Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wherein Sean Attempts To Present A Clip Show For A First Draft Of A Blog Project On Steven Universe, Which He Might Do Sometime In The Future, Modeled On The Episode Of Clerks: The Animated Series “The Clipshow Wherein Dante And Randal Are Locked In The Freezer And Remember Some Of The Great Moments In Their Lives” As Means Of Talking About Steven Universe




30 years ago today, Peter Parker (alias Spider-Man) died. He was shot in the face by Sergei Kravinoff (alias Kraven the Hunter) on October 10th, 1987 on a Queens rooftop (the building was torn down a few years ago and replaced with an Apple Store). Shortly after assassinating Parker, Kravinoff proceeded to move the body to his compound, where he was buried with the epigraph… Oh, wait. Sorry. Wrong intro. That intro isn’t even supposed to be here today.

Has Bart Ever Owned A Bear? (The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives)

"Being Parted/Broken Hearted was written before a live studio audience."
To say Being Parted/Broken Hearted is going to be a straightforward Steven Universe psychocronography in the vein of TARDIS Eruditorium or Vaka Rangi is a bit of a misdemeanor. For starters, the series, as I’m writing this intro, has yet to have its final episode air. As such, it could turn out that this blog might end up with a My Little Po-Mo/Neighquiem for a Dream situation wherein my interpretation of the series gets utterly destroyed by the future of the series and I have to cope with my naiveté.

The blog will be split up into two parts. The first, which I shall call “The Map”, will be a look at my entire history with animation (be it web animation, anime, or, in at least one instance, a concept album based off of an episode of a show I really like). The second, known as “The Teratory”, will be an episode by episode analysis of Steven Universe up to the point where I catch up with the series (or if I find an episode that works as a good enough ending). (And yes, I stole the titles from Sam Keeper’s Storming the Ivory Tumblr.)

But then, few people have a clue as to what it is they’re doing. That’s where the adventure comes in. We climb the highest heights until, at last, we reach the top and gaze upon the territory around us: the beach, the city, the ocean, the canyon, and yes, the stars above. And it’s almost as wonderful as walking within those places.

But then, few people have a clue as to what it is they’re doing. That’s where the adventure comes in. We climb the highest heights until, at last, we reach the top and gaze upon the territory around us: the beach, the city, the ocean, the canyon, and yes, the stars above. And it’s almost as wonderful as walking within those places.

When Kei and Yuri touch, they combine into something entirely new: a singular being in the shape of their true self. She is confidant and secure and complete in ways they feel they cannot be on their own. She is love incarnate and, as anyone aware of the tropes and logic of genre fiction will tell you, love can do anything. And when they become one, the Lovely Angels see a vision of what’s going on. Not a full picture (as the movie would be over too early), but part of one. In this vision, the fusion of Kei’s fiery warmth and Yuri’s icy patience sees a little girl on a lake of Psychedelia, alone and afraid of whose watching her. And then the Lovely Angels unfuse and return to the material narrative.

Mecha was never part of my childhood. I didn’t have cable until I was in High School, so I missed out on Megas XLR (and even when I was at a place with cable, like my grandmother’s house, I tended to lean towards watching SpongeBob or Fairly Odd Parents instead). I wasn’t massively into anime (outside of 4Kids but the less said about that, the better) until I was in high school, and only then because of the works of Hbi2k, Team Four Star, and other related groups. But even then, I was more into comic books. Which is why I’m doing an entry on Mobile Suit Gundabridged Episode 7: because it gives me an excuse to talk about Linkara.

Of course, there are times when you think to yourself that you’re not good enough for the person you love. That you’re just a weed, bearing them with bitter fruit, as someone once put it.  You’re cruel when you should be kind, and you need to be punished for your cruelty. And yet, as Lost in Space shows, that’s not always true. Love is a dance between people. When done well, you may sometimes step on each other’s feet, but in the end, the dance is still beautiful. But to have a successful dance, both parties must be willing to catch the other, even if they’re falling at the same time.

Thankfully, Betty’s a delight. Lena Dunham plays the part with a mad zeal of a scientist who is on the brink of shouting “NOTHING IN ZE WORLD CAN STOP ME NOW!” with the confidence and self-assuredness of someone who you actually believe can succeed in what she’s doing. And unlike Princess Bubblegum, Betty’s not a straight woman (then again, neither is Princess Bubblegum, what I mean is Betty wasn’t conceived as a… I’m digging myself deeper, aren’t I? I’ll shut up): she’s the kooky roommate to Simon’s straight man (which would make potential future interactions between her and the Ice King very interesting, given he typically plays that part with Finn and Jake).

Sure, there are problems with the episode, (one that always stood out even on first viewing was the line read Olivia Olson gives when she shouts “Simon” to the Ice King is a bit off. She makes it sound like a shocking reveal (especially the way Olivia gives a short space between “Si” and “mon”) rather than someone who’s furious and miserable that someone she loves doesn’t understand why kissing her is a no-no), but I can’t help but love the episode. It’s a story about realizing how much your father hid from you as he was dealing with his Alzheimer’s. It’s about reconciling with him towards the end of his life, even though it hurts you so much.

The episode, once again, highlights how much Randall despises his supposed best friend Dante as he repeatedly portrays the man as a diaper wearing incompetent buffoon who causes all of their problems because of his need to swing a cat everywhere. Of course, considering Randall thinks he’s going to receive a Nobel peace prize, it’s safe to assume he’s an unreliable narrator. (Indeed, given the increasingly ludicrous flashbacks, this should be the base assumption the audience should have towards all the characters. I may be wrong about this though. After all, I’m the biggest idiot ever).

As stated elsewhere, the brilliant part of this episode of Clerks: The Animated Series is how it subverts the very concept of the clip show by airing it as its second episode. This, in turn, causes a recursive element wherein the characters are only able to remember aspects of the previous episode (though this aspect is overstated in most accounts as only five of the 35 clips are actually from the previous episode. The rest are a series of absurd vignettes that never go as far in absurdity as future episodes would, which slightly hurts the episode.).

But then, few people have a clue as to what it is they’re doing. That’s where the adventure comes in. We climb the highest heights until, at last, we reach the top and

Amethyst has always been a character I’ve had issues with. It’s not that I think she’s a bad character; in fact I don’t actively despise any of the main or secondary characters (third tier characters on the other hand…). Rather, I have a hard time getting a grip on her character. Unlike Pearl and Garnet, Amethyst keeps her emotions under her sleeve, which makes it hard for me to get a cursory glance at them. Then again, I haven’t watched the whole series yet (or even all of the episodes available). Maybe when I go back to this point for the “Teratory” part, I’ll understand her better, but I don’t think I’m there now.

As we have noted before, Amethyst has a lot of self-loathing (this is most likely the reason why I had befuddlement with the character way back when I first covered On the Run: it’s sometimes really hard to notice yourself in a cracked mirror or old photograph. You can’t understand why you did the things you did and you hate yourself more because of it. Worse, when understanding does come, instead of confronting the issue head on, you conclude that it’s better not to talk about it and just keep it repressed. Otherwise, they’d hate you almost as much as you hate yourself, if not more so. This is pretty much the thought process that almost kept me from doing the Just Deserts entry). But it is here where some of the motivations for this feeling come out into the open.

And they show their love for one another with a dance. A silly, goofy dance done not because they wanted to fuse, but because dancing is fun in its own right. They’ve known each other for long enough to feel comfortable around one another, such that they can bring up personal dilemmas and secrets (maybe one day it’ll be love). And so, so they’re able to be in sync with one another throughout their dance, their feet never stepping on each other’s. Sure, they bump into each other and Steven almost falls, but Connie’s right there to catch him. No wonder they fuse shortly thereafter.

And yet, despite being the most Dirty Pair thing Steven Universe has ever done, there are some aspects of the episode that invert the series’ structure. For instance, a typical Dirty Pair story would be narrated by the Kei analogue, in this case Ruby. But here, the camera frames Garnet so that only Sapphire’s eye can be seen. As such, it can be inferred that it’s Yuri, not Ruby who is telling the story of how she fell in love (with this in mind, pay attention to how calm, sensitive, relaxed, and able to cope the situation Ruby is compared to Sapphire’s extreme panic and confussion towards her impulsive decisions).

When we’re young, sometimes we break down and cry like a baby unable to cope at the stress of everything falling apart. And sometimes, we try to repress these emotions inward and act like nothing is wrong. We don’t want to collapse like that, especially in front of people we care about deeply. And in the face of that, Steven’s lucky to have people like Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl, Greg, and Connie who care about him enough to help him through his anxieties. No matter what form they take.

Fittingly (and in an interesting mirror to The Answer), it is Ruby whose eye the camera frames as discussing what happened to Pink Diamond. It’s Ruby who tells Steven the necessity of Pink Diamond’s death. It’s Ruby who explains what a horrible place an Earth with Pink Diamond in it would be like. But it’s Garnet who honestly tells Steven why Rose did what she did: she wanted to save the world. It’s ambiguous who tells Steven that Rose would shatter someone for the earth. Regardless, Steven appreciates the honesty, even as he represses the implications.

One memory in particular comes from my time with the high school’s short-lived AV Club, when I was participating in the creation of an ad for a much longer-lived Anime Club. One of the members of the Anime Club, a freshman as I recall, was a bit shy about being interviewed. To lighten the mood from the serious questions my brother and the other members of the AV Club made up, I decided to ask a more lighthearted question: “What’s Your Favorite Abridged Series?” Over the course of her answer, she began to lighten up and express herself to us and the interview went smoother than before. Shortly after her interview, we continued talking about abridged series, until the conversation devolved into the two of us reenacting a bit from DBZA (I was the Yoshi).

Through the ruin of a city, stalked the ruin of a child…This is the story of how he grew up. The child wanders through the rain-drenched city, hoping he is wrong. He is right. (The music in the background is a mix of the choir of ancient times and the instrumentals of a rock and roll band, Murray Gold at his finest.) The child lands, trying desperately to repress what he’s feeling. He will fail. (The use of black and white as the scene flashes back to Gohan’s last moments is as amazing as it is obvious.) The child looks at the hero’s corpse. The camera pans down to the hero’s lifeless body. The child is not ready. (Scott Frerichs’ voice acting as he expresses all these emotions is superb.) The child is afraid. The child is angry. (Really, Scott should be applauded for his editorial work more than his voice work, as each shot lasts for as long as it needs and it crescendos into one moment of real beauty.) The child is sad. The child wants to repress. The child cannot. (The animation is, of course, amazing. I am always a sucker for scenes where rain makes the characters look like they’re crying because they can’t let themselves do it. And props to the editing, getting all this to work perfectly.) The child shakes his best friend’s corpse. The child wants the hero to be alive. The hero is dead. The child screams. The child wants to express. The child hurts himself because he cannot. In the ruin of a city, a ruin becomes a god. The child is dead.

Gambling is a minor theme of the series. Con Artists gambling to the next day, thieves gambling as they screw over the mob, a serial killer gambling with the universe on the basis that he’s the main character and the story relies upon him, psychotic sadomasochists gambling that their love will be everlasting, and alchemists gambling that their pact with a “demon” for immortality won’t end with one of them eating all the rest and gaining their knowledge. But one thing all these gambles have in common is that the price they pay for losing is their lives.

And yet, despite featuring the darkest episode of the history of animation that is Numb, Moral Orel is an optimistic show. Nurse Bendy gets to have a healthy and loving relationship with her son with all the silliness of sticking their tongues out at people and he becomes a better person because of it. Reverend Putty grows out of his homophobia and pessimism and tries his best to give as good advice to people as he can. Daniel gets out from his (in retrospect, completely lacking love and utterly unhealthy) relationship with Clay. And yes, though he still has a limp, Orel lives as happily as one can in this world.

Sadly, the clip show eventually devolves into clips that could plausibly happen if this an actual clip show of a TV series based on Clerks. There isn’t, say, a clip where Randall has a jetpack and fights Robo Hitler or Silent Bob has an Amok Time style fight to the death with Charles Barkley and Kevin Smith. Even future episodes would go farther than this episode goes (from OH MY GOD BEAR IS DRIVING to blatant remake of every film from the 80’s). But then again, in some ways that’s the joke: this is a clip show for a series that never existed. And the show looks at this future vision of television and replies “Nah, let’s go mad”.

Look, there’s just something about Nazi Donald Duck that I find inherently hilarious. It’s so wrong that you can’t help but laugh, especially once you look at the unintended implications of Donald’s room when he wakes up from his nightmare: it’s exactly the same, but with Americana instead of swastikas, implying the difference isn’t so much in the morals of the two nations, but in their aesthetics (which is an extremely damning critique for a Disney cartoon). Even the phrase “Nazi Donald Duck” is hilarious in a way that “Nazi Mickey Mouse” isn’t, primarily because you can’t avoid the obviously horrible implications of a Nazi Rat (I’m looking at you, Dirty Pair).

Of course I’m a sucker for the bit with the moon, did you honestly not expect me to think the hope of that being used to twist the knife at the end wouldn’t entice my high school self.
One could argue that this is as close to feminism as Max G ever gets: A woman beating the crap out of an elderly man who felt entitled to have sex with her because he was a man (least, that’s how I remember it).
In the end, I stopped watching his stuff because of Steven Jewniverse and “Street” Steven.
In short, Jason is a terrible person.
And so we find the moral to the series: no one loves you and good people die because of you, make your own damn happiness.
Look, I may be fully aware that there are worse MLP works (and I will be talking about one of those), but Party.MOV just sucks in all the uninteresting and obvious ways it can.
Triplet Trouble is also one of the rare times when Tom and Jerry team up against a common foe (in this case, the titular triplets) that would become the norm when they moved on to direct to DVD fair.

The problem with talking about Doctor Puppet before the series concludes proper is that I might end up horrifically wrong about the themes and ideas presented within the miniseries. Sure, one could think that it was the Master the whole time, but then the text could reveal that it was actually the Meddling Monk or the Demon Magician, both of which have different implications to one another (even if the joke is the same), let alone the Master. A text without an ending can be about anything really.

When I first saw this, I thought to myself “why yes, the skeletal remains of the Doctor’s previous regenerations would be an absolutely smashing take on regenerating the character”. Of course, this was at the time when my influences on Doctor Who consisted of people who thought the Cartmel Masterplan was an interesting and good idea for Doctor Who in and of itself and a fellow who thinks the film version of the Death of Gwen Stacy should have been more about Peter Parker’s hubris than Gwen Stacy (I don’t want to get into that debate though). Nowadays, I think the video is just a bit of fun.

But perhaps one of the worst parts of my original script is how I essentially sideline the Main 6. I mean, at the time I figured “They get to deal with the apocalypse ponies, surely that’s enough”. But that belies the fact that the whole conflict between them and those baddies is done predominately off screen and isn’t even the main conflict. Add to that, that the actual main baddy (The Valeyard going around calling himself “DEATH”) is dealt with via my OC trough the power of manpain, and you can see why I don’t care for this story anymotr. I mean, Fluttershy gets hurt before the end of the first half and I reference numerous stories that I hadn’t written, assuming the reader would just pick up the gist and move on. God, no wonder the artist decided to jump ship.

In the end, it’s about the grief shared by two people over their mutual loss of each other. Though we don’t see Fry’s grief process textually, he is clearly disheveled and unable to live a life without Leela at the end. Likewise, all the visions that Leela sees in her dream state shows her as grief stricken and guilt ridden over the death of someone she loved. Her waking nightmare has everyone tell her that she’s responsible for Fry’s death and should just die. Whereas her lotus dreams have not Fry come back from the dead, but the perfect man worms made him into: her ideal vision of his true self, formed out of the stuff dreams are made of.  But we know his true self isn’t that. He’s not this immaculate vision of perfection that solely wants to help others and always knows what to say. He’s goofy and weird and a bit of an airhead and sometimes doesn’t think things through enough and he probably shouldn’t be left alone with a baby.

The problem the future Leela faces is that she has unresolved issues that can’t be resolved because the other party is gone. She is both angry and sad at Fry for leaving her at such a young age and she’s unable to do anything about it. So she lashes out at herself impulsively. She has a sexual relationship with Cubert based solely on her nostalgia for Fry that ends about as poorly as you’d expect it to, she fires Zoidberg because he’s non-utilitarian, and, in the final flashback to the bad future, she buries herself into the job. She only feels how she wants to feel.

And so, Fry and Leela spend eternity literally living in the moment. They do everything they had on their bucket list and live out their lives fulfilled. Sure, they don’t have all the answers and they may still have some unresolved issues, but what of it? They have each other and that’s enough. They are, in the end, two people in a conversation with the universe. They may have been alone for a long time, but they were never lonely.

Of course, Bart has always been a trickster figure within the show. Typically it’s been through the lens of a bad boy rebel attitude, with the emphasis on the “bad boy”. But now, trapped with his fellow students in a snowed in school, he must emphasize the rebel part. First, Bart tries to rebel through making a safe escape route so that everyone can escape. But Skinner stops him in his tracks out of an understandable, if cartoonishly exaggerated, PTSD enabled fear of failure and disobedience. As long as Skinner is around, they can never be free.

It’s no so much that The Simpsons Movie was the point where the show jumped the shark. Rather, it was the last Simpsons story that had an impact on me. It was a watershed moment and afterwards I just slowly stopped watching the series on a regular basis. That happens with a lot of shows: I just stop watching them because I have other things to do. I still like The Simpsons, and I will watch the occasional episode every now and then. I just don’t see watching the show as a priority. It happens.

In retrospect, I honestly spent more time focusing on the structure of the work rather than the actual analysis. I don’t think Discorded Whooves is really the kind of series to do a baroque article that has multiple narratives going on at the same time for. The implications of the web comic just aren’t interesting enough to need to be analyzed in such a fashion. The concept could be more interesting if taken in a new direction (say, undiscording the Doctor and forcing them to live in the wreckage of the previous bits of the comic), and perhaps that’s where I went wrong.

So in the end, what was Steven Universe all about? Well, it started as a silly little story about a young boy trying to understand himself and his elders. It was about nostalgia for lost things and the acceptance that they may never return or be the same again. From that it grew into something else. Something different.
It became a love story about a wild, adventurous boy and a shy, bookish girl. Their love would change everything, including each other, mostly for the better. They would grow and shift and become fictional. And not just romantic love of young, but of lost love, of familial love, of platonic love. It was a show about how wonderful consensual love can be.
It became about the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love. About the movies and TV shows we watch and how they influence us to become what we are. About the uncomfortable memories and implications those stories may bring up, and how we must confront them, even if we don’t like those parts of ourselves. But we need to look at those parts of ourselves, lest we be unable to heal from them and become better people. It may take time, but we all heal.
It became about the aftermath of a war between an imperialistic race of ideas and a rebellious group of ideas that thought that imperfections and lesser beings are worth fighting for. About healing from that long and brutal conflict and becoming better ideas: ones that can beat war and cruelty with love and acceptance of sad things.
(There are political implications to that mindset, especially given the show’s negative views on the capitalist working class system in Frybo).
But in the end, Steven Universe was about utopia. Which brings up the question: What is Utopia? Well, looking back at the amount of ideas I’ve blatantly nicked from other people over the course of this project, I suppose one more person wouldn’t hurt. What is Utopia? It is evolution. A progression from eternity, to liberty, then equality… and finally fraternity. A collective of individuals dedicated only to the betterment of each other. A brotherhood of all men. It is you… and it is me… Forever.
Snooch to the Nooch.

(Next Time: Actually, It’s about the Ethics in Games Journalism)

(And in Two Weeks Time: But then, few people have a clue as to what it is they’re doing. That’s where the adventure comes in. We climb the highest heights until, at last, we reach the top and gaze upon the territory around us: the beach, the city, the ocean, the canyon, and yes, the stars above. And it’s almost as wonderful as walking within those places.)

[Photo: The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal are Locked in the Freezer and Remember Some of the Great Moments in Their Lives Directed by Nick Filippi Script by David Mandel and Kevin Smith]

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