Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Maze Runner's Implicit Message About Girls' Role in Education

The scene is a complex learning environment, populated entirely by young men and controlled by unseen overseers.  The boys socialize, assign roles, and work to transcend their environment and enter the outside world.  Eventually (spoilers) the system is revealed as a tool for weeding out a final candidate, capable of responding to the post-apocalyptic ruin of the outer world.  This describes the upcoming cinematic adaptation of book trilogy ‘The Maze Runner’.  But it also describes the growing number of schools that are implementing gender segregated classrooms.  Essentially, ‘The Maze Runner’ is a story about an experimental education program.  And in its unspoken assumptions about gender, it reflects the ongoing debate on how to best educate young people.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Eight Characters We Can Expect in the 'Justice League' movie

When Henry Cavil, Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot stepped out on the stage of Hall H at Comic Con this weekend, their wordless appearance signaled more than a brief cameo by the stars of the upcoming ‘Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice’.  Warner Brothers’ studio is banking a lot on the success of the upcoming film, which they’ve already announced will provide a lead in to a subsequent ‘Justice League’ movie.  But while the formula of establishing a shared cinematic universe is one clearly inspired by the recent success of the Marvel Studios films, 'Justice League' could provide an opportunity for Warner Brothers’ parent company, Time Warner, to draw on the full range of their intellectual property holdings.  This is one universe that could truly have no limits, so here are The Over Picture's predictions for what characters to expect when ‘Justice League’ eventually hits screens.

1. Shazam

With the recent announcement of the Rock’s casting as the mystical hero, there’s a big likelihood we’ll be seeing the big red cheese show up in more than just a solo film.  The inclusion of this mystically powered character could be just the ingredient the ‘Justice League’ needs to go from ‘super’ to ‘duper’.

Odds: 2 to 1. They may not be able to call him Captain Marvel anymore, but that won’t stop Warner Brothers from making this character a big part of their shared universe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

India's Bandit Empress: The Real Life Daenerys Targaryen

The Internet is obsessed with Daenerys Targaryen.  Over the last two years, hundreds of baby girls have become her namesake, while her television portrayal by Emilia Clarke spawns countless memes, think pieces and cosplay outfits.  Whether being considered as a feminist icon or simply a paragon of satisfying narrative payoff, the Mother of Dragons’ slow progression from helpless slave to conquering warlord make her an understandably irresistible figure.  But she has nothing on the real life violence and vengeance enacted by the Bandit Queen of India, Phoolan Devi.

The parallels between these two women are striking, and one would suspect that George R.R. Martin was influenced in his creation of Daenerys, if Phoolan’s story hadn't been popularized in the west years after the fictional queen’s creation.  Even given Martin’s noted refusal to reward good and punish evil within his fictional universe, however, Phoolan’s story is both more tragic and marked by more personal vengeance than any possible fictional descendant.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Politics of Pacific Rim Part 2: The End of the Killer Robot in Pop Culture

It is fitting that the giant, slavering kaiju of Pacific Rim are biological in nature.  The true enemy of any city, after all, is its inevitable reclamation not by radical forms and alien architecture, but by natural forces.  Be they modernized desert paradises like Las Vegas and Abu Dubai facing looming water crisis or the ancient ruins of once huge population centers like western Illinois' Cahokia Mound, every city is eventually faced with the reality of its resource needs.  Pacific Rim is hardly the first recent science fiction story to preach transhumanism as a solution to the threats of biology.  It is, in fact, part of a continuing trend in popular fiction that recasts the once ominously robotic as the means of humanity's salvation. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Politics of Pacific Rim: Giant Robots and the transformative architecture of Lebbeus Woods

July 12 marks the release of Pacific Rim, the highly anticipated monster mash from director Guillermo del Toro.  The film envisions a "near future" in which invading monsters from beneath the Pacific do battle with towering metal robots called Jeagers.  Trailers promise both a healthy dose of ruin porn and the concept of machines melded with human consciousness, "Two pilots mind melding through memories with the body of a machine."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mapping Treasure Island's Uncertain Future

Treasure Island was built up out of the San Francisco bay for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, 400 acres of "land" made up entirely out of landfill.  Now, after 75 years of mixed use, the island is one of the key targets of San Francisco's ravenous push for "development", attracting the attention of international investors and green building companies.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness' Bleak Vision of a Future San Francisco

How do we envision the future?  Are we going to imagine the urban spaces where more and more of us choose to live as tributes to history and humanity, or do we went to scrub away the past to create metal behemoths of industrialized progress?  If the recent Star Trek: Into Darkness is any indication, the fate of just one city, San Francisco, is the unquestioned victory of the latter.  A new Manhattan, transplanted on top of a city that has fought for decades to preserve its character, architecture and, now, its very population.