I want to discuss is this line:
“My will to give any kind of economic support to a woman who uses her billions and her platform to support the genocidal state of Israel…”
Remember how I try to steer clear of hard politics on this blog? I’m gonna have to break my rule and discuss how Israel is perceived by the progressive West. Because there’s a lot to say about this sore spot!

First, let’s shed light on some misconceptions about Israel:

Israel’s “colonialist” history:

The big misunderstanding is that Israel is a colonial land on-par with other European colonies since 1492. This is historically inaccurate for two reasons: 1. Jews aren’t white colonialists. They never WERE, despite the fact that a good number of them, like myself, have Eastern European features. In fact, despite their long-standing populations in Europe and, later, the Americas, Jews, or “Ashkenazi” Jews, have a history of being a persecuted minority. The concept of Ashkenazi Jews is rooted in a recently-conducted experiment that suggests that, for the most part, they descend from converts that mingled with Jews fleeing Judea during the Destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE (or AD, for you gentiles out there.)

And 2. Jews have had historical ties to the land of Israel since long before there was ever a Muslim or Christian population. Jews always pointed to their texts as proof of their historical ties, with the word “Jerusalem” appearing in the “Nevi’im" and “Ketuvim”, 669 times. But outside of that, there are physical relics of coins and artifacts in museums in The Old City of Jerusalem that show that there was a Jewish presence in the country as far as The Davidic Dynasty in the 10th Century BCE (or BC.) I’d elaborate more, but this unfinished video series by Richard Bass does it better justice than I could.

I mention this because it’s important to differentiate because Europeans and Jews. For one, Jews are diverse, including Jews of Spanish/Middle Eastern descent, or “Sephardi”, of Indian descent, of African descent and of Chinese-Asian descent. There’s even a group of Jews from the collapsed kingdom of Khazaria, of which a book was written explaining their decision to convert. White Jews, or Ashkenazim, may be the majority group, but they’re not the only ones, and they too have experienced their share of persecution (see the humiliating “Dreyfuss Affair”, for example.) Saying that Jews are “colonials” on-par with Europeans is, as I said, misleading.

However, if we were to go by the claim that they’re colonials, which I guess they are to outsiders, their only reason for “colonizing” what was Ottoman Palestine in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries was as a direct desire to have a homeland. Contrary to what you may think, the land known now as Israel was uninhabited swamp land and desert then. Most of its owners had abandoned the country, so Jews coming there was seen as a doomed project. But the Jews were persistent, and they ended up turning the swamp and desert into farmland and bustling communes. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened.

Which leads to my biggest complaint about how the internet has misled people on Israel. See this chart?

It’s terribly misleading. The earliest map implies there was a “Land of Palestine” in the beginning, when there really wasn’t. “Palestine” was a designation given by Emperor Hadrian to the land of Judea after the failed Bar Kochba revolt in 135CE. It was named after a group of long-deceased people called “Philistines”, who were descendant from the pre-cursors to the modern-day Greeks. Hadrian wasn’t happy with the Jews stirring up trouble, so he renamed the land as a way of deterring and breaking them internally; after all, what better way for a foreign power to assert dominance on a native culture than to conquer them, break their spirits and rename their land, right Europe? Right Europe? Right?!

So yeah, map on the far-left? You can go sit in a corner. Map adjacent to that? You can go sit in the corner for a different reason. Why? Well, it’s similar to the first map: it implies that a country called Palestine existed prior to the state of Israel.

Keep in mind that Palestine was a vassal province of whatever power was controlling it. When the Jews first immigrated there, although historical evidence shows that there was always a Jewish presence in the land, Palestine was owned by the Ottomans. Shortly after WWI, it was wrestled out of Ottoman hands by the British. The British, in an attempt to rebuild the land after the collapse of its former rulers, decided to break up the vassal state into two territories: the part east of the Jordan River became Trans-Jordan (the predecessor to modern-day Jordan), while the part west of the Jordan River became the British Mandate of Palestine. Confused?

Well, it gets better! Map adjacent to map #2? You can go sit in the corner too, but not before hearing this bit of info: you know how that map looks unevenly-divided? It’s because the British, in the ever-so-loving wisdom, decided to help quell the Arab and Jewish tensions by splitting the land known as Palestine into two states: the green became the Jewish state, the yellow the Arab state. The capital, Jerusalem, would be shared, but regulated by the British until further notice. The Jews, despite not being happy with this, accepted the agreement; after all, better a state with arbitrary borders than no state at all, right?

Sadly, the Arabs didn’t agree, and within hours of this declaration on May 14th, 1948, they declared war. But something weird happened, something the Arabs didn’t foresee, and that was them losing the war. By 1949, a ceasefire had been declared, during which Israel, now seen in maps 4 and 5, had doubled in size.

The notion of a “Palestinian Statehood” first made its way into the spotlight via Yasser Arafat…in 1964. Contrary to what you may have heard, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, or PLO, was three years before another major war in which the Jews were “ambushed” by their neighbouring countries. I say “ambushed” in quotes because Israel had known about the invasion for some time due to Eli Cohen (you can read about him here.) This “ambush” only lasted 6 days, and by the time a ceasefire agreement had been drawn, Israel’s size had grown to include Gaza, The West Bank, The Sinai Peninsula and The Golan Heights (but only a small chunk of the latter.)

I’m disappointed, but not shocked, that this map doesn’t mention that, since it was a major win for Israel and showed they were more than capable of fending for themselves. It wasn’t until the late-70’s, several years after The Yom Kippur War, that Israel started giving back land. This began with the slow retreat from The Sinai Peninsula under the agreement with Egypt’s then-president Anwar Sadat (who was assassinated shortly afterward) and lasted until the 80’s. The remainder of the retreats of land began in the early-2000’s, hence those yellow blotches you see in The West Bank section of the final map, as well as the complete evacuation of The Gaza Strip in 2005. Israel even tried negotiating more withdrawals…twice, but both times Arafat, still the head of the PLO, blatantly refused.

So yeah, that chart is misleading because it assumes that all of Israel was stolen from Palestine, a country that never officially existed. And yet, it’s being circulated constantly at pro-BDS rallies and anti-Israel conventions. And that it’s considered valid worries me as a Jew. It worries me because it’s wrong, but it also worries me because…

Israel as “genocidal”:

This brings me back to the article about Harry Potter.

In it, the author criticizes JK Rowling for supporting “Israeli genocide”. For those unaware, “genocide” as a concept means that one group tries systematically wiping out another group. The most-famous example is The Holocaust, in which Adolf Hitler attempted, and failed, to eradicate Europe’s Jewish population (though he ended up murdering 6 million of them.) The term is being used here to describe Israel’s constant desires for peace with its neighbours, particularly, for the sake of argument, the Palestinians living within its borders. This is also frequently conflated with Israeli “apartheid”, a term borrowed from the atrocities committed by South Africa in the 70’s and 80’s, and co-opted by the Boycott and Divestment Sanctions movement, or BDS. The claim is that of a “systematic destruction” of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government, and it uses tactics like the chart above to demonstrate its point.

Except that it’s a sham. A complete and utter lie. Sure, Israel’s no a pariah by any means, one need only look at the short-lived curfew imposed in the late-2000’s, but it’s usually the one trying to improve the lives of the Palestinians. It’s usually the one trying to extend hands of peace to the Arab nations, only to have to go to war when they retaliate. Even in times of war, it’s usually the one carefully trying to minimize civilian casualties on both sides, sending out leaflets and calls to Palestinian leaders to warn them to evacuate hospitals and schools before they drop their bombs on bunkers. It’s usually the one trying to be the Good Samaritan, so why is Israel frequently getting the shaft?

It’s not like the Palestinian Arabs aren’t benefitting from living under Jewish-Israeli rule. Under the Israeli government, the Palestinian population has tripled. The levels of literacy have skyrocketed. There are Palestinian Arabs living in all facets of life, and living well. There are even Palestinians in Israel’s General Assembly (or Knesset)! So, again, why does Israel keep getting the shaft, particularly from hard progressives championing for causes that civilians lack in Arab-run lands?

I’m baffled by this double-standard of “We want justice for everyone…except for Jews, because they’re genocidal monsters!” I see it all the time, and everywhere, from progressive movements. I see it in Black Lives Matter’s platform. I saw it in Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (or QAIA for short,) which doesn’t make sense considering that queer people are more openly-accepted in Israel than any other country in The Middle East. And I see it in some feminist circles, and as a feminist myself that saddens me.

This isn’t even an issue of criticizing Israel for legit reasons, as there are many. I, myself, am growing increasingly disgusted by Bibi Netanyahu as a politician, especially in his desire to work with known-bigot Donald Trump. But most criticism of Israel, or anti-Zionism, isn’t based in legit desire for governmental reform, it’s based in Antisemitism. If you want proof, go to any academic institution and look at what groups like BDS are preaching.

Look, I don’t want to discredit the article’s author’s intelligence, that’s not my intent. I may not agree with every single sentence of her blog post, but it’s well-written, and I don’t want to take that away from her. I simply want her to recognize that her comment about Israel was out-of-place and uncalled for. It’s especially uncalled for because JK Rowling, despite being against BDS, is still not in favour of Israel’s governmental policies. And besides, Rowling uses Harry Potter for all of her political positions, including Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and, yes, even BDS. So her being an “outspoken” critic of BDS isn’t much to go by.

I also don’t want the author to think I believe the Palestinians aren’t oppressed. Because if their constant indoctrination by their own government is indication, they are. The Palestinian government in The Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas, shows them programming in youth in an attempt to desensitize children into hating and murdering Jewish-Israelis in the name of Allah. Their news programs also romanticize suicide bombers as “martyrs”. If that’s not systematic oppression, I don’t know what is.

Finally, I want to speak personally and say that there’s always something in art to take issue with. Art is human, and, therefore, flawed. Ignoring how superhero films are misogynistic, or how one of the most-influential films ever, The Birth of a Nation, is a propaganda piece for the KKK, artists themselves can be all kinds of shady: Stanley Kubrick abused Shelley Duvall during the filming of The Shining, Marlon Brando raped Maria Schneider with a stick of butter during the filming of The Last Tango in Paris, even celebrities have shown their ugliness over issues that shouldn’t still exist like transphobia or, in the case of Mel Gibson, Antisemitism and abuse. Plenty of great works of fiction have their share of skeletons in the closet when you dig deeper. And while you should always be critical of them, that doesn’t mean they’re any less noteworthy.

It’s something to think about. Apologies for the seriousness of this piece, I promise my next entry will be more fun.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Is it safe for me to call 2016 “the year of animation”?

I know that it isn’t over yet, but I doubt my favourite films will change. Especially since, as I said not long ago, my 5 favourites have all been animated. And while I’d normally do a recap, or list my favourites with rankings, instead I’d like to give semi-casual, mini-reviews of my five favourite movies of 2016.

By the way, there’ll be spoilers. So if you haven’t seen any of these movies, please do so.

5. Zootopia

Beginning this is a movie that’s grown on me. I’d wanted an animated buddy-cop movie for years, particularly from a big-name studio, and was surprised when it was announced by Disney. Don’t mistake me, I’ve been more than satisfied by Disney’s recent (i.e. the last 7 or so years) output, going in really creative directions, but why not Pixar? Pixar’s known for high-strung masterpieces when on their A-game, after all! But you get what you get, so I watched it anyway.

I’ve found that my fondness for Zootopia has only increased over time. What was originally an enjoyable, yet nothing special, movie about an anthropomorphic bunny becoming a cop in an anthropomorphic metropolis turned into a layered look at police misconduct and discrimination on (an incomplete) re-watch this Summer. Zootopia went from fun to excellent immediately, and part of that’s because it has lots to say about subtle, hidden prejudices in a not-so-subtle way. It may be colourful and funny, and it may also be self-aware about past Disney tropes (in the case, it’s the “dreams come true” cliché). But it’s also not afraid to tackle profiling and police brutality.

And that’s exactly it: Zootopia isn’t afraid to discuss police profiling and brutality. If you’ll notice, I haven’t said anything about race, but rather the blanket term “discrimination”. The reason for that, as one particular podcast mentioned, is because the movie keeps its animal allegory purposely vague. The movie defines its characters as “predators” and “prey”, and I doubt that’s accidental. Zootopia could be about homophobia, or about immigrants, and part of the fun is keeping it general. So it’s not like the racism argument isn’t there, but it’s not the be-all-end-all.

The movie also isn’t afraid to deconstruct and lampshade the responsibilities of a police officer. This shows in the frequent distrust the Prey characters have of Predator characters, even if subconsciously. Even Judy herself, easily one of the most-likeable Disney protagonists, harbours some serious prejudices herself, and this surfaces in the third-act. Y’know, where she shows her ignorance by generalizing about Predators? I’m sure everyone’s had that conversation over whether or not what they’ve said was offensive, and it’s nice to see this movie doesn’t shy away from that.

Zootopia is also hilarious to boot. I think my favourites bits are in the DMV and with The Shrewfather. The former is relatable to anyone who’s ever been to a DMV and knows how slow they are. The best lines actually come from Judy communicating with Flash, and, being a sloth, he takes forever to get his words out. And despite not having seen The Godfather, the shtick with Mr. Big is so on-the-nose that it’s impossible not to laugh.

It’s tough ranking this in the pantheon of Disney’s animated features, especially since most of their best works have been musicals, but I thoroughly-enjoyed Zootopia. It’s easily the best of Disney’s non-musicals to-date, outshining classics like Lilo & Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove and newer films like Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6, so I’ll give it that. But in terms of the Disney greats, it falls short. Still, I don’t want to detract from what it does well, which is all-the-more relevant with real-life incidents of police brutality and discrimination. It’s also an easy shoe-in for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, although only as a nomination (with some of the competition, I’ll be surprised if it wins.)

4. Finding Dory

Speaking of another surprise, we have Finding Dory. Pixar’s taken a lot of crap from people for being in their sequel phase, when: a. They don’t have a choice, since Disney owns the rights to half of their IPs and can demand sequels whenever they want. b. As long as there’s potential for a good movie, I don’t see why it’s a bad idea. Granted, a lot of their sequels that weren’t from the Toy Story franchise have either been pretty bad, like Cars 2, or mediocre, like Monsters, University, so the complaints do hold weight. Add in that every original property since 2011 that wasn’t Inside Out was mediocre, and you’re left with an impossible scenario: how do you make a sequel to Finding Nemo, arguably one of the studio’s best, and have it feel fresh and interesting? Well, why not flesh out a throwaway line about Dory’s family and make it the focus?

And it works! Is it Finding Nemo levels of good? No, it’s not. But that was a concept that was fleshed-out to its fullest potential. This film is a smaller story that’s told from the perspective of Dory. Either way, give it credit for making a worthwhile film that clearly didn’t need to be made!

What makes Finding Dory work are its themes of adversity and uniqueness. Finding Nemo was a film about parenthood that had two characters, Nemo and Dory, with disabilities. This movie expands on that, such that every side character has some kind of disability: there’s an octopus with a missing leg, a whale shark with bad eyesight, a beluga whale with a damaged cranium, a pair of morbidly-obese sea lions, a bird with a cognitive impairment and, of course, Dory’s short-term memory loss. This’d be an easy excuse for insensitive jokes in the hands of a lesser-studio, but Pixar pokes fun at everyone while playing to their unique strengths. As someone with a disability himself, as I indicated earlier this Summer, I love that it’s handled so well.

Which it really is. Disabilities can be constant challenges for people who have them. So treating them like jokes or something to coddle can be demeaning, which is something society at large still does. However, they can serve as a source of clever humour when treated respectfully, which is something not seen too often. Finding Dory mines jokes without feeling too mean-spirited, and placing its disabled comic-relief at the foreground in an attempt to find her parents isn’t only funny, it’s inspired. It also masks the fact that the movie is kinda sad.

Still, it’s not as fresh as Finding Nemo, as it’s a bit on the lazy-side for Pixar. I remember Bob Chipman comparing it to Monsters, University, and while I think that’s an unfair point of comparison, in some ways it’s accurate. Because while it’s better than Zootopia, and that’s saying little from Pixar, it’s not as inspired as its direct predecessor. It also didn’t need to exist, although I’m glad it does. If you’re curious to see more Dory, then you really can’t go wrong.

3. The Boy and the Beast

Now we get to the one film most of you haven’t heard of, and many more of you will probably never see. Like I said on Infinite Rainy Day, The Boy and the Beast had a troubled release in Canada: first, it lost theatrical rights from GKids Entertainment due to…reasons I don’t understand. Then it was picked up by Mongrel Media and scheduled for a limited run. And finally, its run in theatres was made moot by a direct-to-video release less than a week after it debuted. Factor in that there was a delay in shipping, and I was already in a bad mood when I received it in the mail.

Despite these setbacks, I enjoyed the movie like no one’s business. I’m not even really sure why, as it was a gender-swapped take on The Wolf Children’s parenting themes set to a more fantastical scenario. Nothing about the movie’s basic layout, save the third-act monkey wrench, I hadn’t already seen in that movie, and I was able to spot reused motifs. But I really did enjoy it in the end. And I think part of that comes from a need to see parenting stories from a man’s perspective that don’t focus too much on toxic masculinity without lamp-shading how dangerous it can be.

The Boy and the Beast can be divided into two parts. The first part is a coming-of-age tale akin to The Karate Kid. Because really and truly, the protagonist, Ren, is the literal outsider, an orphan growing up in a world he’s not familiar with. He’s the audience surrogate, we see the story through him. We grow with him, learn to like Kumatetsu and even take enjoyment from seeing the two of them bicker. That the movie is about getting in-touch with the living arts is only one facet, and stopping there wouldn’t do it justice.

The second part is where the story goes somewhat awry. To be fair, I didn’t mind having the final confrontation be a fight between two human. I actually thought the decision to make Ichirōhiko a literal manifestation of the whale in Moby Dick was brilliant, further showing the inner-struggle he faces with himself and aligning with the book that Kaede reads to Ren. But to those who unwilling to suspend their disbelief that much, it might pull them out of the movie. But it’s not a big deal for me, and it does wrap up nicely.

Still, there’s a lot to love about this movie. I can’t quite recommend it for those unfamiliar with director Mamoru Hosoda’s other films, but it doesn’t mean you can’t watch it solo. I honestly think some of you might actually like it solo because there aren’t as high expectations, so…yeah, maybe you should. Above all, it’s a great example of why hand-drawn animation is still a viable medium years after the West abandoned. It’s also one of the best of the year, even if, technically speaking, it came out in 2015. Because we’re weird like that when it comes to anime…

2. Kubo and the Two Strings

This was the sleeper hit of the Summer. I’ve gotta be honest when I say that, for all their technical prowess and imagination, Laika’s films have never quite wowed me. They make good movies, don’t get me wrong, but their retro-style of film storytelling doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t think the 80’s have held up film-wise to the extent many claim, and Laika adores the movies of that time period. Not to mention, their endings are so preachy and forced that they leave me disappointed and wanting more.

So I was pleasantly-surprised when I ended up enjoying this movie as much as I did. Perhaps it was the decision to make this a high-strung action-adventure film? Maybe it was that it was longer than what Laika usually does? Or could it be that the moralizing element was almost non-existent this time? All of those are contributing factors, but I think it’s the creativity that won out.

Because make no mistake, Kubo and the Two Strings is unbelievably creative. I’m not only talking in its Nippon-centric influence, that’s definitely a factor, but in that it finds inventive ways to use paper as its gimmick. That’s right: paper and music keep this film afloat, and that so many opportunities are explored with both, yet not enough that you aren’t left wanting, is a treat. But what’s even more of a treat is the life-like stop-motion animation on display. It’s not only impressive to see stop-motion puppets move like CGI characters, but it’s even more impressive when you factor in how hard that must’ve been to pull off.

Which is a shame that the story itself isn’t really all that impressive. It’s a basic hero’s journey tale, and I mean that literally. The movie plays with many of the tropes associated with the classic iconography associated with Joseph Campbell’s writings, and unless you’re ignorant to the ways of storytelling, you’ll be hard-pressed not to guess most of its plot-beats before or as they happen. It’s disappointing, but, honestly, I don’t mind that much. Film is a medium of narrative simplicity, and so many stories try to overreach these days that a light tale is welcome. And besides, the characters make up for it, particularly in how Kubo interacts with Monkey and Beetle.

Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings was a wonderful surprise from a studio I’m normally lukewarm on. I’d thought Laika had peaked with Coraline in 2009, and their previously successive films weren’t doing much to convince me otherwise. However, like I said, I was proven wrong here. It’s not only a fun movie for kids, albeit much older ones (it earns its PG rating,) but even adults will have a blast watching it. This couldn’t stay my favourite movie of 2016, although my #1 choice more than makes up for that.

1. Moana

If Kubo and the Two Strings was the sleeper-hit of the Summer, then Moana was the sleeper-hit of the year. It’s interesting because it came out the same year as Zootopia, and usually two projects in the same year from a single studio is a bad sign (see The Good Dinosaur VS Inside Out.) Factor in that the trailers for this film, while not awful, made it out to be only okay, and I was concerned. Still, I kept an open-mind, hoping that it’d at least meet my expectations. Sufficed to say, it did so and more.

I’m not sure where to begin: do I start with the excellent songs, where even “Shiny” is still memorable despite being the weak-link? Do I mention how gorgeous and life-like the scenery is? Do I talk about how, despite being conventional, Moana is the greatest Disney Princess ever? Do I talk about how Dwayne Johnson is the best part of the movie? Or do I mention how funny the film is, even making its pop-culture references feel natural?

I guess all of that’s good. The songs, like I said, are fantastic, with “We Know the Way” being the highlight and “How Far I’ll Go” a shoe-horn for Best Original Song at the upcoming Oscars. The animation, like I said, is gorgeous, with some of the best ocean scenery in a Disney movie. Moana, like I said, is a great character, and I like how she was voiced by a Polynesian teenager instead of a white woman in her 20’s/30’s. Dwayne Johnson as Maui is also a treasure, absolutely pitch-perfect casting. And the film is unbelievably funny.

The only downside I can think of is that, like Kubo and the Two Strings, the story isn’t too impressive. It’s basically a hero’s journey (or heroine, in this case), making it the most bare-bones of any Disney musical in memory. It goes the extra mile to jam a lot into it, unlike Kubo and the Two Strings, but it’s pretty much a typical adventure movie. You can guess where it’s going before it gets there, and a few details, like the final moment in Maui’s character arc, happen off-screen because “tension” (I guess.) It does have a clever twist involving pacifism resolving its climax, which is something I’ve yet to see in a movie like this, but the story’s definitely the weakest part of the film.

But it doesn’t matter. Moana’s fun and engaging and overcomes its familiarity. The general consensus seems to be in one of two categories at the moment, based on what I’ve seen. Most people who were cold on Frozen seem to be warm on Moana, while most people who were warm on Frozen seem to be cold on Moana, so it’s up in the air how you’ll respond. I’m one of the people who loved Frozen, yet think Moana is infinitely better, so take that as you will. (You should still watch it, though.)

It’s also tough trying to figure out where I’d rank this in Disney’s filmography. On one hand, this is easily Disney’s best in 22 years, although that sort of praise is little to go by. On the other hand, it’s not quite on-par with, say, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin or The Lion King, so there’s that too. But it’s still a fantastic movie. I’d say go see it, but you probably already have, so go see it again.

And yeah, that’s it. I’m not sure if my 5 favourite films this year being animated is testament to animation, or a damnation of live-action. Go see them, and I’ll see you at the movies!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Star Wars Gone Rogue?


I promised myself that I wouldn't do a follow-up to my most click-bait piece on The Whitly-Verse. It not only goes against my personal standards of not selling out, but the piece itself was also terribly argued. But I have to because this is ridiculous. So let’s talk Star Wars: Rogue One…again.

If you’ll recall, I mentioned the internet was getting pissy over a female lead in the newest Star Wars outing. The cast also includes a variety of minority characters as the group of rebels, a white-skinned henchman to Darth Vader and stormtroopers. It also looks and sounds amazing, true to the talents of director Gareth Edwards. It sounds about as awesome as it can get for a Star Wars prequel. What could possibly go wro-

Oh…yeah, this is…something.

I’m not sure how to say this without it sounding like a joke, but considering that the world has gotten crazy in the last few months you’ll have to believe it. In the eyes of many die-hard fans, having a diverse cast of characters in a Star Wars movie is bad. It’s “anti-white propaganda”, a “sure sign that Disney has ruined Star Wars”. Above all else, it’s a big no-no for…reasons.

Anyway, the situation came to a boil when the main writers spoke up on Twitter. One of them, Chris Weitz, stated, “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” The other, Gary Whitta, then added, “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.” The two eventually deleted their Tweets, but they made it clear, albeit indirectly, that they were disgusted by the recent Trump win and had created a pin mocking his fans (supposedly.)

Make of that what you will. But the backlash was really strong, with Reddit and Twitter users calling for an active boycott of Star Wars: Rogue One under the Hashtag #DumpStarWars. Because if there’s anything the internet loves to do, it’s boycott. Regardless, the boycott became a breeding ground for complaining about “The SJW agenda”, something that’s become synonymous with any attempts at fair representation. And it’s ridiculous.

For as much as I try to remain distant from hard-politics on here, this remains the only exception, it’s hard not to mention that I can’t stand Donald Trump. I think he’s a narcissistic bully with the thinnest skin imaginable, as evidenced by his rants on Twitter, and that he’ll be handed the keys to the most-influential country in the West come January 20th scares me. So any critique of Trump, subtle or not, is welcome in my books.

I’m not alone; in fact, the arrival of Star Wars: Rogue One couldn’t be more timely, as it deals with a rag-tag group of individuals (and yes, they’re oppressed) fighting back against a regime that wants complete subjugation. To many, this almost is an on-the-nose critique of what they feel the Trump administration will become, something helped by his cabinet choices and their past histories. Regardless, that a Star Wars movie about fighting back against The Empire is upsetting the annals of the internet shows that it’s guaranteed to be a hit. After all, “There’s no bad press in art.”

So what’s caused such an extreme backlash? It’s complicated, but this largely stems from a greater male privilege. I know this is a sore-spot for many close-friends and family, but white, male privilege exists. It’s invisible to its target demographic, unless someone challenges it, but it’s there. Basically, for everyone who’s not the ideal, fair representation, especially in media, is a nightmare. Women in particular still struggle to make it big in Hollywood, and even when they get somewhere they have to work with unfair restrictions their male-counterparts never deal with. It’s partly why Edwards, a director whose most-prominent film prior was 2014’s Godzilla, was given this project despite not being exemplary, as opposed to a more talented auteur of the female persuasion who might be fantastic, yet’ll never get a chance to shine.

But anyway, privilege. The blowback over this film is a result of that, with long-time fans, mostly white men, upset because their beloved franchise is catering to someone else. Or, in other words, this:

Courtesy of Amanda Mariano Rozas. Original video courtesy of Scott Benson.

I know it’s forceful to use that video, but it accurately represents what’s going on: men, particularly white men, have had so much influence for such a long time that attempts to “shake it up” (read “cater to someone else”), even as a joke/experiment, have led to whining about “stolen ice cream”. It sounds completely ridiculous to outsiders, but when you think about it…yeah, how often have reactionaries sprung up because of oppressed groups campaigning for change? It might not be as it was in the days of the Suffragette movement, but that doesn’t mean people who aren’t white men don’t get flak from reactionaries for being “sensitive snowflakes”.

And Star Wars is reflective of that. After all, film is often a mirror into the status of society at any given time. It may not always be obvious, but, being a medium where many people have to compromise their ideas to make it work, it frequently reflects trends. It’s why both adaptations of The War of the Worlds took different approaches to the concept of an alien invasion: both were entrenched in what was “scary” at the time. Fortunately, Star Wars has managed to remain timeless by staying general in its fight between good and evil, but that doesn’t mean its decision to add diverse casting is bad…at least, to anyone that isn't a raging reactionary.

Here’s the secret: Star Wars has always been about social progress. The original films were a literal metaphor for the fight against fascism. The prequels showed how said fascism came into existence. That its main enemy’s military personnel are called “Stormtroopers”, a clear reference to the Nazi SS Officers, should be a dead giveaway. So for hard-right reactionaries to get mad that the new films paint the white guys as fascists, even though they’ve always been painted as fascists, makes me wonder if they’ve seen the original Star Wars films.

I’m not saying this as an “SJW” (even though that word lost its meaning a long time ago). Contrary to my social stances, I’m not a liberal. I voted Conservative in the last Canadian election, and I’d have probably rooted for the Republican Party pre-Trump had I been American. However, I’m not an idiot. I recognize the need for social change, something that’s been happening too slowly, and this includes Hollywood. Film has been dominated by white men for too long, so a little bit of diversity in casting is nice. It may not be to some people’s liking, but it’s still welcome.

Besides, boycotting Star Wars: Rogue One is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because that’s what Star Wars has always been about, and it’s ridiculous because the movie’s still gonna make lots of money. After all, the last film grossed over $2 billion worldwide. Boycotting a well-established cash cow because it writes fascists like fascists isn’t only absurd, it’s reductive. Because, in the end, it won’t miss you at all.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Dark Underbelly of Family Guy

Family Guy.

It’s no secret that this show about a dysfunctional family in suburbanite Rhode Island is controversial. On one hand, it’s expected; after all, it, like South Park and The Simpsons, has dealt with some pretty taboo topics. Also, like South Park, it relies on shock humour, a fact made easier by all of its characters, even the central cast, being fair game for offensive jokes and stereotypes. Sadly, it’s also one of the most vile and tone-deaf cartoon sitcoms currently airing on TV, specifically because all of its jokes are thrown in without much thought. And what better way to demonstrate this than by picking some of the worst and discussing them?

To be clear, Family Guy does make me laugh sometimes. Sadly, the ratio of funny/not funny is about 1 in 50. That’s not good, especially for a sitcom. It’s like playing darts while blindfolded: sure, you might hit the bullseye occasionally, but mostly you’re gonna pray that no one’s in the way. And, unfortunately, a lot of people are with this show.

*Sigh* Here goes nothing! (FYI, major trigger warnings.)

Let’s start with the most-glaringly obvious one to me personally. For those unaware, I’m Jewish. I practice Judaism to the best extent I can, and I’m a proud supporter of causes that the Torah promotes (i.e. giving to the needy, visiting the sick, respecting the elderly, you get the gist.) I also know that Antisemitism, though more muted than even 70 years ago, still exists, and that it’s been growing in recent years at an alarming rate. 2015 saw about 941 reported incidents of Antisemitism in the US on college campuses alone, according the ADL website (which you can see here.) That’s frightening, and I doubt the numbers will drop now that we have a KKK-endorsed president-elect.

Family Guy was created by Seth MacFarlane. MacFarlane’s notorious for having aligned himself with liberalism, championing social justice causes and even being hyper-critical of American conservatism with American Dad. That’s fine and dandy, but his obnoxiously disdainful views toward “political correctness” (more on that later) keep popping up in the ways he depicts minorities. This is especially apparent in how he writes his Jewish characters, featuring every possible stereotype imaginable because “funny”. I understand that MacFarlane thinks he's clever, but that doesn’t give him a green flag to be so blatantly disgusting.

Take this clip, in which he pays homage to a scene from Schindler’s List:

0_0 (Courtesy of zujaner’s channel.)

When I first saw this, my jaw dropped in horror. Why would a clearly-awful moment in a movie about The Holocaust be played for laughs here? For one, it’s not Amon Göth shooting Jews in a ghetto from his window, this is Peter shooting at his wife as she goes to collect the mail. The show thinks it’s being cute by mimicking Göth’s body language, but in Schindler’s List it emphasized how awful a human being he was. Here, it’s Peter being Peter, a completely sociopathic idiot with no regard for the safety of others.

Two, it’s not funny. I get that this show loves doing homages, but here it comes off more as bad taste than funny. Gun violence isn’t a laughing matter, especially given the recent shootings in places like Cherry Hill, Orlando, Newton, San Bernardino and Aurora. I get that the debate over gun regulation is complicated, but by making this into a joke it spits in the face of people who’ve been killed by maniacs with automatics.

And three, why Mort? I get it: Mort’s the token Jew. He’s been targeted with bad jokes since its inception. But that he gets shot at by both Peter and Joe, the latter a cop, and takes it in stride is insulting. “That’s how people say hello to me”? The Jewish guy has people saying hello to him this way? And he’s okay with it? What?!

Family Guy has routinely demonstrated that it cares not how it sets up its Jewish jokes, see the gag involving a racially-charged brawl outside a pub, but most are somewhat forgivable because their biggest offence is that they’re dumb. This, however, is terrifying and tone-deaf. Who in their right mind acts casually about almost being shot? Mort’s reaction isn’t normal, hence not funny.

Moving on, Family Guy’s attempts at tackling other races has also been piss-poor. Take this clip where Peter chokes Cleveland with a plastic bag:

CIVIL ABUSE FTW! Seriously, what?! (Courtesy of FamilyGuy035.)

Family Guy loves to poke fun (read “insult”) of other races and cultures, but this one moment in particular bugs me to no end. Why? Because with the recent incidents of violence against black civilians in the US, to see the show’s token black character (are we noticing a pattern here?) get suffocated by Peter, once again, makes him a sociopathic douchebag. And again, this isn’t funny. It’s too horrifying to be funny, especially since nothing’s done to help Cleveland post-facto. Perhaps some genuine humour could’ve been milked if it had more nuanced writing, but I’m demanding too much from the guy who wrote in a poor-taste soap opera gag in another episode.

And that’s the problem: MacFarlane thinks he’s being funny, when in reality he’s not. Family Guy has taken a lot of flak for its racially tone-deaf humour, and it’s not hard to see why. Besides, I know MacFarlane can actually be funny. Ignoring that most of the best jokes and episodes in Johnny Bravo were written by him, he’s proven to be funny even in the context of Family Guy. I thought his blaxploitation spoof on Back to the Future was spot-on, so I wish he’d deliver more often.

But wait, it gets worse! We’ve covered Antisemitism and racism, right? Well, how about sexism and domestic violence? Those are always fun, right? Right?!

Well, Family Guy has you covered there too. I won’t talk about the episode involving Glen Quagmire’s sister, because that’d take too long to deconstruct, but that doesn’t mean the show doesn’t have its share of horrible moments involving domestic abuse. Whether it’s Peter beating up his wife, Peter beating up his kids, and, um…Peter beating up his wife once more, the show makes absolutely no attempts at hiding how bad a husband, and perhaps father, Peter is. But what about when the show covers gags about domestic abuse? Surely there’s a goldmine there, right?

Actually, there is. I was debating between this and one other clip involving short people being treated like sock puppets, but in the end this won out:

I have no words for this… (Courtesy of Joshdog98.)

I think one of the commenters on the video itself says it all:
“So they use this for a joke. But then in Season 10, they make an episode that plays domestic abuse COMPLETELY straight. What a bunch of hypocrites.”
How is this not valid? You can’t have it both ways, Family Guy! Either be awful and poke fun at violence against women, or be nuanced and show the traumas of violence against women! (Actually, don’t do the former. You’ll save yourself plenty of angry letters and emails.)

The worst part is the resurfacing of the “two sides” argument, for several reasons: one, it’s domestic abuse. It’s obvious what’s going on, and you should report it. I actually think there’s a law about complacency in the face of a real crime, but don’t quote me on that. Regardless, this is domestic abuse.

Two, “two sides” is often a straw-man argument. Yes, there’s validity to having two sides to any l situation, I’m sure South Park has made that pretty clear after 20 seasons. But that doesn’t mean that both sides are equal. I’m sure the Nazis had their version of events about The Holocaust during The Nuremberg Trials, that doesn’t make their actions excusable. I’m sure a suicide bomber has their version of events when they get captured, that doesn’t make what they were about to do less-horrible. Yes, “two sides”…but not “two equal sides”.

And three, people often bring up “two sides” to avoid responsibility. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not even sure if people who espouse this argument know what it means. It’s like how “political correctness” has lost its meaning over time: respecting a woman’s body isn’t “political correctness”, it’s human decency. Saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to someone isn’t “political correctness”, it’s acknowledging that not everyone celebrates Christmas. And giving a person of minority status a high-paying job if they’re actually good isn’t “political correctness”, it’s acknowledging and rewarding merit. The term “politically correct” needs to be updated and/or contextualized in the modern world.

Also, domestic abuse isn’t funny!

Okay, Antisemitism, racism and sexism. What else is there to pick on? Well, there’s that one-off mocking Caitlyn Jenner pre-coming out as a transgender woman, but discussing that would feel dishonest coming from me so I’ll leave it to someone who’s trans. Instead, I’ll focus on something that lasts an entire episode: child abuse. Remember Stewie, the British-accented, megalomaniac baby with a genius IQ? Remember how he was always the best character, especially when he and Brian would go on adventures? What if this were to happen:

Wow… (Courtesy of k70848.)

The clip is 10 seconds long, but even if it were longer I’d freak out. Stewie falls down the stairs, cuts open his head and vomits. He ends up needing to go to the hospital, but the rest of the episode, from what I recall, deals with him enduring all forms of abuse: being hit again, being run over with a car, even having a raccoon rip open his scalp. This is beyond disturbing, mostly because, big-shocker, it’s more horrifying than funny. I don’t even think this could be made funny, particularly because child abuse isn’t funny. Also, considering how vulnerable babies are, this’d still be scary. It’s also the most brutal and insensitive moment I’ve seen in the Griffin household, and that says a lot considering Peter Griffin once asked his wife how to “properly commit suicide”.

Yes, comedy is subjective. What may be funny to me will probably be offensive to someone else, and vice-versa. Also, like I said, Family Guy does occasionally make me laugh! But it’s mostly awful, tone-deaf humour that encourages people to be intolerant and insensitive and rewards its main cast for doing so. I can’t say I don’t see why it’s still on the air, or that it doesn’t have fans, but it’s one more example of how being “progressive” doesn’t make you a decent human being. Seth MacFarlane should feel guilty for normalizing these “jokes”, and while it might be cliché to criticize him, that doesn’t mean I’ll sit back and let this slide.

Shame on you: you should know better. Also, I apologize for such a downer this time, I promise my next blog article will be more exciting.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Why I Love Animation

With the 2016 film year drawing to a close, I’ve been mulling over the stand-outs. Surprisingly, in a year filled with plenty of films, I’ve come to the conclusion that my favourite all have something in-common: animation. Normally I’d have one or two amidst a string of live-action, but this year the live-action end has consistently either disappointed or met my expectations, while the animation has dazzled and amazed. Why is that? What is it about the animated movies that made me appreciate them more than live-action?

Part of it could be the rise in quality animated films over the last few years, although that’d be doing a disservice to animation from the past; after all, the medium has been around since the early-20th Century, taking off with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937. Animation’s come a long way, with its different styles and techniques evolving to match contemporary technologies and innovations, and it’ll only grow bigger as time goes on. Perhaps it’s even safe to say that I love animation, enough to list a few reasons as to why.

(By the way, I know this’ll be highly-subjective, as everyone acts differently to art. But I’ve been meaning to write this for years.)

1. Imagination-The first point that sticks out in my mind is imagination. Animation is a medium that stokes the imagination, largely because it creates everything, ideally, from scratch. In the early days, when everything was drawn by hand, animators had to create everything painstakingly from the ground up. Sure, they might’ve used real props as examples of how to get a feel of weight and texture, but it was still done from scratch. These days, the process has been simplified by computers, but the fundamentals remain the same: in order to animate effectively, you need to make everything by yourself.

This forces animators to be imaginative and creative: you want to put your premise in outer-space? You need to imagine how outer-space works. You want to put your premise underwater? You need to imagine how underwater works. You want to put your premise on land? See the above.

I can’t stress enough that imaginative creativity. In live-action, you have pre-built tools like solid ground and natural lighting. The need for imagination is still there on some level, but because you’re dealing with real props you don’t need as much effort. With animation, however, you don’t have the luxury. You’re forced to get creative within your pre-existing world. It’s harder, but also more satisfying if done successfully.

Let’s look at two of my favourite movies of all-time, one animated, one not, and see where they differ on imagination. It’s not a completely fair comparison, but whatever. First, Spirited Away. I’ve rambled on endlessly about how I love this film, but it needs stressing that everything, right down to the design of the bathhouse, had to be visualized in director Hayao Miyazaki’s mind. He had to think of the nitty-gritty details of the floor, the walls, how it’d feel if someone were to step on the floors with or without shoes, how all the machines and gizmos functioned, the list goes on. Spirited Away is a labour of love, and a good chunk of why is because of how much care to detail Miyazaki had to give.

Conversely, there’s Schindler’s List, my 5th-favourite movie of all-time. It’s clear that Steven Spielberg also poured his heart into everything he filmed, as he always does on his A-game, but his need for imagination was smaller. He already had real actors, settings and props, he simply needed to know how to use them efficiently. That too takes lots of creativity, but it’s not the same kind as Miyazaki’s film. Where as Spielberg had to innovate and re-craft, Miyazaki had to invent from scratch. Inventing is always tougher than innovating.

And that’s why someone like myself can admire and appreciate animation so intently: invention and imagination. I can see the worlds in my head, I can picture how difficult it must’ve been to bring them to life. With live-action, I know how it works more clearly, hence I can pick up on patterns (more on that later.) Animation I’ve never had that problem with, hence adding to the fun behind the magic. It helps that there’s more freedom to create, which leads to…

2. Lack of limitations-This is a huge one.

One of the big frustrations of live-action is when your idea can’t work because of restrictions of technology. If you want proof, James Cameron took well-over a decade to make Avatar because: a. the CGI advancements weren’t there for a long time. b. the motion-capture advancements weren’t there for even longer. c. the 3D camera technology wasn’t there for even longer than both, even forcing him to pioneer some of it himself. The end-result was a spectacle to behold, and one I actually enjoyed, but that he had to wait says a lot about the limitations of live-action.

Animation doesn’t have that problem: want to have a world where giant monsters roam alongside humans? Go ahead. Want to add giant ships to that world? Sure. Want to make the world a hybrid of prehistoric and futuristic? Assuming you know what you’re doing…

It’s amazing how limitless the possibilities are. In live-action, you’re constantly weighed down by limitations. You’re weighed down by technological limitations, physical limitations, financial limitations and limitations of what looks good. Something that works in animation doesn’t necessarily convert to live-action, simply because of the lack of restrictions the former grants. So if you want to make that 15-armed robot with a hooked nose and no eyes, by all means, go ahead! With live-action, it’s still possible, but not without complications.

That isn’t to say there aren’t limitations in animation, but most of are inside the creator’s mind. The rest lies in how well said creator can bring it to life, although with the right help it’s definitely possible. Either way, animation thrives in the ability to go wild, something that I relate to because I don’t like restrictions. I can surrender myself to the concepts that much more, which in turn leads to…

3. Greater suspension of disbelief-This is an even bigger reason than the last. One of the big appeals and acceptances of film as a visual medium is the ability to suspend your disbelief while enjoying it. There’ll always be details that, ultimately, don’t make sense or don’t add up. In order to appreciate what you’re watching, you have to accept that those details either don’t hurt the experience, or don’t hurt the experience enough. It’s tough, but not impossible.

With live-action, I find it can be really tough. I look back at many classic movies, and I see details that are obviously fake. I know, for example, that the fade-out at the end of A Streetcar Named Desire is supposed to indicate that Blanche has snapped, but they never show you what happened the scene before. I know that Luke’s hand is supposed to have been cut-off in Star Wars Ep. V: The Empire Strikes Back by Darth Vader, but it’s easy to tell that he’s hiding it behind his shirt. My mind can process a lot, but even with the advances in technology there are details I have a tough time fully accepting.

Animation never seems to have that problem. For one, that everything is animated, so I don’t have to suspend any disbelief. When those hands come flying off from Ashitaka’s arrow in Princess Mononoke, I believe it because there’s no need for acting. When Zuko first appears with the scar on his face in Avatar: The Last Airbender, I believe it’s there because there’s no need for detailed and inconsistent make-up. There’s a lot more I can naturally accept in animation because it takes less effort to suspend my disbelief.

This can apply to food too. Food is a big challenge because of its finite shelf life and the restrictions of an actor/actress’s diet. Often substitutions are used to prevent spoilage, and even then it’s not always consumed. Your brain fills in the gaps if the acting is good enough, but even then I find it tough sometimes to believe that that’s actually beer someone’s drinking, or that that’s actually pizza and not a cookie. It doesn’t kill the experience, but it drags it down a bit.

With animation, again, it’s not an issue. Because everything’s animated, it not only looks more real, but it can be consumed more efficiently. That pie in Wreck-It Ralph looks like a real pie, as does that cake that Ralph smashes. Wabisuke can drink his beer in Summer Wars without it looking fake. The banquet during Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest” number is convincing despite Bell only tasting one of the entrées with her index finger. I don’t have to factor in real-life restrictions because there are none.

But why stop there? Another advantage with animation is musical cues, something this video has already pointed out. In live-action, because you’re already suspending your disbelief, it can be hard to accept when your character’s about to burst out into song. In animation, because you can do whatever you want, that ability to accept that a talking crab or teapot is about to sing is much less complicated. It’s already part of the experience anyway, right?

Then there’s filming action and visual gags. Live-action has struggled in recent memory with both, but animation doesn’t have those problems. You don’t need months of training and/or stunt doubles to make fight choreography look real, you only need to animate it. You don’t need elaborate staging or blocking to make a visual gag work, you only need to animate it. And there’s no need for a Jackie Chan-type to combine both successfully, you simply need to animate them. In other words, the limitations are removed entirely.

Finally, because of the endless possibilities of animation, as well as the eased concerns of whitewashing, having your characters be different ethnicities, nationalities, genders or even species and have it feel natural is that much easier. In live-action, this sort of stuff can take numerous work-arounds, both legal and physical, to work. Even then, it’ll still be sticky. And yes, computers can help, but not always successfully. With animation, none of this is a problem: a film like Zootopia functions wonderfully in animation, while a live-action equivalence would be that much harder to pull off. There’s a lot that can be swallowed in animation, hence it’s possible to do so much more.

4. Cross-appeal-Another strength of animation is its cross-appeal, although, admittedly, this one’s somewhat subjective because any real classic has cross-appeal. Film is an incredibly broad medium that appeals to a pretty general audience, and that usually doesn’t exempt good storytelling from reaching specific audiences. That said, there’s something to be said about animation, a medium usually regarded as “kiddie” over here, having cross-appeal.

I think a large part of that is because it’s seen as kiddie. The secret to a good kid’s movie is having adult content, themes or humour that only make sense as you get older. It’s this dual layer of storytelling that allows someone to come back 5, 10, even 15 years down the line. A movie like Up, for example, can appeal to little as a fun, quirky adventure tale, while to adults, particularly older adults, it’s about the challenges of grief and aging. Conversely, something like Avatar: The Last Airbender, which happens to be my favourite show, can be a fun action-adventure series for kids, but an allegory about imperialism for adults.

That’s why so many animated anythings have endured for so long: sure, the adult content gives adults an excuse to go with their kids, but I think that discredits the amount of thought that goes into great storytelling. Because while a lot of times the adult content can feel forced, when done properly it adds to the long-term value. Good stories have something for everyone, and animation, which frequently gets relegated to “family friendly”, has to put in more effort to make its stories resonate. I’d even argue that some of the best writers are writing for animation, but that’s for another day.

However, it doesn’t stop there! Animation also has some surprisingly adult content. Ignoring anime for a minute, which often caters to adults anyway, some animation is actually too mature for children. Movies like Watership Down would probably scar kids for life, while Fantasia would bore them. And then there’s South Park. Need I say more?

Remember, animation is a storytelling medium. I get that it can be childish sometimes. I get that it can be forcibly adult sometimes. But so can live-action. Yet I find the animation that excels excels because more effort has to be put into it. That only adds to its timelessness, and speaking of which…

5. Timelessness-The final piece to the puzzle is the timeless nature of many animated shows and films. To be clear, live-action has also tackled timeless themes. The Wizard of OZ, for example, is so timeless that it’s remained a perennial classic almost 80 years later. Picking timeless ideas to talk about has been a prominent theme in some of the greatest movies ever made, even! But on the front of true timelessness, I think animation is the victor.

Most of that is because so many animated films and shows, at least mainstream ones, follow the escapist fantasy route. Perhaps part of why is that they allow for greater suspension of disbelief, meaning they can go full-out. Perhaps part of that is that more ideas can fit into the medium than live-action. Perhaps part of that is even that everything is built from the ground-up, so you have a more timeless feel in general.

Ultimately, the key is timelessness. To be fair, not all animation ages well. But the odds of it doing so are still higher because, in taking timeless stories and writing them, they’re also more heavily simplified. Like Doug Walker once said, what’ll be more memorable in the long-run: a series of complicated motives within a complicated narrative, or something like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner? Having a blank canvas to experiment on means more room to be general, hence so much animation taking advantage of that. And that’s what really counts.

So there you have it, my 5 reasons for why I love animation. Feel free to comment on whether or not you agree, and I’ll see you next time!