The Power of Fan Films

With the release of “The Empire Strikes Back – Revisited,” I’ve been in a bit of a Star Wars mood. Given that Revisited is a fan project, my mind has lately turned to thinking about other fan projects. The fans are the biggest part of why Star Wars survived its drought years between Episode III and Episode VII.

It was not only fans watching The Clone Wars or Rebels that kept the franchise afloat, however. It was fans creating new things: new stories, new tales, new places, new characters. This zeal is what kept Star Wars alive more than anything.

Now, I want to share some of that creative brilliance with you.

Days Past

Honestly, I actually ran across this film while searching for some of my old favorites. It’s not really much of a surprise I didn’t know about it before, given it came out at the beginning of the month. But I’m glad I found it.

Days Past is a look at the relationship between a teacher and her pupil after the fall of the Republic…but it’s not what you expect. There’s not much more I can say without spoiling the plot. However, I would like to give this film credit for the quality of its set; it looks so authentic. Additionally, the character work is phenomenal, and the actors deserve a great deal of credit for bringing them to life.

DARTH MAUL: Apprentice

One of the big problems with the lightsaber duels in the Prequels is their choreography. Wait, just hear me out for a second! The problem is that the movies are overly focused on being flashy and cool, to the point where the fights are no longer convincing. Now, that’s not to say that this fan film does not do that; it does. I would like to note the one Jedi who flips into a shot for no reason whatsoever. Indeed, the entire point of the film is to be a cool, flashy lightsaber duel between a group of Jedi and Darth Maul.

But there’s something about the way it is handled that feels more…real. Not every strike is well-practiced and coordinated. There isn’t nearly as much pointless posturing between combatants. There’s even a bit of emotional pull (though nothing like Days Past). And if you don’t care about any of that…Darth Maul.

Hoshino

Something I’ve observed is that fan films tend to be much better when they’re shorter. If they go above the twenty minute mark, their quality starts to decline. I presume this is because the limitations inherent in any fan production start to catch up with them. They have all that time to fill, but only one or two writers, a limited number of crew and actors, limited special effects, limited budget…

Hence why films like Hoshino tend to be so good. The actual movie is only six minutes long, but it is so focused that it feels longer. Its characterization is splendid and it tells its tale so effectively. It has very little action…and it does not need it. The characters drive the story and that is wonderful.

TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story

Everyone loves Jedi. They have special powers and laser swords and lots of authority. But Jedi aren’t the only denizens of the galaxy, are they? There are trillions of people in Star Wars; what about their stories? TK-436 tries to tell one of those stories.

Now, I could nitpick the technical details in the special effects. Lasers aren’t always colored correctly, X-Wings flying around with their wings closed…but I would be missing the point, wouldn’t I? No, instead, I’ll just focus on the emotional tale of a stormtrooper forced to confront his past in the middle of a grim battle on a distant world.

I think I’m going to have to make another post. I didn’t talk about nearly all the fan films I wanted to…

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Can and Should

A man was fired recently. Contrary to what the left would have the general public believe, it is not because he was sexist, or racist, or opposed the shallow vanity that passes for diversity today. No, he was fired only because he dared to have a serious, nuanced opinion that did not conform exactly to leftist groupthink. It did not matter that his opinions largely matched up to the left’s; that he did not toe the line exactly was the problem. So Google, one of the greatest tech giants in the world, fired him.

Now, you might say, “Google is a private organization! They can do whatever they want!” Which they can. But that’s a non sequitur. That they are free to practice whatever hiring and firing decision is not the point, nor am I advocating for restrictions on this. Lord knows if I don’t think that Christian groups should be forced to have gay and Muslim leaders, than no one ought to be forcing Google to hire or retain employees against their will.

However, that does not mean Google did the right thing (indeed, they may have done something very bad, as it turns out).

Indeed, this is a major problem with our society. We equate the freedom to do something with its rightness. We fail to differentiate between the words “can” and “should.”

Can we fire this person? Yes. Should we fire this person? Probably not.

Can we force this baker out of business for refusing to bake a cake that goes against their beliefs? Probably. Should we ruin this person’s livelihood? Probably not.

Can I get blasted drunk this weekend? Yes. Is this a terribly good idea? My hangover will probably tell me no.

Can I sleep around? Yes. Should I run the risk of diseases, pregnancy, or emotional turmoil? I’m going with no.

Can I strut around like I know everything the world has to offer? Yes. Should I, given I’ve only lived a bit north of a quarter century? No.

The problem is that we don’t treat ourselves and our freedom with any real respect. We, as a society, earnestly believe that because we are free to do something, there is nothing wrong with actually doing it. We believe that there should be nothing restraining us from any action, good or bad.

I don’t believe that. I believe that one of the goals of life should be to lead a dignified and respectable life. We ought not be going around behaving stupidly and foolishly. We should not go around heedless of others and even ourselves. Bear in mind, I’m not advocating for leading dull, uninteresting lives (I know I do, and I’m not necessarily proud of that). Sure, we’ll occasionally do wild, crazy. even stupid things. We will do mean and unkind things. We might even think those things worthwhile, that the costs associated with those actions are outweighed by the (perceived) positives. Should we make a habit of it, though? Should we turn those things into our lifestyle?

Shouldn’t we have enough self-awareness to realize when we are making mistakes? Or is that sort of self-reflection outmoded too?

The Music of Stormblood

Spoiler warning: Though it has been about a month since Stormblood’s release, it feels prudent to place this here….just in case someone reads it.

It actually took a long time for me to warm up to Final Fantasy XIV. It’s not that I thought the game particularly bad at the outset (around 2.1), only that it didn’t capture my imagination. It was the music that turned the game from something of a slog to a joy. Sure, I had enjoyed music in the game prior, but it was the introduction of “Tricksome” for The Wanderer’s Palace HM that triggered something in me.

This was followed by the phenomenal soundtrack for Heavensward, which prompted me to start a playlist of my favorite tracks from the game (many thanks to Mekkah Dee for these uploads). Now, with the release of Stormblood, there’s a whole new soundtrack to enjoy.

Rhalgr’s Reach

The first major settlement the player reaches after entering Gyr Abania, the Reach is the home of the Ala Mhigan Resistance. For an organization that has only met with minimal success after two decades of occupation, I must admit that the theme is far more upbeat than anticipated. On the other hand, it instills the player with hope; great change is coming to Eorzea and we are at the forefront. One cannot help but be encouraged listening to this.

Yanxia

Before we can liberate Ala Mhigo, however, we first travel east, to distant Othard, to help our longtime ally and friend Yugiri liberate the nation of Doma. A good deal of the music in the east, from Kugane to the Azim, has an exotic feel to it, clearly inspired by the cultures of the orient. However, the theme that most drew me was that of Yanxia’s nighttime theme. A slow, somber piano piece, it almost feels a more fitting theme than the normal daytime theme.  The people of Doma have lost much in the quarter century of Garlean rule, a feeling far better reflected in the night. Yet even amid the ruins of a nation, the music carries with it a hopeful air.

The Temple of the Fist

While I am skipping ahead a bit to cover this one, I prefer the final two tracks of this group where they are. The Temple of the Fist is the former home of the Fist of Rhalgr, the order to which the Monks of Ala Mhigo (and, by extension, any Monk players) belong. If there’s any word that describes this theme, it is adventurous. It’s the sort of music that belongs to a temple hidden deep in a vast wilderness, where adventurers brave many great perils to reach it and the treasures hidden inside.

Actually, leaving aside the matter of Rhalgr’s Reach just below, that is precisely what the temple is. It is a theme that carries a feeling perfectly.

The Lochs

The liberation of Doma finally brings the player back to the Ala Mhigan front, where the Eorzean Alliance takes advantage of the Empire’s divided attention to strike straight for the city itself. At the very gates, we are greeted with this militaristic theme. Looming before the gathered forces of five nations, the imposing silhouette of the most impressive city state in the realm (at least to me). After a long journey fraught with peril and hard-fought battles, the end is in sight as we fight for the future of….

Ala Mhigo

Twenty years: that’s how long the Empire has occupied this part of Eorzea. How long it has been since people like those of Little Ala Mhigo fled from the invaders. Since the Empire erected Baelsar’s Wall, hiding its deeds from the world to the west. Twenty long years since a proud people were laid low by the mightiest nation in the known world.

No longer.

Liberty or death!

What’s the Deal With Star Wars?

Rogue OneA lot of people seem to hate Rogue One. They seem to think that it’s schlock, a shameless, nostalgia-filled cash grab. These people are right, really. Disney has access to an entire franchise and to go back to the time-period from where people derive their fondest memories is transparently about money. They know the emotional pull of the original trilogy for many fans and wish to draw upon that wellspring of good will.

However, just because the detractors are right does not mean that we, the viewing public, are getting the short end. It seems foolish to fault Disney (or any company, for that matter) for trying to make money, particularly with the most lucrative franchise in history. Likewise, complaining about nostalgia when Rogue One is set literally a week before A New Hope is somewhat ridiculous. It would be like setting a movie in World War II and then complaining that it contains Panzers and Adolf Hitler. The setting means that visuals and locations are obviously going to repeat; repetition is not inherently a bad thing.

Rogue One, frankly, is a success by any reasonable standard. It’s a well-paced movie, with emotional pull and excitement. The plot is well-written, avoiding the common pitfall of getting bogged down in any one spot, and feels like a unique tale. The characters are a somewhat weak point, with the heroes, Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, both falling short of being well-rounded. However, they’re balanced out by a superb supporting cast that has all the heart that they lack.

The movie also contains all of the elements that Star Wars fans had been clamoring for (or at least I have) since Return of the Jedi. Sure, a lot of these, from the diverse backgrounds of the main cast, a lovable (if quirky) droid, and the backdrop of a war between good and evil, are identical to the original trilogy, but that is the Star Wars formula. That is what works. It is little surprise that combining these elements competently managed to make a movie worth watching.

Honestly, Rogue One does many things right which the previous year’s The Force Awakens failed at. Bear in mind, it is a good movie. From a technical standpoint, it is good, not bogging down with a plot that’s reasonably engaging. The new characters in particular stand out; Rey, Finn, and Poe are all great people who you can connect with. The original trilogy characters are likewise allowed their moments, without really overshadowing the newcomers.

The problem is that The Force Awakens tries too hard. It is obvious that this movie is playing off of nostalgia. It has been thirty years since the Battle of Endor, but everything sort of feels the same. There are X-Wings and Tie Fighters, there are Stormtroopers, the Millennium Falcon is still flying…somehow. The movie starts with a shot of a Star Destroyer, which four previous films (III through VI) did as well. For some strange reason there’s still a Rebellion, now called the Resistance.* Each of the original cast not named “Luke Skywalker” is given a very deliberate introduction meant to tug at our memories.Old Han and Chewbacca

The worst offender in all of this is the plot. While I did say before that it was well-executed, this does not excuse it from being lifted, largely, from the plot of A New Hope. The story starts with a violent attack by the Empire/First Order, then shifts to a humble main character on a desert planet accidentally stumbling upon a destiny greater than anything they imagined. The heroes travel to a hidden Rebel/Resistance base (mercifully after a second act that is actually different from that of Episode IV) where they learn about a new superweapon that can destroy entire planets. The third act then combines the second and third acts of ANH, where the heroes infiltrate the Death Star/Starkiller while a small fighter fleet faces overwhelming odds to end the threat.

On the one hand, Star Wars did return from a ten year hiatus from theaters. Creating a movie that is familiar is not an unwise decision. On the other hand, it so blatantly copies A New Hope, it barely qualifies as a new tale at times.

For the record, I am not trying to trash The Force Awakens. I still think it was a good movie. The problem is that it had its flaws, worse flaws than Rogue One had in some instances, yet there are people out there who think that Rogue One is substantially inferior. Perhaps it is not the greatest film of all time, but a bad film it is not.

Again, Rogue One had a lot more nostalgia bait than The Force Awakens, but it belonged there. Yavin IV and the Death Star, X-Wings and AT-STs, even Grand Moff Tarkin and Mon Mothma are all in the movie because they belong there. They aren’t thrust in there purely to tickle our fancy; their presence is natural in the setting. Sure, some elements, like not-Ackbar Admiral Raddus, AT-ATs, and the last ten (really cool) minutes of the film are obvious nostalgia plays, but most of it is not, or at least is not treated as such. For that, I think Rogue One deserves to be praised, rather than be cast out and spit upon like a heretic in a Vatican conclave.

The Last JediIf anything, my chief concerns are what The Last Jedi and next year’s Han Solo spinoff will look like. My earnest hope is that Disney will try to break away from the formula. The new films will grow stale very swiftly if they continue on the course of utilizing nostalgia and lifting plot elements wholesale from previous films. Even if such story-telling is working, it will only last for so long. The amount of criticism levied at Rogue One is already evidence that nostalgia is starting to lose its effect. Ensuring a stable and enduring legacy for the future of Star Wars demands creativity, even when following certain basic structures.

With Disney at the helm, Lucasfilm has so far managed to do a surprisingly good job of reviving Star Wars. Despite its popularity, it was hurt severely by George Lucas’ missteps in creating the prequels. What remains to be seen is if Star Wars will continue to be good, or if it will, due to a dearth of true creativity, sink into being “just another franchise.”

*Yes, I know that the Resistance was formed long after the Rebellion became the New Republic, it just seems a bit off at first glance that Leia would go rogue and form Space Hezbollah** to fight Space Nazi Germany.

**I’m not commenting on the nobility of actual Hezbollah one way or another.

The Pariahs

Once, in a past long before I was ever born, it seemed like people could live with each other. They could embrace and live with the contradictions among themselves. Yes, they disagreed, but at the end of the day, they could break bread and be friends and family.

Yet this no longer seems to be the case.

We live in a world today where, if you do not follow a person’s beliefs to the letter, they are to be shunned. They are to be treated as the dregs of the Earth, ostracized from common society. It does not matter what good these people do, what joy they bring to other people’s lives. The moment we stray from “socially acceptable” mores, we become…the other. A monster. The sort of being better suited to living under a bridge, terrorizing passersby with our backwardness.

It really is easier to simply believe that the trends of modern society are completely healthy. It is easy to believe that the people who oppose you deserve no seat at the table; that they deserve no voice. It is easy to claim that such people stand for hate and that hate will not be tolerated.

How true is this, though?

Is the the man who observes that only one race is demonized in public a racist? Is the accepted view that this particular race is inherently bad for the sins of centuries past not itself racist? Is it bad to point out the flaws, if not the dangers, in such thinking?

Is the man who worries about un-vetted foreign nationals entering his nation a xenophobe? Is it so wrong for him to observe the stark realities of the sorts of people who present a danger to his nation? Do these honest observations make him a nazi?

What of the man who sees his maleness as nothing to be ashamed of? As something even to be celebrated in its own unique way? Is he a misogynist for believing in the uniqueness of men and women and the necessity of letting those two things be separate?

Does this same man hate if he does not agree with the lifestyles of the LGBT community? Is it necessary that he must feel malice in his heart if he sees the views held by such as unhealthy? Is it a horror for that man to believe that maybe there is another way, a different way to think, a different way to live?

Do any of those opinions fill a man with hate simply by existing? Is there no possible good reason or decent logic for holding opinions such as these? Must it be assumed that there is only malice here and simply not another way?

Because I am that man.

I have friends like me.

But there are plenty of people in all of our lives not like us. People who hold views contrary to everything we hold dear. People who follow lifestyles at which we can only shake our heads mournfully. Yet we do not hate.

Can you say the same of yourselves?

I do not have to agree with the beliefs of my fellows to still have them enrich my life. They do not have to hold the same viewpoints, love the same things, be the same people to be of value to me. Yes, your beliefs may make me cringe, your assumptions of what I believe may make me roll my eyes, but you are not a monster to me for those things. Far from it.

No, you are not a monster, but do you think the same of me?

Because all I ever see from those who differ from me is an endless campaign of ostracism. Ceaseless attempts to demonize. No serious attempts at understanding or sharing, no real parley or discussion. There is no real need to discuss topics with racists, bigots, Nazis, or whatever else people of certain persuasions might be called today.

But I am not here to lay blame, tempting though that may be. No, rather I wonder how we have become the sort of people who only ever lay blame. Who only ever look for wrong-doing. Who only ever try to tear people down as villains, no matter their offenses. Why are we the sort of people who never listen? The sort of people who regard ourselves so highly that we can brook no disagreement without personal insult?

Will this piece make me a pariah among my peers? Am I to be cast as a monster too? Or perhaps belittled or condescended to?

I do not know. That is the scariest part of the world in which we live, for the very basic social fabric itself is always in question, always in doubt. Will we hold the same standing the day we did before, not for a crime or any sort of real wrong-doing at all, but for simply holding a thought, a view, an opinion? If we carry this course to its end, what will our culture look like on the far side?

Golden Sun Resumed

So, while I did say I was going to continue doing music posts, I did not.

I am going to say life got in the way and that’s what we are all going to believe until the end of the internet. To be fair, I have been pre-occupied with major life changes coming down the pipe, meaning less energy to put into the creative parts of my life.

Then again, this is a blog, so who am I trying to fool…

Today, I want to resume my Golden Sun playlist, begun an age ago, but never finished as I gave up on using Blogger. However, I want to change things up slightly. Previously, I was posting one song and one cover from 0rangastang’s Golden Sun Remastered album. However, because the quality of those covers are rather variable, I will instead choose a cover that I just happen to think is the finest, regardless of who made it.

Additionally, I’m going to try and keep the playlist as concise as I am able. There are a lot of themes in Golden Sun and it would not be prudent to try and share all of the ones I like. There are still a lot to come, but I will try to be more discerning in the future, to make it easier for me to come up with these posts.

With that out of the way, today’s music: Venus Lighthouse

Venus Lighthouse is Golden Sun’s final dungeon. Much like Mercury Lighthouse before it, it is a lengthy maze full of puzzles, traps, and enemies that culminates in a final showdown with Saturos and Menardi. Everything about this theme, from the vocals to the powerful percussion carries the feeling of finality that the conclusion of a great game deserves. And yet, this would prove to not be the end, but rather a new beginning for Golden Sun: The Lost Age.

That is for the next post, however. In the meantime, enjoy this Venus Lighthouse cover from OC/DC on YouTube. I honestly just discovered this cover today while searching for a video of the normal theme to use. I greatly enjoy its softer sounds and the limited usage of vocals towards the end charmed me.

Thanks for listening!

The Return of the Melody

Alright, so before we get into it, I ought to address the elephant in the room, namely, where this post is located.

Part of the reason I stopped posting music blogs is because I hate Blogspot. A lot. Not only is it a poor service, but I feel like it makes everything posted on it look cheap and small, regardless of quality. The problem is that I have no place else to post these things…except here.

I waffled on making posts here for a long time, though, in no small part because between me and Shannon (the other person who writes on here), we tend to post more serious, politically and culturally minded content here (when we can be bothered). And I honestly am afraid to taint Oseron Phaer with that stink, even if I take the realm of the political very seriously. I suppose no small part of it is knowing that my politics are very different from those of many of the people I know and like online and I fear alienating them, not because I am ashamed of beliefs, but because of the polarization of the culture in which we live.

But very well. I shall bite the bullet and return to sharing the music that I love…even if it’s from video games. Games have some of the most amazing music I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to and I must share that with the world.

Final Fantasy XIV Selections

“Apologies”

Ah, Sohr Khai…like The Wanderer’s Palace HM, Sohr Khai is my second-favorite dungeon purely because of its theme. Visually, the dungeon is stunning, of course, as you battle above the clouds in a bid to prove your mettle to Hraesvelgr. The theme is what drives it home, though. With stunning piano work, sparse-but-haunting vocal work, and a fast pace that gives the dungeon momentum, “Apologies” is a theme I can listen to for hours on end without growing bored.

“Ultima”

I honestly had a lot of trouble coming up with a fifth theme for this batch (yes, I know it’s the second, I reordered it), until I remembered this gem from 2.0. Honestly, any content released prior to 2.2 tends to get overlooked by me because of how unremarkable it all feels to me. It was fun, but nothing grabbed me like it should have. Indeed, this fact tends to make me think that the Ultima theme is too good for its fight; the fight does not live up to the weight and power contained within the music. All the elements of the piece combine perfectly to create an atmosphere for a titanic struggle against a foe beyond your ken.

“Exponential Entropy”

This theme was something of a surprise when I reached the Heart of the Creator in patch 3.4. It’s not that there wasn’t precedent for a piece like this; Locus is fairly mellow, despite its harsh-ish instrumentation. But “Exponential Entropy” is a different animal entirely. There’s almost nothing about it that screams “YOU’RE FIGHTING A GIANT DEATH ROBOT.” Instead, it is a calm theme, relaxing in its repeating vocals:

“Forward and back,
And then forward and back,
And then go forward and back,
And put one foot forward.”

Some might find that annoying after a point, but the song is a well-crafted piece and the repetition serves a vitally important role in making it work.

“Out of the Labyrinth”

I’ve posted before on how I believe that the Crystal Tower storyline is one of the best homages I’ve every had the joy of experiencing. Perhaps it is because the music in it recaptures many of my favorite themes from Final Fantasy III. The theme for Syrcus Tower (which is basically the Crystal Tower dungeon from III) is a perfect example of this. It takes a very fast paced theme and turns it into a slower, more epic version which better fits the pacing of the raid.

“Revenge Twofold”

Another theme that surprised me in 3.4, the new boss theme is fantastic. I was never a big fan of “Ominous Prognostics;” something about it felt too hectic, which detracted from many boss fights. “Revenge Twofold” is nothing of the sort. Instead, the pace is slower and the instruments weightier, along with vocals that hearken back to “Imagination.” All the fights that use this theme feel like struggles, even though none of them are nearly as important as ones that came before.

Thanks for listening and I hope you’ll return for more vidya music!

Battles with Heart

Something has been bothering me of late, and it has only just come together in my head, so let us talk about it a little.

Possible (minor) Rogue One spoilers (but not really) ahead.

Rogue One is truly the Star Wars movie I’ve wanted for a long while. Despite some weaknesses in the pacing and screenplay, it pressed all the nostalgia buttons and legitimately made me feel like a kid again. The final act is particularly noteworthy in this regard, as the final battle is exciting, emotional, and gripping. Even though the ultimate outcome is already known, the journey to the end is well worth it.

That is when it occurred to me: the Battle of Scarif is the first Star Wars battle since Endor that truly felt like an actual Star Wars battle.  What I could not quite figure out was why.  After all, the prequel trilogy is filled to the brim with fighting and duels. Very often, these battles were the highlights of otherwise incredibly mediocre movies. So what was it about this particular battle that made it better than three movies worth of battles combined?

battle_of_endor

The problem is that the prequels’ battles are merely a backdrop. They are the frame rather than the painting. The Battle of Naboo exists so that WesleyAnakin can do something cool and save the day. The Battle of Coruscant exists so that Anakin and Obi-Wan are not simply flying through empty space to save the chancellor. The battles themselves really are not important, based on how little we see of everything happening around the heroes. The battles are merely a means to get the heroes from point A to point B (in a fashion).

By comparison, the Battle of Yavin, while indeed a coming-of-age test for Luke Skywalker, is also just as much about the Rebellion’s desperate struggle against the overwhelming might of the Empire. Every Rebel pilot shot down in battle impacts the viewer in some way. The battle is not a background element; it is the story, of which Luke is a part. The story of the battle and the story of Luke compliment each other and strengthen each other.

Likewise with the Battle of Endor; we do not only see Lando Calrissian at the helm of the Millennium Falcon. We see rebel pilots like Wedge Antilles fighting overwhelming odds. The movie continually returns to Admiral Ackbar trying to save his fleet from the trap it has fallen into. Not only that, but the preceding two films laid the groundwork for the plight of the Rebel Alliance and the necessity of their cause. The viewer is emotionally attached to the fight, making it that much more intense and exciting.

Now, the Battle of Naboo contains some of these elements, but the problem is that the viewer has no real attachment to the plight of the Naboo. Any sympathy we feel for them is forced upon us by the movie’s framing rather than because there is an inherent goodness to the Naboo. At the very least, there’s nothing redeeming or enjoyable about the villains (after all, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin were cool), thus leaving the woefully underdeveloped Naboo as the only option.

George Lucas made a critical error when making the prequel trilogy. He thought the plot should be a (political) metaphor, the battles should (only) look cool, and the characters…well, they would work themselves out. It seems that he never once considered that none of these elements could make a movie to which the viewer could attach themselves emotionally. Or perhaps he forgot how to create a movie containing that emotional pull.

rogue-one-rebels-615x242-1-615x242

Emotion is why Star Wars is not merely another summer blockbuster. Emotion is why Star Wars is such a phenomenon that transcends its time. If it were another brain-dead sci-fi flick, it might have a cult following, but nothing like what we see today.

We are pained when Luke’s foster parents are murdered by the Empire, sharing in Luke’s grief. We are elated when the Death Star explodes and a costly battle for the Rebel Alliance turns out to have been worth it. We feel Luke’s shock when his lineage is revealed to him on Bespin. We feel joy when the Empire is finally defeated at Endor, emperor and all. All of these moments mean something because they have captured our hearts.

Rogue One’s greatest strength is the power of emotion and connection. It manages to do what the prequels failed to do, creating a cinematic Star Wars experience that even The Force Awakens fell a bit short on.

Sex, Love, and Porn

Porn is Everywhere

Last Wednesday on Nerd Rage, we discussed sexuality and pornography. Or, more to the point, Shannon and Ruth did while I sat there trying not to have a coughing fit. This was something of an odd conversation for me to sit out, however, due to my own personal issues.

Though I talk about this rarely, I have problems with pornography.

Honestly, this does not feel like much of an admission any more. In a world where people openly declare their love of porn and their fetishes and their kinks, talking about porn like it was something to be ashamed of seems odd. Strange though it may sound to those of you who have never touched, nor even considered touching, porn, it feels unusual to be ashamed of such a thing.

Sex is so ubiquitous in our culture, we hardly think twice when we see it. The idea that anyone should feel wrong for looking at or enjoying sexualized imagery is peculiar because sexuality is so common. The very first episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage shows Luke and Misty getting it on. For three awkward minutes, the viewer is treated to kissing, stripping, and groping (lots of gratuitous groping). And while that is all that is shown, the scene is so dominant as to be out of place in the rest of the episode and first act of the season.

Or take another show, one of my favorites, Suits.  In the second season, the hero, Mike, finally gets together with the cute and whip-smart paralegal, Rachel. As is usually the course in modern media, the first thing they do is have sex. At the law firm they work at. Inside of the file room. And, not only do they have sex, but they go all the way. The whole  act is depicted from start to finish (albeit not explicitly). However, all it would have taken was a few more lost pieces of clothing and a few less discrete camera shots and it would have looked no different to regular porn.

Yes, regular, because make no mistake, that scene, and thousands of others like it, are porn. They may not draw FCC lawsuits nor will they draw a lot of views on PornHub (though they are probably uploaded there too), but they are porn. They exist to titillate, to excite, to bring the brain to think of sex outside of a healthy context. They are everywhere. And when you are a kid, the images get imprinted on you and, at some point, you are going to want to see more.

Porn’s Power

Usually it starts out small. Maybe a sexy advertisement that caught your eye. Maybe a lad’s magazine left lying out or sitting in a rack in the shop. Maybe even a website, where one mis-click sent you to a page filled with images you did not expect. It rightly does not matter what it was. What matters is that you were exposed and went looking for more, to turn that first flicker of a feeling into something big.

When porn first blossoms into that flame, it is a rush. Your eyes and mind are filled with images that you not only have not experienced before, but probably should not be experiencing. It is a bombardment that saturates your mind and fills you with its perverse sense of pleasure. The glow of that flame consumes you…for a time.

At some point, the fire will lose its intensity, its strength. The fuel that made it will burn away, but you remember the feeling. You remember the excitement, the euphoria it brought you. You want more.

You seek more.

You find more.

The first few times, it might be more of the same. What you viewed before or something similar. Eventually, however, you get used to it. You become desensitized to it. It is no longer more that you need: it is different.

Thus begins the spiral of addiction and dependence. What starts as a foray into lingerie catalogs or the “artistic” nude slowly extends itself into deeper corners. Eventually, bodies are not enough. Soon, still images are not enough. At some point, normal sex is not enough. For some, this goes far, far beyond the bounds of the “decent” and the “acceptable.” Mercifully, it has not for me. For millions of others, however….

Porn and People

Porn consumption is commonly treated as perfectly healthy and normal behavior. Humans are sexual creatures, after all, and have we not spent far too long constrained under the thumb of restrictive, outmoded moral codes? We need outlets, places where we can enjoy sex as much as we want, when we want, in whatever way we want. If it means we spend an hour or two a day watching sex on a computer screen, what does it matter?

Sex may be the subject of porn, but sex does not occur in a vacuum. In order for sex to happen, it requires one very vital thing: people. It is not just sex that you watch in porn; it is people. It does not matter if it is a single woman, man, a couple, any combination or multiplication thereof, porn requires people.

The problem is that those people are not really people, not as far as porn is concerned. In porn, those people are just big breasts, a hot body, or a nice…er, endowment. The value of a performer is not in the parts that really matter: the mind, the personality, the heart. Their value lies solely on the body. They are a piece of meat hanging in a butcher’s shop. After all, no one who watched porn has ever looked at an actress and wondered how well she can perform calculus in her head.

Day after day, we parade these images before our eyes. Maybe at first we see people, in the same way you notice someone out of the corner of your eye. But over time, we stop seeing the person. We only see the bodies. We only see the sex. We consume porn like a frat boy consumes beer. He does not stop to savor the drink, or even realize that it is cheap swill, he only wants more because he knows it better and it is “fun.” We are deadened to the person on the screen; they are only there for our pleasure. Cheap whores to be used, abused, and cast aside twenty minutes later.

Performing in porn is considered to be empowering, a way to take charge in one’s life. This is bollocks. Sex unbound does not give strength; it takes it away. Without emotion, without heart, sex turns you into someone else’s plaything. They do not care about your feelings, nor do they care about your future. The fans do not care about a person; they care about a body.

Yet, more and more people, particularly young women, get into the porn business. Not through seedy studios in back alleys, where they will be abused and forced into acts that will break them mentally. Now, they are getting into the business through the use of webcams and a bit of spare time. Young people are now willingly and gleefully throwing themselves into the business of debauchery. They get attention and fame and a following and all they have to do is expose themselves to perfect strangers from the safety of their own homes.

Porn Kills Love

It is the tagline of fightthenewdrug.org, a website committed to battling pornography’s influence. But how exactly does porn kill love? What is it exactly that prevents porn from co-existing with love?

The question is, what is the relationship between sex and love? Of course, it seems that there is no relationship between the two these days. Sex comes first, second, third, early, late, whenever, with love only being a secondary thing you might find if you bang enough people.

This is wrong though, is it not? Sex is more than just physical contact, more than just animal pleasure; it is a bond. It connects people in ways beyond what more platonic contact would. Love is an integral part of sex, in part because the latter reinforces the former.  Without the former, sex flails about, trying to find a true connection where there is none.

When sex is treated merely as a thing, the mind is still looking for a connection. Even if we deny it to ourselves, no matter how much we want to tell ourselves sex is merely animal instinct, it is something deeper in humans.

This is where porn comes in, because porn is the pinnacle of loveless sex. Not only are the people in porn committing loveless sex, the viewer is joining in vicariously. But that desire for a connection remains. Porn cannot provide that connection, but provides a shadow of it. This shadow is part of what keeps the viewer looking for more, this vain, subconscious hope that this can fulfill us.

The deeper you go, however, the more your mind becomes skewed. Love and sex become blurred, as does the purpose of each. Porn rewrites our priorities. We start seeing the sexual act as the goal and our aim is to reach that point. The people we love become objects of pleasure and satisfaction: our pleasure and satisfaction. We become so immersed in porn that we forget the person and only see the body. We begin to objectify those who we love, treating them as possessions to be abused rather than adored.

Sex becomes an all-consuming vice. Where love would give it focus and contain it, porn turns it into a monster. Sating our lust becomes our goal and lust, on its own, is never sated. There is always a new experience, a new conquest., another high. Porn kills love because all the focus is on the sex and not on the human being beside us.


This was hard to write. One of the things that porn does to you, should it get its hooks into you, is drag you into a sense of normalcy. Porn becomes habit and, thus, becomes natural. This post was difficult because I had to keep stepping back and looking into the truths of the habits I have formed. I had to look at my own ugliness…and then realize that I am not the only one.

There are millions upon millions of people worldwide who are broken by porn and do not even know it. They live in a world that tells them it is healthy and appropriate and so never realize how far gone they are. Day after day, relationships are torn apart by porn, women and men ruined by its pernicious effects. For millions of others, lives are consumed by loneliness, as people controlled by porn feel no real need to form bonds outside of themselves and their computers.

Porn kills love.

Porn kills decency.

Porn kills honor.

Porn is killing humanity, one click at a time.

Some Observations, Part II

It is that time again where I decide to comment on the things I have seen lately. Given the state of the world, I am not really looking forward to this:

  • Audio has come out of Donald Trump being an uncouth pig. To which I say, “So?” Not because Trump is somehow excused from common decency, but because it is entirely unsurprising. The people who support Trump know he’s like this, so this is in no way surprising or even disappointing. You cannot disappoint people when there was no expectations to fail to meet in the first place. It is disgusting, sure, but I did not vote to hang this albatross around my own neck; I knew that is what he was from the start.
  • If anything, I am more irked by the blatant double standard being applied. Yes, Trump is outrageous and ill-disposed to carry himself with any dignity, but what of his opponent? Hillary Clinton is no paragon of virtue. Last I knew, being a corrupt public servant for one’s entire life is worse than being an asshole. After all, I’m fairly certain that four men dying half a world away ranks as something worse than being a sexist pig. A man can always repent of moral vacuity; the dead cannot be brought back to life.
  • It is funny how every election I have been alive for has been portrayed as the most important election in the history of America. It seems that every four years, the ante is upped and the stakes are more dire than ever before. So it figures that, in the year when these statements may indeed be actually true, I am wholly indifferent to the political process. Let the chips fall where they may; my hope does not lie in Washington any longer.
  • I never really understood the “All Lives Matter” response to “Black Lives Matter.”  There is really nothing in BLM’s name that somehow implies that other lives don’t matter. If anything, my real problem is that there is an assumption contained in Black Lives Matter that black lives do not matter to anyone else. The problem here is that if society at large ignores the problems of the black community, what precisely is the black community doing to solve its own ills? Protesting cops and denigrating white people does nothing to lower the crime rate or lift the ghetto out of poverty. Black Lives Matter feels more like a massive deflection away from issues that can only be fixed by looking inward.
  • Do your best to appreciate the people in your life and to strengthen the bonds with them. The myth of human progress is in full effect, and very soon the ideal will be shattered…again. Who knows how the world will look in half a decade? I’m not banking on “better.” In that day, allies and friends will be more valuable than ever.
  • I still don’t understand Harambe memes.