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The New Heroines

A dialogue about teen and YA heroines in pop culture.

The Boss – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

 

30fda328355410e7839666921384aac2The Boss is a heroine in the Metal Gear Solid saga, an action-adventure stealth game franchise with heavy emphasis on philosophical, military and political themes.  Despite The Boss’s actions and contributions to the story of Metal Gear Solid having taken place chronologically over the course of multiple games, the Boss only appears in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. If I went back through the entire storyline of Metal Gear Solid from the beginning, the website would not have room to put all of it, so I am probably going to skip a lot of details from the beginning (the conditions surrounding her birth, previous games, etc.) and am mostly going to focus on The Boss during the events of the games she physically appears in and what makes her the greatest heroine in video games.

[Obviously MAD Spoilers from this point forward, very watered down version of the MGS story line, if it seems convoluted, it’s because I am skipping over hundreds of hours of plot development because MGS as a whole is incredibly long and complicated but amazing, sorry in advance if it is dense]

Who is The Boss?

Naked Snake: Boss, why are you doing this?

The Boss: Why? To make the world one again.”

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

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The Boss is a renowned soldier who lead countless battles with highly trained special forces. She was often revered as the “mother of U.S. Special Forces” and was responsible for the American victory at Normandy during World War II. Later, during the Cold War era, The Boss was ordered by the United States to carry out the Virtuous Mission: a mission focused on ensuring that the United States gained control of the Philosopher’s Legacy, a massive but secret trust fund owned by a shadowy organization known as the Philosophers. The Philosophers are practically what we would consider the Illuminati, making large deals and decisions to cause and extort various world conflicts for personal gain. The Boss would have to infiltrate the GRU and gain the trust of Colonel Volgin in order to secure it for the United States. Volgin suggested to The Boss that he defect from the GRU and informed The Boss of a top secret massive mobile nuclear weapon that was in development by the Russians later known as the Shagohod.

Later, The Boss would reunite with Naked Snake, a soldier who she had raised and trained, only to cut off contact with him once Snake had pinpointed the location of the Shagohod. For the Virtuous Mission, The Boss was supplied with 2 portable nukes and a portable launcher to use them, whose original purpose would be to give to Volgin in order to gain his trust. The Boss could not have predicted that Volgin would test one of these nukes to destroy the facility where the Shagohod was being developed. An American supplying a Russian defector with one, let alone multiple nukes, is a dangerous enough situation to upset the stalemate of nuclear deterrence. An act as insane as having a GRU colonel defect from Russia and nuke secret Russian military bureaus using nukes secretly given to Volgin by the United States (via The Boss) would certainly spell nuclear apocalypse for Earth. In order to clear the United States’ name and fizzle this conflict before it brought about the end of the world, the CIA arranged for her to be assassinated by her former colleague and beloved training partner, Naked Snake, in the mission known as Operation Snake Eater.

The Boss knew that she would have to sacrifice her reputation and her life to save the world from nuclear apocalypse. She had to identify as a traitor due to the nature of the mission, and must let herself eventually be assassinated by Naked Snake. Knowing this, she still dedicated her life to the mission, attempting to help Naked Snake get closer to her to eventually kill her, and simultaneously continued to gain Volgin’s trust. Naked Snake would end up slaughtering the Cobra Unit, a special forces group that fought under The Boss at Normandy. After killing the Cobras, Colonel Volgin  and destroying the secret nuclear threat known as Shagohod, Naked Snake  eventually fights The Boss in a field of daisies, being easily the sickest fight in the history of video games. Snake kills her with her own weapon after she gives the Philosophers Legacy to Snake with her dying breaths, knowing that she sacrificed everything to save the world and die with the mission as a traitor in the eyes of the United States.

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Feminist Criticism of The Boss

In Beginning Theory, Peter Barry writes thatwithin feminism there is a strong emphasis on the ‘constructedness’ of femininity, that is, on such matters as conditioning and socialisation, and the influence of images and representations of femininity in literature and culture. All these formulations are ways of avoiding ‘essentialism’, which is the contrary view that there is some natural, given essence of the
feminine, that is universal and unchangeable” (Barry 267). What he means by this is that there is a specific idea of femininity that we see within all our writing and culture. He explains that it is important to understand that there is not necessarily a specific, essential, raw “feminine” idea. I agree with Barry in this context; I honestly think The Boss is an incredible heroine without actually portraying what would normally be a feminine idea of a heroine. The Boss has insane character and willpower, and is an incredible fighter and soldier. Her femininity is hardly an integral part of her character, and I think that she can still resemble a powerful heroine without adhering to feminine or masculine ideas. She is objectively defined as a direct result of her actions based on the destiny that is handed to her. The only time her femininity is a part of her identity is because she is a mother. She is not only considered a “mother” to special forces in the United States, but she also gave birth on the battlefield during the assault on Normandy (right? What a badass). Due to orders from her superiors, she had to kill her son’s biological father, a member of the Cobra Unit known as The Sorrow, even though they loved each other. This is one of the only times where her feminine identity is even explicitly mentioned because it isn’t that integral to her character. I think often times, many heroines are not separate from their sexuality or feminine aspects. I think it’s cool when characters have objective identities based on their character instead of having their character come from their identities or whatever groups they may fall under, such as being a mother. She is a soldier first and a mother second, and that makes The Boss very unique and interesting.

Post-Humanist Criticism

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Later, in the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker,  which followed the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, The Boss’s likeness is used as a model for the artificial consciousness put into a machine designed to prevent apocalypse by being an automatically nuclear deterrence. It is INCREDIBLY interesting to me how the CIA Peace Sentinel (the group in charge of this project) chose The Boss as a symbol of self sacrifice for world peace via nuclear deterrence. They created a machine to possess consciousness built off of her likeness in hopes that it would possess the same human values that The Boss initially exercised in a time of apocalypse-threatening uncertainty. Eventually, the Peace Walker (the machine that the Boss AI was placed within) would eventually attempt to be controlled by an AI programmer named Strangelove, to start further conflict in the cold war by faking a nuclear launch. When the Boss AI realized that the Peace Walker was attempting to begin nuclear war, her AI consciousness decided to walk into Lake Nicaragua to save the world once again from the brink of thermonuclear holocaust.

I think it is incredibly cool that the idea of AI being designed after certain humans as long as the purpose of that machine be based on the person’s previous actions so that human willpower will be enhanced by machine. This feeds into the posthumanist idea of transhumanism, where ethics and morals could change based on the way our humanity advances technologically. Designing a mechanical soldier designed to carry out its orders based on the human it was based on is and incredibly intriguing and exciting case study on transhumanism.

Cultural Significance


Since Metal Gear Solid is obviously some weird obscure thing that I am far too in love with, the really interesting inspiring aspects of The Boss were often lost because most people don’t even know she exists or who she is.  She is incredibly inspiring though, as she takes full responsibility for her destiny based on what is right. Being selfless enough to sacrifice yourself and your life for your country is a value that soldiers are often told to have, but she expresses it in a light that most people don’t expect. She informs Naked Snake before they fight in the field of daisies thatin the end, you have to choose whether you’re going to live as a soldier, or just another man with a gun.” The most heroic part about The Boss, in my opinion, is that she understands that sacrificing yourself for the sake of carrying out the mission is the most important duty you can be given as a soldier. The power to do what is right is within all of us, but not all of us are brave or strong or capable enough to do it. The ability to make the ultimate sacrifice due to unwavering selflessness and righteousness is hard to come by, but it makes The Boss the most inspiring heroine, in my humble (but undisputedly correct) opinion.

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Claire Underwood – House of Cards

Claire Underwood (House of Cards, Netflix Original)

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Meet Claire Underwood. The 46th First Lady of the United States, and is currently running for Vice President under the Democratic Party for the upcoming election. She has held positions such as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and has run non-profit organizations like the Clean Water Initiative. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health and Chemistry from Radcliffe College, and received her Masters Degree in Public Health from Harvard. Her husband, President Frank Underwood, is the main character of the popular Netflix Original series, “House of Cards”. “House of Cards” is a Netflix political drama set in modern time, following the story of Francis J. Underwood, a Democrat from South Carolina working his way up the political ladder.
The best way to start an analysis on Claire Underwood is by defining her relationship with her husband. They have an interesting dynamic in their love life, feeding off each other strengths and weaknesses in an almost unnatural synergy. One of the first episodes shows Frank (at the time he was only the Majority Whip in Congress) having relations with a journalist named Zoe Barnes. He walks back into the house and Claire is aware of the situation. She does not care, for the simple reason of power. She recognizes that by him sleeping with a journalist, they can make EXTREME power moves in congress based off of media presence. She craves power. She loves her husband, but the two of them together is a power trip on steroids.
Claire is the epitome of a strong and powerful woman. She is cunning, intelligent, and bold. She has the power to be blunt and manipulative in order to push herself up above the rest. Her goal is to get as much power and influence as she can with the partnership she has formed with Frank. In terms of how her character is portrayed, she is an ultra-confident and in charge personality that can take control of any room she walks in. For a majority of the first three seasons, she is an obvious equal to Frank, playing off each other like building blocks. She doesn’t take anything other than respect from anyone, no matter who it is. She even had a point where she felt disrespected by the President of Russia, specifically a statement where he accused Frank of “pimping her out”, as a method of seduction to make visiting diplomats feel more comfortable in making deals with the United States. Instead of reacting harshly, or turning to Frank to do something as the president, she made her toast at dinner, to President Petrov and “his little pickle.” This was a pun off of a pickle related ritual he had just completed after having everyone at the party taking a shot of Russia’s finest vodka. She is not afraid to play with the “Big Boys”. After sitting around as the First Lady, she put her name in the hat to run for the Ambassador position at the United Nations. She is not afraid of a challenge, and after seeing the show 5 times over, I am unaware of a time where confidence left her side.

 

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Feminist Criticism

One of the frameworks I am going to talk about in the analysis of Claire is feminist criticism. I have mostly pulled from Toril Moi’s reading, “Feminist, Female, Feminine”, in talking about the feminist criticism in media. Feminist Criticism, as described by Moi, refers to the following;

“specific kind of political discourse; a critical and theoretical practice committed to the struggle against patriarchy and sexism, not simply a concern for gender in literature, at least not if the latter is presented as no more than another interesting critical approach on a par with a concern for sea-imagery or metaphors of war in medieval poetry. It is my view that, provided they are compatible with her politics, a feminist critic can use whichever methods or theories she likes” (Moi page 3).

In modern media, the debate over the representation of women has become a hot topic. With “House of Cards”, Claire seems to be one defying the odds of what has been thrown at her. When one of the top searched items to go along with Claire Underwood is “feminist moments”, it gives a good look into how she is fighting back against the patriarchy set up against females. Patriarchy can be defined as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” This really means that feminist critiques, are people looking from the outside of the margins of society, outsiders who are critiquing the social norm that’s occurring on the inside of the world. I believe that Claire goes against the norm by being so prevalent and involved with politics just like her husband. There are multiple points of the show where she openly steals the spotlight right out from under him, showing how she is the one to “wear the pants” in the relationship.
One of these points is an episode from season 2, where Claire is supposed to be having an interview with CNN, talking about the Underwood family now that Frank had been promoted to Vice President. Frank is stuck at the Capital due to a chemical threat. Claire has to decide to either do the interview by herself, or not at all. She chooses to go on alone, and encounters what comes off as an extremely personal attack on her character. The interviewer starts asking questions regarding the possibility of Claire being pregnant during one of Frank’s campaigns, accusing her of aborting the child. At this time, Frank had to sit in the capital building and just watch. He had to hope for his own reputation and career, that she would pick the correct choices and phrasing to ensure that they ended up on top. Claire moved forward, saying that the child was aborted, but it was due to a sexual assault that had happened to her. She shifted the conversation from one that was targeting her and her husband, following their choices to avoid having children, to a topic of sexual assault, prompting her to start writing bills on behalf of sexual assault. Although it wasn’t the truth (she was sexually assaulted, referred to two episodes earlier), she made a decision to keep herself and Frank on the path to stay in power and in good graces. It was not a good decision for the exterior, but it was a good strategical decision for the Underwood’s.
Although Claire never directly puts her views out on the topic of feminism or civil rights in general (not really covered through the show), but the way she carries herself shows how she will never let anyone ever put her down, or treat her differently than others because of her being a woman.

 

Structuralism

The second framework I’m analyzing in relation to Claire would be structuralism. Structuralism refers to the hero’s journey laid out by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. The two specific portions of this hero’s journey that I am going to cover in relation to Claire are “The Road of Trials”, and the “Temptress”. The road of trials refers to the issues and battles that a hero/heroine will have to engage in in order to fully embark on their journey. Claire has to face a different struggle each and every day, simply by being in the spotlight and being associated with Frank. She has had to watch her back at every turn, losing privacy in their lives, as well as having to sacrifice different things she loved to do in order to stay compliant to what goes on in the life of the president and first lady. One simple example of this is her runs. They usually were smaller scenes, but Claire would go for runs to clear her head, usually allowing the viewers to get an inside look into her process, showing her at what some would consider her most vulnerable. Once she became the first lady, she was unable to go on a run by herself, thus ruining the point of her clearing her head. This is a smaller example, but it was still something important to her nonetheless.
A bigger example would be when she was an ambassador in the United Nations. She dealt with issues regarding peace negotiations between the United States and Russia. One of these negotiations was around a United States citizen who was arrested in Russia for simply being gay. Claire had to move to make arrangements for him to be released, as well as making arrangements for the two countries to come to peace over a dispute in the Middle East. As part of the deal, Frank and Claire fly to Russia. Frank and President Petrov start to work on negotiations for the Middle Eastern Crisis, while Claire is brought to the holding cell of the American citizen, Michael. She talks with him for a while, learning about his story and trying to convince him to read the public apology to Russia, written by both the US and Russian Foreign Affairs. He refuses, and she falls asleep. When she is awakened, she finds Michael, hanging from the window bars of his cell. He felt that it was a better answer and way out than publicly stating that being homosexual is a crime/sin. That was a huge blow for Claire, even pushing her to lose her cool on international television, saying “shame on you Mr. President” referring to Petrov. This incident led to more foul interactions with Russia, ultimately using Claire as a pawn because she was a woman, which to Petrov, was not worth the time that he could be using to work directly to work with the president.

The temptress is a shorter and more simple piece to Claire’s journey. As referred to in the introduction, Frank had extramarital affairs, in order to keep pushing them forward as a political power couple. Claire had similar temptations. One of these was shown in the first and second seasons, a former lover of Claire’s named Adam. Adam was a famous photographer, who regularly helped out Claire by selling his art to raise money for her non profit. He was rewarded with her time and thoughts of something more with her. Eventually, the Underwoods take a hit in the media because of a photo that was leaked, showing Claire in the shower, a photo taken by Adam. It creates a PR nightmare, and they eventually throw Adam under the bus, ruining his reputation as an artist. This is also touched upon in the 3rd and 4th seasons, where Frank is having a writer starting a book about his time as president. He gives Claire the attention and love that she can’t get from Frank, who seems to always be caught up with, I don’t know, running the country? It is still an ongoing affair, leading to a strong emotional bond that will continue into season 5.

 

Claire

Conclusion

Claire is independent. She works heavily with her husband in order to achieve the success and power that they have always craved as a couple. They work together to feed off each other to get what they need. In some ways, she could be considered an anti-heroine, causing more problems than good, fighting for her own values and benefits, versus the moral values of society. She almost has a cover to be fake and fight for things because of the good press that it could get for her and Frank. On the other hand, her character, being as strong and bold as she is, can push the limits on what used to be a smaller role. She is showing that she is a character to be messed with, and is not someone who is just going to sit back and enjoy the ride. She wants to and continues to be a front facing woman, who represents what is going wrong in current day America. She fights the fight, making sure that people are not just looking in on the patriarchy that is our government from the margins of society.

Eleven: The Unusual Heroine

Who is Eleven?

Abducted at a young age by the CIA and forced to be subject to psychokinetic skills tests, Eleven is not your typical girl. She was ripped from her mother and home to participate in Project MKUltra with Dr. Martin Brenner in Hawkins, Indiana. Brenner is the man to which Eleven came to know as “Papa” as she has to connection with her parents and believes this man is her father. Eleven goes through tests and trainings conducted at the Hawkins Laboratory in order to hone in on her skills and essentially become a weapon for espionage for the CIA to use in order to connect with other dimensions. Eleven has the ability that once placed in a sensory deprivation tank to transport to these other dimensions and on November 6th, 1983, she made contact with the dimension containing the monster that was going to turn her world even more upside down than it already was (pun intended). The dimension she made contact with is indeed called the “Upside Down” which is an alternate universe in which everything is the same except it is desolate, dark, and covered in a thick layer of grime. This is the dimension in which the creature lives. When Eleven made this initial contact with the creature, it opened a gate between the two dimensions and the creature was able to enter the human world at leisure. It was then that Eleven realized the danger she was in and fled from the laboratory. She then ran into the other main characters of the story: Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair and Dustin Henderson. These boys had recently discovered that their friend, Will Buyers, had gone missing and they were on a mission to find him, a mission that Eleven joined without hesitation. The caveat being that Eleven has a limited vocabulary so when she is found by the boys, she is unable to explain who she is or where she is from. The boys take her under their wing and they all band together to find Will. The boys soon realize Eleven’s powers and understand that she may be the key to find their friend as they begin to understand that supernatural forces are at play. It is when the boys, teamed up with local police officer and other members of the community, create a makeshift sensory deprivation tank out of a bathtub that Eleven confirms that Will is in the Upside Down and she comes up with a plan as to how to save him. It all comes down to Eleven sacrificing herself to the creature in order to bring Will back from the Upside Down. As this series is only in its first season, it is unclear if Eleven is alive in the human world or if she is stuck in the Upside Down.

Feminist Criticism

Feminist criticism is the framework dealing with the ways in which women are oppressed through different aspects of our culture. Often this criticism points out male misogyny in media and other different social, political and economic ways in which females are not on the same level as men. Typical tropes showing this include the damsel in distress, the princess needing the prince to save her, or the overly sexualized super human woman in tight spandex outfits and thigh high boots.

I got: 'Stranger Things'! Can We Guess Which TV Show You're Streaming on Netflix Right Now?:

Eleven takes this framework and shatters it upon the ground. From her short cut hair, to the plain gown that she escaped the laboratory in, Eleven is not your typical looking, or acting, young girl. She is mentally and physically strong, enduring so much in her short life. Abuse, abduction, psychological testing, she has endured things in which no young female should ever encounter in her lifetime. There is no point at which Eleven self declares herself a feminist, but the audience of the show has placed her on this pedestal as she is a great fit for the role. Eleven is unsure even to what the concept of being a female even is until the boys help her don a wig and dress so they can take her to school, in a way showing the feminist criticism, that the boys think that she needs to look a certain way in order to be accepted. Eleven proves to be a strong role model to other young girls showing that it doesn’t matter what you look like or the past in which you have had, you can still be a strong body and minded person who can fend for themselves as well as make strong friendships along the way. The Chicago Tribune hits the nail on the head with an article headline of, “‘Stranger Things’ isn’t for kids, but Eleven is the feminist role model young girls need”. The article goes on to say how most of the media that young girls are shown includes them being the weakest character or always worrying about appearance. Instead, Eleven colors outside the lines of this typical female role and instead is a character that both males and females can look up to: a mentally strong badass who can blow monsters up with her mind and can demonstrates that you can conquer hardships and fight for yourself. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/redeye/redeye-stranger-things-eleven-feminist-role-model-little-girls-need-20160815-story.html)

Post-humanism

Another framework in which Eleven can be analyzed through would be post-humanism. This framework consists of what would be considered to be “beyond human”. This idea continues to say that humanity can be molded and formed around technological advances in the evolutionary process. Within this framework, there are seven different ideas. The idea that Eleven fits most closely is transhumanism. This idea furthers on developing the normal human’s intellectual, psychical and psychological capacities with the goal to achieve a “posthuman future”.

Eleven is a cyborg, defined as “a transitional figured that is defined by its body boundary issues.” (Wright, 3). She has capabilities that surpass those of humans that allow her to participate in life in ways that others cannot. She has the ability to snap people’s arms in half with the flick of her neck, the ability to teleport to other dimensions, and the ability to defeat out of our world creature with the powers of her mind. Eleven is in all senses “beyond human” as she is able to access the recesses of her mind that others don’t even know exist. The CIA lab involved with her testing used her in order to communicate with “beyond human” worlds in order to establish connections that could help them in world wars to come. Eleven brings the supernatural into the natural world, creating a gate that allows the impossible to become possible.

 

 

 

Elena Gilbert from “The Vampire Diaries”

S Y N O P S I S ;

From THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, Elena Gilbert is a human in a world of supernatural beings. Living in Mystic Falls after her parents die in a car accident, Elena’s life changes drastically when she and her friends encounter two vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon Salvatore. Stefan falls dangerously in love with Elena, who has an uncanny resemblance to Damon’s old lover, Katherine. While the secrets of Mystic Falls are unraveled, they all realize that the feud of mystical creatures is far from over.

 

E L E N A ;

I’ve chosen to depict Elena as she is in the television show, rather than the book series. In general, she embodies the following characteristics:

  • ACCEPTING: Elena literally is friends with vampires… and her brother is a werewolf… and her best friend is a witch. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty spooked. She’s pretty okay with it, though.
  • BRAVERY: She participates in Stefan & Damon’s vampire endeavors, fighting off the “bad guys” and sacrificing her life to help the people she loves. I honestly don’t know how she lasts 8 seasons of this show.
  • FAMILY-ORIENTED: She is very close with her brother, Jeremy, and her adopted aunt/legal guardian, Jenna.
  • FORGIVING: Damon snaps Elena’s brother’s neck, and Elena forgives him. Pretty cool, right? I’d forgive someone if they did that to my brother, too.
  • INDECISIVENESS: Elena is in love with both Stefan & Damon, but she can’t decide between the two of them. Two aggressively attractive vampire brothers fighting for your love? I don’t blame her.
  • SELFLESSNESS: She will do literally anything to keep her family, friends, and lover(s) safe. She even kills her brother at one point. I know I said above the Damon snaps his neck… he does… Jeremy just never freakin’ dies, I guess.
  • STUBBORNNESS: Elena is so stubborn, it actually gets pretty annoying at times. Like, Stefan will tell her that it’s dangerous and she shouldn’t go outside and fight vampires, but she does it anyway and 80% of the time gets hurt and needs someone to take care of her. Her stubbornness gets her turned into a freakin’ vampire. “Turn me into a vampire, I won’t do anything until you do, because I’m annoying,” –my impression of Elena circa seasons 1-3 (she literally never stops whining about wanting to be a vampire).

As stated before, she gets mixed up with Stefan and Damon Salvatore, two vampire brothers. It is exposed later on that the reason the two brothers were initially so infatuated with her is because she is a Petrova Doppelgänger, essentially meaning that she is completely identical to her ancestor, Katherine Pierce. Damon was in love with Katherine, so he naturally falls in love with Elena, feuding over her love with Stefan.

 

T H E O R E T I C A L  F R A M E W O R K S ;

FEMINIST CRITICISM

Elena is a very stubborn character. She shows stubbornness specifically with Stefan and Damon; whenever they try to help her with something, she insists on doing it herself. Ultimately, I see her as a very strong character. While she loves and cares for Damon and Stefan, she can do things without them and she can survive without them. In fact, there are some scenes where Elena saves their lives. There’s one scene where Damon encounters a “bad” vampire who is trying to kill him. This vampire hits Damon onto the ground and starts beating him with a baseball bat, pours gasoline on him, and lights a lighter, getting ready to light him on fire.

Elena stands there calmly talking to the bad vampire and trying to psychologically convince him to not hurt Damon anymore. This is an interesting approach to feminism, and I really like it. I know that there’s a lot of discussion about males being stronger than females, and I think this kind of idea relates to vampires being stronger than humans in some ways. In this way, Elena is not very physically strong, and this vampire is strong and has fangs to kill her. So, instead of trying to fight this vampire off (which would be – to put it bluntly – unrealistic), she uses her wit to talk this vampire down from hurting him.

“…women’s lack of social power, this lack being represented, by means of ‘castration’, as a male possession, though not in any sense a male attribute” (Barry 125-126). This quote from Barry reminds me significantly of his idea of “feminine vs. masculine”. Like I said above, Elena is by no means physically strong, but the fact that she was able to stop this strong vampire from hurting Damon shows a huge amount of respect that we should be having toward her. Women are painted as being weak and powerless, which is challenged in The Vampire Diaries, especially in scenes like this one where Elena shows her strength in unconventional ways.

Also, and I mention more about this below, but Elena truly identifies with the supernatural. That being said, she will do anything and everything to put her life at risk in order to save her friends and loved ones. In one scene, Damon is caught in a fire, and Elena is put in the position of saving his life. The fact that she is willing to almost die in order to help him challenges the idea of females being weak. Barry discusses how females have been known to be seen as incapable of physical work, but Elena challenges that. Throughout this series, she undergoes intense physical labor (running, fighting, etc.) in order to save her life and the lives of others.

“To posit all women as necessarily feminine and all men as necessarily masculine, is precisely the move which enables the patriarchal powers to define, not femininity, but all women as marginal to the symbolic order and to society,” (The Feminist Reader 127). I like this quote, because Elena is not a girly girl. She is a girl who fights bad guys and saves lives, shown in scenes like the one above with Damon getting caught in a large fire and Elena having to save him.

Elena almost repels the “male gaze”. The male gaze has been described as so: “…in film women are typically the objects, rather than the possessors, of gaze because the control of the camera (and thus the gaze) comes from factors such as the as the assumption of heterosexual men as the default target audience for most film genres,” (FAQ: What is the “Male Gaze”?) Elena, on the other hand, is not very sexualized. She is seen in jeans and t-shirts for 90% of this show, now that I think about it. And while the show is based around two vampire brothers fighting for her love, she doesn’t just let it happen. She fights back to them, and doesn’t let them take advantage of her at all. 

POSTCOLONIALISM 

Elena Gilbert can easily be compared to Barry’s idea of the Hybrid.” For the first few seasons of this show, Elena is human; however, even though she is a human, she almost identifies as a vampire. Since she spends so much of her time with Stefan and Damon, who are two vampires, she begins to identify with them. “…hybridity and ‘cultural polyvalency’, that is, the situation whereby individuals and groups belong simultaneously to more than one culture,” (Barry). When someone brings up something negative about vampires, Elena immediately becomes immensely defensive, because she has found herself belonging to the vampire world. For example, when Alaric Saltzman is introduced into the story as a teacher at Elena’s school, he has a huge ring on one of his fingers. Elena soon finds out that this ring is one of the Gilbert Rings, which was created by one of her ancestors to ward off supernatural creatures and prevent humans from getting killed by them. From there, she was able to deduce that he was not only afraid of getting hurt by a vampire. More importantly, however, he was a vampire hunter, meaning that Damon and Stefan needed to stay away from him. That being said, Elena felt the need to protect herself along with Damon and Stefan, because she felt threatened by him and his urge to kill vampires.

Additionally, Elena is, by default, considered “the Other.” She has been pulled into this world of supernatural creatures and can never escape. Since her normal world is full of humans, she no longer is able to relate to the humans. She relates more with the supernatural, which shows her as the outsider in society; she falls into tension-filled relationships, because she begins to care more about the vampires, witches, and werewolves in her life rather than the humans. Barry states, “…The people there being anonymous masses rather than individuals, their actions determined by instinctive emotions (lust, terror, fury, etc.), rather than by conscious choices or decisions,” (Barry 186). Most importantly, Elena is then, by default, classified with these supernatural creatures, simply because she loves and cares for them. Supernatural creatures do not have a good reputation in this society; they are known for brutally killing humans, and that is ultimately how Elena is being seen by people once they find out she is associated with these “killers”. However, if you watch the show and follow the story, you will find out that these supernatural creatures are anything but killers – they feel just as much as humans. At the end, though, this idea of “homogenous” individuals that Barry introduces shows Elena as one of these killers, because society sees them as all the same (the supernatural creatures themselves along with anyone who associates with them). “…a European cultural tradition of ‘Orientalism’… identifying the East as ‘Other’ and inferior to the West,” (Barry 186). Just like the East vs. the West, the supernatural are inferior to humans. The “us” are the humans, and the “them” are the supernatural. Again, this type of attitude toward Elena can be seen throughout her ongoing relationship with characters like Alaric Saltzman who are constantly fighting against vampires and not giving them a chance.

 

C U L T U R A L  S I G N I F I C A N C E ;

Elena Gilbert is an essential hero in our society. I find myself being attracted more and more to the stories of female heroines, and I know that a lot of people around me feel the same way. In a society where women are marginalized and don’t have a lot of the same rights as men, a lot of females (like myself) look to stories like The Vampire Diaries in order to feel like we have some sort of worth. The fact that this teenage girl is going around and killing vampires and saving her friends from danger is–as corny as it sounds–a really reassuring thing to witness. The fact that a show starring a female has become this popular is great. Characters like Elena are one small step toward female equality, and it’s really easy to appreciate a story like this.

Also, Elena is an outsider. Being in high school is hard; I know I went through a lot where I felt like the outsider and felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Elena goes through that same sort of thing; she finds herself in this world of vampires and can’t relate closely to humans after her interactions with the vampires; however, she gets through it. And honestly, if a weird vampire girl can get through high school, so can I… I think that’s a very important message that this show sends out. The fact that a lot of high school aged individuals are watching this show allows them to see that people go through hard times, but you’re always able to get out of it in some way.

A lot of viewers relate to Elena because she is classified as that “outsider.” It allows people to see her as this imperfect character, which is more realistic than if she were just this beautiful, flawless vampire girl who didn’t go through hard times at all.

 

 

Ezra Bridger (Star Wars Rebels)

Who is Ezra Bridger?

Ezra Bridger was a force sensitive human from Capital City, Lothal (Outer Rim Territories) who later became a revolutionary leader in the early rebellion against the Galactic Empire (starwars.wiki). Ezra was left an orphan after his parents, Ephraim and Mira Bridger, were imprisoned and later killed for their crimes against the Empire. As an orphan for eight years, Ezra was forced to live off the streets, where he would constantly steal goods to later sale in the black market.

Although the first time we find Ezra, we wouldn’t consider him a “hero” per say, all of that changed the day a Star Destroyer flew over Capital City. Curious to find out what was going on, he took a speeder towards the city where he spotted three rebels attacking a group of Imperials. The rebels were trying to steal supplies that were on Imperial speeders.

During the chaos of battle, Ezra managed to jump from the rooftop, and stole one of the speeders that had crates on it. As he was making his escape, a TIE Fighter began chasing Ezra. Before it had the chance to kill him, a VZX-100, nicknamed The Ghost, appeared and shot the TIE Fighter down. The rebels on The Ghost let Ezra aboard, and they fled out of Lothal to escape the Imperial soldiers. It was here that Ezra first met his team, and his journey to becoming a leader of the early rebellion against the empire officially began.

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Universalism (Postcolonial criticism):

Universalism is the concept that all human experiences are the same, in some way, and are connected to one another. We constantly see this in the Star Wars universe, especially when speaking in the context of the Force. In the Star Wars universe, there is an aspect of the Force known as Force vision. Force vision gives the user the ability to see into the past and into the future.

As Ezra’s knowledge in the Force increased, he began to gain the ability to have Force visions. Whenever Ezra had a Force vision, this experience was shared with Kanon, as well as other Force users in the area. A specific example is episode 10, season one Path of the Jedi.”

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In this episode, Ezra and his master, Kanan, travel to a Jedi temple on the planet Lothal. Kanan brought Ezra there to test his readiness to be trained as a Jedi. As they make their way through the temple, Ezra, alone, is forced to confront his fear of abandonment, which is manifested through visions of Grand Inquisitors killing his friends, the crew of The Ghost. Through the journey, both Ezra and Kanan shared similar experiences separately.

Interpellation (Marxist Criticism):

Interpellation is defined as a system where its participants feel that they have freedom of choice, but in actuality, everything is controlled and decided for them by some higher power. In episode 20, season three “Twin Suns,” we witness interpellation in action. Ezra Bridger believes that he is feeling the presence of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but in actuality, it is Maul, a Dathomirian Zabrak male who was the apprentice of Darth Sidious, who is manipulating Ezra’s Force vision. Here, because Ezra believes that the vision he is seeing is true, we see an example of when an individual believes they are in control, but in actuality, a higher power, in this case, Maul, is actually in control.

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Ezra Bridger as a Hero:

Throughout the series, we see Ezra grow from the lost child he once was, to the military leader he was always meant to be. Despite being a criminal in his early life, we have seen Ezra grow into a confident, and mature, teen who now leads a part of the rebellion against the Empire. Ezra began his journey by walking it as a criminal. Towards the end, Ezra turns into this person who is not only cared about, but one who cares back, and does everything to ensure the safety of his crew, and the people around him.

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Fiona Gallagher

What is a new heroine?

A new heroine is a modern take on the hero/heroine. Someone who is an ordinary person that does something extraordinary or is brought into a world that is anything but ordinary. However, “new heroine” does not always have to be someone who does something profoundly extraordinary. The concept of the new heroine allows room for those people that embrace heroism in a humble and non-extravagant way. Those whose heroism comes from doing the things they do best, sticking to their true selves, and quietly changing the lives of those around them.

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Why is Fiona Gallagher a heroine?

Fiona Gallagher, played by Emmy Rossum, is one of the main characters on the Showtime hit series Shameless. Fiona grew up in the ghetto of Chicago with a drug addict, bipolar mother, deadbeat, alcoholic father, and five younger siblings. She is forced to care for her five siblings at a young age after her mother leaves, and her father, Frank, is hardly there. Throughout the show, Fiona puts her siblings before herself in order to ensure that they grow up in the most normal way that they can. In the area where the Gallaghers grow up, they do not have much. They live in a bad neighborhood, and constantly have to find new ways to come up with money for their bills. Even though Fiona is the head of the house, and the one who manages all of the kids, they would not be able to make it if they didn’t all pitch in.

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According to Barry, structuralism boiled down into one sentence is the idea that “things cannot be understood in isolation – they have to be seen in the context of the larger structures they are part of” (810). This directly relates to Fiona as a heroine. Even though she is the head of the house, she wouldn’t be able to make it without the help of her siblings, and her neighbors Kevin and Veronica. The Gallagher house, and the neighborhood that live in, is very much interdependent. Each sibling plays an important role in the family, however Fiona is the glue that keeps them together. While trying to live her own life, and dealing with their neglectful, alcoholic father, Fiona essentially raises her younger siblings. She keeps the family afloat, and always puts their needs ahead of her own. In season three, episode two, Frank gets mad and calls the department of family services on the kids. In episode six of season three, Fiona’s siblings are taken from the house. As soon as they are taken, Fiona steps up and does everything in her power to try to get them back. After talking to the social worker, she finds out that the only way that she can get the kids back quickly is if she legally becomes their guardian. Because the youngest child is two, this would mean that Fiona would have to dedicate the next sixteen years of her life to raising her siblings. Because keeping the family together is the most important thing to her, she accepts the responsibility and becomes their legal guardian. Fiona would not be the strong, hard working, mature woman that she is if she wasn’t forced into the position of taking care of her siblings, and keeping the house together at such a young age. It is because of the environment that she is in that Fiona is a hero to her family and those around her. Their family dynamic is extremely important throughout the show. There is a constant theme throughout the series that being a Gallagher means something greater than just who your family is, it means that you do things a certain way. They don’t give up on anything, they always accept a challenge, and they know how to have a good time. In the last episode of season three, the oldest brother, Lip, becomes the first to graduate high school. All of the siblings are in a funk because their father has a failing liver, but Fiona still wants to celebrate Lip graduating high school, because it is such a significant accomplishment in their family. She says to her younger sister, who is not in the mood to party, “sometimes life throws a couple swings at ya, but we’re Gallaghers, okay? And there’s two things that we’re really good at: knowing how to get back up, and knowing how to party” (S3E12). She wants to set a good example for her younger siblings, and make sure that they have the chances that she didn’t. Keeping them motivated and sticking to the ‘Gallagher way’ of not giving up on anything, keeps the younger siblings on the right path.  In season seven, Fiona tells her brother when he second guesses going to military school, “Gallaghers are a lot of things, but no one says we back down from a challenge” (S7E6). Even though all of the children are extremely independent, they all rely on each other, and most importantly, rely on Fiona. Without her siblings, Fiona would not be a hero, and without Fiona, her siblings would be lost.

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Barry claims that, “The representation of women in literature, then, was felt to be one of the most important forms of ‘socialisation’, since it provided the role models which indicated to women, and men, what constituted acceptable versions of the ‘feminine’ and legitimate feminine goals and aspirations” (2181). Women are frequently portrayed as sex symbols in television, and although it is getting a lot better, there isn’t an abundance of strong women as protagonists on TV shows. In Shameless, Fiona is a gritty go-getter who doesn’t care if her hair’s a mess and there are holes in her clothes. In the first episode, she meets a man named Steve, who has to convince her to go out with him because she is so focused on her younger siblings. He calls her on the phone and says “your life’s not simple, Fiona, and you can’t stop it from showing because you’re no fake. You’re not lost. You don’t need finding” (S1E1). She is not someone who needs a man in her life, because she knows who she is and how to get it on her own. In the first five seasons of the show, Fiona is strictly focused on doing what is best for her siblings and their house. She sacrifices a lot of personal opportunities, such as going to live with her boyfriend, in order to keep the family together. It would be easy enough for Fiona, who is over eighteen, to go off on her own and leave her siblings to be put in foster homes. However, she makes the decision to step up and maintain the house to keep them together, because in the area where they grow up, family is the most important thing. Throughout the entire show, Fiona does things for everyone in the family, except herself. In the seventh season, Fiona decides to start business ventures on her own. After dabbling in club management in earlier seasons, she is promoted to manager of the diner she works at in season six. Fiona finds herself struggling to balance taking care of her siblings and running a business. Since they are all older at this point and can take care of themselves, she decides to place more responsibility on her siblings. In season seven episode four, she gets backlash from the oldest brother for doing things for herself. She defends herself in her decision by telling him, “In the past 10 years, I’ve taken care of every single Gallagher in this family except one. I’m done” (S7E4). Despite doing things on her own, she still lives in the Gallagher house, and continues to raise her siblings in the best way that she can.

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Throughout the show, Fiona’s character develops from the mother figure who always has a boyfriend, to an independent business woman. Fiona never makes a grand gesture in her small world, she never does anything majorly significant, and she certainly doesn’t always get everything right. However, she is the constant rock to her siblings, and always tries to do what is best for her family. She learns and grows from her mistakes and steps up when her parents are absent. Fiona is a hero to her siblings and those who know her, and she is an example of a strong woman that any young girl can look up to. She proves that you don’t need to have nice clothes and major sex appeal to be successful and loved by those around you, and that is something that is refreshing for young people to be exposed to.shameless 2

Fiona is not a heroine in the traditional sense that she saves the world, or does something hugely significant for humankind. Rather, she is a hero in the way that she lives her life. By stepping up to take care of her siblings, and becoming a businesswoman on her own, she exemplifies someone who is strong, independent, and resilient. The thing about life is that it is never perfect, and it never will be. There are many heroic figures who seem to be invincible, and always manage to get everything right. That is not the type of heroine Fiona is. Her life is oftentimes a mess, she is raising a family of six in a bad neighborhood with a deadbeat dad, and she definitely makes her fair share of mistakes. However it is through all of these struggles, that we see the raw, honest reality of their life, and see Fiona remain the rock of their family. She makes their house in a rough neighborhood into a home where her siblings are able to grow up in a loving environment. She is a perfect example of someone who is real, and who is a hero in the way that she lives her daily life, rather than by doing grand things for the world. She may not have it all together, but she is someone that we can look up to as an inspiration for when times are difficult. Fiona shows us that it is possible to make the best out of a bad situation.

Mae Borowski – Night in the Woods

Who is Mae Borowski

Having trouble at college, 20 year old Mae Borowski drops out and comes back to her home town Possum Springs after being gone for about 2 years. Upon returning to the place where she grew up, she starts to notice how the not only the town has vastly changed, but so has her friends Gregg, Angus, and Bea. Mae is very lost and is scared to move forward with her life and has no clue where to start while it seems all of her friends have their lives in order with a plan. Mae goes back into town tries hanging with her friends like playing with them in their band again to try and get a grip on her life; despite not doing anything to really progress forward like getting job or even telling her parents why she dropped out of college.

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Mae is known throughout the town by family, friends, neighbors, and people she doesn’t even know as a certified troublemaker with a long history of breaking the rules. With a snarky attitude and quick to anger, Mae’s personality certainly isn’t for everyone and has caused her to be quite the fire starter in arguments with others. When she hangs out with her long time and close friend Gregg, they go off to perform “crimes” together which could be anything from smashing old cars to knife fights in the woods. When she hangs out with her childhood friend Bea she sees how much she’s matured and how quickly Bea had to grow up.

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When Mae settles into her home town among her friends, she also notices that not only are things different but something is off. She starts having weird nightmares and later claims she saw a ghost kidnap someone. If that wasn’t strange enough, she and her friends even discover a severed arm in the middle of town. She has no idea where to start be asks her friends to help her find what’s going on. Although her friends are more concerned with Mae’s mental health, they go on these adventures all over town out of love for Mae in hopes to calm her mind.

Psychoanalysis

Mae suffers from several different mental disorders, the biggest being dissociation. Dissociation, Mae describes as “things just turn into shapes.” This was the reason why she put a kid in the hospital when she was in high school because she started hitting the “shapes” and they had no real meaning to her beyond that. This can be from anything to an object to a plant to another living person. The person hat suffers with this disorder stops seeing them for what they really are and will start to think of them as something else. It’s almost like an emotional detachment from something, however when you throw in Mae’s history of poor anger management, things can go from bad to worse. Even still on top of all of that Mae also suffers from a history of depression.

When Mae starts claiming she saw a ghost kidnap someone, no one really believes her. Even her friends are reluctant to buy into what she saying because they think that this “ghost” was something she probably imagined out of stress and lack of sleep from her nightmares.

Psychoanalysis is way of understanding others on a mental level. There’s no simple set in stone way of telling someone follows a certain disorder like dissociation, anger issues, or depression, but each of those have more layers to them. Some of those layers can apply to the person and some of them can’t. For Mae, her depression is more mild than some other forms of depression. However, her dissociation, is unfortunately rather strong struggle for Mae when it could be very subtle for others.

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Feminist Criticism

Although Mae is a female, her laid back attitude and loud mouthed language can be considered unladylike. Whenever someone criticizes her behavior, she’s pretty quick with defending her actions. For example, her mother asks her to not step on the power lines around town since the cops don’t approve of it and will throw her in jail. Mae’s response is that the cops won’t be able to catch her because she’s on the power lines. Mae will also perform her crimes with Gregg which all are actions that would be considered more masculine to do. For example, some of the “crimes” they have committed are smashing light bulbs and cars and stealing money and other objects. Mae sexually identifies herself as bisexual and will hit on other women. All the while being this spunky person, Mae still regards herself as a woman despite having many different masculine qualities like her personality and her actions.

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Mae the Heroine

So how is Mae a heroine and why is she important to note? Mae fully regards herself as a female and is able to still “kick ass and take names” in sense. She doesn’t take anything from anyone, no matter who they are. Despite not knowing how to move on with her life she still carries on and takes everything one day at a time. When she has what she considers a pressing matter she gather all of the necessary information and attack the situation head on. On the flip side, when she doesn’t know what to do, she more or less tries to avoid talking about it and then that issue can grow stronger.

With this, she’s very relatable because not everyone can give 100% all the time on every matter. Sometimes we don’t know what to do about something and all we can do is put on a brave face and keep pressing on whether we’re doing a good job of it or not. Mae knows what she’s able to handle and she tries her best to do that. Mae doesn’t go out to save the world, but among her friends she can be considered a heroine by doing things like taking a role in a small show to help save or even the small stuff like being there to talk with them about life and to give advice. Mae doesn’t what she can for herself and her loved ones and being a notable heroine can be something simple as that.

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Ramona Flowers

Scott Pilgrim is a series of graphic stories by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Later adopted into a Movie, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World). The series is about Canadian Scott Pilgrim, a slacker and part-time musician who lives in Toronto and plays bass guitar in a band. He falls in love with American delivery girl Ramona Flowers, but must defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her.

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Character background

Ramona Flowers is a 24 year old Amazon.ca delivery girl recently living in Toronto, Canada. She reveals very little and is very guarded about her past in New York before she moved to Toronto. However, she quickly becomes the love interest of the titular character, Scott Pilgrim. She is capable of traveling through Subspace (Its like a weird highway through people’s minds, “it’s a long story”) and has seven evil exes who challenge Scott for her affection. Nearing the confrontation with the final, most imposing of the the seven evil X’s, Gideon Graves, Ramona begins to break away from Scott in a very sudden fashion, leaving him fro Gideon. Four months after, Scott goes to confront both Ramona and Gideon, hoping to find out the reasoning for Ramona’s sudden disappearance.  Although seeming to merely be playing the damsel in distress/ the reward for the main hero’s journey, Ramona’s struggles and internal conflicts throughout the series are an entire journey on their own.

Feminist Criticism

As of late, young heroine’s journeys have had a trend of being much more internally focused as compared to that of male heroes. In terms of Ramona, her journey is the struggle of overcoming her fear of commitment and borderline addiction to change, coming to terms with her past by finding a sense of inner happiness and control of her life. Ramona has always been an enigmatic and charismatic presence throughout the series, but nothing is revealed about the things she believes in other than the fact she is very willing to simply go with change, often changing her style (and in some instances, location as prevalent in the beginning of the novel). As best described by Ramona herself, Ramona always felt the need for change, fearing a stagnant life. She states this in a scene near the end of the novel, having a very meaningful and deep discussion with Scott now that the situation with the 7 evil X’s is settled and done (See below):

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Before breaking free of Gideon’s mind control (more on that in the next section), Ramona had a bad habit of hanging her happiness on those around her. She would focus on one person in her life at a time, Scott at this point,  and hand them the responsibility for her happiness. It meant a lot of stress for both parties, often pushing Ramona to feel she needs the major change in her life once more. This reliance on another is most prevalent in the fact that Scott alone must be the one to take the burden of fighting against her evil ex’s, only to step in once to fight when Scott refused to punch Ramona’s ex girlfriend (It was a phase). When Ramona looks back at her time with each X and the changes she’s made between them, it’s as if she sees them as emotional clutter, preferring to just move on in life and forget about it, only to change and forget again.

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“Things do not change; we change.” – Henry David Thoreau

Only from freeing herself of Gideon (getting to that very soon I promise) does Ramona finish her internal journey of self and begin to embrace her past rather than abandoning it. She begins to look at each prior “self” she has left behind and decided to keep them as part of her life and grow from it. Sometimes we need to put the change aside and have a little patience with our current situations, seeing through to fruition the plans we put into place a while back.

Post-humanism: Transhumanism/Augmentation

Later on in the series. We find out that Gideon (yes we’re finally getting to that) has implanted a chip in the back of Ramona’s head that controls her behavior near the end of their previous relationship. It’s implied in the scene where Ramona walks out on Scott that this is the moment when Gideon activates the chip and begins controlling her, rather than her simplifying ‘changing’ again and abandoning her past.

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Described as a powerful weapon of “emotional warfare”, the chip manipulates the mind’s psyche of those it infects, causing them to become overwhelmed by their personal issues. ‘The Glow’, as it’s also called due to the fact it make the personas head glow when in effect, suppresses positive emotions such as friendship and love, and simultaneously enhances negative feelings like suspicion, jealousy, and self-loathing. At a time where it seemed Ramona was beginning to have a major shift on her views of commitment and stick it out with Scott, Gideon steps in and adds another layer of conflict within her psyche.

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What makes Ramona’s situation of augmentation unique is the fact that her growth as a character is focused upon the removal of it rather than the addition of it. Its her breaking free of The Glows control that she manages to finalize her growth as a character previously mentioned, and can truly begin to embrace her past for better use in the future. It’s the perfect culmination of the mental and emotional struggles of Ramonas internal journey, showing off just how far she’s come as a strong, independent woman who feels like she has control of her life.

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In Conclusion:

Despite the fact that Ramona is not the titular character, and does not directly affect the plot through her actions until the final parts of the series, readers who look closely can see how incredible of an example Ramona is of an internal struggle. Her epiphany of self-confidence and control over both her life and emotions truly culminate into a beautiful moment, one that says that there’s no need to run from your past and regret your decisions in life. The life you’ve led thus far is ultimately yours, so own it. As far as a heroine’s journey goes, Ramona’s, regardless of how subtle, will be one that I will personally remember for a long time to come.

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The OA

About The OA

The OA is a show filled with twists and turns that ends with you questioning what is real. It has a very mysterious and otherworldly tone that makes it very unique. It centers on The OA, a young woman who has gone by three different names throughout her life. Her names are often used to differentiate different times in her life. The show uses an embedded narrative to tell The OA’s story. The viewer learns about The OA’s story along with the group of kids she is telling it to, but to make it easier I am just going to summarize The OA’s story chronologically. 

Her story begins in Russia where she was born with the name Nina Azarov. She lived with her father, a wealthy businessman who provided Nina with whatever she needed. Nina was plagued with vivid nightmares during her childhood. One of her recurring nightmares was of her being trapped in an aquarium, unable to get out. Her father tried to help her get over this nightmare with some fairly questionable methods. He brought her out to an ice covered lake where he makes a hole in the ice and asks Nina to get in. She enters the freezing cold water and faces her fear.

As it turns out Nina’s nightmares weren’t just regular nightmares. They were warning her of events that were going to come. One day Nina and other upper-class children were going to school when the driver of the bus purposefully drove the bus off a bridge into a body of water. Nina was the only child on the bus who didn’t start to panic. She took in the situation and found a way out of the bus. Unfortunately the was was already too deep underwater and she died. We were a message, see? From the Voi to our parents. And the message said, ‘You are powerful businessmen to be sure, but you are not all-powerful’. The youngest sons and daughters of every Russian scion was on that bus that day. They all died. Every single one of the. Including me” (The OA).

This is the OA’s call to adventure, this is where her story really begins. She travels to a different plane of existence where she meets Khatun, who asks Nina if she wants to go back. Nina is told that if she goes back she will not only experience great love but that she will also suffer. Khatun advises Nina to stay and not go back, but Nina chooses to go back. Khatun allows her to go back, but she needs to take her eyes because she can not bear for Nina to see what is going to happen to her.

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“Then I will take your eyes. Because I cannot bear for you to see what lies ahead. It’s too horrible” (The OA).

Nina then awakens next to the river with her father unable to see anything. After this incident, Nina’s father sends her away to a boarding school for the blind in America to get her away from the Voi, basically the Russian mafia. It is here Nina’s father hopes that Nina can live in peace, but when he father is murdered she is sent to live with her Aunt Zoya. While living with her Aunt Nina is treated badly and was often just an afterthought.

After some time, an elderly couple comes to Nina’s Aunt, who runs a black market orphanage, to adopt a baby. While finalizing the details of the adoption, Nancy Johnson goes to the bathroom and finds Nina. Nina is sold to the Johnson’s and is renamed to Prairie Johnson. Prairie continues to have her dreams or premonitions where she saw her father at the statue of liberty holding 21 candles. The Johnsons brought her to a psychologist who recommended that they medicated her. The medication made Prairie feel numb but they didn’t stop her premonitions. When Prairie turned 21 she ran away from her adoptive parents to New York in hopes of finding her father. She waited for her father at the statue of liberty hoping that her father would find her, but he never showed. Prairie didn’t want to go home and have to face her adoptive parents having failed in her mission, so she stayed in New York hoping to find her father.  

“I should have gone home but I was heartbroken and ashamed. Too proud. I didn’t want to give up, so I devised one last plan. If I couldn’t see my father, maybe he could hear me. I would play my violin in the underground until he stepped off a train, heard my song, and came running” (The OA).  

Prairie continued playing her violin in the subway until she met 93951a50-a603-0134-1959-060e3e89e053Hap. Who can instantly tell that Prairie has had a near death experience or a NDE. Hap is warm and welcoming to Prairie. He takes her out and buys her dinner and eventually asks her if she would be willing to take part in his studies involving people who have had NDEs. Prairie has no reason to not trust this man so she goes with him. She fully places her trust in this man, because this is the first time that she has felt a sense of purpose in a long time. She gets on a small airplane with him that he flies to his house. He brings Prairie to the basement where he says he has a bed for her to stay in.

Once in the basement Prairie is lead to her “room”. She doesn’t realize anything is wrong until she hears the door shut and lock into place. She is trapped in a circular cage that is separated into five sections with a small spring running through each section of the cage.

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“The biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net I’d catch only beautiful things” (The OA).

It is at this point Prairie starts to freak out. She is blind and has no idea where she is. After Hap leaves she is introduced to three other prisoners in the enclosure: Homer, Rachel, and Scott. We also learn that there was another prisoner named August, but she had recently died. Once a day Prairie and the others are fed food pellets that look like something you would give a hamster. A gas is also pumped into one section of the enclosure once a day. The gas knocks out whoever is in that section and then Hap comes to collect them. When they return they have no memories of what was done to them.

Prairie is able to manipulate Hap into trusting her. She uses the fact that she is blind to argue that she needs to go outside to feel the sun on her skin. The captives use this to their advantage and they try to escape multiple times. Hap never notices them trying to escape so Prairie is finally able to push Hap down the stairs to the basement and run outside. She blindly runs through a forest not knowing what’s ahead of her. She stops when she reaches the edge of a vast deserted mine and Hap knocks her out with the back of a gun and for a second time in her life, she died.

“The sudden rush of loss made me realize that for the second time in my life I was dead” (The OA).

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She meets with Khatun again who again gives her the choice of staying or leaving. Although this time if she stays she can be with her father. But again Prairie again chose to go back because she can’t leave the others with Hap. Khatun knows that if Prairie goes back as she is then she will never escape, so she gives her a way to get out. She gives her the 1st of 5 movements. She has no idea what these movements are at this point or what they will be used for, but she knows that they are important. When Prairie returns to the real world she realizes that she has her sight back. It is at this point that Prairie starts to call herself the OA, you later learn that it stands for “The Original Angel”.

The OA then works with the others to figure out the rest of the 5 movements. When they figure out the first 2 movements, The OA is able to use them with Homer to bring Scott back from the dead.

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Eventually, they are able to learn all 5 of the movements, but they are unable to use all them together because Hap releases The OA, hoping to use the movements for himself. In an attempt to get back to the others The OA jumps off a bridge, but she was unsuccessful in killing herself and she wakes up in a hospital. From here she is reunited with her adoptive parents and is brought back to their house. They try to figure out what happened in the 7 years that she was gone, but she won’t tell them. They are also confused as to how she got her sight back. Instead of telling her parents, The OA tells her story to 4 local boys and a teacher from the local school. She teaches them the 5 movements and tells them that she needs them to help her get back to the others.

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The show ends with the group using all 5 of the movements to potentially send The OA back to Homer and the others. At this point it is unclear if this attempt was successful or not, it seems like it was, but we won’t know until season 2 is released.

Posthumanism

There are a lot of different concepts that go along with the idea of posthumanism, but at its core, it is the idea that we can become more than human. Whether this is through the means of technology or something else. In the case of The OA, they are becoming more in tune with a spiritual side of the world. The OA uses the 5 movements that are given to her and the other 4 prisoners to become more than human. The 5 movements allow The OA to bring people back from the dead. Something that she did with Homer twice. In the last scene of the show, The OA potentially uses the movements to get back to Homer and the others. In the show, the movements are treated like a new piece of technology that was recently discovered. Their origins are more spiritual and mystical, but that is what is furthering humans in The OA. Humans are becoming more that human because they are learning more about what happens after death. The OA is able to travel to what appears to be other planes of reality and learns about the existence of angels.

Along with the 5 movements being used to become more than human, they also need 5 people to complete them. This promotes another idea in posthumanism about being connected with others. The relationships that The OA forms with the other captives are essential to her story. It is why it is so detrimental to her that she gets back to the others because without her they can’t escape.

The OA calls herself “The Original Angel” meaning that she has somehow become more than human. Prairie gets the name when she asks Khatun: “Am I like you?” and Khatun responds with “No, you are the original”. It seems as if in the show you become more than human if you die and come back to life. All of the people that Hap studied had come back with a special talent that they didn’t have before. The OA came back with the ability to play the violin, Rachel and Reata both got the ability to sing well, and so on. While these abilities don’t make you more than human, the way that they got them do.

Feminist Criticism

The main point of analyzing something with feminist criticism is to look at how males and females are portrayed and how they interact with one another. One of the main relationships in the show is between The OA and Hap. This isn’t a romantic relationship (at least not for The OA), but ohapne where both The OA and Hap are constantly fighting for control. While it may seem like Hap has all the control over The OA since he is the one who has kidnapped her, The OA actually has quite a lot of control over Hap. During the first few months of The OA being held captive, she gains Haps trust. Enough that he lets her upstairs to go outside and eat something other than the disgusting food pellets. In exchange for being allowed upstairs, The OA does all of the chores around the house and cooks for Hap. This puts The OA in the position of a very stereotypical housewife. But The OA uses her time upstairs and Hap’s trust in her to make multiple attempts at escape. One of these attempts involved The OA trying to put Hap to sleep by putting a bunch of sleeping pills in a soup she made. While none of them ever worked it did lead to The OA getting her sight back. Once The OA gets her sight back she is able to deceive Hap into believing that she is still blind for quite a while.

Hap only gets real power when he releases The OA. Once they figured out all 5 of the movements Hap drove The OA out into the middle of nowhere and released her, he then drove away, presumably to go use the 5 movements with the other prisoners. At this point in their relationship, Hap had all the power. The OA had no way of getting back to the others and saving them because she had no idea where they were. The only way he could possibly get to them was to use the 5 movements, which is what she did at the end of the season (again we won’t know if it worked until season 2).

Conclusion

The OA is a character that changes what it means to be a heroine. She was often able to take control of whatever situation she was put in, even if she was put in a position that most people would crumble in. She used her what some would say is a disability to her advantage and never let her being blind get in the way of anything.

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One big thing that I took away from The OA was her affect on other people. It seemed whoever The OA came into contact with was changed for the better after they met her. For example, one of the people that she tells her story to is a local teacher, Betty Broderick-Allen (also known as BBA). At the beginning of the story, BBA was a teacher who lost her passion for teaching, she wasn’t willing to put in the effort to help her students succeed.

But after hearing The OA’s story, BBA was willing to risk her life for her students. Overall I think The OA has changed how heroines are viewed, showing that no matter what situation you are put in there is always hope.

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