AJSHDJDDS HANDS.

As the summer draws to a close, I hold a single truth close to my heart. It’s a truth that I’ve had to fight hard for–yet one that’s been sitting right in front of me ever since I picked up my first comic book. Literature and conscious aren’t as disconnected as people like to believe they are. It’s impossible to immerse yourself in a series and leave it behind. Like it or not, what you read and watch affects your judgement near as much as “real-life” experience does.

But what does that have to do with hands? I’m getting there. Slowly.

Following shortly after this realization followed a horde of insight: I finally was able to pull apart the ideas and philosophies I had unintentionally gleaned from series I had grown up. One of the more surprising, however, was the dehumanization of people.

Humans are hardly ever in fiction anymore. Instead we fill the pages of comic books with goddesses and our video games with toy soldiers. Our men are muscular to an uncomfortable degree and our women–despite the advancements our society is supposed to have made–hardly ever wear appropriate clothing.

Batman gets a bullet-proof vest; Catwoman gets skin-tight clothes with a clear target area.
What is this nonsense.

 

A note on women really quick. I’m not advocating turtlenecks and pants that go all the way up to a girl’s neckline.

No.

But women get the sore end of the stick in almost every series ever. While the men are able to wear armour or sun-protectant clothing, women have somehow been tasked with being sex-objects in modern fiction–so they have to run around in clothes that are ill-suited for battle.

It’s almost as if writers today think boobs are bullet proof.

The sad thing is that most people don’t see anything wrong with this. Many of the woman in these series are otherwise strong and girls look up to that. They also are taught to value the romantic relationship and so this skimpy, ill-suited clothing becomes just another way to become that strong, successful women they want to be.

But you don’t need to show skin to be a successful woman, nor do you need to hook yourself a man. Not only that, but most of the women in our fiction have impossible shapes and figures. Very few girls could manage such a figure–and that’s after taking surgery into account.

Despite this, many women grow to hate themselves because they aren’t able to live up to this beauty standard.

And the men don’t get off much better.

Believe it or not, these men are both Chris Redfield from the Resident Evil Series. The first is the Chris I grew up with. His features are semi-ordinary. By anatomical standards, he would probably qualify as muscular but fairly natural, right?

The second I’m not so sure about. I’m fairly positive biceps don’t get that big. Just saying.

It seems like fiction is falling further and further away from natural anatomy, prefering to dabble in the realms of gods and goddesses rather than men and women.

I want to give natural human anatomy the spotlight in my drawings and work.

I want women to know they’re beautiful, I want men to know they’re handsome–even if their biceps aren’t the size of their head.

I want people to see the beauty in their natural form rather than praise shapes and figures that weren’t meant to exist.

And that’s fine and good–other than the fact that my drawing style is anything but realistic.

When I learned how to draw, it was with these small hipped women and hour-glass men. So I need to force my drawing style to improve.

But doing anything to improve is hard.

Not only do I need to observe real people and shapes, but I need to study anatomy. I need to analyze muscles and bones and how they move. I need to pay attention to wrinkles and hair and study when/where they are and are not prominent. I even need to keep gravity and weight in mind now.

It’s hard.

I almost cried today because I couldn’t draw a hand correctly.

A hand.

A simple little hand.

This is probably what keeps good people from becoming great: the need to improve. Good people know how to do their job decently, but great people are able to take visions and, despite pain, make them reality. It’s no wonder that great people are usually the only ones to change the world.

Going back to my old style, my old ways, would be easy. Comfortable. But to persevere,  to draw hands until my own feel as if they’ll fall off, that is the stuff that greatness is made of.

Five Things that are Healthier the Natural Way

“The closer you get to the way God made it,” someone once told me, “the healthier it is.” With the exception of raw meat–I’d rather not host parasites, God-given or not–I’ve found this to be increasingly true over time.

Here’s a list of 5 things that are healthier when done naturally. Things I hadn’t even thought of until I took time away from philosophy to think about them.

 

1) Food

Well, duh. You might think. Of course natural food is better. Anything with corn syrup or sugar isn’t going to be too healthy. My personal revelation, however, has very little to do with waist-lines and diet plans. I recently realized that the way something is (or is not) cooked has a huge impact on its nutrition.

There are a few foods, like garlic and spinach, which seem to be healthier when uncooked. Yet there are others, like fish and meats, that need to be grilled in order to rid it of parasites or fat.

It amazes me that choosing either to steam or boil your dish could have a different impact on the nutritional value!

Not only that, but local grown food seems to be the healthier choice. Local grown foods (like local honey) can help build an immunity to pollen during allergy season and are free from foreign bacteria and parasites that might sneak into food flown from place to place.

Eating local grown or caught food also may help suffering fish and animal populations in the long run. Several species of fish are going extinct due to over fishing. Perhaps sticking to our local fish for a while may give them the chance to flourish again?

 

2) Hair Colour

Deciding to go blonde over the summer was a terrible idea. Not only did I have trouble pulling it off, but my hair was left insanely damaged.

Whoops.

After murdering my hair by dying it the day after to cover up the mistake, I found out that there is a range that needs to be considered when dying hair. You need to dye within three shades of your natural colour.

So for someone like me, someone born with dark brown hair, going blonde is a terrible idea. Conditioner’s been able to slightly ressurect my hair and I’ve learned a lot from the experiment, sure, but it seems like hair has its own limits and I, for one, am going to be loathe to push past them again.

(Not to say that you shouldn’t dye past three shades of your natural colour. Just be sure to look into it and or get a stylist’s help. Hair is actually very important in people’s perception of you–believe it or not–and so it’s very important to care for it properly.)

 

3) Communication

I hate talking on the phone or in person–I’m an introvert that way, I suppose. The interesting thing, however, is that talking over text or e-mail is much more difficult.

At first, you would probably disagree. I know several people who argue that over text and e-mail they’re able to say things they would never say in person. They know some people better over the internet than they do in person. That may be true, of course, but there is a catch to texting and e-mailing: you don’t get to see a person’s facial expression.

A person’s facial expression, or the tone of their voice, are very important. They help us to judge and to understand the person with whom we are interacting with.

But wait. You might say. I don’t want to judge anyone! That’s not right.

Unfortunately, despite what we preach about judging others, our brains automatically judge and categorize them so that we can make subconscious decisions toward them.

Do I trust this person? Are they dangerous? Are they approachable? Are they like me?

No matter how hard we try, we will always analyze these questions and more when meeting a person–often subconsiously.

A great deal of how we make this judgement is actually by appearance. Studies show that people who mirror other people’s actions while interacting them are actually seen positively. Also, certain facial features (such as pinched browns or frowns) can be precieved as aggressive despite a person’s actions.

In e-mail and text, however, we can’t see the person and so we run into the danger of making up the facial expressions–or sometimes even their appearance.

This is why you may have a misunderstanding with a friend over a text you wrote. You might write a long invitation to a party and she’ll write back, “k.” Not knowing her expressions or actions–or even how she says this–you may think that she’s being aloof and disinterested. Perhaps she’s insanely busy, though. Or what if she has a horrible phone for texting?

 

4) Exercise

The note here isn’t just that “exercise is healthy and you should do it.” I already knew that.

What I found interesting was that certain exercises, such as swimming and running, are seen as healthier for you. Most of the articles I read, also, suggested treadmill or running outside as opposed to machines. Perhaps this is because they’re more natural?

Another thing I found is that exercise alone isn’t what burns calories. It’s the time you spend sedentary versus the time you’re up and moving. Sitting still for too long doesn’t seem good for you. So stretching every once in a while or taking a walk or playing with your dog are better choices than watching a day-long Law and Order Marathon (as much as I love Law and Order: Criminal Intent… 😦 )

 

5) Beauty

The more I read about beauty tips, the more I learn that natural is the best way. Certain makeup can massacre your skin and styling your hair tends to damage it–unless you use heat-protectant spray, I suppose?

There’s nothing wrong with dressing up, in my opinion, but what I’ve been learning is that we need to give our bodies some time off every once in a while.

Not only that, but a big part of beauty seems to be caring for oneself. I always thought that “Beauty Sleep” was a joke, a myth, but it’s actually true. The skin needs time to recover and it does this while sleeping. So a lack of sleep actually damages your appearance.

Also, eating healthy is a big part of hair and skin care. So far, the main suggestions for healthy eating with regard to improving the hair and skin seem to be fish and nuts.

It also amazes me that many beauty specialists advocate smiling and laughing daily. Apparently the body and the soul are closer connected than Descartes may have proposed. 🙂

Rat’s Nest

Ever since I’ve started on this mindfulness journey, my inner scholar has been suffering. Well, not actually suffering. That’s not the right word choice. Perhaps struggling is better. I’m not entirely sure what to write about any more as ideas seem to crop up everywhere–but I never really have the time to analyze or dissect them before more appear.

Is this how normal people think?

It’s so strange.

Moses and the Pharaoh

Regardless, within my rat’s nest of personal insight, I noticed something interesting about God’s methods in the old testaments. Often, He will send his people out to do a task despite knowing full well that their efforts will fail. For example, He sends the prophets out with a message and tells them, “but no one will listen.” Also, when He sends Moses out to speak with Pharaoh, Moses knows full well that the Pharaoh isn’t going to let the Israelites go.

But he sends them out anyway.

Methodists would probably call this Prevenient Grace, a grace that God shows to

Noah

all people regardless of whether they’ll accept it or not. Knowing full well that his words will be ignored, God sends prophets out to warn his people about the consequence of their actions. Knowing full well that his gospel will be rejected, God sends his people out to spread this news with others.

In the old testament, there is another recurring theme that fascinates me.

“Search [Israel] to see/If you can find a man,/one who does justice/and seeks truth/then I may parden her.” (Jeremiah 5:1)

God never lets those who seek him perish. Never. Whether it be the story of Lot or Noah or Jeremiah, God never forgets nor overlooks those who follow him. Instead, the presence of one of these faithful people has the possibility of saving the whole of Israel–or even the human race.

However, human beings do not naturally do justice nor seek truth. We become slaves to our own ideas of justice and truth–it is INCREDIBLY easy as a human being to be blinded from reality–and follow them, however unintentionally, placing ourselves above God. We make our own Gods, often, and mistakenly follow after them–even if we think we’re following the one true God.

Often, when God speaks, He gives us words we do not wish to hear and so, like the people who heard the prophets, we respond violently. We convince ourselves that God would never say such a thing, that a God that says such things shouldn’t be allowed to exist, that whoever carried His message must be mistaken.

Isn’t it funny how things work?

Lost Importance of the Physical

In a culture focused on perfect features and political correctness, there are many things we have lost.

The importance of our own bodies for example.

Of course, we pay attention to our bodies when they can serve us in a certain way. We’ll look into how to dye our hair efficiently or how to prevent wrinkles, we’ll make our way to the gym once or twice a week and starve ourselves on salads–but as a culture we tend to praise the mind above all else.

“It doesn’t matter how you look,” we say, “it only matters how you act.”

In movies, in games, in books, our characters are near flawless, with beautiful, sweatless figures.

It’s no wonder we have trouble accepting our bodies when the only importance we give them–looking impossibly beautiful–is a goal impossible to reach.

We must learn to not only accept who we are, but rejoice in it. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t take care of our bodies or refuse to wear makeup, but it is to say that everyone sweats, everyone bleeds and no one is free from the physical realm–so we might as well embrace it.

As Christians, we need this lesson more than ever. Often we reject the physical in exchange for the spiritual, but God, himself, formed our bodies and our world. He not only made us minds, but bodies as well. Why should we reject one gift and extol another?

 

Archetype Analysis: Girls, girls, girls!

In the horror genre, there are a few different types of female characters. They differ slightly, but most of them easily fall into categories. Sadly.

The three I would like to touch on today are the Damsel, the Demon and the Heroine. These are the three you most commonly find–or at least the ones that most easily came to mind.


The Damsel

Ashley from Resident Evil 4; Found on Google Images; Seems to be from Deviant Art but I’m unsure of the artist.

Even though this is the archetype that gets on most people’s nerves, I have a soft spot for these characters. Mostly because I know that if I was shoved into a haunting or an apocalypse, I would be just as useless, just as frightened.

The women, or girls, in this archetype can’t fire guns, they can’t twirl knives and they can’t kick at a supernatural speed–they seem worthless, useless. All they are is pretty. And annoying.

Especially in videogames.

Videogame players usually hate this archetype because they can’t do anything to help you but they can do everything to harm you. If this character dies, you usually have to restart.

And they die so easily.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to give examples for this type. Audiences are often upset by this type–they file this archetype under “annoying.” Audiences want strong women. Women who are able to take down throngs of zombies with their bare hands, who are able to survive hauntings out of brute perseverance and courage. They don’t want to see whiny chicks who have to lean on men for protection.

I think this archetype is important, however.

Not only is it realistic–I know I’m not the only one who would die inside if an undead serial killer was bent on killing me–but it also has some philosophic importance. The fact that the main character feels the need to care for this character, to protect them, gives the idea that we should care for the weak–no matter how annoying they are. The opposite result is also important, an argument that the weak and poor are useless–there’s no need to care for them.

Caring for this character promotes Christian kindness in a way–especially because it’s EXTREMELY hard to deal with them. It would make life so much easier just to leave them behind, to survive, but often the main character doesn’t do this? Why?  Because of the Christian idea of kindness and love that the west has been infected with.

Everyone matters.

No matter how useless they are.

The Demon

Alice from the Resident Evil movies; found on Google Images

Audiences much prefer this type to the Damsel stereotype.

These characters kick ass. All the time.

Whether they’ve been granted super abilities by genetic experimentation or went through extensive training, these women are extremely powerful, a force of nature in it of itself.

Until they find themselves a romantic interest, that is.

Often, when there’s a romantic interest, this type will fail in battle and need their lover to step in for them. Personally, I hate this twist of things. It hints that all women need a man to rescue them. I disagree. Both men and women need each other just as much.

But that’s not what I’m writing about right now, is it?

Often this is a woman character who is tough simply because something bad happened to her in her past and she’s overcompensating for it. Her parents were murdered in front of her. People mistreated her when she was younger.  Biological experimentation denied her a good life and or memories. She felt weak once and doesn’t want to feel that way anymore.

Even though she only explains the reasoning to her lover, our hearts melt toward her as well. “So that’s why she acts like that!” We think. “Poor girl!”

After she opens up, she begins to act more compassionate–that’s when she has to rely on her man to save her. He’s tamed her. No longer is she heartless and all-powerful.

She has changed who she is just for him.

Perhaps this is good if it’s meant to reflect a woman’s relationship with Jesus. We have to become more reliant on him, entrust him with our pains and struggles, allow him to tame us. It’s not too good in reflecting the relationship between men and women, though. It shouldn’t be that women are dependent to men and men can do whatever they want.

This character is also fairly easy to spot–she’s in every genre known to (wo)man.

The Heroine

Heather from Silent Hill; Found on Google

I’m not going to lie, this is my favourite female archetype.

She’s not perfect, but she’s not useless either. She’s not overcompensating for a horrid past–even if she has one, she doesn’t change her personality to overcome it. She takes action. She seeks revenge. But she remains who she is. She’ll take the time to comfort the weak but she won’t hesitate to be strong to the strong either.

Often, she has been trained and is competent in the situation she’s stuck in, but more often than not, it’s her inner strength that drives her forward. She wants to set things right, she wants to protect the weak–she’s the kind of character who will get beaten but will pick herself up.

Claire Redfield from Resident Evil; Found on Google Images; This version is from Resident Evil: Degeneration

She’s the kind of character who people forget when compared to the demon.

She’s not all female power. She’s just a woman–but she’s perfectly fine with that. She is going to do the best she can and she’s going to do it right. She might not look as cool or as confident as the Demon when she doesn’t, but these characters have moved mountains. Heather from Silent Hill 3 might not have had Alyssa’s super powers and abilities, but she managed to avenge her father’s death, prevent the birth of demonic god and live to tell the tale. Claire Redfield from the Resident Evil series is certainly not as flashy as Alice, nor as powerful, but in every series she’s in, she is a trustworthy and helpful partner. She manages to save a child’s life (and possibly psyche), help her brother survive a viral outbreak and helps Leon save a woman’s life–arguably even his own.

Sometimes these archetypes haven’t had any training. Sometimes they’re as useless as the Damsel stereotype–but they’re always driven to fix things. Not because of their own prowess but because they feel they need to do what is right.

I love this archetype to death.

The only unfortunate thing, is that they often fall under an unfortunate condition which harasses all female archetypes: skimpy clothing. They always have to look sexy. Every female character ever. Looking nice, I understand, but it doesn’t make sense to load your men in clothing and armour and to cut your female characters down to short skirts and revealing shirts.

The fans, of course, seem to like it. But I, personally, dislike the philosophic hinting behind it.

 


Of course, there are a bunch of other popular female archetypes to be analyzed–like the Femme Fatale, for instance, but I need to stop so that I can struggle through my Plato read of the day. Need to learn more through Plato about the importance of stories and characters in the development of the human character.

Archetype Analysis: The Lab Rat

Another childhood favourite of mine.

The Lab Rat, another made-up name, is an archetype that runs rampant in the biological horror genre. It can be argued that there would be no biological horror genre without them. For, you see, the Lab Rat archetype is not the monster, but the monster behind the monster. He, or sometimes she, is the scientist responsible for the creature’s conception.

I would like to analyze three characters from this archetype today. William Birkin from Resident Evil, Toshiaki Nagashima from Parasite Eve and Victor Frankenstein from Frankenstein.


BirkinWilliam Birkin

Birkin was one of those child prodigy types: he joined the Umbrella Corporation, Resident Evil’s malevolent biowarfare developer, when he was only sixteen years old. That was nothing, though. His rival, Alexia Ashford, was employed by Umbrella when she was only ten years old.

Alexia seemed to have catalyzed Birkin’s obsession with work. It was because of her rivalry that he began to create and perfect parasites and viruses quicker than an assembly line. His prized virus, however, was known as the G virus, a highly unstable yet incredibly powerful virus that mutated its host terribly.

He killed his old mentor just to advance his research in the virus.

As the saying goes, however, what goes around comes around and by the time of Resident Evil 2, Birkin is lying on the floor, dying, as fellow Umbrella workers drag off his life’s work. In a final scramble to preserve his own life, Birkin injects himself with the G-Virus. The symbiosis goes horribly wrong. The virus takes complete control of Birkin’s body, mutating him until he’s nothing more than a hideous lump of God-knows what. His gross, lumpy form serves as a final boss of Resident Evil 2. His poor daughter, whom his mutated form continually harassed, is probably still scarred from the incident.

Toshiaki NagashimaNagashima

Like Birkin, Nagashima is another child prodigy character. The few glimpses we get from his past reveal a child who cared little for friends or fun but retained an obsession with the inner mechanism of both living and non-living things.

His future self isn’t any different.

After getting advice from a professor, Nagashima decides to dedicate his genius to the field of mitochondria.  “Here,” he thinks, “[is] an unknown world of knowledge, far exceeding anything he had learned in biochemistry and genetics just waiting to be explored. He felt the sheer thrill of breaking new ground.” (Parasite Eve, 111)

This “thrill of breaking new ground” guides Nagashima’s every move in Parasite Eve.

Other than, maybe, his attempt to keep his wife alive by stealing some of her liver cells.

Unlike Birkin, Nagashima is heavily driven by his love for his wife, Kiyomi. Her death rocks him to his core. It is because of Nagashima’s inability to accept her death that the mitochondrial being, Eve is given a chance to live. She is able to truly thrive, however, when Nagashima notices the strange mitochondria in his wife’s liver cells and decides to study them.

Decides to “break new ground.”

The parasite living in his wife’s body, however, is intent on destroying the human race and repopulating it with her own mitochondrial children.

Whoops.

In an effort to stop her and save those around him, Nagashima decides to bond with Eve’s child. This action kills them both and leaves them in an indistinguishable lump of flesh, described, ironically, much like Birkin’s final form.

FrankensteinVictor Frankenstein

Everyone knows about Adam, Frankenstein’s monster, but hardly anyone seems to know about Frankenstein, himself.  Who is the brains behind this living, rotting pile of cadaver skin and organs?

Compared to Birkin and Nagasaki, Frankenstein had a fairly uneventful childhood. His parents were rich, he had a close friend and a lovely adopted sister. He went on vacations sometimes and his parents loved each other.

Frankenstein’s curse, however, is similar to Birkin and Nagasaki: he loved to learn.

And not just the simple sciences either. No, he would bring back books that were taboo to the scientific community and obsess over them. He would astound his teachers with knowledge that had hardly occurred to them.

Then one day he discovered the secret to creating life.

With a feverish passion, Frankenstein devoted his every second to creating his own being, becoming his own God. He would steal organs from cadavers, but in his blind passion, not even this disgusting act bothered him. Nothing bothered him.

Until the creature was created.

The creature terrified him. It terrified everyone else. And it terrified the creature, itself. After the creature killed a handful of people, including Frankenstein’s beloved sister, the Doctor dedicated his life to hunting it down.

He died years later in a land far away from home, in the hands of a complete stranger.


Who IS this person?

Most Lab Rat characters have little to no personality. They have enough of a personality to seem human, but most of who they are exists in this strange passion that leads them in doing what they do.

We know nothing about Birkin’s life, however, before he started to work for Umbrella. Which is strange, seeing as Umbrella would be a corporation that someone would need a reason for joining. Not everyone who shows talent in science would think, “I am going to create something that can rip a man’s head off his shoulders without breaking a sweat” and be perfectly satisfied with their decision.

It takes a certain man. A certain background.

Why is Birkin so comfortable–so passionate–about doing this?

We’ll never know.

The same with Nagashima. We learn that Nagashima finds the idea of “breaking new ground” appealing and seems to be fascinated with the inner workings of creatures–but what makes him respond so differently to his wife’s death? Why does he take her liver cells? Why does he insist on multiplying these cells when they show the potential of being more cancerous than cancer cells?

What drives him?

I, personally, dislike the answer of saying, “well, Eve was manipulating his mind into doing so.” That’s cheating the character of having a perverted reasoning behind his character, cheating the character of owning up to such a frightening action.

Frankenstein also experiences a hazing over of his past. While he does go into detail about many aspects of his life, Frankenstein never truly explains why it is that he feels he MUST create this life. He never seems to betray any reasoning behind his feverish obsession with knowledge.

Even if the Lab Rat seems to have a distinctive personality–which is incredibly rare, as they seem much too busy with being hunched over their work to develop a personality of their own–this personality or past is never enough to explain the reasoning behind their actions.

Work Symbiosis

The Lab Rat is what he or she works on.

All they can talk about, all they can think about, is their experiments, their, as some lab rats refer to them as, children.

“The summer months passed while I was thus engaged [in collecting dead body parts for his monster], heart and soul in one pursuit.” Frankenstein describes his efforts in creating Adam. He says that he talks to no one, that he pays attention to nothing around him save parts of horses and bodies that he can salvage. Like a rat destroying a beautiful sofa for the sake of cotton to build its nest.

“She [Asakura, Nagashima’s student] prayed that Toshiaki would soon relieve her of any further work on the cells [Eve], but her wish was not likely to be granted any time soon. His attachment to Eve 1 was unnatural. Ever since Eve 1 yielded such intriguing information, his attitude had become quite cheerful. Compared to the days after his wife’s accident, he certainly seemed to have regained his former self. But that changed as soon as he began working on Eve 1. He would then take on the look of an obsessed man.” (Parasite Eve, 130)

“An obsessed man.” That is what all Lab Rats become when they are introduced to their experiments, be it on parasites, viruses or creation of life. They do nothing but experiment and research. They refuse to speak with their families, they pull away from their friends. Frankenstein cut himself off from his friends and family, despite his immense love for them, and recalls that probably disquieted them. Nagashima puts off helping Asakura, his dedicated student, with her first conference–in which she’s supposed to be speaking. Birkin ruins his daughter’s opinion of him and his wife by focusing more on his research than her.

“Do you miss your mommie and daddie?” Claire Redfield asks.

“No.” Sherry says. “They’re always more preoccupied with their research.”

Whoops.

Not only did your obsession with the G-virus turn you into a sickening pile of berserk flesh, infect an entire city and kill your wife, but you also destroyed your daughter. Great job Birkin.

Lab Rats are like that, though. The only thing they can think of is their research. Despite the world around them, they can only focus on the microscope or the dissected rats or what not–they don’t notice anything else. Not the lovely summer weather, not the student whose future depends on them, not their tormented, lonely daughter. Something happens because of this. Not only do they destroy everything around them, but their lives become infused with their research. Sometimes physically, sometimes mentally.

In Birkin’s case, this transformation is physical. He becomes the G virus. He becomes the constantly mutated, berserk thing he spent his life studying. He kills his wife, he torments his child and he infests the city closest to him with the virus which transforms them into zombie-like creatures.

Not a good end.

Especially when there’s a scene as depressing as this:

Frankenstein and his monster have their lives entwined together. Not in the physical sense, of course, but in the idea of fates and timelines. Frankenstein must watch as Adam kills off the people he loves most–namely his bride, Elizabeth. Shortly after, Frankenstein devotes his life, a life that might have otherwise been dedicated to the betterment of medicine or humanity, to hunting down his experiment. They become one of the same, two sides of a single coin, a dog chasing its tail. Wherever Adam goes, Frankenstein is sure to follow after.

Not a good end.

Nagashima’s end is no better. Not only is he raped by the disgusting creature he breeds, but he is forced to see her child birthed and is assaulted by it. He is thrown against walls, placed against insane amounts of pressure and, in the end, combined himself with this spawn so that they both might perish into nothingness. He could have gone on to be a skilled researcher. He might have gone on to be remarried.

But no.

Every Lab Rat’s fate is entwined with the creature they create, whether this manifest itself physically or otherwise.

Super-Genius

Almost every Lab Rat is a Super Genius or a Child Prodigy.

There will always be short snippets about their backgrounds that speak of their putting older, more educated people in their field to shame. There will sometimes be stories about their doing extensive research at an incredibly young age. In Birkin’s case, he even had a feeling of insecurity because there was a child prodigy younger than him.

THAT was a nice touch to the archetype.

Point is, no Lab Rat had a “normal” childhood. They decided to become recluses when they were young rather than play outside, they went through college before puberty, they shamed the very people they should have been learning from– and then they unleashed hell upon the earth.

The God Complex

Like the Grey Eminence archetype, the Lab Rat also experiences bouts of a God Complex–which makes sense as many of them are creating a something out of nothing. Unlike the Grey Eminence, they are often less vocal about it, but they clearly seem to find power in the creating and nurturing of whatever experiment they foster.

And this creature almost always turns on them.

And this creature almost always eats up their life.

So the curious thing is, although the Lab Rat may feel as if he or she has become a god, it is their creation that has become a god. Their god.

I love this archetype simply because of its blindness–I can relate to it well. There are several facets of life which I can find myself obsessing over to the point where I refuse to speak to other people, where I, without noticing, place this facet as an idol above everything else.

I love research.

So there is a faint ring of truth in this archetype. I think that if the authors behind this archetype explored the question behind why these characters do what they do, we might be rewarded with a deeper, and more realistic character.

I wonder what God might have in mind to reveal Himself through such a peculiar character.

 

 

 

Images were found randomly from Google; Same with the videos, but from Youtube.

Archetype Analysis: The Grey Eminence

Once upon a time, I read a book called The Myth of the American Superhero. It was a book dedicated to understanding the impact of popular fiction and analyzing how it came about. The authors argued that popular films and story-lines actually acted as the American substitute for mythology. Why? Just as the Germanic tribes meant for Beowulf to be the ideal king, our film writers intend for their heroes to be the ideal Americans.

It’s fascinating stuff, really.

So as an aspiring philosopher and writer, I’ve thought I might want to try my hand at reconciling the two: I’m going to try to analyze aspects of popular American stories (or mythology) and what the thought behind them might be. I hope that by doing this, I might be able to understand how to twist these genres and archetypes to best show God’s grace.

But enough talk.

I’d like to begin this series with an archetype I fell in love with as a child: the archetype I like to–inaccurately–refer to as the “éminence grise” or “the grey eminence.”

The Grey Eminence is usually the main villain, the final boss. She (or much more often, he) is the unexpected puppeteer behind a series’ final climax. Often, he acts as a foil of the main character and the audience is fairly familiar with him by the time that his position of power is revealed–often through a betrayal.

While I have scores of characters I could pluck from my sleeve that fit this archetype–when I was younger, this character was always my favourite–I would like to focus on my two current favourites: Albert Wesker (from Resident Evil) and Agent Smith (from the Matrix.)


WeskerAlbert Wesker

Appearing in the first Resident Evil game, and haunting almost every game shortly thereafter, Albert Wesker was previously known as THE main boss of the Resident Evil series. Resident Evil Wikia even refers to him several times as “the hated enemy,” solidifying his position as the main villain of the series–if only in the fanbase.

Well, until he was killed off in Resident Evil 5, that is. Killed off without any new Philosophical insight. That didn’t improve my opinion of the game at all.

But anyway.

Since the first game, Wesker gained a reputation for being a conniving backstabber. That generally happens when you trick the unit you lead into a monster infested house simply to be killed. As if that weren’t bad enough, Wesker decided to hold one of the protagonist’s family hostage so he would betray the unit as well.

As the series continues, Wesker’s past not only illuminates his sneaky behavior–he assassinates the researcher he worked under to assume his place–but his future as well–he betrays the very company people assumed he worked for. He even kills the man at its head and begins his own escapade for world domination.

Which, for the Grey Eminence character, is a bad idea. The moment they reveal themselves to be the main threat, a climactic battle scene (which they are sure to lose) is quick to follow.

Smith

Agent Smith

Everyone knows about Agent Smith. But I’m going to give a bit of background on him as well just to be fair.

Agent Smith is, in the world of the Matrix, an Agent. This means that he’s basically a computer program that is bent on keeping people from recognizing that the Matrix is a lie.

He’s one of many. Or, at least, he used to be. Until Neo, the protagonist, killed him in the first movie. That death apparently “set [him] free” and “showed [him his] purpose.” Or, basically, made him obsessed with the philosophy of determinism, a philosophy which is the polar opposite of Neo’s.

Throughout the series, however, he not only acts as a foil for Neo, but a possible symbol for Satan, himself.

So what do these two have in common? What makes me categorize them as Grey Eminence characters?


The Unexpected Judas

Neither Wesker nor Smith reveal their importance when they appear.

Smith’s appearance, when compared to the other agents is pretty forgettable–they all hide behind the same glasses, the same dry attitude, the same slicked back hair. He might be a villain, but most of the audience would register him with a ‘henchman’ rather than a major villain.

Wesker first appears as your obnoxious but–seemingly–well meaning boss. The audience first registers him as a protagonist, a hero. Although, to be fair, the script writing in the first game isn’t the most suspenseful, so it’s fairly easy to pick out his being a slippery character. But not the main villain of the entire series.

When these characters begin to set themselves apart, it surprises us. The first time Smith strips off his headset (I don’t know what it’s actually called?) it surprises us. Wait. We think. Why is he so different? Why did he just do that? And when Wesker , with Barry as his right hand man, shows up as the main villain at the end of Resident Evil 1, we are–supposed to be–shocked. But he was supposed to be a good guy, we think. How did that happen?

Not only do these characters betray us, by cheating our preconceived notions of them, but these characters betray the very people they used to have ties to. Upon being reborn, Smith leaves his fellow agents and sets out to conquer the Matrix by himself–he even kills a few of these agents off to do so (by turning them into himself.) Wesker kills several people in the corporation he used to work for and uses the research for himself.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the audience hates them so much–they have betrayed us.

The Pseudo-death

Many Grey Eminence characters experience a fake death early in the series.

Smith, for example, is killed off in the first movie. Wesker, in addition, is slain at the end of the first game.

But it’s nearly impossible for the Grey Eminence character to stay dead.

Agent Smith inexplicably returns in the second movie and Wesker eases back into Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

For the Grey Eminence character, this pseudo death is often seen as “an awakening” or a “rebirth.” Agent Smith claims to be set free, Albert Wesker declares himself reborn. Like most Grey Eminence characters, these two begin to show their true powers at this point. Agent Smith shows not only an ability to force his consciousness into others, but abilities that mirror Neo’s. Wesker’s super-agility and strength rear their head as he faces off against Chris in Code Veronica.

The Foil

The Grey Eminence is almost always a foil. Whereas the hero might not be the most virtuous person ever, the Grey Eminence’s power hungry nature and constant betrayal are a black background that make the white pieces of the hero’s personality stand out–no matter how dull they are.

Take, for example, the scene of Excella’s death in Resident Evil 5. This scene was created mainly to highlight the difference between the heroes and the villains. Excella, you see, used to be Wesker’s partner in crime. Just as Chris had Sheva, Wesker had Excella–and this scene stresses the difference between the two.

“I thought they were partners.” Sheva says, reminding the audience of how she and Chris are the ideal of what partners should be–and it looks pretty good compared to Wesker and Excella’s idea of the word.

“Wesker doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself.” Chris says, unintentionally informing the audience that he does. Even though his automatic response when he sees Excella writhing in pain is to pull his gun out on her.

Whenever the hero scowls at the ugly things their counterpart does, it improves the audience’s perception of their character. Often, the hero doesn’t have to say much to earn the audience’s approval. The Grey Eminence, once he is revealed, is often a very vocal character–and everything he says is often so terrible, so warped that no one would want to agree with it. A strawman argument. So when the main character says one or two words that destroys this argument, it captures the audience’s heart.

Take this scene from the Matrix: Revolutions, for example.

I love this scene, but I have to admit, Smith’s entire speech is set up just so the audience can see the humanity in Neo’s words and the supposed futility of Smith’s.

The Grey Eminence, despite their power, despite their initial success, lives to serve the hero’s purpose.

The Power Obsession

Perhaps it’s because of their role as a foil that the Grey Eminence is almost always power hungry. Power is the main thing that drives them. The one thing that they want.

“Sure I’m not human anymore,” Albert Wesker laughs as he beats the snot out of Chris, “but look at all the power I’ve gained!”

“I want what you want,” Smith says to Neo, “I want everything.”

Despite the rebirth, despite the seemingly unstoppable powers, the Grey Eminence is always unsatisfied. They want more. They are striving to prove some idea to the world, to change it. To become God.

It’s what Smith says snidely in his final battle.

It’s what Wesker’s entire world domination plan is based on.

The Grey Eminence wants to be God.

Unforgivable

No one thinks of forgiving the Grey Eminence character. No one thinks of listening to them. The hero automatically hates this character and shows no empathy toward them. Even in Wesker’s case, Jill is wary of him when he seems like a good guy.

The hero, of course, can never be wrong.

Scenes that involve the Grey Eminence character don’t actually involve them. If that makes sense. These characters abused simply to make the hero look good. The author can’t afford to make them feel guilty for what they’ve done. He can’t bother to explain it past their straw man argument or obsession with power. Not only does the audience’s opinion of the main character depend on demonizing the Grey Eminence, but so does the plot: the moment the Grey Eminence shows remorse, the audience loses a final boss, a main villain.

And we can’t have that, can we?

This is always why I felt attatched to Grey Eminence characters as a kid: I felt bad for them. They believed in something deeply but could never get the chance to explain it in an effective way. They made mistakes like the hero did–but never got the chance to atone for it. They could never reflect on what they did wrong.

They were abused and cheated for the sake of the main character–and that’s why I used to hate hero characters.

Authority

Grey Eminence characters always have some time to authority. Agent Smith looks like a physical manifestation of “the man.” Albert Wesker is tied to Umbrella, a corporation that symbolizes corrupt authority. They are usually stiff, shallow and sly. Organized. Authoritative. System-driven. Predictable.

They, I believe, represent the dull repetitive strokes of society these days. Beurocratic corruption and verdicts we feel are unfair. They represent the betrayal people feel from a government that has, since the days of chiefs and kings, grown distant, impersonal and, as this archetype stresses, harmful.

 

The “Final Speech”

Passionate as they are, all Grey Eminance characters talk about is their idea of the  “perfect world.” For some reason, this idea of “the perfect world” and why they would want it doesn’t make sense–perhaps this is because the author never shows us who this character truly is and what world they’ve come from.

So you have speeches like the two given above, speeches that hardly anyone could agree with. Wesker’s perfect world is filled, apparently, with hideous parasite monsters and Smith’s world is filled with dreary clouds and human-hating Smith drones. Compared to that, any hero’s dream world sounds better.

 

I really like the potential this archetype has, the philosophy that can be found in it. One day I hope to go back and research this type more. I know that God is capable of using this archetype to reveal His glory–and not just in a way that glorifies the hero of the series.

Why Do I Write?

I do not write because I am entitled to.

I do not write because I am perfect.

I do not write because I am imperfect.

I do not write because I am in need of proving myself.

I do not write because I am a genius.

I write to worship God and God alone. I need to remember that more often.

A Republic of Questions

As I was reading Plato’s Republic, a few quotes stood out to me as they seem to draw from the Christian conception of sin.

“It’s injustice that produces factions, hatreds and quarrels among themselves, and justice that produces unanimity and friendship.” 351d

“Whenever [injustice] comes into being, be it in the city, a clan, an army, or whatever else, it first of all makes that thing unable to accomplish anything together with itself due to fraction and difference, and then it makes that thing an enemy both to itself and to everything opposite and to the just.”351e-352a

“Except for someone who from a divine nature cannot stand doing injustice or who has gained knowledge and keeps away from injustice, no one else is willingly just…” 366d

Like Socrates’ definition of injustice, sin tears things apart and makes them incapable of functioning properly.

I Know and Am Persuaded…

While Saint Patrick wasn’t the first person to bring the gospel to Ireland, he was certainly the most beloved person to do so. Medieval Irish historians, Philip Freeman claims, loved Patrick so much that they attempted to downplay any missionaries sent before him so as to make his actions all the more amazing.

But what made Patrick so much different than his brothers?

After all, many of Patrick’s brothers would have been better versed in Latin and schooling, would have been under the instruction of the church for longer, would have been more confident speakers.

But Patrick is the one best remembered today.

Perhaps this isn’t so much because of what he did, but what he didn’t do. As Malachy McCourt says in his History of Ireland, “one of Patrick’s strengths in Ireland was his ability to integrate the Gaelic culture with the Christianity he was trying to bring. He did not, as other missionaries in other places would later, condemn the Celts as ignorant infidels or uncouth pagans. Instead, he took the Druidic world and tried to explain it in Christian terms.”

This, I think, is incredibly important.

In Acts 17:16-34, we find Paul in Athens. Now Paul’s “spirit was provoked” at the sight of the idols that filled the city of Athens, but not once did he think of the Athenians as lower than himself. He “reasons” with the people of Athens and when speaking in the Areopagus, Paul begins by praising them.

“Men of Athens,” he says, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your woship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘to the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”

Paul observes the culture of Athens and instead of declaring it heathenish, he finds God hiding in it. As he says in Romans 1:20, “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever  since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

Patrick, I think, understood that God wasn’t the God of Rome, just as Paul knew that “[God] does not live in temples made by man.” In every culture, in every science, in every genre, God is lying there in wait.

Although we follow Christ, although we are one body, we are still individuals. Our cultures have shaped us, our experiences have shaped us and (like as not) our families have shaped us. Often, we make assumptions about the laws of the scripture that aren’t there.

Patrick, for example, could have condemned Irish culture because it was nothing like his own. He could have gone in assuming that the way of the Roman church was the only way. But he didn’t. He looked to find where God was.

I think this is what we are called to do.

Every movie we watch, every book we read, every class we take, we have to look for God in them–even if it isn’t a Christian movie, book or class. Just because something is “Christian” doesn’t make it right.

In regard to non-christian books, John Calvin wrote, “in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth in them should remind us that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator.”

Calvin goes on to say that  condemning non-Christian literature isn’t just a choice, it’s actually an insult to God.

“If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would to avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we despise the giver.”

This doesn’t mean that you should read every book ever written by men, but that you should think twice before condemning them or claiming that they couldn’t be used for God’s glory. The same goes for different cultures or philosophies or abilities. Everything is given by God. Gifts will, of course, be perverted when they are used without God’s purpose in mind, but God can still use this for his glory.

As Paul says in Romans 14:14 “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.”

Saint Patrick knew and was persuaded. Are you?

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