Friday, January 29, 2010

Intelligent Pets


There’s a popular plot device throughout various stories about intelligent beings kept as pets. I’ve always had a particular fascination with this device, which I can now somewhat attribute to my own masochism, as people being treated as pets is a popular theme in BDSM. BDSM inspires some of the instances of intelligent pet, but only a certain variation. Intelligent pets can be broken down into five basic categories: involuntary pets that are absolutely slaves, animal pets that are naturally subordinate, voluntary human pets of nonhumans, dubiously willing human pets of nonhumans, and voluntary human pets of humans.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Guide to Heroes' Timelines


This article will be an attempt to describe the multitude of timelines featured in Heroes, a show with a heck of a lot of time travel and prophecy aversion. As of 1/23/2010, there are twenty-nine (or seventy-four; see below) different timelines in the Heroes story – wow! Hopefully this can help people (like me) wrap their brains around the complex plot. Note that this will not cover any alternate timelines that may be featured in the graphic novels, as I haven’t read all of them and I don’t have a good grasp on their goings-on. This is complicated enough already.
The first timeline is implicit, never actually referenced on the show. We know it must exist, though, because there has to be a way things went before time manipulation took place. Heroes time travel isn’t based in a causal loop like Terminator, more like Back to the Future. In this timeline, Adam was Takezo Kensei, and he performed things more or less the way the legends have it, allowing for storytellers’ exaggerations. Hiro Nakamura grew up on these legends; however, he did not time travel into the future to witness the explosion as he does on the show. Isaac was killed by Sylar, and there was no Hiro to see his prophetic art. The explosion went off, destroying New York, but there’s no way to know if it was Sylar, Peter, or even Ted. I have a hunch it was Sylar, though.
The second timeline is one we see on the show. Hiro Nakamura time travels into the future in New York. He grabs Isaac Mendez’ comic book, and then sees Isaac Mendez’ body. He is questioned by American police, who confirm that Hiro vanished off the face of the Earth on the day he time traveled into the future. Hiro witnesses the explosion, and jumps back. As he returns, the new timeline begins.
The third timeline begins with Hiro, who returns from the future with a mission. Hiro and Ando go to America, and they start to participate in the goings-on in America. Hiro bumps into Nathan, etc. The difference from what we see on the show is that Peter never gets a visit from a future version of Hiro to give him the mission “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” Peter is unable to convince Mohinder of his ability, and Peter does not run back to Isaac’s afterward, nor does he give Hiro the message. They run off on their own threads, which are pretty much unknown to us. Sylar successfully takes Claire’s ability at homecoming. Someone, presumably Sylar, explodes in New York. Hiro decides to make a change in the timeline, analyzes the events, and decides to contact Peter in the subway to give him the message to save Claire, as well as uniting multiple stray heroes. Hiro does this, and in doing so causes the timeline to skew into a tangent to create an alternate timeline.
We see this fourth timeline form in the season one episode “Hiros”, when a version of Hiro from the future (who speaks English and carries a sword) catches Peter in a time bubble (I guess) and gives him the message “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” This Hiro returns to his own time, which is in another timeline and not in the one he came from (more on that later). We see the progression of this timeline on the show. Characters meet up, focusing on the same problem. Noah gets the heads up about Claire. Hiro and Ando eat at the Burnt Toast Diner. Hiro meets Charlie and falls for her, but then Sylar kills her. He decides to save her, and travels back in time to warn her.
The fifth timeline is thus created as Hiro mistakenly arrives five months ago. He calls himself in Japan – Greato Scotto! He spends time romancing Charlie, trying to convince her to run away with him. She reveals that she has a blood clot in her brain that’s killing her, so if she’s going to die anyway, Hiro’s attempts to save her are futile. Hiro returns to the present, where Sylar’s assault of Claire failed because of Peter and the Company. Sylar escapes, and goes on the hunt once more. Sylar kills his mother and gets the idea to become president. At some point, Sylar gets Candice’s power of illusions. The good guys confront Sylar, Ando getting killed. Peter blows up New York, but heals. Sylar takes Nathan’s place and becomes president, blaming the figure of Sylar for the explosion and setting up a witch hunt for people with abilities. Hiro becomes a terrorist/vigilante who decides to analyze the events that led up to the dystopia and then alter them at a specific point. He finds what he’s looking for, time travels into the past… and is swallowed up by mindboggling time travel laws, presumably merging into the Future Hiro from the second timeline as he returns to his present.
A sixth timeline is created when Hiro and Ando from somewhere in the middle of the fifth timeline (episode “.07%”) time travel into the future and meet up with Hiro’s 2011 counterpart. The Future Hiro knows he affected the timeline, but sees that the world is still in jeopardy and has to try to remember what happened in the timeline he brought about (the fourth/fifth). 2006 Hiro and Ando affect the future, causing things to happen differently than they otherwise would. Hiro and Ando return to their present, thus creating the seventh timeline.
The seventh timeline is the result of Hiro and Ando trying to avert the dystopian future they witnessed. The two stalk Sylar, and Hiro tries to decapitate him. Sylar, overcome with emotion, gives him a chance, but when Hiro hesitates, Sylar decides he deserves to kill Hiro. Hiro escapes, but his Kensei sword is broken in the fight. When they get a samurai sword restorer to fix it, Hiro’s father accepts Hiro as a worthy hero and trains him to fight. Hiro also influences Nathan by yelling at him that he’s a villain. At the big showdown with Sylar, Hiro runs him through with Ando’s sword. Sylar uses his last strength to hurl Hiro through the air toward a building, and Hiro time travels away to Feudal Japan. Peter starts to explode, but Nathan comes to fly him to that part of the stratosphere where nuclear detonations have no effect, thus saving New York (and the world).
However, Hiro’s time travel creates now an eighth timeline. Arriving in 1671 Japan, Hiro winds up in the middle of a battle. He attempts to save who he thinks is his hero Takezo Kensei, only to have it turn out to be the patsy Adam hired to take the arrows for him. Inadvertently messing up history, Hiro resolves to fix things. In doing so, he accidently falls for Yaeko, the woman destined to marry Adam. He stays longer than he should, and causes Yaeko to fall for him. Feeling betrayed, Adam swears revenge and becomes a villain. Hiro fixes things as best as he can, and returns to his time. Adam eventually loses faith in humanity entirely, and decides to murder the human race. He helps create the Company, and uses it to create a virus to wipe out humanity. The Company locks him up, but he escapes with Peter’s help. Peter helps him release the Shanti virus, and a massive outbreak kills 93% of the world’s population.
The ninth timeline is created after Hiro returns to the present. Finding his father dead, Hiro goes back in time to save his father. The two bond a bit at Hiro’s mother’s funeral, and Hiro interacts with his younger self. Hiro returns things to have the same effect as before, but the events themselves have changed.
The tenth timeline is created when Peter (after the Haitian took away his memories and sent him to Ireland) accidentally time travels with Caitlin to the dystopian future in which the outbreak took place. They’re rushed to quarantine, and Caitlin is deported. Angela helps Peter get some of his memories back, and Peter returns to his present, creating a divergence that becomes the twelfth timeline. Presumably Caitlin is lost forever.
The eleventh timeline is created when Hiro decides to time travel back to certain events just to watch them. He observes only, but his presence causes the timeline to change. With new knowledge, Hiro returns to the present to stop Adam.
The twelfth timeline involves Peter wanting to stop the dystopian outbreak. Adam tricks him for the most part, but Peter eventually listens to his friends and stops the outbreak, destroying the Shanti virus. Hiro traps Adam in a coffin buried underground in Japan. Nathan decides to expose them to the world in a press conference, revealing he has the ability to fly. This brings about another dystopia in which people with abilities are hunted and imprisoned. Mohinder’s research allows ordinary people to gain superhuman abilities. The world becomes chaotic. Ando kills Hiro with red lightning. Peter becomes a terrorist. Claire joins Pinehearst and tries to kill Peter. Peter decides to stop this timeline from existing by time travelling back to where Nathan outs them.
The thirteenth timeline begins with Future Peter shooting Nathan. That’s hardly the only alteration, however. He also puts Present Peter in Jesse’s body, takes Matt to an African desert, and inadvertently allows Sylar to take Claire’s ability. Now immortal, Sylar slaughters several Company members (including Bob), and is only disabled by Elle’s massive electricity release, which has the secondary effect of knocking out the power grid and releasing the prisoners. Pinehearst takes advantage of the events to try to seize control. When Angela has a prophetic dream about villains killing everyone, with Sylar as her only ally, she decides to make a few changes.
The fourteenth timeline is actually created before this, as Hiro travels to the future to witness Ando killing him with red lightning. Hiro returns mistrustful of his friend as a result. This affects how they function as a team working against Daphne. This all occurs outside of America, however, and has no effect on the events influenced by Future Peter.
The fifteenth timeline is created as Angela tries to regain control. She sends Hiro and Ando to release Adam to try to keep him away from the villains she dreamed about. Adam is taken by Pinehearst, where his power is taken by Arthur, killing Adam while giving Arthur new life. Arthur thus becomes the principle villain where he otherwise would not. Future Peter tries to clean up the mess he made, and he takes Present Peter into the future. The world turns out pretty much the same as in the twelfth timeline, with the possible change of Sylar becoming an ordinary guy (Gabriel) taking care of his son, presumably mothered by Elle. Matt and Daphne are a couple, with a new daughter and Molly as their adopted daughter. Nathan is the president and is married to Tracy.
The sixteenth timeline is a result of Present Peter entering this future. He affects the way things go to a substantial degree. Future Peter is killed by Claire, who leads a team to hunt down Present Peter. He meets Gabriel and gains Gabriel’s power of learning how things work. A battle takes place in Gabriel’s house, leading to the death of his son. Gabriel literally goes nuclear, destroys the city, and kills a lot of people. Peter is captured by Pinehearst, and Claire starts to torture him, but she is stopped by Nathan. Peter loses control of Gabriel’s ability, kills Nathan, and then he returns to the present.
The seventeenth timeline is caused by both Peter and Matt, who had a prophetic dream of the future Peter went to. They fight against Pinehearst as Arthur vies for power. Arthur steals all of Peter’s abilities. Matt’s conviction that he and Daphne will get together causes him to come on too strong, keeping them from having the kind of relationship he hopes for. Arthur attacks Hiro, who mentally regresses into a young boy. Hiro follows Isaac’s comic book instructions to save Claire from Sylar and Elle, and takes Claire back to 1991 to keep the light safe.
“Heroes change the world, not diapers.”
–Hiro, episode “Cold Snap”
The eighteenth timeline is created as Claire and Hiro interact with their respective families in the past. Claire helps out her mother with babysitting herself, and she convinces Noah to not let her younger self receive the light from the Company. Hiro serves his dying mother waffles, and reveals who he really is. She heals him, and he convinces her to give him the light. Presumably, they return and help save the world. We don’t know for sure because…
A nineteenth timeline is created when Arthur goes back to 1991, steals the light from Hiro along with his power, and takes Claire back to the present, leaving Hiro stranded in a foreign country in a foreign time. He attempts to destroy the formula, but is caught by his father. We don’t know what becomes of him. Everyone in the present continues to fight against Pinehearst. Ando turns into a human battery. He supercharges Daphne, giving her the power to run faster than light and thus travel through time. (Sort of makes sense if you ignore physics.)
This causes the brief twentieth timeline consisting of Daphne observing herself just a few seconds ago. It’s more of a trial run time travel experiment than a serious alteration. The serious alteration comes later, when she travels back to 1991 to save Hiro.
The twenty-first timeline has Daphne bringing Hiro back to the present. The two hunt down the formula as it exists in the present, and Hiro destroys it, keeping Tracy from being able to misuse it. Hiro’s power is eventually restored by Baby Matt Parkman, but he can’t control it to the same degree he once could. Mohinder is murdered by Samuel. Dying of a brain tumor, Hiro loses control and accidentally time travels fourteen years ago (1993?) to a carnival he, Ando, and Kimiko went to as kids.
The twenty-second timeline has Hiro wandering around the carnival in the past. Hiro is careful not to do anything that could change the future. Presumably, he bides his time until he returns. As luck would have it, present day Lydia indicates to Samuel that he should meet Hiro in the past. Samuel gets one of his fellow carnies to transport him to the past, thus creating another timeline.
The twenty-third timeline is crafted by Samuel as he tries to put Hiro under his spell of charisma. He asks Hiro what he’d change if he could. Hiro tells him he’d stop a Slushy accident from ruining Ando and Kimiko’s relationship. Samuel shoves him in the way of the Slushy, and Hiro returns to the present to find that Ando and Kimiko are now engaged. Hiro later tries to save a suicidal coworker, who lost his job after he got drunk decided to photocopy his butt.
“Now is not a good time to photocopy your butt / and staple it to your boss’ face / oh no…”
Your Horoscope for Today, by Weird Al
Hiro alters the timelines forty-six times trying to save this yahoo, making the timeline count up to sixty-nine by the time he throws in the towel and just convinces the guy to get a different job. As those are all connected, we don’t see all of them, and it’s just plain silly, I’m just going to call this the twenty-fourth (+45) timeline. As one of his last acts, Hiro decides to save his lost love Charlie, and travels back in time to save her.
This twenty-fifth (+45) timeline is essentially the same as the fourth timeline, with the exception of past events that have since been altered. Hiro talks to a young boy about being a hero, and the boy shares some cowboy mythology to add to the geekdom. Hiro is soon joined by Samuel, creating a twenty-sixth (+45) timeline.
Adam: “As long as you saved [Hiro’s] girlfriend, you could kill some more, willy-nilly.”
Sylar: “Willy-nilly.”
–Hiro’s dream, episode “Pass/Fail”
The twenty-sixth (+45) timeline has Hiro trying to save Charlie by making a deal with Sylar. Sylar agrees to fix Charlie and then leave her alone, and in exchange Hiro will tell him how he dies. Hiro cheats him, says that Sylar will “die alone”, and quickly gets away. Now that Sylar doesn’t kill Charlie, there is a paradox in that Hiro’s younger self will not travel five months into the past, and he and Charlie will not fall in love, thereby removing the motivation for Hiro to save her in the first place. So, Hiro appears to his younger self, pretending to be the Future Hiro from the third timeline (who doesn’t exist anymore), and gives him the instructions to go back in time and get to know Charlie, which pushes our Hiro into a twenty-seventh (+45) timeline.
The twenty-seventh (+45) timeline is pretty much the same as the twenty-fourth (+45) timeline, especially since Samuel steals away Charlie immediately after Hiro saves her. Samuel holds her captive, and blackmails Hiro into time traveling back to Mohinder’s death scene to rescue a film before Mohinder destroys it. Hiro goes once to observe, creating a twenty-eighth (+45) timeline, and then travels again and acts, creating a twenty-ninth (+45) timeline.
In the twenty-ninth (+45) timeline, Hiro goes back before Samuel shows up, fits Mohinder with a bullet-proof vest, and also replaces the film. Samuel shows up, strikes Mohinder with a rock at high-velocity, and storms off much the same as in the previous timeline. To keep Mohinder from interfering for the next few weeks, Hiro drops Mohinder in a mental institution. As an additional effect from Hiro’s creation of the twenty-sixth (+45) timeline, Sylar now obsesses over the knowledge that he will die alone. This drives him to seek out human connection – in his psychopathic rapey sort of way.
So, there we are. Twenty-nine timelines or seventy-four if you count forty-five instances of butt photocopying. You have to give Heroes credit for not shying away from the confusing time travel element. And it is confusing! I actually think I understand The Time Traveler’s Wife’s nonlinear causal loop better than Heroes’ myriad timelines. Well, I did my best to keep this guide accurate.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Takezo Kensei is a Gaijin? (Heroes)


When Heroes first aired, I fell in love with it. What a powerful show! Uh, no pun intended. Heroes really seemed to capture this feeling of realism, a part of which was its internationality. You really got the sense that people of all sorts are developing powers all over the world. Since the first season, however, the show’s quality has gone down, and has become increasingly ethnocentric and racist.

Viral Infection (ReBoot)


In the cartoon series ReBoot, there is a recurring theme of people being brainwashed (reprogrammed) to meet the needs of the person doing the brainwashing. This is most often seen in the viral antagonists: Megabyte, Daemon, and even Hexadecimal to some extent with her nulls. However, it’s also seen in protagonist Bob as a technique he wishes to bring into effect to force viruses to become benign. Because he is the central protagonist, this is for the most part portrayed as an honorable desire more merciful than straight out deleting them, but the ethical value of it is questioned by Megabyte, throwing it into the realm of dubious morality.
“I come from the net, infecting systems, peoples, and cities, to this place: Megaframe, my domain. My format: virus, to corrupt and conquer.”
–Megabyte, episode “To Mend and Defend”
Megabyte is a specific type of virus. While he, like all viruses, is concerned with causing death and suffering, for most of the series his primary goal is to take over the world and rule it with an iron fist. He is a figure comparable to Hitler, which is emphasized in the show when his German-accented minion responds to his command with a “Jawohl, mein führer!” In case that was too subtle, the same minion is later referred to as a Neo-Viral. His main means of acquiring troops is through viral infection, spreading his influence into the PID’s (identities, stored in the persons’ icons) of people at his mercy. This infection transforms the person’s body with a simple color-coding (green, black, and red) to denote viral takeover, and also affects their mind to become wholly devoted to their Lord Megabyte, while still essentially remaining the same person. Viral infection is consistently portrayed as horrifying to the people subjected to it, and most of those who are freed rejoice, the only exceptions being Megabyte’s most devoted minions, who are dubbed Neo-Virals.
“Mainframe Neo-Virals… I hate Mainframe Neo-Virals!”
–Blues Brother binome, episode “Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus”
While Megabtye’s modus operandi of seeking control to establish a dictatorship is fairly uncommon as viruses seem to go, he is certainly not the only virus to engage in mass infection. A particularly notable example is the virus Daemon, who appears as a beautiful woman in a messiah role. Her programming is to infect the entire net and then destroy it by causing everyone to commit suicide at the same time. She infects people in a process ranging from gradual to instantaneous depending on how strong their will is, and infected people can be detected by what appears to be a living parasitic growth on their skin. Wholly infected people literally worship Daemon as though she were a god, referring to her as The Word, and all feel great happiness and a sense of peace. They are less akin to Nazis, and more like the shiny happy people who worship Jasmine in Angel.
Hexadecimal is in many ways the antithesis of normal viruses. The self-described Queen of Chaos, she loathes being predictable, which makes her better than other viruses. Though she is sadistic, she is usually content to keep her rule to the twisted city she created in the destruction of Lost Angles, and even lends support to the good guys sometimes. So she is neither the type of virus to hunt and kill, nor the type to build an empire. She does, however, have her own subjects, including her robotic pet Scuzzy, the outcast and neutral figure Mike the TV, and the hoards of nulls. Nulls, the slug-like parasitic degraded results of people who were caught either in the explosion that created Hex or in lost Games, share a connection to the virus, and they do her bidding. Whether this is because Hex deliberately controls them with her viral power or because of some symbiotic relationship is left unclear.
Hex is also unique for being the first and only virus to willingly choose a benign existence. Her attraction to Bob leads her to help him attack Megabyte, and in return Bob saves her from the system crash by making her a permanent citizen with an icon. After the system reboots, Hex doesn’t attempt to hurt the system anymore out of her attraction to Bob, and eventually transforms into a sprite as a result. When Daemon forces her to become a virus once more, Hex is benign in nature and she martyrs herself to save the world. This is the only example of Bob’s hypothetical benign virus.
Bob cares a lot about helping people of all kinds. He adamantly opposes killing enemies, instead wanting to find a way to coexist. When an enemy won’t go along with this willingly, he tries to find a way to reprogram them to become benign. This is generally applied to the people who have been previously altered by viral infection, and his aim is to undo this and return the people to their original state. While stories like Total Recall and Dollhouse cast doubt on whether a body’s original personality has the right to a body currently occupied by another, I’m willing to accept the notion that people should be cured of viral infection. It is another matter to forcibly alter viruses.
Megabyte: “So, what now? Deletion?”
Bob: “No. Just a scan. I don’t believe in deletion.”
Megabyte: (patronizing) “You can’t go against your code.”
Bob: “And neither can you. That’s the problem. It’s not your fault. You’re programmed to be this way. We've just got to work out a way to reprogram you.”
Megabyte: “So… I won’t be a virus?”
Bob: “That’s the plan.”
Megabyte: “Ah. So… a fate worse than deletion. And they call
me a monster.”
Episode “Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus”
It is often said that when fighting a war, one should be careful they don’t become that which they fight against. Bob opposes the viruses because of their nature of causing suffering and destruction, whereas he believes in the Guardian code of mending and defending. He holds onto the belief that viruses can be benign, and after witnessing Hex’s transformation, he eventually decides to create a method to transform malignant viruses into benign sprites. In doing so, he adopts the characteristics of a virus himself. He’s not coded to corrupt and conquer, rather he acts from kindness, but the effect is very much the same as viral infection. To accept this method as an option is to in essence accept viral infection. Suddenly, the battle between Guardians and the viruses looks a lot less like a battle between good and evil.
In conclusion, ReBoot contains many instances of brainwashing. Though this is primarily on the part of major antagonists, the central protagonist does attempt this for his own purposes. I find it interesting that the morality of this is questioned. The show displays a few interesting philosophical quandaries, especially relating to the subject of identity. If it is immoral for viruses to brainwash innocents to become their servants, is it moral to brainwash viruses to become benign? Hex is a unique case, and perhaps the only way it could have turned out the way it did is because she changed herself out of her own will, out of love.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

GHB and a Keister Egg (Veronica Mars)


I love Veronica Mars. Veronica is my hero. The show is awesome. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it could do no wrong. There’s an element of the story that I’ve found a bit disturbing and objectionable, namely the double standard about rape. As Veronica Mars would have it, rape against female persons is a horrific violation that should never ever happen, but rape against male persons is a satisfactory punishment for all manner of crimes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes (Heroes)


Synesthesia is a neurological condition characterized by the crossing of separate senses, allowing for perception of external stimuli to merge together. An example of such is to have sound appear to the synesthete as pulsing colors floating in the air. Heroes has introduced a synesthete character, Emma, whose stylized synesthesia is presented as a superpower alongside Hiro’s mastery of time and space. I initially found this handling of synesthesia insulting, but have somewhat cooled off after the reveal that Emma’s synesthetic ability allows her to supernaturally control sound in such a way that it can either summon people or cause destruction. However, while her ability seems to be a variant on the sonic powers seen previously, the explicit synesthesia aspect of the power still seems a little offensive given that Heroes is associating a real world neurological condition with a supernatural ability.
In the real world, synesthesia is a neurological condition not that uncommon. Many famous artists were synesthetes, able to compose music by matching color patterns, or able to paint color patterns from existing musical pieces. Synesthesia is fairly common to people who have autism, and as a person with high-functioning autism I have it to some extent. The other night, my dad turned on the CD player, and it was like a bright red snake of shapes fitting together stretching out toward me – that’s what Free Bird looks like on high volume. I personally don’t perceive colored entities as existing in the real world, rather more of an instinctive visualization, but I know many synesthetes do perceive them as real physical shapes.
In Heroes, Emma is an ordinary woman, a deaf file clerk working at the same hospital as Peter, when one day her ability manifests. She starts seeing luminous flashes of color in place of hearing sound, and her doctor mother suspects it to be synesthesia. It’s not just her, though. Heroes Interactive, a promotional campaign with Sprint that reveals pieces of trivia, states that “Emma’s ability is a form of synesthesia, a real phenomenon that’s been studied since the mid-1800s, but is still poorly understood.”
This is what gets me annoyed. The superpower is a form of a real phenomenon that is poorly understood. Clearly no one in charge of Heroes actually has synesthesia, and the audience is expected not to have it. They took a lesser known real neurological condition and chose to depict it as a supernatural phenomenon because they thought it would make a cool superpower.
Emma’s stylized synesthesia not only lets her interact with the world better, it enables her to instantly master musical instruments. She picks up a cello and just by following patterns of colors is able to create beautiful music that enchants everyone around her. She later does the same with a piano and Peter. This aspect of the power references the fact that a few famous musicians utilized their synesthesia to help compose music. Heroes ignores that the reason these guys produced great music was because they were trained experts and not because of their synesthesia alone. While Emma may well have been practicing playing separate musical instruments for years before losing her hearing on some unknown past date, there is nothing to indicate such and it is implied that her synesthesia alone is responsible for her masterful playing.
An implication of this is that famous composers with synesthesia really created their works through magic that comes along with synesthesia. Heroes has done similar things in their online graphic novels. Benjamin Franklin makes his observations about electricity not because of his innovative thinking but because he possesses supernatural electrical powers like but not identical to Elle’s. Similarly, the pyramids of Giza are created by the Pharaohs with supernatural powers, though it’s not revealed exactly how much they contribute. Heroes takes certain things from the real world and rewrites them to conform to its mythology. The thing with using historical figures, though, is that there’s no one to offend. On the other hand, using synesthesia, a real phenomenon that still exists and is still a part of the lives of real living people, is a good reason to be sensitive.
The main thing that makes her ability actually a superpower is that she can apparently play music in such a way that her passionate emotions affect the real world. If she is hurt and upset, her music causes destruction. If she is in a good mood, though, she can bring joy to people who hear the music. She recently (as of writing this) has gained the ability to magically summon persons she thinks about while playing her music, an ability Samuel refers to as her “Siren song”. This references the evil half-woman, half-(either bird or fish; it varies) creatures of Greek legend, who from a small island sing a song so beautiful that sailors leap from their ships and drown in their attempts to join them. The implication that seems to be there is that the mythical Sirens were based on these magical synesthetes in the way that the legends of Takezo Kensei were based on the real superhuman Adam Monroe (and Hiro Nakamura in another timeline).
Now, having a synesthetic power over music implied to have inspired myth isn’t so bad on its own. It’s actually kind of cool that a power could come about in such a way to mold itself to the users’ needs. Emma can’t hear, so she gains an ability to manipulate sound in a way that allows her to perceive it without magically healing her deafness. The main issue I have is that it took several episodes for the reveal that her power goes beyond seeing sound as colors. Until then, it was treated like synesthesia was a supernatural ability in itself. Even when Emma strikes a huge crack in the wall after playing the cello in “Hysterical Blindness”, this is not addressed in the following episode “Tabula Rasa”, during which Peter has Hiro teach Emma to accept her ability. It could have been an important lesson in which a veteran hero teaches a newly superhuman individual to use her power wisely, honorably, (insert fanboy reference here). Instead, her destructive power is never mentioned, and Hiro teaches her to accept her supernatural ability of seeing color in place of sound.
In conclusion, Heroes’ handling of the character Emma’s synesthetic superpower has been rather poor in light of the very real neurological condition of several people who enjoy the show. I was actually quite happy when I realized what they were portraying was synesthesia because I thought it would help the condition become better known and understood. Plenty of people just think I’m crazy when I try to explain synesthesia to them, and a popular TV show would help people understand. I was then quite miffed when I realized that they were actually portraying synesthesia as a superpower – apparently I’m magic. The discovery of what her power really was came far too late to be satisfactory as far as I’m concerned. The depiction of synesthesia in Heroes stands as an example of how not to depict it if you want to be nice to the people who actually have it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Extremist's View of the 'Verse (Firefly)


Lately, I’ve written a lot of articles in which I speak favorably of feminism. I think feminism in general is a good set of philosophies that will help human society reach gender equality, and that the image in most persons’ heads of man-hating extremists is for the most part mistaken and only applicable to a loud minority. Cinders’ article here gives a good overview of modern feminism. This time, however, I’d like to address a particular Firefly analysis that was passed around the net a while ago, which takes an extreme radical feminist stance that I really feel the need to tear apart. So, much as I earlier took apart a claim that Microsoft made Halo to encourage violence against Christians, now I will harshly criticize user _allecto_’s “A Rapist’s View of the World: Joss Whedon and Firefly”.
Okay, let’s get on with this…

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Examination of Female Characters - Part 2 (Halo)


(Crossposted from Halopedia)
This is Dragonclaws, returning with part two in my examination of the female Halo characters (part one can be found here). Because my last series of shorter articles (the Halo Graphic Novel review) worked out well, I’m going to continue this not as one large article to follow a large article, but as a series of shorter parts. As much as we all wish sexism doesn’t exist, a certain kerfuffle in the Halo community makes it clear to me that sexism is still alive and well, making it prudent to examine the fictional depictions of female persons and insist upon proper equality in such. This time, I will cover Halo Wars and Halo 3: ODST, as well as said kerfuffle.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

No, I'm Killing Boys (Jennifer's Body)


Last night, I watched the movie Jennifer’s Body, one of the rare teen films to feature a succubus as the primary antagonist. While most of the movie is far too sexual for my tastes, functioning as softcore pornography for the straight male teen audience, I found it an interesting subversion of established gender roles in the horror genre. The protagonist is a young woman (“Needy”) who becomes involved in the struggle for survival against a wicked opponent without falling into the trope of the final girl, whose boyfriend (Chip) ends up in the traditionally female woman-in-refrigerator role, as the female antagonist (the parasite possessing Jennifer’s body, hereafter referred to as Jennifer) takes the traditionally male role of sexual predator.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hairy-Legged Feminists (Buffy, Angel)


Buffy the Vampire Slayer was created by Joss Whedon for the purpose of subverting sexist conventions in the horror genre. Joss describes himself as a feminist, and he promotes feminism through the characters and storylines of Buffy. But while characters may behave in a feminist way, I got to thinking about how feminism itself is depicted in the Buffyverse – it exists as a movement there as it does here, after all. So, here’s a study of how feminism as a movement is portrayed in the Buffyverse.