the-defector

A family can be 2 traumatised soldiers and their 30 kids (6)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 

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Part 6 

The day that Aden enlisted was not a good one.

Enlistment ceremonies occurred regularly on base, containing anywhere from one person to a hundred people, depending on who had arrived since the last one. Today in the large conference hall, there was almost a mix of everything: Imperial defectors, a handful of civilians, some who had been recruited and brought to the rebellion, and of course, those who were now old enough to enlist.

Jyn sat watching at the back of the room by herself, away from all the council members who had to come to the enlistment ceremonies. It was basically a self-exile since she had started crying before the ceremony had even started. Aden was standing and pledging to defend and support the Alliance to Restore the Republic, and Jyn knew she had to be embarrassing the teen immensely, but she couldn’t physically stop the sobs that she was desperately trying to stifle into her sleeve. Tavisha would be doing this as well just 26 days after Aden. 

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Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH was first released on July 2, 1982.

Don Bluth, John Pomeroy and Gary Goldman all left Disney to pursue this project, which had originally been rejected by their former employer as “too dark” to be a commercial success. They were followed soon after by 20 other Disney animators, dubbed “The Disney Defectors” by the trade press. (x)

Character Analysis: Holly Blue Agate

Anonymous said:
what were your thoughts on holly blue?

I’ll keep the introduction short for this post. Holly Blue is the second Homeworld character introduced affiliated with Homeworld and a specific Diamond. The first character was Peridot. While the Rubies openly talk about their service to Yellow Diamond, they don’t share the deep investment that Holly Blue and Peridot have shown in the story.

It’s interesting looking at her character knowing what we do about Peridot now. So let’s get right into it!

1. Gem Placement

Anonymous said:
What do you suppose Holly Blue Agate’s gem placement (the back of her head, at the base of her skull) symbolizes?

Going by anatomy, the back of the skull is where the occipital lobe of the brain is located. The occipital lobe functions not necessarily to let us see, but to help us make sense of what we’re seeing. That is, the occipital lobe helps us interpret and comprehend the images that our eyes are looking at.

And to me, there’s something interesting about every single moment we get to see Holly Blue’s gem in Gem Heist, when she’s first introduced. In those moments, she sees the CGs just as they’re doing something they’re not supposed to do, and each time, she misinterprets what happens and they don’t get caught.

The very first time we see her gem is when the CGs just arrive and try to convince the Amethysts of their credibility. That Sapphire isn’t a “disgraced” Homeworld defector and that she’s the leader of the entire operation bringing a new human for Blue Diamond’s Zoo. Holly Blue buys into this narrative completely and leads them exactly where they want to go.

The second time is immediately after Pearl is ordered to open the first door. Pearl makes a very un-Pearl face at Holly, who, with back turned, ignores it unknowingly, saving Pearl and Sapphire what could have been a heated questioning.

The third time, she and Sapphire walk in on the other CGs trying to destroy the door. And they look so obviously guilty, but Holly blames it on the Amethysts instead. 

Close to the end of the episode, we have one more shot of her gem as the Amethysts take Steven away and he’s very loudly resisting. We know that’s a sign of the upturn that Steven causes later on, but Holly interprets it as a sign that things are running smoothly and going to be fine.

Note that none of these circumstances immediately signal to Holly that things are going wrong. The Zoo is a far off outpost that has been very low-key. Working there must be very quiet, save the occasional visit from BD. Holly wouldn’t be expecting trouble and that tinges the way she processes what goes on around her.

I’d say on a normal day, the Famethyst pulls a few pranks, Holly makes them clean up and then they train for a while. Holly goes around inspecting everything. And it’s boring. So when a noble gem shows up, Holly wants things to be the best they can be.

It’s a point in how our contexts tinge how we interpret what our senses tell us. In experiencing the world, there is definitely going to be an element of subjectivity. No two people experience the same scenario the same way because just from a physical standpoint, they’re never really in the same place at the same time.

I think this is especially true for Holly. Her gem, which I’ve mentioned before gives us an idea of how gems interact with the world, is behind her. That means she wants to be on top of everything, but she doesn’t face things directly when interacting with them. She’s always just a little bit behind on what’s going on.

Additionally, we’ve already seen a discrepancy between what she sees and what she makes of it. It implies that she’s out of touch with what’s happening on the ground. Extending it further, she’s a bit out of touch with herself. Functioning at her best, I’d say she’d be very perceptive. But that “gut feeling” has to be cultivated.

And being out of touch is a very real phenomenon. Holly is in the middle of nowhere. She doesn’t get to interact with a lot of gems and the gems she does interact with are ones she’s been with for thousands of years from very early on in their lives.

I’d say that she’s amazing at telling what the Famethyst are up to. She’s always suspicious of them, and that’s maybe because they’ve given her a reason to believe something is always brewing. If the mischievous character of our own Amethyst is anything to go by, poking fun at Holly’s uptight nature is something they’d be doing very frequently, even before the CGs came. 

Holly can probably tell what the Famethyst are plotting even at a glance. She’s attuned to them, whether she wants to be or not. And that leads to the next point.

2. Position on Homeworld

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rebelcaptain appreciation week ✩ day four  alternate universe

After her parents are killed in a separatist prison, a six months-old Jyn Erso is rescued by Orson Krennic. He takes the infant girl back to Coruscant, looking for a suitable home for her. Senator Bail Organa and his wife eagerly bring her home, making her Jyn Erso-Organa, Princess of Alderaan.

When she is two years-old, Jyn gains a sister. Her name is Leia.

Jyn is an adventurous young girl, always tumbling through the snow, running around in the forests and trekking through the mountains of Alderaan. But, as a princess, she isn’t always able to do whatever her heart desires. A royal title comes with a lot of royal responsibilities.

When she finds out her father has secretly been a member of the rebel alliance, she wants nothing more than to join him in his fight against the empire. Listening in on one of his holo conferences with the alliance council, she catches wind of an imperial defector, a pilot, on Jedha. In the dead of the night, she slips away with a scarf tightly wrapped around her head.

Upon discovering his daughter has taken one of his ships and disappeared, Bail Organa sends one of the best alliance intelligence officers to try and locate her. Captain Cassian Andor.

Blue Grunt Profiles

Grunt G AKA “lil G”
Eyes: Green

Grunt H’s bff. Good friends with Grunt F. Bad with bleach. Possibly a crush on Guzma.

Grunt H
Eyes: Gray

Lil’ G’s bff. Grunt K’s boyfriend (somehow). Has ideas about what it means to be a “tough guy.”

Grunt T
Eyes: Brown

Likes eyeshadow. Loves his pokemon like his babies.

Grunt R
Eyes: Dark Brown

Defector from decadence. Secretly dating an Aether Foundation employee.

Grunt C
Eyes: Blue
Has yet to notice he has bad luck. His dad is a yamask.

Grunt B
Eyes: Blue
Bad at make-up. Thinks Moon is just the best.

Three Books About North Korea

I don’t know why, but I’ve recently gone through a phase of fascination with North Korea, possible the world’s most mysterious country. This fascination led me to download and devour, in the space of 5 days, three full books written by North Korean defectors who work to expose, through their stories, the reality of life under the Kim dynasty. 

I thought I’d do a brief write-up/review of these three books here, for anyone who might also be interested in learning more about life in the Hermit Kingdom. 

I began with Escape From Camp 14, a book that my best friend’s husband recommended to me years ago but which I’d never gotten around to reading. Of the three books I read, this was, by far, the most horrifying and the most interesting. I’m going to spend a little more time discussing it than I normally do in these reviews. 

Unlike any other North Korean defector, Shin was born into a political prison as an irredeemable, a person who is guilty from birth for the crimes of his or her blood relatives. He and his peers are the product of engineered, loveless marriages between two prisoners; the sole reason for his existence is to provide backbreaking labor in the gulag for the duration of a short, miserable life. There is no real school. There is no healthcare. There is barely any food. Families do not love each other. Torture and executions feature predominantly in the background of life. It is, in short, so horrendous as to be unbelievable. 

And, as it turns out, there is a reason for that. Shin’s story has been revealed to be, in part, false, created by a mind that was so deranged that it could not separate fact from fiction. In the latest editions, the author recognizes and explains this in as full a manner as he can. There is no doubt that Shin was tortured and lived much of his life in the manner described, but his narrative is unreliable. (I read the introduction before the book, but even if I hadn’t, the circumstances surrounding Shin’s inspiration to escape and the escape itself would have rung somewhat false.) While some parts have been explicitly clarified, chances are, there are other elements of Shin’s story that are untrue. It is wise to read the book with this knowledge in mind. 

It’s because of the element of unreliability that I found this book so fascinating. I cannot even wrap my head around how the brain of someone who was raised in the conditions in which he was raised would operate. No amount of empathy on my part would allow me to truly see the world as he sees it, to process events and relationships in the way he processes them. His is a brain warped by unimaginable isolation and torture. Even if many of the details of his story are technically false, experts have concluded that enough is true that Shin’s story provides a fascinating window into the suffering of North Korea’s lowliest class, a wretched group of human beings subjected to a short and brutish life. 

I highly recommend this book, but it’s not for the faint of heart. I also recommend reading the book as follows: skip the introduction in which the author clarifies the inaccuracies Shin has admitted to him, and read the book with the understanding that some parts are false. Then read the introduction to learn what has been uncovered about his story since the book’s initial publication, and what psychologists and North Korea experts have to say on the topic. Whatever you judge the level of fact or fiction to be in the narrative, Escape From Camp 14 is a sobering read that will stay with you for awhile. 

The Aquariums of Pyongyang is one of the first books based around the true story of a North Korean defector, Kang Chol-Hwan. Hwan lived a relatively easy life (by North Korean standards) in Pyongyang with his parents and grandparents, until he was 9 years old. His family was put into a gulag called Yodok because his grandfather was outspoken about his objections to the government. 

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this story isn’t the description of the gulag, which is, of course, horrifying, but the story of Hwan’s grandmother and her fervent dedication to socialism. Her beliefs led her to bring her whole family from a wealthy and comfortable life in Japan to Pyongyang at the behest of the budding Kim dynasty. For years the cognitive dissonance tore her apart; how could the ideology in which she invested so much of her energy and herself yield such an oppressive state? In the end, she spent ten long years in a gulag, a victim of the very system around which she’d built her identity. I cannot think of anything sadder than this. 

While not as stomach-churning as Shin’s story, this story provides some insight into life in North Korean before the fall of the Soviet Union led to an economic collapse and a terrible famine in the 1990s, and of course, shows yet again the cruelty of the North Korean gulag. 

Yeonmi Park is a well-known activist working to expose the cruelty of the Kim regime to a world that seems to have forgotten the suffering they inflict on their people. She had previously shared her story many times before In Order to Live was released as a final, complete version of her escape from North Korea through China. 

Park’s account differs from the previous two in that the lion’s share of her story centers around her and her mother’s harrowing escape through China where they are trafficked and abused. Her age and childhood as the daughter of a fairly successful North Korean black market businessman provides illustration of another facet of North Korean daily life, one that is profoundly different from Shin’s or Hwan’s, but that centers around the same themes: the misery of surveillance, constant food shortages, and lack of agency. 

I have heard that parts of Park’s story, like Shin’s, are inconsistent and perhaps not wholly factual. Indeed, parts of the book stuck out to me as sanitized, particularly the circumstances that facilitated her escape to South Korea from China. But, you know… I don’t care. Trauma victim’s don’t always have stories that stay consistent or make sense, and Park is still incredibly brave for offering her story to the public to be consumed and criticized. 

More than the two previous reads, Park offers insightful commentary on the struggles that North Koreans face even when the make it to South Korea, the promised land where they gain citizenship and a free life. The scars of life in North Korea will never truly fade for those who escape, and the lack of obvious solutions is saddening, but requires acknowledgement. 

There are many other books about life in North Korea, and I’ve added a few to my TBR list. If you have been thinking about reading any defector’s story or other books about North Korea, I highly recommend it. They aren’t easy reads, but important ones for understanding the horrible situation under the Kims even today. 

Character Update: Yellow Diamond

Quite a while back, I wrote about Yellow Diamond, and my intent was to present the character I saw in totality. Even now, when I talk about the Diamonds and how they read strongly as characters with motives and feelings beyond just hurting others because they can, I feel like for the most part, I’m addressing questions about Yellow Diamond in particular.

Yellow Diamond is a character easy to picture as an irredeemable antagonist. Like Jasper and Aquamarine, she walks with an air of authority and certainty about her. A lot of people take her character as one who hasn’t shown any explicit self-doubt or weakness. It wasn’t long ago that The Answer aired and there was a lot of positive feedback because we got to see a “vulnerable” Garnet.

When I hear this sort of characterisation, I think back to these characters. While it is a very humanising experience to see a character previously presented as a bastion of unshakable strength question themselves and show a “fatal flaw” or weakness, it’s not the only way to present a relatable, dynamic character. To situate this in our world, it’s very rare that people choose to show their inadequacies in the first place. In fact, it is far more common for people to do everything in their power not to reveal vulnerability.

Yellow Diamond is a very complex character precisely because she shows indication of presenting herself as much more put together than she lets on. And, as usually happens in real-life as well, it’s not only for others’ sake but also for her own. In her, we see a character brutally honest, suffering neither formality nor trivialities for the sake of it. To view her consistently would be taking her actions into that context, and using that to understand where she stands on PD’s shattering. That’s something I want to talk about in this post.

So let’s get started.

1. Yellow’s relationship with feelings is complicated

I’d like to begin by talking about YD as a chest gem. Like Blue Diamond and other chest gems, she tends to interact with the world in terms of feelings. Remarkable moments in her life are likely best remembered by what she was feeling at the time they happened, and her first impressions are probably marked by how she felt about certain individuals, places, or things.

I think this is most evident in how she feels about Earth. In the past I’d talked about how Peridot was presenting a solution to Homeworld’s resource shortage in Message Received. What we’d learned at that point was that Homeworld was running out of resources, so much so that Gems couldn’t be made as physically strong or with the same abilities as they were supposed to be.

Upon closer inspection, it’s because the very means Homeworld uses in order to advance its species is inherently parasitic. They drain planets and have no means to replenish these resources. What Peridot claimed to find, after † a deeper appreciation for organic life, was a way to make use of Earth without damaging said life. And that’s a game-changing discovery, because the only way for that to happen would be a renewable or sustainable means of using a planet.

Peridot had expected Yellow Diamond to see the reason and logic of her plan, to be just as excited about saving Earth as she was because it meant helping all Gems. That was YD’s reputation. Recall that at this point, it was not that Peridot turned her back on Homeworld because she realised Earth was a better place to live. She realised that Earth was worth protecting, but she thought the Crystal Gems were unable to meet their own goals. That’s why she reached out to the most powerful, rational, objective being she could think of, Yellow Diamond, to help her reach that goal.

Peridot was sorely disappointed by that encounter. She realised her hero wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t say she wished for the destruction of Homeworld. I doubt that her take-away from that was that all Homeworld gems were evil. There was a time she’d worked with them, lived with them, learned from them. On her way to destroy the Cluster, the weapon of mass destruction about to shatter the planet she was currently living on, put there by Homeworld, she said it was difficult not to have feelings about Homeworld.

And I think that’s something to understand about the Homeworld defectors we’ve seen so far. Earth was a better option for them, but Homeworld would always be home. For the most part, those who chose to leave still imagine a better life for their fellow-Gems back home, but found no way to give them that life without leaving Homeworld altogether.

What this leads up to is the idea that all these Gems have strong feelings associated with Homeworld, and now Earth. But on different occasions, they put aside these feelings because they felt something better could be realised. Rose put aside her sentimental feelings of never being able to go “home” because she wanted to give the Crystal Gems the freedom they currently experience on Earth, and she wanted to protect the life that was already thriving there. Steven, more than once, has sacrificed the fear he felt and let himself be placed in dangerous situations for the sake of protecting others.

The other thing that I want to point out here is how we were led to believe Peridot was going to sell out Earth to Homeworld. We don’t get a lengthy monologue about how she feels or her plan. She just goes through with it and we feel a sense of betrayal, like the gems did. That she was thinking up a solution and pitched it to her Diamond shows that she didn’t just realise Earth’s life had value halfway through the conversation. It was her objective assessment from earlier on. Unlike most short-format shows though, these changes in characters aren’t exaggerated, and more closely reflect the interiority we experience in life.

On the one hand, we have someone like Blue Diamond, who has let the feelings of both sadness and regret take over her ability to act. BD is angry and upset with Earth. She cannot fathom how such a weak and fragile planet was able to shatter a Diamond. The wounds are raw enough that when Steven was unable to give the detail about the sword in The Trial, she uncontrollably used her gem ability on the court.

On the other, we have someone like Yellow Diamond, who has had to run everything in her stead as well as maintain her own duties, and those of Pink Diamond, and deny those feelings day in and day out. Peridot called her the paragon of objectivity and reason. Peridot, who prides sound logic above all else when making a decision, put her faith in YD.

And YD couldn’t put aside her feelings about Earth, and the anger she and BD both felt about a planet that destroyed their friend and comrade, to listen to a plan with the potential to save Gem-kind.

That’s something I need to stress because it speaks of the depth of the wound inflicted by the war. More than that, it paints a more realistic image of YD. YD is someone trying to be the perfectly objective and emotionless leader, and most of the time she succeeds. She is the person she wants to be often enough that it’s become her reputation. That doesn’t mean the feelings go away. The irony of her being a feeling-gem is not lost here.

2. To YD, Leading is a “job” not a privilege

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North Korean defectors setting off balloons from South Korea carrying anti-dictatorial propaganda over the border. They transport posters, sweets, money and USB devices. The posters feature slogans which translate to “humanity against Kim Jong-un” and the flash drives contain South Korean TV programmes and documentaries in order to quell the rumours distributed by North Korean authorities about its neighbouring country. Once the balloons fall, cooperating insiders collect the USB sticks and subtly drop them onto the floors of market places and other bustling areas so that that the intrigued public will pick them up and watch the content. The aim is to provide the indoctrinated population of North Korea with a taste of outside luxuries in order to encourage citizens unknowingly oppressed by the regime to bravely attempt an escape. Thousands of these balloons are sent on a yearly basis.