The Test

Validation is a funny thing. It rarely happens when you want it, and even less so when you’re stuck in a hole requiring the energy to climb out. It’s also absolutely NOT the stuff you think it is. Not everybody wants to be loved and adored, you know. Many just want to be told that what happened to them was wrong, and that there’s a better way to live. When that happens, whole lives just become better, and you become determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Some you won’t ever avoid though, and only now, at this moment, do I really understand why.

When you assume the world is like you, nothing will ever function correctly, because of the disparity between your own perception and everybody else’s. Ironically, it’s taken a TV show to bring this home to me. It’s amazing how validating it is to have something presented to you on screen that becomes the perfect metaphor for that thing which ails you. In my case, that means I’m Tom Hiddleston, and this becomes a blog post about Loki.

Forget everything else about the show, and just take the protagonist’s dilemma alone: this Loki left his timeline when he shouldn’t. At the second that happened, a divergent branch of time was created, and the TVA turned up to make sure it didn’t and that Loki’s glorious purpose was fulfilled. He was born to die in the Sacred Timeline, and that’s it. Like all the other Loki who strayed off the path, all that mattered was his removal.

However, all those splinters of the same personality, all still Loki, continued to live past their removal. One never had the chance to live at all (in the case of Sylvie) whist presumably all the others got shunted out to the Void to be erased for good. What this gives us as viewers is a brilliant means by which we show Hiddleston’s version grow and understand that when he’s not selfish and thinking about himself, he opens himself up to becoming not only likeable, but noble. When his view of the world is so fundamentally altered for good, change becomes essential to survive.

Loki learns from the versions of himself: he brings peace to Sylvie in the moments before both think they will die, and their ‘relationship’ has a power that literally manifests as the most powerful Nexus event anyone in the TVA has ever seen. It’s not for nothing, I think that Richard E Grant’s Loki backstory involves him spending a long time in solitude either, that when he sees what Möbius intends to do now he’s learnt he’s been brainwashed as a Variant, it is enough to transform a bitter old Asgardian into a hero.

In its most didactic form, this show is telling us that bad people have good in them: Prime Loki says it himself to Möbius, before they head off to Pompeii to prove the theory of Sylvie hiding in apocalypses. He knows the difference between good and bad, he’s not a scared child… and as an adult, his reaction to the Loki bowling alley fight is priceless. All your personality splinters, vying for control, and all of them utter idiots. It’s no wonder there’s a fan theory circulating that this could be happening inside Loki’s brain the whole time.

Prime Loki knows what he is by Episode 5, what that actually means, and how he uses his powers for good and evil if he chooses. The whole TVA experience is the equivalent of an instruction manual on how to live life well in the Marvel Universe. It’s the moral code, laid down well and reinforced correctly. Nobody is irredeemable, but you have to want it, there needs to be work: when Prime Loki potentially gives his life, so Sylvie can have a shot at enchanting Alioth, it’s the validation of his journey. That’s the payoff. Here’s a new Loki, who’s accepted he can never return what he was.

That’s a very powerful storytelling element, and it’s an extremely clever means by which to build your Multiverse. All things are possible, past and present, old and new. It puts the ‘Original’ MCU down as a foundation that will work forever at holding up and increasingly diverse and colourful structure above it: as audience tastes change, so can it. In the end, this will annoy those who cannot think past the linear, that want their stories to matter more than anybody else’s, and if that’s not a metaphor for modern living, I don’t know what is.

You’re wondering what all this has to do with me, aren’t you? There’s a moment in Episode 5, as Prime Loki and Sylvie face up to Alioth: as they stand side by side, Loki moves. He places himself behind the variant who’s strongest, because that’s what you do. There’s a point where validation isn’t just about what you think it is, but it becomes something else. The validation you receive from other people is rarely recognized at the time, because you’re normally too busy fighting fires or just coping to grasp any actual significance.

Once in a while, something happens that justifies what you are: it’s that moment where judgement is proven to be sound. You make the right call, and here’s the proof: you didn’t enchant a monster or save the Universe. You just did you, to the best of your ability. This is the way, without feeling awkward or unhappy, and it is apparent, just for a moment, that there is a glorious purpose to be fulfilled. It is when humanity is recognized, then embraced.

Change begins with you, people. Never forget this.

Oh, and as a TL/DR and P.S. combined:

I Love You

If you spend more than an hour on Social media a day it will be impossible to ignore the stupidity around Fandom at any given moment. I follow a number of people for whom the observation of other people’s obsessive desires and interests is not only a lifestyle choice, but a full-time career. It is hard to escape the gravity of negativity in any aspect of current existence, but when it emanates from stuff that’s supposed to be enjoyment and relaxation?

Except, with the smallest of shifts of perception, one can see all of this as just another attempt not only for all of us feel we belong, but to self-promote in an increasingly open and understanding environment. Not every meme is toxic, or perhaps a flimsy disguise in which you’re prompted to share personal data that might also double as password information.  Just don’t get me started on potential facial recognition scams, okay?

We all want to belong, let’s be honest. That’s all of this online stuff’s about, when you get down to the details. If you don’t need the benefit of a massive virtual following not doing Social media‘s hardly a reach. I can look at many people for whom that desire simply never existed, or those who’ve shunned the practice because privacy means nope, you don’t get to know anything at all.

In the modern world, of course, it shouldn’t take much to find out everything about someone if you really want to, and if you’ve ever been unlucky enough to be stalked online, you’ll know just how hard it is to remain truly anonymous. That’s where fandom’s truly insidious underside can become not just frightening but life changing… but for every negative, you can offset the damage.

I remember that fan who married one of her idols…

thatsbait

You get to know over time the people to trust, then avoid. Someone from an old fandom haunt appeared out of the blue late last year, still hugely dedicated to his cause, still happily living the life they were decades previously… and this is why changes in orbit can end up so potentially damaging. The good people rationalise, are adult and move on. It’s the people who won’t change, can’t alter their outlooks that become the unknown quantities.

I’m in a particular fandom right now where people are split down the middle, thanks to the main protagonist in their fictional lives having assumed a new gender. There’s an indignity for some right now that a man they respected has become a highly attractive woman. There’s psychology at play that is difficult to reconcile, and this TV show is becoming an unexpected test bed for what happens when you stop giving all the best roles to white men.

Who knew so many people were that sensitive to change?

Let’s be honest, you’d need to be from another fucking planet not to grasp how some parts of society are woefully unprepared for what’s coming. We need more common sense, and far less stupidity, and if you resent actresses and people of colour in traditionally white male roles? You are part of the problem. Don’t worry, give it ten years and there’ll be no planet left for you to complain about… ^^

Maybe what needs to happen now is change, and not resistance.

Northern Star

I’ve loved the Philip Pullman books for a very long time, and The Golden Compass, despite all it’s flaws and shortcomings, did a better job of introducing Alternate Oxford than the BBC version managed last night. However, in everything else, the BBC/HBO series is light years ahead of anything I suspect could or would have been considered possible a decade ago.

These books have always been subversive and courted controversy, that’s what made them so very compelling. Alternate worlds, ruled by evil men, where normal people are used as pawns and cyphers. So what if your soul has an animal form? Those feelings and beliefs manifest regardless, and in the world of Lyra Belacqua it is the importance of innocence before corruption that makes the narrative so very seductive.

In that regard, last night, the pre-credits sequence mattered a very great deal.

The time and care that’s been taken to get this adaptation right is apparent in every single scene, particularly when we are introduced to the Gyptians for the first time. The pace and plotting of the episode is tight and cleverly ties together the abduction of Lyra’s only friend Roger with the growing crisis of missing Gyptian children. No, Gobblers aren’t just a children’s story in this world. Evil lives in plain sight.

What sold me in this first episode, without doubt, was the first time we see the Magisterium in London, which if it wasn’t imposing enough from the outside… well, within shows a truth that screams totalitarian regime. Men love to build massive monuments to their own perceived superiority, after all; we can tell immediately who is good and bad. Casting and adaptation really are both spot on.

I didn’t notice CGI at all in any of this, for the record. That’s how good it was.

Knowing how this story ends however is no issue: in fact, that only further increases my anticipation of what I know is already coming: Book Two’s being worked on. If this kind of narrative is being considered for TV adaptation, it gives me hope that other complex ideas like Iain Banks’ The Bridge or his Culture series might yet be considered for an airing. If something as massive as The Expanse series is worthy of airtime… who knows.

I also suspect I’ll see the BBC’s much-anticipated adaptation of The War of the Worlds soon in the 9pm Sunday spot and when that happens… I’m gonna need a comfier spot than the floor in which to watch TV back to back. There’ll probably be a second watch of the first episode on the iPlayer this week, because I need to learn how to make animated GIFs and, to be honest, His Dark Materials is a fantastic place to start.