Doctor Who, “Can You Hear Me?,” and the Nightmares of (More) Pandemic Teaching

A little over a year ago I wrote a piece reflecting on the seemingly unbearable struggles of pandemic teaching.  At the time, I used Tony Stark’s journey through Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame as my frame to help me understand what I was going through and all I was feeling.  Writing it was very personal and deeply cathartic.  In the end, I survived last year!  I didn’t quit!  I even managed to find incredible beauty in all the struggle, too.  Now I’m a month and a half into a new school year and, well, I thought it would be easier.  Yet I find myself pulled down in this dispiriting emotional mire once more.  This time Doctor Who offers a more apt lens to frame my experience.  Given today is World Mental Health Day – and we’re all struggling in our own ways and we all deserve to be heard and validated in those struggles – sharing this seemed appropriate.  When the school year returned, I needed the Doctor.  I still do.  I think we all do.

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Is the DCEU’s Harley Quinn an Antihero or Superhero?

While Harley Quinn is often framed as an antihero in the comics, she most certainly isn’t.  She is as much a superhero as anyone in the DC Universe and, being a survivor of abuse, she is stronger than just about any hero DC has, too.  Since falling in love with her character (thanks Harley Quinn on HBO Max!) I’ve read every Harley comic from 2013 to the present and she’s not done anything remotely antihero-ish in any of them.  Yes, Harley’s wild, a little chaotic, and has an impulse control problem (all of which she admits) but being a free spirit isn’t the same as being morally ambivalent.  Her actions in the comics, again and again, are remarkably heroic.  And I will die on this hill ;D.  Since seeing The Suicide Squad I’ve been wondering if the same holds true in the movies.  In the comics, Harley Quinn is a true superhero and the type of character we should all aspire to be like – as compassionate, loving, and open as she is brave.  But what about the DCEU (DC Extended Universe)?  Is Harley an antihero in the films or, like the comics, is she a superhero lacking the recognition she deserves?

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The Fantastic Four and the Science of Soul Mates

Perhaps the most oft repeated observation about the Fantastic Four is they are a family first, superheroes second.  This piece of their identity has been their cornerstone since Stan Lee ushered in the “Marvel Age of Comics” with their creation in 1961.  With the FF poised to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Dan Slott was given the reins of  “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” in 2018.  Understanding the nature of the FF – a family of explorers and travelers who save the day when needed – he uses it to examine a captivating concept which seems uniquely suited to the Fantastic Four.  When their explorations take them to the planet Spyre, Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, Sue Storm/the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm/the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm/the Thing meet the Overseer, the leader of the Spyricans, a people who have technology they claim will show you your Soul Mate with absolute certainty.  Families are born in the bonds of love and there’s no love like a Soul Mate…should such a thing exist.  What better place to drop explorers defined by their family than the questions raised at the intersection of loving communion and a technology that can predict the mystical movements of the heart?!!?

As readers we can’t help but take this journey with the Fantastic Four and wonder are Soul Mates real?  And if they are, would we want to know?

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The Multi-Doctor Team-Up: Conversing with Me, Myself, and I

We love a good team-up, don’t we?  The AvengersJustice League.  Even Godzilla vs. Kong.  Part of me expects a movie where Annabelle, the Nun, and La Llorona team-up to haunt Ed and Lorraine Warren (which won’t happened as the Conjuring Universe has more narrative integrity than that and the stories are based on true events (or at least truth-adjacent)).  Doctor Who has been doing the multi-Doctor team-up for decades in TV, novels, audio dramas, and comics.  But there is a fascinating dimension to different Doctors teaming up that none of these other stories have.  When the Doctor encounters other incarnations of the Doctor it’s not just a group of our favorite heroes coming together.  Rather they are, in effect, meeting themself at different moments in their life!  Can you imagine that?!!?  I can’t stop imagining what it would be like if I found myself in the same situation!  Can you imagine meeting yourself at different points in your life, some younger than you and some having seen things you’ve yet to see?  The idea is captivating and this is exactly what happens whenever the Doctors team-up.   

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Thor the God of the Unworthy – Reframing the God of Thunder

Jason Aaron’s time writing Thor – from Thor: God of Thunder to Thor to The Mighty Thor to Thor (again) to War of the Realms to King Thor – produced the defining version of the character.  No one, at least in my humble opinion, has ever done more with Thor nor understood the character, their world, and its theological fertility more than Jason Aaron.  Jane Foster lifting Mjölnir to become Thor herself was the heart of Aaron’s run.  But for that to happen, Thor Odinson had to find himself unable to lift the hammer.  This idea – the idea of Thor being unworthy – ties together much of what Aaron did.  Its seeds were sown in his very first arc, as Thor faced the brutality of Gorr the God Butcher.  Its actualization would lead to Jane lifting Mjölnir and becoming the mightiest Thor and the greatest of all the gods.  Its effects would culminate in Thor Odinson’s climactic battle with Malekith the Accursed during the War of the Realms and it would shape the sort of king Thor would become.

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The Abject Horror of Doctor Who’s Confession Dial

One of many things I love about Doctor Who is how no genre is off limits.  The horror genre being a favorite, they visit it’s themes, traits, and tropes often and with great effect.  Of allllllllllllllllll the creepy, freaky, unnerving, and haunting scenes I’ve seen play out in Doctor Who – episodes watched or novels read – one scares me more than any other.  One disturbs me to the very core of my being.  As far as I’m concerned, NOTHING in the history of this show is ANYWHERE NEAR as scary as “Heaven Sent” (S9E11).  Recently I read a post Gemma wrote over on Books Beach Bunny titled, “Blogging Confessions: Fear” and it reminded me I had an idea for a post about this episode over the summer…an idea I presume I promptly forgot because it would take me places I’d rather not visit.  But, inspired by the courage of her confessional piece, I decided to tackle it.  And hey, what’s October for if not scaaaaaaaary things, right?

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Iron Man, Endgame, and the Thanos of Pandemic Teaching

Amidst the sea of emotions pandemic teaching brings, I find myself often thinking of Tony Stark’s character arc through Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.  So the other day, to explore these thoughts (and avoid thinking only of school once I was home), I decided to rewatch both films back to back.  I realized two things.  First, I was very critical of Avengers: Infinity War when it first came out and, while I stand by my critiques of the glaring plot holes throughout, I grant the film works much better when watched with Avengers: Endgame.  On its own, it’s disappointing.  But as the first half of a six hour movie, it’s far more enjoyable.  Second, Tony Stark’s journey is a surprisingly solid metaphorical stand-in for what teaching feels like right now.  Or, so as to not universalize my feelings for every teacher everywhere, Tony Stark’s journey serves as a surprisingly solid metaphorical stand-in for what teaching feels like right now for me.  Would you like to know what pandemic teaching is like?  Well, if you’ve seen Infinity War and Endgame it turns out you already kinda know. Continue reading

Reylo’s Role in Rendemption – A The Rise of Skywalker Reflection

With The Rise of Skywalker just weeks away, speculation is rampant.  Will Rey turn to the Dark Side?  How the heck could the Emperor have survived the destruction of the second Death Star?  How much of the film do Rey, Finn, and Poe really get to be together?  How will Leia’s character be handled with Carrie Fisher gone?  What role will Luke’s Force ghost play?  Will Anakin return in some form?!?  Of all the questions vexing Star Wars fans, perhaps none are so divisive nor as heatedly debated as the issues of Reylo and Rendemption.  Given the prevalence and the passion for and against each, I wanted to explore them more closely. Continue reading

Tony Stark – Marvel’s Cinematic Masterpiece

“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” – with four words Joss Whedon defined the character of Tony Stark for a generation.  But it was never the words alone that transformed a b-level character into a worldwide icon and the anchor for a groundbreaking interconnected cinematic universe.  It was the man inside the armor delivering those lines.  While it’s easy to forget, eleven years and twenty-two films in, back in 2008 Marvel Studios was far from a sure thing.  Marvel had sold their most successful characters (Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four) to other studios and was left to make their own movies with their second tier.  Robert Downey Jr. made it work.  He incarnated Tony Stark perfectly, seamlessly blending cockiness and charisma, arrogance and vulnerability, snark and heart.  He presented a character who resonated and who meant something.  He carried the world of comic books into the mainstream on his armored shoulders, all but single-handedly paving the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  No matter how much brilliance followed in his wake, this is why Tony Stark will always be Marvel’s cinematic masterpiece to me. Continue reading