Monthly Archives: July 2015

Poll: What’s Your Favorite Pixar Movie?

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There’s no meta this week on account of me getting back from California the night before. But while I was there I was at this place:

pixar

 

It got me thinking about what my favorite Pixar film is. I’ve always thought I didn’t have one since they’re all pretty amazing, but then I realized I do have a favorite. One I’ve watched more than the others, one I own on DVD, one I took with me to Italy and actually watched while I was on vacation. And that film is…

the incredibles logo

The Incredibles!!

I have such a soft spot for it for several reasons.

  1. Superheroes
  2. Family
  3. Violet
  4. Everything

Violet is one of the first characters I remember being told was like me. And um, I’ll take it. I love her so much. I was also really obsessed with forcefields and invisibility when I was younger.

incredibles 2 incredibles 1

 

And then she becomes a bamf.

incredibles 3 Who me? YES, YOU GIRL!

Plus, with moments like this:

incredibles 6 incredibles 5incredibles 8

incredibles 7

 

incredibles wheres my super suit

how can you not adore this film?

So The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar film. Which one is yours? Take the poll below and also tell us in the comments. Or maybe you can’t pick just one?

pixar in concert

Maybe you’re a Pixar super fan and have seen music from the films performed live! I know I have and it was awesome and I cried a lot. NO SHAME.

breakfast club fist pump yes reaction boss peggy sunglasses reaction

Either way, take the poll, leave a comment, and let’s all have a Pixar party together. 🙂

reaction wait fangirling freaking out mind blown

And guess what? HERE’S A BONUS POLL! Which upcoming Pixar movie are you most excited about?


 

Happy Saturday, people!

Back to our regular programming next week.

Cheers,

M&M

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Manipulation and Morals: Danny and Vlad as Foils in Danny Phantom

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In literature, foiling what happens when a character contrasts another (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight an attribute that character shares. If you went through Danny Phantom, I’m sure you could find a lot of characters that foil one another, but there is none more poignant than the way that Vlad Masters foils Danny Phantom. Vlad foils Danny in two important ways: he highlights Danny’s manipulative streak, and Danny’s heroics/morals. Let’s dig into why that’s important.

We’ll start with a similarity both Danny and Vlad share: a manipulative streak.

Manipulation

“Using your opponent’s weaknesses against him – I am teaching you something after all.”

-Vlad Masters in Bitter Reunions

From his introduction, it’s clear that Vlad Masters is a chess master of epic proportions. Who else arranges a high school reunion so that he can win back the woman he feels was “stolen from him” and murder his best friend all in one go? He manipulates Danny on a regular basis – and from the start of the show, in fact. Remember those ecto-pusses that show up in the first few minutes of the pilot, when Danny’s father is talking to him and his friends about ghosts?

If you don’t, here’s a picture for clarification:

danny phantom the ectoplasm ghosts

What you might not remember is that Vlad sent those, to test Jack’s skills in ghost hunting – which led to him discovering Danny’s existence:

DANNY: Skulker? The ectopusses? I don’t understand!

VLAD: Of course not! You’re, what, fourteen? Too young to drive and not in college yet! I sent those ghosts, and others, to test your father’s skills. Imagine my surprise when I find *you*; the second ghost hybrid his foolishness created! (Bitter Reunions Transcript)

The dialogue implies that Vlad knew about Danny before he arrived at the manor, and there’s a familiarity in his dialogue when they first fight (“Danny Phantom, right?”) that suggests he has continued to send ghosts to test not Jack, but Danny. Considering this is 7 episodes in, a lot of Danny’s early ghost encounters are likely Vlad-generated, which means he’s been manipulating Danny since the beginning in a way. That’s creepy.

malfoy scream reaction

Vlad’s chess master antics continue throughout the show. He gives Valerie ghost-hunting gear in Shades of Gray as a means to cause Danny trouble – and later uses her to his advantage to get a hold of Danny’s DNA to clone him. In Maternal Instincts, he arranges a fake scientific convention, and then crashes Danny and Maddie’s plan, stranding them in the woods with him to get his hands on them. Reign Storm is essentially a master game of manipulation, where he uses both Valerie and Danny to manipulate his way out of the mess he’s made by angering the Ghost King – he gives Valerie a ring he stole so that she’ll be targeted instead of him, and ends up getting Danny to imprison the Ghost King for him. Danny almost loses his life in the process. There are probably like a million more examples I could give, but I think these two encompass how manipulative Vlad can be, and how he’s willing to use people and situations to get what he wants.

So you’re thinking: “Okay Mel, we get it, Vlad is a stinky manipulative cheesehead. But how does Danny fit into this? Isn’t he the hero?”

Well yes, Danny is the hero. But Danny is just as manipulative and underhanded as Vlad, and what’s telling is that Danny’s most manipulative moments come out when he’s in direct combat with Vlad. Vlad even comments on this on multiple occasions, such as this one:

danny phantom vlad points out their similiarities

Take Bitter Reunions, for example. Vlad has overshadowed Danny’s father, and later tries to kidnap Danny’s mother. Danny realizes that the only way he’s going to get Vlad to scram is to threaten something Vlad values, which leads to this lovely exchange:

DANNY: (as Jack) How’s it going, V-man?

VLAD: (mocking) Ooo, you overshadowed Jack. Ooh, I’m so scared. Now what’s next? A card trick?

DANNY: (as Jack) Listen to me. I swear I’ll walk out of my dad right now and expose us both, unless you agree to a truce.

VLAD: …You’re bluffing.

DANNY: (as Jack) No I’m not! My parents will accept me, no matter what. But if I expose *you*…Well, heh, what would my *mom* think of you?

Vlad makes a face at the thought of that. Danny sets Vlad down.

DANNY: (as Jack) You’ll be miserable and alone for the rest of your life, unless you call a truce.

VLAD: (amused) Using your opponents weaknesses against him. I am teaching you something after all. Very well. Truce. (Bitter Reunions Transcript)

This is especially wonderful because earlier in the scene, Vlad gives Danny the idea inadvertedly when he tells Danny that he would never expose him, because exposing Vlad would mean exposing Danny’s own powers. Danny challenges his assumptions with his ploy, and while he impresses Vlad (which I don’t think he intended to do), it shows Danny’s character. He’s being manipulative, but also honest. He knows that his parents would be more likely to accept him, because even though they’re a bit extreme, they love him unconditionally. He would reveal his existence to them in a second if it saved them from Vlad, because he knows it would be worth the risk. Danny’s trust in people is something that Vlad doesn’t share. That trust and faith in the people he cares about strengthens Danny and weakens Vlad.

Another great example (and one of my favorites) is in Maternal Instincts. Vlad spends a lot of this episode getting the upper hand: luring Danny and his mother right where he wants them, zapping Danny clear of his powers long enough to scare him and stop him from interfering in his plans, and seems to be (in his mind) nearing victory. However, Danny takes a lesson from Vlad.

Earlier in the episode, Vlad takes great pleasure in bragging about one of his inventions, the Plasmius Maximus, which can incapacitate ghost powers for about four hours at a time. He demonstrates by using it on Danny and then sending wild ghost creatures after him.

danny phantom vlad and plasmius maximus

Vlad brags a little too soon, because Danny proceeds to pull a similar ploy on him later on, with an invention of his mom’s called the Specter Deflector:

Danny: But first– [going to the clock, he pushes the hands so it looks like it’s 15 until 12:00, then approaches Vlad, still reading his book.] Hey, um, Uncle Vlad?

Vlad: Oh, please, Daniel, don’t try to butter me up. Especially with your powers shorted out [glancing at the clock] for another fifteen minutes. You’re barely a threat to me with them. Without them? [Laughs, then his eyes gleam red] Well I wouldn’t need fifteen seconds, would I?

Danny: [innocently] How can you say that? You think my mom made the decision to come back on her own? We’re a family. We both talked about it last night, and I want to stay here with you too.

Vlad: [Brightening, his eyes tearing up] Really? You don’t mean…

Danny: Yes, I do. Come on, give me a big hug, new Dad!

danny phantom danny's ploy 1danny phantom danny's ploy 2

[Vlad goes in for the hug, and Danny locks the Specter Deflector around his waist.]

danny phantom danny's ploy 3danny phantom danny's ploy 4

Vlad: [screaming] You little rat! You tricked me! You know what this will mean for you, don’t you?

danny phantom danny's ploy 5

Danny: [looking at his watch] Oh, yeah. [The clock goes to 12:00, and Danny transforms to ghost mode.] A much fairer fight! (Maternal Instinct Transcript)

By fiddling with the clock and lowering the time, Danny lowers Vlad’s defenses by letting him think his powers aren’t back yet, then preys on Vlad’s very personal motives by pretending to apologize and offering him exactly what he wants, only to proceed to incapacitate him in a way that allows Danny to overpower him and win the battle. How very Slytherin – or Vlad Masters, I suppose – of him.

But there’s something important to note. While Danny is manipulative, his reasons for being manipulative often have heroic intentions: in both of these cases, he’s trying to stop one of Vlad’s plans, and protect his family. His morality is very different from Vlad’s, which we’re going to explore next.

 

Morality

[Vlad wakes up. He sees Danny and Valerie both out cold. And his first thought?]

danny phantom vlad's priorities 1danny phantom vlad's priorities 2

Vlad: The ring! [Close-up on Valerie’s hand.] It’s gone! (Reign Storm Transcript)

 

Later on, shortly after above scene:

Danny: All of my enemies. Everything I thought I could handle, but couldn’t.

Tucker: Dude, you can’t blame yourself for this. It’s not your fault.

danny phantom danny's remorse

[Danny’s expression changes from worried and guilty to angry.]

Danny: Maybe not. But it is my responsibility. (Reign Storm Transcript)

danny phantom danny's hero momentdanny phantom danny's hero moment part 2

As evidenced in the quotes and images above, morality sets Danny and Vlad apart as two different very people. How and why they use their powers is very different.

Vlad uses his powers for personal gain: to achieve wealth, to achieve power, to try and murder his best friend so he can ‘take back’ the woman he loves…the list goes on and on. This is established early on in Bitter Reunions, when Jazz asks about his overzealous Packers styled manor:

JAZZ: I don’t understand. You have billions of dollars. Instead of buying this stuff, why don’t you just buy the team?

VLAD: (irritated) Because the Packers are owned by the city of Green Bay and they won’t sell them to me! (Bitter Reunions Transcript)

He later straight up confirms this when he goes on his ‘join me’ rant to Danny, telling him how he has experience, and “the money and power attained through using those powers for personal gain.” Later on in the show, we discover that he’s overshadowed prominent businessmen to get them to sign over their companies to him, that he’s used his powers to commit robberies, and he even uses them in Eye For an Eye to overshadow his way to being mayor. Whenever we see Vlad using his powers, it’s for his own personal gain, or to further his motivations. Even when he’s on Danny’s side, like during their reluctant alliance in Reign Storm, it’s because he’s trying to save his own skin, and realizes siding with Danny is his best bet for success.

Danny’s motivations are very different. While Vlad’s are selfish and self-centered, Danny’s tend to be selfless. While he does have brief moments of selfishness – as most people do – Danny overall motivation is using his powers in order to help people. He wants to save the day. He stops ghosts from attacking his town time and time again, even though for a large chunk of the show, Amity Park as a whole seems to really hate Danny Phantom.

It’s worth noting that Danny could’ve easily been Vlad. They started out very similar: smart teenagers with a love for science, who have two fantastic best friends. The triad of Danny-Sam-Tucker and Vlad-Maddie-Jack is a great reflection of how once upon a time, Vlad was a bit like Danny. Danny could’ve easily resented his parents for his ghost powers, because it was their portal that caused it, much like the proto-portal caused Vlad’s powers back in the day. Vlad is a cautionary tale: he’s the path Danny very well could’ve taken, had things been different.

danny phantom vlad maddie jackdanny phantom danny sam tucker

However, whereas Vlad loses himself in resentment and his lust for power, Danny begins to become more moral and empowered as he learns to use his ghost side to help people and make a change. While Vlad isolates himself, Danny grows closer to Sam and Tucker, relying on them – and later Jazz –for help. Where Vlad sees people as pawns he can use and manipulate, Danny sees the people in his life as friends and allies. Vlad forces people into alliances under false circumstances, by lying to them and manipulating them (ex: Valerie, Dani). Danny helps people, like Wulf and later Dani, and gains their alliance because he helps them out of the tough situations they’re in. It’s a really great contrast, and Vlad’s villainous actions help to showcase Danny’s heroics and morality.

There’s actually a great visual example of this in Maternal Instincts: what I like to call ‘the mirror scene.’

Now, mirrors in media and literature tend to be very symbolic. They show us the truth. Often in supernatural shows, they show us the monster behind their façade. A great example of this is in The Little Mermaid, when Scuttle sees ‘Vanessa’ in the ship singing, and sees that her reflection is Ursula, revealing Ursula’s plan to pose as Vanessa and force Eric into marriage to ruin Ariel’s quest.

little mermaid vanessa is ursula

In Maternal Instincts, the mirror scene shows Danny and Vlad in both human and ghost forms. But we also get a sense of who they are deep down inside.

danny phantom mirror

The initial view in the mirror is Vlad, standing tall and confident, with a superior smirk on his face, with Danny behind him, curled into himself on the chair. It shows who they are at the start of the show. The Danny we get at the very start of the show isn’t confident in himself: he’s clumsy, struggling with his powers, and has a lot of self-esteem issues. The Vlad we get from the start is manipulative, cunning, and arrogant: all traits we can see in his appearance. He’s confident in his powers to the point of being egotistical about them.

Then the mirror flashes and we get a different scene: purple flames, from a fight. This Danny is confident, with his fists out, ready for a fight. In this scene, he’s our force of good, because he looks appalled at Vlad’s actions. This Vlad is more sinister – he’s taller, grins wickedly at his opponent, and is sure of his victory. I think it’s important that Vlad is the one looking in the mirror in this scene, because he’s seeing himself as victorious. He takes up the majority of the space in the image, while Danny is relegated to the background. It shows Vlad’s ego, and how his own self-interest is most important. Everything else comes second.

If Danny were the one looking in the mirror, I’m sure we’d get a very different image.

Vlad’s foiling of Danny accomplishes two things: he highlights his manipulative side, and contrasts Danny’s heroics and selflessness with his villainy and selfishness. The two different paths these characters take, despite how similar their origins are in some ways, is really quite interesting. Character makes all the difference here.

danny phantom danny verses vlad pic

Who are your favorite animated foils? Can you think of any other characters who foil each other in fascinating ways on Danny Phantom? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a fantastic Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

 

Works Cited

Bitter Reunions Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Danny Phantom Wiki: http://dannyphantom.wikia.com/wiki/Bitter_Reunions/Transcript

Maternal Instinct Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Danny Phantom Wiki: http://dannyphantom.wikia.com/wiki/Maternal_Instinct/Transcript

Reign Storm Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Danny Phantom Wiki: http://dannyphantom.wikia.com/wiki/Reign_Storm/Transcript

The majority of my screencaps were from this wonderful site: http://dannyphantomscreencaps.weebly.com/

 

 

Tackling Depression in Inside Out

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Inside Out is one of those films where you will hear adults sobbing in the audience. Job well done, Pixar. Numerous articles have already come out about the psychology behind the film and why the best character is the one left out of marketing, so I’m not going to talk about those. Instead I want to focus on how the film dealt with mental illness.

We champion Frozen as some pillar of achievement, especially because Elsa is often seen as a symbol of depression and anxiety. Inside Out took this exploration into mental illness a step further. When Riley loses Joy, Sadness, and her core memories, she exhibits symptoms of depression and doesn’t know what to do.

I’m going to start with a quick explanation of Core Memories, something the film makes up for the sake of storytelling. In Inside Out, Riley has about five very strong, powerful memories that supposedly make her who she is. One moment where she’s goofing off with her mom and dad is singled out as the genesis of the ‘goofball’ facet of her personality. Her scoring a goal makes up her love of hockey, another of her walking hand in hand with her best friend to symbolize her love of friendship. You get the point. These memories are stored in their own area and are very, very important.

inside out the accident oops

When Joy and Sadness have an argument and are ejected from Headquarters, it so happens all of Riley’s core memories go with them, hence destroying the facets of her personality. Joy and Sadness are in a race against the clock to restore the memories before Riley loses herself completely.

inside out how are we supposed to be happy

Now, the bulk of the film is spent following Joy (and mostly Joy), as she attempts to get back. But we do see snippets of how Riley is functioning without Joy, Sadness, and her core memories. Spoiler alert: It’s not good. Riley exhibits symptoms of depression, which we’re going to discuss now.

Loss of Interest in Hobbies and Irritability

This is biggest and most obvious one. Riley loves hockey, but when her family moves to San Francisco, she has to leave her team and friends behind. Her mom quickly finds her a new league in their new town, but Riley isn’t excited. She tries out anyway, but it goes poorly and she storms away. Riley ends up turning aggressive when she gets frustrated, and her mom is surprised; clearly this isn’t something that has ever happened before.

Riley’s irritability also comes through when her parents are talking to her and want to know about school in the famous dinner scene that’s been used to promote the film. Riley doesn’t want to talk about it and can’t keep her tone from verging on disrespectful. It ends in a yelling match that has Riley stomping to her room.

Loss of Appetite

Let’s stay on that same scene a bit longer. It’s dinner and both her parents are eating, but Riley just swirls her fork around the take-out carton, never actually eating anything.

inside out riley not eating

Earlier in the film we see her reject pizza in San Francisco, but that’s because she resents the idea of putting broccoli on pizza.

inside out broccoli pizza

inside out anger pizza ruined

In fact, Riley was the one that suggested to her mom they get food in order to lift the mood. But during dinner, after the fiasco with Joy and Sadness has happened, she’s not eating.

Difficulty Concentrating/Remembering

On Riley’s first day of school in the new town, she has to introduce herself. At this point, Joy and Sadness are still in Headquarters, so she hasn’t gone into a spiral yet.

However, Sadness keeps touching all the memories, turning them from happy to sad, almost as if she can’t help it.

inside out sadness touching core memories

This confused me for a bit, but now I’m going to explain it this way: Riley was already in a negative state of mind because of the move. Riley was already letting Sadness govern her (instead of Joy). She didn’t just fall into a depression because she lost her core memories. She was already struggling emotionally before Joy and Sadness went missing—which is really great since for awhile I was worried Riley’s depression would be magically fixed with Joy and Sadness returning while people actually struggling with depression don’t have such an easy healing process. Riley already struggling to function before the mishap shows that depression sometimes creeps up on a person.

When Riley needs to introduce herself to the class, she can’t focus (partly because Joy and Sadness are squabbling up in Headquarters and her memories keep changing) and ends up crying because she misses her home so much.

inside out core memory turning sad Sadness turning a happy memory being recalled to a sad one.

Feelings of Worthlessness

This one was done subtly, but I saw it in the scene where Riley video chats with her best friend from home. When Riley finds out that her friend has already made a new friend, she angrily ends the call (another sign of irritability) and presumably feels not too great about herself. How come her friend was able to move on so quickly? Doesn’t she miss her?

woe is me reaction

Difficulty Sleeping

This one is more due to Joy and Sadness messing around with Riley’s Dream Production for various reasons, but Riley has a nightmare and wakes up.

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

Riley is obviously sad about the move to San Francisco. She left her home, friends, and familiar surroundings all for a rundown house, a new school, and a city that puts broccoli on pizza.

There’s a lot of anxiety around the move. Besides fitting in and trying to make new friends, Riley can also sense her parents’ tension. They moved for her dad and his job and Riley overhears her parents talking about money problems. Worse, the moving van with all their stuff goes missing and no one knows when their stuff will arrive. Having your things to make your new home homey and familiar can help moving go smoother and cause less stress, but they don’t have that luxury.

However, after her initial breakdown in school, she doesn’t cry again, until the end of the film, when equilibrium is finally restored. Riley tried to suppress her feelings of sadness and anxiety because her mom asked her to put on a smile. As a result, Riley seems to numb herself and since she doesn’t have Joy and Sadness, she’s not functioning properly. This made me think of Frozen and the “good girl” Elsa strives to be. Because Riley and Elsa are putting on a face, they’re not processing their emotions. They aren’t allowed to go through a spectrum of emotion and that numbs them, making them feel empty.

frozen strugglebus reactioninside out riley sad

The hardest part of watching Inside Out for me was seeing Riley become more and more numb to everything. She seemed like a shell of her herself.

Riley is for all intents and purposes empty. Her core memories are gone. The glass case that stored them is literally empty. And she embodies that, like I just mentioned.

Does Love Fix Everything?

Long time followers of AM know Mel and I have major beef with Frozen for how they closed Elsa’s story. Love is not the answer to every problem, especially mental illness. Inside Out, thankfully, knows that and did something different.

Riley appears depressed because Joy, Sadness, and her Core Memories are gone. So Fear, Anger, and Disgust have been left in charge of helping her function (spoiler alert: They suck at it).

inside out fear disgust anger fightinginside out fear disgust anger punch

Riley is not clinically depressed since not once are neurotransmitters mentioned—the chemicals in the brain that can get out of whack and cause mental illness or other neurological problems like Parkinson’s Disease. Naturally, Joy and Sadness returning to HQ and restoring her memories should be solution enough.

It’s not.

Now I cried a lot during Inside Out. I cried the most here.

the floor is my friend reaction

This is where the story cycles back to Riley feeling like she has to put on a brave face because her mom asked her. It also ties us back to Joy and Sadness and their own arcs. I mentioned Sadness had been touching memories, thus making them sad instead of happy. This freaked Joy out because of course you’d rather have happy memories, right? No one wants to be sad. But Joy, who has been trying so hard to be happy all the time, finally sees that being sad is a part of life. Nothing can be wholly happy.

inside out SADNESS SAVES THE DAY WOOOTTTT Sadness saves the day!

Joy gives Sadness control of Riley, finally letting her cry. Letting her feel the pain she was numbing herself to—just like Elsa, unable to experience a full range of emotions. Riley also opens up to her parents, who are there for her.

inside out sad end family hug

Because the good thing about being sad is that usually, happiness will follow. Joy and Sadness are able to join forces and new memories form that are happy and sad, not solely one or the other. It also means a lot to me that Riley’s core memories do become “sad” in the end since they will now carry a tinge of nostalgia and longing for her old home. But they also still make her happy.

my babies 1 reaction

Riley overcomes her depression not just by Joy and Sadness restoring order in her brain, but by Riley talking with her parents, the people who love her, and feeling the sadness she needs to in order to move forward.

If you are suffering from symptoms of depression and don’t know what to do please, please, talk to someone you trust because you and your life matter. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Take care and love yourselves. 

hug copy reaction

Cheers,

M&M