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In the wake of the new year, Logan Paul has recently had his YouTube Red series put on hold and was removed from Google’s preferred advertisement program as a result of public backlash over a video that featured an apparent suicide victim in Japan.
by Emily Reuben The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board. In the wake of the new year, Logan Paul has recently had his YouTube Red series put on hold and was removed from Google’s preferred advertisement program as a result of public backlash over a video that featured an apparent suicide victim in Japan. The video has resulted in a massive online controversy over the past two weeks sparking debate over the ethics of showing a suicide victim on camera. Many YouTube creators have joined in the outrage, taking to social media and making their own videos directed at Logan Paul. Logan Paul actually recorded a person who committed suicide in his vlog. What kind of fucked up mentality do you need to have to do something like that?! There is absolutely no defending it — Jacksepticeye (@Jack_Septic_Eye) January 2, 2018 I cannot believe how beyond disrespectful this Logan Paul guy is filming and zooming in on a Japanese man who hung himself. So dehumanizing, utterly disgusted. Who in their right minds thinks this is okay? Using it in the thumbnail? Undefendable. — Ross O'Donovan (@RubberNinja) January 2, 2018 Many of the criticisms of Paul's now infamous video fail to take into account the culture of Japan. What is the Japanese view toward suicide? What is Aokigahara? How does the Japanese view of privacy come into play? As these questions are further explored, Logan's video becomes more offensive. Who is Logan Paul? To really understand why this video garnered the attention that it did, it is important to learn about who made the video in the first place. Logan and his younger brother, Jake Paul, initially garnered their fame in 2013 on Vine, the now discontinued video service where users would share six second videos which challenged users to create short stories with a limited allotment of time. This resulted in many quickly paced, high energy, attention grabbing videos finding success on the platform. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDh8Xjf2JZg These videos resulted in Logan accumulating a whopping 9.4 million followers on Vine. According to an article from Business Insider, by 2015 Logan was the tenth most popular Vine Star. In August 2015, Logan started his vlog (video blog) channel on YouTube resulting in his large fan base migrating to the popular video sharing website. Here Paul would continue to create video content on his two channels: TheOfficialLoganPaul and Logan Paul Vlogs. Currently Logan’s Official channel has around 4.3 million subscribers while his vlog channel has over 15 million subscribers. When taking into account the Paul Brother’s and their six associated YouTube channels, collectively they have nearly 7 billion views, with each of the brother’s main channels boasting over 3 billion apiece. In short, Logan has obtained a massive following, which is no easy feat. His high-energy, loud, often shirtless pursuits carried over from Vine onto YouTube with ease. Typically, these videos involve public hijinks, pranks, somewhat dangerous stunts, an array of music videos, reactions, and a few Vine compilations. However, more recently Logan has found himself making apology videos instead of his usual stunts. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwZT7T-TXT0[/embed] This monetized apology video is a direct result of Logan’s recent trip to Japan. While there, Logan continued his shtick of acting eccentrically in public. Due to his behavior while crafting these vlogs, Logan’s ventures in Japan have become somewhat controversial. Leading up to the the now infamous suicide forest video, Logan filmed other vlogs with him and his causing disruptions around Japan. This includes actions such as running around dressed as Pokemon, throwing objects at moving cars, being kicked out of a shrine, jumping on the back of moving vehicles, and placing dead fish on the back of a taxi. Many excuse these behaviors as Logan simply acting on his brand. Unfortunately for Logan, many are not as sympathetic regarding his venture to Aokigahara more commonly known as ‘The Seas of Trees’ or ‘The Suicide Forest’. Aokigahara, "The Sea of Trees" Upon entering Aokigahara, visitors are met with this sign: [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Image from Aokigahara Forest[/caption] According to the Washington Post, this sign translates to: Quietly think once more about your parents, siblings, or children. Please don’t suffer alone, and first reach out. Aokigahara is famous for being one of the most popular suicide sites in Japan, a country known for its relatively high suicide rates. Despite the grim reputation, Aokigahara is often a popular travel site for tourists and locals alike. The beautiful scenery and what many call a unique "spiritual experience" entices many to venture into the ominous forest. Others, like Logan Paul, are more interested in capturing the haunting atmosphere on camera. On January 1st, Logan uploaded a video to YouTube titled "We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest..." featuring a thumbnail of a suicide victim. The video begins with Logan stating, "This is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I've ever posted on this channel and this is the most circumstantially surreal event that has ever happened in my life." Paul then goes on to assure his viewers that the video is not monetized and that he's "pretty sure" this video marks a moment in YouTube history. And Logan was right. The intense backlash that ensued does mark a grim moment in YouTube history. What caused the reaction? After straying from the designated path in the forest, Logan and his crew stumble upon a man who had taken his own life and uploading the experience on YouTube. Shortly after the video was published, the internet was quick to react. In response to the growing controversy, the video was taken down from YouTube, and Logan issued an apology on Twitter: Dear Internet, pic.twitter.com/42OCDBhiWg — Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) January 2, 2018 Despite the apology message, many popular YouTubers remained unsympathetic. However, YouTubers aren't the only ones with a strong opinion. Before moving to the States, Ball State student Kohaku Clark was born in Japan. Clark moved back to Japan during their third grade year and is thus familiar with the culture. When asked about their initial to the reaction when seeing the video, Clark said the first thought they had was “Wow what an asshole." Clark continued,"...After I heard about it I watched a bunch of videos of some Japanese YouTubers, [and] saw how they thought about the situation. I agreed with a lot of the things they said." I have a lot of intense feelings about @LoganPaul and how he has disrespected my beloved country. Especially during a sacred time like New Year’s. You’re no longer welcome here, get out of my beautiful motherland. — Reina Scully (@ReinaScully) January 2, 2018 With so many people upset at the video, Logan released another apology, this time in the form of his "So Sorry." YouTube video. Though the video in question had been removed and two public apologies had been issued, the criticisms continued. YouTube released a statement on the situation shortly after. It’s taken us a long time to respond, but we’ve been listening to everything you’ve been saying. We know that the actions of one creator can affect the entire community, so we’ll have more to share soon on steps we’re taking to ensure a video like this is never circulated again. — YouTube (@YouTube) January 9, 2018 YouTube then gave Logan a strike on his channel. However, on Wednesday YouTube announced that they would be taking further action against Logan by suspending production of a sequel to Logan's movie "The Thinning: New World Order" as well as his advertising revenue. The YouTube Red show, "Foresome" will also be dropping Paul from the series. Japan and suicide So Logan did something disrespectful in an inappropriate place, got called out for it, and was eventually punished. What's the big deal? Kohaku Clark chimes in saying "...you don’t really need to be Japanese to go to Japan and understand the culture to know that suicide and death is nothing to make light of. It’s disrespectful no matter where you are because someone somewhere has gone through the death of friends or some neighbor that has gone through these situations." Clark continued, saying, "Suicide has honestly been a big part of Japan and Japan’s history... it’s been glorified in a sense." Japan has spent years trying to subdue one of the world's highest suicide rates. A 2014 article posted by The Japan Times indicates that during that year, the suicide rate in 2012 was around 60 percent higher than the global average. Clark recounted how suicide has had a long history in Japanese culture. Suicide goes back to the time of the samurai tradition. "...if they were dishonored at all they would have to commit a ceremonial suicide known as “seppukku". Connecting suicide to more modern times, Clark said, "A good example would be of world war II and the kamikaze pilots. Their whole thing was literally dying for their country and committing suicide in the process. And after the war almost everybody who was involved committed suicide." Since the end of World War II, suicide in Japan became less common, but it is a problem that plagues the country to this day. Clark continued, "I blame societal stressed because you’re pushed to get a good job and keep that job, and to keep that job you have to keep busy and keep working. So you don’t have time for yourself. Birth Rates are decreasing because they’re more focused on work more than love and family." In regards to Aokigahara's suicide rates Alexa Keefe's National Geographic article states that: After a high number of suicides were reported in 2004 (a total of 108), officials stopped publicizing deaths for fear of glorifying the practice. Yamanashi prefecture, where the forest is located, began hiring people in 2009 to patrol the forest and approach anyone who might not look like the average tourist out on a hike. This statement is important in analyzing the effect of Logan's video. When death rates began to spike in 2004, an effort was made to stop publicizing deaths to avoid suicide contagion. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services describes suicide contagion as the following: Suicide contagion is the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one's family, one's peer group, or through media reports of suicide and can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors. Direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior has been shown to precede an increase in suicidal behavior in persons at risk for suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults. In short, the media can have a negative impact on suicide awareness. This is why shows like 13 Reasons Why are so controversial; showing a person on-screen who has taken their life can inadvertently increase the risk of adolescents taking their own life. Logan Paul makes the assertion in his video and in his subsequent apologies that his goal in uploading the video was to raise mental health awareness, but this ideology goes directly against professional advice given by the The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. By prolonging the exposure of the body on camera, Logan has engaged in promoting suicide contagion rather than the catharsis he claims. To go to a country with high suicide rates and then proceed to film the experience of finding a body while laughing and giggling minimizes the need for proper suicide awareness. The importance of privacy in Japan We've talked about the error in Logan's judgement regarding posting the video in the name of mental health, but the issue goes much deeper. Japan is a country that highly values privacy so much so that laws about public photography and filming reflect this. Unlike in the United States where photographing in public is a normal part of everyday life, Japan's laws are more rigid. These laws boil down to the idea that humans have the right to privacy and should not be the focus of filming without prior consent. In Logan's case, his solution was to blur out the face of the body. While he will most likely avoid legal consequence for filming the body, doing so shows a lack of respect for the person being filmed. Aokigahara is often where people go for privacy. Many people that go with the intent to end their lives are never found, and this is a purposeful decision on their part. The seclusion offered in Aokigahara can allow for an honorable death without shame. It is likely that the person Logan stumbled upon would have been mortified to be in a viral video, even with his face blurred. Logan's video dehumanizes the suicide victim by focusing on them and posting their likeness for the world to see. Had Logan cared to understand the Japanese view of privacy, he would not have posted the video at all. Wanting to travel to Japan? Logan's made it a lot harder on foreigners Aside from exposing his young, impressionable audience to a suicide contagion, Logan's actions have consequences for foreigners wanting to travel or work in Japan. Being a foreigner abroad means that people see you as a representative of your entire country. American stereotypes in Japan usually consist of loud people who do not overly concern themselves with good manners or politeness. Even more concerning than the thought of playing into negative stereotypes is the widely believed thought that Americans are unable to respect or understand Japanese culture. Sound familiar? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="457"] Image from Twitter[/caption] For many Japanese, Logan's actions in Japan prove these negative stereotypes to be true. This makes American relationships with Japanese people far more difficult. Already, some Japanese bars and shops do not allow service to foreigners due to these beliefs. For Logan Paul to act so disrespectfully and without regard for Japanese social norms, many Japanese people have hardened their stances about foreigners. This isn't just about a rich YouTuber acting out. Incidents like this have real world ramifications that effect all Americans. He has shown the world that Americans don't respect Japanese privacy, that suicide is something to make a profit from, and that Americans don't know how to behave abroad. In the end, this is one issue that a few lukewarm apologies and dabbing on the haters just can't resolve. Sources: Japan Times, Business Insider, National Geographic, The Washington Post, World Health Organization, YouTube, Twitter, HHS.gov, Vine Images: ghanadailies.com, Twitter, Aokigahara Forest
Another year of Byte reviews allowed us to shine a light once again on a wealth of games worth playing. Sure, there were some duds, but the masterpieces far outweighed them. The year 2017 featured improvements on recent installments of the Destiny and Sonic franchises, plus a spectacular first-year showing for the Nintendo Switch including obligatory new beauties in the Mario and Zelda departments. And with Cuphead bringing some mainstream attention to a brand-new indie studio, the future of independent gaming has never looked brighter.
Every year produces a relentless heaping of blockbuster films that sell fantastically, but how many of them are actually good is another question entirely. Though the major circuit may have been a little bit short on masterpieces this year, it was by no means empty. We got another great Pixar movie, a beautiful shoutout to The Room, and the best M. Night Shyamalan film in a long time. We also caught a whole host of independent films at Heartland Film Festival this year, some of which were made in our own backyard. So as it turns out, the year of The Disaster Artist wasn’t such a disaster after all.
by Emily ReubenHoliday shopping can be hard. Between cryptic gift lists, friends refusing to tell you what they want, or the dreaded "I don't need anything" responses, the seemingly simple task of buying gifts for loved ones can become a nightmare. To make matters worse, getting good gifts can get expensive quickly. No one wants to be the guy that gives out cheap bootleg Pokemon dolls, but you don't want to break the bank either.Well no worries! We’ve compiled a list of great gift ideas. The best part? All of these items are $25 or less! While every item may not ship in time for the holidays, they are sure not to break the bank.
Holiday shopping can be hard. Between cryptic gift lists, friends refusing to tell you what they want, or the dreaded "I don't need anything" responses, the seemingly simple task of buying gifts for loved ones can become a nightmare. To make matters worse, getting good gifts can get expensive quickly. No one wants to be the guy that gives out cheap bootleg Pokemon dolls, but you don't want to break the bank either.
It’s the series that launched a fleet of frightened let’s players’ careers on YouTube. It grew into a series famous for its cryptic lore and even more cryptic clues outside of the games. It spawned a series of video games, three books, a feature film currently in the works, a line of figurines, apparel, and other merchandise, and more creepy fan art than just about any other indie PC title. Five Nights at Freddy’s has seen its latest installment abruptly release. Dropping rather suddenly, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Simulator is anything but an average simulation game.
by Emily Reuben It’s the series that launched a fleet of frightened let’s players’ careers on YouTube. It grew into a series famous for its cryptic lore and even more cryptic clues outside of the games. It spawned a series of video games, three books, a feature film currently in the works, a line of figurines, apparel, and other merchandise, and more creepy fan art than just about any other indie PC title. Five Nights at Freddy’s has seen its latest installment abruptly release. Dropping rather suddenly, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza Simulator is anything but an average simulation game. Bringing something new to the table The game begins with a classic 8-bit style game where you, as the animatronic Freddy Fazbear, feed children pizzas. While the bright sounding music and cheerful demeanor of the children are optimistic, fans of past FNAF games should know that things begin to take a turn for the ominous rather quickly. After an unsettling audio tape sequence, an introduction prompting the player on the purchase and maintenance of a Freddy Fazbear establishment begins to play, changing the tone back to upbeat. The best part is the blatant irony that becomes increasingly apparent as the introduction sequence plays. Dwelling on factors such as “liability” amongst pictures of children eating pizza and thumbs ups. After this not-so-optimistic rundown, the player is taken to a product catalogue where they can browse and purchase items for the establishment. Initially the items available are...primitive. Instead of ball pits and intricate animatronics, you have options like “No. 1 Crate”, or “Mr. Can Do”. While not the most exciting of options to start with, as cash flows in, more products become available for purchase. Aesthetic is not the only reason to buy items. Each product comes with various stats to consider before placing it in the establishment. These include Atmosphere, Health and Safety, Entertainment, Bonus Revenue and liability. These are all relatively self-explanatory, but can make a major difference in terms of gameplay ease. After purchasing items, you can place them around the establishment and even play test certain products. Back to the familiar FNAF formula After the bright colors and charmingly happy music lulls you into a state of ease, the game very suddenly drops you back into the familiar FNAF environment. From the terminal, you must do boring administrative jobs like monitoring cleaning and ventilation, buying products, and cleaning. This sounds simple in theory, but add an array of animatronics that want to kill you and the situation becomes far more grim. The gameplay here is a blend of past FNAF games with a new slant. You perform all of your tasks (such as checking the audio, motion detector, and cancelling annoying pop-up advertisements) on a computer screen while checking vents on either side of your computer. After you successfully complete each day, you are given a survey for inspecting and salvaging animatronics found in the alleyway for parts. Here, you have a choice to simply throw the animatronic away or attempt to salvage parts for cash. While the prospect of extra cash is enticing, there are risks to consider. As the game so kindly mentions, “those benefits come with risks...choose to keep it and you run the risk of certain consequences, namely death.” When salvaging for parts, you check the animatronic for stability and hardware. Successfully salvaging the animatronic will net you some cash, but it will also prowl the pizzeria trying to reach you in typical FNAF fashion. But what if you throw it back into the alley you found the robot in? Doing so means that there will be no animatronics trying to kill the player. What about throwing out each and every animatronic? Is that even allowed? If the animatronics are never kept in the restaurant, then each night that would otherwise be filled with terror serves as a brief interlude between moments of restaurant management and interior design. Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator is familiar, but different enough from older titles to remain interesting. There is some customization and choice here regarding difficulty, which can really spice up gameplay. Despite these options, Pizzeria Simulator does nothing to change the gameplay that has characterized every single main FNAF game. Breaking from tradition The monotony of the classic FNAF formula is broken up by not only the simulation aspect of the game, but also by the various games available. Some of these are just random RNG sequences that have a chance to unlock items, but others push you to navigate a maze, keep characters from falling, and even some side scrolling shooter action. For fans of FNAF’s ongoing lore, these short games harbor a ton of hidden clues. The various mini-games available, if played right, reveal new information that fans of the series will love. Another way that Pizzeria Simulator breaks with tradition is in its price. This is the first main line FNAF game to be freely available to the public. This is a great move on the part of game creator Scott Cawthon. It lets players who have abandoned the series back in with nothing to lose, and it also staves off some of the series fatigue that may have set in for gamers tired of paying for a game that did not evolve its core mechanics through the years. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator succeeds on several fronts. It wraps up the lore of the series in ways that are satisfying for those who have played since the first game’s release. It also provides more new gameplay mechanics that make this an interesting evolution of the Five Nights formula. Finally, Pizzeria Simulator is a great value. Being free means that all players have to lose is their time and patience. Images: Steam, Magic Game World
Growing up Jewish, it was always exciting to see any television show or movie dedicate even a fraction of its time acknowledging that yes, Jews do exist. Even if the movie or special isn’t great, in the end it feels good to be acknowledged in a media landscape that largely ignores the Jewish faith. To help you deal with that suppressed Chanukah fever, we’ve compiled a nifty little list of some Chanukah goodness…or badness…to watch this year while eating latkes and playing dreidel.
by Emily Reuben Growing up Jewish, it was always exciting to see any television show or movie dedicate even a fraction of its time acknowledging that yes, Jews do exist. Even if the movie or special isn’t great, in the end it feels good to be acknowledged in a media landscape that largely ignores the Jewish faith. To help you deal with that suppressed Chanukah fever, we’ve compiled a nifty little list of some Chanukah goodness...or badness...to watch this year while eating latkes and playing dreidel. This list should be prefaced by saying that finding actual Chanukah specials is extremely difficult. It’s almost as if Chanukah is not the primary winter holiday celebrated in the United States or something… 1) Rugrats Season 4, Ep 15: Chanukah This is the best of the best when it comes to Chanukah specials. I think a lot of kids, even non-Jewish ones, have seen this episode of the Rugrats due to the show’s popularity. For many, it was very likely their first experience learning about the Jewish holiday. In true Jewish grandma fashion, Tommy’s grandmother reads the history of the holiday to the babies, resulting in a trip to imagination land. Tommy (taking the role of Judah) fights against King "Antonica" (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) who forces the Jews to abandon their Jewish culture in favor of the Greek’s. Featuring a fun climax staged against “The Meanie of Chanukah” and the classic tale of the eight menorah candles, this little special is fun for anyone to watch even if you don’t celebrate the Jewish holiday. 2) The Hebrew Hammer First off, this movie is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s why it’s so great. In short, the Hebrew Hammer, a Jewish crimefighter, must defend the holiday from Santa’s evil son who wants everyone to celebrate Christmas. Now, being a parody of blaxploitation films, the satire here may not be for everybody. However, there are many sentiments portrayed here that many Jews should be able to resonate with. One such image that comes to mind is that of Santa squashing the a dreidel under his foot, emphasizing Chanukah’s subservience to the Christmas holiday. There is a lot of dumb humor to be found here and maybe even some catharsis for those feeling overwhelmed by Christmas sentiments. 3) Lamb Chop’s Chanukah Special When I decided to make this list and talked to friends about this special, no one knew what I was talking about. After desperately trying to convince my peers that the Chanukah lamb puppet existed and wasn’t just some some strange fever dream, a quick Google search revealed that yes, this movie is in fact real! Now I can’t find any video, but look, a movie poster! I promise it’s real! You can even buy the VHS on Amazon for $20.00. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="407"] Image from Kveller[/caption] Honestly, the special is nothing...well...special...but it’s definitely cute. For those not in the know, the Lamb Chop Play-Along show is an Emmy award winning PBS show starring Shari Lewis and the sheep puppet, Lamb Chop. While obviously aimed at a younger audience, for those looking for a cute, child-friendly Chanukah experience, Shari has you covered. 4) 8 Crazy Nights I’m going to be upfront here; I don’t like Adam Sandler’s humor, and I personally hate this movie. It’s mindlessly crude, cynical, and relentlessly annoying. Why is it on here? Because this is sadly the most popular Chanukah special on this list. This animated film revolves around Davey Stone, a rather unlikable protagonist who is sentenced to do community service in the form of refereeing with the Whitey Duvall, a 70 year-old referee. Throughout the special we learn that Davey lost his parents as a child, leading to an adult life full of cynicism and alcoholism. Duvall attempts to reform Davey but is constantly road-blocked by Davey’s unpleasant actions. To reiterate, yes this is a Chanukah special. There are a few (annoying) Chanukah songs, and Davey is obviously Jewish...so there you go. Yeah, this is how strapped the world is for Chanukah specials. Why watch this? Well honestly it’s so dumb it deserves to be seen at least once. I’m just sad this movie may be some people's only experience with the holiday. While pointlessly dumb, the animation does look pretty nice, so it has something going for it? 5) Even Stevens Season 1, Ep 15: Heck of a Hanukkah What child hasn't tried to sneak a peak at their holiday gifts? In this episode of Even Stevens, Louis can't help himself, so he unwraps his hidden Chanukah presents and unfortunately for him, gets caught. Now grounded and believing he ruined the holiday for his family, Louis believes that the world would be better off without him. From here on out, the episode is a clear homage to the film It's a Wonderful Life, as Louis' great-great-great-great grandmother suddenly enters the frame and shows Louis what the world would be like without him. If you've seen A Wonderful Life, you know how everything will turn out, but no one is watching this episode for any surprise factor. This delightfully campy episode is sure to please fans of the series and the movie it's based off of. For Jewish children who, like Louis, mischievously peek at their presents, "Heck of a Hanukkah" offers a good story regarding the importance of patience and forgiveness. 6) South Park Short: "Santa vs. Jesus" Often credited as one of the first viral videos, this short is the black sheep of this list. Opening with the four main boys singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" followed by a fight scene between Santa and Jesus Christ, this short doesn't seem like something most would want to watch around Chanukah. However, the special ends with Kyle proclaiming that Jewish children get eight days of presents instead of one, and the cast breaks out into singing "The Dreidel Song". South Park can be pretty hit-and-miss for some people, and this specific short can further turn people off due to its extremely primitive animation. However, the idea of pushing aside everything we are told about "good cheer" and "doing good for others" in favor of embracing blind commercialism is pretty funny. Not to mention, this is one of the few holiday based pieces of media that frames Chanukah as the superior holiday in the end. Overall, this short is definitely not a short for heartwarming holiday sentiments. Rather, it's a dumb, fun short not meant to be taken too seriously.
You may not have noticed, but Pixar has been in a bit of a rut over the past few years. While hits like Inside Out have managed to captivate audiences, the influx of sequels has notably regressed the once-innovative and original Pixar films of late. Originality seems to have been shoved aside in favor of thoughtless sequels and blatant retellings (Toy Story 3 is literally Toy Story 2 with a new skin). With other animation companies such as Disney and Dreamworks stepping up their 3D animation, Pixar seems to be lessening in importance in the growing animation market.
by Emily Reuben You may not have noticed, but Pixar has been in a bit of a rut over the past few years. While hits like Inside Out have managed to captivate audiences, the influx of sequels has notably regressed the once-innovative and original Pixar films of late. Originality seems to have been shoved aside in favor of thoughtless sequels and blatant retellings (Toy Story 3 is literally Toy Story 2 with a new skin). With other animation companies such as Disney and Dreamworks stepping up their 3D animation, Pixar seems to be lessening in importance in the growing animation market. With all of this in mind, Coco serves as much-needed reminder regarding Pixar’s creativity and dedication to animated greatness. A whimsical journey to the Land of the Dead Coco is a relatively straightforward film. Set in a small Mexican town, our protagonist, the 12 year-old Miguel has a major love for music. Sadly for him, due to an old family conflict, music is essentially banned within Miguel’s family. This doesn’t deter our young hero who secretly worships the singer Ernesto de la Cruz and practices guitar away from the judgmental glares of his family. Around this time, Día de Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is set to begin. On the same night, a talent show gives Miguel visions of grandeur. When he proposes playing guitar at the festival, Miguel is immediately rebuked by his grandmother leading to a heated family dispute. This results in the the discovery and subsequent destruction of Miguel’s secret guitar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW9DU2481rU After the family spat, Miguel comes to the conclusion that he is actually the great-great-grandson of de la Cruz. This restores his motivation and Miguel infiltrates de la Cruz’s gravesite to borrow the singer’s guitar and perform at the festival. Once Miguel strums the guitar for the first time, he finds he is no longer visible to the living. During Día de Muertos festivities that are simultaneously going on, Miguel is surprised to see his dead ancestors. They are just as surprised to see him and take him to the Land of The Dead to remedy the issue. In the Land of the Dead, Miguel discovers that his great aunt Imelda has been unable to enter the Land of the Living because he had previously knocked her family photo off the ofrenda, resulting in a family curse. Additionally, Miguel must return home before sunrise or he will be trapped forever. Imelda agrees to send Miguel home under the conditions that he place her photo back on the ofrenda and that he give up music forever. Miguel, unwilling to give up music, makes a run for it. He decides that de la Cruz would gladly send him home without the condition of abandoning music. Along the way, Miguel runs into Hector, a sketchy skeleton who claims to know de la Cruz. Together, the two brave the Land of the Dead and hope to send Miguel home before he is trapped in the Land of the Dead forever. Now admittedly Coco does not have the most original plot. The Book of Life did a similar film featuring Día de Muertos years ago, and the similarities have caused controversy amongst filmgoers. However, I think it’s fair to keep in mind Día de Muertos is a popular holiday that makes for interesting storytelling, so simply having the same holiday featured isn’t necessarily an unreasonable offense. On the other hand, Día de Muertos is definitely overused in the media and it would be great if storytellers would showcase other aspects of Mexican culture. Also in regards to the plot, there are definitely some cliches that need to be mentioned outside of using Día de Muertos. The liar revealed is a trope (that I find really annoying) that pops up here in a predictable manner. I won’t spoil the reveal the movie sets up, but anyone who has seen any film ever should be able to spot it in Act 1 during the point of attack. Does this make the film bad? No. Coco is really great despite it’s simplicity. Though predictable, there is a ton of emotion crammed into this animated piece that is likely to make moviegoers tear up. Pixar’s animation team does it again Cutting straight to the chase, Coco looks incredible. Between the lighting, the character models, and the fluid motion, everything is incredible to look at. According to IMDb Coco has set the record for Pixar being the longest Pixar film in production, and the effort definitely shows, especially in the scenes showcasing the Land of the Dead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOvfedkA_JM Director Lee Unkrich comments about the use his research of Mexican culture and his use of color in the film, "I'd seen it portrayed in folk art. It was something about the juxtaposition of skeletons with bright, festive colors that captured my imagination. It has led me down a winding path of discovery. And the more I learn about Día de Muertos, the more it affects me deeply." Personally, due to the masterful use of color and design, I would consider Coco to feature the best looking animation Pixar has done thus far. For those (like me) who actively aimed to avoid the trailers and keep the film an absolute surprise, be forewarned that the previews prior to the show will show you a lot of the grand-looking environments. Is Coco a ripoff of The Book of Life? Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way; yes Coco and the 2014 animated film The Book of Life share a ton of similarities. Both films feature Día de Muertos as well as Hispanic characters and have a strong emphasis on music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i69CJc1BgE In many respects, Hispanic culture has absolutely been given the shaft in Hollywood and media in general. Hispanic culture is rarely talked about (outside of stereotypes), and Hispanic protagonists are largely nonexistent. The Book of Life received praise for focusing on Hispanic culture in a respectful manner and for the largely Hispanic cast and crew including director Jorge R. Gutierrez, Guillermo del Toro, Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Jorge R. Gutierrez. By contrast, when Coco was first showcased in 2015, the only crew involved were white. While this was later fixed, this does demonstrate the overwhelmingly white hand that went into the initial crafting of the film. In terms of who copied who, this is where things get a bit tricky. The Book of Life began production in 2012 and later released in 2014. As we all know, Coco released three years later. However, while many love to claim theft, Coco was actually announced in early 2012, the same year The Book of Life began production. After the initial announcement, updates on Coco remained fairly silent until December 6, 2016 when Entertainment Weekly dropped a plot synopsis for the Pixar film. No matter who released the film first, I would argue that Coco looks far more professionally done and provides more of a heartfelt narrative than its competitor. If you liked The Book of Life, I’d wager you’ll probably like Coco too. Featured image from WDW News Today
Around this time last year, I reviewed Pokemon Sun and Moon, Game Freak’s latest entries to the beloved Pokemon franchise. The new Alola region promised plenty of new creatures, exotic locations, new Z-moves, and Alolan forms of Kanto Pokemon. Fans were ecstatic building up to the release. With all this shining new content, what wasn’t to love?
by Emily Reuben Around this time last year, I reviewed Pokemon Sun and Moon, Game Freak’s latest entries to the beloved Pokemon franchise. The new Alola region promised plenty of new creatures, exotic locations, new Z-moves, and Alolan forms of Kanto Pokemon. Fans were ecstatic building up to the release. With all this shining new content, what wasn’t to love? Sadly, a lot. Sun and Moon are quite a mess, featuring some clunky framerates during battles, little exploration, mind-numbingly simple gameplay, and the greatest offense of them all, the horrendous cutscenes. Initially, I had given the game a 7.0 largely overlooking the massive flaws in favor of the wonderful environment and enhanced gameplay features. As time has passed and I have had more time to fully experience all the Alola region has to offer, I would downgrade that 7.0 to a 5.5 or 6.0 to be generous. Sun and Moon seem out of character, simplified, and downright tedious to trudge through. So here we are a year later with the release of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Do these games fix many of the original flaws in Sun and Moon? Why wasn’t this DLC? Instead of a third game entry such as Black and White 2, these titles offer something a bit closer to Emerald or Platinum. The difference? Black and White 2 are brand new games entirely, whereas Ultra Sun and Moon are almost the exact same game repackaged as an “alternate universe”. What does that mean? Well the trailers leading up to release sure left that vague, but basically it means like older third entry games in the franchise, almost nothing has changed until over halfway through the game. Let me repeat that again: until around halfway through the game little to nothing has changed. If you have played Sun and Moon, you’ve basically played these games. As mentioned, slight differences to the story do exist, such as the focus now placed on the Pokemon Necrozma, but overall nothing too significant is present throughout most of the game. The game does begin to change once you’ve progressed well into the game, such as the much hyped Team Rainbow Rocket and the parallel universe, but by this point the majority of your adventure is done, and it hardly justifies its own release. Now, previous third entry titles like Yellow, Crystal and Emerald are guilty of this too, but this time around everything feels a lot more malicious. Rather than one title to accompany the two main entry games, we have two. Unlike Black and White 2 which vastly reimagined the region and made for an interesting revisit, Ultra Sun and Moon instead feels like a lazy cash grab that could have easily been offered as DLC. During the generations prior to generation 3, DLC simply wasn’t an option, somewhat justifying the updated third title entry. Now with DLC easily accessible on the 3DS, repacking a nearly identical title with a $40 price tag is unacceptable. How this entry evolved Ultra Sun and Moon suffer from the same flaws as Sun and Moon. Prior to release, I had hope Game Freak would heed the criticisms surrounding the numerous cutscenes, and for a brief moment after first switching on my copy of Ultra Sun, I had thought they had actually listened. Rather than waiting for an oddly long amount of time to receive a starter Pokemon, the player is granted one of the three almost immediately. Does this mean I can actually walk around without being bombarded with cutscenes? Would I actually be able to traverse the land with my trusty Litten uninterrupted? For a brief moment I was pumped for my Alola adventure. Alas, it was only a clever ruse. Yes, you get a starter quicker, but you will still be dragged around for roughly 30 minutes before being allowed to do much. The game, much like the main entries, simply will not allow you to discover new areas without Lillie or Hau holding your hand the entire way, and I do mean the entire way. Literally right to the Elite Four. Let’s talk about Lillie Outside of the constant hand holding, Ultra Sun and Moon still desperately try to make a compelling narrative but simply don’t know how to do so. The problem with Sun and Moon, and by extension Ultra Sun and Moon is that the story simply isn’t the player’s; it’s Lillie’s. Some players genuinely like her character development and praise Pokemon for actually trying to have a story. While I love some characters such as N for their actions or personality, I want to be the protagonist. I play the game to be the very best. I don’t want to spend hours reading dialogue strictly to develop what should be a side character. To add insult to injury, Ultra Sun and Moon give Lillie even more of a role in the story than she already had in Sun and Moon. Why does Pokemon even need a deep story? Personally, Pokemon for me is simply about catching them all and being the very best. Additionally, more cutscenes does not equate to “deep” storytelling. Most of the information the game relays could be said in a few textboxes. Instead, walls of constant text are further slowed with camera zooms emphasizing the game’s sloppy, pixelated character models. While a lot is being said , it feels like nothing of substance is being relayed. Almost none of Sun and Moon’s problems were fixed. The marketing for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon played up how different this entry would be, but it feels gross and manipulative seeing how astonishingly little was done to make this entry worth the $40 asking price. For all of its flaws, there is still a competent game. However, the third game in each generation is one where changes are supposed to have been made after having the time and perspective to take a hard look at the shortcomings of the first two entries. Featured image from Bleeding Cool
To be blunt, “Doubling Down” is one of the smartest, most interesting episodes of South Park to have graced us in years. Not only are there some genuinely funny moments and a great animation sequence towards the end of the episode, but “Doubling Down” manages to masterfully interweave comedy with expertly executed social commentary. If you’re looking for the perfect analogy of the current state of America, this episode is for you.
by Emily Reuben To be blunt, “Doubling Down” is one of the smartest, most interesting episodes of South Park to have graced us in years. Not only are there some genuinely funny moments and a great animation sequence towards the end of the episode, but “Doubling Down” manages to masterfully interweave comedy with expertly executed social commentary. If you’re looking for the perfect analogy of the current state of America, this episode is for you. I’ve mentioned previously that the relationship between Heidi and Cartman is difficult to watch and for multiple reasons. When the two first got together, Heidi essentially held Cartman back from his terrible ways, thus making for boring television. Now, the ruthless old Cartman is back in action. Throughout the season, we have witnessed Cartman being outwardly despicable, manipulative, and downright menacing to his poor girlfriend. “Doubling Down” takes all of this to a new level of uncomfortable. This is the Cartman we all love to hate and have been missing. Arguably, “Doubling Down” is the cruelest we have seen Cartman since he tricked Scott Tenorman into eating his own parents. It’s funny to think the simple notion of an abusive relationship is more unsettling than grinding your enemy’s parents into chili. Cartman can literally kill people and not come off as despicable as he does in this episode because abusive relationships happen so often and to so many people the episode hits closer to home. It’s relatable and therefore more scary. While Cartman’s actions towards Heidi are certainly the focal point of the episode, all of this is a blatant allegory for the political atmosphere currently plaguing America. “Doubling Down” is largely a commentary on Trump’s quickly deteriorating popularity and the defensiveness of his supporters. The more Heidi is told Cartman is terrible, the more defensive she becomes. Is she stupid? Of course not. Cartman came into her life when she was at a low point. He seemed like a fix for her problems. After some reflection she can clearly see Cartman is awful, but when she is constantly ridiculed for the mistake of dating him, she refuses to prove her mockers right. This desire to maintain dignity makes her more vulnerable to Cartman’s manipulative nature and thus fall victim to the cycle of abuse. She would rather remain in a toxic, manipulative relationship than endure the constant ridicule of her peers. All of this is juxtaposed with sequences featuring President Garrison abusing his subordinates, obviously drawing a parallel to Cartman’s abuse of Heidi. Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren’t being vague here. They assert firmly that yes, President Garrison (Donald Trump) is a dangerous idiot to most people, but making people who did vote for Garrison (Trump) constantly the butt of some joke only makes them double down on their stances. To these voters, he had appeared at a time of vulnerability and preyed on that weakness, just as Cartman has done to Heidi. What’s so interesting is that no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall under, the narrative refrains from attacking one specific group more than the other. Garrison voters (Trump supporters) are viewed as dumb, but sympathetic. To Trey and Matt, yes, they made a dumb decision, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are stupid people. To contrast the supporters, those who voted against Garrison from the start lack empathy and refuse to abandon the attitude of “I told you so”. With an issue like this, it would be easy to take one side, but in typical South Park fashion, everyone is on the receiving end of criticism. The show asserts that right now, we are all in an abusive relationship with Mr. Garrison (Trump). “Doubling Down” is quick to remind us that the more we antagonize people for realizing a mistake and coming forward, the more likely they are to go back to their abuser. Featured image from South Park Archives