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Bob’s Burger” is a sleeper hit animated adult show that started in the shadow of gigantic hits such as “South Park”, “The Simpsons” and Seth MacFarlene’s multiple shows; however as time went on, the show gained attention due to the confluence of its notably likeable characters, well-written humour, and for focusing on a functioning though financially precarious family. Nowadays “Bob’s Burger” is regarded as one the best currently-running animated shows on the Television landscape and it’s not hard to see why. Woven throughout the myriad of individual tales of the week “Bob’s Burgers” tells a simple yet enduring story of a family who, despite communally running a struggling restaurant love and support each other. The show also has a very accurate, non- stereotypical neurodiverse teenage girl in the character of Tina, providing great representation. Along with visualizing characters often not seen in the tv- scape the interplay of the cast often showcases actions which subvert and often avert common gendered stereotypes and tackles the struggle with ordinary but always stressful, economic issues in subtle and complex ways. “Bob’s Burger” has been discussed on this blog before, back when the show had only one season out, and per this writing they are engaged with season eight of their still strong run.

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Tina and the real ghost”, is the second episode from Season five and that seasons Halloween special. The episode starts in an appropriately spooky manner with a repair man refusing to go into the restaurant’s basement, with the adamant rebuttal that there lingers an unnatural spirit in the dark abodes of the basement. Bob is annoyed by the unprofessional behaviour, but his wife Linda and the kids get excited at the idea of a haunted storage room laying beneath the restaurant and their home. The family decides on the rational action of spending the fateful hours of the night using a Ouija board in an attempt to contact the alleged wandering spirit. While using the board, the family is informed that the ghost’s name is Jeff, and after some clever manipulation and outlandish commotion they decide that they have to lure the ghost into a shoebox where it remains captured. The children are thrilled with the idea of having a ghost in a box, seeing it as an odd form of friend or pet.

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While Gene and Louise use the box to get attention from the other kids at school and Bob uses the image of a “haunted restaurant” for free publicity, Tina develops the beginnings of a relationship with Jeff the (supposed) Ghost. Taking the box on a date to a butterfly conservatory (Butterfly houses are enclosures for the breeding and display of butterfly populations) and after a butterfly lands on her mouth, Tina sees this as a sign of communication with Jeff of the most intimate display. Tina, now enamoured of the subtle moves of Jeff takes the box to school, where having a ghost boyfriend leads to Tina becoming quite popular.

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The undeniable attention Jeff and his shoebox gives to the once wallflower Tina creates a seething jealousy in the main bully Tammy. With Tammy agreeing to the obviousness of Jeff’s reality only to set the stage for a break up between Tina and Jeff, and acquiring the shoebox, and Jeff’s affection, for herself. Once again Tammy ascends to the top of the Popularity summit and Tina finds herself forlorn at school and in love. Whilst Tina mourns her loss, Louise, in her guilt at Tina’s breakdown, admits to the parents, Bob and Linda, that she played a prank on the family during the Ouija board event and move the planchette (the moveable pointer on the spirit board) to emulate a spectre and give this young ghostly presence the name Jeff. Louise tormented by her sisters pain desires to admit her deceit to Tina, but the Bob and Linda argue against this course of action to spare Tina from further sorrow. This plot twist, where the parents suggest further deception, sets up the episodes climax.

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Left to right: Jimmy, Zeke, Tammy and Jocelyn

Now All Hallows eve has come around and the Belchers (the family name) children go trick-or-treating. Tina, putting on a brave face, joins her peers, including Tammy with the shoebox, and her siblings for the night. Deciding to promote the evening of Halloween eve by entering a graveyard, Things take a further creepy and unsettling turn when the group decides to enter a mausoleum.

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As per the usual, the door to the crypt slams shut and after all attempts fail to reopen the mausoleums’ door, the already fearful group discover a message written on the wall: “You are all trapped in here forever, signed Jeff”. Naturally panic ensues and Tammy repents of her actions in absconding with both box and Jeff. Hearkened by this situation, we as the audience are relieved as we feel the protagonist Tina will not be further bullied, but the shock comes when Tina, herself, notes that Jeff isn’t real. Tina confesses her doubts about the reality of the spectral plane and her only half playful acceptance of Jeff as existing. Noting her suspension of doubt bout ghosts was finally cut short when her suspicion of the fantasy of the ghostly world was confirmed when she overheard Louise’s confession to her parents.

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Tina starts to wonder about her own suspension of disbelief. Why did she embrace the nothingness of the myth of the ghost? She concludes to her group of friends and siblings that Jeff or his world of the spectral realm isn’t real, but the things that are desired from him still are. Jeff embodies cravings, wants and desires unfulfilled and nebulous. Tina wanted a boy to pay attention to her. Zeke, one of the kids in the gang, admits that he believed in Jeff because he desperately wanted to believe in an afterlife. Gene wanted someone to watch TV with. After the group has their epiphany, Tina states: But we don’t need Jeff to get these things from ourselves”. The conversation is continued with: “It’s ok (that there is no afterlife) it just means we have to take advantage of the here and now”. Tina calls on herself, without a Jeff, to embrace herself. Tina shows Gene that one can watch Tv by himself (it is no reflection of being unwanted) and (as rule of funny) the group tells Tammy to stop being mean and horrible. The Group makes peace and Tina gets complimented on her prankster skills as it is revealed that she had planned and executed the entire evening.

This scene introduces in a simple, yet a very authentic depiction of arguments about the meaning of existence in a transcendental world and of sceptic response that no underlying (transcendental) world is needed to give meaning to human existence. Commonly this argument goes that without the meaning given by another (outside, higher world) there would be no meaning to this world. In this episode of ”Bob’s Burger” Tina gives a response to this rhetoric of transcendental meaning, while also understanding why some have the need for beliefs in the supernatural. The Graveyard scene is stage as a discussion of how people, for various reasons, attempt to seek comfort, hope and affirmation through their beliefs. As Tina understandably wants attention from the opposite sex, Gene desires acceptance and company, and Zeke finds the idea of life being short and eventually final terrifying. The episode operates as an honest, yet sympathetic portrayal of the many reasons for the superstitious or the belief in afterlife, but at the end of the narrative story, Tina herself, stands for the truth in the world we live in. Life and the world we live in give meanings as bounty, but often unseen in our doubts and insecurities. At last, tells Tina, life – being short and inevitably temporary – is therefore precious and should be treasured. To say yes to things, like doing things by yourself. Find meaning, especially in what makes you happy. And, as in Tina’s case, meaning is empowering oneself instead of looking for validation elsewhere.

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Bob’s Burger” is interesting not only in showing a working class family with subversive gender presentation, but also provides interesting and subtle secular depictions as well. Unlike most family centric television narratives in the west, where the main leads mention or go to church seemingly regularly, Bob’s Burger” obviously avoids the embedding of religion both in its depiction of the family and the community. Jimmy’s, a character close to the family and a love interest to Tina, causally cements this gentle abandonment with the line and philosophy ”there is nothing after death, but that’s OK”.

As more of the western world turns towards a secular, world centred meaning system, presentation is important, as well as giving vital understanding of where people of the current contemporary moment exist as life and philosophy. The scene with the kids in the mausoleum gives a pitch-perfect depiction of such. It is honest and a sweet, optimistic alternative way of viewing life: we can give to yourselves meaning and importance, despite there being no supernatural forces.

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Dear readers,

Below you will find two poems I’ve recently written. The first came about the #metoo campaigns that has shocked both the USA and Europe. The other regarding people and reading.

Best regards/ Maaretta

Here is a Thought

On a tram at 22 PM a man
comes up and in a shove-like manner
taps on my shoulder
slurs words, I shake my head not understanding
the same man says, waving side to side
front back
“Do you wanna fuck”
shaking my head, I get up from my seat and rush
as near to the conductor’s booth as possible
standing for the rest of the journey there

People now most likely are thinking:
“Well he’s drunk, not to take so
seriously”
Yes he is drunk
So?
should have sipped water, then

The Simplest Version

Pile up the books from sale
the mobile will immortalize it
uploaded to facebook
after a few seconds someone
informs, disguised as a question
´darling, who reads anymore´?

Me and my father worked together on a comic way back in 2012, that was published by a Norwegian Gallery. It appeared in the collection “Odds: the text collection” which featured small bits of art and essays, along with the seven page comic from your truly. Below is a link to the comic, now available for free on the net:

https://archive.org/details/ArtMomSeeksOutHerChampanions

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Taka Care!/ Maaretta

Another video from me is up! This time discussion a very popular comic. Enjoy! / Maaretta

Hello,

Todayś feature is my second youtube video, in which I recommend some Finnish books that feature diversity, and most are written by a person who shares the same background as the novels protagonist. Enjoy.

/ Maaretta

(Important Note: This post differs from others in that this will be a crosspost with the website “Girls Gone International”, an organization that has book clubs all over the world. Since I currently run the one in Stockholm, this post follows the formula of Book club spotlights on their site. Therefore the style of review is a little different.)

This August the Stockholm GGI book club had as their book of choice the novel ”The Woman Next Door” by Yewande Omotoso. The book has been long listed for The Bailey´s Womens Prize for Fiction, which as the theme for the August meetup, motivated the choice of the text. The Stockholm GGI meetup group decides the novels through a poll; “The Woman next door” won overwhelmingly so.

In attendance for the discussion were five female members of the club, not including myself, who is the organizer of this small band. Not all had finished the book, but it didn´t prevent the evening from becoming a lively and invigorating discussion regardless. A noted problem with the book, that was a focus for the discussion, was that while the writing style and language was easy to engage with, many found the two main leads distancing and unlikeable. This was noteworthy as the book is adamantly character driven making this a fundamental issue to the text and creating a difficulty in merging with the unfolding of the narrative and form. Yet, at the last, and on the whole, the attending members of the group all seemed vaguely positive about the novel despite this haunting flaw.

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The novel recounts a tale of two women living in Cape Town: Hortensia and Marion. Both women are in their eighties, recently widowed, and both are successful, but former, career women. Marion is white and has lived in South Africa since early childhood, Hortensia is black and has moved to South Africa only recently, after growing up in London and living in Nigeria as an adult. The two women hate each other passionately, and the novel builds on the antagonism between them while delving into their respective past lives. This recitation of their lives garners a number of topics and historical moments and touches on Apartheid, racial discrimination and dysfunctional marriages. While the novel is advertised as the two being forced to live together and therefore becoming more friendly with each other, it should be noted that the plot twist of the two of them having to live together is introduced quit late in the novel.

Those in attendance of the book club had a convergence of agreement that, what seemed the overriding theme of the novel, i.e. race relations, was the strongest part in the novel. The members of this group agreed that the novel discussed racism with understanding and nuance, and portrayal of the protagonists resonated with the reader. General accord in our group was that the subject was not only interesting but also an important one in the current epoch of the immigrant and the newly rising ethnic tensions of the world. That said, however, the growing mutual acceptance and redemption aspect in the novel, with Hortensia and Marion becoming less antagonistic with each other and finding a tolerant appreciation in their relationship, felt rushed, and faintly hallow to some in our debates on the story. The way the women warmed up to one another did feel natural, but that too little time was given to it to expand this budding appreciation into a full human understanding. Some pointed out that usually, in real life, the reason why people change is because they want to. And, in the narrative case of both Marion and Hortensia, the attendees were skeptical with the general feeling given in the text that these two embraced the notion of a change enough to reach an understanding and tolerance. In other words, there was the question of how believable the character development was.

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In the narrative itself, there existed the specific scenes we all particularly loved. The one that resonated and was most heavily praised in our unceremonious assembly was an unsettling scenario with Marion recalling being asked by her children why she buys a separate kind of toilet paper for her black housekeeper. This slice in the narrative exposes the deep seat of Marions prejudice and with the excavators of her bias’s being her own children becomes a scathing indictment of the false consciousness of prejudice. The attendees elaborated further on the aftermath of that scene, all agreeing that when it turns out that the housekeeper had been buying her own toilet paper and refusing to use the poor quality kind Marion had bought for her was, in the attendees words, ”Awesome”. Certainly, though we had misgivings about the enticements of the tale, this engagement that the readers had with this juncture of the story engaged the readers and was revealed the subtle believably of the text.

The narrative structure of the book is formulated on alternative point of views between Hortensia and Marion, as well as tells events and stories of both their lives in flashbacks. Because of this structure the novel was, at times, comparatively confusing to some of the attendees, me included. Some in our group indicated that they had at times had to return and re-read passages to understand who´s point of view we were reading. As for myself, the rapidity of change which the author imposed on the reader in regards to the narrative alterations felt exceedingly jarring and broke what intensity the flow of the story should have had at times.

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One of the narrative objects that was loved by the entirety of the company, including me, was the fact that the main leads were of a forgotten faction of our world: older women. It was very refreshing to read about women who were not young, and it was very unusual to read about older people changing their ways and not being fixed as per the clique of the older members of our society . This made the novel feel fresh.

Recurring words used at the meetup were: Interesting, important, hard, confusing and enlightening.

The discussion was very rich and we got a lot out of ”The Woman Next Door” and were glad we had picked it for the Month of August. An honest account of our world today.

This site can now be found also on Youtube, through videos! Today I discussed a video game, “Life is strange”, which is a very plot-and-character driven game:

Hi everyone. Yesterday I published through Creative Commons a petite, small book that combines art with short fables. The book is free and as long as you give credit where it is due, it is ok to share it. If you like slice-of-life stories that discuss gender, atheism, growing up and the chaos of existence, you´ll enjoy my book 🙂

Download either here: https://archive.org/details/vignettes_201707

or here: https://www.scribd.com/document/355190523/A-Book-Vignettes

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Take care! Maaretta

2017 is already half way through. A lot has happened this year; There´s been marching for Science and Women´s rights. Wonder Woman finally got her own live action movie. The Midterm election 2018 in the US is coming up. And the UK begins the stumble out of the EU with seemingly no plan. Since a little over a year has gone by, it seems like a good time to share some great books that are yearned to be discovered already this year.

1. ”Inexcusable” by Chris Lynch: This 2005 young adult novel centers on a teenage boy named Keir, who considers himself a proper, honest guy. The book starts with Keir arguing with a girl named Gigi, who accuses Keir of raping her, which Keir considers impossible, due to his (according to him) good nature and due to the fact that he loves Gigi. Thus Keir decides to set the record straight.

The chapters alternate between the present and the past with the voice of Keir narrating the kaleidoscope of temporal slices. His story is comprised of misbegotten attempts to explain his reputation, his actions and emphasizes his own wounded state. The language and tone of the narration is distinctive and memorable. Lycnh uses the trope of the unreliable narrator to raise questions of self-image, consent, violence and masculinity. While following Keir´s story, the book tackles and deconstructs ideals and norms regarding ”good guys”, abusers and how both are viewed in society. ”Inexcusable” tells us something that our black and white, victim-blaming society often neglects: that rape and sexual assault occurs much more frequently than we would like to admit, and is committed by what the social order wants only to dismiss as the ordinary behavior of men and boys. This book is perfect for lovers of unreliable narrators or for those interested in the issue of toxic masculinity. A brave book, with an also twisty narration to make for a great reading experience.

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2. ”Signs Preceding the End of the world” (2015) by Yuri Herrera: This slim volume of a novel is about Makina, a tough girl living in a crime-filled small town in Mexico. The book opens with Makina getting a request from her mother; that she go find her brother who migrated to the US and who dropped out of contact with the family thereafter. Makina embarks on her quest crossing the US/Mexican border without papers, encountering the world of the tentative and shadowy, a world where the immigrants face many dangers and strange characters.

Signs preceding the end of the world” tackles immigration and borders from a surrealistic, dark view. Makina throughout the book shows a strong, rough side and brutally defends herself against the many trails of racism, sexism and the place of the invisible other. Along her journey to find her brother Makina places herself as a handmaiden of help to many of the numerous people she encounters on her quest (including, even those who have shown her evil both ethically and sexually) and takes from even her meager and slight actions and possessions to be generous to all she encounters in her travels. Makina is a rare type of female character one encounters not often in standard literature or as protagonist in our normative culture: a tough, fiercely independent person who doesn´t let her independence make her indifferent to others around her. Makina is meant as a protagonist outside of the self- centeredness of our individually based culture who embodies a genuinely nice person who is simultaneously steadfast and believes in herself while not taking from others. With Makina as the pivot of this optimism of the possibility of social responsibility, the book shows how much violence, hatred and despair immigrants crossing borders have to endure and makes us wonder at the uselessness of this suffering.

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Not ignored in the text is the disconnection and separation that families experience by the growing machinations of neoliberal inequality which pressure the migrations while instigating nationalist crowds to blame the migrant community for problems created by this. Makina´s narration shows the gap created in social and income instability between her brother and the rest of the family, as well as high lights what the actual face global income inequality looks like in the midst of a community it raptures. The book packs a great punch despite it´s size.

The author, Yuri Herrera, lives in the US, writes in Spanish, and was born in Mexico, making this book somewhat #ownvoices.

3. ”El Deafo” (2014) by Cece Bell: This is a middle grade graphic memoir on how Ms. Bell at the age of four lost her hearing, leading to her needing the help of a hearing aid. The memoir follows her struggles with fitting in, being insecure about her hearing aid, learning to read lips, and navigating friendships and crushes. At the same time these many insecurities and upheavals that are occurring in her young life, Cece envisions herself as a superhero with the codename El Deafo, to help her cope with the slew and chaos of the difficult times of her adjustments.

Cece Bell wrote and illustrated this book herself, giving the text and graphics a lighthearted yet serious tone similar to graphic memoirs such as Raina Telgemeier´s”Smile”. The book tackles the difficulties of dealing with condescension, the feelings of the heightened obviousness of her different ableness in the device of the aid, and how small things like watching tv changes drastically due to her new hearing parameters. At the same time, while navigating this specific course laid upon her in the developments with her hearing, young Cece deals with problems many will recognize from their own childhood, like the painful PE classes we were forced to endure.

El Deafo” is able to navigate the pain of finding friends and of learning to accept oneself, all while using ones imagination to empower oneself. A heartwarming, as well as educational read.

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As mentioned, this is a memoir, and therefore has #ownvoices deaf representation.

4. ”Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in a New Guinea Society” (2006) by Holly Wardlow: This is a book I started reading for a class I took last year, but found interesting enough to continue afterwards. The book is a non-fiction anthropology text about an ethnic group called the Huli in Papua New Guinea. The book is a little over ten years old, so some facts may have changed, but nonetheless the book felt both exceedingly fresh, and very insightful. Wardlow spent years in the Huli areas in Papua New Guinea and her fieldwork concentrated primarily on the women of the Huli group. ”Wayward Women” discusses in particular female sexuality among Huli women, and half of the book solely discusses the women among the Huli who become prostitutes, or ”Passenger women”. While most non-fiction out there focuses on how sex work is done in desperation to earn money, or how sex work is something forced on the women, this book deals with women who choose to sell sex not because of money, but often, in many cases in the Huli group; out of a means of revenge against family injustices they have endured (often it involves rape). Wayward shows all the complexities in the Huli gendered discourse, never taking an easy answer to what she describes in her study.

An absolutely fascinating account.

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5. ”Exilens Dilemma” (2015) by Razak Aboud: This very petite volume of poems is unfortunately only available in Swedish, but the title means ”The Exiles Dilemma”. The poems discuss just this, the aftermath of escaping and seeking asylum. The issues masterfully explored in this slim text of poems include not only the social stresses of the exiled but the continually incurring loneliness, confusion, trauma and the separations of the migrant experience. The opening poem describes a narrators search for ”the sun of freedom”, but ends up washing dishes and not seeing any sun at all after coming to a new country. Other poems which leap from the pages with devastating emotion include an immigrant confronting a Christmas which chrysalises the feeling of emptiness and ostracization caused by both his loss of youth and home; and another gripping poetic narration when a doctor visit excavates the deadly past into the banal present of a health examination including the necessary medical enquirers “did they beat you and where?” and ”were you raped?”. The poems are exceedingly sad, yet beautiful in their crafting. The themes confronted in the power of the words are dealt with in grace, honesty, without fear. Each poem is devised as a small story that deals openly with the hopelessness of feelings confronting the refugee, the overwhelming of feelings which are packed with the chaotic attitudes that refugees meet; how they are often either invisible looked upon as deficient cultural beings, or perceived as a threat to the social. Especially poignant in the series is the somber feeling of being unseen in the midst of your fellow humans which runs decisively through the thread of the texts and exposes a melancholy feel even to those without any relatable experience to the plight of the exile.

A small volume worth the time for all.

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The author, Razak Aboud, has stated that these poems are based on his own experiences, making this #ownvoices for refugee/immigrant representation. He also writes in Arabic at times alongside Swedish.

6. ”There are more beautiful things than Beyoncé(2017) by Morgan Parker: This collection of poems has been getting a lot of buzz, and for no small reason! Mark my words, these poems will completely blow you away.

Morgan Parker is a relatively new voice in the literary world, making her debut in 2015 with ”Other Peoples Comfort Keep Me Up at Night”. ”There are more beautiful things than Beyoncé” is her second collection which Parker worked five years on. The title is taken from a saying inside the younger black community which Parker elaborating on the icon of Beyoncé as a representation of the myriad of double standards and struggles black American Women face in today’s society. Using Beyoncé as well as Jay Z, Nelly, and Earth Wind & Fire as referents Parker delves into the social power of the imaginary of pop culture to discuss issues of oppression and living in a myriad of specific social communities; Black, white, male, female, and where they diverge and intersect. In the poem ”99 Problems” Parker references Jay Z´s most quoted song to list actual 99 problems, which range from dating, oppression’s, drinking too much, being sexually pressured, and the very notion of a Black woman ”being strong”. In the poem ”What Beyoncé won´t say on a shrink´s couch” the narrator despairs that she is unseen (and unheard) when she says she´s tired. In her invisibility to asking for recognition of humanity she laments in song. In Parkers text ”All they want is my money my pussy my blood” a last gasp to point out the crisis she cries: ”I don´t mean YOLO I mean they are hunting me”.

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The unseen theme of the black voice and life (#BlackLivesMatter) is also devastatingly exposed to in the poem ”The president has never said the word black”, in which Parker critiques former president Barack Obama for the silences he (even) occulted the Black with in order to be heard by the white. Strong and painful to even the hand that writes it this poem, the short text here captures the binds that exist inside politics and race.

Parker´s poems discuss both the beauty and pain of black womanhood, with poems that are as eye opening as they are alluring. The collection details the daily despair, fear, exhaustion, and power of being black and female while cautiously navigating a world that selects to objectify and hurt you. Yet still in the forest of the words the poems also have a wry, witty sense of humor, and an uplifting message that black women are, in fact, more beautiful than anyone can imagine.

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For people just getting into poetry, as well as being newbies to Black feminism, this collection is a must. Naturally, this book is also #ownvoices.

So those are some real good books read this year so far. What about you readers, what have you loved this year book wise?

Doctor Strange” (2016) is a superhero film that is one of the latest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, followed by this year’s ”Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2” and ”Spiderman: Homecoming” (both of which I have yet to see). The films comprising the series of Marvels cinematic Universe are constructed not only internally to a worldbuilding fiction but are additionally intended to have (slight) continuity amongst themselves as a group. Movies such as ”Iron Man” (2008), ”Thor” (2011) and ”Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) lead up to ”The Avengers” (2012). After that, films such as ”Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier” (2014) built on the previous movies events. However, while ”Doctor Strange” is a part of this universe, it relies very little on the many previous films and focuses more on introducing Doctor Strange as a new hero, encased somewhat notably in its own world building.

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The plot follows the pompous, yet brilliant, doctor Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The doctor, specializing in neurosurgery, is world famous for being able to do near impossible surgeries with stunning results and we are witness to a short introduction to his brilliance from the movies very beginning. However one day, due to texting while driving, Stephen gets into an accident and undergoes himself massive surgery to survive. Strange survives, but his hands are irrecoverably damaged, destroying any possibility of his continuing being a surgeon. In his despair, Stephen does everything he can to get his hands back to the way they were, which leads him to a secluded unknown temple in Nepal. There he meets a woman named The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who´s a teacher of an ancient mystic art of magic. Stephen, realizing with these techniques he would again be able to use his hands as he did before, and even a bit more, starts studying along the ancient one. And as usual in superhero movies, an old pupil from the past emerges as a foe for the newcomer Stephen to defeat.

Doctor Strange” was plagued with controversy as soon as it was announced that the Ancient one was re-visualized from being male and Tibetan in the comics to Celtic and female in this cinematic incarnation. This is a complicated issue that I don´t really have an authority from which to comment on (I am not familiar with Doctor Strange comics and am Caucasian) so will link to some articles on the issue here.

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But beyond this issue, the movie has other problems. One is that the film itself is dull at times; the pacing in the beginning feels off and there are times that (while most likely intentional) the titular character comes off as whiny, trivial, and cruel, in the strongest sense, making it hard to connect with him. The fighting scenes felt lacking as well. While the battle scenes certainly are meant to invoke a psychedelic experience, they sometimes failed to capture the attention of the audience which the whirlwind sensation of the scenes most assuredly should.

On the flip side, there are lots of elements that work really well. The film features a scene where The Ancient One and Stephen discuss how he can learn to use magic, with the punch line being ”by studying, duh!”. That learning and achieving greatness takes a lot of practice is often glossed over or not even mentioned in most block buster films, which makes this scene both refreshing and honest. Also notable, engaging and tantalizing in the narrative is the character of Wong (Benedict Wong), the librarian who guards the books that contain all the knowledge of which Stephen is studying. Wong is portrayed as a very stoic, no-nonsense type of person but also as someone with a hidden soft side, with a welling sense of enticingly hidden humor. (It´s also shown in one scene that he enjoys Beyoncés music, which is both touching and hip! A hard duality to pull off in a film.).

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Left to right: Mordo, Stephen, The ancient one and Wong

Also as a resonating relation and nuanced capture of the personal in the Doctor Strange storyline, and, surprising despite the controversy around Tilda Swintons casting, the film actually does manage to showcase and develop a believable and moving connection between Stephen and the Ancient one.

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However ”Doctor Strange” also suffers from great lost opportunities and re- enforces tired tropes. It is, despite the films great efforts with Wong´s character, still jarring that the temple Stephen studies at has a mostly POC cast, but the token white guy has to be the lead and hero. ”Doctor Strange” also uses disability as motivation for the more able bodied characters. In activist circles, this trope is known as ”Inspiration porn” or ”teachable moment”. This trope has been a predominant role given to disabled characters, often reducing them to mere motivational slogans rather than giving them the narrative body of actual characters with their own stories elaborated to be followed in the text. In ”Doctor Strange” we are hit hard with the trope of a disabled person being a teachable moment – and simultaneously loose a potentially cool story line.

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Hamir

When Stephen in one scene is in despair over learning the arts, there is a scene where the Ancient one states that it is Stephen himself who holds himself back. Stephen explains he simply can´t accomplish anything giving the blame to the damage in his hands. In response, the Ancient one calls a pupil, Master Hamir (whom previously had one scene where Stephen mistok him for the ancient one), to come forward. It is revealed then that Hamir has only one hand, but is able to perform magic all the same. He then leaves, and Stephen realizes he can achieve greatness despite limitations.

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Hamir as a character immediately and definitely disappears after this incident. Even in this pivotal scene to the story arch the Hamir is given no lines of dialogue (it is worth noting that the film does not confirm Hamir as mute). When the major battle against the villains takes place Hamir is not seen fighting along other pupils. His capability to fight and use magic despite being disabled is merely there to inspire Stephen, who is written as able-bodied. Some would argue his injured hands are a disability, however Stephen himself only talks about not being able to perform surgery and never of the multitude of common day events which would impact those of limited mobility with hands. While this is a limitation, it is not the same as a disability; the most which is confronted by the character is the inability to perform surgery. Stephen seems never to note the marginalization which would occur in the vast arrangements of the social (and its hardware) to the character. This means that ”Doctor Strange”, despite its meagre attempts at diversity, falls into having it´s only Canon disabled character as a ”teachable moment” to transcend (which is only due by his hands becoming now “usable”). Both Hamir specifically, and Doctor Strange more generally, become textbook examples of ”inspiration porn”.

What makes this even sadder is that the world building in ”Doctor Strange” makes this trope very easily avoidable.

Since ”Doctor Strange” canonizes the fact that the magic the Ancient ones pupils use is available to people regardless of their bodies limitations, the film opens up the possibility of having people with varying disabilities (as well as different cultural/racial background) as pupils and guardians. It is odd that one would make such a thing possible, only to end up playing it safe. Diversity is a hot button issue in pop culture right now, and it is important to remember that part of diversity is including people with various physical and mental disabilities. When it comes to things like ”Doctor Strange”, that uses magic, it is odd that the story limits itself. Why not have a mute, one handed warrior as a part of Strange´s squad? There literally, inside the story, is no reason to not use the world building to justify diverse and unusual superpowered fighters. In fact given that many superheroes development their powers begin with “accidents” it is assuredly odd that this doesn’t find its way into more usage.

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Yet still the genre remains often enclosed and encircled by a set tired tropes and unfortunate clichés. Why not use stories with odd powers to include and shake up hierarchies? With more brave writers, Hamir could have been more than a small role, lingering outside of the story which was actually about such a character and therefore become a text of more power and insight.

My hope is that while superhero movies are trying new things, they will also try to do more daring things and use the potential in their stories to go to places further than the imaginings that we have in the ordinary of life. To the place where all abilities can find a place of not only understanding and acceptance, but one of unfolding, becoming powers.

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Inspiration porn has been going on for long

While ”Doctor Strage” is enjoyable, it ends up playing it safe in both race and able- bodieness. It is desirable to see the (most likely upcoming) sequels try to fulfil a more disability positive spin on this lore.

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