The Value of Teamwork as Told by The Avengers and Big Hero 6

In both Big Hero 6 and The Avengers, there are striking similarities in the ways with which the teams operate, certain character archetypes, as well as the missions of both teams as a whole.  While notable differences include the use of superpowers and the like, the overall theme is there and is very clear to the viewers.  There is without a doubt a broad range of similarities between Big Hero 6 and The Avengers, but it is most certainly these movies’ abilities to couple specific social messages with the fun and action that they portray that make them so notable.  Within both of the movies, the characters portrayed enter a nearly impossible struggle with a formidable enemy that leaves them in harrowing circumstances, yet the teams utilize each other greatly, and it is through this teamwork that we get a firsthand look at its importance in society as a whole.

The worlds that the characters inhabit in both of these movies are such that they experience massive amounts of destruction and chaos (especially The Avengers) almost regularly.  Despite all of this however, it is important to note that the overall environments as a whole, appear rather optimistic in their futuristic portrayals.  The significance of this positivity in the environment says a lot about the importance of heroics in these stories to begin with.  In The Avengers for example, despite each of the team members being independent and somewhat skittish about working with one another somehow manage to beat their foe by seemingly feeding off of the positivity of the world around them.  Other than the meta reality of there being a happily ever after ending at the conclusion of both of these movies simply because they are centered on kids as their audience, the worlds’ themselves just overall seem to be places where good reigns supreme.

The near endless use of humor in both of these movies also serves an important aspect in fostering teamwork.  In Big Hero 6 when Hiro is first introduced to the future team by his brother for example, each team member is introduced with a rather light feel, while also highlighting their rather extreme talents as scientists.  Humor in the form of playful banter and one-liners between each team member of The Avengers also serves to alleviate the stress of their dire situations, as well as to serve the arguably more important role of building team morale and cohesion, if these were not to be looked at from the strict perspective of an audience.

Within both of these movies are important aspects to creating effective teams.  In both movies there is a solid amount of stress that causes the teams to turn on each other briefly in moments of weakness, and we know this to be true within reality as well.  The other content however, is also true to reality.  A team’s overall environment and the way with which each team member interacts with each other are absolutely crucial to the success of the team as a whole, and what these movies both successfully address in society today is how to try and approach teamwork.  It is not uncommon after all for people to tend to work individually and exclude themselves from others, yet a well-functioning team will always be able to accomplish more than just one person.

 

Works Cited:

The Avengers Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo. Marvel, 2012

Big Hero 6. Dir. Don Hall and Chris Williams. Disney, 2014. Blu-Ray Disc.

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The Illusion of Choice in BioShock

In the introduction to BioShock, we are introduced to a society supposedly built on radical ideas of personal and economic freedom—Rapture is minimally regulated, built upon Randian principles of a laissez-faire free market. “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?” Andrew Ryan, the city’s founder, asks. The theme of free choice recurs throughout the gameplay, as when the player is given the opportunity to either kill a Little Sister to extract the valuable parasite within her, or to save her from the parasite’s grip, extracting less but sparing her life in the process.

The medium of the video game is useful to exploring the subject of free will. BioShock, as most other video games, requires the player to complete a series of tasks in order to progress through the game and its storyline. It is revealed at the end of the game that the first-person character through which the player experiences the game has been completing these tasks because he is hypnotically compelled to do so—Atlas, a supposedly benevolent character who has been guiding the player through the game over a radio, is able to compel the character to do anything he wants be prefacing the order with the phrase “would you kindly.” This lack of free will mirrors the player’s own in many ways—the player must progress through the game according to its prescribed rules, and even when the player is offered a choice it is still inherently constrained by the medium and will still ultimately lead to the same (or at a least very similar) outcome at the game’s end. Any choice offered by the video game medium is illusory, just as is choice in the supposedly unconstrained, laissez-faire city of Rapture. BioShock draws attention to the illusory nature of choice in the player’s own life, invisibly constrained by the parameters of the system in which they live just as choice is constrained in the video game environment.

The player is not the only one in the game to experience a lack of agency. The laissez-faire system in Rapture results in the enslavement of innumerable children for the purposes of production. The war that breaks out in Rapture leaves thousands of workers so dependent on the chemical substance ADAM that they are willing to kill to get their hands on it. It is clear that this laissez-faire society, espoused as the pinnacle of human freedom, is in fact burdensome and constrictive to many if not most of its residents.

How can parallels be drawn to our current social arrangement? Certainly the capitalist system we live in is a mere shadow of the Ayn Randian free market that Andrew Ryan sought to replicate in Rapture. However, we can see how the nature of the market, described in liberatory terms by Ryan and Rand, provides the illusion of choice while in fact serving to constrain. Consumptive choices are limited by income, except for the very wealthy—the grocery store may be shelved with a million different brands, but those choices are no good to somebody without the money. Does an electoral system that offers its people choice between Democrats and Republicans offer them much choice at all? The choice of what job to take is a luxury afforded only to a select few with skills in demand, and even this choice is hopelessly constrained in the present day—a worker may have the option to choose which sort of wage labor they want to fill most of their waking hours, but they have no option to opt out of the wage labor system entirely. In manufacturing the illusion of choice, BioShock, and the video game medium in general, may not be all that different from our present reality.

The video game is a medium uniquely suited to exploring questions of freedom, free will, and choice. BioShock set a precedent for the medium in exploring the subject in greater depth, drawing deep connections to the present day. The game, in highlighting how the medium deprives its player of agency while simultaneously manufacturing the appearance of choice, highlights such dynamics in the player’s own life and society.

Works Cited

BioShock. 2K Games, 2007. Video game.

The Video Game: A New Platform For Scientific and Speculative Fiction

 

Throughout this semester works of speculative and scientific fiction have been analyzed. Among these works were poems, short stories, books, comic books and movies. All of these works, regardless of their format, have been used as way to express and make people think about scientific and speculative fiction issues, with a focus on the 21st century. However there is a form of media that is, in itself, unique to the 21st century; video games. With this new possible outlet it may give people interested in the genre a chance to become even more involved in the story line, with a personal investment in the game’s story outcome.

Bioshock bursted onto the video game scene with an impact, to put it lightly. In its first year the game won over 19 awards for it’s unique storyline and gameplay . The setting for the video game is very unique and adds to gameplay in a variety of way. The game takes place in the underworld society of “Rapture”. The underworld city was meant to be a utopia in which scientific minds and successful people could live and thrive in world isolated from war. However within seconds of playing the game it is clear that the grand plans for the city have failed as it is virtually uninhabited. The player must make his way through the city by completing various tasks and avoiding dangerous situations.

Bioshock is a very interesting subject when comparing it to many of the works we have discussed throughout this course. Throughout the game there are many issues that coincide with issues discussed in class. There are several themes imbedded in the game, among them are; free will, utopia, and genetic ethics. Free will is a consistent theme throughout the game as you are constantly asked to complete tasks preceded with the phrase “would you kindly” , and after hearing that phrase you completed the task with no control given to the person playing the game. This idea of free will is also common in the novel “Fledgling”, where humans are powerless to the control of the Vampires after feeding from them.

Utopia is also an idea that is outlined in Bioshock, or rather the idea of a false utopia. The movie Snowpiercer has shades of a false utopian society as well. In both works there are a select amount of people that benefit from the utopian idea, while people that are not within that realm suffer as an expense. Lastly the idea of genetic ethics is a main part of bioshock. Young girls in Rapture were used as a experiments in which plasma from a sea slug was consumed to alter DNA . The recent issue of genetic modification is also brought up in “Fledgling”, in the form of a genetically modified vampire that is able to resist the effects of sunlight.

Clearly the overlapping themes throughout Bioshock and these other forms of speculative and scientific fiction would provide evidence of the video game’s significance as a platform for the genres. Furthermore, there are benefits to using video games as a form of expression for these genres. Video games allow for the player to become more invested in a story line, as they are actively playing and trying to progress throughout the game. This emerging media of video games provides an interesting future for speculative and scientific fiction in an era of increasing technological advances.

Works Cited:

Snowpiercer. Dir. Chun Pong. Ascot Elite, 2014. Film.

Butler, Octavia E. Fledgling. New York: Warner, 2007. Print.

http://www.bioshockgame.com/site/us/enter.html

FRIENDS + BONDING = FAMILY

Brandon Grispart

Dec. 16, 2015

AmStudies 316: Envisioning Other Worlds

Final Reflection Paper

Prof. Tran

 

 FRIENDS + BONDING = FAMILY

              Guardians of the Galaxy critiques the connections we hold to family versus friends. In today’s modern world with so many broken families due to divorce, domestic violence, and loss, this film allows us to see how most often friendship creates a stronger sense of family. In the beginning, the movie takes on our world dated back to the 1980’s. The audience is oriented within a hospital room. Peter Quill is a child, and his mother is dying of cancer. Uncomfortable with the reality of this, young Peter does not reach out for her hand turning the other way. His mother passes. Suddenly, Peter reaches out for her hand knowing it is too late, and his grandfather takes him out of the room isolating him from everyone. This scene signifies how the film constructs family bonds, or lack thereof, through uses of memory. Peter does not comfort his mother in the face of death, as does his grandfather in dealing with Peter’s loss. Much like Big Hero 6, we see how Guardians of the Galaxy creates a family bond that replaces the absence of family. As a result, this allows for diversity, inclusion, and enforces that friendship is a power that shifts individualism into a communal mindset.

At the end, this beginning scene reiterates itself as Gamora takes on the role of Peter Quill’s mother. With the emphasis of Peter Quill’s memory, Gamora reaches out her hand to help. His flashback illustrates the importance of his friends like family connecting both. Another key contrast is that, when Quill takes the risk of death by holding the Power Stone at the end, Gamora and the team unify and come together, unlike how Quill’s grandfather isolates him making him handle the situation independently. They demonstrate a stronger bond than his original human family creating a stronger type of bond.

If we look to Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” we can connect the scenes where both superhero teams emerge. They both band together through a strong sense of friendship creating a family. For example, when Hiro imagines upgrading them into superheroes Go Go mentions, “Tadashi Hamada was our best friend” (Big Hero 6). She instills this notion that in dealing with loss, the friend’s intrinsic motivation for justice surfaces. In a similar vain as Go Go, Gamora says, “I have lived most of my life surrounded by my enemies. I would be grateful to die surrounded by my friends” (Guardians of the Galaxy). In both scenarios we see how death is confronted to connect these teams. The difference, however, is that unlike Big Hero 6, this moment holds a stronger significance to Guardians of the Galaxy. Up until this point in the film, the main characters are misfit convicts, whereas in Big Hero 6, they are all friends connected to Tadashi, Hiro’s brother. For Gamora to consider them friends shows that she connects with the others. This extends further at the end as Groot sacrifices himself saying, “We are Groot” (Guardians of the Galaxy). This shift from “I” to “we” shows how everyone’s mindset shifts from selfishness to a collective team. Groot’s words illustrate how his friends are worth “dying for” emphasizing Gamora’s words earlier on in the film.

Like Groot, Baymax as well sacrifices himself for Hiro. By deactivating himself within the portal, he ensures the safety of Hiro. Both take on the role of care-taking showing how in modern superhero movies there is a shift to a family-oriented team sharing a strong bond much like loved ones. Groot’s “We” shows how close they really are and allows for a connection to others, which is human characteristics: inclusion and bonding.

Additionally, it is important to note how interracial and inter-species related characters still find ways to connect. This is a progressive theme that has been increasingly popular among many new and more modern films. By doing so, “Guardians of the  Galaxy” illustrate diversity spanning from a human to a cyber-genetic raccoon and talking tree. The movie takes these different characters and unifies them putting aside their external appearances. It shows the modern world about inclusion and the idea of moving past prejudices and segregation, which is a topic that still addresses our modern world.

               Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6 invite audiences to identify the strength of friendship. Unlike most superhero movies, the teams are built under a strong reliance of each other. With embedded learning throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, the team builds human-like relationships regardless of if they are human, robot, or alien. Additionally with this in mind, Guardians of the Galaxy invites audiences to consider the importance of diversity. This is a superhero movie where a connection between the human world and alien world collide, showing that misfits can also find a place of belonging somewhere in between. Acceptance is vital in a world where selfishness is extremely prevalent. Allowing you to care for others is just the beginning of developing friendships. With these friends comes a support system that is deeper than the reality of broken families. These friendships become family. With both films, audiences are asked to consider if their friends are also “worth dying for” rather than being surrounded by strangers.

 

Bibliography:

Big Hero 6. Dir. Don Hall and Chris Williams. Disney, 2014. Blu-Ray Disc.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Dir. James Gunn. Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures, 2014. DVD.

Value of The Avengers

Jimmy Nolan

Prof. Tran

Envisioning Other Worlds

December 16th, 2015

     Cultural Value of The Avengers

The Avengers is a 2012 action film directed by Joss Whedon- In the film, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reactivates the “avengers initiative.” Fury is the head of a government organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. The avengers initiative is to gather a group of particularly skilled operatives to conduct an operation in which they are to retrieve something called the Tesseract; a source of immense, intergalactic power. The Tesseract allows Loki, an Asgardian prince bent on world domination, to come to Earth with the intention of bringing his armies down through the same portal. It is at this point that the Avengers themselves enter to intercede and prevent Loki’s plans from happening. However, it is the people that make up the avengers and the way that they interact that drives the story and makes it more than just another superhero movie. The characters are the most significant aspect of the narrative.

6 beings comprise the team, and each have a specific dynamic with at least one other member of the team. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), or Iron Man, is already a famed superhero (and “billionaire playboy philanthropist,” as he puts it) in their universe. He quarrels fairly often with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) also known as Captain America. Stark’s boisterous and arrogant nature does not mesh well with Rogers’ cut-and-dry sense of good versus evil. Rogers says to Stark “you may not be a threat, but you’d better stop pretending to be a hero.” While Stark does believe in doing the right thing, it can be said that he takes serious tasks lightly, such as the one at hand. Rogers never falters with his strict moral codes.

Another important dynamic is that of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), otherwise known as The Hulk. The two at first speak very little, but once conflict ensues, their infighting proves to be a much larger issue than that of Stark and Rogers. When Loki’s Possessed agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begin to attack, Banner has transformed into The Hulk. He and Thor proceed to fight while the agents are destroying the helicarrier that they are flying on. Thor and The Hulk are also the only two members of the team that would not be considered human.

Ultimately, the team is capable of working together after they begin to realize this is not an enemy they can defeat individually. The location at which the battle for the fate of the earth takes place is important as well; it happens in modern New York City. There could be several reasons the director chose to do this, but the most obvious is to make it so that the audience could relate to it. Many members of the audience had been to or at least seen New York; so seeing it destroyed made the film feel much more real.

The idea of having the final battle in New York might also be a social commentary. New York City is the most populous city in the United States and one of the most populous in the Western Hemisphere. After Loki’s army invaded, the government sent in troops and ground support for the Avengers. However, they ultimately decided it would be in their best interest to launch a nuclear warhead at the City. Even though Iron Man was able to send the missile into space instead of allowing it to explode in New York. Could this have been a jab at the overbearing militarism of modern western culture? It seems as though they are saying that the government would be willing to kill millions of its own people if it meant stopping a potential threat, even though The Avengers were able to deal with the invaders on their own. This theory is also present earlier in the film, when we discover that the government wanted the Tesseract to use as a weapon in the first place. The idea of an overbearing military is not a new one and is a common element in several works of science fiction, but here it has proven to be a social critique as well.

The Avengers was a wildly successful film that showed a team of people who should not have been able to work together completing the task at hand, as well as defending the city from its own military. The commentary on our own military is particularly important considering how prominent militarism was at the time the film was produced, and how prominent it still is today.

 

Works Cited

The Avengers Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo. Marvel, 2012

           

Justin Wright

Professor Tran

21st Century Expression

16 December 2015

 

The Effects of a Personal Perspective

Social connection and interaction is an integral aspect of human experience. In modern society one of the most important parts of life is our social lives.  Through the use of technology the means by which humans interact has been upgraded to a point that would have seemed like science fiction 30 years ago.  However, the recent improvements in human communication don’t come without cost.  Social media and certain kinds of entertainment, like reality television, manipulate the human desire for social interaction in order to thrive.  The manipulation of the human desire for emotional connection by popular media results in a usurpation of genuine social interactions between people.

The real-life events that were examined during an interview in the Love and Radio podcast, called “The Living Room”, offers an effective metaphor and example for the situation that has arisen as a result of modern technology and the application of that technology in popular media.  Over the course of the interview you are told that the narrator formed an emotional connection with a man and woman that she was able to see from her living room window.  She came to care about them to the point that she felt compelled to comfort the woman after the man dies.  What was particularly interesting about the narrator is that when she went to comfort the woman she was unable to do so, as the woman had never seen her before.  Despite the very real connection that the narrator felt, there was no corresponding connection felt by the man or woman.

The emotional connection that the narrator felt with the couple across the street was completely one-sided.  The fact that the narrator was capable of feeling so connected to people that she had never actually spoken to was the result of the intrinsic human desire to create such connections.  This instinct is a well-known aspect of human behavior, and it can be manipulated.  Reality T.V. shows will manipulate the participants in order to facilitate the growth of these quasi-connections within the viewers.  As you watch you begin to feel like you know these people, yet most viewers never actually meet them.  The very personal view that the viewers have promotes the formation of emotional connections.  While this manipulation of human behavior is relatively harmless, as it is designed to entertain the viewer, some uses of the same technique can be detrimental.

Social media also unintentionally utilized a similar technique, and has become extremely popular. While ideally it can be used just as a platform to facilitate social interaction without the necessity of actually being physically present, it can encourage the formation of quasi-connections similar to the ones formed when watching reality television.  The most popular social media platforms are publically acceptable, meaning that any user would be capable of finding another given enough time to search.  While the capacity to effectively stalk a user’s account is not, in and of itself, detrimental, it is a popular practice to post personal information on your account.  This enables anyone who can find your profile to have a personal view of your life, a perspective similar to that of the narrator in “The Living Room”. At that point human nature compels you to form an emotional connection, but the reality of the situation is that you have no real social interaction to support the connection.  Unfortunately the popularity of social media has grown to a point where the quasi-connections formed through the use of social media can supersede genuine connections with a backing of social interaction.

Emotional connections are a vital part of life.  As humans we actively seek the opportunity to form these connections, even when they are not mutual.  The circumstances that surround the use of social media encourage the creation of connections lacking substance that can supersede genuine emotional connections.  As seen in “The Living Room” these connections cannot be used for emotional support in the same way that true connections can, which is where the value of these connections comes from.

 

Works Cited

Weipert, Diane. The Living Room. 3 Mar. 2015. Love and Radio. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Family of Misfits

Serina Thomas

21 Century Expression

Frances Tran

12/15/2015

Guardians of the Galaxy is a modern-day example of a movie that has created characters that relate to today’s audience. The film utilizes science fictional elements to present the audience with an entertaining but understandable way of looking at the broader them of family in superhero’s lifes. The movie intertwines the theme of family with identity and morality to show how crucial the aspect of family is to the development of individuals, no matter who or what they are.

The absence of family is a particular trope that is very present in almost all superhero stories. Peter Quill loses his mother to cancer and has never met his father, Gamora’s adoptive father is the evil villain Thanos, Drax’s family is killed, while Rocket and Groot don’t even have a family. Family is an important element that everyone, human or not, longs for and is connected so strongly to how one’s mind develops. The heroes in Guardians of the Galaxy all suffer a lack in their sense of identity because they didn’t have that developmental aspect of a loving, nurturing family who teaches them right from wrong and where they came from. Growing up without a true sense of family leads each character to question their identities. For example, both Rocket and Gamora are called names such as being a vermin or monster which affect them negatively because they themselves are not secure in what they believe and who they are. They take the comments of their society as the truth because they don’t have any family to be honest and nurturing with them. Most of us grow up with our identity strongly grounded in our culture and family background but these characters have a hole in their identity that causes them to do drastic and immoral things, such as commit crimes.

All the characters are misfit criminals that essentially meet in prison which show how they have grown up without a real sense of morality of how stealing or killing people is not tolerable in society. Even their initial motivations behind dealing with the infinity stone was based on the external reward of getting money, almost to show that they are trying to fill the void of being lonely with the reward. The shift in the characters’ morality and motivation occur when they discover that they need each other to complete their goals and that they are each other’s family. In particular, the scene that occurs after the collector’s place is blown up by the infinity stone and Ronan comes to retrieve it marks the beginning of the change in the characters. In this scene, Drax unsuccessfully tries to take on Ronan by himself, while Peter and Rocket try to help Gamora keep the infinity stone away from Nebula. After this scene occurs the viewer can see a shift from being selfish to caring for each other when Groot saves Drax from drowning, Peter saves Gamora, and Rocket, Drax, and Groot try to save Peter and Gamora from Yandu. None of these characters had to save each other but they wanted to because they had cultivated a bond with each other that resembled that of a family. Being misfits that are underestimated and picked on is one of the bonds that binds them to one another. The audience truly relates to this misfit element of the characters because it makes them more “human” in a sense.

The film shows that they are not the ideal superhero identity that many are used to, instead they are more real in their actions and mentalities. This goes to show how different types of people can still have a significant impact on society despite criticism and hatred that they encounter. The film shows that once the characters become a team and commit to each other that they become invincible and confident in their unique identities. The film deals with the contemporary ideas of how important family is because it impacts how we see ourselves and how we conduct ourselves in society. It speaks to how one can always find the place where they belong and have an impact on the world not matter how insignificant they may seem