Switching the Legal Status of Marijuana and Alcohol: Beneficial?

Whenever there is a conversation about drugs, we tend to assume that the legal ones are the “good drugs” and the illegal ones are the “bad drugs”. If you were to say “I take drugs” to someone, they wouldn’t assume that you were referring to alcohol, tobacco, painkillers or coffee, would they? Today, I am going to address one idea in particular: why I think swapping the legal status of weed and alcohol would be beneficial. Just to be clear, I’m not rallying a protest here to make alcohol illegal. I’m completely for adults being able to enjoy whichever psychoactive substance tickles their gonads. I’m simply using alcohol (a legal drug) and weed (an illegal drug) as examples of why the good vs bad view of legality makes little sense.

Alcohol


Again, let me just reiterate a major point here: I am not calling for the outlaw of alcohol! Everything I say in relation to alcohol is entirely as a comparison point to the legality of weed. With that in mind, I’m going to jump right in to exploring why alcohol is a fucking horrendous drug. To quote the late Bill Hicks, “there are better drugs and better drugs for you!” We view alcohol as this socially acceptable form of ignoring our inhibitions. What are some things you can get away with drunk but not sober? Throwing up everywhere; blacking out (both in terms of memory and physically passing out); being incredibly loud at antisocial hours; fighting your friend; falling off walls; bailing on a social obligation; sex in usually unacceptable places (particularly unprotected sex which can result in illness, unwanted pregnancy and in extreme cases: death); oversharing acquaintances; befriending people in the toilets; making plans that will never be kept…

Would you agree with any of these? Would you agree with all of them? Alcohol intoxication allows you the excuse of “sorry, I was drunk” which is can often be used like a ‘Get out of jail free’ card. How often have you heard people comment on their complete lack of memory from a night out only to follow it up with “…guess I must have had a good night!” Am I the only one that thinks having no memory of a night out is the same as just not going? Of course these are the lighter implications of alcohol consumption.

Feeling Healthy?

As someone from Scotland, it pains me to read statistics about my country. Before continuing, we have to define a certain term: alcohol-related death. The term covers any death that is primarily due to alcohol. This could be a long-term condition that has led to death, a more acute condition worsened by alcohol to the point of death, and of course alcohol poisoning. Accidents (including road traffic accidents) are not included. Why is this important? Well, in Scotland in there were at least 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016. This is an increase of 10% just from the previous year. This is double the yearly average of alcohol-related deaths in the 1960s (but also a decrease from those of 2000). Alcohol accounts for 1 in 15 deaths in Scotland. It also contributes to 6% of new cancer cases each year.

There is a newer definition known as ‘alcohol-specific deaths’ which covers the same basic definition as alcohol-related deaths but only includes deaths that are a direct consequence of alcohol. This only alters the numbers by about 10%. In the UK in 2016 there were at least 7,427 alcohol-specific deaths. Looking at drug-related deaths in Scotland (within the NHS Board area), we find something rather unfortunate. Despite the “war on drugs” alcohol accounts for 38% of these deaths. These figures include illegal and illegal drugs with heroin being the only one to beat alcohol (literally one of the most dangerous drugs in the world). My point is NOT that alcohol is as dangerous as any of these drugs. Obviously percentage wise alcohol is drastically safer and looking at number of deaths doesn’t reflect the danger of one drug in comparison to another…BUT, weed is not even on the list.

A Crime is still a Crime

Of course the impact that alcohol has on the individual isn’t the limit of alcohol’s reach. We have to view the bigger picture and in order to do that we need to see the effect it has on society. For example, we can explore how crime and alcohol are related. We’ll be sticking to Scotland for the time being. In 2014/15, in 54% of violent crimes, the offender was under the influence of alcohol. We can’t assume that the attack wouldn’t have taken place otherwise but we do have to acknowledge that it plays a role. I mean in the last 10 years, half of the people accused of murder where under the influence of alcohol/drugs at the time. Not to mention that a shocking two-thirds of all young offenders were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offence.

We also have to consider the financial burden this is having on not only the NHS but Scotland in general. I mean alcohol-related crime costs at least £727 million PER YEAR! It costs the Scottish health service about £267 million PER YEAR! When including all the wider costs, productive capacity, crime, social care and health of alcohol it costs £3.6 billion PER YEAR!

Greater Societal Impact

I had planned on finishing my alcohol portion of this rant there but then completely by chance I stumbled across even more areas. I hadn’t even considered these but fuck! A recent study into the effect that alcohol marketing has on children revealed some pretty disturbing shit! Children as young as 10 are not only familiar with, but can identify alcohol brands, logos and even the characters involved in advertising campaigns. Weirdly, they could often identify these easier than the adverts aimed specifically at children.

Would it be crazy to think that alcohol companies were just luring in new customers from a young age? The study found that children are aware of an association between alcohol and sports. For example, 45% of children correctly recognised the alcohol brand associated with the Everton Football Club. Children who had social media had higher recognition and could more easily identify alcohol brands.

Scourge on Society

We always hear the argument that alcohol is an acceptable form of societal bonding. A drug that “when used in moderation” can offer stress relief, ease the nerves and make otherwise tedious evenings a bit more exciting. Yet when we look at the facts, alcohol quite clearly has a hugely negative impact on health and crime. Sure, the alcohol industry may rake in X amount of money…but is that worth the cost of even one human life? If the youth of a country are being fed advertising, being put in prison and committing acts of violence, destruction or slowly killing themselves…does that sound like a drug that should be legal to you?

A Bag of Weed


I’m not here to blindly shout that weed is some sort of magical, harm-free drug. Any drug can be harmful. Any drug can have negative side effects on one person but not the other. What I am going to do here though is highlight why weed legalisation wouldn’t lead to the collapse of civilisation. We’ve already touched on the idea that weed isn’t killing anyone. I’m not bending facts, I’m not making light of low numbers. Nobody has ever, ever died directly from weed…EVER!

You’ve probably heard of the rather mythical “first ever marijuana overdose death” that often crops up. One such example took place in Colorado. This was after the recent legalisation of marijuana for recreational use in the state. Of course a death would not be a great start to weed legalisation. This report turned out to be nothing more than media sensationalism. This is always the case with supposed marijuana deaths. At first sight the media is quick to jump on the supposed cause. Every single time there is always a previously undetected, underlying cause. That’s not to say that weed can’t contribute to mental illness or play a role in triggering genetically predisposed illnesses. More on that in a moment.

The Harm in Weed

So when does weed pose harm to individuals and society? What about those suffering from anxiety or depression? Any psychoactive substance, including marijuana, can impact mental health conditions negatively. It is worth mentioning that marijuana does have an effect on mental health if used before the brain is fully developed. In saying that, studies have found that drug-use in adolescents is usually a symptom of a disorder or personality type rather than a cause.

We always hear about how marijuana is dangerous because it can trigger psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and other illnesses in those with a genetic predispositions. A study reviewing this data came to the conclusion that there are a whole range of factors to consider. This makes marijuana a contributor rather than a cause. They did mention that the largest risk is to those under the age of 18 who use marijuana. However, a separate study found that the amount of weed consumed did influence the risk of psychosis. This, however, was only true in individuals with the AKT1 gene.

In terms of anxiety and mood disorders, studies found no significant results. In fact, the only significant associations were drug-use disorders (specifically weed, alcohol, nicotine but also others). These can quite obviously be attributed to the individual and not to marijuana. In comparison, there are links between alcohol and depression. There are links between coffee and anxiety (including anxiety attacks). What about links between marijuana and self-harm or suicide? Sadly for those against weed legalisation, these don’t compare to the alcohol-related figures. Not to mention that with many people weed can reduce these issues.

Different Weed

What many people forget is that varying strains have varying effects and as such, one strain won’t affect you in the same way as another. Certain strains can help to manage certain mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Not to mention reduce pain, stress, and insomnia effects, etc. Much in the same way that I hate the blanket term “drugs” I also hate that many assume weed to all be the same. Firstly you have indicas, sativas and hybrids. That alone greatly divides weed into different categories. Then you have the different strains of each type. These all have varying effects, different THC and cannabinoid ratios. Not to mention that how they are grown plays in impact on health as well.

Strangely enough, the most harm ever caused by weed relates to synthetic weed. Synthetic weed can often be legal (as a legal high which are often more dangerous that their illegal counterparts). So if synthetic weed is the real danger then legalisation is literally the safest route to reduce the damage. This would allow for the regulation of weed. By supplying safer strains of marijuana that is grown under strict conditions, you can make it drastically safer. Not to mention the taxation and the benefits that can be reaped.

Weed is a Friend Indeed


At this point I think we need to highlight a couple of things. Firstly, weed has never killed anyone. Secondly, while weed can pose a risk, it’s only to a tiny fraction of people who are genetically predisposed to certain mental illnesses. Thirdly, weed consumption appears to be a symptom of many illnesses or mood disorders rather than a cause. Lastly, the biggest danger posed by weed is that of synthetic weed. With all that in mind, we can move onto the final reason why weed legalisation is THE way to go. We’re going to use Colorado as our shining example so let’s take a look at how legalisation has impacted the state so far.

  • Teen marijuana use is unchanged! This is a major argument put forward by anti-legalisation campaigners. During the parliamentary discussion on the topic a few years back, this was pretty much their only reasonable argument. So now that there is evidence to show that this is not the case, I wonder what arguments they could make.
  • Traffic fatalities are still the same. This is one of the other issues that anti-legalisation campaigners often mention. Since we can’t test for recent weed consumption in the same way as alcohol, there is the concern that we can’t detect individuals driving under the influence, leading to more accidents. Evidently, this is not the case.
  • In 2016, legal marijuana sales earned the state nearly $200 million in tax revenue after the $1.3 billion in legal marijuana sales. Market research suggests that this will reach $20.2 billion by 2021. This is put back into schools, hospitals, fixing roads…

And yet…

We haven’t even touched on the benefits that medicinal cannabis can offer people. I’m not going to either because my argument in this post is regarding recreational use. But bear in mind that such benefits do exist and would have far reaching benefits through legalisation. Even when we take all of this into consideration, it seems pretty ridiculous to ignore one very obvious truth: if marijuana is even slightly less harmful than alcohol, it seems ridiculous that one is legal, heavily advertised and available everywhere. Yet the other is still a class B drug in Scotland which could land you up to 5 years in prison. There is literally no argument at all, not one, as to why alcohol should remain legal but marijuana illegal. Not to mention that alcohol is 114x more dangerous than smoking weed.

Yet there is a point of view that we always seem to ignore. Why should anyone have a say over what I put into my body? I can drink myself to death. Eat McDonald’s food until the NHS has to fund every procedure under the sun. People can choose to pierce their skin with jewellery to destructive levels or cover their bodies in tattoos. If you want to jump out of a plane, go climbing up mountains or beat someone to near-death in a ring, you can. You can even charge people to watch it and make money from the event. I beg you; please tell me why smoking weed is any worse than these things!  I mean how fucking dare I suggest that I should be able to smoke a drug, laugh my ass off and enjoy myself in the comfort of my own home, right?

Final Remarks

So should alcohol and marijuana have their legal statuses switched? Realistically: no. Scotland’s alcoholic society would crumble without the crutch that is alcohol. However, if there is even a chance that legalisation would reduce alcohol consumption in my country then I see absolutely no reason why that isn’t a benefit. Alcohol is a destructive force, it’s a scourge on society and it kills so many people each year. Weed may have some risks but no more than nuts or driving to work. Can we truly accept that just because those in parliament don’t want to smoke weed that the rest of us shouldn’t be able to?

I actually wrote about this topic before and I’ve even explained why the petition system in the UK is a massive pile of shit that serves no purpose and doesn’t change anything that parliament wouldn’t have changed anyway. It’s a pacifying measure to make people feel like clicking a button can change the world. I wrote to my MP at the time, David Mundell. I explained I had strong opinions on the matter and my e-mail went through several drafts, was concise and in my opinion argued a strong case. What did I get in response? A generic e-mail talking about issues I hadn’t even mentioned. My own MP (who didn’t even attend the parliamentary discussion by the way) couldn’t even take the time to read my e-mail. It’s literally his job. Anyway, if you want to read something a little lighter, check this out!

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So guys, we have reached the end of this rant and hopefully you’ve learnt something along the way. As always, I’m interested in hearing your opinions and feedback. If you think that alcohol deserves its legal status over weed, please share your reasons why. Also, stay tuned for the opportunity to win a $20 Amazon gift card in the next few weeks. Be sure to follow me here and on Twitter to stay in the loop. Peace!

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Pokemon: The Great War Theory

We all know Pokemon in some form or another: Some of us played/watched it as kids, some of us have kids who play/watch it…some of us are adults who play it and watch it in Spanish to try and help them pick up the language…let’s not focus too much on that for now. Regardless, we all know the basic premise: the story of a kid in a world where pets (“friends”) fight to earn their owners money and fame. Ignoring the violence and enslavement, Pokemon tells many stories of friendship, heroism, altruism and is often fairly heart-warming. Even the regular villains in the show, Team Rocket, aren’t heartless and often support team good to fight the real team bad.

But what if I told you that there is a dark theory to Pokemon that often goes ignored? No, I’m not referring to the creepy Lavender Town music from the game that made people kill themselves or the seriously creepy Cubone story but rather the disturbing level of evidence that Pokemon takes place during or after a major war…

The Theory

I’m going to approach this one a little differently to my other posts. I’m going to lay the theory out at the start and then go on to explore some of the evidence afterwards. So the theory goes something like this: the game and show take place in a world where animals are far more intelligent (in comparison to our animals), have “abilities” and can actually evolve instantaneously after reaching a certain “level”. That’s the basics of the Pokemon world laid out without any storyline. In this world, you still have the same politics, the same human emotions, the same wars that we face in our world and as such, Pokemon became seen as weapons (think of anti-tank dogs, messenger pigeons, and war elephants but with abilities). So the battle for powerful Pokemon seems all fun and games in the show/game but there is more to it.

Sometime before the events of the show/game a war broke out between nations and as such, the men and their Pokemon were called to war. We never see any guns in this world and other than some makeshift bombs from Team Rocket, warfare is limited to Pokemon. Where duals or sword fights would take place in our world, Pokemon battles take place in their world. Some of these Pokemon have insanely powerful abilities and as such are better suited to war. Think Game of Thrones but with Pokemon instead of dragons and dire-wolves!

It’s hard to say whether the war is still going on or has already taken place. If it’s the latter, then the evidence certainly suggests that it was recent and that the nation we see in Pokemon is still preparing for a follow-up. So let’s take a look at some of the evidence to support this theory from the game and the TV series (I’m referring to Pokemon: Indigo League specifically)

Game vs Show

I first heard this theory in relation to the game only. However, as I started watching the show again (just yesterday), I noticed many startling moments that add evidence to this theory for the show as well. We’ll begin by looking at certain aspects that exist in both worlds (I refer to them as different worlds purely to avoid confusion because Pokemon Indigo League is loosely based on the original Pokemon game). Just keep in mind that this first section is just a very vague synopsis of the more specific evidence that exists within each world.

The Population

One thing you notice within the Pokemon world is how the population is divided: there are a lot of children (more on that in a moment) and a lot of old people but there seems to be drastically less middle-aged people. Now that on its own is fairly normal, I mean most developed populations are weighted this way. Yet it’s the sheer number of each. You’re constantly running into children everywhere and old people almost as much…women drastically outnumber the men and this is particularly true within the game world.

The Children

So what of the children? If you’ve ever played or watched Pokemon, you must have found it a little weird that children are literally being sent out into the wilderness at the age of 10. Most children in the show and game don’t have parents: Ash/Red doesn’t have a father, Gary/rival has no parents at all, Brock has no mother, and Misty doesn’t have parents. You encounter a number of children in both worlds who either live alone, are travelling alone or are living with grandparents.

The Adults

One thing you notice with many of the adults is that they serve some sort of purpose. For starters, most of the men in the Pokemon world are scientists such as Professor Oak (although he’s also elderly) and his aids. The rest either live in caves, up mountains or run gyms. The reason I suspect that the war may still be going on is that there are mostly old men and as such, it makes sense that these men were too old to go to war when it broke out.

Technology

We also have to acknowledge the incredibly advanced technology that exists in this part of the world and perhaps wonder if that has something to do with the cause of the war. Modes of transport, for the most part, seem to be rather out-dated but other areas are incredibly advanced. Let’s start off with the Pokeball: it is literally capable of turning Pokemon into energy or converting them into some sort of electronic data in order to store them inside this ball. Yet as is demonstrated in both worlds, these Pokemon are still conscious while inside and can choose not to leave or fight to escape. This is stepped up further when we witness the Pokemon transportation system which is used early on in the series to transport Pokemon (inside Pokeballs) to a different Pokemon Centre but is also used in the game to trade Pokemon. We’re literally talking about some Star Trek style teleportation of matter!

The in-game technology differs slightly in comparison to that of the show but we can all agree that it’s advanced as shit! Can you imagine just pointing an empty-looking ball at your dog and it suddenly being transported into the ball as some sort of red energy? If someone invented that technology today, we would be at war almost as soon as it was made public, if not before!

Mewtwo

We’ll look at Mewtwo in more detail later on but let’s just take a moment to appreciate what Mewtwo is: a clone! OK, that simplifies the situation drastically as there are two areas (both of which appear later) we need to explore in relation to Mewtwo.

  • Mewtwo marks a revolutionary step for science as the first successful clone of Mew along with gene splicing and DNA engineering to make him in theory the most powerful Pokemon (as far as anyone is aware). His psychic abilities, his level of communication, his intelligence all outrank his fellow Pokemon.
  • Mewtwo’s existence isn’t solely so someone can win badges and battle children on the side of the road…no. We know from both worlds that Pokemon often serve a function: Pikachu’s are used for power, Chansey’s work in hospitals, ETC and so it is hardly surprising that during or after a war, a nation would want to create the most powerful weapon. Think about how countries advanced their weaponry between WW1 and WW2…and how it’s advanced since. Mewtwo is quite simply an attempt to create the weapon to end all weapons, maybe even a deterrent.

Mewtwo goes on to become smarter than humans (arguably) and is certainly more powerful than any other existing Pokemon.

The Anime

We’re going to take a look at the anime first and explore some of the new details I’ve noticed and some of the theories I’ve concocted since. Some of these I will admit are grasping at straws slightly but it’s all just fun and games…mostly.

THIS IS SP…PALLET TOWN!

We’re going to start off with a pretty brutal fact: In ancient Sparta, boys as young as 7 were taken from their mothers to start their training. In Pallet Town, they are a little more lenient and waited until the age of 10 but the fact still remains that they are leaving home to go off and train animals for battle. It’s seen as an honour to be the most powerful Pokemon trainer in the world and it seems to be how one earns celebrity status in Pokemon.

This isn’t anything new though as in the show, Ash’s mother even comments on how she remembers it taking Ash’s father 4 days (or something similar) to reach the next town. So this is a tradition (or law-mandated) that certainly dates at least a generation back. This seems like a pretty barbaric situation if there wasn’t a war or the fear of one. Children aged 10 are given their “weapon”, they then head out and train themselves and their Pokemon in order to be the strongest. The way they test this is by fighting gym leaders. Tournaments are held for “fame” but in reality are just part of a never-ending series of training through which Pokemon just get stronger and stronger.

Brock and the Rock

Fairly early on in the show we encounter Brock who is the leader of the Pewter City gym. Not much is known about Brock (I had to do some research) but we do know from the early episodes that he cares for his numerous brothers and sisters due to his parents not being around. Ash and co encounter his father selling rocks near the entrance to Pewter City. It is his father who tells Ash all about Brock’s life. This is my theory as to how Brock’s father fits into this whole war scenario:

When the war was taking place, Brock’s father was called to action and had to leave his family behind. His wife not only has responsibility of the children but also of the gym (we learn in the show that she was once the gym leader and she even takes control of the gym again). Brock’s father even says himself that he was never a very good Pokemon trainer so he clearly didn’t have control of the gym before. This explains why Brock’s father was called to war while other gym leaders weren’t. I think that while at war, Brock’s father was bested in battle and as a result all of his Pokemon (rock types) were either captured or killed (it’s obviously unclear what the Pokemon war etiquette would be). When Brock’s mother leaves (probably due to the strain of having to raise 11 kids, Brock’s father returns to look after his family but suffers from PTSD and can’t manage it and so Brock steps in. Brock wasn’t surprised to see his father, meaning that he had been back home regularly enough to be known to each other. As a result of the PTSD, Brock’s father collects rocks to remember his fallen Pokemon but has no choice but to sell some (unsuccessfully) to try in his own way to provide for his family.

Missing Fathers

Fathers and in fact father figures are frequently missing from the show. You have Ash, Gary and Misty for starters. If we expand our search a little, we find that Jessie (Team Rocket) lost her mother in an avalanche but her father is never mentioned. I even expanded my search to main characters from later versions of the anime (who I had literally never heard of) and found that Serena (apparently one of Ash’s travelling companions) had a mother but no mention of a father; Clemont and Bonnie do have a father who is an engineer (the best in the city); Dawn also has no mention of a father; neither does Iris; Clemont and Bonnie have a father but he was also a gym leader.

This adds more evidence to the idea that all the men from this nation (other than those serving a scientific role or one essential to the upkeep of society e.g. engineer or a gym leader (training future soldiers and their weapons)) are away fighting or have died fighting in a previous war. There are of course those within organised crime but I feel like that’s a topic for another time. But speaking of families, let’s move onto the next bizarre piece of this puzzle.

The Clone Wars

Early on in the show we meet several of the “sisters” who are all identical and share the same name in the form of Officer Jenny, the collection of same-named identical sisters in charge of law enforcement and Nurse Joy, the separate collection of same-named identical sisters who cover healthcare. This is just part of a running gag within the show but what if there is a more sinister reason? We know that cloning is not only possible but has been done before (Mewtwo). However, Mewtwo wasn’t the result of simple cloning: it actually involved gene splicing and DNA engineering which was one of the reasons for so many failures. We’ll soon look at a theory which also explains why cloning a pokemon may be more difficult than cloning a human but I think the Jennys and Joys of the world are evidence enough of its existence.

You may be wondering why such an experiment would ever have been carried out. Well, during war you would need two majors function of society to remain intact above all others: law enforcement and healthcare. The men are sent to fight, the women raise their children (future Pokemon masters/soldiers) and as such, other positions needed to be filled. This is particularly true if this is a post-war situation.

Panspermia

In case you’ve never heard the term before, panspermia refers to a theory about the origins of life on Earth (or other planets). It suggests that bacteria capable of surviving extreme fluctuations in temperature and the vacuum of space could be moved from one planet to another by an asteroid or meteorite. Imagine that the Earth explodes or is victim to a giant asteroid impact and chunks of it fly through space for hundreds of years. One chunk could contain such life and may land on a planet where this bacterium thrives and evolves. You’re probably wondering what the fuck this has to do with Pokemon. Well, that’s where the moon stone comes in.

In the early episodes, the group meet a man (a scientist, shockingly) who is studying the moon stone. He believes that Pokemon came to Earth on this rock. While he describes it as being a spaceship, it’s not ridiculous to believe that a meteorite brought early Pokemon bacteria to Earth. Due to their rapidly evolving nature (which can be seen through both their own evolutions and the difference in generations that span across one human lifetime) this bacteria soon birthed the Pokemon we see in the show.

This idea goes a step further when we look at the abilities of the Pokemon as it explains why they can do the things they can do. We also know from early episodes that animals and Pokemon are not the same thing. We see a Pidgey eating a worm from the ground that isn’t a Pokemon. Misty also says that she hates bugs and doesn’t care if they are Pokemon, implying that there is a difference between bugs and bug Pokemon. It’s possible that Pokemon arrived on Earth a very long time ago (but after humans) and wiped most native animal species from the planet other than those that are at the bottom of the food chain.

Mew is seen as the ancestor of all Pokemon but this is just based on the human history of things. It’s completely possible that Mew was simply one of the earlier more advanced forms of Pokemon and due to its incredible abilities, ancient humans worshipped it and added it to art and stonework. Bonus theory: there is an idea that Ditto is simply failed attempts to clone mew. True story!

I’m going to keep adding to my evidence and theories for the show as I continue to re-watch it (I’m only on like episode 5 now). For now, let’s run through the original theory and how the game has evidence of a war.

The Game

As I mentioned before, I originally heard this theory in relation to the game and not the anime (while the theory is not mine, all the evidence I mentioned above and all the theories within it are my own). I won’t repeat any evidence that I’ve already mentioned for the show (such as lack of male characters, the population being mostly children and old people, ETC), however there are some points to be made in similar areas.

The Population

The population issues mention previously exist even more so in the game world. The player finds that as they enter cities with gigantic stores, houses, casinos, ETC there are almost no people. You find that other than casinos which seem to provide entertainment to the elderly part of the population, there isn’t much else to do other than gyms. You never see any cinemas, football pitches, parks, or anything that would be seen within a normal society. This is because the children can’t get distracted from their training, the adults can’t be distracted from their caring and as such the elderly and the useless are the only groups allowed to take life less seriously.

Lieutenant Surge

This character deserves a section all to himself and while he does appear on the show, it’s not so much who he is but rather what he says in the game that matters. In the show, Lt. Surge looks pretty much the same as the game describes him: tall (gigantic even), muscular, short and spikey blonde hair, he wears military clothing (jacket, trousers and boots) and even has dog tags. In the game, when approached by the player Surge says: “Hey kid! What do you think you’re doing here? You won’t live long in combat! That’s for sure! I tell you what kid, electric Pokemon saved me during the war!”

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Final Notes

So we can see that there is certainly some supporting evidence of this theory…although this is all entirely confirmation bias and obviously it isn’t likely that the creators had this Pokemon war in mind when creating the game and anime. It’s certainly fun to think about though and as I continue to play the game (again) and watch the anime (again), I will continue to add any evidence I find to this post.

If you have any comments or opinions, be sure and share them below! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter to be kept up-to-date with various blogs and announcements!

Film Review: The Maze Runner Trilogy

It’s pretty rare for me to be able to write a positive post about a film or TV series. I recently wrote about The Cloverfield Paradox (which I’m still unsure about posting or not) and how it had so much potential but just didn’t deliver. It seems over the last year or so there has been disappointment after disappointment. Even films where I expected absolutely nothing (The Last Jedi) I still ended up being let down. So it was with a sigh of relief and satisfaction that finally, not only just a film but a film series has been worthy of a thumbs up. This post will be exploring what was great about the Maze Runner trilogy, particularly The Death Cure.

It should be noted that I haven’t read the books and as it stands right now I really have no intention to do so. Just keep that in mind as you work your way through this post as all my comments are entirely based on the films and having zero background knowledge about the plot or characters. I’m going to do a quick summary of each film and then explain why they were great, my concerns at the time and ultimately what made the trilogy as a whole brilliant.

The Maze Runner

So of course we will start with the first in the series. Nothing about this film appealed to me. I think we were all sick of teenagers/young adults in dystopian futures where the oppressed rise up against the elites. It was a formula that had been used over and over again in previous years with Hunger Games, Divergent, ETC. I was curious about the maze aspect though and eventually I did watch it.

The Maze Runner follows a bunch of kids (I’m not sure how old they are meant to be) who are trapped at the centre of a changing maze with no memory of life prior to it. Some of them have been in there for three years. Every day runners enter the maze (which opens in the morning and closes at night) to try and map the maze. The film starts with Thomas arriving and ultimately being the trouble maker: running into the maze, taking risks, questioning everything. Thomas discovers first hand that the maze at night is full of Grievers (strange mechanical spider-like cyborg monsters). After being the first to kill one of these creatures, Thomas and the others start experiencing strange things. First of all people start going crazy (which can be attributed to a virus: the flare) and the first girl ever is sent up into the maze: Teresa. She knows Thomas and explains how they used to work with the people controlling the maze.

One day the walls don’t close and the group has no choice but to head to one of the potential exists they’ve found. Here they discover the base of operations that the controllers of the maze have been using. There’s a dead woman there who appears to have killed herself, leaving a message revealing that WCKD (World in Catastrophe: Killzone Department) are responsible for the mazes when suddenly a team of soldiers comes in to rescue them, taking the surviving kids to “safety”.

Review

After seeing this film, I was intrigued but also didn’t really understand it. Very little of what I had just seen made sense to me and even after a couple of viewings, I just didn’t get what was going on. If this had been a standalone film then it would have been awful. Side note: The music for this film is excellent! Anyway, as it turns out this was actually an incredible introduction to the series if you have the patience to bear with it. For me and possibly others like me, it wasn’t until the sequel that the pieces started to fit together.

The Scorch Trials

The middle film of the trilogy picks up right where the first one ended: the kids are being taken away in helicopters to some secret location with a dude named Janson assuring them that they’re all safe now. Upon arriving at this complex, they meet kids from other mazes. Pretty quickly Thomas begins to realise something suspicious is going on and once Teresa is taken, he has no choice but to investigate. This reveals that Ava Paige (the women who killed herself in the first film) is not only alive but is running this operation: it’s still WCKD. The group escapes with some new members and head off into the scorch (the name given to the now desert-like world outside).

A lot goes on in this film and I don’t want to describe every single detail but essentially the group comes face to face with cranks (infected people) and soon learn that despite their previous thoughts, not all of the maze dwellers are immune to the virus. The group searches for a rebel group supposedly hidden in the mountains and after encountering (and aligning with) Brenda and Jorge, they eventually find this group who it turns out are mostly escaped kids. Here we learn that Thomas’s reason for being thrown into the maze was that he sent out the maze locations to this group so that kids could be rescued. This film ends with Teresa betraying the group, most of the kids being recaptured and Teresa and Minho being taken by WCKD (Teresa voluntarily).

Review

By the end of this film I was hooked! It goes onto explain pretty much everything about the first film that didn’t make sense. It reveals details from the past that explain what is going on in the world and ultimately, it ends on an amazing cliffhanger (of sorts). This film manages to be a rebellious, sci-fi zombie film all in one…and it nails it! The flare virus is a constant factor within the film but it’s not the motivation behind the main characters actions. Ultimately, they want freedom. They hate WCKD for capturing kids like them and draining them of their virus-fighting anti-bodies.

The new characters added to this film are awesome (I’m always going to be a fan of Giancarlo Esposito). As this was the middle film, you have to acknowledge the expected change in tempo. The film only slows down a couple of times but it’s to delve into the plot and ultimately the character development and personally, I think it was a great film as far as part 2 of 3 films go. The character development in particular was something I could totally get behind. It left me desperate to see the final film.

The Death Cure

Let me start this off by clapping my hands. I was so relieved to hear they were keeping it a trilogy instead of simply following suit and doing a part 1 and a part 2. The Death Cure starts off X amount of time after the previous film (I’m not sure how long but enough time has passed that a whole new base of operations is in use and prisoners of WCKD are being transported by train. This film essentially follows the group trying to rescue Minho from WCKD. After locating the last city, they head there and infiltrate its high walls with the help of an old “friend”: Gally, who “died” in Maze Runner.

After kidnapping Teresa who claims she sometimes regrets what she did but would ultimately do it again, it is revealed that Thomas’s blood doesn’t just treat the flare virus, it actually heals it. Teresa helps the group into the main medical building of the city where they free the kids (including Minho) and escape. Their plan works almost perfectly but Newt, who has the flare, turns and has to be put down just before a cure is available. The rest of the group escape in a helicopter thing while Thomas heads back to the main building to confront Teresa. Ava is killed by Janson and he plans to use Thomas as his own money-printing machine (or power printing I guess, I don’t think they use money anymore). Just as Jansen is killed, Thomas and Teresa have no option but to climb to the roof as the building begins to catch fire and collapse. The helicopter squad comes to the rescue but only has time to save Thomas.

Review

I was nervous watching this. There are so many ways they could have ruined it but honestly, I think they did a great job. I think the problem with films is that it can be hard to show how much time has passed and I think the trilogy as a whole feels sort of rushed: not in the sense that they should have dragged it out with more films (God no, they nailed it) but just that so much happens and changes in such a short amount of time. Regardless, I think they did an excellent job with it!

Even as I was watching it, I was worried about certain clichés taking place (this was the case in some instances). I find that films like this often have a bittersweet ending but what they really need is a dark ending. Think Hunger Games where Rue dies (along with many other characters) but there’s still a happy ending. Divergent is the same: bittersweet but still on a happy note. You often don’t get the satisfaction of certain character deaths that you were hoping for and I worried this would be the same. Remember when Bane died in The Dark Knight Rises? It was the least satisfying thing in the world. We’ll explore the death of certain characters in a moment but let’s focus on the ending first.

The Ending

By the end of the film, we know that Thomas has unique blood that actually cures the flare virus. Let’s look at the situation in the final moments of the film: most of the main characters have died. Alby and Chuck die in the first film, Winston dies in the second film, Newt dies in the third film. The only main characters left from all three films are Thomas and Minho (and some guy called Frypan but I honestly didn’t notice him at all until this final film). Teresa has just died (thank God) and while she does redeem herself, her dying had to happen in my opinion.

But let’s focus on the bigger picture. Thomas may be the cure but think about what has just happened: the flare has become airborne and most of the people in the LAST CITY are now infected; assuming any of them survive the rebellion attack that has led to the destruction of the city at the hands of already infected people. The group escapes to an island somewhere on their boat but what about the rest of the world? This isn’t a happy ending by any means. The rest of the world is literally populated by cranks that within a few days, weeks or months will have completely turned into mindless flesh-hungry monsters. I’m not sure how long they live for but only the people on that island are left and they only survive as long as Thomas does.

I think that’s a GREAT ending. You get the satisfaction of certain characters surviving and the ending isn’t completely bleak which for a film aimed at teenagers, probably makes sense. The world ends though and most of the characters die which for a film like this is entirely necessary. They could have ended it with Thomas and Teresa working on a cure to save the world and that would have completely ruined the tone of the film, in my opinion.  There are some very minor details I perhaps would have changed but overall I think they did an excellent job. So let’s take a look at the character deaths quickly.

Character Deaths

Let’s take a moment to explore some of the characters I wanted dead. The main one (believe it or not) was Teresa. The emotion I felt at the end of the Scorch Trials was unbelievable. I can’t think of a time when a character in a film made me feel so angry. I thought maybe in this film they would send her character on a path to redemption (which they did slightly) but she ultimately sat by as Minho was tortured, all the time preaching about how it was necessary. Yet wasn’t she immune as well? Why wasn’t her blood being used? Even when she admits that she would betray them again, I felt happy that she didn’t regret it. All the time her focus was on finding a cure which in a sense is admirable…but it was at the cost of her friends lives. Not even just their lives, if they died that would be one thing but they were literally being tortured.

We also had Ava and Janson. Ava was doing bad things for the right reasons but she wasn’t by any means a good person. I think that’s the one flaw with this film. I would have loved for Thomas or another character just to shoot her, no emotion, no drama, nothing. There was the perfect moment when they encounter each other during the rescue of Minho where everything seems to pause for a moment as Thomas lifts up his gun. I just wish he had pulled the trigger. This sort of happens at the hands of Janson but I think that robs the satisfaction from the audience.

Janson’s death both nailed and ruined what I’d hoped for. The way he dies was a little annoying but at the same time, it was just. Thomas essentially kicked his ass and my hat goes off to everyone involved in those scenes because you really felt the anger. Every single punch to Janson made your heart sort of race with excitement. His death seems to be a bit of an Ex Machina and I’d much rather Thomas has drove a knife into his heart or perhaps trapped Janson in a room with cranks only to give him the finger and bail, not even watching as the cranks tear him apart. I’m not sure the word evil applies to anyone in this film because there is always a reason for someone’s actions but Janson was a selfish dick with little to no empathy, so he’s probably the closest.

Final Thoughts

That is one thing that I love about this trilogy. Every single person in these films, no matter their actions, believes they have a reason for it. They might do things they regret, they might hurt, anger, kill other people but it’s never out of hatred (with the exception of Janson perhaps). WCKD is seen as this evil group who experiment and torture children but at the end of the day it is their last hope to find a cure for a virus that by the end of the film has become airborne. They are just people grasping at straws in an attempt to stop the extinction of the human race.

This film is one of the better dystopian survival films I’ve ever seen. Could have been a bit darker? Perhaps…but for what it is, I think the hit the mark. There is mystery through all the films but no questions are ever left unanswered by the time the credits roll in the final film. They could easily have made 4 but chose not to which in itself is admirable.

As always, leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Do you agree or did you find this trilogy was just the same as any other? Be sure to head over to Twitter and follow me there!

Happy Feet: The Cheerful Commentary on Religious Indoctrination

You may be a little surprised to see the words ‘Happy Feet’ and ‘Religious Indoctrination’ in the same sentence. What may ultimately seem like a warm-hearted tale of a handicapped penguin’s quest to discover the interruption in his colony’s food chain is actually a layered tale of environmental damage and religious indoctrination (and the challenges one faces in trying to escape it). In today’s post we will be exploring that connection and cracking the case wide open for all to see.

Basic Summary

For those of you who haven’t seen Happy Feet, you’re missing out on a rather entertaining film. This post is unlikely to make much sense to you otherwise but allow me to quickly summarise it for you, just in case. Happy Feet follows Mumble, a slightly handicapped penguin who lacks the ability to sing (an essential part of the mating process) but can instead tap his feet in a rhythmical manner (although not always on purpose). This is due to his father, Memphis, dropping the egg during one of the coldest winters. Being continuously alienated by his colony, Mumble eventually stumbles across a different penguin colony where singing is seen as a hobby rather than an essential part of life. Here, they collect pebbles in an attempt to woe the females.

Mumble and his “amigos” are eventually banished from his colony due to his “dangerous ideas” and so set out on a quest to find the fish (the lack of which has been blamed on Mumble and his feet). Eventually Mumble finds a giant ship that is collecting all of the fish and taking it away and so he follows it until he eventually passes out and lands on a beach. From here, Mumble ends up in a zoo, does a dance, humans put a tracker on him and send him back to his colony and eventually everyone lives happily ever after….typical children’s film, right? Wrong!

Religion

The religious element of the film was nothing new to me and I’d always intended to write a post about it…but as time went on it became less and less of a concern and I figured that it wasn’t worth the effort. That is until a couple of days ago when I re-watched Happy Feet and noticed a bizarre aspect that had eluded me in the past. The word “penguin” can be perfectly switched out for any religion (I chose Christianity).

One thing you have to keep in mind is that the colony worships the mighty “Quin” (I’m not sure how you spell it exactly as it’s taken from the end of the word “penguin”). So there is already a very open religious element to the film but it’s the underlying element that I find so interesting. Let me give you some examples that I noted down. These were all the times after the first few instances where the word penguin was used and could be perfectly swapped for “Christian”.

“…it’s not Penguin”

“…hardly a Penguin at all”

“…it just ain’t Penguin”

“…he’s a regular (something, I missed the word) Penguin”

“…ancient Penguin wisdom”

“…brave Penguin nation”

Tell me that none of these have a solid meaning when the word Christian is switched in. There is a reason I chose Christianity as well which I’m going to explain in more detail later on but I’ll share one very specific quote that I believe highlights the reason. During a scene where Mumble is tap dancing and others are joining in, one of the elders says this to him: “that kind of pagan display” and then goes on to blame him for the food shortage. Of course one famous religion has been known to deal with Paganism in such a manner…

Memphis Drops the Ball…or the Egg

In order to delve deeper into this bizarre underlying commentary we have to examine key moments in the story. We’ll start with Mumble’s father, Memphis. During the winter when the females head off to collect food, it is the responsibility of the males to shelter the eggs and also each other. They create a sort of wall and take it in turns to face the cold. During this time, the elders lead chants to the great Quin/Win (I think Quin but I couldn’t find a solid source) which all the penguins are supposed to follow. They even show a giant penguin in the sky who is almost being formed by all the chanting penguins.

Unfortunately, Memphis is too distracted by his own singing (specifically the love song between him and his partner) and almost as a sign of his lack of faith and commitment to the great Quin, he drops the egg. Doing so for even a few seconds is enough to literally freeze it and kill the offspring inside. Memphis sees the resulting tappity feet of Mumble as being a curse or punishment for his distracted mind and lack of Quin-worship. Something that is evident throughout the film.

“Aliens”

Mumble was always a curious little fella and during his early years he finds himself victim to some hungry birds looking for roaming penguins to snack on. One of these birds has an identification bracelet (if that’s even what they are called) around his ankle which he goes on to explain was put there by aliens after being abducted. This highlights two key issues within this films:

1) Mumble now has more information on the outside world than any other Penguin within his colony, all of whom conform without question and aren’t curious about life beyond their grounds and 2) Lack of information on a subject leads to ridiculous conclusions. It highlights a very noticeable train of thought within religion where if something can’t be explained in terms we already know then it must be something completely “out there”. This can easily relate to the idea of filling all gaps in knowledge with God.

The Elders

Within Mumble’s colony there is a small group of elders who are part of some sort of council. They are responsible for guiding the beliefs and opinion of all the conforming penguins. They are essentially the Vatican to the colony’s Catholic Church with the leader being the Pope…who for some strange reason is Scottish. There is an Italian member as well though. This group denies the existence of any aliens because it goes against the narrative they’ve been pushing.

They are also the ones who label Mumble’s dancing as “that kind of pagan display” and it is they who alienate Mumble by forcing his own parents to talk him out of his mind set. While Mumble’s mother stands her ground and defends Mumble, his father who is still guilt-ridden from dropping Mumble feels he has no choice but to support the council. When Mumble refuses to conform and support the Elder’s point of view, he is banished from the colony. This is where Mumble’s journey to find the fish begins.

Connecting Theme

One thing is evident between all belief groups within the film. Whether it be Mumble’s colony and the mighty Quin, the amigos and Lovelace, the predatory birds or the elephant seals, they all view humans as being alien. Each has a unique view of “God” but all view the one thing they have evidence of but can’t explain as being alien. I think this is an interesting parallel to the religions of the world. They may all have one theme running through them e.g. God. Yet all have different opinions on themselves and their interactions with their God. This is just a minor point but I figured it was worth mentioning.

Heaven

Upon chasing a fishing vessel, Mumble ultimately washes up on a beach and is thrown into a zoo. Here he meets seemingly braindead penguin who refers to him as Dave. “Try the fish, Dave”. This is Penguin Heaven. To the penguins it is heaven because they are rewarded with all the fish they can eat (something that was running out at home) in exchange for doing nothing and having zero responsibilities or goals. Almost like some higher power granting them wishes. When speaking to one penguin in particular, Mumble asks him if its anywhere near Emperorland to which he responds that it’s “anywhere you want it to be”.

Of course the reason that it is named Penguin Heaven is due to it being based on an exhibit in Sea World, Orlando, Florida but I think it also has a deeper meaning. Heaven is often  seen as exactly like Penguin Heaven: you’re free to enjoy yourself, you don’t have to worry about responsibility, you can be happy and get all the food you want, but I think it raises a darker issue. What if you get to heaven but none of your family do? What if you’re up there enjoying all the bounties that heaven has to offer while your family starve? Is that heaven? We see Mumble attempt to throw fish to his hallucinated family (who also refer to him as Dave). Not to mention the other key issue: boredom. Without any purpose, without the freedom to explore, the risk of death, the challenges that normal life throws at you, you become a zombie and end up braindead like the only penguin Mumble communicates with.

Final Scenes

The film ends with mumble being returned to Emperorland where he is greeted by Gloria but told to leave by the Elders. Mumble explains his story and tells them about the aliens which the Elders outright deny. Mumble’s experience is irrelevant to them because they have a narrative that needs to be maintained and despite the fact that it is in reality a far more realistic explanation for the famine than one penguin’s tapping feet, the Elders stand their ground.

Upon revealing that he has alien technology attached to his back, the Elders then label him a traitor for leading the aliens to Emperorland. This of course raises questions as moments ago they were denying the existence of such beings altogether. We then see a battle of sorts between the old ways and the new: the archaic chants and singing of the elders and their supporters vs Mumble and his tapping feet. Eventually the aliens arrive and out of fear of death (or something similar) the elders eventually follow Mumble and support this new approach.

I think this in itself also highlights an aspect of religion: fear of death is not only the cause of most religions (in one form or another, I’m not saying people are religious because they fear death) as is fear of the unknown. Put into a situation where all the evidence is piled against them, religions will stand their ground until such a time that their destruction seems imminent, at which point they will follow the masses. Think about all major theories that have come into existence throughout human history: the order of the solar system, gravity, evolution, the big bang theory, ETC. The more that science explains, the more that religions adapt their beliefs to fit around the evidence. Very few people view the bible as being 100% literal and that is because more and more of it makes less and less sense in relation to history and science…but also morality.

Even the Pope’s throughout history have had drastically differing points of view: from supporting fascism, to hating gays, to saying evolution was God’s work. We end up with thousands upon thousands of different interpretations of the Bible (through Christianity’s denominations, of which there are 40,000 or so).

 

Anyway guys, that’s my say on the film Happy Feet. I hope that you enjoyed it and as always, leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! Peace!