Tag Archives: culture

Obsessions: A History

I’m so obsessed with Reign, the Mary Queen of Scots drama on the CW. Like SOOOOOO unhealthily obsessed. I love it. I can’t get enough. I just recently discovered it, and I DEVOURED both seasons. Now I have to wait 3 months until Season 3! I can’t stand it. But it got me thinking about some of the strange, all-consuming obsessions that I’ve had in my life. Here they are:

1. Green Day

greenday

This was a die-hard obsession of my 8th and 9th grade years. I wore WAY too much eye makeup and black nail polish. Listening to such angry music all the time made me kind of hate my (very good) life! I figured that out eventually, but I still nurse a little crush on Billy Joe Armstrong.

2. Veganism

My junior year of high school through my freshman year of college, I was obsessed with all things vegan. I read a massive number of books and got really into cooking elaborate vegan recipes. I stayed vegan until my senior year of college, when I studied abroad in Italy, and was left with no choice but to consume mass amounts of gelato.

3. Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra

1/2006

BEST SHOW EVER! I don’t know if this obsession really ever died, but the first time I saw  it, I skipped class to finish the final season with my roommate! We could not turn it off and ended up attempting to beatbox the end credits after each episode.

4. Greek Mythology

In 6th grade, I was introduced to the world of Greek mythology and I immediately fell in love with the archetype characters. I quickly began constructing my own stories using the gods and goddesses as characters! This obsession faded into obscurity for a while, but last year when I read Goddesses in Everywoman, the obsession was unleashed again! Now, I find myself thinking “she’s such an Athena” on a regular basis.

5. Harry Potter

hpprivetdrive

Who wasn’t obsessed with Harry Potter at some point? But for me, this is a lifelong obsession that continues on. I am a 23-year-old woman who goes on Pottermore. I have -yikes- 4 pieces of Harry Potter art hanging in my apartment. (In my defense, though, I have several gallery walls worth of art.) I also love listening to the Harry Potter audio books when I’m driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles alone. The 5 hours fly by. That’s only like 1/3 of Goblet of Fire!

6. Red Hair

When I was little, I had a red-headed Barbie named Courtney. And the obsession was born. Later, Satine from Moulin Rouge fed my love of red hair.  Needless to say, I have been a red-head since my Dad gave me permission in high school to die my hair.

7. Buffy

buffylollipop

I resisted Buffy for a long time. I’ve devoured every other Joss Whedon show, but I was nervous about Buffy’s cheesy ’90s special effects. Boy, did I get over that fast! The first time I watched Buffy, I would get off of work and calculate exactly how many episodes I had time to watch before I had to go to bed. It made me want to start wearing cross necklaces, and I finally understood the strong and silent type. Hello, Angel!

Those are my craziest obsessions. What have your greatest obsessions been?

Advertisements

What the Hell is Steampunk?!

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.23.31 AM

(source)

 “Steampunk is…a joyous fantasy of the past, allowing us to revel in a nostalgia for what never was. It is a literary playground for adventure, spectacle, drama, escapism and exploration. But most of all it is fun!” -George Mann

 I have long been fascinated with steampunk culture. So imagine my surprise while sitting at a table with six other people of varying ages and backgrounds, none of which had even heard the term “steampunk,” much less knew what it was. I was even more surprised that I could not, at the time, come up with adequate words to describe the complex and unique cultural movement. After some time and consideration, here is what I have come up with regarding the basis of steampunk culture, what you may have already seen that is considered steampunk, and how to get involved.

 

So I think we better start with the basics. Steampunk, originating as a sub-genre of science fiction, has become a full-on subculture in the nerd world.  Heavily influenced by the Industrial Era and steam-powered technology, it is a kind of retro-futurism that has nothing to do with the Jetsons. Babbage’s Analytical Engine, designed in the early 1800s as a theorized, but not put into practice, precursor to the computer, is often incorporated into steampunk works and is an inspiration for advanced technology powered by steam. 19th century retro-futurism is distinct because it is not their future as we have witnessed it, but their future as 19th century people might have imagined it. Therefore, the style of the era is heavily incorporated into steampunk architecture, art and fashion.

Most of the movement is inspired by the 19th century, including the fashion. Corsets and top hats are common, but are often commonly mixed with gears and brass for a technological touch. Long skirts for girls are the norm, and full double breasted suits for the men. Steampunk can be modernized, featuring “slutified” versions of the outfits for women and more casual alternatives for the men. Goggles on your top hat and mechanizations with brass and gears on an arm, leg, or your face are also common additions to separate you from a period dresser. These technological additions are most often completely fictional and serve no true purpose other than a unique appearance.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.23.42 AM(source)

 Cult animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender is a unique case of the steampunk culture. The original series showed a fictional nation known as The Fire Nation, with some steampunk technology. Later, in the next generation series, currently airing, Legend of Korra, the story takes place in Republic City, a city where all nations have come together and formed a futuristic outpost. Technology has massively moved forward, due to the end of The Hundred Year War, and Republic City is the evidence of that. Featuring early cars, planes and factories galore, Republic City is a heavily Steampunk environment, with an Asian twist.

 Popular web series The Guild features a season taking place at a gaming convention. One character, Clara, if fascinated by a steampunk booth and is determined to be accepted into the culture. Joss Whedon’s sister-in-law Maurissa Tancheroen is the guest star playing a snobby steampunk queen. Check out the clip below:

Steampunk is a lot more common than you think! Many popular authors feature steampunk technology and 19th century retro-futurism in their works. Everyone has heard of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, whether or not you have read their works, The Time Machine and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Some modern authors are considered steampunk as well, such as Philip Pullman. The fictional world is often an alternate 19th century, with advanced steam-powered technology, or a future world where steam-power has reemerged as the only practical technology. Popular role playing games, such as MMORPG World of Warcraft and classic nerd game Dungeons and Dragons, incorporate steampunk elements for certain characters and cultures within their fictional worlds. Howl’s Moving Castle, a popular anime film by Miyazaki, features steampunk technology, including the titular steam-powered walking house shown below.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.23.49 AM(source)

Love a good Con? SalonCon is a recently invented Steampunk Convention that has taken place a few times with no annual date, yet. Not to mention the most popular of cons, San Diego Comic Con, where the Saturday of the yearly July convention is often known as Steampunk Day, culminating in some pretty crazy group photos. If you feel like you want to take on a fashion element from the culture, check out Clockwork Couture online or stop by Pasadena, California’s store Gold Bug for some really interesting steampunk art collections and other paraphernalia.

 

How to Become a Superhero

Raj: “You’re so arrogant! If you were a superhero, your name would be Captain Arrogant. And you know what your superpower would be? Arrogance.”

Sheldon: “You’re wrong again. If my superpower were arrogance, my name would be Dr. Arroganto.” – The Big Bang Theory

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 1.54.33 PM

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy a monstrous success. The Thor franchise and Batman franchise are doing as well as ever. And with the immediate success of Gotham, the superhero must be feeling pretty good about himself these days. With the superhero owning popular culture and with Halloween around the corner, it got me wondering: what makes a superhero a superhero?

There are many traits that define the majority of superheroes. Whether from another planet or formerly regular humans, superheroes generally have a tragic past. Filled with accident and incident, superheroes suffer from all kinds of complexes due to death and tragedy in their youth. Spiderman, for instance, realizes his responsibility after the death of his Uncle Ben. The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” was then coined and has now become just as famous as Spiderman himself. This is another important superhero feature: the moral code. Superheroes fixate on their moral code and often constantly focus on saving their city over saving themselves.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 11.09.10 AM

All superheroes of course have some form of powers through massive amounts of money and technology (Ironman, Batman), a scientific accident (Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Catwoman), or alien powers from another species (Superman, Green Lantern, Thor). These powers usually capture the attention of the damsel in distress, winning the superhero a girlfriend. This girlfriend sometimes isn’t aware of who the superhero really is. This is because the superhero has a secret identity. Bruce Wayne, the rich magnate of Wayne Manor, becomes Batman, the Dark Knight and vigilante hero of Gotham City.

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.11.05 AM 

So how do superheroes keep their secret identities?

The Costume

Let me first say that not all costumes are meant to protect the superhero’s identity. A few superheroes don’t bother to keep their identities a secret. However, most superheroes employ secret identities to keep themselves, their friends, and families safe from the villains or, in Spiderman’s case, the police.

Almost all superheroes have spandex outfits. This is supposedly for maximum freedom of movement. They need to run, climb, and jump however is necessary. Female superheroes such as Catwoman and Wonder Woman have costumes that are very sexy and leave little to the imagination. Male superheroes tend to have costumes that show off their bulging muscles.

 
Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.04.01 AM

Superheroes are all supposed to be sexy. Yet, how is underwear over your pants sexy? For a long time, no one seemed to know the answer, only that Superman and Batman had always been that way. This part of the superhero world has been widely mocked for years. My personal favorite example of this is the 1990s cartoon Doug, where the titular character dresses as Quailman, tighty-whities over cargo shorts and all. Recently, the Huffington Post suggested that early color printing techniques of the 1930s and 1940s offered a blurriness problem that often resulted in the characters’ figures being unclear. If Superman did not have red to distinguish from the blue, he may have appeared to have nothing there. Any black definition in that area would have likely been deemed offensive at that time. Today, as printing technology has become much better, some comics have moved away from the look. However, some traditions die hard when it comes to the fans. 

As Halloween approaches, the streets will run rampant with fans-turned-superheroes. Let’s discuss the average human’s superhero costume options that aren’t made from some kind of Kryptonian fabric.

  1.     The Lazy Superhero Costume

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.02.40 AM

Thinkgeek, a wonderful website for the nerd in all of us, has devised Halloween costumes for the laziest superhero-loving men and women out there, who perhaps like Halloween and like to dress up, but don’t have any particular time or money for an elaborate costume. Throw on this caped tank top or a sweatshirt: voila, instant superhero!

  1.     The Handmade Superhero Costume

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.05.36 AM(source)

Oh, the handmade costume. This can range widely from Comic-Con sewing masters who spend months handcrafting amazing costumes or as a t-shirt with a cut-out batman symbol sewn to it and a mask made from a paper plate. More labor intensive and less appreciated than other costume options, the handmade costume is the unsung hero. This photo from Raising Hope is of Jimmy, who dresses as a homemade, last-minute Batman to impress the girl of his dreams, who dressed as Robin. (Women often gender-bend to play their favorite superheroes on TV and film. Men dressing as female superheroes is less common, but not unheard of.) Sabrina’s boyfriend Wyatt showed up in a different take on Batman. He went with the “Expensive but still Cheaply Made Costume.”

  1.     The Expensive, But Still Cheaply Made, Costume

howard

(source)

Everyone at one point or another has stood in a costume shop and ogled the insane price of a simple, polyester costume.  Some costume shop costumes can be more elaborate, seen above, with fake pectorals and all. But for one night, I never seem to think spending too much is worth it. That’s probably why I usually laze out and just buy some cat ears, put on a red dress, and call myself Hello Kitty.

This Halloween, celebrate the strangle-hold superheroes have on pop culture. Take any route you choose to be your favorite superhero! Just please, no tighty-whities over your pants. Unless you’re going as Quailman, that is.