Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Returning to the Cons

(Guest Post by Ryan)

After three long years, the convention season has arrived and is in full gear once again.  After taking a breaking during the great sickness to stay safe for family and friends, I have once  again embarked on my con adventures. While my first convention of the year was DreamHack  Dallas, the first con that felt to be back to normal for me was FanExpo Dallas. Boasting dozens  of celebrities, artists and a plethora of merchandise, I really felt back in gear. However,  something felt off. I felt almost taken back to my first convention experience, not knowing what  to expect and do. The long time between cons had fatigued my muscles and made me forget  the many lessons I had learned from attending almost 20 conventions between 2008 to 2019.  And I have to say, FanExpo Dallas was the perfect convention to help me remember. Here are five tips for visiting a convention, whether you are a Con noob or a veteran finally ready to  return to the vast arena. 

1. Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan. 

The first thing to do is both simple and hard, make a plan. Not only do you have  to figure out what con to go to, with many occurring close to or on the same days,  but also how you are going to get there, what you are going to eat and what you are  going to do. Many people’s first mistake is becoming overwhelmed by everything to  do at a convention. Because, depending on the con, there is plenty to do. And you  can’t do it all. The first time I went to the famous San Diego Comic Con, I found that  out rather quickly. If I wanted to see a certain panel, I had to get into the room  where it was and sometimes sit through many other panels that I had no interest in.  The same is true for most cons. If you wanted to try to get an autograph of your  favorite celebrity, you might not be able to make it to see the presentation of that  new movie trailer before everyone else. Coming up with a plan helps keep you on  track and helps you see and do more. This is especially important if you have a single  day to experience a con. You must decide what is your most important activity and  focus first on that and then everything else. If you have more than one day, figure  out which activity is the most important for the day. Another bit of advice is to scope  out the con on the first day since the first day is usually the least busy. But  remember, even some of the best plans fall through, so be open to adapting, for not  all is lost. If you have other activities to make up for it, you won’t feel so sad.  

2. I used to be an adventurer like you until I took an arrow to the knee. 

The next advice I would give to con goers is con fatigue is real. It is easy to  become overwhelmed with everything happening. All the people, booths, items,  celebrities and activities that each con can provide. But you must not allow yourself  to be overcome. Rest, hydration and sustenance are required to have a good  experience. A good night’s sleep is a good first step in this. Remember to either  bring food or snacks, these can help alleviate symptoms of con fatigue. If not, you  can always partake in what the con has to offer in food or drinks, but be warned, they usually aren’t cheap. Also be prepared to be standing and walking quite a bit,  so bring comfortable shoes. Giving yourself some time to sit down and enjoy a panel  can also help recharge your batteries and relieve those aching feet. Pacing yourself is  key. Especially if you are attending more than one day. You can easily wear yourself  out the first day and that can hind your experience for the rest of the con. Don’t take  an arrow to the knee, work smarter to play harder. 

3. It’s dangerous to go alone 

This next piece of advice can vary from person to person, but I feel in most cases  it rings true. Try not to go to the con alone. While attending a con alone is  something you can do, I have found in most cases that the right company makes the  experience so much better. Most of the conventions I’ve been to I have gone with  friends and family, and it has enhanced the con greatly. At FanExpo Dallas this year,  one of the best times I had was when I got together with others working on this blog  and attended a Pokémon trivia panel. It was a very fun experience and we fed off each other’s energy and it was a really good time. Having people to sit and relax with  also helps keep even the down times entertaining. Hearing and talking about the  other person’s experience and favorite moments is something I always enjoy doing  after every con I go to. But a word of caution to parents that bring young children to  conventions, while many conventions can be overall “family friendly” there can be  aspects that are not. Whether that be certain cosplays to art, be prepared to see  somethings that you may not want to expose young children to. But ultimately,  whether its San Diego Comic Con to a small convention, bring a friend and see how  great it will be. 

4. I can answer that…for Money 

As with everything money is king, and cons are no different. While the price of  the ticket may include entry into most of the activities at the convention, if you want  to have the full con experience, you are going to have to pay up. Everything from the parking to the art will cost something. So be prepared to dish out a bit of cash. And I  do mean cash. While most vendors will take a debit or credit card, most celebrity  autographs, pictures and some vendors will only take cash and can cost a pretty  penny. There are work arounds at times with pre-purchasing certain experiences, but this can vary from con to con. Also, be wary of the prices of some of the items  that can be purchased from vendors at the con. Many of those same items can be  found online for much cheaper. So, you may want to look something up on your  phone, instead of impulse buying an item at a 20% mark up. But you can also save some money by planning, whether by changing your mode of transportation to find  free parking and walking instead of paying for close parking. Something to also take  note of is that most cons have a variety of different types of passes. Some offer  “VIP” experience that can help you save time but for a premium. At FanExpo Dallas, I  stood in line for almost three hours to meet Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka  Tano from the Star Wars Franchise. But those that paid for the “VIP” passes were  able to bypass the line and waited at most 10 mins. So, if you wish to experience a  convention to the fullest you may want to look into getting these higher tier passes  especially if you want certain celebrity interactions. 

5. Are you not entertained?! 

In the end that last piece of advice I have for all con goers is to have fun!  Conventions are meant for people to show their appreciation and excitement for the  things they love. So don’t forget to go out there and enjoy the experience. Don’t be  overwhelmed or feel bad that you didn’t get to do everything you wanted to. Enjoy  the sights, the sounds and the people of each convention you attend this year. And  hopefully as you attend more and more, you’ll discover new ways to enjoy the  fandoms you already love. You might even discover new things to love or be inspired  to create something of your own. So pick up your lightsaber, brush up on your  Klingon and don’t miss the train. A brand new world is waiting just for you.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Lilo and Stitch: 20 Years of Chaos

Fun fact: If you have a Chase debit card (not-sponsored) you can get a special character meet-and-greet at Disneyland. You don't get to know who the character is and you can only do it once a day, but the line is short and it's usually air conditioned or covered so if you're into character meet ups like I am it's pretty cool. 

On one of my pilgrimages to the happiest place on earth my wife and I stopped by for our Chase meet up/photo op, and when we step around the corner who is waiting for me? 


I screamed. 

And may've cried. 

Let's look at why. 

Disney's Abomination

Stitch is a weird character, even for Disney. He's not part of any fairy tale, historical fiction, or piece of literature. He's an 100% Disney homebrew creation, part rabbit, part dog, part koala, part Bugs Bunny. He's an alien designed specifically to cause chaos wherever he is. The Looney Tunes reference comes in full force here where even when in combat he mostly plays tricks on people, using cleverness and pranks more than physical force, even though we see that he's more than capable physically. 

Stitch's character arc isn't him becoming a full hero, it's him learning to temper his needs vs others needs, specifically Lilo. He's still a chaotic wacky beast, seen in the ending song trading his coffee bottle with a baby's milk and getting selfies as Lilo beat up her annoying frenemy. Stitch starts out as a monster and ends as a monster, and his charm is that he accepts himself for mostly who he is. It's a great message, that being a better you doesn't mean becoming a completely different person, it just means tempering some parts so you can reach your full potential. 

Pillar of Disney
Since Stitch doesn't really have a proper place in the Disney categories, his appearances and merch has been folded into the Mickey Mouse gang, seeing him with equal billing next to Donald Duck and the mouse himself. This is probably due to his overwhelming popularity, since other Disney oddities like The Emperor's New Groove and Treasure Planet don't get nearly the same visibility. His original advertising even featured him subverting other Disney movies, like dropping the chandelier on Belle and Beast or taking Jasmine away from Aladdin because he had a sweeter ride. Stitch now belongs everywhere in Disney, making him accessible to all ages and all tastes. 

His exposure and universal coverage reminds me of another character who became bigger than was expected: Harley Quinn. Originally a fun one-time character from Batman: The Animated Series,DC Comics have flat out stated that Harley Quinn is the fourth pillar of DC, alongside Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. It just proves that no matter what you can't predict how big a character can be until the fans have spoken. 

20 Years of Love
This year is 20 years since Lilo and Stitch premiered, and it has yet to lose steam. Part of it is the couple movies and the fun TV series that followed, but the other part is that Stitch is a universally likeable character. Cute if you want cute, mischievous if you want mischievous, and heartwarming if you want heartwarming. Stitch is an all-around good character, and it's no wonder that 20 years later we still scream when we see a new piece of Stitch merch or, if we're lucky enough, when Stitch comes around. 


Check out Spencer's creature feature on Stitch

Friday, June 24, 2022

Final Fantasy VII 25th Anniversary Celebration Recap


It’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed since I first visited Midgar and became smitten with not only the game but the entire series as well. I have a lot to thank the seventh “numbered” entry in the series for, not the least of which is my marriage haha. I kid you not… My now brother-in-law set me up on the blind date that led to my forever gal all because he remembered seeing my rant about how excited I was for the Final Fantasy VII Remake. This was back in 2015 mind you, FIVE WHOLE YEARS before the game would actually come out… Anyway, Square Enix held a “Life Stream” (bad pun… I know) err– live stream on June 16th to announce the 25th anniversary celebration for this genre-defining classic. You can catch the full presentation on YouTube. While some of the items announced definitely made me more excited than others, I wanted to give a quick recap of what FFVII fans have to look forward to

First up on the menu, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade was announced for Steam. That’s right folks, if you’ve been wanting to play the remake and have not acquired a PS4 or PS5, you can now purchase it on Steam. Side note: it has already been available in the Epic Game Store since last December, but this with the Steam release comes the ability to play handheld on the steam deck as well! Personally, I have yet to finish the game. I know… How can I call myself a true FFVII fan if I still haven’t beaten the first installment? I blame my energetic toddlers haha. I will say however that I am grateful for the modernization that allows players to save anywhere instead of having to either return to the world map or scour the area for a save point. #NineteenNinetiesGamingProbsSomeYoungersWontUnderstand

Next up a bunch of new shiny pieces of jewelry, action figures, musical arrangements, and even a digital Buster Sword clock were announced. Most of these items cost a pretty penny, but I think Square did an excellent job in procuring high quality products. I love the idea of sporting a Shinra Bangle ring complete with a personal choice on colored gemstones to represent the different types of Materia! Will I buy one? Probably not. But would I love it and wear it pretty much every day if I did? You bet your bottom Gil that I would.

Season 3 for Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier is now underway. I haven’t tried this mobile Battle Royale yet, but if you’re into games like PUBG and the like and you’re an FFVII fan, give it a try. New goodies this season include: the new Midgar Plateside map, a Serpent Launcher, Water Materia, and the Machinist style.

A new mobile game called Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis will be entering Closed Beta sometime this year. I haven’t been able to glean too many details beyond what was shown in the trailer, but it looks to be a hybrid graphical style of the OG FFVII and Remake. Apparently the game will include other parts of the overarching FFVII storyline from Crisis Core (originally available on the PSP). If my memory serves me well, a lot of the settings seen in the trailer seem to be not just high-def ports of the original scenery renders, but actual recreations of the same framing with much better graphics.

Speaking of which, we will be seeing the remake Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion this Winter coming to all major consoles. Having never owned a PSP I wasn’t able to set my hands on the game. I of course know who Zach is (I’m trying to avoid spoilers for those who are still hoping to play the OG), but it will be fun to actually get to experience his back story first-hand.

Last but not least, the announcement I was most excited for was for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. I am curious to see how the storyline changes will play out. In the trailer we see Cloud and Sephiroth approaching the Great Northern Crater, something I don’t remember happening in the OG. Whether the platinum-haired villain is actually there or just a figment in Cloud’s head has yet to be revealed.

Originally we were told that the remake project would span multiple games. At the time, I wondered if Square-Enix would try and keep it to three parts: one for each of the discs in the original multi-disc version. Sure enough the three-part structure was confirmed by Executive Producer Yoshinori Kitase, with Rebirth set to come out Winter 2023. Beyond that, we do not have a title for the final installment, nor a release date. This does however give me ample time to finish Part I and enjoy the other projects set to come out before then. Looks like I have plenty of catching up to do!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

For the Love of Cosplay

Mario at Dallas Fan Expo 2022

I was privileged to attend Dallas Fan Expo last week with a few of my friends. I’m a little short on cash (thanks to repaying student loans) so my celebrity meet-and-greet budget was basically nothing. That’s okay though, because my favorite part of a Con isn’t the celebrities (though I loved the Michael Rooker and Ming Na Wen panels). Rather, my favorite part of any convention is the cosplayers.

Back in high school and my early college days, I thought I had to be too cool for dressing up. Dressing up was for little kids in elementary school. Just like trick-or-treating and Disney cartoons. To be a grownup and to be mature meant putting away childish things like costumes (see my previous post about Digimon Kizuna). Thankfully, in the years that followed, I matured properly; I stopped trying to be grown up for other people. and started being myself. So Halloween 2012, my best friend and I did our first team cosplay for a ward activity. We showed up as Mario and Luigi and I was hooked on cosplay.

Halloween 2012: Super Mario Bros

Cosplay is more than just dressing up for me. I’ve never felt like a particularly creative person, but when I get into cosplay, it flows. I can see the colors and the parts. I can see which substitutes are appropriate or not. It gives me a chance to express myself in a way that reaches deep down into the characters I’ve loved over the years. Spending an afternoon dressed as Mario, Newt, or Russell gives me a chance to honor and experience these characters and stories that have shaped who I am today. For a moment, I get to play dress up again and join the carefree world of a child. I see my daughter playing and enjoying whatever world she’s created. When I put on my costumes, I can enjoy a little piece of that childlike spirit that I’ve lost over the years.

If you’re interested in cosplaying, just try it out. If you need help, I’ve included some tips on doing budget cosplays.

Check out some of my favorite cosplays from Dallas Fan Expo 2022:

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Thing I Love About Stranger Things

It's about time we talked about the Netflix hit. 

Okay, so I am a Stranger Things fan, but even things I love can't escape my critical eye or general orneriness. So before I get into the thing I truly love about Stranger Things I want to hit some of the parts I'm not really the biggest fan of, and in theory emphasize my love through contrast. 

So spoiler warning ahead. 

Also complaining warning. 

I complain a lot. 

It's Not The Kids...

First thing I'm not a fan of are the kids in the show. While they did a great job accurately portraying how preteens-and now teens- act, especially when they're not with their parents, my issue is that it doesn't make them any less obnoxious. Their precocious shenanigans appeal to some people because they like to project themselves into the Goonies but all it makes me want to do is scream out "Get off my lawn!"

The teenagers aren't much better, since most of their motivation is the usual TV teenage "Do they like me" storylines. As our main kids have grown up over the seasons they've gone from precocious to obnoxiously love struck. Season 4 has been pushing the whole Steve/Nancy/Jonathan love triangle and frankly the "Who will Nancy choose" plot line is boring because it's been done a thousand other times. 

Note that Eleven is exempt from all of my above complaining. Her story arc is one I love watching in characters. The outsider to humanity trying to become part of is one of my favorite tropes, with others including Star Trek: The Next Generation's Data, DC Comic's Conner Kent/Superboy and the MCU's Vision. 

Also I love the adults. Hopper is my cop dad and I've missed Winona Ryder. I hope she does more after the series is over. 

... And it's not the 80's...

Despite being born in the 80's I'm a 90's kid, so I don't have a lot of nostalgia for the 80's. I think the effort the show has gone through is admirable, but whenever they pause the story for a cute 80's joke, like Lucas drinking a New Coke, I just want to move on. My least favorite part of every season is the first couple episodes when the 80's nonsense is at its highest. The same is true for other 80's nostalgia bait, like when they did it in Wonder Woman 1984. You can wear all the neon triangles and bad hair you want, I'm just not that interested. 

...And it's Definitely Not the Dungeons and Dragons.

This may be surprising to hear from the guy who is writing a series going over every 5th edition class and how they can be better played, but the D&D stuff in Stranger Things just does not do it for me. First, it gets old explaining to non-players why mind flayers aren't 30 foot tall spider monsters. That's a minor niggle, since narratively I get it and I do find it mildly endearing, but I just get annoyed. Second, I hate the once again portrayal of Dungeons and Dragons players as outsiders and nerds. This portrayal once again pigeonholes us into the role of the outsiders, the ones on the fringes of society who are out of touch with the real world. This is better in season 4 where the outsider issue ignites paranoia against the Hellfire Club (Cool name for a D&D club) as they are suspected for being murderers. The use of the true to life satanic panic that happened at the time but with the main characters victims of the paranoia is an interesting concept, and I will withdraw this complaint if the second half of season 4 explores it further. 

It's the Cosmic Horror

What I do love about Stranger Things is that it portrays my favorite horror subgenre brilliantly: Cosmic horror. Also known as Lovecraftian horror this type of horror pits people against the great unknowable, powers so unfathomable that the only hope is to get out of their way. The Upside-Down is a perfect example of this, being an alien world with unknown motivations and mechanisms at work. We do get the idea from season 4 that One, the first child to be experimented on in the Hawkins Labs has more to do with it, and my own theories aside, this doesn't take away from the sense of overwhelming helplessness in the face of his power. Even Eleven, at arguably full power, could only banish One to the Upside-Down, not truly defeating him but sealing him away from our reality, which is straight out of the pages of H.P. Lovecraft. 

The individual parts I complained about earlier all add to the cosmic horror setting, even if individually I don't particularly care for them. The ordinary kids are an extreme juxtaposition to the powers and monsters of the Upside-Down, establishing clear differences in power between the two. The 80's setting is a familiar setting, not just for those who lived it but because of the numerous popular movies and TV shows that take place in the era that give us a general sense of what the era was like, so the familiar normality comes clashing directly against the horrors pouring out of portals. The D&D/satanic panic is analogous to the real satanic panic, where the problems of society were blamed on a simple game instead of addressing the real issues, in the show being monsters and in real life being... Well name a problem in society. 

I love Stranger Things as the sum of its parts, and because I know that for every "get off my lawn" moment, nostalgia bait moment, and cringy D&D reference, there's going to be something truly terrifying that will make it all worthwhile. 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Disney Dads

As Father’s Day approaches, I have noticed that there has been a lot of Father’s Day memes involving Darth Vader. I will admit some of them are funny but do you have to cut off your child arm to become father of the year? If anything, it says a lot about Luke forgiving him and helping him to become a Jedi again. In this post we will look at different Disney fathers that should be recognized more than Darth Vader as this holiday approaches.

Pacha: Emperor’s New Groove

When I think of excellent fatherly characters Pacha comes to mind. He goes out to meet the emperor, Kuzco, to change his mind to keep his family home as well as his villager’s home from being destroyed. Pacha is a hard worker with his duties of being a father, a llama herder, and the leader of his village. Pacha is best described as a family man, his wife and kids love him and his isn’t a dumb dad like most dads portrayed in media in the 2000's. When Pacha met Kuzco he felt that he was a spoiled brat. But when Kuzco became a llama, instead of taking the easy way out and abandoning Kuzco and having Yzma rule, he helped him--- hoping that the emperor’s attitude would change like a father would with a wayward son.

George Banks: Mary Poppins

George Banks loves his kids throughout the movie, but it never registered to his children because of how he showed his love. He wanted his children to become successful so they wouldn’t have financial problems when they become adults, which is what all parents want but his approach was not the best. He wanted them to become so successful that they could not enjoy being children. However, as George's professional life turns upside-down, he realizes the ultimate value of his family and makes real changes in his life. As he walks to his job, in one of the most beautiful scenes in cinema, you see the fear he has about the future but, as his ties to his job are finally cut, we also see the resolve develop within him to make some real changes in his life.

Mufasa: Lion King

Instead of celebrating Darth Vader on Father’s Day how about focusing on another role that James Earl Jones had where he was a sacrificing father, like Mufasa. Mufasa was king of Pride Rock. He had a good work and home life balance teaching his son and being king. He taught Simba to respect all creatures, but also having fun playing games on Zazu. He sets boundaries to protect his son, but also encourages him to explore. When his son disobeyed he reprehends him, but also forgives him. The most notable quality Mufasa has is he sacrificed himself so his son could live.

Mando: The Mandalorian

I get it--- you're probably a Star Wars fan and love all the memes that have been generated over the years. Father’s Day is another Star Wars day for you. Well thankfully Disney has created a new unorthodox father in Star Wars, Mando. After he captures and delivers Grogu to his client he goes against the code for bounty hunters and rescues Grogu and essentially adopts him until he finds a Jedi to teach him. When they finally find Luke, it was a sad departure for them because of their relationship as father and son, but Mando wanted what was best for Grogu and lets him leave. Of course, he wouldn’t stop being a father and tries to visit Grogu bringing gifts.

Goofy: Disney

Speaking of unorthodox parents, we couldn’t ignore Goofy: a single father. Goofy may be silly but he is also a wonderful role model for a father. With a teenager going through angst, he manages to show kindness and compassion making him aspirational for fathers. He works a demanding job, so they are financially stable. When his son, Max, is struggling he plans a father-and-son trip to lift his spirits because he cares about Max’s emotional health. He lets his son be an individual and takes interests in Max’s hobbies. He trusts his son completely, he allows Max to choose stops along their road trip. Even when Goofy suspects that Max is changing their road trip destination, he gives Max the responsibility of being the navigator because of that trust. Finally, he pays attention to his son’s feelings and gives him space. If you don’t believe me watch “A Goofy Movie”.

Scott Lang: Ant-Man

When divorce happens it hard for a father to be fully invested in their children. In Ant-Man we see Scott Lang doing his best to be a father while respecting his former wife's boundaries. After being released from jail he wants to be part of his daughter’s life and tries to be law-abiding by working at Baskin Robbins even though he has an engineering degree. He wants to make his daughter proud and be a good example for her. He becomes Ant-Man at first because of his thieving skills, but transitions to being selfless. He helps Captain America and saves Janet Van Dyne from the quantum realm. In Avenger’s Endgame we see Scott come out of the quantum realm to find his daughter aged by five years. We see the depression on his face when he realized how much of his daughter’s life he has missed.

Agustín and Félix: Encanto

This one is cheating a bit because I couldn’t choose which of these fathers to talk about. They are both good examples of being part of their children’s life. Agustín is sympathetic and understands how it feels not belong in the family and tries to comfort his daughter Mirabel when she obtains no magical gift. We see in the movie that he pays attention to all his daughters’ feelings. For example, when Luisa loses her strength and runs away saddened, he chases after her. We don’t know much about Félix, but he is also present with his children and supportive to his wife, presenting a positive attitude even when it rains.

Mr. Incredible: Incredibles

We couldn’t end the list without the most recognized superhero father, Mr. Incredible. After the first movie Mr. Incredible, Bob Parr, learned to keep his selfish interests in check and become involved with his children more. Instead of giving up on helping his son, Dash, on his homework, he learns how the new approach and helps Dash. He also cares about his children’s feeling by helping his daughter, Violet, talk to her crush by taking the family to the diner where he works. It turned out horribly, but he does the most honorable thing a father can do, apologize to his daughter for making things worse.

These are just eight honorable Dads we decided to mentioned in this post, but Disney has produced more decent fathers. Here is a list of honorable mentions.

  • Marlin: Finding Nemo
  • Pongo: 101 Dalmatians
  • James: The Princess and the Frog
  • Carl: Up
  • Geppetto: Pinocchio
  • Héctor: Coco
  • Mr. Potatohead: Toy Story
  • Vision: Avengers
  • T’Chaka: Black Panther

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Ruby and the Well: A Show for the Whole Family

(Guest post by Stephen)

Few shows these days teach wholesome values while also being entertaining. BYUtv’s new offering, Ruby and the Well, delivers on both counts.

Ruby is a teenager who recently moved with her dad to a small town named Emerald, taking over an apple orchard they inherited. Shortly after moving to the town, Ruby discovers a wishing well on their land which shows her wishes that other people in the town make. Each episode follows Ruby as she tries to help fulfill the wishes.

Ruby navigates difficulties understanding some wishes, frequently making mistakes along the way. In various episodes, she works through arguments with friends, difficulties being open with her dad, being misunderstood, and many other experiences common to adolescence. The series demonstrates how Ruby successfully, though not without angst and difficulty, navigates these problems. It is one of the few shows out there where the teenagers have a strong moral compass.

Ruby and the Well follows a strong tradition of dramas at BYUtv that deal with real people and real problems in a wholesome, soul and community building way. It’s worth taking some time to watch it as a family.

Monday, June 13, 2022

25 Years of Harry Potter

This month we celebrate 25 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was officially born. In honor of a quarter century of magic, I asked my friends to share their thoughts about Harry Potter and why the franchise has meant so much to us as fans over the past decades.

“One of my biggest takeaways from Harry Potter is the importance of healthy, solid friendships. Throughout the series, Ron and Hermione are there with Harry, throwing themselves into the path of danger and helping him however they can. They don't judge, the offer support and alternative ideas, and, when needed, a kind voice of reason. Without those solid friendships, are wouldn't have even made it through his first year at Hogwarts. Or, if he did, he'd have been friends with Draco... but that is another story altogether!” (David B)

“Like most fans, I love the world that JK Rowling built—the characters, the story, etc. I love the lessons and/or symbolism that she employed. I think what I liked about it in particular was the new idea of a wizarding school. That was something I’d never really considered. Because of the age of the main characters, it was easier (and enjoyable!) to insert myself into the fantasy world she created. I also loved having that story be a way of connecting with other fans as well, looking forward to the books and/movies together with the Harry Potter community.” (Becca J)

“I love that it has given us a shared cultural experience that sparked a huge reinterest in meaningful escapist literature during often dark times.” (Ken K)

“My dad brought the first two books home after getting a gift certificate to a bookstore and a recommendation about the books. We started reading them as a family in the evenings and it brought my family together as a common interest as we read and enjoyed them together. As a book lover, I loved watching my family share my love of books through experiencing the world of Harry Potter together.” (Juliana C)

“I grew into adulthood along with Harry Potter. I experienced loss, trauma, joy, acceptance, friendship, hardship, love, awkwardness, war, justice, and much more vicariously through the pages. The world was complex, yet relatable and with every challenge, there was hope. Good and evil existed.  Characters made mistakes and became through them. Adults were complex, with their own emotions and frailties that the characters could exploit or learn from. I learned that I had to be brave enough to face things alone. And yet, we never are truly alone and help is always just around the corner. Harry Potter was my escape from reality to a world of magical proportions. And even then, I was taught that just because it happened in your head, doesn't mean it isn't real.” (Eric B)

“I think one of my favorite things about Harry Potter is the fan-made content. The Harry Potter Puppet Pals, the band Harry and the Potters, a Very Potter Musical, it goes on and on. It's a universe that keeps expanding with every piece of fan-made content.” (Garrett W)

“The level of details, history, lore, and background that swirls through the books and other media are my favorite parts. It’s also an overall great story with intriguing character development. All while being easily digestible for the average reader.” (Benji P)

“To me, Harry Potter is not simply a story you read once. It grows with you. Every time I have reread it, I have been in a different stage of life and it has taught me something new. Especially about what it means to be a caring mother.“ (Lindsey T)

“I absolutely love Harry Potter. It was the first real book I read as a 9 year old and I remember the excitement of each book coming out! I love how people would camp out overnight to get the books!! I have some incredible memories of Harry Potter!” (Alex C)

“Harry Potter was one of those series that I couldn’t get enough of. I still remember getting the latest book and reading through it as quickly as possible (I’ve literally read some of the books in 48 hours). Getting lost in the story was an incredible escape for my middle school self, and I couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to be transported back to Hogwarts.” (Patrick H)

I’m grateful for all the friends and strangers I’ve been able to connect with because of Harry Potter. Harry, Hermione, and Ron were friends to me when I felt alone in high school. In a way, I think Harry has been a friend to all of us over the years. Wherever life takes me, it’s nice to know that those friends will always be there whenever I open the book and read those magic words: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much…”

Friday, June 10, 2022

Ben Kenobi's PTSD

 (Guest Post by Ben)

Obi-Wan Kenobi has been a fan favorite since, well, forever. The first words we hear out of his mouth in A New Hope are, “Hello there!” and, truth be told, we seem to forget that Obi-Wan has always been sassy Jedi we’ve come to know and love through the prequels and Clone Wars TV series. But there’s a side to him we don’t get to see much of in the original trilogy, and are only now beginning to understand through the Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+. This is the cast-away, beat-down, exhausted, and haunted man that the galaxy owes its thanks. If he’s such a lovable, upbeat, and powerful warrior, then what’s up with this guy we’re seeing in the TV series? Where is our fearless leader from the prequels and Clone Wars?

Oh, he’s still there, but he’s got a lot to work through. As far as the timeline is concerned leading up to the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, our stalwart Jedi knight has seen it all. His master (Qui-Gon Jinn) was killed by the frightening Dathomirian, Darth Maul; his love—Dutchess Satine of Mandalore—is killed by that same Dathomirian monster; and his padawan, his brother not just in arms but as close as a friend as one can get, turns his back on the Jedi order and Obi-Wan is forced to kill him on Mustafar. As far as Kenobi knew, up until this TV series, Anakin Skywalker was dead. And these are just a few of the things Kenobi went through since joining the Jedi. And so it is that, when the Jedi are hunted for being representatives of truth, justice, and virtue, Obi-Wan retreats to a sedentary life on Tatooine, working a regular job and watching over the child Anakin doesn’t know exists.

And then he learns that Anakin not only survived, but is hunting him—along with all the other Jedi.

In Return of the Jedi, when Darth Vader learns that he has not just one child, but two, he  comments that Obi-Wan’s failure is complete. While Vader mentions the failure off hand, we know that it goes a lot deeper in Obi-Wan’s mind. As viewers, we can only see the surface of what Obi-Wan thinks of himself. Everything he fought for—and loved—was destroyed, and, despite trying his hardest, he was unable to put a stop to it. Qui-Gon. Satine. Anakain himself. These and more are the thoughts swirling around Obi-Wan’s mind when we see him in the TV series. He considers himself a failure. He considers himself less than dross. And, to add insult to injury, he has seen more than the human mind should be able to process with any form of sanity. Like Job in the Bible, it seems that he has lost everything and that there is no hope for restitution. And in his state, we can assume that Kenobi doesn’t believe he even deserves restitution of any amount. He is about as low as a person can get.

Obi-Wan Kenobi’s PTSD is wildly evident throughout the first three episodes. Owen, Luke’s uncle, is a constant reminder to him of his failure to protect Anakin. We see later that Kenobi had buried his weapons of war deep in the desert sand, a symbol of his refusal to take up the mantle of hero once more. This burial shows the viewer that Obi-Wan is finished with his role of guardian of peace and justice, and his reluctance to return to action is evidenced in the scene where he retrieves the lightsabers. 

Perhaps the most obvious case for PTSD is seen when Darth Vader knows Obi-Wan is spying on him and begins terrorizing the citizens of wherever it is they are. These are innocent people, yet the Sith lord shows Obi-Wan just how powerful he is—and just how little he cares about human life—by inflicting death and destruction on those around him. Obi-Wan thought he had already killed Anakin once; seeing this display of terror, it all comes back to him in sweeping flashbacks that effectively paralyze him for a time. When the time comes to confront Vader, Obi-Wan is visibly shaken and unable to fight. Vader claims it is his time away from the war that has made him rusty, but perhaps it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s seeing his friend—his brother—still alive after thinking for a decade that he had killed him. Perhaps it is seeing this brother of his leave death in his wake that solidifies the trauma he’s been holding in for the last ten years. Perhaps it’s the thoughts of all his failures coming back to haunt him, at how useless he’s been at protecting those he loves, that makes him run away rather than fight.

We are not in his head, so we can’t judge. We don’t know what he’s going through, but there’s obviously something deeper happening inside him than we are allowed to see on screen. This mental breakdown of one of the strongest and most-loved heroes in Star Wars shows us that anyone can break. As viewers, we have the luxury of knowing how it ends for Obi-Wan—on his own terms, coming back when he is needed most to once again save who he can. For him, in this series, Obi-Wan has a lot to reconcile, and as far as he’s concerned, he’s not ready for any of it.

Fortunately, Leia has been there to snoop around, finding cracks in the Jedi’s defenses that has kept him from completely breaking down since he left Anakin on the slopes of Mustafar. Whether either of them knows it or not, Leia is one of the last people Obi-Wan cares about, and he will do anything to help her. He still has that soft spot that makes him the best of heroes, and as the series continues, we can only hope for more interactions between the young princess and the aging Jedi. Leia has a way of tenderizing hardened hearts, and if anyone could use a little pick-me-up, it’s our man Kenobi.