Did Pixar Make Me Vegan?

We’ve all heard the famous line from Bruce the shark in Finding Nemo, “fish are friends, not food”, but is it just a line or is there more to it?

Films animated by Pixar Studios, though aimed at children, are known to be home to many more adult references too. These often come in the form of innuendo, a nod to the parents watching with their kids. But you can also find many allusions to themes that are purely innocent but are read differently by a younger and older audience.

Bruce’s character in Finding Nemo (2003) is a prime example of this. He starts a support group called The Fish-Friendly Sharks to help other sharks stop eating fish too. Their mantra is:

 “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.”

Watching this back as an adult, it seems like a clear message on the consumption of fish. Although later in the film Bruce does become a slave to his carnal instincts as a shark, he is overall a seen as a good character, because he does not eat fish like other sharks do.

This same trope of the vegetarian shark is also seen in Dreamworks’ Shark Tale (2004), where Lenny also does not eat fish, which is seen as a weakness by the other sharks. There is even a scene where his father forces him to eat a prawn, in which the prawn is seen begging Lenny not to eat him.

 

 

While both of these examples could be said to have been included simply to make children not afraid of sharks, making them vegetarian begs the question of whether it was intentional. The idea of bringing these kinds of issues into children’s’ films is seen in other Dreamworks animations too, including Over The Hedge (2006). The two antagonists of this film are a bear, who is angry that their hibernation food was stolen and the other is an exterminator, or by extension, humans.

The entire plot revolves around woodland creatures not being able to scavenge for food because the humans have built more houses, cutting down their habitat. When they are caught attempting to steal food from human homes they are seen as “vermin” that need to be exterminated. It’s only natural for children to want to side with the cute animals that lead the story and many children would bring these ideas outside of the story.

One final example that perpetuates the ideas of a plant-based lifestyle is Aardman Animations’ film, Chicken Run (2000). It’s almost impossible to detach this film from a vegetarian agenda, given that an actual line from the film, is “I don’t want to be a pie!” spoken by an actual chicken. Here, the antagonists are the farmer, who are seen as murderers.

 

 

This framing of sentient and talking animals skews the perspective of the viewer to see them as more than “just food”. They are the heroes of the story, they provoke an emotional response from the audience and you are rooting for them to win. There’s been an increase in plant-based lifestyles within millennials and generation Z, people who grew up watching these sorts of movies. Is it possible that they did indeed have an impact on the way we view the world? Was this the intention?

Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or meat-eater, the link between children’s media and the portrayal of animal welfare issues is unavoidable. There is far less media aimed at adults with this same message, packaged in an unobtrusive way. Maybe this is how the world becomes plant-based, through the innocence of animal protagonists, showing us that we are not as different as we think.

Do you think that these films made an impact on your meat consumption? Can you think of any other films that fit into this category? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

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My Turtles Aren’t Your Turtles

**SPOILER ALERT: This article contains mild spoilers from the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. Please stop here if you haven’t read it!**

A take on reading the first chapter of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green, in which the author’s reading is compared with my personal reading.

If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy of John Green’s latest book, you’re truly missing out, and if you don’t follow the vlogbrothers (the collaborative Youtube channel between him and his brother, Hank), you may have missed his reading of the first chapter, uploaded around six weeks ago. The video has over 250,000 views and the comments section is filled with fans of John’s booked anticipating its arrival.

There’s something that seems very authentic about the author reading a piece of work to you. It feels raw, uncut and real, though we can say that this is definitely an edited chapter. In all honesty, I’d forgotten about this video by the time I picked up my pre-ordered copy.

As I started reading, I began to remember these lines from a book hadn’t read yet, and it was an odd feeling. Not bad, just odd. But then I came across a name that was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time: Mychael. This is a fairly unusual spelling of the name, but it doesn’t necessarily make the pronunciation any different, but I noticed. Because in my brain, when John was reading it, it was Michael, that was how it was spelt. Now, Mychael seemed like a different person to the Michael I had already met. I felt a divergence from what John had read to me and what I was reading. I think if I tried hard enough, they’d become one person but instead, I decided that John’s Michael and my Mychael were different. And that’s when it got interesting.

This surreal experience that sounds strange even when I’m typing it out got me thinking about the idea of “authenticity”. You’ve likely heard the word before in relation to so-called realness and sometimes even originality. Most things have a first or an original, which then becomes a catalyst for further things. The idea of authenticity is often very skewed in the music industry, for example, Amy Winehouse’s cover of ‘Valerie’ is exactly that, a cover so should be deemed something less original, yet it became more successful, more widely received and public, so just because it wasn’t the first you could say that it’s no less authentic than the original. Then we come to books. See, books are often “originals” just because they’re widely viewed as a “first” medium. Books provide spinoff films, TV shows, albums, merchandise that sometimes reach further but the book is still hailed as the original, the first and most authentic iteration of the text. Sounds pretty legit, right?

Maybe not. Something else exists before a book. The story itself overpowers its medium. The words you read were alive long before you read them, they existed in the brain of the writer, ideas that were honed and edited into a book. To John Green, the most authentic version of Turtles All The Way Down might well have been the one inside his head and that is what I felt I was experiencing watching that video of the first chapter. It felt more whole, more real and somehow different to reading it myself. I might never read the first chapter because I want to keep that alive.

Maybe it’s complete nonsense, but it felt nice and comforting to know that maybe for a second, I was seeing the story in a different way. Not better than how I would see it, but different. And that was pretty awesome.

What do you think? Do you feel different going to author’s readings and reading their book yourself? Do you think either is more authentic? Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page! Have a lovely day!

The Doctor’s a WOMAN??????

The 13th Doctor was cast a few weeks ago and it’s Jodie Whittaker, aka A WOMAN, how preposterous and deceitful.

You probably know of the sci-fi hit Doctor Who and you may also know that the Doctor has ALWAYS been cast as a man… From the very first Doctor, we have had many different men bring new things to the role, and it’s been mostly an absolute delight. The companions are often women and fall in love with the Doctor and it’s been the same for ages and when they change things the viewer count goes up but like that doesn’t mean anything because everyone is angry and that’s the truth of the matter.

The thing about sci-fi is, it has RULES. Like the fact that the Doctor has only 13 incarnations… And you can’t simply change those RULES with your new fangled feminism. These so-called “women” think they can take our stuff and make it theirs. It’s not like there are even any female viewers. Honestly, the new Doctor is a travesty and MILLIONS will stop watching.

The fact of the matter is, Jodie Whittaker WILL be terrible, RUIN the genre and set everything on FIRE.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; the Doctor is AN ALIEN, so should be played by AN ALIEN. 

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Obviously, Alan is the best for this.

KIDDING!

This is the most trivial thing ever… Just watch the show and see what happens! Love ya Jodie!

What do YOU think about the casting? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Live Performances and Socks

Live music performance is a thing that most people are familiar with to some degree. Is it too expensive? Is it worth it? Is it a dying art? (Also Green Day).

Last Sunday (5/2/17) Green Day played at First Direct Arena in Leeds as a part of their Revolution Radio tour, and as surprising as this sounds, it was (at age 19) the first gig I have ever attended. Now, I’ve been a fan of Green Day for around ten years and I honestly didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to see them play live, so when I got the tickets a few months ago, it honestly didn’t register that I’d be close enough to Billie Joe Armstrong that I’d be able to see the colour of his socks. But then February 5th rolled around and… it actually happened.

The thing about live music is that it’s almost always somewhat manufactured. By this I mean that immense amount of planning goes into every aspect of the performance, from the lighting right down to the set list and sometimes even what the performers wear. To some, this may take away from the authenticity of the performance but just because something is planned doesn’t make it any less special. In fact, the idea that something is so highly anticipated translates to it being popular and loved. Although people are always keen to draw a line between “popular”, “good” and “quality”, we can agree that the the power of pop culture, especially in music, is worthy of further study and popularity doesn’t take away the quality of anything.

A pop music scholar, Philip Auslander, in his article about female fans of The Beatles at their live shows notes that there is are elements of shared experience and even shared performance. This is an interesting concept as it focuses more on the audience than the act itself. Although neither could exist independently, it’s nice to know that within the huge industry that gives us so much great music, we the audience are valued. This is how it felt at Green Day. Yes, we’d all paid to be there but it was as though we were the performers. In a way, everyone was singing along in an attempt to prove they were a big enough fan to be there, so it was like Green Day were there to see us perform as opposed to the other way around.

Yeah, it was expensive. Things were planned out to the exact moment. It was hot and I got whacked in the face a few times. But I got the chance to see Billie Joe Armstrong’s socks (they were red) and it was like being 14 again and listening to Green Day because it was the only thing to do to show any sort of political standing. Live performances are amazing and I hope they never become as elusive as they once were.

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a picture of his socks.

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I am Skellig: Reading as a Child and an Adult

David Almond’s Skellig is a book that many British adults will remember from their childhood. This acclaimed story about two polar opposite ten-year-olds who happen upon an angel is very hard not to fall in love with.

*CONTENT WARNING: Past the quote, this article will contain mentions of depression and suicidal ideation. Please do not read if you are particularly sensitive to such topics.*

*SPOILER ALERT: This article will also contain plot points directly from the book.*

When I first experienced Skellig, it was in a classroom. It’s not the most adventurous setting, but it works. Picture this, it’s September, it’s raining; a teacher, fresh out of university is reading a book to her very first class… Some of her kids are half heartedly paying attention, some are playing hangman, but there are a few listening intently and that is exactly why she got her PGCE. If you have been a bookworm since childhood, maybe you can relate. Before high school, other children might not yet have learnt to be cruel, but you already feel like you’re not like them. When the teacher reads you a story, you hang onto every single word because each one is a new building block contributing to a new world in your head. I re-read the book so many times in the library at lunchtime, and after hearing the tale, I was no longer afraid of dark spaces because I was always sure I would find Skellig there. This is what Skellig meant to me. Now, however, Skellig means something else.

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The cover of Skellig the first time I read it.  Source: moniee.deviantart.com

The narrative of this article was pre-planned, it was supposed to follow the story of a young girl who loves reading, but there’s more… You see, I was ready to read Skellig and maybe pick out a few quotes and laugh at lines like “bollocks” and “those are tits” because I had read this book before, in fact I’d read it dozens of times. But I honestly never expected it to leave more of an impact on me now than it did over ten years ago. First of all, as soon as I opened it, I couldn’t remember it being so… straightforward. When we think of children’s literature we always assume it’s fluffy and nice, but because adults always seem to sugar-coat serious things, so books provide a space to be frank and open. Yes, there is a beauty in the way Roald Dahl presents the world to children, but even that has a sense of underlying truth about it that only comes with the genre. Long story short – don’t underestimate the power of children’s fiction.

The odd thing about reading a book you read as a child as an adult is that the world already exists somewhere inside your dusty old mind, and there is nothing quite like the imagination of a child. I’d never be able to conjure up such vivid images reading fantasy now as I did then, but Skellig helped unlock a part of my brain that I thought was long dead. I can still feel the wisps of Skellig’s feathers and I can feel the baby’s heartbeat alongside my own. I wasn’t just reading a book, I was reading my past self.

Of course, these were slight revelations, but it wasn’t the biggest epiphany I had while re-reading Skellig as an adult. That happened about halfway in. I can pinpoint the exact moment my internal organs collapsed. Dramatic? Yes. Justified? Also yes.

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Does Hollywood Really Know What’s Best For Us?

We’ve all heard the phrase before, the idea that Hollywood films do well because at the end of the day, they do their market research and they learn what audiences want. But do they really have it down? Can all audiences ever be truly happy with mainstream media?

There is a growing trend of Hollywood films no longer being based upon original screenplays or even original ideas. Let’s take a look at three current popular films; Rogue One, Assassin’s Creed and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Of these, the first is sequel (or a prequel… what do you call a film that is both a sequel and a prequel to existing films?!), the second is a film based on a video game, and the third is a spinoff of a multi-billion dollar franchise that encompasses pretty much every kind of media you can imagine. Why is that? Well, long story short, it’s because they’ve already proven to be successful and, most importantly, profitable.

The only popular film out at the minute that is an original idea is Passengers and it stars two of the biggest names in film right now; Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. No doubt, most of the buzz around this film is going to come from their combined built-in audience. So, what does Hollywood have against original films? Some bring in a lot of revenue, but Hollywood hardly ever takes chances. But what we really want to know is, does Hollywood do this because they truly know what we, the audience is going to want?

Let’s look at the example of the Star Wars films. An original concept, Star Wars is universally loved. Well, episodes 4-6 definitely are, less can be said for the prequels (let’s just put the Disney ones aside for a moment). There is quite a disconnect between the two trilogies, to put it mildly, and there is a reason for this. The first Star Wars films, although pioneered by George Lucas, had the most Hollywood influence. Before A New Hope, Lucas was unheard of, the studio wasn’t going to allow him his full creative license. But after the success of Star Wars, when the prequels were being planned, Lucas was allowed to exercise more of his right as a director. Of course, he’s nowhere near being a bad director, but let’s just say that Jar Jar Binks was cut from the first three episodes…

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Source: dorksideoftheforce.com

As we all know, Jar Jar is not the most acclaimed character. It was the studio’s decision to have him cut the first time around, so do they really know what we like to see on screen? The most recent Star Wars films, The Force Awakens and Rogue One, have done even better, Rogue One being one of the most commercially successful films of 2016, despite only being out for 16 days of the year.  Star Wars is now owned by Disney, a company that knows how to make money, they do what they do very well.

Another example of this is Inception. This film was very experimental, and would, arguably, have not been taken up by the studio if it wasn’t for the fact that Christopher Nolan had already established himself as an acclaimed Hollywood director. But many would argue that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it takes away any of the cultural value, pop culture is of course, still a culture. Sure, it’s unlikely that Hollywood can keep everyone happy, but the numbers speak for themselves.

The problem here, is more about consumerism itself and the grip it has over modern arts and entertainment. Maybe there is issue with Hollywood being the main source of film, overshadowing independent productions and buying out competitions, but the rise of the internet and consumer-made media is helping to combat this. It’s clear however, that whatever is happening, as long as there are people who enjoy it, there will always be a place for it.

RIP, Carrie Fisher, thank you for being such an inspiration to many people, you will be truly missed. May the force be with you.

Batgirl is NOT Your Toy

Batman: The Killing Joke adds a prologue about Batgirl and Batman that isn’t seen in the comics, should we applaud the extra storyline or condemn its representation of Batgirl?

*SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from the recent DC animated film, Batman: The Killing Joke and may also include comic book canon outside of the source material.*

It is arguable by some that many female comic book characters are sexist, but many others justify this by the times in which they were published  or individual character traits themselves. The big issue is representation and when characters are changed to portray sexist ideals. Female characters are built up with traits that are a common representation of women, thus perpetuating a certain idea of “femininity”. However, we would argue that the latter problem is more infuriating, when female characters are fundamentally changed to create an image of submission that is out of character, especially with the case of Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl) in The Killing Joke film.

Now, let’s make a distinction between the comic book source material that we saw in the second half of the film (which was excellent and true to the story), and this prologue that was created seemingly out of nowhere for the first 30 minutes of the film. We know that atrocious things happen to Barbara in The Killing Joke, she is shot through the spine and The Joker assaults her by taking compromising photos of her while she is incapacitated and sending them to her father, Jim Gordon. As awful as that is, it is a justifiable storyline based upon the characters in question. The Killing Joke serves as away to see The Joker in two lights; in sympathy and in disgust. We see both his backstory and motivation, the reason he is the way he is, but we also see that he is evil and an all-around bad person. The point of the story is that he wants to “prove a point” to Batman and Jim Gordon, that all people snap and do awful things when the world is unfair to them. This is possibly the worst thing about him, as he justifies his cruelty and thinks of revenge as something wholly human.

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However, Barbara’s injuries lay the groundwork in her becoming Oracle, giving outside intel to Batman from her lair when she can no longer go out and be Batgirl due to her paralysis. This gives her power despite her disability and is truly empowering to see and in-keeping with what we know and love about Batgirl. She is a strong female character, a trait she is showcasing constantly, yet in the prologue of the film, she’s seen in a completely different light.

It is appreciated that the creators wanted to add extra content to the film, but it felt like the first half was unnecessary and it ruins Batgirl. This story shows a relationship between Batman and Batgirl, painting Batgirl as a subservient character to the will of The Almighty Batman™. Of course, romantic love is not the problem here at all, love is amazing, but the fact that love is always used to weaken women while it builds up men is frankly quite preposterous. This added with the notion that every woman needs a romantic relationship while men do not, makes for an unbalanced and unfair representation of women.

This is frustrating for many reasons and the list keeps getting longer as you carry on watching. As mentioned earlier, it shows a completely out of character Batgirl, but also, Batman and Batgirl are never together in the comic books; this relationship was pretty much entirely fabricated. At times Batgirl has been seen as the love interest of Nightwing, not Batman, so it’s not even like this can be justified by the fact that they are in a relationship, if you could even call it that. Barbara spends 30 minutes of the film pining after Batman, something she just would not do. Ms Gordon is the kind of woman who would assert her feelings. She does not pine.

Furthermore, this seemingly one-sided love affair escalates into Batman and Batgirl having sex, right after an argument about Batman being controlling (because obviously even though she is a strong independent woman, she secretly likes the fact that Batman is a domineering d***head). And if this wasn’t enough to make you cringe, after their encounter Barbara Gordon gives up her role as Batgirl just because she and Batman are on different pages. She literally gives up her power and individuality because of a man.

If you still think this is all absolutely fine and in character, note the period joke (yes, there is a “time of the month” joke and it is completely tasteless), the complete lack of any sort of character from Batgirl except the overwhelmingly strong “I love Batman sooooo much, I want him to be mine and I’ll give up everything just for him to notice me!” vibe, but most importantly, please note that this entire backstory has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE KILLING JOKE.

Yes, that’s right, this 30 minutes of pining after an out of date yoghurt (Batman is great but sometimes he’s basically a dairy product past its sell-by date) is irrelevant and adds nothing to the actual story. It’s awful to write such a one-sided article when the actual Killing Joke content was brilliant, but there was just nothing redeemable about that story, and that’s not even breaking into the extra sexualisation of Batgirl through another character’s obsession with her. If you can overlook these discrepancies and focus on the second half then Batman: The Killing Joke is a genius addition to the line of DC animated films. If you can’t get over this, then Batman: The Killing Joke is just one huge joke.

What do you think about Batman: The Killing Joke? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page!