What happened to Harley Quinn’s costume?

Costumes can tell you a lot about the hero or villain that wears them. Superman’s bright colors and “S” emblem emphasize his uplifting, lighthearted, patriotic nature. Venom’s black costume with a twisted spider symbol represent how he is a dark doppelganger of Spider-man. A good costume can be symbolic of a character’s personality and personal history, but a bad one can leave you downright uncomfortable with the unfortunate implications, asking, “What was the art department thinking?” Although all comic book characters can be subject to a bad redesign, there seems to be a concerning trend when it comes to costumes for female heroes and villains, namely that their outfits tend to be overly-sexualized and impractical compared to their male counterparts.

After seeing a trailer for the animated movie Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay coming out in March, I think it’s relevant to talk about the costumes belonging to one female villain/anti-hero in particular: Harley Quinn. The bubbly, demented sidekick and girlfriend of the Joker has grown immensely popular as of late, despite the fact that her multiple costume redesigns are questionable at best, and offensive at worst. So for this post, I am going to look at the evolution of her appearance over time and see how her outfit has changed in terms of symbolism, practicality, and sex appeal, before asking the question of what this says about the comic book industry and its treatment of women.

Let’s start at the beginning. 1992 marks the very first appearance of Harley Quinn in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Bruce Timm’s original design for her is an absolute classic, and it’s the first outfit that comes to mind whenever you think Harley Quinn. Not only is her black and red checkered costume flashy and eye-catching, it actually sums up her personality and character traits.  As seen above, her outfit is heavily based on an actual harlequin, or a mischievous, agile servant from Italian Commedia dell’arte. And for a character as spunky, high energy, and twisted as she is, who acts as a sidekick but still stands out on her own, it’s a perfect fit. Harley’s suit is skin tight and shows off her curves, matching her flirtatious attitude in the cartoon, but it doesn’t go overboard on the sex appeal (an obvious choice, since it is a show for kids). Not only is it appealing, it’s practical too. The streamlined design allows her to pull off all kinds of flips and tricks in combat, without too many unnecessary parts getting in the way.

Harley Quinn’s original costume was so popular, it remained practically the same for 16 years. So why did it change?

The answer is simple: The Arkham games.

“How do ya like my new uniform? Pretty hot, huh?”

In 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum showcased some major changes to many of Batman’s foes, and marks the first big redesign for Harley Quinn’s costume. Here, she ditched the jester hat and checkered patterns, going more for a “sexy nurse” look rather than a harlequin. Maybe that’s so she can fit in more with the Asylum environment, or it’s a callback to her original job as a psychiatrist, but based on the exposed midriff and cleavage, along with her dialogue asking Batman if he thinks her new uniform is hot, it’s most likely just fan service.  In terms of practicality, while Harley’s original costume was simple and allowed her to flip, kick, and jump from rafters with ease, her Arkham Asylum costume would most likely make gymnastics even tougher. Her tight corset would restrict torso movement, and her platform shoes would throw off her sense of balance while climbing. But at the very least, she’s not wearing stilettos…yet.

The reception of Harley Quinn’s new costume was mixed, but the success of the games helped her gain more popularity from a broader audience. It’s likely that Arkham Asylum inspired future redesigns for her, the next of which would take place two years later.

The New 52 reboot of the DC universe in 2011 had artists Jim Lee, Mark Chiarello, and Cully Hamner leading the charge in re imagining and redesigning all the heroes and villains. In Harley Quinn’s, this served to continue the trend of exposing more and more skin with each costume change. Now, she has some of her checkered pattern back to recapture her harlequin origins, but her corset has somehow gotten even smaller, and she now wears extra short shorts. Although this outfit does give her back some mobility with more athletic shoes, there’s even more danger of Harley’s top just falling off in a fight without enough support. Not to mention there’s a lot more skin left out in the open and vulnerable to enemies and the elements (that can’t be comfortable to wear in the winter). At least she has some knee and shoulder pads this time. Safety first, after all.

All of these controversial changes culminate in 2016, when Harley Quinn reaches her peak of popularity after her first movie appearance in Suicide Squad. By this point, there’s barely any resemblance to her original costume (although they do make the effort to reference it in the film), and any influence of the trickster archetype that inspired her character is practically nonexistent.  I’m not even sure what the designers were going for other than trying to be “edgy” and show as much skin as possible. With her thin shirt, booty shorts, and high heels, her uniform is hardly fit for the various action sequences in the movie. Not to mention that the spikes on her bracelets and belt would most likely lead to discomfort and injury, which is confirmed in an interview with Margot Robbie when she discussed how painful it was to wear them while shooting.

So, after looking through the evolution of Harley Quinn’s costume, what does this say about how the comic book industry treats female characters? Well, looking at each redesign Harley has gone through, we can see that her costume moves further and further away from the harlequin, the basis of her character. It’s a small detail, but I think it summarizes what this trend means: comic artists and writers are focusing more and more on sex appeal, and less and less on what makes Harley Quinn Harley Quinn. The same goes for other female heroes and villains as well, while none of the male characters get the same treatment. Marvel, DC, and other creators seem to work under the assumption that characters like Starfire and Black Widow are popular solely because they are physically attractive to male viewers, and put them in provocative costumes and poses as a result.

Male or female, we don’t care about heroes and villains just because they are sexually attractive.  We care about them because they are cool, fun, interesting characters we look up to or relate to. Why do people love Harley Quinn as much as they do? Easy, she’s snarky, funny, twisted, capable in combat, and surprisingly intelligent, but she also has a tragic side as she struggles with an abusive relationship and her own inner demons. There’s a lot more depth to her character than just her looks.

I am not saying it’s bad for comic book women to be attractive, and that all of them should be completely covered up at all times. My point is that comic book writers and artists seem to have forgotten what makes these women attractive to the fans in the first place.


Censorship in Animation

Censorship in animation is a tricky and elusive topic to talk about. Sometimes it involves lots of contradictions and hypocrisy.  And it seems like has different standards case to case. For example, Tom and Jerry from 1940s could be called out for cartoon violence. Some more contemporary cartoons like Sam and Max are allowed greater latitude of violence.The guidelines are different depends on what platform you decide to put your show on. For example, cable channels have the strictest censorship guidelines while online-only mediums have less strict guidelines.  Even there is a general guideline for people to look at when decided what is appropriate to be on-air,  the final decision often falls to individual censors.  In this article, I will mostly focus on censorship of racism, sexism and violence in American cartoons.

The Image of Racism

This scene from Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat, featuring a town called The Lazy Town. This woman on the left of the image singing around the town, while the rest of the town is far darker, with exaggerated thick lips.  This was a common use of stereotype in animation back days. At that time, these are considered as “did not offended or degraded the colored race”. As quoted from Walter Lantz who was the founder of Walter Lantz  Production and created Woody Woodpecker, “the first thing that happened was the elimination of all my films that contained Negro characters; there were eight such pictures. But we never offened or degraded the colored race and they were all top musical cartoons too. ”  So if at that time, some creators still believe that using stereotypes in animation to represent minorities should be forgivable.  Then when and why did animators stop making these film?

The simple answer to this question is that there are mainly two reasons; the actions of African-American publications and organizations such as the NAACP (the national association for the advancement of colored people) in making their displeasure with stereotypes in American animation public and known.




These two image shows different cases of censorship in animation. For example, in 1930, Flossie Cow was presented completely nude with no cloth or hair to cover any parts of its body. Censors obviously had no problem with Flossie Cow just wearing a cowbell. In 1932 , they have to make Flossie Cow to wear a skirt before the movie go public. In 1939, Flossie started to wear a actual dress and walk upright more human-like.  Similar to this, the Mermaid had to use hair to cover her chest.

We all know that sex sells in any industries. Is this the reason why we have all these sexy bunnies, sexy lady cats and sexy ducks in our children’s cartoon? who will be calling the shots for “if the girl should wear more”? It seems like the censors for sex and sexism has become stricter. However, we can say that today’s popular animation has the most violence than ever in animation history.

Some popular shows has successfully developed violence into humor. For example, in classic cartoon Tom and Jerry, we have all seen Tom tried to kill Jerry with a shotgun, knife or hammer. These acts might not be consider appropriate for children. More realistic violence involving acts which children could imitate are not allowed.  So what is the limit for how much violence that a show could have just to make it funny before you call it “too far”?  Why is a live action movie for children have different censorship guidelines than cartoons? It is indeed ironic that cartoon shorts are censored while mainstream prime-time entertainment is bawdier than ever in entertainment history.



Live Action Remakes of Animated Films The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Now I won’t lie, I have never been and will never be a fan of Live Action Remakes of animated films. I’m putting my bias out there right now. With that said, I will now try and convince any of you on the other side of this matter or on the fence about it that animated remakes are redundant, unnecessary, and disrespectful to the original work.

Before I get into how I thing Live action remakes of animated films are bad, I will start off by presenting how I tend to view remakes in general and whether or not they can be considered a good film. I judge them based on three categories, Quality, Originality, and Accuracy. Quality is pretty self explanatory, is it a well made film. Originality as to if it brings anything new to the table. Accuracy is how accurate it is to the original source material. Now with that said, I’ll move on to what I think are the good, the bad, and the ugly side of live action remakes.

I will acknowledge the good that comes from these types of movies. They will oftentimes draw new eyes to a series or franchise that may not have had all that much attention before. This can be good for the original, as it could result in people who enjoyed the movie to go back and try and find the original movie to watch and enjoy. Media companies may also use Live action remakes as sure fire ways to ensure reaching a large audience of people so they can make money. This can help fund studios to make more risky ventures that may not make a lot of money. I by no means think all remakes are by nature bad. Sometimes a movie is a bad movie and a remake can give it the second chance it needs to be successful.

As much good as a remake has the potential to do, I feel as though they more often than not do more damage to the original movie then do it good. When I mentioned the remakes having the potential to draw new eyes to the movie as a good thing, this is very much a perfect scenario deal. If the remake that is produced is well made and accurate to the original, then when people go back to watch the original they will be able to experience the thing that they love again but in its original medium. However, if the movie that they saw was far inaccurate to the source material, when the audience member goes back to watch the original they will not find the movie they love but something else. Worst case scenario say I had a friend that I rant and rave about how good Ghost in the Shell is and they decide “hey I’ll go watch it” but they watch the live action movie. If they find that they hate the live action and think it’s bad, they may assume the animated movie is the same, because why wouldn’t they. It’s a remake right, it should be the same. But often times it’s not, the changes may sometimes be small like removing a plot element, or sometimes may be big like changing the race of the protagonist. All of this has to do with the perception of the audience member to the work itself, however i believe that their is a much bigger issue with Live action remakes.

When an animated movie is remade into a live action film to perpetuates the stereotype that animation is an inferior form of media. It gives off this feeling that the animated movie wasn’t good enough and for people to enjoy it, it has to be live action. Even when something isn’t even live action they will still toat it as live action for fear that people won’t go see an animated film. The new “live action” animated Lion King movie is going to be made with CGI, and yet they are still advertising it as live action. Some people may say, “oh well of course they are remaking it, the original movie came out so long ago”. This is often not the case, Kimi no na wa (Your Name) came out this year and is already slotted to have a live action remake to be directed by J.J. Abrams. Kimi no na wa is the highest grossing anime and despite the world wide reception of it, it is going to be remade into live action. It’s as if to say “ya that movie was good, but you know what would make it better… real people.” It’s disrespectful to the artists who created the movie, and the medium itself. Animation is not a genre, it’s a medium. The lack of respect animation has in hollywood can be seen by how the movies Shaun the Sheep and Anomalisa were both put in the same category in the oscars under Animation. The two films couldn’t be more different, but because they are animated they are viewed in the same light. Animation deserves better than this.

Is there anything that we can do however. Us little movie goers. YES we can decide to not see these movies. When we see that Disney is putting out another Live action remake of one of its classic movies we can choose to not go see it. When we see that another anime is being given a westernised adaptation we can put our foot down and say no. These movies already exist and they wont be improved by simply making it live action.

My Review of Tehran Taboo

A few weeks ago on Sunday, October 22nd I took an Uber to the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to attend the first ever “Animation is Film” Festival. Out of the vast choices of films to see, Tehran Taboo stood out the most to me with its detailed rotoscoped animation and more serious topics involving real world issues. Being a huge fan of the 2008 film Waltz with Bashir, which also is rotoscoped and portrays a soldier’s memory of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon in 1982, I was excited for Tehran Taboo and hoped it would inspire me just as Waltz with Bashir did. While it had an excellent script and amazing actors, Tehran Taboo did not particularly impress me with anything incredibly complex and it even made me question whether or not it could even be considered a true animation film.

Tehran Taboo takes place in modern-day Iran and revolves the sexual lives of a sex worker, two young women, and a young man, all who’s lives become entangled with each other in some way. The rampant sex and drugs greatly contrast the harsh religious rules they all live under. The film opens to Pari, our sex worker protagonist, performing a sexual act to a cabbie while her mute son sits in the backseat. Pari does this because her husband is in jail and she needs his signature to find employment or any form of support, she cannot even get divorced. The judge agrees to sign her divorce papers on the condition that she becomes his concubine, and he also sets her up with an apartment for her and her son. There they meet their neighbor Sara, a pregnant housewife who is fighting her husband to allow her to return to work and not settle down after having the child. Her husband works at the local bank and turns down a loan to our male protagonist Babak, a struggling young musician who gets himself into trouble when he takes the virginity of a girl during a drug-fulled one night stand in a nightclub bathroom. The girl, Donya, is getting married soon and needs surgery to “become a virgin” again before her aggressive fiancé finds out. The film displays the hypocrisy that comes from strict religious control enforced by fear. The basic message of the film is that people will always be people and make poor life choices, regardless of their social and economic customs. While this was displayed very easily, it was harsh to the point where there was no break from the constant tragedies, and that’s where I had some problems with the film.

While the film did show us the grim realities that are often present in the lives of people living in more third-world countries, it bashed the message so much that it failed to show that there were still good things happening within Tehran. There was little beauty, rarely any real small moments of hope or genuine happiness to contrast the darker themes of the film. While I understand that reality can be this way, the characters were fictional themselves and therefore we could have had some breathing room to allow us to process everything we had seen. The film felt more like one criticism after another after another, without anything to explain the reasons or portray the good side of Iran. The stories of each character were very believable and I felt a lot of the tense and suspenseful energy, but it was so constant it made the conclusions feel less climactic than they could have been.

Another problem I had with the movie was the rotoscoping itself; or more so, the lack of actual animation animation. The movie never broke from the live action whatsoever, never incorporating any original scenes from scratch. With Waltz with Bashir, there were entire dream sequences with stunning experimental animation, which really made the film memorable and tied into the story brilliantly. Tehran Taboo, on the other hand, could have easily been done in live action to the same effect. While I’m not saying you can’t make an excellent film this way, I feel that if you use animation as a medium, you should take advantage of the creative power that is in your hands and break from the live action, even if it’s just a little bit.  And while the more sexual scenes would be easier to view as animated, I personally believe that for a film to be considered actual “animation,” it should have more than just drawings over live action frames. I would love to hear your opinions on this.

Dream scene from Waltz with Bashir

Overall, Tehran Taboo is a stunning film with an interesting story and a unique perspective on modern day Iraq and the problem with strict religious laws. However, the film failed to use its animation as a creative tool with limitless potential and more just for style points. It also felt extremely one-sided with the points it was trying to make without any room for showing the hope within the darkness. I would highly recommend you take some time to see it when it arrives in theatres next year, though if you haven’t also seen Waltz with Bashir, I would highly recommend watching it now if you want your mind blown.

Overworking in the Animation Industry

Animation is a work intensive medium; the effects of which can be seen and felt both with fresh, bright-eyed graduates, and well-seasoned veterans. Too often do we hear stories of new graduates diving headfirst into the industry, excited to prove themselves and put forward their absolute best. These green animators, determined to maintain this same level of skill in all their work, sacrifice their sleep, health and social life only to see a decline in their work quality, and an eventual burnout. Many of these animators, after witnessing the harshness of the industry and the degradation of the medium they hold so dear, will abandon the field altogether. Though for those who stay, the fight does not get easier, with unrealistic schedules, unrealistic hours, and unfair pay, even artists with decades of experience suffer.

Now what exactly is going on in the animation industry that is causing such strife? Essentially, the industry is built upon the notion, much like many artistic fields, that animation is easy, that the computer is carrying the brunt of the work, and therefore these artists need not be well paid. ‘Cause it’s not really work if it’s fun right? Because of this, despite the fact that media as a whole has become incredibly reliant on animation and visual effects (VFX), contracting companies are still seeking to pay the least amount of money to their VFX and animation studios. The jobs, be they film, tv show, commercial, game, are auctioned off to the studio offering the cheapest bid, (usually a flat bid, meaning changes and additions the project, and alterations in the schedule will not be covered by the contracting company. And with this initial agreement, the fate of the artist’s on board is sealed. From here on out the studio must function within the budget provided and schedule agreed upon. A tightrope must be walked between having enough employees that the work is properly distributed to avoid overworking, yet not too many such that the team can be properly paid for their service.

Often times this medium cannot be achieved as deadlines approach and crunch begins. Artists are forced to work overtime, often unpaid. An excellent example of this was last year’s film, “Sausage Party,” produced my Canadian animation company, Nitrogen Studios. Now, I have no intention of ever seeing this film or supporting the franchise in any way, but for clarity’s sake, the film is about anthropomorphized, talking grocery store food that discover what actually happens after they are purchased. The film has hit with enormous backlash after animation news site, Cartoon Brew posted an article about the film, and its animators came forward, anonymously complaining about their work conditions during the film.

Many animators were forced to quit the project due to unfair working conditions, ranging from unpaid overtime to ridiculous and unattainable schedules. Artists were threatened, being told,”if [they] wouldn’t work late for free [their] work would be assigned to someone who would stay late or come in on the weekend.” Other artists were threatened with termination for not staying late to hit deadlines, while others still upon handing in their notices were threatened by Nitrogen that their reputations would be ruined.

Being blacklisted is a vey real threat that faces artists in the animation community. If a company tarnishes the artist’s reputation it makes it next to impossible for them to find a future carrier in the industry. This in itself makes artists fearful to step forward and speak up about unfair work conditions in the field.

All of this continued to spiral, with many artists not getting screen credit for their work on the film, and Nitrogen’s director, Tiernan, boasted to Cartoon Brew about keeping his production budget relatively low, a feat only attainable by not paying his employees.

Now this is but one story from the animation industry, but overworking is a very real problem facing today’s animators. Overworking leads to at the very least, a lower quality of life, but it is also not uncommon for many artists to be hospitalized, to die prematurely, (especially in more eastern animation industries) and to commit suicide due to work conditions. This is a problem that truly must be addressed,, starting with valuing artists for their work for it takes years of practice and understanding to achieve their level of skill. They must be properly compensated for their efforts and be given reasonable schedules. Running them into the ground before throwing them away in favour of a fresher, greener model which doesn’t know any better is not a good business model. These artists are people and should be treated as such and respected. And perhaps most important, animators shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up about problems and unfairness in the workplace. They shouldn’t have to worry about putting their future in jeopardy every time they try fight for their human rights.

Privilege within Animation Education

I’ve been debating about what to write for my blog post for awhile. There are so many topics within animation that interested me that those who are close to me know that I am willing to talk about most of them until 4 in the morning.

However, there’s been this topic that has been eating at me for awhile and it’s something that I know that has been discussed amongst my peers. The topic I would like to talk about with you today is Education within Animation.

Before I go into more details I would like to say that I am not going to go into specific details of schools, programs, or anything of that sort whatsoever. I am going to be talking through an objective lens as something who not only is a student, but also a teacher as well. The main reason behind why I wanted to talk about this stems from an email conversation that I had with one of my past students from a summer camp that I taught at. I’ll provide some background, during the summer between my freshmen and sophomore year, I was a Teaching Assistant for a 3D animation course for a summer camp program. There I met a student and we’ve been corresponding ever since.

We had been mostly talking about animation related things, however it wasn’t until recently that I got word that they would not be going to school for animation as they had planned a couple of years ago. I was curious about their reasoning and then they said this:

“Unfortunately animation slowly slipped out of my focus. It was too hard to progress without any instruction.”

This really got to me. At first, I felt upset because they had a lot of talent and I wasn’t able to help. However, I got to my sense and replied back with all of my best wishes and wished them luck on their college journey.

As the weeks passed on, I thought more and more about that statement: “It was too hard to progress without any instruction”. I thought about how I had the chance growing up to attend some 3D animation camps and was able to get into a school with the industry so close to me. Then I thought about my fellow peers, at school and elsewhere, and how they got to where they were. There was a common thread that among them, in which that people at least had a somewhat privileged financial background in order to pursue their dreams.

The statement I made above is mostly a general assumption, for anyone reading this and does NOT fall under the statement above, please do not be angry about the general assumption. I am viewing this objectively. Over the past decades, creating an animation, regardless of medium, has gotten expensive. The equipment in order to create is insanely high. An artist at least needs to have a computer now a days to share their animated content. Whether it’s a simple smartphone or computer, it still can be a hefty cost. Depending on the medium, an artist also might need a tablet and also rendering power of the computer for export. Obviously within the animation world, there’s cheaper software and ways to get around in order to create animations, but usually within a certain studio system, that could be looked down upon.

There’s a lot beyond equipment as well. As my student said,  in order to progress, there needs to be instruction. With the internet, it has been amazing to see that there are more opportunities in order to hire someone who is self taught in the animation field. However, there is still a large amount of people that have more opportunities just because they “knew” someone. This isn’t to discredit their talent whatsoever, this goes to show that there is much more than talent in order to go into animation. Networking is extremely stressed into the programs that I have had experience with and is also huge within animation. I know that I had the chances that helped me progress into the industry. Some of the best opportunities to network is within schools and conferences. I would not say that other venues aren’t a good place either, but most of the time there are good ways to network within conferences and schools. Schools… are expensive. Even online animation programs are expensive. And I know a lot of people that are also going to conferences such as CTN, GDC, SIGGRAPH,  and etc. All of those have prices that are ridiculously expensive as well. So what is the best way for an aspiring animation person to network when they might not have the chances to do all of these things?

Obviously within all of these aspects, there are ways to get around it. The internet is a fantastic resources with a bunch of free tutorials and talks where people can talk and network. But it is undeniable that an artist who has a privileged financial background has a better chance of making their dreams come true, vs an artist that is not.

An Industry Issue and an Unholy God – The Burnout Epidemic and Not “Worshipping the Crunch”

Animation, along with many other industries within fields of arts and entertainment, is sufferring from an issue that needs to be addressed. And the issue is – burnout. I am referring when one experiences emotional exhaustion, depression, low self esteem, and a lack of motivation to continue working, usually as a result of overwork. Burnout runs rampant in this industry, and effects not only the artists, but their work and lives as well. Today I will not only be looking at just burnout, but more specifically, one of the most common causes of burnout: “crunching,” or working excessive overtime.

A couple months ago, I read a Polygon article called Why I Worship Crunch. In summary, the article was about an industry veteran in the gaming industry, Walt Williams, and his outlook on “crunching” for work.  Throughout the article, which looked at an excerpt from his book Significant Zero, he addressed the chaotic, even toxic nature of crunching, how common and even “necessary” it is for the production of games and other media, and even talked at length about the attractive aspects of crunching.

While Williams has come out with disclaimers explaining how he does not support crunching in the industry, the article caused quite a reaction from numerous industry professionals such as Scott Benson and Tim Schaefer. The article also sparked more articles which discussed better and healthier ways to avoid creating a studio with crunch culture.

But anyway, after reading this article, it inevitably made me reflect on myself, and what crunch and burnout means for me and my peers. The topic of burnout paired with all nighters was a familiar subject, but it becomes more disheartening as young creators looking to work in this field. I myself have experienced a bit of both, and will admit I do not look forward to continuously having to crunch, and go through cycles of burnout and recover. Unfortunately, this seems to be a problem that many of us are blatantly or subtly told to prepare ourselves for, and even wear as some sort of weird battle scar. An awful badge of honor with “Look at Me, I Endangered My Health and Relationships Just So I Could Animate this Cool Character Over Here”  emblazoned on it. And this “artist that creates better work through suffering” mentality is one that needs to be changed, for the future of our industry, our artists, and ourselves.

So how do we change our industry-wide crunch and burnout culture? Well for a start, there needs to be a harder push from within professionals to demand better working conditions that avoid the need for excessive crunch. Additionally, providing resources to help artists battle mental health issues that may lead to burnout. We must become firm with studio execs, let them know that artists cannot be exploited for our creative drive and need for a job, and that mental health is a basic human right that only creates better results from happy workers.

We also need to make sure excessive crunching and burnout are no longer socially accepted within our community. Occasional all nighters may be still expected, but to the point of putting yourself at risk of death, breakdowns, or substance abuse should not be tolerated. This change also needs to happen in schools, where already students are taught to crunch, which results in burnout so early in one’s career. Looking back at my own experiences, I am upset and scared at the fact that I have already experienced both the physical and emotional side effects of crunch and burnout, and I have not even graduated yet. We all need to take steps to call ourselves and our peers out for this behavior, myself included, along with passing on healthier mentalities to the younger generations.

In conclusion to this long-winded post, I sincerely hope we as a community can address these issues. Imagine how many of us would be so much happier, create more, and create better content if we were well rested and less anxious. We are in this industry not for the money (most likely anyway) or power (once again, not usually), but because we love what we do. So we need to take all and any steps needed to preserve our wonder and excitement for our craft, because with out it, why are we doing this?

What went wrong with Netflix’s Death Note?

Oh boy, here we go. Today I’m going to rant about Netflix’s 2017 adaptation film of the Japanese manga/anime Death Note. I’ll give you a summary of the movie with commentary and explain how this film is problematic when you look at how America creates adaptations of foreign entertainment for American audiences.

Here’s how the story unfolds. Light Yaga- *ahem* excuse me, Light Turner is a brilliant high school student living in Seattle with his single dad, who is Seattle’s Chief of Police. A mysterious book falls from the sky at Light’s feet, with the words “Death Note” written on the cover.

Wait, let’s pause for a minute. This character, who hasn’t even had any lines yet, receives this life-changing notebook right after we meet him. The only set-up of his character before he gets the Death Note is him doing some other kid’s homework and exchanging it for money.

Moving on. Light sits and watches a kid get bullied to the ground and when the bully turns toward the girl he likes, he stands in between them and yells the fuck word at him for a few seconds before getting beaten to the ground himself. After he wakes up, he learns that a teacher found the other kids’ homework in his backpack, so they give him detention. In detention, when Light is alone in the classroom, a death god (shinigami in the manga) named Ryuk appears and destroys the classroom, making Light scream like a little girl. And I’m not exaggerating when I say he sounds like a little girl. Ryuk tells Light that the Death Note has the power to kill people, and that when you write the full name of the person with their face in your mind, you can kill them in any way you specify on the page as long as it’s possible for it to happen. Light, unsure if it will work, writes down the name of a bully outside the window, and chooses to kill him by DECAPITATION. And it works.

Now confirming the Death Note’s capabilities, he uses it on the man who got away with killing his mom, mending his broken relationship with his dad. From that point on, he decides that it is his duty to act as God and punish those who commit crimes in order to wipe out all crime forever.

The next day or so, Light sits in his school gym while students are practicing, casually reading the Death Note in public. Naturally, the girl he likes sees him and asks what it is, to which Light replies “I can’t tell you.” Smooth, Light, not suspicious at all. She doesn’t care enough to press him further, and as she starts to leave, Light asks her “Do you really want to know?”

I can’t express to you how many times my palm smacked my forehead after hearing this. He just met this girl, and he’s about to share with her the murder weapon he used on the bully. And she didn’t even care enough to know in the first place.

She replies “Sure?” and he takes her to a private spot to explain the Death Note to her. She, being the murder-obsessed crazy person that she is, thinks it’s amazing and wants to watch him kill people. They go back to his place and make out while looking up criminals and writing their names. Gross. I don’t know if the director thought this choice would be edgy or something, but it just comes off as embarrassing and cringe-worthy. Well, at least it fits the rest of the movie.

Light decides it’s a good idea to take on the persona “Kira” and have non-Japanese speaking criminals write the name on walls in Japanese kanji before they die (which, by the way, is contradicting the established rule in the movie that the victims can’t write what they do not already know how to do). Light explains that he wants criminals to know that this is an intentional punishment being done by a god-like savior, and that they should be warned that they will die if they commit crimes.

In the manga, Light does not pick the name Kira. His anonymous followers on the internet name him that, and Light embraces it. Therefore, the Netflix writers had to come up with an idea for how he chose the name. Light Turner told Mia that “kira sorta means killer in Japanese,” so they would try to look for him in Japan. I love how they think this is a genius idea, and yet my 6-year-old cousin could have come up with that for all I know.

Later, we meet L, who is a super-genius detective who solves unsolvable crimes anonymously so he won’t be punished for operating outside of the law. At least, I assume so, because in the movie they never really explain why he wears a cheap scarf over his face. It’s a good thing Light conveniently can’t kill without knowing what his face looks like! His assistant and adopted father Watari, on the other hand, has a bad habit of showing his face and giving out business cards with his name written on them. But we’ll get to that later. L tells Light’s dad, the chief of police, that he knows that Kira is in Seattle and not Japan because the information that Kira obtains is only available to the Seattle police force. He then goes on the local news network himself, and dares Kira to kill him now, because otherwise L will find him.

The movie completely dumbs down the brilliant scene in the anime and manga where L uses a decoy to see if Kira can and is willing to kill him, which he does, and then L proceeds to ask Kira to kill him, which he cannot do. By these means, L figures out that Kira would kill him if he had the chance to, and that Kira can kill someone by knowing their name and face. In the movie, he comes to the same conclusion. However, because L did not confirm that Kira would kill him if he could, it could have been that Kira would refuse to kill an innocent life even if he was coming after him. Therefore it isn’t right for L to jump straight to the conclusion that Kira couldn’t kill him. This scene is the best example of how the writing is lazy throughout the film.

After that, L has some FBI agents secretly follow family members of the police force, and when Light and Mia notice, Light decides to lay low until they stop. However, without Light knowing how, all the FBI agents walk up to the roof of a skyscraper and commit mass suicide. Light blames Ryuk, but Mia was actually the one who wrote their names in the book.

At this point, Light’s dad is pissed because innocent lives were murdered, so he goes on live television to threaten Kira, knowing that he could be killed. Light and Mia watch this together at home, and Mia IMMEDIATELY goes to the book and tries to write her boyfriend’s dad’s name in the notebook before Light stops her.

Meanwhile, L now knows that Kira has to be Light, because why wouldn’t Kira kill the chief of police if he wasn’t the chief’s son? That’s right, L still has yet to display the logic of a person older than 6. He decides to confront Light in person in a public place, telling Light he knows he’s Kira. His reason for revealing this? Who knows! His reason for showing his face to Kira, knowing that he needs that information in order to kill him? WHO KNOWS?! Maybe for that sweet drama that the American teens love to see in movies.

Not only does the scene make L look dumb, but also Light. It only took one accusation for Light to crack and hint a confession through preaching Kira’s ideals and motivations for punishing the wicked. He even told L that he should stop working against Kira and start working with him instead. If L was actually smart, he would’ve worn a wire because Light spewed enough evidence to convince anyone that he’s Kira.

After this, the movie gets really strange. Light writes Watari’s name in the Death Note (by the way, he just wrote Watari, no last name, so how did the note actually work?) with this complicated plan of Watari being brainwashed into obsessively finding L’s name and calling Light to tell him what it is. With this logic, why didn’t he tell Watari to just kill L himself? Anyway, he has to go on this long quest to find L’s orphanage, but just before he reads the name, he’s killed by gunshot.

When L figures out about Watari missing, he knows that it’s Kira’s doing and shows up at Light’s house. He then proceeds to attack Light and scream and throw a fit until the police go into the house with a search warrant. But don’t worry, Mia stole the Death Note before the police show up.

Light and Mia go to prom together, where he finds out that she wrote his name in the Death Note, and that he would die if he didn’t officially pass the book on to her. Then, as they realize that they’re being watched, Light secretly leaves the party to scribble the most specific, unlikely plan in the notebook on how he would get L off his back and find out if Mia loves him.

Once he’s done, he texts Mia to meet him at a ferris wheel on the pier to carry out the plan, and L chases him throughout Seattle in one of the most pointless chase scenes I’ve ever seen. When L finds out Watari died, he loses his fucking mind and steals a police car to search for Light. L chases Light until he’s cornered, and he almost shoots him, but a by-standing Kira supporter knocks L out, allowing Light to escape.

Once he meets up with Mia, Light goes up in the ferris wheel with her and explains how he also wrote her name in the book, and when she took the notebook from him, she set off a conditional chain of ridiculous events that Light wrote about earlier how the ferris wheel would break and they both fall from the highest point, but Mia lands on the pier and Light lands in the water, saving his life. Light also wrote in the book that Mia would also rip out the page with Light’s name on it and it would fall into a conveniently placed trash can fire, saving him from the notebook. And it all happened as he said, because that all sounds very possible and not against the rules at all.

L breaks into Light’s house and finds the notebook page with Watari’s name written on it, and we see him debating whether to write Light’s name in it or not. And we never find out! Cliff hanger!!

In the final scene, Light wakes up in the hospital next to his dad, and his dad explains how he saw a newspaper article in Light’s room about his mother’s murder and realizes that Kira’s first victim was the murderer, and therefore it would have to be Light.

Wow, what an unsatisfying way to end that chain of strange occurrences that is Netflix’s live action Death Note movie.

Along with the terrible inconsistencies and dumbing down of the original Death Note characters, this movie has some underlying cultural issues relating to American adaptations of foreign content.

First of all, Netflix changed the location from Japan to Seattle, which completely drowns out the cultural significance of the shinigami in Japanese culture. Shinigami are not really gods, but more spiritual beings that exist by killing humans to add years to their own lifespan. By making Ryuk a generic death god, he loses his Japanese identity, a common issue that Hollywood makes again and again by white-washing characters of color.

In addition, Hollywood studios keep remaking or adapting films because they were popular, without looking into why they were popular in the first place. The Death Note series has a very compelling dialogue about justice and what the purest justice is, while also bringing Christianity, Buddhism, and Japanese mythology into the mix. The American film does not see these themes and exchanges clever and compelling scenes with gratuitous gore, teen angst and sex, and unnecessary action and chase scenes.

Do not watch this movie. It’s a waste of time and I already gave you the plot. Instead of encouraging Hollywood to keep inappropriately adapting foreign films and shows, support the source material. Death Note is one of my favorite animes, and I recommend it to everyone.

Toblerone Time aka The Neo Yokio Story

By story I mean review.

Neo Yokio is like a Bugatti car crash in six, twenty-minute episodes. Posh, expensive and heading for disaster. But you can’t help but stare.

Well, you probably can after episode one. But not me! This was a show too weird to pass up!

Straight to my thighs

Created by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig, this luxury, low budget anime follows number one bachelor Kaz Kaan (voiced by Jaden Smith, which is probably all you’ll ever hear about this show) navigating his demon-fighting life in the mythical city/island/thing of Neo Yokio. By the way, demon fighting has very little to do with anything. It’s just an occupation for our Kaz. The real “plot” lies around our protagonist dealing with past relationships and his social standing within the city.

I just want to interrupt really quickly and say that I actually do like this show. At first I thought ironically, but now I’m not so sure. Let me explain.

The animation is bad, the voice acting is terrible (with some exemptions, thank you Jude Law) and the through-line narrative is limper than the spaghetti I’m cooking while writing this. However, all these shitty pieces might be working together to parody something I’ve seen online far too much. Anime dub parodies! That’s not an actual genre, I made it up, but I’m referring to the hilariously overacted dubs by groups like TeamFourStar and PurpleEyes.

If you don’t know where this is from, please educate yourself and click this man’s face

I found a quote from a TV Tropes page categorizing this genre as an “Abridged Series.” I’m going to provide the quote and back away slowly:

“A Sub-Trope of Gag Dub and a type of Crack Fic, that deals specifically with shortening works of fiction, and making fun of it.”

If that made sense to you, maybe you can explain it to me after class.

Anyways, Neo Yokio almost mirrors this abridged genre to a tee: Animation solely based on mouths opening and closing with little to no expression. Starkly contrasting voices (seriously, they got Susan Sarandon and Steve Buscemi in this show) coming out of stagnant anime faces. Sight gags galore. It’s got everything you need for the next DBZ Abridged.

From what I can tell, this was NOT the intention of Ezra Koenig, or anyone on the Neo Yokio staff, but if you can keep that “abridged” idea in the back of your mind when watching the first episode, you might find some humor in it.

Other than the occasional joke that hits, most feel like misses. I enjoy the quipping between Kaz and his rival Arcangelo (voiced by Jason Schwartzman, I know, this cast keeps getting WEIRDER), and some of the Twitter-esque lines that Kaz utters get to me. But the show still has the hurdle of combatting what Neo Yokio is about and what it can do for its audience.

Now these are the names that come to mind when I think of anime

There’s something to be said about Kaz’s slow, increasing ambivalence towards his luxury lifestyle and the separation of classes within Neo Yokio, but the show doesn’t go there until episode six and by then it’s season finale time. There’s an opportunity for Kaz to step down from his pedestal and venture into the less-glamorous areas of Neo Yokio for some much-needed societal education. But that probably won’t happen until a season two.

And I do want a season two! Maybe not a 24-episode season two, but another 6-episode attempt would put Neo Yokio on the right track if it decided to follow those themes. The show has protentional, but even if it fails to use it, there is still a case to be made about the sheer bizarreness this show inhabits on the Netflix Originals lineup.

It’s weird. I like weird. If you do too, check out Neo Yokio. Just pretend it was made by a couple of dumb YouTubers and not Netflix with all of its money.

Spaghetti’s done!

this is what I actually look like

A Cars 3 Review

For those of you eagerly asking yourselves if you should see Cars 3 let me tell you it’s not worth it. Somehow this movie failed to be everything it was trying to be and I’ll tell you why. We start with good old Lightning McQueen in his prime, winning race after race, and having friendly rivalries with his racing buds. When suddenly a millennial- I mean Jackson Storm shows up with his high tech training methods and leaves the older cars in the dust. Soon Lightning McQueen and his peers are being replaced by more of these rookies until Lightning McQueen is the last of the oldies. During one race McQueen loses his focus and has a terrible crash. Then we time jump four months and he’s hiding out in Radiator Springs completely devoid of his will to fight. However all of his friends convince him to get back out there and his old managers tell him they have a new state of the art training facility to get him into racing shape. At the facility he meets his trainer, Cruz Ramirez, another young car whose training methods he thinks are a waste of time. Eager to prove that he is good enough to race with the likes of Storm, McQueen gets on the training simulator and breaks it making his investor decide that it would be best if McQueen retired before he damages his reputation. However McQueen strikes a deal that if he wins the next race then he is able to choose when he retires. Thus begins the journey of Cruz and McQueen and they try to make him a faster than Jackson Storm. Together they leave the facility because McQueen insists that he  needs to train the old fashioned way, and head for an old racing track that McQueen’s mentor, Doc, used to race on. Oh and I forgot to mention but apparently Doc passed away before the first and second movie. Instead of a race track the two find themselves apart of a demolition derby, shenanigans ensue, and Cruz ends up winning it. After the derby McQueen and Cruz get into a fight where Cruz says that she always wanted to be a racer but she wasn’t (her model) a racing car and when she got her chance she didn’t take it because she didn’t think she could do it. Next the two travel to Doc’s home town where they meet a bunch of older racing cars and even Doc’s old mentor. Doc’s mentor begins training McQueen by racing him against Cruz, but he is never able to beat her so off they go the main race we’ve been building up too. At the race McQueen isn’t doing so so well when he finally realizes that Cruz is the answer to beating Storm. So, halfway through the race McQueen goes to the pit stop and tells the others to paint his number on Cruz and they send her out to finish the race with McQueen taking on the role of her coach. She wins the race using a trick she learned while on the road with McQueen and the win is counted as win for both of them meaning McQueen won the deal he made. Now at the end McQueen is Cruz’s coach and they do a big reveal where McQueen appears sporting Doc’s old colors.

Okay now time to get to the meat of things. I feel like this movie was trying to be touching and make it feel as if McQueen had come full circle in the series from rookie to coach. However it ran into issues because the relationship between Doc and McQueen wasn’t even mentioned in the second movie. I swear Doc’s death wasn’t even mentioned in Cars 2 or if it was it carried no emotional weight at the time. This made McQueen’s sudden reverence of Doc come as a complete surprise and it felt forced. They also paired any mention of Doc with flashbacks from the first movie as it to say “hey, remember Doc and how much McQueen cared about him”? They don’t even tell you how he died which makes you wonder, how can cars die? My other issue is that although this movie was likely targeted at children the main character is an aging car afraid of becoming irrelevant in the new and shifting world he inhabits. A lot of the humor panders to the idea that the old ways are somehow better, like comics that make jokes about kids these days not knowing what books are. Even the young car, Cruz, that the younger audiences are supposed to relate to doesn’t know much out of her generation and continually refers to McQueen as old (not in a joking playful manner either) even though he can’t be more than ten or fifteen years older. She often comes across as annoying and I found her somewhat dislikeable as a character. Maybe I would have enjoyed this movie more if I was also someone afraid of being replaced by the youth.

Another issue I had was the pure fact that problems in our world don’t translate into the world of cars. For example Cruz is stated to be a “Hispanic female” (whatever race means in the world of Cars) and her story is meant to reflect how some people are born into privilege and others are not. Essentially McQueen being a racecar is a white male and Cruz who isn’t a race car is a female poc. However, Cruz would wake up early to train so that she could become a racecar, even though her model wasn’t what people generally thought of for the job. This is an important topic and Disney’s Zootopia did an excellent job of dealing with issues of race, bias, class, and privilege. The world of Cars, however, isn’t really built for this kind of thing. There is a bit in the second movie about old cars being cast aside but other than that no real class system exists. Do cars have a form of currency? There is talk of wealth and selling things, but I’ve never heard of cars spending money or being poor.  Another issue they bring up is sexism in the racing world. From the previous Cars movies it can be observed that lady cars don’t race since all the other racers are coded as male and voiced by male actors. In Cars 3 though we meet and old female car who used to race in Doc’s day. She mentions that when she started racing that everyone said the track was no place for a woman. I get what Pixar is trying to do they are trying to address the lack of women in male dominated fields and I guess this movie is supposed to encourage little girls that they can do whatever boys can. However, in the world of Cars it just raises questions. Is Cars a sexist society? What are the differences between male and female cars? Are gender roles and a thing and what are they? My last issue is with the ending where Lightning McQueen and Cruz switch mid race. How is this a legal thing in the world of professional racing? The only rule that they needed to abide by was Cruz needed to wear McQueen’s number. This raises more questions about the Cars universe, like why don’t all the teams adopt this method and instead of working hard to change tires really fast in the pit switch out between two cars. It seems like you could save time that way and save your racers from mental exhaustion. The fact that this is legal also makes it canon that the cars do not feel exhaustion, which is weird since they’ve definitely been out of breath before.

If you made it this long through my Cars review you’re amazing. As a movie it lacked presence and the pacing was poor. The resolution was disappointing and also confusing. All in all this movie is fine if you’re five or don’t care if the world makes sense. Otherwise I would suggest you watch something else and just forget about the world of Cars completely. Why we even needed a third Cars movie is beyond me, but if you ever want to talk to me about the world of Cars feel free because I still have many questions.