A studying journalist and story enthusiast. I am a long time writer and enjoy thinking critically over books, cartoons, movies, and comics.

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    Possible Explanations for the Explosion in Popularity of YouTube Let's Play Channels

    The explosion of Let’s Play gamers on YouTube is no secret to anyone. Currently the most subscribed to channel on YouTube belongs to a Let’s Play channel; they are well known and tremendously popular. I think it would be interesting to see if anyone could explore the question of why this is the case. What happened that made this genre of video uploaders so popular? Why are people so drawn to it, even though some don’t play video games themselves? The answer could be simple, or it could be more complicated; I personally don’t have enough knowledge on the topic to know. But regardless it’s a question I find interesting, and haven’t heard discussed often. I’m curious as to what others may think.

    • Looking at the personality of Let's Play producers/creators is a key factor I think. The top producers of Let's Play content stand out from others in terms of their acting behaviour/spin they put on it. The Angry Video Game Nerd or the Game Grumps use emotion to point out flaws in a game in a review style, while others like Rooster Teeth's Achievement Hunter simply play and illustrate points gamers can follow in their own playing or just sit and watch someone else play a game rather than buying it themselves. I think it's one of the biggest factors in which Let's Plays become more watched and why Let's Plays took off, games people wanted combined with not having to worry about wasting time playing themselves and guaranteeing enjoyment at the performance of another. Like the childhood experience (if like me you had older siblings) of watching your brother play games and cheering him on during the interesting parts. An adventure right at home. – smartstooge 9 years ago
    • I think of it more as entertainment. A lot of these gamers are comedians and always crack jokes while playing. We might find humour in their failures, or just enjoy their commentary. The audience can play these games themselves, but it's more interesting to see a funny person play it. – YsabelGo 9 years ago
    • I agree with the above commentators that Let's Play is a form of entertainment. I would even say it is a form of performing arts due to its entertainment-centric production. It would be interesting to see what are the criteria for the Let's Play to be widely entertaining, and what similarity they share with other form of performing arts, such as improvisation comedy. – idleric 9 years ago
    • It's a great way to look at the gameplay before deciding to buy a game. I think that might be one reason people are watching these videos. – Sierra Throop 9 years ago

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    Legend of Korra definitely has some very interesting commentary on the issues you list here. But I think it goes even further than what you discuss. Ultimately I believe the conversation provided by the show is supposed to reflect a lot of the social justice issues we face now, particularly with gender and race. I think that you could even go so far as to Legend of Korra strives to provide a model by which to examine the issues with. Much like you mentioned there is the inborn privilege of bending, and benders control both the crime and political world (to be honest though, I’m not sure there’s much of an argument to make for the corporate world since running a power plant through physical labor is more of blue collard job). That’s clearly where the conflict has begun to arise. So the equalists movement is definitely understandable. However we should keep in mind that the equalists in this situation are not in the right.

    The equalists represent an extreme, those who lash out even at those who are innocent. These are the people who believe that being born in a society with privilege means that one is inherently evil and/or bad. What’s interesting is that the show provides even another level of commentary with Bolin and Mako when talking about privilege. As benders the two have the natural born privilege that non-benders do not. But they did not grow up in a privileged world. Instead they actually had less than many non-benders, growing up on the streets and scrapping for food and shelter. But as the audience can clearly see, as benders they were given the opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty later in life with pro-bending and even with Mako working at the power plant. So they were given more opportunities than a non-bender.

    I think this is an important level of commentary, especially when you factor in Asami, who grew up rich as a non-bender. Those who are radical often assume that those born with societal privilege are naturally born with everything they need to succeed in life and that’s not necessarily true. Those who are male can suffer trauma and abuse, those who are white can find themselves homeless. Mako and Bolin are a good stand in point for that. But they are also able to properly illustrate the point of privilege, which is that you have more options for pulling yourself up in the ladder of society. A non-bender in Republic City for example would have an even harder time finding a job or a way to keep safe, as they wouldn’t have the options that the brothers did to pull themselves out of poverty.

    Ultimately it’s the scene were Korra tries to stand up for the non-benders in the community that all of the other roles fall into place. Most people who are not born with privilege are not extremists, instead they are the people working hard every day and calling attention for other’s help either within the community or outside. The benders ultimately realize that just as much as it is their duty to stop extremist, they also have a responsibility to stand up for non-benders and their rights. And that is what the show is advocating is the ultimate role one should strive for in social justice issues.

    This is even more hammered in when it turns out that Amon was a fake the entire time, a bender himself who was an extremist, making him a hypocrite. Considering some of the internet extremist dialogue on social justice issues this feels like a very direct parallel.

    It’s interesting that you bring up Rawl’s theory of justice, because he was one that wrote a lot on the issue of natural born privilege (though he spoke more about wealth than anything else). However, I’m not sure it’s a perfect comparison? Rawl’s primary advocacy was always for a better governmental distribution of wealth. Many other facets of his philosophy were always more theoretical than anything else. His theory of the veil of ignorance was actually very close to Amon’s ideology, believing that no one should be born in a different position than someone else.
    Great post, it was really interesting to analyze!

    Politics and Privilege in The Legend of Korra

    This was a wonderful article to read! I have to say that I more or less agree with all of your top picks, even reading about some of them can spark emotion in me.

    Pixar’s work is truly amazing, there’s no doubt about that. Up and Inside Out are definitely among some of their strongest works emotionally. It’s fascinating how mature it can handle its content, and how impactful their storytelling can be. Inside Out for example is already being used to help younger children understand mental health disorders and the like. The balance that the studio has accomplished is impeccable.

    Though I am curious: Among all the studios you listed, you left out Dreamworks, the second largest computer animated movie company, is there a reason why? Don’t get me wrong, I would agree that of the two Pixar’s work is definitely more solid, but Dreamworks has done some great works with mature themes and moments as well. I suppose a difference would be that while most of Dreamworks’s movies are good, only some are typically great, and some can be pretty bad, while Pixar really only has Cars 2 and then a few ‘weaker’ movies. That being said though, I don’t think the studio deserves to be ignored. Something like How to Train Your Dragon, Rise of the Guardians, or even Kung Fu Panda can have really amazing moments that can address both younger and older audiences. So there’s a lot to be offered there as well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do understand that this article is about Pixar movies, I’m not suggesting it should have been otherwise. But I do think that Dreamworks shouldn’t be ignored in the conversation of great movies, or that it should be said that Pixar stands totally alone.
    That being said, I’m wondering if you’d be willing at all to do another article exploring some of Dreamworks’s more mature and impactful films? It’d be great to see you cover it.

    10 Mature Moments in a Pixar Film

    No problem!

    And don’t worry, like I said, you still make a lot of great points in your article, it’s just a matter of where to focus your attention more. It’s a common mistake to make, so I don’t blame you at all for that, I just wanted to bring it to your attention since a lot of people don’t realize some of these things.

    These are just things to keep in mind if you ever want to write on the subject again (which I hope you do!). It may show you different areas to focus on, or different angles for thinking about the issue.

    Thanks again for writing the article!

    Female Superhero Representation in Comics

    This is a great article; I love anything that explores the Bat family mythos, and anything that can correct some of the assumptions that are made about the Batman and Robin dynamic. It’s always been interesting to me that people so often dismiss Robin as a part of the Batman mythos, yet there has rarely ever been a time when Batman has existed without a Robin. Even in his first comics, it was not even two years before Dick Grayson was introduced to the Batman series. So it’s nice to see that this article points that out. It’s also great that you included Stephanie Brown among the Robins! Often she is forgotten in the lineup since her role didn’t last long. I am pleasantly surprised to see that she was remembered in this article.

    I have a lot of love for the Robins and the role they play over the decades, so I hope you don’t mind if I add a few tidbits of information here.
    Something people often don’t realize when talking about the original Robin uniform is that it wasn’t actually a shirt and shorts. Instead the outfit was supposed to be a green leotard with a red tunic over it. You can see this a couple of times when Dick Grayson actually takes off the tunic or has it slightly undone. That’s why the sleeves of the costume are green, and not red. Makes quite a bit more sense than scaly panties, doesn’t it?

    Since you mentioned Frederic Wertham, I’d like to talk about him a bit. Despite many people not realizing it, this is where we get the cultural impression that Bruce Wayne adopting Dick Grayson was somehow ‘creepy’ and ‘inappropriate’. However, it may surprise many people to know that Frederic Wertham didn’t actually even read the Batman comics. As a matter of fact, he didn’t read comics at all! Instead he was a part of the population that was against comic books, and looking to get them banned within the United States. So he decided to publish a book saying that heroes relationships with sidekicks were encouraging homosexuality and pedophilia in order to attempt to accomplish this goal. So the very man that started this idea not only misinterpreted the relationship, but he did so purposely, without ever having read a single comic, to accomplish an anti-comics agenda.

    I also have a quick question I’d like to ask: You mention that Wolfman’s team wrote the ‘falling out’ between Dick and Bruce, but was this actually the case? I can’t remember for certain, but I had thought that the original split between Dick Grayson and Batman was rather amicable? After Dick was hurt in the field Bruce finally said that he didn’t believe he could train his partner as Robin anymore, and they split as equals. I thought it was only later retcons changed the story to a formal ‘falling out’ for the sake of drama? However, I could certainly be getting my timelines confused, considering the story has been done several times.

    Also, thank you for actually doing Jason Todd a good amount of justice in your summary. So often the character gets labeled as the “bad” Robin in an attempt to justify his death. Something to keep in mind though: While Jason did have a lot of anger, he actually managed to rein it in for the most part, before the Felipe incident it was really only when confronted with Two Face that he truly lost his temper. And it wasn’t until after the Felipe incident that he really showed much in the way of ‘rebellion’ against Bruce’s authority. It might also be worth noting that Jason was very personally invested in the Felipe case, and was the one to find that the victim they had been assisting had committed suicide. So Jason’s anger in the case didn’t come from nowhere.

    He was also benched not long after the incident, so he didn’t exactly go ‘globe-trotting’ to find his mother. Instead he stowed away when Batman had to head to Ethiopia, and was reinstated for the mission. When he was captured by the Joker, he had thought that he was rushing to his mother’s aid, but instead rushed right into a trap.

    And you are right, a lot of people do suspect foul play for the voting that decided whether Jason lived or died. As a matter of fact, while it can never be fully confirmed, a man claimed that he called a multitude of times to vote ‘yes’, just to see if DC would really do it. The voting came down to I believe less than a hundred votes for killing him. It’s also interesting to know that DC actually had had plans to kill off Jason Todd before this, but they were scrapped last minute. All of it makes the whole ‘voting’ idea seem very suspect.

    Bruce also didn’t accept Tim Drake with ease. In fact it was a miracle he accepted another Robin at all. It took a lot of convincing on behalf of Dick, Alfred, and other heroes. It took Bruce realizing his own downward spiral in order to take hold of his grief, and allow Tim to take on the role of Robin. Even then though, Tim Drake had to go through very rigorous training. It wasn’t until he showed that he had the skills to survive in the field that Bruce was truly convinced to take him on.

    It might also be worth mentioning that Tim Drake, much like Dick Grayson, started up his own team before joining the Teen Titans. In his earlier days as Robin, Tim, Superboy, Impulse, and the second Wonder Girl all started a new team called Young Justice. It was very popular and served as a staple in many of Tim’s connections and friendships.

    The only other thing I might add to this article is that you perhaps don’t want to mix Damian’s New 52 and Pre-Flashpoint stories. When Bruce came back, he and Damian didn’t automatically hit it off, and Dick didn’t go back to being Nightwing. Instead Bruce’s relationship with his biological son was rocky, and he allowed Dick to remain as Batman to continue working in Gotham and teaching Damian. The New 52 is an entirely new continuity, and it gets rid of a lot of staples within comics and the Bat family specifically, so to mix it with the Pre-Flashpoint continuity doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    But thank you for writing this! It was a great read, and it does a good job of summarizing the five main Robins. By any chance do you have any interest or want to do a Batgirl article? It would definitely be fun to read, especially considering that Cassandra Cain was adopted by Bruce Wayne as well.

    The History of Robin: The Significance of Superhero Sidekicks

    Feminism in comics is definitely an underrepresented issue. When people are yelling over Supergirl’s outfit being ‘too practical’ and ‘too concealing’ despite still being a very fair representation of her original costume, and saying that Kara can’t carry a show without Clark, you know there’s an issue with people’s perception. Even looking at many comic book covers today, we see the problems addressed here, such as positioning women’s bodies unreasonably simply to look ‘sexy’.
    So I definitely appreciate the well-developed ideas and thoughts you provide on the issue.

    However, I hope you don’t mind if I raise a bit of an issue with a few elements of this post, because I think it falls into some common misconceptions of just how the comic industry fails to be feminist positive.

    Probably the biggest concern I notice is how large of an issue you make costume out to be when it comes to the lack of feminist representation. While costume choices and design are definitely an issue for female superheroes, I think that it’s the wrong area to put so much focus on. For one, you say that women are often in ‘skin tight leather suits’ in comics, but the same is often true of the men. Superman is dressed in tights, Batman wears head to toe Kevlar (a fancy term for thick leather more or less), and Spiderman’s suit really only leaves the face to the imagination. So females having skintight clothes isn’t really much of an issue when the men are in the same situation.

    This also works off of the mistaken assumption that women have to be fully covered to be feminist, but that simply isn’t the case. Feminist representation isn’t about whether more skin is being covered, it’s allowing characters to wear what best suits them and not sexualizing or shaming them for it. For example, if Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) was forced into a unitard and drawn with overly large breasts, it wouldn’t fit her personality or what she’s comfortable with. Instead she wears a very reasonable outfit, and she’s never shamed for covering herself so much. Likewise, another character may be very open and confident in their sexuality, and feel the most open in less clothing. Both of these are very legitimate ways to be female, and it depends on the treatment of the character as a result to determine whether or not it’s feminist.
    You address this a bit with She-Hulk, but I think you still approach the issue with the wrong mindset. Several of the characters you listed even at the very beginning of your article actually have legitimate reasons for their designs.

    For example, Catwoman: Selina Kyle was a prostitute and dominatrix before she became a notorious thief. But even after she left those days behind her, she has continued to use her sexuality to her advantage. It’s a part of her character and a part of her background. So her outfit and presentation of herself make sense.
    Black Widow (from my understanding of the character) is very similar. I suppose if there was one difference it would be that her use of sexuality as a weapon is much more shallow than Catwoman’s, so doing things such as always having her suit halfway zipped isn’t so reasonable in comparison. Something that artists have failed to take note of.
    Koriand’r (Starfire) is a bit different. She comes from a different planet that is very much about self-expression. She very freely expresses herself physically, and yet is never accused of being ‘slutty’ or even ‘sultry’. Instead it’s just another layer to her character. Now, I will add that while this is true of her representation in the Teen Titans and Titans comics, the creators of Red Hood and the Outlaws really did begin to stretch their levels of ‘acceptable’ exposure. This is because they used an even skimpier outfit as an excuse to further sexualize the character, instead of allowing the character to simply express herself.
    Even Wonder Woman is difficult to just lump into this area. Amazonian culture is based off of Greek culture, in a time that wasn’t exactly well known for keeping their legs covered. Especially not for warriors. Diana herself mentions at times that she feels uncomfortable in pants, especially on the battle field. The viewpoint that her costume should be more covering is understandable, but to say that it absolutely should be isn’t the case.

    I can’t speak much The Scarlet Witch, but I would like to say that I don’t fully disagree with your point. Women are definitely over sexualized in comics. However, the problem isn’t in the fact that there are a decent number of female superheroes with skimpy outfits, it’s the pattern that’s formed, making it so that a female superhero who prefers to be as covered as men is rare, instead of balancing it out. We can definitely see that pattern being formed, and people going out of their way to continue to ‘dress down’ female superheroes, so the problem is clearly there. And there are self-entitled misogynists out there who would argue at a drop of a hat that a woman is not ‘interesting’ unless they’re barely clothed. So please don’t mistake me, this is a good point to make.

    However, I think that it’s the wrong point to emphasize.

    You spend a long time talking about costume design, and it is your opener. I think that puts a bit too much focus on what is probably the least of the problems facing women in comics. See, ultimately, it doesn’t have to matter what female characters are wearing. The problem is much deeper than just costume design when it comes to the over sexualization and objectification of women in comics. On the surface the main issue is simply the pattern. None of the instances of skimpy costume design are a problem by themselves, but they do become an issue when they form the predominant pattern in comics.

    But skimpy outfits don’t have to lead to objectification.

    A good example is the recent Mad Max movie, Fury Road. In it there are four (I believe) woman called ‘the wives’. For the duration of the movie they are clad in nothing except thin white sheets that quite frankly barely cover them. They are the definition of ‘scantily clad women’. You would think this would lead to the women’s sexualization, but instead the camera and the characters treat them the same way they would someone dressed in head to toe battle gear. They aren’t sexualized or objectified by the movie, and therefore the audience doesn’t even really realize that they’re staring at women who are wearing barely anything. The media platform treats them with respect, therefore they are respected. So women can be dressed with as much or as little clothing, and still not be objectified.

    Take even some of the male superheroes. Hawkman is known for often running around in tights and no shirt. But he’s not really known as the definition of the male fantasy, nor is he objectified. His outfit is revealing, but the narrative, the artists, and the characters do not treat him like a piece of meat. Therefore, his outfit isn’t either a positive or a negative to his character, it simply is.

    So while dress of female characters is a feminist problem, it isn’t quite as shallow of an issue as simply what the characters are wearing, and it isn’t really among the most important. You get into a bit when you mention that the poses of female characters are often ridiculous and try to emphasize their sexuality and looks. This is often the worst on covers, as they are trying to engage sex hungry teens into picking up the comic to begin with. But the treatment of female characters in this manner goes beyond that. Often the art of a series and the narrative are very specifically set up to objectify a female character. Again, Red Hood and the Outlaws is a good example of this. While Starfire has a fierce personality she is objectified throughout the comics, and clearly oversexualized. Sometimes the issue is as explicit as this, and sometimes it’s more subtle.

    Which is where we get into the real issue I wished to see more if in your article: the characterization of female characters.

    We have come a long way over the years, this is definitely true. But that doesn’t mean that many female characters aren’t currently being mishandled in modern comics. These are usually things beyond art work though. It’s how females are consistently characterized, or the role they’re forced to play. The problem with arguments about female superheroes’ costumes is that it can be used as a mechanism to overlook real problems and mistreatment of female characters.

    The newest Starfire title for example. The authors give her more covering clothes than before, and decide that they don’t want to sexualize the character. Because of this, many people immediately jumped on support of the comic. However, what’s found is that the once brave, noble, and intelligent Koriand’r has now been infantilized, to the point of being silly and flat out dumb; not to mention the fact that she is still seen as a sex symbol among the people around her. People look at her outfit and said “now this is feminist progression in comics!” but that wasn’t what we’re being given at all when it comes to actual characterization.

    You mention Batgirl of Burnside in your article as well, but it faces a similar problem. They gave her a new, slightly less form fitting, outfit with no heels, and marketed to a younger demographic of girls. Because of this, people went wild over the series. But when getting caught up in the hype many failed to realize that the Barbara Gordon that had been built up over decades before had been completely demolished in favor of a more ‘immature’ face. Barbara Gordon took being Batgirl very seriously and felt she had a moral responsibility to her role. She was somber, logical, and safe. In spite of that she could certainly have fun in her role! But she was always the more studious and book smart of the three Batgirls. Then the reboot came along and decided to deage the character significantly, decided to take away her representation of a disabled minority by making the wheelchair just a passing phase in her life, and chose to have her represent as the only Batgirl cutting out the other two (three technically) altogether, despite the fact that there were still four Robins in that same time frame. Instead of allowing there to be more female characters, and allowing Barbara’s actual personality to be highlighted, Batgirl of Burnside decided to strip Barbara Gordon of her previous identity. Instead of being studious, serious, and book smart, she’s now wild, immature, and silly. There can be arguments made that she’s smart in a different way (though from what I’ve read of the comics I could see some very convincing evidence to challenge that with), but even if that is the case, they still decided to make her more ‘conventionally female’. She’s flouncy, she’s fun, and she’s a little airheaded. No matter how smart she’s portrayed to be below that surface, that is still the personality front they are putting up for her now, despite that not fitting with her previous characterizations at all. It becomes even more infuriating to know that the third and youngest Batgirl, Stephanie Brown, could have fit this idea much better as she was known to be the most playful of the three; she was very lighthearted and hopeful in how she approached the job. She was never silly, and we all knew she was smart, but she was definitely more conventionally female and fun. And that was fine because that fit her personality! But instead of adding in more female characters, they decided to keep to one, and to vastly rewrite her character to fit their idea of what a female superhero ‘should be’. But the problem is, because on the surface it looks feminist, people assume that it actually is. They don’t even realize that it’s really a form of feminist erasure.

    These are the issues I think you should have focused on a bit more heavily, instead of just what a female superhero’s outfit is. Because the objectification angle is more than just the amount of skin showing, and often artists covering up skin or presenting themselves as more ‘female friendly’ can really just be a straw tactic to infantilize characters and rewrite their characterization to fit a more ‘traditional’ and ‘feminine’ mold.

    A few other things I noted: I like that you brought up Captain Marvel, but I would have liked to see more examples of comics doing well in this area. Such as Ms. Marvel or Spider Gwen or even Silk from what I’ve heard. Perhaps a more diversified example of how to do female superheroes right.

    And while I see your point on naming, I think you also overlook a lot of the male counterparts for the names you list. For example: Batgirl is gender specific, but so is Batman, the same for Supergirl. In fact, Superman also has another younger ‘sidekick’ called Superboy, so it’s not just restricted to females. Spider Woman is justified because her counterpart is called Spiderman. If gender is inherit to the male character’s superhero persona, it isn’t really misogynistic to give female heroes the same types of names. It would be misogynistic to have a Robingirl or a GirlRobin, but not a Batgirl to a Batman. And something to keep in mind is that many of these characters that have ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ added to their name start while young. Often they have these add ons to their names because they are the student or sidekick of an older hero. As many age and grow older they often drop the names dependent on their mentors and move to something new (i.e. Batgirl going on to be Oracle or Wonder girl going on to be Troia). And for those like ‘Spider Woman’ they are clearly basing their motif on an already preexisting hero. But then again, if a man dressed as a spider could show up and be called Spider Man, why then should it not be the same when a woman dressed as a spider comes along?

    Not to mention that most of the ‘standalone’ male aliases you mention don’t have a female counterpart, or if they do, then their name isn’t derived from the male’s. Green Arrow for example has a sidekick named Speedy, the second of which is female. He also works with Dinah Lance, known as the Black Canary. There are in fact female Green Lanterns, and, just like their multiple male counterparts, they are simply called ‘Green Lantern.’ Flash has two sidekicks, Kid Flash and Impulse, either of which can be any gender. Falcon, Captain America, the Atom, and the others you mention don’t really seem to have female counterparts.

    Now that’s not to say you don’t have a bit of a point here. Names such as She-hulk and continuing to call young women ‘girls’ well into their twenties are a problem. But I don’t think that it’s as large of an issue as you make it out to be here. At least, not with the evidence you provide.
    Again, I like your points, and that you are discussing feminism within comics. I think that this is very important. But I also think that you make the same mistake a lot of feminist do when examining the issue, which is getting caught up in the technicalities and blinding yourself to the reality. Yes, costume design and the like is an issue, but female objectification goes so much further than that. Ultimately, it’s merely the pattern that’s the issue, not the outfits themselves when it comes to simply what female superheroes are wearing. But objectification and sexualization don’t need to be dependent on what a character is wearing.

    I would also recommend looking into a few of the characters you list a bit more as well. I hope I’m not making an improper assumption here to say that you are more familiar with Marvel comics then you are with DC? There’s no issue in that (as you can probably tell from the examples I provide I’m more familiar with DC than with Marvel), but I would say that if you are going to use female icons that you are not quite so familiar with then you should definitely research them a bit more. You notice that Catwoman has a skintight leather suit and often has cleavage showing. Ask yourself why, and then investigate the comics personally, including some variations of her origin story. And then simply repeat the process. That way you’re able to point out the less justified costume designs. From there, you can then jump into the deeper issues that women in comics face in the modern age.

    Other than that, I commend you for writing this article, and continuing the budding trend of calling out the sexism within comics.

    Female Superhero Representation in Comics