What We Can Learn From A Nightmare I Had Last Night

Normally most of us try to forget our nightmares, especially the more distressing ones, and I’m no different. But after a particularly vivid nightmare last night, I decided to instead remember it and see what nuggets of writing wisdom could be unearthed.

In the nightmare, I was in a future where poverty, suffering, and desperation was out of control in the United States (in other words, the present-day). But in this nightmare future, kidnapping is a frighteningly common occurrence, and I was only the latest victim. I was kept inside this grungy, run down house by a group of young 20 somethings who didn’t see me as a person but as a product to be used, sold, or traded. Thankfully, I managed to sneak out of the house and tried to run to freedom, including going through the backyard of a house owned by a bear and asking her for help. However, when I was being pursued and realized there was no way to escape, I used the back button on an internet browser to go back in time so I was back at the house to try and figure out a smarter way to escape.

Then, to make matters worse, I was shown why all this suffering was so commonplace: the kidnappings were done in such a way that if you resisted your captors or tried to escape, they responded by digging out your eyes, cutting off your limbs, then digging out your ears, ripping out your teeth, then your tongue, and finally tearing off your nose so you would become little more than a living sex toy to be used however rich people wanted to use you. It was no wonder so many people just meekly went along with whatever their captors wanted.

But it wasn’t just what happened to individuals: the kidnappings were all being orchestrated by an unspeakably powerful gang that was making headroads into the United States, and threatened all members of law enforcement that the fate of being turned into a blind, deaf, mute, and crippled sex toy was what would happen to their loved ones if they tried to stop the gang in each city they went into, and the gang had the power and ability to do so, meaning it was not an idle threat. Against such malevolence, police and federal law enforcement were all but powerless… and that’s when I woke up, thank God.

What did the nightmare do well?

It used the ‘If you try anything we will harm your loved ones’ trope to devastating effect

It may be used time and time again in countless stories, but there is no faster way to make a good character capitulate to evil than by having evil threaten his or her loved ones with horrific suffering. That taps into our deep-rooted desire for our loved ones to be safe, and the terror of something awful happening to them. While simple, it’s always a devastatingly effective storytelling tool (and an excellent way to make your audience eager to see the villains get their equally horrific comeuppance).

It showed evil as cold and indifferent

It’s easy to imagine evil as smug, cruel, and enjoying tormenting people. But the other side of flashy, smug evil can be equally frightening, if not more so: The kidnappers I faced in the story didn’t care about me or my feelings. They were unaffected by screams, pleas for mercy, threats, and begging. To them, captives were just products, and using torture didn’t bother them at all. They were indifferent to human suffering.

That kind of evil is, in my opinion, more frightening because we expect people to be swayed by emotions, even if it’s only to be more cruel and to laugh at our pain and suffering. But people who aren’t moved are like aliens or robots in human flesh: they may look normal, but we realize that something about them is wrong, and we instinctively fear them because they’re unpredictable and could do anything to us without any warning. They are like spiders, always watching you, never betraying any emotions, waiting to strike when you least expect it, and when they do, it’s unexpected and overpowering. At least with people who relish watching you suffer, you know what to expect and can try to prepare. But with these people? You can’t.

Cold and impersonal is the opposite of smug and selfish. Both work in different circumstances, but in my opinion the former is more frightening.

It threatened the protagonist with a fate worse than death

While death is often seen as the ultimate bad ending, there are fates far, far worse: Does spending decades as a limbless, blind, deaf, mute, and helpless living sex toy sound like fun to you? In any case, threatening a character with such a fate is a quick way to show that the antagonists aren’t messing around.

What could be done to improve the nightmare?

The bear could have had more characterization

The bear I encountered was a fascinating individual, as it was a single mother, had a house, and dressed in human clothes. Clearly, it was an intelligent being who was able to hold down a job and afford a house, but when it saw me and heard my pleas for help, it did nothing but stare at me with its stupid bear-face. The nightmare missed out on the chance to show what it would be like to interact with an intelligent, talking animal, but instead chose to do nothing. How lazy.

There was no explanation how time travel worked

In an otherwise rational, logical, and cruel world, there was no dwelling on the fact that time travel was real, or how it worked. There wasn’t even an attempt to explain how pressing the back button on an internet browser allowed me to reverse time and only have me be the one to realize it. What a disappointment.

Conclusion

Though there were some missed opportunities with regards to the bear’s characterization, and being able to time travel using the back button on an internet explorer was out of place in such an otherwise consistent and grim world, the nightmare did an amazing job showing how indifference can be terrifying, and how threatening ourselves and our loved ones with a fate worse than death is evil’s greatest and most powerful tool. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend revising this nightmare, as it really wasn’t fun to watch or experience. I’d recommend something like this instead.

Favorite Moments: Titanic, But With Kazoos

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The Video

Why it’s great

Nothing story related today; we could all use a laugh, and kazoos make everything better; they can take the most emotional, most stirring, and most heart-wrenching songs and instantly turn them into comedic gold, and God only knows we need more kazoos in a time of rising authoritarianism, a worldwide pandemic, and mother nature conspiring to murder us all.

With that said, here’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ but with kazoos. I hope it’s played at my funeral.

What We Can Learn From ‘The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe’

Super Mario Brothers. The Legend of Zelda. Doom. Metal Gear Solid: throughout the history of video games, certain titles have risen to the top as the titans of the field, champions who will be immortalized forevermore by history. But one title has long been forgotten, one that deserves to be remembered among the likes of Super Mario 64, Duke Nukem, and Grand Theft Auto:

The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Released for the Philips CD-i in 1992, The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe is a boring, barely-interactive wondrous experience that catalogs Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photography, allowing us, the unlucky viewers, to admire them at our leisure. After all, after a long, hard, day at work in a soul-crushing job, who wouldn’t want to come home, turn on a video game console, and watch pictures of flowers for hours on end?

So relax, settle down, and join me as we contemplate and admire the virtues of one of the greatest video games ever created by mankind, and what its blessings can do to enrich our efforts to craft stories of beauty and wisdom.

What does the story do well?

It’s simple and focused

The mark of a great story is that it can be summed up in one sentence. The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe can be described as, “Enter a virtual museum to learn about and admire a collection of flower photographs.” It’s not flashy, it’s not complex, but it’s a streamlined story that’s easy to understand follow with no fat or unnecessary subplots that need to be trimmed.

It shows the timeless partnership of rock and elegant music

There are many different types of museums around the world – bare ones, colorful ones, and ones decorated to match a certain period in history. The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe takes the timeless combination of grey rock with the eternal grace of classical music. If we, as writers, are looking to create a memorable museum for our characters to wander through, we should remember that a simple venue of stone and music can be the most effective, rather than something over-designed that takes away from the priceless art and artifacts on display.

It takes a comedic subject with the utmost seriousness

The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe’s greatest virtue is that treats photographs of flowers with the utmost seriousness. From the classical music to the curator trying his hardest to make photographs of flowers interesting instructing us in Mapplethorpe’s use of color and light, the whole game is insane a delight. Yet, this formula of a museum, classical music, and serious curators can be applied to any number of silly subjects to great effect. Consider the sequels we never got:

The mops of Robert Mapplethorpe

The toilet plungers of Robert Mapplethorpe

The flaming oil drums of Robert Mapplethorpe

Now, visualize people in a story wandering the sacred halls of exhibits and admiring these subjects with Beethoven playing softly through the speakers. The image is delightfully absurd and plays with the cliched-but-fun trope of fine art being incomprehensible and/or ludicrous.

What could have been done to improve the story?

Mention Mapplethorpe’s extensive BDSM photography

If you’ve never heard of Mr. Mapplethorpe, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his career consisted entirely of flower photographs. But in reality, most of his work was focused on BDSM pictures, many of which included himself. For obvious reasons, The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe doesn’t mention this, but it makes the whole game funnier when you think that the photographer spent most of his time photographing gay men wearing bondage gear. The contrast between such different subjects (with classical music, no less) is hilarious. Too bad the Phillips CD-i was never blessed with The BDSM photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe

Include some sort of action involving the flowers

While the elegance, beauty, and grace of the game cannot be denied, it also cannot be denied that it’s… well, not the most engrossing of video games to play as you click from one photograph to the next. This could have been avoided if there had been a campaign mode where you sent Mr. Mapplethorpe’s flowers into battle against giant robots, or something. That alone would have turned this into the greatest video game ever.

Conclusion

Though it is one of the most ludicrous videogames ever made not the most exciting videogame, The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe is a shining example of how taking the most boring mundane subjects with the respect and seriousness you’d find in a fine art gallery is comedic gold. Yet, we must not also forget there there needs to be some sort of context or reason for people to pursue instead of the simple pleasure of looking at pictures when playing a videogame. If the game was about, say, a highly-trained operative traveling the world to rescue the stolen photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe from North Korea, Al-Qaeda, escaped Nazis, and other nefarious forces to return them to the museum, it would have been much more interesting to play.

Perhaps one day, The Flowers of Robert Mapplethorpe will be given a high-definition treatment to upgrade the graphics, the presentation, and finally allow a new generation of gamers to experience the beauty of flowers. But until that day comes, we can be content with the lessons it teaches storytellers… and admire the flowers, too.

What We Can Learn From The Star Wars Holiday Special

There comes a time during every movie writer’s career where they undergo a rite of passage, much like the Brazillian Mawé who allow themselves to be bitten by bullet ants, boys who jump off giant towers of wood, and boys becoming men at their bar mitzvahs. For writers, this rite of passage is to analyze the classics of grade Z cinema: Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Hand of Mandos, Birdemic, The Room, and so many others.

But there’s one experience that all writers dread.

Its name is whispered in fearful tones. Most prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist. Those who have seen parts of it would rather read the Torah in its entirety while being attacked by bullet ants while bungee-jumping off towers in the jungle than watch the show in its entirety. And to this day, its name is synonymous with the pinnacle of cinematic agony:

The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Released back in 1978, the Holiday Special remains to this day one of Star Wars’ biggest missteps. Before Jar Jar, before midichlorians, and before Anakin whined about sand, we had Lumpy, Itchy, whipping, stirring, and Harrison Ford silently begging for the sweet release of death. The Holiday Special was so poorly received that to this day it has never gotten an official release; it’s become an inside joke with the creators and fans of the Star Wars franchise, and single-handily turned the phrase, ‘holiday special’ into a codeword for awfulness.

With the 2020 holiday season coming to a close – and considering that 2020 has just been an awful year in general – I thought, what better way to end it than by finally gathering my courage and watching the special from beginning to end? My rite of passage would finally be complete, and I could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my peers as someone who has endured the horror of watching elderly wookies enjoying softcore VR porn in their living rooms.

But surely the special can’t be that awful, I thought. It’s probably just an example of a film that’s most famous for its reputation – deserved or not – as a big, steaming pile of poodoo instead of its actual quality.

And so, steeling myself, I went to Youtube, found the special, mourned how I wouldn’t be watching the Incredible Hulk, and finally saw the worst Christmas event ever televised. And now, dear reader, allow me to share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly of history’s most infamous holiday special, and find out, once and for all, if it really is as bad as pop culture would have us believe.

What does the story do well?

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NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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What could have been done to improve the story?

Why

WHY

The 10 things we don't want to see at the George Lucas Museum

WHY

Conclusion

THERE IS NO GOD.

The Best Background Characters: Floppy Hat Guy

Every story has a cast of characters that we follow and watch and come to love… but what about the background characters? The nameless masses who rarely get our attention? This column examines my favorite background characters who deserve a moment in the spotlight.

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The Movie:

‘Jaws’

The Character:

A guy in a white hat who’s way too happy during a shark attack.

The Scene:

(The guy in question appears at 2:15 at the bottom of the screen, and at 2:18 on the far left)

Why He Deserves A Moment In The Spotlight

Humans are weird creatures. When faced with catastrophe, disaster, or the wrath of a man-eating shark, you’d expect people to be frozen in fear, frozen in shock, or being one of the few brave souls who charges in to save others.

What you don’t expect is for someone to be having the time of their lives, as one beachgoer does in 1975’s classic, ‘Jaws’.

The fellow in question, a mustached man with a white floppy hat, charges into the water with other adults when the shark attacks poor Alex. But unlike the adults who are trying to get the kids out of the water, Floppy Hat Guy just frolics about with the biggest, dopiest grin, nonplussed at the terrors of the deep turning him into Purina shark chow.

Naturally, one wonders what this man’s story is. Is he high on drugs? Mentally challenged? Secretly in love with the idea of flaunting danger? Getting a thrill out of seeing kids get eaten? Of course, the real answer is that he’s played by an extra who was probably just really happy to be in a movie, but that’s nowhere near as much fun as watching a guy having fun when surrounded by death and sharks.

Perfect Moments: One Of The Freakiest Endings I’ve Ever Seen

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

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Please note that this is the ending to the 2013 film, ‘Enemy,’ and will spoil it if you haven’t seen the film, even though it’s… well, I really can’t talk about this scene without giving anything away.

The Scene:

Why it’s Perfect

Has your heart slowed down? Good.

As an arachnophobe, seeing a room-sized spider made me jump back when I first saw this. Making it so photo-realistic didn’t help, and neither does the fact that this thing screeches. It’s a fear-based screech, yes, but it’s still a giant spider screeching and scrunching up like its about to pounce and staring at you with soulless eyes AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

Okay… Well, giant-freaking spider aside, what I admire about this ending is that it’s a perfect jump scare. There’s no hints, none whatsoever, that Jake Gyllenhaal is about to encounter a room-sized tarantula that used to be his wife. There’s no creepy music, there’s no sudden silence, only a normal scene building up to what you think is going to be a tense conversation between Adam and his wife, and then BOOM BIG FREAKING SPIDER THAT’S ABOUT TO EAT YOU RUN RUN RUN SUPERMAN SAVE ME.

While jump scares don’t age well after you see them, the first time you watch them are some of the most intense and memorable moments of cinema. This spider certainly counts as one of the best.

 

Is Rexy God?

When it comes to fan theories, nothing’s off-limits. Are the characters in a show all dead? Are they aliens? Is everything happening in the show a dream? Is Jar Jar Binks a Sith lord who secretly masterminded the events of the entire Star Wars saga? There’s no limit to the creativity that fans can come up with, which leads to one of my favorite theories: that Rexy – the Tyrannosaurus Rex from the first ‘Jurassic Park’ film – is God.

No, really.

This theory is a combination of two different ideas: that the T-rex is the hero of the first film, and that she takes the role of God in a parable of the Garden of Eden, turning Rexy into a being executing divine judgment on everyone who crosses her path. But is there any truth to this idea? Is it possible that this famous dinosaur is really the supreme being, the creator of the heavens, the Alpha and Omega of everything?

No, of course not. It’s ludicrous. But for the fun of it, let’s take a look and see what conclusions we can draw, based on the evidence seen in the films.

In analyzing this theory, we need to lay out some ground rules about God. The most common characteristics of God are:

*God is everywhere.

*God is all-powerful and can do anything.

*God knows everything.

We also need to figure out what God wants. This is perhaps one of the most unanswerable of all questions, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s guess that God wants us to be good to each other. Therefore, we can assume that if God did come down to earth and took physical form, God would spend the lifespan of that body trying to help people live better lives and become more moral and fair.

Now, let’s apply all of these interpretations to Rexy, starting with God’s traits.

1. Is Rexy everywhere at once? No; she can be confined to paddocks, cages, etc.

2. Is Rexy all-powerful? No; she can break through fences, is quite strong, and surprisingly healthy as an old individual (Rexy is about 30 years old in ‘Fallen Kingdom’; the oldest known T-rex, Trix, died around the same age), but she cannot fly, shoot lasers out of her eyeballs, or summon black holes at will.

3. Does Rexy know everything? No. Rexy may be intelligent enough to test an electric fence when its power goes out, cooperate with other dinosaurs to kill even bigger and more dangerous dinosaurs, and destroy important objects that evil people want or need, but she is still distracted by flares and flashlights swung about by obnoxious children.

On the surface, these three points prove that Rexy is not God. To further prove this, let’s take a look at what she does in all the films:

‘Jurassic Park’

*Hides from the tour group

*Breaks out of her paddock after the power goes out

*Attempts to eat Tim and Lex

*Destroys one tour vehicle and shoves another off a cliff

*Gets distracted by a flare

*Injures Ian Malcom

*Eats a lawyer

*Sniffs Grant and Lex, but doesn’t eat them when she easily could

*Chases Ellie Sattler, Robert Muldon, and Ian Malcom in the jungle, presumably to get them out of her territory

*Eats a gallimimus.

*Saves Alan, Ellie, Tim, and Lex in the visitor center, which allows them to escape the island

‘Jurassic World’

*Eats a goat in her enclosure

*Follows Claire out of her paddock without trying to eat her

*Battles the Indominous Rex

*Gets injured fighting the Indominous Rex

*Teams up with Blue the velociraptor to defeat the Indominous Rex by shoving it towards the Mosasaurus paddock, where it is eaten

*Allows Blue to live, despite their species being mortal enemies

*Roars at the abandoned park.

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

*Attacks a team of mercenaries trying to salvage a DNA sample of the Indominous Rex.

*Tries to yank down a helicopter with said mercenaries as they try to escape.

*Allows the Mosasaurus to escape from Jurassic World and enter the open ocean

*Saves Owen from a Carnotaurus.

*Survives the eruption of Mt. Sibo and the destruction of Isla Nublar

*Seemingly attacks Owen after he and Claire take some of her blood to save Blue

*Eats a goat after arriving at the Lockwood Estate

*Eats Mills who wants to sell dinosaurs on the black market

*Destroys the only DNA sample of the Indominous Rex.

*Roars at a lion in a zoo.

Are these the actions of an incarnated god? No. Rexy destroyed the tour vehicles because they were unfamiliar objects and she considered them a threat. She attacked the Indominous because it was in her territory, and she ate Mills because he was easy prey.

However, it’s interesting to note that, starting with her saving Alan and the others in the visitor’s center, Rexy’s behavior starts to become more heroic as the films go on. If Rexy was God, then it’s logical that she would become a force for justice and righteousness. And with those facts in mind, let’s take another look at her narrative through the series, but rewritten to make her a divine being.

In ‘Jurassic Park,’ Rexy, having been sent by God to act as an embodiment of justice, has grown up and has been placed into a paddock, where she bides her time until she can break free and judge the humans on Isla Nublar. Finally getting her chance when the power goes out, she tests the fence and, confirming that there’s no electricity, escapes. She attacks Lex and Tim, but only because their yells and screeches annoy her. She turns her attention to Malcom, but upon realizing that he was only trying to save the children, she spares his life, and then, realizing how greedy Gennaro is, promptly eats him. She has the chance to easily eat Lex and Grant, but realizing that Grant is only trying to save the children, decides to spare the two. She thinks about trying to eat Tim, but decides to just get rid of them all by forcing them down into the jungle.

Later, she pursues Ellie, Robert, and Ian through the jungle to maintain her cover as an animal, while testing their will to survive. Deciding that they’re worthy, she lets them live.

After roaming the island and eating a gallimimus, she then realizes that the remaining humans on the island are innocent and in danger, and saves them from the pack of raptors at the visitor’s center, ensuring that they can escape to safety.

In ‘Jurssic World,’ Rexy – having been captured and put on display as a zoo exhibit – has allowed the humans to keep her like this, as she knows her presence delights other humans and helps educate them about the wonders of the animal kingdom. Plus, she gets free food, good medical care, and daily exercise and mental stimulation, so it’s a sweet deal.

When the Indominous breaks out, she decides to remain in her paddock to see what humanity will do. Throughout the day, she carefully observes as they try to contain the dinosaur, and then save as many people as they can, and decides that the surviving humans are worth saving. Thus, when Claire finally releases her, Rexy attacks the Indominous without a second thought, seeing it as an abomination to the natural order that must be destroyed.

However, having not gotten into any fights in over twenty years, Rexy is quickly overpowered and almost killed, but manages to turn the tide, thanks to Blue’s intervention. Knowing that she lacks the physical strength to kill the Indominous herself, she instead cunningly pushes it back to the Mosasaurus pen, allowing the larger beast to finish it off. With the battle won, she debates whether to kill Blue, but, seeing as how she, too, is an innocent, she spares her and departs, allowing the humans on the island to flee.

Two years later, however, not all is well. While on a routine patrol in search of evil, Rexy realizes that a group of people have arrived. Hiding in the shadows, she studies them, only to quickly realize that they are mercenaries who have come for a grave and evil purpose: Retrieving a sample of the long-dead Indominous Rex. Furious, she deems them unworthy to live and attacks, trying to bring down their helicopter so she can destroy the sample, taking care to release the Mosasaurus as a backup plan. But unfortunately, she fails, and the Mosasaurus is unable to destroy it, allowing the mercenaries to escape.

Later, during the eruption of Mt. Sibo, Rexy comes across Owen, Claire, and Franklin. Recognizing that all three are fighting to save dinosaurus and live up to their responsibility as their creators and protectors, Rexy saves them all from a carnotaurus.

She allows herself to be captured by yet another mercenary group, pretending to be angry so she can keep up her disguise. When onboard the ship, she’s drugged; upon awakening when she has her blood drawn, she’s confused and angry, and roars at Owen and Claire, briefly attempting to injure Owen as punishment for taking her blood without permission. However, he escapes unharmed.

Rexy decides not to pursue the matter further, as she needs to bide her time for her bigger mission: Finding the Indominus Rex DNA sample, and bringing justice to those who want to create more abominations against God.

Eventually, Rexy arrives at the Lockwood Estate, but can only observe and study what’s going on around her. After managing to escape, she brings justice upon Mills for both murdering Lockwood and selling dangerous dinosaurs and dinosaur genetics to the black market by eating him, and then destroying the Indominus Rex sample, ensuring that no one else will ever be able to use it again.

And so, with her task completed, she sets out into the world to continue her divine mission of justice, which we’ll have to wait until 2021 to see.

While the idea that Rexy is God is still ludicrous, the idea that Rexy is divine actually might have some merit. When viewed through the mindset that she’s a divine being sent to enact justice, Rexy’s actions throughout the films, especially ‘World’ and ‘Fallen Kingdom’ give the theory some credence.

Although it’s highly unlikely to become official cannon, I like to think that Rexy is some sort of avenging angel who inhabits the body of a T-Rex and brings justice to all those who defy the natural order, or do harm to others. And indeed, throughout the series, all the humans who are either innocent or good survive every encounter with Rexy, while those who do evil or are greedy meet their demise.

This may be a goofy idea, an implausible one, and something that someone with too much time on their hands comes up with, but it does allow for subsequent viewings of the ‘Jurassic’ films to take on a new light, and help us see them in a new, unexpected way.

What We Can Learn From ‘Henkei Shojo’

NOTE: This post contains material that is not safe to view at work. Specifically, numerous panty and bra shorts from a Japanese miniseries featuring girls who are clearly underage because GOSH DANGIT JAPAN WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

A popular urban legend says that famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki once said that anime was a mistake. Considering how the most popular stereotype of anime depicts of being crammed full with underage girls whose panties and bras are frequently visible, that quote might be on to something. If nothing else, it gives the impression that Japan is full of sexual deviants who are desperate to find any excuse to feature schoolgirls in morally questionable outfits, and that’s before all the tentacles show up.

This short miniseries does nothing to dispel that stereotype:

Well, that’s… something. Let’s break it down and see what writers can learn from girls who turn into vehicles.

What the video does well:

*It does an excellent job with random humor

The best thing about this miniseries is that it masterfully uses a random joke so well: the idea of girls turning into cars, fighter jets, and ships for the flimsiest of reasons, complete with over-the top transformation scenes, leaving a non-transforming onlooker to stare on in stunned silence. While humor relying on sudden, over-the-top elements at random times doesn’t always work, it can provide some great laughs, especially if it’s so ridiculous it has no chance of being taken seriously.

*It does a great job portraying laughably ineffective powers

My favorite video in the series features one girl transforming into a battleship to save another girl on a sinking life raft, complete with the music, the elaborate changing sequence, and falling into the ocean… only to reveal that the battleship is only two feet long, making it all-but-useless when it comes to actually rescuing girls stuck on sinking life rafts in the middle of the ocean, ensuring that she’ll die a miserable, watery death.

This use of a giant buildup with a pitifully weak payoff is one of my favorite comedic acts, because when we think something is going to be awesome, intentionally subverting it for comedic effect can almost always get a belly laugh, like superpowers that turn someone into popcorn.

What doesn’t work as well:

*It sexualizes underage girls, complete with numerous shots of their underwear.

Excuse me for a moment.

*Goes off and drinks bleach*

Okay… let’s do this.

If the girls in the videos above wore normal clothes, like jeans or long-sleeved shirts, and we didn’t see their undergarments when they changed, it would be a lot less creepy. It wouldn’t leave me feeling like this guy. Unless you’re willing to risk being labeled a closeted pedophile, don’t have any underage characters do anything that could even be remotely considered sexual. Tight clothes, bra shots, panty shots, ridiculously tiny skirts that no one would or should wear in real life – including all these things in your work is only asking for trouble and possible visits from your friendly neighborhood police officers.

The Bottom Line:

NEVER, EVER FEATURE UNDERAGE CHARACTERS IN ANYTHING REMOTELY SEXUAL ARG.

Favorite Moments: Shark Possessed by Owl

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The Video

Why it’s great

Quick: Imagine a favorite scene from a movie. Let’s go with… Darth Vader revealing to Luke that he’s his dad. Got it? Okay… now, visualize Vader and Luke replaced by toy sharks. The audio’s the same, the sets are the same, and Luke still gives the best ‘NO!’ face ever.

Now, with all that in mind, replace Luke and Vader with shark snapper toys. Suddenly, the scene becomes hilarious because of the sight of inanimate toys talking to each other in an otherwise serious scene, and evidence that replacing cast members with inanimate objects, but otherwise not changing the scene, is comedy gold, as the above video proves (even though it’s with a joke instead of a serious moment).

Favorite Moments: MTR Rava Idly Mix Advertisement

We all have our favorite moments in movies, books, and games, moments that stay with us long after the story is over. This column is my attempt to examine my favorite moments and see why they stick with me.

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The Video

Why it’s great

This whole video for Indian food is amusing, but for me, the first five seconds are the best because of the obvious special-effect failure. But, unlike a big-budget movie where such a moment can suck you out of the story, the failure here only makes it funnier when it’s obvious that there are two people off-screen waving sticks around.