Soul (2020)

I liked this movie, but had some complicated feelings about it.

On the one hand:

Soul is, in my opinion, a higher quality movie than many other current American movies. I enjoyed it, and yes, it did make me cry a bit. Soul also does a better job of including non-white people, and specifically black people, than most previous Pixar movies. The same is true of Soul in comparison to animated movies in general, beyond Pixar. As such, it represents an improvement on the current state of American movies both in terms of representation and in terms of other elements of artistic quality. Basically, yes, Pixar continues to know how to make good movies.

On the other hand:

Doing a better job of including non-white people, and specifically black people, than most previous Pixar movies? That’s a comically low bar. The same holds for most movies in general. It honestly isn’t hard to expand the portrayal of black characters beyond being poor, criminal, or poor and criminal… and yet American film and TV continues to stagnate there (with a few notable exceptions). So while Soul does improve on this front—and I’m glad that it does!—I’m reluctant to give Soul too much credit beyond acknowledging and being glad that Pixar is moving in the right direction.

Perhaps more importantly, there are a number of critiques of the movie—predominantly from people of color—about how people of color show up in the movie. These critiques include but are not limited to the discomfort and weirdness around *SPOILERS* putting a white woman’s voice in a black character’s body for a decent chunk of the film, or having the black character be disembodied for much of the runtime *END SPOILERS*. While my opinion on this front really doesn’t matter, these critiques seem fair to me.

Where does that leave Soul?

I enjoyed watching it. I think it’s a good movie. I would have liked to tweak the end a smidge to hone a theme that I think was present but not quite fully realized… but that’s okay. I also think those issues mentioned above are real and present, and the critiques I read (or which were read to me) around the time Soul came out make sense.

If we lived in a world where there was not such a poverty of representation for black people in movies, animated or otherwise, I think none of these critiques would be especially trenchant. If we lived in that world, Soul would simply be a good movie with touching observations about what it means to be a human, to be alive. As part of a larger constellation of abundant and varied representations of black people, Soul would be great.

We’re not in that world, not yet. We have a long way to go. Soul is a step in the right direction, but it’s not perfect. We have to keep moving.

A side note… I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to make art that isn’t perfect, or doesn’t match the ideal in my mind. And, when I screw up, I have to remember that anyone who walks is going to fall on their ass sometimes. I must keep my art sufficiently removed from my self that I can accept criticism of it (and can critique it myself) without throwing myself into debilitating self-doubt, anxiety, and depression. And then, of course, I have to try again.

Some of my patience for Pixar and Soul comes from the fact that I literally don’t have skin in the game. But some of it comes from wanting people to make art, and knowing that that means accepting some missteps along the way (as long as people are willing to learn from them, unlike J.K. Rowling’s transphobia for example).

Will Pixar learn to do better? Will they continue trying to do better? I don’t know. But I hope they do. And they can improve things by doing more of what they already do, and what they’ve already started to do.

Pixar is really good at making meaningful stories that I have treasured for years. I’d like them to keep doing that, and I’d like to think that they’re good enough, skillful enough, and have their hearts in the right place enough to help relieve that poverty of representation I mentioned before. Pixar can’t do it on their own, but they (and many other folks) can make life different. Better.

I look forward to it.

Flash Fiction: I Do Not Forgive You

This brings me back to my terribleminds flash fiction habit.  This week, our prompt was to use a character someone had created last week and write up to 2000 words about them.  By my count, I’ve got 1847 below the fold.  The character I used is inspired by the post here, by Pleasant Street.  I say inspired because, while I use features of the character Pleasant Street created, I largely do away with the setting that they made to go along with her… not because I didn’t like it (I did), but because my ideas took me in a different direction.  I hope that you like it, and I especially hope that Pleasant Street is able to appreciate it.  Enjoy.

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My Not-Exactly-Tintin Project Might Really Happen?

This update is totally last minute, born of a recognition that I forgot to make my usual post today.  In fact, by my clock, I’m already four minutes too late.  I did spend a goodly portion of my day traveling, but… yeah.

Fortunately, I have some awesome news to share.  Do you remember the time that I mentioned wanting to write a Tintin flowchart (way back in January)?  I just shared the underlying aim, of writing a new era’s Tintin comics, with one of my friends.  They responded by spending fifteen minutes drawing a picture of female Tintin with Snowy, striding along in her trench coat.  It looked really good.  They were really excited and want to talk with me about this project.  So now I’m really excited too.  Hell, I just busted out a big goofy smile for no particular reason.  No, not true, it’s for a very particular reason; this project is something that someone else wants to work on with me!

I’m not writing this to tell you that you should expect something soon.  I’m writing this to tell you that some day, maybe a few years from now, I’ll have another post to tell you about how awesome this thing I’m working on is, and how anxious I am about making it worth your time.  But I think that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be telling you that because I have some good old Tintin-esque glorious adventure for you to feast your eyes on.  I’m really excited about this.

Games Are Art

Zeeblee

As the title says, games are art.  I begin with this because I have gone through multiple false starts in getting this argument going.  While I believe most other gamers would agree with me, making this topic seem rather pointless, I have also noticed that a good deal of the rest of the world still does not acknowledge games as an artistic medium.  The debate over the artistic merit of games was quite loud years ago when Roger Ebert declared, “Games can never be art.” and since it has quieted down.  Unfortunately I think the quiet only really occurred because the only people speaking were gamers.  Well, that’s still going to be true today, but perhaps I can at least outline my argument well enough that if a non-gamer comes across it they can begin to understand what this medium means to us.

To begin I think it would actually be valuable for everyone to first watch Kellee Santiago’s TED Talk to which Ebert’s article responds to, and then to read Ebert’s article.

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