Andreas Cellarius - Antique Atlas of the Geocentric Ptolemaic Cosmos, “Harmonia Macrocosmica”, 1660.

Orbiting a large central Earth, the Planets are depicted as Star-like shapes, each identified with its traditional Symbol. The Zodiac, divided into twelve thirty-degree divisions of Celestial longitude, defines the apparent path of the Sun through the Constellations as seen from Earth.
The axis of the Universe is defined by the Terrestrial poles, and the Earth’s equator is projected outward, creating a Celestial equator as well. Ptolemy himself might be represented by one of the figures on the lower right, in a crumbling Alexandria, possibly also symbolic of the decline of his Cosmological design, following the revolutionary findings of Copernicus.

Thoughts on HoloJack  part 1

Firstly let me share my theories of what the A.I of Jack actually is. There has been a lot of speculation on just what this version of Jack remembers, and if his personality was altered in any way from the originals. To be honest I believe HoloJack is a perfect copy of Handsome Jack; and despite not remembering the events of BL2, I don’t think he has gaps in his memory, or incorrect A.I that makes him different from Handsome Jack. He’s self-aware and can remember things right down to the smallest detail. (wallet-heads and all)  

If anything his state of being reminds me of the NEW-U Stations. You’re character basically dies and a clone replaces them. (It’s weak canon but funny because existential crisis!)

So yes, HoloJack is more or less Handsome Jack, created from his brain patterns and probably unaltered in anyway. But he’s also Handsome Jack with all his power and control taken away…and that’s what makes things interesting. 

Let’s look back at Atlas Mugged. When Jack first appears he acts exactly like the Handsome Jack we all remember from BL2. He barely needs a reason to choke Rhys, and no matter how you treat the situation (have Rhys be quiet, try and tactfully point out Jacks a hologram, or just straight up tell him he’s dead) Jack will try and Kill Rhys like it’s Thursday. This is how Jack has come to deal with his problems, and where his negative-character development placed him at the end of TPS. 

So we start out with a perfect copy of Handsome Jack. Same memories, same personality, same appearance, same mental damage; but in different circumstances and with far more handicaps.

And this is the key thing about HoloJack, he is handicapped, literally bodiless. Strangling his problems away, or tossing money at others to do it for him isn’t gonna fly anymore. Because he no longer has that kind of freedom to act on those violent impulses. For a megalomaniac  all these sudden realizations must be a HUGE shock to the system. Hence why he’s in such denial when he first finds out he died. It’s gonna take a little longer for Jacks tactics to adjust, and for him to really ‘grasp’ the situation beyond 'heroes don’t die.’

But by the time Jack’s hanging out in the desert with Rhys and Vaughns, he’s given up being threatening, and for good reason.

Ignoring Jack at best sends him into a childish tantrum, (and crude dick humor) and he’s not exactly flattered when Vaughn outs Rhys as a Jackofile. Telling Vaughn about him, then choosing to not tell anyone else about Jack/refuse to take him back to Helios will make Jack clearly worry. (and panic) No threats of violence or anger, no clear contempt towards either of them save playful teasing. 

This is still the Handsome Jack from BL2, he’s just been stripped of his power, so we’re seeing more sides of his personality other then snark and  mood whiplash murder. He’s egotistical, but he’s not stupid, and if Jack can’t kill someone, he’s going to at least troll them to death until he can get back on top.
Also let’s remember that Vaughn and Rhys are Hyperion employees, so even if Jack is a very VERY bad boss his attitude towards them is going to be different then how he would treat Pandorans and Vault hunters. (spontaneous murder not withstanding) So again, I think Jack is very in character during these scenes.

At this point in the game I don’t think Jack has changed much from his meaty former left. He seems more playful yes and clownish sure, but wild animals can seem pretty dossal when behind bars, and without the option to snack on the people snapping pictures of them.  Just because they can’t kill you doesn’t mean they don’t want to.

Now let’s get the 'Vasquez almost shooting’ Rhys scene.

This moment is important because it’s the first turning point of Jack and Rhys’s relationship. Till now Jack probably hadn’t even considered the fact that his life was directly tied to the grunt he was threatening to kill earlier. (he’s only been 'awake’ for a couple of hours so it’s understandable) But that 'oh crap’ moment when Vasquez tried to charge the gun probably hit home with Jack. If Rhys goes, he goes.

This leads to Jack being forced to help Rhys by modifying his ECHO-eye. Though not before making it clear he’d rather just watch them die. Jack does not have many options right now. He’s being forced to adapt, to change how he would usually handle a situation.

Again, he’s forced to change his tactics.

Of course this also leads to the discovery that he can control Rhys’s robot arm. An 'interesting’ new development indeed, and one the ex CEO seems pretty happy about. I should also point out after Jack finds this out he no longer tries to convince Rhys to take him directly back to Helios. I have no doubts that Jack is starting to calculate just how he’s going to tip everything in his favor again.  
Finally, we get to the end of Episode 2. At this point Jack is still being an observing troll. Powerless to really do much save give Rhys some decent comeback burns against Vasquez. But like in the desert, as soon as things go to crap, Jack is there offering to help Rhys out; since he’s not exactly impressed with Fiona’s mysterious grenade bluff. If you trust Jack, the guy is clearly happy and excited, cackling like a kid before he takes control of Rhys’s sub-systems.  If you trust Fiona Jack tells Rhys that he’s making a huge mistake.

Interestingly enough, Telltale has made it clear with episode 3 that Trusting Jack was in fact the better option for saving everyone, since Vaughn get’s paralyzed in Fiona’s rout and that stun dart could have easily been a bullet. Jack had a plan, even if the man was callus about who he shot at, everyone made it out okay. However, in a nice twist Jacks route seems to be the more damaging in the long run, for Rhys and everyone around him.

but this post has gone on long enough. I am planning to write up an examination of the Caravan scene in episode 3 and Jacks character development possibilities in general. So till then!

From the South Pole Iceberg to the Republic City Portal: A Critical Study of the Avatar Franchise: Part Three

In which Iroh and Zuko consult a map, Aang plays with some marbles, and Sokka wears a dress.

So it’s basically the “girl power/ sexism is bad episode”, right? No?

First off, let it be noted that I have next to no problem with episodes of television that certain sections of largely male fandom will dismiss as either “girl power” or “sexism is bad” episodes, mostly because the depressingly large swathes of that type of fandom will act like “Oh great, it’s the ‘Girl Power’ episode” is a legitimate criticism of episodes of television like “The Warriors of Kyoshi”. I’ll also defend the type of episodes that simply celebrate girl power or point out that sexism is bad because those are still (sadly) rare to see on television, and good, valuable things for a show like ATLA to do. But I think this episode and its exploration of gender politics takes on so much more depth than those descriptions suggest.

It’s worth examining what the show has done with regards to gender so far. At this point, it has seemed to follow the often used model in genre fiction where there is one significant female character in the main cast in Katara, and the world itself (see the original Star Wars trilogy as a prime example of this model). However, it is worth noting that the show has already created a wonderful female lead within this model – Katara is given narrative weight as the narrator and the viewpoint character of the show, and it has been hinted that she is on a similar journey to Aang, as both head towards the Northern Water Tribe to learn waterbending. And she has already been given a wonderful amount of complexity, with hints of her grief at losing her mother, her maternal nature, and her ability to fight past her limitations already having been demonstrated throughout the first three episodes. And of course, she had her wonderful takedown of Sokka’s sexism in “The Boy in the Iceberg”, a character note that is picked up on for both characters (though mostly Sokka) in this episode. The show has demonstrated through Katara that it can treat its female characters with real respect, but this episode shows what it can become as it slowly moves away from the “One female character of note” model.

The episode does so on the largely female space of Kyoshi Island, a place founded by the last female Avatar, protected by a female warrior troupe who style themselves after Kyoshi, and it’s a notable fact that these are the first group of non-bending fighters we meet. Kyoshi Island also acts as the setting for the show’s first “The Gaang visits a village” episode – a type of episode that is particularly prominent throughout season one (although it is still used in the later seasons as well). And this female space, defined by the figures of Kysohi and Suki, becomes a place for a deconstruction of the harmful masculinity demonstrated by the male leads.

The deconstruction of Sokka’s problematic values is in evidence from the beginning of the episode, as we see a repeat of pattern from the opening scene of the series, as Katara calls him out on his sexism by hurling back the trousers she was sewing for him unrepaired after he casually makes a gender stereotype. It’s an interesting moment because, as well as being a fun joke, it demonstrates how limiting Sokka’s ideas of gender roles are for him – he considers sewing a woman’s job, but after insulting Katara by vocalising these thoughts, he is left stranded, and unable to help himself, because he’s always considered himself above learning what he considers a female role. It’s an effective demonstration of how Sokka’s brand of toxic masculinity is ultimately self destructive.

Yet Sokka persists in his attitudes, being unable to  accept his capture at the hands of the Kyoshi Warriors, downplaying the idea that women can be strong until he is confronted with the inadequacies of his attitudes face on (or rather, with his face on the floor). However, as was noted in my first post, Sokka has always had the capacity for redemption in the fundamental decency he shows when he faces down the Fire nation ship and when he helps Katara rescue Aang in “The Avatar Returns”.  And after being humiliated by Suki, it is this decency, and not his pettiness, that shines through: Sokka kneels down before Suki as a mark of respect, admits he was wrong, and admits he would be honoured if she would teach him. And being taught by Suki allows him to embrace a more healthy attitude towards gender that embraces both the traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine aspects of himself: he learns to fight, but does so in the style and garb of an all-female warrior troupe, with the moment where he starts to embrace wearing Kyoshi-style robes being more of a revelatory moment than him becoming proficient at Suki’s fighting style. Yet even at the end of the episode, Sokka needs reminding that “warrior” and “woman” aren’t mutually concepts. He has been internalising the fact all episode, but his goodbye to Suki is the moment his attitudes truly change.

The episode is also interesting for the figure of Kyoshi herself, who offers the earliest possible revelation that the Avatar Spirit can be reincarnated into male and female bodies. Aang (on the whole) embraces this spirit, being comfortable with more traditionally feminine activities, a prime example being the “Maybe instead of saving the world, you can go into the jewellery making business”/ “I don’t see why I can’t do both” exchange from “The Fortuneteller”. Similarly, he happily shares the fact that he used to be Kyoshi with the people of the village, demonstrating his comfort with having a female past life. Notably, this is the first time we truly see Aang embrace the role of the Avatar.

However, this leads to a deconstruction of Aang’s performative masculinity, and the way being the Avatar feeds his ego. As this essay on the first episode of the series points out, Aang is incredibly comfortable performing in the female gaze for the female gaze, which is largely a positive thing. However, in this episode, Aang doesn’t perform within the female gaze, but instead actively seeks female attention to feed his ego, in particular the attention of an increasingly unimpressed Katara. This decision results in the Gaang staying in Kyoshi Island long enough for Zuko to burn down the Village, and for Aang to end up getting hurt by the Unagi, and need rescuing by Katara, who saves Aang with another piece of brilliant improvisation within her currently limited bending skillset. In the episode, Aang falls into a form of masculinity that is harmful to himself and the society around him. And Aang is only able to save the day by rejecting the hyper masculine “stand and fight” mentality, and listening to Katara’s advice, just as Sokka rights his toxic masculinity by learning to listen to Suki. He also saves the village by riding the Unagi not out of a desire to feed his ego, but to right the wrongs that desire caused: Aang gets rid of the harmful masculinity that caused damage, and replaces it with the desire to right his mistakes that makes him a hero.

And that’s “The Warriors of Kyoshi”: a story where a female space becomes a place for male characters to reevaluate the harmful aspects of their constructions of masculinity. It’s a wonderful little episode.

End of Part Three.